Mi-Young


At 2 pm, Mi-Young arrives.   She’s a very tiny English student who is unemployed and volunteers with English speakers for practice.  So sweet and helpful!  She very patiently explained the subway system and (sort of) the bus system to me.

We go to the very center of Seoul where the government buildings are and the second we get off the subway, we see a notary public in a storefront barely wide enough for a desk.  She explains for me what the documents are for, and he makes a great fuss looking over them.  Then he calls somebody and tell us he can’t do it and gives us directions to a notary with more authority.  We get there, and it is easier to explain what we need.  Then, as Sara can attest to once she gets the documents, there are many official papers to go along with the notarization and stamps on everything.  So official!  It kind of reminded me of children pretending to be president and making extra rules for everyone so we could feel important…Each paper cost 35,000 won – 70,000 total!  Mi-Young nearly had a heart attack.  Then, it was off to the post office.

At the post office, it was so nice compared to a U.S. post office!  There were zero lines, and a man who it appeared was his only job, was to greet us and perform triage.  So he asked us what we needed, and he estimated how much it would cost and walked us over to the correct station.  Super!

Mi-Young then found me a pharmacy, as I told her I needed aspirin for a low-grade fever.  She told me “water pills” were much better than aspirin and ordered some for me.  So she told the pharmacist something, and he handed me some gelcaps filled with clear liquid.  And then they also procured a disposable cup and water so I could take one immediately.  I think they worked eventually!  (whatever they were)

Then, it was off to the G.O.A.L. office.  It was really hard to find – their map didn’t include any streetnames, (they often don’t) the landmarks drawn on the map weren’t recognizable (they used nightclubs and it was daytime and didn’t see any signs for clubs) and we just walked around confused for a little bit.  I was freezing, so we went into a 7-11 and had some instant coffee.  It was like pulling teeth buying her a coffee, the least I could do since she was taking time to help me out and I knew she didn’t have any money.  Korean hospitality.  Anyway, several calls later and finally someone from the office came to retrieve us.  Turns out the small sign for their office is about two stories up, so it’s no wonder we never saw it.

I invited Mi-Young to sit in on my meeting, which she was reluctant to do since she thought it was private.  But I could tell she was really interested.  G.O.A.L. talked with me about the upcoming KBS t.v. pre-interview and my trip to Wonju the following day.  At the mention of KBS, Mi-Young’s eyes got very big and she said she had never been there before.  She asked if she could go to KBS and be my volunteer translator, and I said it was okay by me if she tagged along.  She was very agressive and asked  G.O.A.L. whether or not she could go.  (I was so proud of her, as she’s a little timid!)  G.O.A.L. was kind of against it because they weren’t sure what her translating skills were.  But  I’m going to call her and let her come anyway.  I also talked with one worker there who had also been yanked around by Holt.  He and I bitched about our experiences with them, and he said it was only them, because his sister had been adopted by SWS and they gave her everything and were extremely helpful.  Holt’s the oldest and the first, they processed the most adoptions, and they’ve also screwed up things more than any other agencies.  Anyway, we also discussed Korean language lessons and they gave me scholarship applications.  I still wonder if I can afford it right away or not.

After G.O.A.L., the next mission was to find a winter coat.  Mi-Young took me to Idae (sp?) which was very close to where we were, like two subway stops.  The area where we were is the locale of a major confluence of universities, so it is full of hip little shops and the buildings are more at a human scale.  Sooooooo many cute clothes to die for!  All moderately priced, well made and cute.  Dongdaemmon is another big shopping center a little further down the subway line where everything is bargain basement cheap and where most students shop, but the clothing looks cheap too.  So I chose Idae.

Problem is, even though it was 20 degrees outside, just like in the states, the spring lines were on the racks and few coats were to be had.  Some I liked but they were not warm at all.  Some I liked but were totally inappropriate for a teacher to wear.  On our way to Giordano, we went into a shop called Tate, across from Calvin Klein.  Like all the other shops we went to, Mi-Young would explain what I wanted for me and they would point to their remaining stock of coats. (gosh volunteer translators are wonderful)  Only this time, there was nothing to point to.  Don’t worry says Mi-Young, they are getting some hidden stock out for you.  And then they produce probably the best coat I will be able to find at this late date. (and we’re both getting tired of shopping) It was originally like a $300 coat, half off, and then Mi-Young kept insisting on a discount, and then she told them my whole story, and kept holding out for a discount.  So they gave her/us a small one!  Yayy Mi-Young!  Sadly, the shopkeeper pulled out a size medium.  In Asia, I am a size medium.   No more being the tiniest of the tiny.  Here I am average girth, if not a bit heavy.  (but my feet are still too small to find shoes most places)  Later, as we were walking down the street, me with my new coat on, carrying my documents in a TATE shopping bag, along with a complimentary TATE valentine’s toothbrush, we get accosted by some girls asking for the whereabouts of TATE.  Mi-Young explains that TATE is the most famous fashion store out of China, maybe the only famous fashion store out of China, and that everyone loves TATE.  She points out that with my shopping bag, I am a walking advertisement.

It was now time to find someplace to eat.  While discussing food, I mentioned that I had Kimchee chiggae the day before.  Do you like chiggae?  Yes, Mi-Young likes soup – especially dog soup, but that is only for the summer.   Very healthy for you, she says.  We stopped and ate at some restaurant, and I let Mi-Young order.  She pointed to some noodles with black beans (NOT black bean noodles) and said that was her favorite – but it is a summer dish.  I asked the waitor for some, and he said they didn’t have it – only in summer.  It’s a mystery to me why noodles and beans has to be limited to summer…so anyway, I let Mi-Young order us some seafood noodle soup.  I asked for some hot tea and the waiter was confused and her eyes got very big.  In America, most Asian restaurants you get hot tea when you order, I explain.  Oh no!  That is very unusual!  Turns out Koreans eat from cold to hot.  Hot tea is for AFTER dinner.  After dinner, I paid for dinner and she was upset.  I told her she could pay the tip, and her eyes got big again.  No tipping.  I guess there is no tipping in Korea.  So I explained about tipping in America.  Oh.  You teach me so much, she says…

Finally, finally I can go home and sleep some more.  Mi-Young gets revenge for my paying for dinner by giving me a T-money card (the re-fillable magnetic card you pay for subways and buses with) she had found and put 5,000 won on it.  Okay.  So at least we’re square now.  On the trip home, Mi-Young thanked me profusely for the day, saying she had never been so far from home and was very happy about all the new experiences.

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