I live in Japan teaching English, but had gone to Amsterdam and Berlin for my winter holidays. On my flight from AMS to ICN, Amsterdam to Seoul, I met a kind old Korean woman sitting in the aisle seat in my row. I don’t speak Korean, and she didn’t speak English or Japanese. (Un)Fortunately, we did have one language in common – German – and neither of us had practiced since college. Her pidgin Austrian dialect and my stunted heavily accented attempts at Berliner German (un)fortunately had enough overlap that we could talk.
She was a real friendly one, and apparently a doctor. In classic old Korean woman fashion, she was aggressive and assertive as hell, constantly poking me, grabbing my arm, touching my hair and asking me every question humanly possible. I’d put my headphones on and feign sleep, but this was obviously nothing to her. She wrote down her address and demanded mine, told me her life story about how she studied abroad in Vienna 50 years ago, and all sorts of treasure which I only half-understood. Finally I got sort of annoyed and moved not-so-subtly to the front of the plane, where a dude I’d chatted to in Amsterdam was sitting, and remained there for the rest of the flight. Occasionally the flight attendant would walk by and nod sympathetically in my direction, as Old Korean woman was constantly grabbing her arm to examine her jewelry.
Fast forward a few hours, we’d landed in Seoul and we all got on the train to get to the Arrivals terminal. Old Korean woman somehow finds me and hands me a giant Milka chocolate bar. I smile and thank her profusely.
Then she drops the bomb: “Haben Sie Religion?” (“Do you have religion?”) and pulls out a Bible and a rosary necklace.
Aw hellllllll no. I thanked her again politely and started to run. She was lost in a sea of other old Korean women.
Postscript: My chocolate bar was fantastic, and she’s never tried to contact me.