Thank you, BBB

by Elmira Urazaeva, 16/07/2011

Earlier this month, the BBB organized a Friendship Day where foreign nationals were able to sign up for a train trip to Nami Island for only W10,000. The event brought gathered people from all over the world in one place with Korean volunteers who help interpret for foreign residents/visitors in 17 different languages. During the various programs, I had chance to talk with Indians, Germans, Uzbekistanis and other many nations. From the moment I arrived at Seoul Station, I was impressed by the number of people, including whole families with children, who had gotten up so early on a grey, rainy Sunday.

From BBB organizers, best replica watches I learned that this year over 150 Koreans joined the program as translators to provide an interactive interpretation service for foreigners. Each of the nearly 200 Koreans on the trip wore a card giving their name, role in BBB and the language(s) they can speak. Since I am Russian, I was especially interested in finding Russian-speaking translators among the enormous numbers of foreigners and Koreans present. I was lucky and found an old Korean man who provides English and Russian language help to foreigners. He was quite surprised when I started to talk to him and ask for his impressions of BBB. From our conservation, I learned he worked at the Korean Embassy in Moscow for three years, which he primarily spent travelling within Russia and becoming familiar with the country’s culture and history. We shared a lot of stories and jokes about the living there. He is proud that the BBB offers this unique chance to interact with people from overseas.

This was the BBB’s 5th Friendship Day, but this man was coming for the first time. He got an email invitation and immediately accepted it. According to his words, this event is also a nice opportunity to take a trip at a very low price. He explained that many Koreans, particularly from the old generation, also would like to work as volunteers to enjoy a trip to place like Nami island and see the country’s beautiful scenery for only W10,000. There are hundreds of Korean applicants every year, who would like to join the event, although not all of them can be accepted. But the low cost is not the only reason they want to join, he said. Many do so because they want to make new foreign friends and get the chance to speak the language(s) they have learned.

I noticed that even small details like presenting the same color T-shirts or the decorated train helped people get into a fun relaxed mood. In this enjoyable atmosphere, Koreans tried to talk more or sometimes even to follow the foreigners to offer help with bike rental or map reading. One English speaking older Korean man was ready to share information about Korea and Korean history. When he learned that my friend and I were from Russia, he started listing the famous Russian’s writers and novels, Russian’s tennis players and political issues between two countries. We had a very enjoyable and informative conversation with him.

Before leaving Nami Island and embarking on the ferry, we had to stand in a quite long line. As we waited, someone from behind us said ‘Hello’ in Russian. The young Korean girl with the Russian name Victory and the lovely smile told us that this was her third time acting as a volunteer translator volunteer on Friendship Day. After studying the Russian language in Korea for four years, she went to Russia for one year to continue her studies. She then got a job in Kiev (Ukraine) and lived there for around three years. She is now back in Korea and providing information services to foreigners on the telephone. Her Russian is great and I had no problems understanding her. She was impressed by the number of foreigners and the wonderful weather we ended up having for the day. Moreover, she added that the BBB is helping people get the feeling of living abroad and reminds of her time studying in Russia. We took pictures of us together, exchanged contact information and promised to keep in touch before we said good-bye to each other.

I came back home in a wonderful mood with hopes of being able to join the BBB Friendship Day again next year. 

About the Author: Elmira Urazaeva is a Russian student studying at Far East University.

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