So after finding a few safety pins in my desk drawer and downing two cups of coffee, the world seemed a bit more bearable and I could feel the tides shifting. It might be an Ok day after all. Tuesdays are probably my favorite because the students in this block are particularly active and are open to trying English conversation. To them I am a sassy, quirky, Amercian who says things like " I need it for my life", " Magical", " Get wit it!", and many other colorful phrases that fly miles over their little heads. But they laugh at my "accent" and my attempts at Korean but they brighten my day. (Awww such a Kodak moment...click) This is one of the reasons I love doing what I do. No matter how my day starts out, my students bring out the best in me, and all the other BS just fades into the background. Today a boy in the classroom next to my 2nd period class and says in his best English " Hey gwurl, how you dooo-ing?" in a Shaniqua meets Long Duck Dong sort of way! Had to love it. I gave him a hi five and said " Nothin much boy, who you doing?" He then turns back to his friends giggling and excited. Just a question though... what's up with Asians and the lack of physical contact? The hi-five is so strange to them, the girls flinch thinking I'm trying to hit them and the boys either tap me lightly or miss my hand all together. They know peace signs but not hi-fives?
Flashback: ( Wayne anf Garth's spirit fingers commence) So in the spirit of independence, even though I've only been here 12 days and my Korean is less than elementary I'm still determined to do things myself. So instead of waiting for my friend/interpreter Bella. I whisk Fran to E-Mart to return a curtain that is too small. Earlier that day I asked Mr. Kang for the translation needed for this exchange. He was more than happy to help me. So all day I practiced what was to be my ultimate commerce experience at E-Mart. With no receipt in hand, we arrive at E-Mart with a too small, unopened curtain. I figure if all else fails , I can pull out the dumb American card. So we arrive at the counter where immediately, I am pushed aside by an elderly Korean woman. " Wait I thought I was 206?" So patiently I wait as Fran laughs. Then it's our turn! I take out my trusty vocab notebook and repeat the Korean phrases proudly. The cashier looks a me..."Bo?" I repeat again. "Aniyo" she says shaking her head. No dice ladies and gentlemen. She then starts speaking at at unbelievably fast rate, shrug and say " E hey buteyo" and give her the " hold on a minute finger" while I dig in my mary poppins bag for my cell phone. Thank goodness Ms. Kim is # 1 on my speed dial. Pressing one , Ms. Kim picks up on the other end and I hand the phone to the cashier. An exhange goes on and apparently Ms. Kim sets the world right. I give the cashier my card and she looks up the purchase. Eureka! Not so fast, we're not out of the woods yet folks.The clerk then calls me back to the counter and begins to explain what I can only imagine is the return process. Now if I didn't understand you the first time you spoke to me in full on Korean, what makes you think is now any different? By this time Fran and I both have confused looks on our faces.( no matter how long you listen to someone in Korean you will NEVER understand or even make out a semeblence of anything in English so dont even try.) In our utter confusion a small voice says in the clearest English says " Do you guys need some help?" I look down and a Korean woman all of 5ft has now become my night in shinning armor. " Yes, please" I huff. She then turns to the cashier says a few phrases and moments later the cahsier is handing me a refund for my curtains. After many thank yous to the woman I now know as Nick, I ask if she wants to exchange numbers, maybe we can all go out for coffee and she or that maybe she could be my on call interpereter. She agrees and now I've made a new friend. Off to conquer E-Mart....
So back to my original statement about Asians and peace signs...a little history for those of you who may not know but prior to Hitler's inception of the Nazi party the Swastika was seen as a symbol of peace. Notedly Fran and I were perusing the jewelry counter at E-Mart yesterday and what do we come across but a blinged out swastika, right next to the gold cross and Buddha. " Should we be offended?" says Fran. Knowing the history of this symbol I'm not sure how I should feel.Me, being a bohemian at heart, do I purchase the shiny swastika and wear it as I would a peace sign? " Getting you that for Christmas" she says. We laugh and continue our long search for trahsbags. Now you would think E-Mart being the commerical paradise it is, that we would readily find trash bags.We spent almost 30 minutes searching around E-Mart. We asked numerous E-Mart clerks, but ended up riding the conveyer belt escalator up and down multiple floors. When we tired of this charade, we decided to try one last time. This time Fran says "use your hands! it always works". Once again finding the youngest Korean on the floor I say "Youngol Haseyo?", "Yes a little" he replies. " Traaash Baaaags" I say slowly mimicking a trash can with my hands " You know... garbage?" , " Ooooh, he says" , I think I almost saw a light bulb. He leads us to a random home goods aisle with recyclable bins. Ugh soo not what we were looking for. We had almost given up hope, only to end up finding "refillable bags" for something called a Magikan which resembled a trash can. A little skeptical I tell Fran I'm not sure these are trash bags. While I play the lookout she opens a box and it appears they are indeed trashbags. One more trip down the Jetson-like escaltor with our cart of goodies, we stop at the bottom floor market for some sweet bread and bulgogi wraps. The intoxicating smell of spicy beef lures me in to a near by sample cart. As we aproach the stand a family of hungry Koreans bombard the spicy beef server, a man almost knocking Fran over. I ask Fran if she is ok. " No he stepped on me and cussed" I laughed indisbelief. You cant say excuse me, but you can say " Whoa, oh shit!" something isn't quite adding up here.After our near trampling experience Fran, a true New Yorker, was soo over sampling E-Mart's finest meats " C'mon it's time to go" she says, " the swine flu is in full affect, and you're over here wanting to try some shit" unable to hold it in, I burst out into an uncontrollable laughing fit as Korean women look at me strangely. However it could have been the fact that I was six foot in boots, wearing a bright orange beret, matching glasses, and bright green scarf. We may never know.So after checkout signing my life away for $110,000 won curtains (by the way since Koreans value quality, you wont be finding any cheap $20 sheers people) We box up the new comforter, "herb" pillows, random carb snacks, and my curtains that will someday be past on to my children, we hail a taxi and head home.
After bearing the cold Korean weather, which came out of nowhere, we made it home safe after a few hiccups with the taxi driver as to where my apt was located. In unpacking items I go to put a a trash bag in the can only to find that these " Magikan refill bags" are nothing more than a never ending peice of plastic posing as a trash bags. So now I have a huge box of DIY trash bags.Simply cut and knot the bottom. Anyone in need of handmade trash bags? So now I'm tempted to hang on to this plastic and make Christmas hats with my students. When I show Fran she burst out in laughter. "OMG...really?" " I told you" I say " This is Korea, you never know what you're gonna get." Amused with the DIY trash bags I make a couture DIY trash bag hat, so does Fran, and we commence to an impromptu avant-garde photo shoot,complete with asian pears and old school glasses. All we needed was a "That's Y" to make the night complete!
Your days may not always start out the way you plan and they almost never end up any way you've imagined, so be flexible, go with it! You never know where the day might take you.
Confucius say: Korean products may often lead you astray no pitures, or translations one may look for sugar end up with powdered panda ejaculation