Dinner and a Breakthrough

Last night was good.  I met a couple of friends for haircuts and dinner, and then I had a minor breakthrough at 7-Eleven.  I should explain.

Scott and Seth are guys I met at orientation in Jeonju.  Scott is originally from Richmond, VA, but he has lived in New Zealand for the past six years.  Seth is a Canadian who was adopted from Korea.  A few days ago, Scott paid an old man in his village to give him a haircut.  Apparently the man overstated his hair cutting experience, because he gave Scott an uneven buzz cut.  I have a good set of clippers, so I agreed to fix Scott’s hair.

Once Scott’s hair was properly buzzed, we went to a barbecue restaurant on my street.  I’ve been there a couple of times before, and I swear it gets better every time.  I accidentally ordered a different dish than last time, but it was a happy mistake.  Instead of strips of beef, we got a bunch of thin slices of steak.

Each time the waiter came to the table, he tried to speak to Seth.  Unlike the other Asian-Americans (or Canadians) in our orientation group, Seth’s features are unmistakable Korean.  While the others can pass for Chinese or Cambodian, the Koreans instantly recognize him as a Korean and are frustrated when he cannot translate for us.  Though it is a frustrating routine, Seth seems to handle it gracefully every time.  He simply shrugs and waits patiently until they figure out that he cannot speak Korean.

You’ll notice that there is a deep rim around the barbecue grate and that two sections are filled with white and yellow stuff.  The white stuff is cheese mixed with garlic.  Before eating a piece of steak, you drag it through the cheese and then dip it in a bowl of onion sauce.  The cheese and the sauce are both great.  The yellow stuff is egg mixed with diced onion and peppers.  It cooks slowly during the meal.  If you time it right, you get have egg over-easy with your steak.

After dinner I walked with Scott and Seth back to Keimyung Station, my local subway stop.  Instead of returning home immediately, I decided to walk around the neighborhood.  I went to 7-Eleven and bought some groceries.  The cashier told me the price, and I handed him the correct amount.  I was outside of the store when I realized what had just happened.  I had just understood the cashier.  Normally I either steal a glance at the register screen to figure out the cost, or I hand the cashier a big bill.  This was a major breakthrough for me because the Korean number system is difficult for a westerner to learn.

I decided to play the rush (poker term) and try again.  I walked into WaBar, a pub beside my apartment.  The waitress came over and asked for my order.  I told her, in Korean, that I do not speak Korean.  She nodded and said OK in Korean.  She then spoke slowly and helped me find the beer I wanted.  Turns out they have a beer called 우ㅏ바 헤 페 (Wa Ba Hei Pei).  It’s as close as Hangul can get to WaBar Hefe.

I was surprised to find that this is one of the best Hefferveisens I have ever had.  It was a welcome break from Hite, which is the Korean version of Bud Lite.  Hite and Cass (another cheap lager) are the only beers I’ve had in weeks.  The writing on the can was printed in German and Hangul (Korean), so I’m guessing that it was made in Germany for the WaBar chain.  That might explain why it was so good.

I spent the entire time at WaBar reading the menu.  It’s all in Hangul, but I’m getting good at reading so it was fun to pick out the Korean attempts at English names.  For example, I found 밀 르, which is pronounced Mil Luh (Miller).  I also found 보 드, which is pronounced Bo Duh (Bud).  There were a few more, but those were the only ones that I remember.  I may have to do a whole post on Konglish, because I have found a lot.

When it was time to go, I decided not to cheat.  I didn’t look at the screen when she totaled my order.  This time it wasn’t so easy.  She was nice enough to speak slowly and repeat herself a couple of times.  I finally understood what she was saying and paid the correct amount.  It was getting late at this point, so I decided to pack it in and head home.

I’ll keep you apprised of any more breakthroughs.

Until next time.

-Taft

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