Site icon

Where Is True Love?

That’s the question I asked an ajuma (a soccer mom) with a baby on her back, in the parking lot of HanShinKoa Apartments a few weeks ago. I’m writing it in English characters because Hangeul will look crazy on most peoples’ computers. But I want to post this story to my Korean blog soon.

Gord: “Cham Sarang, eodisaeyo?”
Ajuma: ??? (confused look, tinge of “is this idiot dangerous?”)
Gord: ??? (reciprocally confused look, tinge of “dammit I need to start studying Korean again!”)
Ajuma: “Moragoyo?”
Gord: “Cham Sarang-i, eodisaeyo?”
Ajuma: “Eongh?”
Gord: (dawn of realization): “Cham Sarang Mateu-ga, eodisaeyo?”
Ajuma: (with a very relieved look): “Keu cheogeuro kayo.”
Gord: “Ah, keuraeyo. Komapseumnida!”


Gord: “Where is True Love?”
Ajuma: ??? (confused look, tinge of “is this FOREIGN idiot dangerous?”)
Gord: ??? (reciprocally confused look, tinge of “dammit I need to start studying Korean again!”)
Ajuma: Pardon me?
Gord: “Where is the True Love?”
Ajuma: “Whaaaaat?”
Gord: (dawn of realization): “Where is the True Love Supermarket?”)
Ajuma: (with a very relieved look): “Go that way…”
Gord: “Ah, I see. Thanks very much!”

Well, I finally made it to the True Love Supermarket. It’s near a medical center called the True Love Clinic, so in the tradition of Korean supermarkets it’s taken the name from the most important major building nearby.

I have such strange adventures at the True Love Supermarket.

Usually I insist on carrying my few groceries in my arms, instead of in a basket, in order to limit my purchases. I can’t buy more than I can carry this way! But the ajumas (not soccer moms, these ajumas are of the older variety) always get a basket for me, and force me to use it. They take groceries from my arms and dump them into the basket, with a big, “See, isn’t that easier now, kiddo?!?” look on their faces. So I thank them graciously and go on.

And buy too much stuff. Maybe they know my reasoning?

Once I picked out a lot of groceries, and brought them to the counter. Just my luck, that was the day my wallet was empty. Now, my wallet is never empty in Korea, because almost never can use your debit card in a store… so I always have to have cash on me. But this time, I was clean out of money. I asked the woman working on the till to put my groceries aside and wait, I’d be back in fifteen minutes. Of course, I got some money and came back. I told the woman I was sorry for being so babo (which means foolish or dumb) and she just laughed, and quizzed me about how I learned to speak Korean.

The next time I came into the shop, I only picked up a few things and when I got to the counter, it was the same woman working on checkout. She asked me, in brisk Korean, with a mischevious grin, whether I had a lot of money. I? happened to have been paid that day, in cash, so I pulled out the envelop with, basically, almost two thousand dollars in it, and showed her, with my own mischevious grin. “Eong, toen manyo.” (Yeah, I got lots of money.)

She was kind of shocked, but also, suddenly, very friendly, asked me many more questions, of the usual sort: where are you from, how old are you, and of course the unbelievably exaggerated “Boy you speak Korean well, la la la.”

Well, today I was very forgetful, and failed to pick up some things I needed; so during a walk I stopped by the True Love Market… and what do you know, it was the same woman working the cash register. This time, she didn’t tease me about whether I hand cash on hand. Instead, her question was very blunt:

Yeoja chingu isseyeo?
Do you have a girlfriend?

My response? A cunning one:

Why do you ask?

Her response was cunning too:

Just because… (or, maybe “Just curious.”)

What could I say? I decided to give her something joke about with her friends, grinned smoothly as I can, reached out my hand for the bag of groceries, but holding it still for a moment, looking for all the world as if I was going to say something very inappropriate to her, I asked:

“Choeun yeoja algoisseyo?”
Do you know of a nice girl [for me]?

The effect was just what I planned: the checkout woman started laughing and shook her head, protesting such a question, saying she didn’t know anyone for me. It was a good laugh for both of us… and then she started asking about whether I’ve started studying Korean again.

It’s cases like that where the communication barrier is minimal, and when I enjoy the small moments of everyday life in Korea.

Less rewarding are moments when basic definitions of the world differ enough for effective communication to still be misleading. For example, I had this conversation once, in Korean:

Gord: “What is this?”
Baker: “It’s rice bread.”
Gord: “Is it good?”
Baker: “Yes, it’s really delicious!”
Gord: “Really?”
Baker: “Yes, really! It’s very delicious! You’ll like it very much!”
Gord: “Uh, okay.”

Imagine Gord thinking that the strangely colored part of the bread is that color because it’s riceflour-bread twined into the regular dough. Thinking it won’t taste awful.

And a few hours later, imagine Gord discovering the bread has rice paste twined into it… sweetened rice-paste. Which makes the sandwich he made taste like candy-bread with tomatoes, lettuce, and really nice cheese inside it. Which is awful…

But, all in all, I like the True Love Supermarket. It’s just, you know, this little grocery store, near my place, but… even a short trip there usually gives me something worth writing home about, for a laugh if nothing else.

Exit mobile version