Tarita’s homestay dad goes to an English conversation club every Tuesday, so last night, we tagged along.
For an hour and a half, we sat with some Koreans who were very eager to practice their English. It was pretty fun, though having taught ESL for two years now, I can’t say that it was a particularly new experience.
[Tarita and I later discussed how you know you've been spending a lot of time with non-native English speakers when you start orienting your stories in time by saying "At that time..."]
After English club was over (at 9:15pm), can you guess what time it was?
If you guessed Eating and Drinking Time, you’d be correct.
The group went to a sit-on-the-floor restaurant and proceeded to demolish several platters of jim dak (찜닭), which is spicy soy-glazed chicken and vegetables.
This moist towelette didn’t just encourage you to clean your hands; the reverse side told you all about God and Jesus. I’m wondering if the restaurant owner had stolen a bunch from a church or something….
Tarita and I sat across from this man, whose name I don’t recall, and–man–he had a lot to tell us. He had a very jolly laugh and for whatever reason, a slightly German + Borat-esque accent.
He was very excited to hear that Tarita was from Chicago. He really wanted us to listen to “The Night Chicago Died” on his hilariously huge smartphone in the middle of dinner.
Then he told us his big “secret.” This was a story about how when he studied in London in the 1970′s, he was arrested because he drunkenly got in a fight with his friend or roommate. I can’t remember. The story was frequently interrupted by calls for more soju consumption and food.
He also told Tarita something to this effect:
“I think your descendants [We later realized he meant 'ancestors.'] must be European because you look…very pretty.”
I had at least three conversations to this effect last night:
Korean: Where are you from?
Me: Illinois [Though I should say Virginia since I didn't grow up in IL, and things get confusing.]…the United States
Korean: But your parents…they are Korean.
Me: Sort of. I’m adopted. [This is met with blank stares.]
(By now, at least five Koreans are listening, all wondering the same thing.)
Me: I-byang-a. ["Adoptee"]
Koreans: Ahhhhhh….[Sad sympathy cloud descends upon the table.]
Korean drinking culture is fraught with rules that I don’t really understand. For example, you can’t pour your own drink; someone else has to notice and pour it for you. Also, when you drink, I think you’re suppose to turn your head to the side (and sometimes cover your mouth) out of politeness to your fellow drinkers.
This is actually a bunch of juice that I dumped my soju into. Unsurprisingly, going to the other side of the world does not make beer or liquor taste any better.
See that man in the white shirt? Tarita’s homestay dad insists that he is very attractive because he is tall and has big eyes. He was literally stunned that Tarita and I were not trying to jump his bones.
We got home at 11:30, and it was time to sleep.
Oh, I forgot that this exchange happened between me and the two gentlemen pictured above. (I actually can’t remember their names, so I have to refer to them thusly.)
Korean 1: What’s your nickname?
Me: Mica. My name is Mica. I don’t have a nickname.
Koreans 1 & 2: M…ay…i…what? what?
Koreans 1 & 2: Mi-ga?…MY GOD??
Me: No, Mi-/k/a. Mica!
Koreans 1 & 2: Like Oh mygod?
Me: : No, like Mica. With a k-sound.
Koreans 1 & 2: Oh…like My-Car. [This is a car model here.]
Me: No, like Mica. M-I-C-A.
Koreans 1 & 2: Oh…Meeka!!!