Since language is very much a barrier, getting ready to move into our apartment has been a bit of a challenge. Mr. Logical's company provides the services of a a group of 'relocation coordinators' whose job it is to help us negotiate our way through the forest of Hangul all around us, and they have done a very good job so far, when we remember to call them. The problem is, one isn't used to anticipating when one will need their services, and even the most mundane-sounding task can suddenly be brought to a standstill by lack of communication. I'm also discovering that the hand gestures, head-nodding and dumb-show (along with a smattering of Latin-based languages) that got me comfortably through Europe (and occasionally, the US,) really don't help much here.
Mr. Logical receives a call from one of the relocation coordinators saying that the apartment manager needs to have workmen access the apartment to re-seal and/or caulk the apartment windows, which should be done before we move in next week. Mr. Logical and I coordinate a time for me to be there to let them in, and this is conveyed (via the coordinator) to the building manager, who (presumably) conveys it to the workmen.
Son #2 and I take the subway across town and manage to get into the apartment. Exactly on time, the workmen appear at the door. Nodding and bowing, they remove their shoes and (as far as I can tell) gesture questioningly at the bedrooms, asking for permission to enter (since we have no furniture and no one is actually living in the apartment, there is really no need for such delicacy, but it's certainly appreciated.) I make expansive gestures with my arms indicating that they may go anywhere in the apartment, and Son #2 and I retire to the living room, where (due to having no furniture yet) we stand around awkwardly. The workmen enter all the rooms, opening and closing the windows and discussing them gravely with each other. The box of tools and supplies they have brought with them remains in the entryway on the floor.
After making a circuit of the entire apartment, the one I assume to be the senior workman approaches me, bows, and, waving his hands expansively, bursts forth into a torrent of Korean. I understand nothing, and shake my head helplessly. He waves his arms again, points to the window, and says something else. I do not understand. I say this. He shakes his head. We are at a standoff. I do my best to indicate that he may begin his work, and it's fine with me. He keeps gesturing at my windows and explaining in Korean.
Son #2 (with what I feel is outstanding presence of mind) pulls out his cell phone and accesses a language translation app that he had downloaded a few days earlier. He navigates it to Korean-English and hands it to the workman, but he doesn't understand how to use it and - naturally -we can't explain it to him. More discussion between the workmen, the phone is handed back, and the four of us are back at an impasse. I am desperately trying to tell them, "Yes, do whatever it is you have to do, it's fine with me" and they keep gesturing at my windows. I can't understand why they are asking me for permission to do this stuff when, after all, that's what they've come to do.
Suddenly, I remember the relocation coordinators. Naturally, I do not have their number, so this means a call to Mr. Logical who is up to his ears at Customs trying to arrange delivery of our belongings and hardly in the mood for a chat with a desperate wife. I get the number, call the coordinator, describe my situation, and ask her to talk to the workmen. I then hand the phone to the workman and wait while more discussion ensues in Korean. At the end, he bows and hands me back the phone.
When I ask the coordinator what's going on, I can hear the amusement in her voice.
"He says there is nothing wrong with your windows and he doesn't need to do anything to them."
Oh. Right, then.