23 June 2010

Lunchtime Conversion

Sitting in a restaurant where I usually go for lunch, eating my ₩1000 roll of 김밥 (kimbap), I looked up from my plate to see that the man sitting at the next table had swiveled in his chair to look at me. It was more than a look, actually: it was an open and intense stare. This was a middle-aged man with silvering hair and a weathered face, so he didn't have the excuse of being too young or too old to know better. He just sat there quietly, eyes wide, staring at me. Even when I looked back at him in astonishment, he just kept staring.

After a long while, he said haltingly, "What is your job?"

Accustomed to that sort of thing, I answered in Korean that I was a native-speaker English teacher at the elementary school. There was a long pause while he absorbed this information and stared.

Then, "What is your religion?"

Answering this question was beyond my very limited language skills, so I said in English, "Atheist." I thought about it, then added, "No god," and held up my arms in an "X" gesture.

There was another long pause while he nodded and composed his next words.

"I want you to be Catholic."

Well, what the hell do you say to that? I shrugged my shoulders with a mild smile and returned to my food. I tried to ignore the continued unblinking stare.

Under what possible circumstances could this attempt have worked? Are there many people out there who are desperately wishing they could be Catholic, but are just politely waiting for someone to invite them in? Or was the force of his desire supposed to persuade me?

I suppose it must have actually been more informational than anything else. He wasn't really trying to convert me, but rather just letting me know his wish - probably out of a friendly desire to save my soul. I wish I could return the favor, but people often get offended if you mirror a conversion sentiment back at them.

3 comments:

  1. I find it interesting that he seemed to be able to tell just by looking at you that you were not a Catholic. Were you wearing an "I'm an atheist" t-shirt or something? Seriously interesting story.

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  2. Well, he asked me. I guess he asks all foreigners, "What is your religion?"

    Also HEY NETTE!

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  3. Sorry, didn't notice this until just now. HEY ALEXANDER! Yeah, that's right. I just full-named you. Miss you!

    Oh, and to actually refer back to the topic, I think he was one of those Asian guys that KNOW EVERYTHING.

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