When I left the house this morning, I did not intend to come home wearing different clothes then the ones I had put on before going out. But that is how it goes during a day of shopping in subway tunnels and open markets.
I shouldn’t even say this morning, the schedule of starting work at 4:30 in the afternoon to get done teaching at 11:30, and begin winding down by 1 or 2am has gotten me in the habit of sleeping until almost noon. I wake up, have a coffee while catching up on facebook and e-mails, and then finally making my first ventures out of the house somewhere in the early afternoon. Since I have not bought any groceries yet, or even figured out how to turn the gas stove on, getting lunch is usually the first order of business.
I decided to meander down to my favorite place, in part because I love the food, and in part because the proprietor has become my only real friend outside of work in my neighborhood – a Pakistani man selling roti and kebab oddly enough. Through the open market, I spotted a skirt I adored. It is not easy for a well-rounded American girl to find clothes that fit in Korea. As I was holding up the skirt trying to judge if it would fit or not, the clerk, a short old lady, ripped it out of my hands, brushed it off like I had contaminated it with dirt far dirtier than what is all around on the street, and then spit at my feet. I guess she doesn’t like foreigners. I was pretty shocked, but didn’t think much about it until I started to walk away and realized it actually stung inside pretty good. So I slunk up to the Pakastani restaurant, told my story to Khan, who with a big smile said, “Don’t be sad, she probably drinkie. I make you curry, you feel happy.” And it was so.
Several cups of tea and conversations with a couple of Khan’s cousins later, I decided to head down to Kyobo to get a new discount card since my last one was stolen with my wallet. I needed to pick up the new choice for the book club with Susan and Veronica: The Lightning Thief . On the way there a much more obliging street vendor waved me over to look at some shirts. I’ve shied away from buying anything, not really knowing what are reasonable prices and such. He had some pretty things so I looked around a bit, picked one up. He came over and said, ” I like, but I think problem for you. Small shirt and you have…” at which point he held up his hands and made the universal sign for huge jugs on himself. I thought it was pretty funny, and he helped me pick out one that had a more “expanding”, as he called it, fabric and a pretty Asian print. At 9,000 won I thought it couldn’t be beat, and finally walked away with a new piece of clothing, and the size of my chest validated – as it is just about everyday here.
I believe that American men pride themselves on their ability to examine your breasts without you noticing. It’s almost like sport. And although Koreans tend to be fairly subtle speakers by nature, that quality seems to be lost when it comes to the subway and my chest. I’ve been wearing more conservative shirts, but that doesn’t seem to stop the open gawking. To top it off, my boss was drunk the other night and declared that he picks his female candidates based on their chest size more than anything else. I don’t know if he was serious or not, but my friend Jon declared that he probably didn’t even listen to my answers during the phone interview, he was probably just penning “big American boobies” in the margin of my application over and over again while intoning, “uh-ha” and “yep” at the proper times.
Which brings me to the final excursion of the day. Again, a dress caught my eye, I stopped, and an extremely friendly clerk came out and helped me look. I said “maybe small”, and she said “no, no this big size”. She grabbed the dress, grabbed me by the hand, pulled me to the inner area of the market booth, held up a sheet, and made it clear that I was to try on the dress right there, in the middle of the market. Behind a sheet. In the open air. Well, okay.
So I tried on the dress, loved it, and although it was a little more than I would have liked to pay, I already had the damn thing on, which I suppose is the ploy. At that point she wouldn’t let me put my other clothes back on, joking that the dress was too beautiful. That’s some damn good salesmanship. So I bought it and was trying to chat with some of the other women buying clothes, and started to notice they were all pregnant. That’s why the dress was big enough for me – it was a maternity clothes shop. The only clothes I can wear in Korea are for pregnant ladies. Great, just great.
So in the course of a day I got spit on, had a great lunch, bought a beautiful (pregnant lady) dress, and got a great haircut for 10,000 won (less than $10). Now off to see if I can’t convince Jim to have a fourth of July beer with me. Yes, 4th of July is almost over here already, I’m way ahead of you.
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