Sometimes you have some amazing adventures you just have to tell everyone about. Read the rest of this account here.
Have you ever done something that you knew was a bad idea and then as soon as you did it, you realized it was a very, very bad idea? That was how I felt as I stood in front of the stone circle in the clearing, with the strange woman in animal skins and a purple veil smiling creepily at me. I must have been mesmerized, since I sure wouldn’t have gone out there on my own. Even my adventurous spirit was whimpering in the corner, asking for mommy.
The woman walked to the edge of the stone disk and stepped delicately off. As she did, the soft glow that enveloped it faded. A few of the women took out lanterns and held them up as the woman walked towards me. We were about the same height—over six foot—which was rather intimidating. She said something to me and when I didn’t respond, she something else in what seemed like a different language. She went through almost a dozen languages, and all of them sounded foreign to me.
“I’m sorry,” I said finally, in English and Korean. “I don’t understand.” I gave her a sheepish smile and shrugged.
She burst out laughing and then shrugged her own shoulders. She kept saying things and shrugging her shoulders as if it were a huge joke. I was starting to blush with embarrassment and the other women were looking distraught and studiously avoiding looking at her.
The woman stopped and barked a few orders at the women. Then she linked her arm through mine and we all started walking back down towards the fortress village.
Seriously, what would you have done? I would have given quite a large amount of money not to have been in that situation, but I felt trapped. There seemed no way of escape, short of punching and pushing them all out of the way. So, I let myself be led along, just a big, dumb lamb to the slaughter.
We reached the fortress town but to my surprise, the women didn’t stop. The fortress gate was open and we went right through and continued down the valley. I looked around for the pretty young woman I had met that afternoon—not that I liked her or anything, I just wanted to see a familiar face. She was nowhere to be seen though.
The woman kept looking over at me and smiling and saying stuff, as if she expected me to understand.
I don’t understand you at all, Your Royal Battiness! I thought. I admit, it wasn’t very clever, but I was desperately trying to cope with the situation. Unfortunately, calling her that made me smile, and she thought I was smiling at her.
The next twenty minutes were an ordeal of awkwardness I’m going to pass over quickly. She thought I understood a little of what she was saying and kept speaking slower and louder. I would have gladly gnawed my own arm off to get away.
Just when I was seriously considering punching her and making a break for it, the forest path opened out into a wide clearing and the tower with the golden dome loomed up in front of us. It was surrounded by a low wall topped with torches. The flickering torchlight glinted off the golden dome, making all kinds of effects with light and shadow.
The gate was open and guarded by women with spears. We went into a room with a low table in the middle and surrounded by lamps, so that it was fully lit. The woman sat down on one side of the table and motioned for me to sit opposite her. I decided to try to communicate: the old woman in the forest had understood Chinese characters, so it was possible this woman would too. I traced out my Korean name in Chinese characters on the table and I could see instantly that the woman knew what I was doing. She barked a few more orders and pretty soon a woman came in with paper, a brush and an inkstone. I’d never written with a brush before, but I did my best and wrote my name again (大成).
“Di-sheng?” she said. My Korean name is Dae-Sung, so close enough. I nodded. She grabbed the brush and started to write quickly, which I couldn’t read at all. After a few minutes, she caught on and wrote it all again, very meticulously. I didn’t recognize it all, but I saw the word for “come” (來) and the one for “place” (場) so I figured she was asking where I was from. I’m from Canada, but I don’t know how to write that in Chinese characters, so I just wrote “America” (美國).
“Mai-gog?” she said and burst out laughing. She was really getting on my nerves. She pointed at me and said, “Mai-nan” and then pointed to where I had written America. I didn’t get it until she wrote down some more, but when I did, it didn’t make me feel any better. “America” in Chinese characters literally means “beautiful land” and she was saying that I was from there since I was a handsome man. Evidently she didn’t believe such a place existed and thought I was just playing with her. I wished my wife was there. She wouldn’t have had any problem punching a creepy old woman who was hitting on me. I, on the other hand, was too much of a
After she got over the hilarity that is the word “America”, she gave a few more orders to the attending women and they brought in a map. I could tell that she wanted me to point out where I was from. She pointed to one place and I realized it was our current location. It even had a tiny picture of the dome.
The problem was, it wasn’t a map of Korea. It wasn’t even a historical, rough approximation of Korea. I don’t know where it was, but I got a sinking feeling as I stared at it that, all the same, I was there.