There is little worse than thinking you've been at least somewhat accepted into a group only to discover that you've been entirely and particularly excluded from a group activity. Today was really tough. It was the first day that my being a foreigner was just unbearable.
We had a good English church service this afternoon, and had a pleasant time chatting with the half dozen Koreans who attended. They smiled at my jokes, we exchanged pleasantries and KakaoTalk IDs, and then everyone wandered off.
June and I determined to go to the market which revolves around the island on a five day interval. It was about a 2 mile walk, but we had nothing else to do and the weather was fine. June was looking forward to seeing some of the Korean church members who work at the market, who had been missing from the Korean language service in the morning (I overslept, but she'd made it). Yet we didn't see any of those folks.
Instead, we encountered the entire group of young Koreans who had been at the English language service! They were all out to lunch together. We had not been invited. Nor were we invited to join them then on the spur of the moment. We were both hugely disheartened by this. We are older than they are, but they are the only group that we have any interaction with outside of school, and to see all of them having assembled for a social outing made us feel like total outcasts. We both went home and cried.
Each of us wants friends so badly. But it seems impossible to get beyond the safety barrier of polite tolerance to real relationships with our limited language skills. But even if our language skills were better, would we have been invited today?
The encounter made me wonder whether the Koreans actually have enjoyed spending time with us at all. We've gone to coffee and on walks with them individually, had conversations about serious and light subjects, talked about getting together during the week – though none of these last plans materialized – and here we were effectively identified as outsiders, people with whom they they didn't really want to associate when they had the freedom to choose. It was enormously discouraging.
I am so grateful for June. I would be beside myself with loneliness were she not here. Both both of us need other friends, people who not only want to associate with us of a sunny Sunday afternoon, but also hang out during the week, people who really do enjoy our company and conversation, who aren't merely bearing with us out of a sense of obligation. We're each praying earnestly for such people to appear.