Wednesday, June 10, 2009

2 windfalls

(1) Winding my way towards home today after I finished grading a pile of homework (for my summer, SAT essays, as with pancakes, come in stacks), I discovered that, while the beloved fried snack outpost next door to our academy has since moved to greener pastures (no matter: I still find my super corn dog at any one of the innumerable, and now government sanctioned, stands in the area), one of the other nearby shop fronts I frequented last summer still stands sessile and open for business.

A tiny footprint on one of the jam-packed rows roughly two blocks down from my workplace, it seems, as far as I can tell, to essentially run as a one-woman operation: in the back, a fairly-sized kitchen containing freezers filled with precooked and modular ingredients; in the front, a tiny room large enough for the cook-cum-cashier to stand and take an order, fronted by a glass window with the halves perpetually slid aside and a glass display case showing off rows of fundamental-if-ornate Korean basics: a matrix of permutations on curry, tonkatsu, and the like.

This display case is, I've come to realize, inseparable from my affections for the place: without it, I'm faced with the awkward and halting process of expressing my culinary desires through mimed gestures and sheer fortune. But at this stand, of all places, my meagre stash of Korean is expended and found adequate:

Me: 안녕하세요 [Anyong haseyo; "hello"].
Shopkeeper: 안녕하세요.
Me: (pointing at display case) 하나 [Hana; "one"].
Shopkeeper: [something in Korean] (goes back into kitchen; returns in 2-3 minutes)
Me: 고맙습니다 [komapsumnida; "thank you"]. (bow; exit stage right)

Cost, too serves as a major selling point: all dishes go for under 3000 KRW (~$2.50USD), and several for under $2USD. Coming with meat, rice, kimchi, and drenched in sauces, I'm sure I'm consuming the Korean equivalent of an American $5.99 "Chinese" lunch buffet. But complaints are slow to come, if at all. As I sit in a nearby park shortly afterwards, squeezing out soy sauce and mayonnaise onto my pork, strips of scrambled egg, rice, and kimchi, I watch salarymen pace along the walkways while elementary school children flit about, playing on what I assume to be their lunch break; or perhaps in transit from school to 학원 (academy).

(2) My supervisor/work buddy Jae called me today in the midafternoon. Having ducked out early due to my afternoon student reportedly having been a no-show, my first thought, naturally, was of alarm: was I supposed to be at work? But no, apparently my bosses just wanted to move some items from a recently-departed teacher's apartment (Fritz, for those of you keeping score at home) into mine.

And thus, a few minutes later, my doorbell rang (buzzed, rather), and Jae turned up with a TV, accompanied by stand, and laundry rack. Of course - for those of you who know me - you know that my mind quickly raced through some steps of swift deductive reasoning, and arrived at the conclusion that Fritz's apartment might contain other abandoned items well worth my salvaging efforts.

So, throwing on a pair of shoes, I tagged along up to the 6th floor, behind Jae and Mr. Yang, ransacking the room (what, I take it, the crime shows refer to as tossing a room) for anything and everything remaining of value. After four trips back and forth to my 5th floor room, I proudly surveyed my new possessions, feeling far more materially wealthy than had I ever before been in Korea:

2 bags of (unspecified) frozen meat;
1 bag of frozen french fries;
1/4 bag of frozen tortellini;
9 frozen hash browns;
a scattered handful of frozen chicken nuggets;
several pieces of assorted hard candy;
3 chocolate bars, and 2 Kit-Kats;
2 large boxes of corn flakes;
a bag of onion rings;
a bag of tortilla chips;
a matching container of salsa;
several packets of gravy and sauce mixes;
a large tub of brown sugar;
a tin of chocolate milk mix;
a box of Nerds;
2 tins of Danish-style cookies;
2 bottles of water;
a complete set of eating utensils (highly desirable, as I'd forgotten to bring any with me);
2 pans (for the first time ever in Korea, I may cook);
a bowl;
a plate;
two pots, including lids;
a copy of Bleach Vol. 1, in English;
2 5-pound weights;
a glass mug;
and a (what I assume is fake) Louis Vuitton shoulder bag.

(Fritz if there is anything on that list that you need, get at me.)

No comments: