An Entire Week in Vignettes

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Photo Credit: Jenji Lee

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It’s Sunday, and I buy something on my own from an older woman at one of the street stalls. It’s intimidating, you know? But I want to see if I can do it, and, she’s selling those little fish filled with red beans. I’ve never actually had one, and I’ve wanted to try them for years. Ajumma, I say, how much? 

She answers and I pay her, but she doesn’t give me just one; with a smirk, she hands me three.

It’s Saturday and I’m with M at a Shabu-Shabu place in her neighborhood. This restaurant has a salad bar and free coffee and tea from a machine. I try three different types: the cappuccino, the Tales of Peter Rabbit, and the latte macchiato. They all taste the same but none of them taste too bad. Maybe my standards have changed, maybe it doesn’t matter…

Friday. I’m walking home from school and I pass by one of the students from my beginner phonics class. He’s in his Taekwondo uniform and he says Hi, teacher! And I say, Andrew!! How are you? And he replies, I’m hot!! and he gestures toward his clothes. I can tell he just got out of class and I’m proud that he had the courage to talk to me on the street, and that he could even answer my question.

Minutes later, I pass by the little rice cake store that I often look in to. I look up at the sign above the shop and for the first time,  without meaning to, I read it. It says 떡 or dduk. I’m so happy I practically skip home. I can read things, sometimes, but mostly I have to force myself to even try to do it. This time though, I did it on accident.

It’s Thursday morning and I’ve made a cup of Earl Grey tea with lavender bitters and milk, I’ve got an hour before I plan on leaving for school. Today, I’m hoping that Juliet doesn’t cry when English gets too hard, I’m hoping that the students in my afternoon classes will be able concentrate, and I’m hoping that I’ll be able to concentrate, too. So much of what happens in Korea is so surreal.

It’s Wednesday night. I’ve made dinner and I’m skyping with J in Japan and she’s saying I told you so, and I’m saying, Yeah, yeah you did. But we’re both smiling and it’s weird to think that the last time I saw her face, we were in the same country, the same car, the same space.

Tuesday. Raining. Endless rain. Bookstore closed early. Walked in the rain to Emart and left my umbrella outside, when I come back, it’s gone.

Monday. After work, I finally find the big grocery store in my area. All this time I’ve been going to this tiny one where the workers are kind of rude and they keep the fish in the ice cream freezer and it’s always so crowded. But this one, this one is huge. And they have frozen chicken breast, and salad greens, and almonds, and even plates and dishes from Daiso, and superglue and pencils. I’m elated.

Sunday. I’m having dinner with a friend. I try makoli and dakgalbi for the first time, and I burn myself on the table grill; probably a result of the makoli.

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