Every Friday afternoon, without fail, Yuna will ask me, "Do you have plans for this weekend?" I usually am unable to muster a response beyond, "well, I don't know maybe clean the ranch." It's at this point where I have to explain that by "ranch" I mean my tiny apartment and by "clean" I mean push the dirty clothes around the floor. Regardless, I usually don't have much, if anything, planned.
Tony, a native of Seattle, e-mailed me asking if I had any Friday evening plans early in the afternoon. Tony was one of the first people I met fresh off the boat and he has always been more than accomadating when it comes to answering my naive questions. In his e-mail he said he was hosting a Thanksgiving Day dinner and would like for me to attend. Since he works at the university, he has access to a complete kitchen with, gasp, an actual oven! Being a Korean ESL vet, he knew what strings to pull to find a turkey. It only took a train ride to Seoul and W90,000 to secure a bird straight from the USA.
When I showed up to the university kitchen, dinner was running a little late and the cooks preparing the feast were scampering about putting the finishing touches on while talking shop. Ex-pat talk typically revolves around fellow ex-pat gossip, "did you know where I can find this (insert product)", how crazy Korean women are, my boss is trying to screw me, and how the worthless Won would serve better as a wallpaper than a monetary currency. Everyone seems to have their own little quirk here that presumably keeps them from fitting in in their native country. One ex-pat pinned me down and talked my ear off for a straight hour. When I tried to escape by feigning urination, he followed me! Another guy smokes 2 packs a day. Nearly everyone has a drinking problem. Another upstanding purveyor of English, fed up by the tiny size of his kitchen sink, showers naked with his dishes and washes them at the same time while he bathes (no lie). Wtf?! Mine you ask? I'm judgemental. :)
Dinner was excellent. When I say excellent I truly mean excellent. The turkey was fantastic and the stuffing was sent straight from the heavens. The gravy, which was actually a salvaged version 2.0 because 1.0 was left scorched to a pan from neglect, was likely the best gravy I've ever drank. The handcrafted sourough bread, mash potatoes, and salad with gorzonzoa were all proof that god didn't want me to die in Korea an emmaciated, lest good looking, carcas. After dinner, I waddled back to the ranch with some turkey day leftovers in tow. The night was W20,000 well spent!
Saturday was my get-a-guitar-at-any-cost day. Remember I spotted the shop amidst the vast concrete urban jungle via a speeding taxi. Now I had to retrack my route from the previous week. I set to foot with a fist full of Won, a comfortable pair of walkin' shoes, and a mound of uncontainable determination. At the guitar shop, I wailed on 5 different axes and settled on the first one I played. It was a Korean made Crafter for W275,000. There was a Fender acoustic guitar in the mix and the sales woman in her limited English said, "Fender ... made in China ... bad". I was impressed with her knownledge. People have come to know Fender as an American brand but it has been years, if not decades, since they were made in the states. I suppose when your neighbor to the north has 20 times the amount of people you have, an insatiable need for precious natural resources, and is generally feared by the rest of the world, you tend to take notice.
I took a taxi back from the ranch chest puffed out to Busan with an inflated sense of self worth. I then hit the gym. Check. Cleaned the ranch. Check. Treated myself to some kimchi jeegae (ordered in Korean mind you). Double check. What could possibly make this day more special?
Since the first Korean that styled was so keen on fashioning a built in duck-butt into my hair, I had little choice but to go back a mere three weeks later. This time I chose a barber who advertised a W6,000 haircut. To sweeten the pot, he had an acoustic guitar propped in the window. After Mr. Chung finished my hair I asked him if he played guitar. He answered "a little" and walked over to grab the guitar. With the guitar on his hip and a song book flung open, he pointed to himself and said "christian" and began to play a christian song from a book called aptly "Christian guitar songs". The tip off should have been the Amy Grant, yes Amy Grant, playing on the stereo in the background while he cut my hair, but sometimes I can be a tad dense. The song he played was very nice and he had really some good pipes to back it up to. He then handed me the guitar and said "you".
How do I top that? What do I do to cap an almost perfect day? How about introduce another continent to the stylings of Hank Williams Jr.!? I don't know if it was the echo chamber that was the barber shop, the kimchi jeegay boiling in my veins, or perhaps I was channeling the living spirit of HW himself, but I sang it like I've never sang it before and Mr. Chung applauded me wildy for my efforts!