Hepatitis, Twenty Kilos, and the Old Guys in the Diner

Today I ended up spending more time than I intended at the hospital. The doctor told me that other than a little hypertension, my only problem is a need to lose a little more weight… she said, and I am not joking, twenty kilograms. Aside from the fact that this is ABSOLUTELY INSANE, she seemed quite nice and helpful… I’m just glad my Korean is good enough to understand about 85% of what she was saying.

Anyway, the other bit of news was that I needed to get Hepatitis-B immunizations, so I started that today. After I got my first shot of three, I headed out of the hospital and decided it was too late for me to cook my own lunch. So I decided to have a kimchi chigae, a kind of spicy fermented cabbage stew, at a local diner.

When I walked in, and ordered the dish, a couple of older men were sitting and having a chat with a bottle of typical Korean liquor, soju. One of them heard me make the order and make a crack about that kind of food being too spicy for me. So I laughed at said, in Korean, that Korean food isn’t usually that spicy, nothing compared to Indian curry anyway. I didn’t say it in an aggressive way, just matter-of-factually, but one of the men seemed dubious and maybe even ever-so-slightly offended. The other laughed and said, “Even for us Koreans kimchi chigae is spicy!” so I told him about how my father had been making curried occasionally since I was a kid, and how actually, these days, I ever-so-occasionally invite Korean friends over and if I make a curry, even medium spice tends to set them off sweating and commenting about how spicy it is. The less dubious man believed me, it seemed, and seemed pleased that I could tell him this much in his own language.

The next thing I knew, he’d invited me to sit down and have a little glass of soju with them. We started discussing the plants from which Korean foods are made (and the man was commenting on how astounded he was, what with me picking up a square jelly with the chopsticks, something the man claimed is hard for him) and I was about to learn about acorns, when my food arrived. The men were pleasant enough but the slightly offended man told me my food was there and I should eat it before it got cold, which was kind of a relief because I’d kind of felt in a hurry.

But it was a nice encounter, overall, and helped restore my equilibrium after the encounter with the pushy man in the Seoul Express Bus Terminal.

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