Part 1:Nick, still in Taiwan, forwarded a campus conference invitation about faith and learning, and encouraged me to consider attending. After some back-and-forth with the organizer about the availability of a translator for me (she had no other non-Korean RSVPs), I committed to attending a session specific to psychology.
The day arrived for the conference. After rushing home from a friend's place, I grabbed a quick lunch (it's not classy to have the rumblies in a professional meeting), put on my best business clothes, and even put on makeup and 3" heels. I then fussed over accessories, seeking Elisabeth's critical eye. I haven't needed to look or act like a professional in, oh, a month of Mondays and I didn't want to embarrass myself (or Professor Nick). As ready as I could be, I briskly click-clicked across campus to the designated building, all the while trying to exuding positive confidence, shrewd intelligence, and cultural sensitivity. Once at the designated building, I searched for the elusive room 218. And searched. Nope: despite the sign in the lobby, nothing on the 2nd floor went higher than 217.
What? Could I have remembered the wrong number? Surely not: I have an excellent mind for details, and there was nothing happening anywhere on the second floor. So after just standing in the long, silent hall, pondering my next move, I pounced on an approaching young woman. I shot questions at her about the conference and room 218 and the Handong Education Center (who was hosting the conference), and some tiny part of what I said seemed to finally register. She did not speak but led me to the other end of the hallway. She started up the stairs and gestured for me to follow but I paused; this could not be right. I spied a man coming out of his office, and I went to ask him about this mystery conference/room, but he was all foam-faced and clearly not willing to speak before finishing his teeth hygiene ritual in the bathroom. I sighed. The woman again gestured up the stairs, so I followed, not having any other plan. Up we went, then through a door, then back down some stairs. And...there it was. Of COURSE it's only accessible from the 3rd floor. Of COURSE there were no signs indicating this.
Anyway, Helpful-But-Silent woman left me with a slight bow. I took a deep breath to pull myself together, fretted for a moment about my now-sweaty pits, entered the conference center, and...it was empty. I gazed about. A woman came out of an office and asked how she could help me.
"Conference? Here?" I asked slowly, trying not to huff from all those stairs.
"Yes," she smiled gently. "You are Sherri?"
"Um, yes. Do you work for the conference? Am I too early?"
"I am Jihae - I wrote to you about the translator. The conference is on Thursday. But today is only Tuesday."
Oh no. Of course it is.
Part 2:So Thursday came and again I dressed and consulted Elisabeth about my hair, etc. I arrived at the conference center a couple of minutes before 1:00 to meet the translator (which here means "devise a joint escape plan in case (a) she couldn't translate all the psychological and theological terms and/or (b) I decided the session was not my cup of soju"). When I entered, about 25 people were just milling about getting refreshments. Well, I rationalized, maybe the conference was running a bit behind. I asked a woman who's supplying the tables whether I could meet the translator: "Yes, but she is eating lunch." "Oh, ok, I can wait for her." The woman gave me an odd look, as though it was strange and perhaps a bit creepy to wait for a translator.
An older woman stopped to introduced herself as Eeuienssign-something. She knew who I was (oh, arg) and was so glad to meet me: she had heard about me from an elderly man Nick has known (of course) for many years. (And I cannot resist this side story: I once heard this man introduced by an over-enthusiastic professor as "A eunuch for the Lord!" which was more than a little distracting to the audience as the poor man walked to the podium). Anyway, the woman asked whether I'd like to meet the speaker (um, NO) and whether I'd like to join the lunch before the session started at 2.
Um, wait a minute. 2:00? I snuck a peek at the program, trying to play this cool, pretty sure that she had misspoken, because remember, I'm the queen of details. But, no. Indeed, the session was scheduled to start at 14:00, NOT at 1:00.
Fish nuggets in a moth jar.
Ok, deep breaths. I decided to run some should-have-been-quick but of-course-were-completely-unsuccessful campus errands that made me even MORE frustrated. I thus stalked home in the wind and rain (umbrella-less, of course), vowing to skip the conference and drown my sorrows in chocolate and/or cheese. As God would have it, friend Kristina called just as I stomped into the apartment, She directed me to get myself back to the conference. "You do NOT want to be the woman who showed up 2 days early, then showed up an hour early, and then did a no-show at the actual conference." Harrumph.
Part 3:So, I went. The speaker, in classic Korean academic fashion, read 85% of his speech (which was already translated into English and printed into a booklet sitting on my lap). It was great practice for the translators to work on sounding out words like "epistemology" and "parsimony." And it was a good (if uncredited) summary of a book we taught at Dordt.
And, to be sure, it was a bit of a let-down after all the self-induced drama this week.