I regularly seem to forget the most important advice I give to all newbies in Korea. The moment you get homesick, anxious, depressed or just plain bored… go outside. Funny things happen when you go outside.
Tonight Lee Ann and I met for dinner after work at our favorite bbq place, LA Galbi. My best Korean friend, Chang Lee, greeted us at the door (as he always does) and led us to our seats. After taking our order he asks if we would like Cola (Coke/Pepsi) or Cider (Sprite). (He always gives me free drinks. He’s a good friend.) We tell him we would like 2 colas and he seems completely shocked.
“Yes, 2. “
“2? Not 1?”
“Yes. Du-gae. 2. “
“Wow.” Hahaha. and he giggled as he walked off.
Yes, Korea is a culture of sharing. You share food, drinks, really anything. Maybe we should have ordered one and shared it; then ordered another. Perhaps it’s purely an issue of social norms, but mind you, the two ladies at the next table were already up to 8 beers by the time we sat down. Sharing or not, no one seemed to notice or care about that.
As we were finishing up our meal, he came back over with a plate of sliced cucumbers. He wanted to know what the English name for them were. We taught him “cucumber”. I already knew from my brief stint in Korean classes that the Korean term was 오이. Lee Ann and I taught him the word “cucumber,” and I spelled it out phonetically in hangul for him, 규금바. We also taught him “carrot” (당근) and “eggplant” (가지). He was quite grateful albeit a little tipsy.
After that, I asked him for a box so I could take the leftover meat home to Charles. He’s met Charlie multiple times as we often take our nightly walk by the restaurant, so he was happy to oblige. Then he offered to give me a bag of food for Charlie every night of the week, even without me eating at the restaurant. Any night I stop by on my walk home from work he offered to give me a decent quantity of meat for Charlie. Then he walked around the restaurant and found a piece of bone for me to add to Charlie’s doggie bag. It’s good to have friends!
THEN, we started talking about his son. His son lives in Canada and is a freshman at the University of Waterloo. He’s very proud of his son and loves to show us pictures and talk about him. So much in fact that he showed Lee Ann his son’s tuition statement. While I didn’t see this, I greatly appreciated Lee Ann’s narration.
“University of Waterloo. Wow.”
“Tuition statement. Wow?”
“Canadian dollars? Wow?!”
“11,000 Canadian dollars? Wow?!?!”
“ummm, per semester? Wow.”
And we both look at each other like “why is he showing us this??”
After we finished our conversation about tuition costs plus providing additional funds for clothing, food, entertainment (this whole conversation is mimed out, by the way), Lee Ann and I decide it’s time to go home and take Charles his dinner.
On the way out, Chang Lee asked Lee Ann if she was staying in Korea for a while. She said yes. Then he asked if she had a boyfriend. She said no. Then he said “I will find you boyfriend.” So, hopefully that will work out well for her. He seemed quiet eager to help her find her soulmate in Korea.
An update of our neighbor ladies at the next table…They were up to 13 beers and bright pink cheeks by the time we left. They had also dropped a pitcher of water on the table and multiple spoons on the floor. Yet they remained completely unnoticed by anyone in the restaurant. Of course…two colas for two girls is just strange-ee.
What a fantastically strange place to live.