Thursday, February 28, 2008

Land of the Morning Call

I know I'm back in Korea because I've had three different arguments in a language I don't understand and have won each of them. Not from superior language skills, but because unlike Koreans I can truly tap into the deep dark center of my welling Latino distaste and get angry at people.

In Korea having a cell phone is an imperative. So I took a teacher new to Korea to get her a cell phone. We go to cell phone street to get the new phone. Cell phone street makes perfect sense to me. I remember taking a new teacher once to get a cell phone. We went to the district where I suspected a phone could be found he looked up and down the street.

“Is that a cell phone store?” he asked.


“Is that another cell phone store next to it?”


“Huh. Long live capitalism.”

Cell phone street is much more intense than the two shop pile up that long ago new teacher praised. Cell phone street is a row in Daegu that has not one, not two, but about 150 cell phone shops all right next to each other and each one vying for the attention of the passing walkers trying to push cell phones on them. I walk into one of the first shops on cell phone street and ask to get a prepay phone. This shouldn’t be difficult I think.

“Opseyo.” Says the shop keeper.

“Mo-ya? Ta Opseyo?” What the hell are you telling me, there isn’t a single prepay phone in your entire store.

“Nay.” Yes, go away crazy waygook, no cell phone here.

I look into the case full of bright colorful plastic cell phones.

“Issyo?” I point to the phone.

“An-day, opseyo!”

I point to the street outside. “PSP phone-a, odi-issyo?”

“Jiggim, opseyo!” Now no one has them. Basically he was telling me that in all of cell phone land there as not going to be a single prepay phone for me to buy for my friend. I stand and fight with him a little more that breaks into a moderate amount of Korean swearing. Good to swear in a language people find offensive again.

We move back onto the street and walk across into another cell phone store. I ask the same question again.

“Ya, ya, sure, okay, phone, okay, ya.” And the pretty Korean boy dressed like a reject from a boy band turns around and comes to us with a model. I ask if there are anymore and he is puzzled for only a second before he managed to find a few phones for us to browse through giving us choice and selection.

The other phone clerks have noticed our presence and come to stand very close and listen and watch.

“Mo-ya?” asks one pointing to my flute case.

“Flute.” I say in English.


We practice pronunciation for a few minutes, the non-busy clerks practicing the word chorally while their comrade who is demo-ing phones to the new teacher looks on.

“Ya, minchinya.” Hey you guys are crazy. We all just kind of smile and nod. I figure if I wait to long the free English lesson will turn into a free flute lesson. A cell phone is picked out and we head back out into the cacophony that is Korea on a Wednesday night.

I miss home. It’s good to be home.

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