Adventures in Getting Dinner

Finally got the bank account! I showed up for work finding that Julie, Amy, River and I were to immediately go out and get our bank accounts. We went out to get a taxi and had a hard time finding one. Then a car honked at us and pulled over. It was Mrs. Lee offering to take us there herself (helps that she’s a VIP at the bank). We drove to the section of Ansan with the Outback Steakhouse and Popeye’s. The bank is across the street from Popeye’s, in fact. We went up the stairs then down the stairs to different rooms before being handed forms to fill out. I didn’t fill out many parts, and they said it didn’t matter. The few that I did get around to filling out were my marital status, where there were only two choices: married or not married. They also wanted to know my hobbies. So I guess I’ll be getting some junk mail or Korean spam in the future. We then filed into an office to have a woman set up our accounts. I was asked to sit on the side while River got her stuff done. On the table was a stack of Lotto cards. You can play Lotto at the bank?

It was then my turn to get my account activated. The biggest frustration for the bank representative was that my name was too long. My name has seven syllables in a country where everyone’s name is three syllables. My Korean colleagues helped figure out some system. My account is now activated, and I have my own bank book and Korean ATM card. As River herself stated, I feel more authentically Asian now.

River and I then headed back up to the second floor to ask questions to the designated English teller. We were pointed to this man, and River asked out loud if he was the one English speakers went to. A lady sitting in front of him turned around and said, “Yes.”

Her name was Joan, and she was an Ontario native living in Vancouver until the job market got so pathetic that Korea was her best economic option (sounds familiar). We all exchanged contact information before leaving.

Now, this is where I state that there are children I teach who are just plain stupid. Idiots. It’s not a problem with the language barrier. It’s not because they are just children. They are plainly, remarkably moronic. You would think that during a science experiment involving lit candles that one of them would think, “If I stick my finger in the flame, it will hurt.”

Good thing we have stuff for burns in our first aid kit.

Other than the bank, I’m about to finally get my TV cable hooked up. I’ve gone two and a half months without TV. The cable company makes us pay for the whole year up front. I call it the “foreigner discount.” So I haven’t had the funds to pay that kind of money until this week.

Dinner. I was originally thinking of getting some kimbap and mandu at the supermarket and bringing it home. But then I thought, I’d like some chicken. I thought I’d get the nerve to go to BBQ, “It’s Min” and get some chicken myself. I’ve been nervous about ordering there, even though I pass by the wonderfully fragrant restaurant every day. I had a small menu in Korean, and I double-checked with my Korean friends if what I wanted was what I thought it was. The restaurant is plugging this new feature of theirs called “milk-a calcium” chicken. I don’t know where the milk and calcium come into the process, unless the chicken’s marinated in milk or something. It’s nice to know that even fried chicken places are trying to be health conscious. I head down to the restaurant, practicing what I’m going to say. I enter the restaurant, and it’s manned by this young guy talking on a headset taking orders while arm deep in chicken, flour, and hot oil. It took him a while to notice me, and he smiled when he did.

“Um, hello, um, Calcium Yang Nyeom Chicken hana chuseyo.”

He pulls out a larger laminated menu with English on it. (sigh! English!) He points to one of the pictures.

“This?”

“Yes. That’s what I want.”

“Whole or half a set?”

“Oh, half.”

“That’s it?”

“Yes.”

He got to work on my order. I looked more closely at the English menu. It had more items, and I was pleased to find that they had cheeseburgers there. So I have an alternative to McDonald’s! Looking at the back of the menu, I was amused to find a script for the employees in case they ever had to encounter an English-speaking customer. While I was glancing at this, the guy turned to me and said, “Thirtee– minutes.”

“What? Thirty?”

“Shipsam.”

“Oh, thirteen. Shipsam. Great. I’m going to the store. I’ll be right back.”

I was inspired to make a nice mega-salad and grab some beer while I waited. The produce section at my supermarket is both heaven and hell. It’s heaven in that I find particular items for dirt cheap that I have to pay a lot for in the U.S. It’s hell because other than those items, I don’t know what anything else is in the produce section. Also, you have to give your produce to the Produce Ajumma, where she bags it and slaps a price on it. So there was the clumsy white foreigner struggling getting a plastic bag when she came to my rescue with a bag already opened. Koreans use a lot of lettuce wraps, so you can get nice leaf lettuce already washed and peeled of the head. Stuffed my bag with those. Also got some green peppers, mushrooms, and some things that looked like two foot long chives wrapped around themselves in a bundle. I also saw that they had cases of beer on sale. I went to the checkout counter and bought my stuff. Put it in my bag and carried my case of beer in the other arm. I was waiting at the crosswalk to get to BBQ, “It’s Min,” when a busload from the school stopped in front of me, filled with students yelling, “Joe Teach-a!”

Great. Yes, Joe Teacher has a big case of beer. Pay no attention to me. I sneaked around to the left side of the bus, which, mercifully, had all its windows covered up with a sign advertising the school. I headed over to the restaurant, and my order was sitting there waiting for me. The guy noticed my big case of beer and smiled as if to say, “Party tonight, or are you drinking all that by yourself?”

I lied. “Yojachingu. She’s coming over.”

“Yojachingu? Girlpriend?”

“Yes, I have a girlfriend.”

“Is she beautiful?”

“Of course!”

(I wasn’t lying.)

Anyway, I learned again that I shouldn’t be so shy about going to restaurants and getting things done because of the language barrier. I was impressed with River, who told me this morning that she was able to make a hair appointment in Konglish. If she can do that, I sure can get myself some fried chicken in sweet garlic sauce.

After dinner, I called SJ. I told her that about me originally being in the mood for Korean food and then going out for something more Western, like fried chicken with fries and salad. She told me that she was out with friends, and they started out at TGI Friday’s but went to a Korean place for food instead. Ironic.

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