Today is our Kiwi-mom’s birthday. Catfish and I wanted to organise a surprise birthday party for her but this hasn’t quite worked out. After a very quiet day at school and lots of snow throughout the day, Catfish and I meet for dinner at the Vietnamese restaurant in a final attempt to formulate some sort of decent plan. Unfortunately, the cute guy at the Vietnamese restaurant provides more distraction than we can afford as time slowly runs out.
We order the same delicious platter we had on Saturday and attempt to discuss the best approach for today’s birthday. The cute guy, about whom Catfish commented on Saturday seems to have either heard the comment or heard about the comment because he smiles every time he looks at our table. When we agree that we would like another Cola each, he gets shooed in our direction and approaches us shyly. Catfish knows how to say “Two more ______” in Korean so she is tasked with communicating our order to him – and pretty much everywhere else in all honesty. His shy smile turns into a grin that almost seems to say I can understand what they’re saying as he hurries off to fetch two Colas for us. A natural flirt, Catfish can’t resist asking him his name and introducing herself as we prepare to leave. We think his name is Kim Jong Som or something close to that but we do know that he’s friendly.
We arrive at our Kiwi-mom’s apartment building still chatting about the cute guy. A Korean guy enters the building just ahead of us and is waiting for the elevator when we arrive. He greets us with an eager, and English, “Hello” which Catfish matches with an equally enthusiastic, “Annyeong haseyo”. He seems slightly taken aback at the Korean response and replies with a rather awe-filled and surprised, “Ooh, Good Korean!” Apparently we’ve run into a Korean guy who is eager to speak English – or a university student who believes the stereotype that Western women are easy – because he doesn’t hesitate very long before asking if we know TLC on Bar Street. Yes, we do know TLC although we’ve never actually been there; we prefer The ROK although we don’t really spend much time on Bar Street. He tells us that he and his friends like TLC and laughs in genuine surprise and incredulity when we tell him that we’ve heard that TLC is popular with the military guys so that’s why we avoid it; in fact, we avoid Bar Street in general because there are simply too many foreigners there.
By now the elevator has arrived and we’re on our way to our respective floors. It’s clear that this guy is working and is delivering something to someone in the building. Catfish prods the large bag on his shoulder which turns out to be rice; she tells him that she thought it was dirt – this is the largest bag of rice that either of us have ever seen! Slightly redundant at this stage, he tells us that this is his job and follows it with the question of whether or not we like Korean food. Absolutely! Kimchi? Erm…Catfish eats kimchi but it’s not a favourite although I genuinely like it a lot. Again, we seem to have surprised him with this information: Foreigners who don’t only hang out on Bar Street, speak a little bit of Korean and like Korean food – we’ve probably confused him sufficiently by the time the World’s Slowest Elevator reaches the eighth floor where he gets off and we look at each other with slightly confused expressions of our own.
On the 15th floor, Catfish knocks sharply on the door of our friend’s apartment. Her husband opens the door surprised to see us standing there, saying “Happy Birthday!” to the wrong person – our Kiwi-mom’s sitting inside so we hurry to take off our shoes and wish her a happy birthday pleased to see that we’ve managed some element of surprise. She immediately invites us to join her for tea and a game of 10 Days in Europe while her husband works on assignments for his Masters degree. It’s a pleasant evening with lots of laughter as Catfish and I recount our adventures of the past hour and a half. How we love Korea!