One of the things I'll hate about leaving Busan is saying goodbye to the Busan English Library. The BEL has given me so many hours of happiness. I wanted to say thank you by donating some books from the Bybeeary that didn't make the final cut of books sent to the United States.
I gathered up some serious, yet engaging titles -- pristine beauts with uncracked spines (nothing but the best for my beautiful library!) and made my way BELward.
Bybee: [to woman at the front desk] Hi, I'd like to donate these books to the library.
Front Desk Woman: [looks at books with an oh-God-no expression] Donation?
Bybee: Yes, donation.
FDW: Just a minute. [gathers up books and heads for an office on the other side of the room]
[Bybee wanders off to the "New Books". About 3 minutes pass. FDW comes back with a new woman in tow. Office Woman?]
Office Woman: Excuse me! You want to donate these books? [holds them away from her as if they're radioactive]
Bybee: Yes. Is everything OK? [thinking OMG, they don't want my books. Crap. Now I have to haul them back to the apartment.]
OW: If we have don't have a copy of any of these books, we will add them to our collection. If we have a copy, or they aren't suitable, we will re-donate them to another place. Do you understand? Is that all right?
Bybee: Yes, of course. Sure.
OW: Do you live in Busan?
Bybee: Yes, I come here all the time. I have a library card. [Bybee curses inwardly as she suddenly realizes that she left her BEL card at home on the table]
OW: Where do you work?
[Bybee says the name of her soon-to-be-former workplace]
OW: I studied there. Do you know Professor ____________?
Bybee: No, I'm sorry, I don't.
OW: When did you start working there?
Bybee: March, 2013.
OW: I was there in 2012. You don't know Professor __________? What do you teach?
Bybee: English conversation. To freshmen.
OW: Professor ______________ is English Department.
Bybee: Ah, yes. I see. Well, I don't know him.
OW: How long have you lived in Korea?
Bybee: Ten years. [starting to get that sweaty, interrogated feeling. Looks around for the bright, hot lights and the rubber hose]
OW: You've been here ten years?
OW: How did you acquire books of this quality?
Bybee: Uh, well, uh...I uh, shopped? And uh, I ordered some online? And when I visited my hometown... [sweat pops out in new places]
Bybee: [inwardly] WHAT DO YOU MEAN, HOW DID I ACQUIRE BOOKS OF THIS QUALITY? DO I LOOK TOO POOR OR TOO STUPID TO SHOP? EXCUSE ME FOR NOT BRINGING IN A BAGFUL OF BEAT-UP JAMES PATTERSONS! HOW DID I ACQUIRE THESE HIGH-QUALITY BOOKS? DO YOU THINK I STOLE THEM? YOU THINK THEY'RE HOT??? OK, OFFICE WOMAN, I CONFESS...I'M IN AN ILLEGAL BOOK RING! THAT'S WHY I MOVED TO BUSAN -- SO I COULD MORE EASILY ENGAGE IN SHADY BOOK DEALING AT THE DOCKS! CONGRATULATIONS, YOU WORMED IT OUT OF ME!
OW: [nodding] You bought them.
[Office woman nods again, finally cracks a slight smile, then turns around and walks back to her office, carrying the books. The high-quality books. Bybee waits a moment to see if she's really dismissed, then staggers over to the magazine section to sit down and recover]
Perhaps the stress of repatriating is getting to me, but that seemed a little over-the-top, even taking cross-culture communication and second-language semantics into consideration.
I love you to pieces BEL, and I'll be back to visit often before I leave at the end of March, but don't worry. I'm not bringing in any more donations. The next time a foreigner comes waltzing in with an armload, just take the damn books. A thank-you would be nice as well.