The Maltese Salmon

A few notes on Korean public bathrooms. Businesses like bars and restaurants tend not to have their own facilities. Instead, all the businesses on the same floor share a common public restroom. That’s why when following a sign in a restaurant to a “Restroom,” you end up at a door to the hallway and slippers laid out neatly on the floor to put on for your convenience. The doors to these public restrooms tend to be open at all times. Not ajar, open. Wide. Everyone can see you do your business unless you’re in a stall. And if you decide to use a stall, you run the risk of having to use a squatter, or rather, a porcelain hole in the floor. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy recommends that every traveler should never forget his towel. I’d expand on that and say that every person in Korea should never forget his packet of portable tissues. They come in real handy, whether it’s blowing your nose or coming to terms that no public restrooms in Korea have toilet paper. And speaking of toilet paper, it’s not just for the bathroom anymore. Yes, there are paper towels, but they are expensive. Instead, toilet paper, or tissue paper, is used for everything around the house where other paper products are used. Cleaning, napkins. I’ve grown accustomed to having a roll of toilet paper on my table while I eat.I’m mentioning the bathrooms because, well, not much has happened in the past few days compared to other entries. The weather forecasters keep saying the Yellow Wind is coming, but there’s been no sign of it yet. I’m actually looking forward to it. Supposedly, for a certain time of year, sands from the Gobi Desert actually blow in from China, blanket Korea and make the air denser than usual.

I went western Tuesday night and tried to make some pasta. Fresh mushrooms and peeled cloves of garlic are unbelievably cheap here, so I made a garlicky mushroom sauce. I bought some bread for garlic bread. The French loaves at the bakeries are actually pretty good here, but I couldn’t eat all that bread by myself. So I was looking for a smaller version of a French loaf. I bought these elongated rolls and took them home. While boiling my pasta, I cut open the rolls to start the garlic bread only to discover they were filled with sweet cream. It’s so hard for me to find bread that is not sweetened! Otherwise, the sauce turned out great.

Wednesday night, Canada Joe and River hosted a small smoked salmon party in Brant’s apartment. Joe had brought over some Canadian smoked wild salmon along with a jar of humongous capers from his trip to Malta. He showed us how to pile salmon, cream cheese, capers, and a squeeze of lemon on a cracker. It was heaven! I couldn’t tell if we were more ecstatic about the salmon or the capers. We’re watching Korean sitcoms during this whole feast. I love the sitcoms because they’re a window into a culture. There was one scene where a group of friends were singing in a noraebang, but to add to the difficulty, the singer had to dance certain moves on a Dance Dance Revolution (DDR) pad while performing. I think I’ve seen a few noraebangs advertise this. That has to be hard to do.

During much of the day, I was trying to sucker one of my Korean partners to go with me to get my film developed. I was told it was easy, but I was sure that the developer would ask me all these questions in Korean, to which I’d just answer, “Um, Yes!” And then I’d end up with 4′ x 5′ posters of my pictures. Amy agreed to help me out and put my film on her desk. Later, I saw that it was missing from her desk. I asked what she did with it. She said it was in her bag and she was dropping off the film that night. That was really nice. I wasn’t expecting her to actually go take care of it by herself for me.

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