What’s Your Favorite Color?

Well, I had pretty much as successful weekend as I’ve had in a long time. At least, all of the plans I made held up, so that’s a good sign that things went well.

Friday night was the Thanksgiving party at Dolce. Got a decent turkey sandwich and a lot of free shots at the door. Saw a friend who’d been in Thailand for like a month after finishing his contract in Korea, but he couldn’t find a job. He was only in Korea for the night, and flew out the next evening, but he said he’s going to try finding a job in Korea again after the holidays. I think a lot of times when people leave and say they’ll come back, it’s bullshit, but he seems fairly serious about it.

Saturday was a succession of small adventures. I had to go back to Itaewon to return some shoes I bought that ended up being too small. Steve, the new teacher, wanted to tag along and see what Seoul was like, so I told him I’d be in Seoul station around 2:30-3 PM. When I got to the station in Cheonan, a train that had been delayed a couple minutes was just pulling in, but the lady wouldn’t sell me a ticket for that train, because technically it had already left according to the train station’s time tables. So I bought a ticket for the next train and just ran and jumped on and stood in the area between cars.

I was a little nervous about what would happen if the attendents happened to be checking for tickets that day, but at the same time, it couldn’t have been that big of a problem. It wasn’t as if I didn’t have a ticket at all. I just didn’t have one for that train. And since I was standing in the unreserved area, it wasn’t like I was using someone else’s seat or something. Still, even though an attendent passed by like three times, she never checked tickets, so it was a moot issue.

Once I got to Seoul, queue lots of waiting. Steve still doesn’t have a phone, so he’s unreachable. He’s got his Blackberry from home, and I’ve tried calling it, but it doesn’t work. He’s able to call out, but I can’t reach him, so I just had to wait until he got a hold of me. Seoul Station has several kiosks with big, nice TVs that people are always crowded around. Even more so lately becase of the Asia Games. Think Olympics, but only Asia. Yeah. Anyway, I was watching a badminton match on one TV, for lack of something better to do, and I noticed that there was a large group of men just on the opposite side of the kiosk that had crowded together on one specific TV.

I thought it could be one of two things. Either a much more interesting sport was happening on the other side of the kiosk, or there was some kind of news program on and there was something about the recent conflect tensions between North Korea and South Korea. If you haven’t heard, last Friday, North Korea shelled a South Korean island, killing two Marines and two civilians. South Korea retaliated with shells of their own, but North Korean losses are unknown. The last I heard, the US government was sending an aircraft carrier to the area, and North Korea threatened to declare war if the aircraft carrier didn’t go home. Honestly, most people seemed relatively unphased by what has happened. If you ask, most people are like “Yeah, it’s a little scary,” but life is still going on as usual here.

Anyway, I decided to go check it out, what was playing on the other TV, and it turned out to be a marathon. I was stunned. A group of at least 50 people were all gathered together just to watch a guy run for two hours. I was so surprised that I couldn’t help but stay and watch myself. As I was watching, a girl came up to me and asked me “Are you traveling alone?” I was so surprised that I had to ask her to repeat the question. I’m used to South Koreans being at least generally friendly enough to say hello, but it’s also usually only with kids or young teenagers that find it humorous as hell to say hello to a foreigner.

Anyway, this girl was just like “Well, I’m waiting for my friend and I’m bored, so I decided to talk to strangers, and Koreans don’t find me that interesting.” Now, this in itself, I think anywhere in the world, is quite strange. At least to me. This level of honesty and straightforwardness to a complete stranger is something completely outside of my capacity. I can’t just simply walk up to a stranger and start a conversation, at all. I feel like I have no reason to talk to them. Still, I’m accomodating when people do it to me.

We ended up having like a 40 minute conversation just standing there, waiting for our friends. I found out she was a high school girl, though she didn’t look it. She’s a senior, just took her university entrance exam and will graduate in February. She lived in Sri Lanka as a kid, hence the awesome English. She also did not have a phone. Now, let that just sink in. A high school girl did not have a cell phone. I’m not sure what plane of existence that would be normal in. Especially, here in Korea. In Korea, everyone has a cell phone. Every single one of my first graders has a cell phone. I was completely shocked.

Anyway, Steve finally showed up about an hour after I got to Seoul Station. The girl’s friend wasn’t going to be there for another like two hours, so just to be polite, I invited her to come to Itaewon with us, but she just as politely declined. She even seemed a little taken aback. Haha.

Anyway, Itaewon was rather uneventful. Exchanged my shoes for new ones. Checked out the rather large foreign book store there. Walked around a bit. Had Taco Bell. A girl I met in Hongdae on Halloween texted me to tell me she was off work and free to meet. Same girl that told me she couldn’t meet me last weekend because she slept until 9 PM. Steve went home because he didn’t want to spend more money. I headed to Hongdae to meet the girl. In the subway station, I was kind of looking at a map, but couldn’t exactly remember where Hongdae was, so I asked a foreigner that happened to be standing around. She showed me where it was and we struck up a conversation.

Now, I know I just said I can’t just strike up a conversation with a complete stranger, but honestly she did most of the work. I just asked where Hongdae was, and then she kind of went on about her own traveling plans and it went from there. Turns out she lives only a couple subway stops away from me. Our conversation only lasted two subway stops before she had to transfer. She told me to Facebook her, but I can’t find her. Oh well. Probably never see her again anyway.

