Sunday, March 10, 2013


They called me noona and held the very definition of trepidation in their eyes as they shuffled toward me.

Where are you from?
I’m from America.
Ah. How old are you?
I’m twenty-four.
Ah. You good!

This last was directed at my soccer playing abilities. I had been skirting the edges of the local soccer field, practicing my juggling on dribbling whilst watching soccer so bad only high school boys could play it so. When they took a break (from what, I’ll never know since they took turns running during their “game”), I took shots on goal.  At one point, three shuffling fourteen-year-old boys approached me.

After the above conversation, they ran away, their courage spent. But a minute later they were back.

Coach. Us. Talk. English. Soccer. Kachi. Coach!
Your coach wants me to talk to him?

We “talked,” exhausting my limited Korean and everyone else’s limited English skills and I spent the next hour training with three gun-shy little Korean boys. I may or may not be committed to every Sunday from 5 until 6 for eternity, but I’m not entirely certain. I will go back next week, mostly because all three boys have potential and because if I have left Korea having taught three Korean boys to shoot with both feet and the concept of passing the ball and then moving to open space, I will consider my stint here on the peninsula worth it.

("arubai" is probably misspelled, but it's a Korean word meaning "part-time job." The Japanese call it "arubaito," but I've no idea why. Nor do I know if the coach really meant the "job" part of arubai or if he meant "volunteer." Only time will tell.)


  1. Arubaito comes from the German word arbeit, which is very close to the Swedish word arbete, both of which mean work. The Japanese took the word for work and made it mean part-time work for them.

    1. There's some kind of joke about east asian work ethic in there - that their word for part time is from the german for full time is scary indicative.

  2. the shortened pronunciation in korean is "alba," like as in jessica.

    1. Aha! I wondered what they were talking about with that one. Arubai made more since with the japanese cognate, but "alba" - I know I've heard it - confused me completely.