Saturday, August 06, 2005

A special visit

I only had about fifteen readers back in May, but those of you who were around then might remember the friend I met in my TESL course named Ji Hee. She was in Toronto studying English and had gotten so good that she signed up for a TESL class and we became buddies. She returned to Korea in June and though we've been in touch we weren't able to see each other because she was busy studying for an entrance exam.

Anyway, we made plans to meet yesterday in her neighbourhood of Hwajeong (West on line three) for lunch. I was to get to Jongno and then go West. Too bad I had no idea how to get to Jongno.

I jumped on the 5500 which I know takes you from Suji to Itaewon, having heard that it goes further into Seoul and probably would go to Jongo. After the bus passed Itaewon I used my "you probably speak no English" voice and said "Jongno??" to a young-ish man standing above me as I pointed to my subway map. The woman beside me, who was old and dressed in typical ajumma gear, piped up in perfect English "Ohh, it's in two stops. I'll show you the way. Where are you headed?" etc. etc. Amazing! It's always a little bit of a pleasant surprise when that happens and I realize that I should not make assumptions about who can and can't understand me.

The woman, though not too interested in chit chat, hailed a cab and let me share it on the one minute drive to the subway stop. I offered her some money which she (of course) refused, and we parted ways. How nice.

The subway ride to Ji Hee's neighbourhood was uneventful, though there are men who come through the cars trying to sell random things. This time I was tempted by a rubix cube keychain for one thousand won and a folding fan for two thousand. Very tempting, actually, considering the terrible heat we've been experiencing these days. Everyone is constantly shiny face and dripping with sweat.

It took a total of an hour and a half to get to Ji Hee's which really isn't too bad at all because it looked quite far away. She met me at the subway and we walked to her mom's work, which is an underwear shop in an open market-type mall. Ji Hee told me her mother was very excited to meet me and that she had woken up at 5am to cook us lunch!!! Can you believe that? I can't! I actually meant to bring a gift to the family but I forgot and didn't know what would be a nice, appropriate gift, so I really regretted not bringing one when I found out how hard she had worked.

Not only did she cook but she also gave me a gift from her store. It's a cute little tank top/shorts sleep set that says "Kiss Me" all over it. How kind of her! She had me try it on and it fit fine, so off we went to Ji Hee's house. On the short walk home we also bumped into her father on the street.

We arrived at her apartment which is one of those towering apartment buildings that fill Suji and rode the elevator up to the twelfth floor. There her sister was waiting to meet me (apparently everyone was so excited. I'm a celebrity! Hehe.) The sisters got busy preparing the food and though I offered to help they sat me down on the big comfortable sofa and I watched Home Alone. Ahhh, Keven McAllister... what a cute little kid.

Lunch was ready and we feasted on bulgogi, p'ajon, those delicious glass noodles with carrot and onion in them, seaweed wrap for the rice, kimchi, dried red pepper, and a few other things. It was wonderful! Meanwhile we talked and her sister, who is taking English classes now, tried her hand at speaking and understanding. She was so cute and not afraid to try. Ji Hee speaks English very very well so there was no problem there.
We hung out for a while, looking at pictures and then eating dessert before it was already five o'clock and time for me to go. Her whole family was so kind and sweet and I had a great time seeing a real Korean home and hanging out with Ji Hee and her sister. Hopefully I'll see them again soon!

I jumped back on the subway and headed to Itaewon where D'Arcy and Sara were. Sara is our new coworker from Idaho. She's cool. You know what we did in Itaewon? We went to an Indian buffet!!! I wasn't even hungry because of lunch but what else can you do at a buffet but eat??

Obviously I tooks pictures of it but for some reason they got deleted from my camera. Why oh why? Oh well. The food will have to remain a memory. For fifteen thousand won we treated ourselves to lots of delicious things which I can't be bothered to recount right now. We ended off the day at Gecko's with a beer courtesy of F16 pilots who lied to us and said they were filming a documentary on shrimp and the voice over guy for that show with Asian people running around doing relay races and falling. It sucks to be lied to! But hey, I'll take a free beer. Apparently girls don't believe you if you say you're an F16 pilot. Hell, I don't even know what an F16 is so what do I care?

We took a taxi to the bus stop (always an ordeal... damn lousy Korean skills) and spent the forty five minute ride back to Suji chatting with a guy who's studying in Denver but visiting with his family for the summer. Another surprising English speaker. We've really gotta watch what we say.

Today I'm considering trying to get an ultimate frisbee game going. Anyone in Suji who's reading this, drop me a comment and we'll see what we can do!


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