So, I get to Hongdae, but it’s about an hour and a half before I’m set to meet this girl. Just walk around a bit. Charge my phone at a convenience store. Chill at a PC Bang for like an hour. Girl shows up about half an hour late. The whole time I waited I was a little nervous. She asked if I remembered what she looked like, and of course I had to say yes, but considering it’d been three weeks and at the time I was working on a serious slant, my recollection was general in detail at best. Also, I knew the girl’s English is not strong, so it was kind of all on me and my Korean skill to facilitate most of the communication.

I’ve got Korean friends with not great English, but this was the first time I was even in a one-on-one situation with someone, particularly in a bar setting. Anyway, we met up and had a great time. Just drank some beer at a sit down Korean joint, ate a little food, etc… Her English was a bit better than I remembered, so it wasn’t too bad. There were some small pauses in conversation, but nothing excruciating. In Hongdae especially, it’s not uncommon to see a foreigner with a Korean chick and they just sit at the table not talking, stirring their drinks, looking bored as hell. Luckily, it never came to that.

I found out the girl actually lives in Incheon, not Seoul as I had assumed. Hence the long time it took her to get to Hongdae. Also, she like most young adults still lives with her parents, so she had to go home earlier than I had expected, because they were mad. It was early in the night, but I got to Seoul Station about six minutes after the last train for Cheonan. I could’ve made it if I had taken a taxi, but that’s assuming I could’ve gotten a taxi at all. I think I’ve discussed the taxi situation in Hongdae before.

Anyway, I just went to the jjimjilbang I normally sleep at when I go to Seoul, but it was pretty bad. It was only around 12 AM when I got there, so a lot earlier than I’m accustomed to sleeping on a weekend. I was not at all drunk, so there was no help there. I putzed around a bit, spent some time on the computer in the PC Bang inside the jjimjilbang, and  finally tried sleeping a little before 1 AM. Sleep did not happen. At first, it was mostly me just not being tired at all. My mind was still running super fast. Also, it was just barely uncomfortably warm in the sleeping room. Not even enough to sweat, but just enough to be like “Goddamn, it is uncomfortably warm in here.”

When I finally did start getting sleepy is when the snoring started. I tried moving around and finding quieter sections of the room, but it was impossible. There’s actually a separate room for people who snore, but no one ever uses it. So, I tossed and turned, completely unable to get comfortable until abour 5:45 AM. At the most, all I ever got was a slight doze in.

I finally gave up, and I knew trains started running again at 5:30 AM, so I cut my losses and went back to the train station. I had enough time after buying my ticket, so I went to McDonalds and got breakfast. I ordered a set, but I didn’t want the coffee. I was definitely planning on sleeping after I got home, so coffee was not at all in my plans. However, the lady at the counter simply would not let me leave without taking the coffee. The set comes with coffee. You apparently can’t just not take it. So, I gave up, took the coffee, poured it into the trash and went home. I kind of felt like a dick pouring out a full cup of coffee, but she could’ve just as easily let me go without forcing coffee onto me.

Sunday, I got to sleep around maybe 7:30 AM, but my body woke up around 10:30 AM. I went back to sleep, but not very deeply. Woke up several times, and still only managed to stay in bed until around 11:45 AM.  Got up and had lunch. Wasted time at a PC Bang. Went and bought some socks at the store. Headed downtown for the study group. Another girl who had previously cancelled on meeting before actually showed up to the study group, so that was a pleasant surprise. She didn’t have a book or anything, so when I was practicing writing Korean in my book, I’d just have her translate to English for practice.

Afterwards, we grabbed some dinner with another person from the study group. There was a rather humorous moment. Just to make conversation, I asked her what her favorite color was. She said blue. When I asked if she meant light or dark blue, she said like the sky. Light then, right? Nope. She said she meant dark, not light. So, to clarify, I pointed to the bag she was carrying, which was navy blue, and asked if that’s what she meant. She then said, no, that’s not blue. Now, my color vocabulary in Korean is pretty small. And I’m told colors here are kind of complicated. Like, several words mean the same color, but their relationship of shades within a color is strange. Blue is one shade. To them, apparently, light and dark blue and everything in between is a foreign concept. Each color is singular.

So, she said the name of the color in Korean, and I pulled out my phone to check it out in the dictionary. This is the very first entry for what she said: “sodomy, pederasty, buggery, an unnatural act.” Understandably, I laughed really hard, and showed the other foreign guy there, who also got a kick out of it. So, she took out her phone and looked up the word sodomy. I got a slap for that one. Then she said something about how she was going to look it up on the Internet when she got home.

Me: No!
Her: Why?
Me: Just… don’t.
Her: Okay.
Me: Really. Don’t.
Her: Okay.
Me: REALLY. DON’T.

Also, she kept saying “somody” which was pretty goddamn funny.

Anyway, the other guy went  home, and it was still pretty early. She had time to kill before her bus would come to take her back to her university, so we went to the mall and I bought some books. I picked up Gulliver’s Travels and Flowers for Algernon. Flowers for Algernon is one of my favorite books of all time. It’s also a complete downer that completely wrenches your heart out, but it’s a good book. Gulliver’s Travels had actually been coming up a lot lately. I’d picked it up before in the store, but decided against buying it, and in the past couple weeks, it’s kept showing up in conversation. Baader-Meinhof, anyone (look it up)?

So, went home, read the first bit of Gulliver’s Travels, slept. Totally not ready for another work week, but today shouldn’t be terrible. It’s a short day, and I promised my last class we would watch a movie. I actually gave them a choice on Friday. I said we could start the movie Friday, but they would have homework, or we could work in class and start the movie next week and no homework on the weekend. They actually picked working in class over instant gratification. I was really surprised.

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