Write Into Life

How to experience selective illiteracy on your travels

Two washing machines with instructions in Korean. Thank goodness one has English translations.

Travellers do it on purpose
travel to places
where we don’t speak a word
except for thank you and goodbye
and we can’t decipher a word
or syllable or logogram
so we can’t use a washing machine
and must depend on the kindness
of literate
articulate strangers.

Kind staff have tagged
a washing machine
with English words
like temperature
dust mite removal
pour detergent here
and twice.

My age cohort was dubbed
The Silent Generation
which makes me laugh
except at times like this.
I welcome
this blindness to words
and deafness to meaning
I choose
this voluntary ignorance.
It strips away the buzz
and flutters up the mind.
While I cannot use or hear
my mother tongue
I float
in a silent retreat
and if and when I meet
a crowd of English speakers
I gush
and gush and gabble
and suddenly
it’s all about me.


Travel note and photo by Rachel McAlpine at the Seoul Art Space—Yeonhui. Please comment or share if you feel that way inclined.