Monday, January 31, 2005

My Second Article

NOTE: This is my second article for the Communicator. It should appear this Wednesday (the 2nd of February). Those of you that have read "The Benefits of Knowing Half-Assed Korean" already know this story, but this is a much more concise version. I hope you enjoy.

I had been in Korea for three months when I tried to barter with the man at Yongsan Electronics Market. I was proud of myself, because this time I was planning to bargain in Korean: no more of that pseudo-English bartering that I did when I bought my mp3 player. No, this time I was prepared.

I was convinced that I’d get a better deal this way: so convinced, in fact, that I told the man I was from France when he asked. I rifled through my head for a more believable nationality, Italian…Greek maybe, but French was the only semi-believable one I knew how to say in Korean. French was good enough. He won’t try to speak English to me now, I thought.

When I expressed interest in a camera, the first thing he did was tell me that I didn’t want that one. “Too old,” he said, “this one is much nicer.”

“But it’s too expensive,” I said. “I don’t have enough money.” Truth be told, I did have enough money; it’s just that I didn’t want to spend it.

“It’s much nicer,” he said, and changed the menus from Korean to French for me. “You should look at it.”

I managed to navigate through the menus with my less-than-perfect French (the first time all those French classes paid off). It was nice, but still more than I wanted to spend.

“It’s too much,” I said. “Give me a discount, and I’ll buy this one.”

“No,” he said. “It’s already very cheap. I can’t give you a discount.”

But when I got up to leave, he sat me back down and said he’d go ask his manager what he could do. At the time, I was convinced that he just walked around the corner and did nothing. This suspicion was confirmed when he gave me his business card at the end of the transaction. He was listed as the manager: he didn’t have to go ask anyone.

“Okay,” he said when he came back. “I’ll give it to you for 420,000 won,” a little less than $400. It was a big discount from his initial price of 450,000 won, but it was still too expensive. I told him so.

He proceeded to show me the features again: he took a picture of the fan behind him and made a big deal about the fact that you could see every blade even though the fan was spinning fast. Any camera can do that if you set it right, I thought, big deal.

“Give me more of a discount,” I said, or more literally, “more discount give.” That’s how you say things in Korean.

“I can’t,” he said. “It’s already too cheap.” Again, I got up to go, and again, he sat me back down. He gave me another 10,000 won off.

“Please,” I said, “More of a discount. It’s still too much. We’re friends, right? You can give more a discount to a friend.” I was sure that I had said this wrong, but he seemed to understand. He gave me 5,000 won more off.

“Okay,” I said and handed him the money. I was still 5,000 light, making it a round 400,000 won, but I told him it was all I had. Really, it was true: I only have 400,000 on me, but there was a bank machine a few feet away, and a quick swipe could have gotten me another million.
I paid and began to leave, but he stopped me. “That’s the friend price. We’re friends now. Come back to this shop next time you need something,” he said and smiled.

I walked away with my camera, happy with the fact that I saved 50,000 won. I was doing well for myself.

When I got home, I wanted to see exactly how much I had saved, so I got on the computer and compared prices online: $350 here, $300 there, and finally I found it for $270. I had just paid about $370 for it. My deal wasn’t quite the deal I thought it was. I was a little disappointed.
Then I thought back to the mp3 player I had bought a month before. I wonder how much I got ripped off then, I wondered. That transaction was all in English using only a calculator to show prices. There were no discounts that time.

I found it online at a few retailers: $180 here, $175 there. I had paid less than $100 for it. I got my deal, just not on the item that I thought I’d get it on.

So much for getting a bargain when I tried to speak in Korean—and it took me a half an hour to figure out how to set my camera’s menu to English from French.

Sunday, January 30, 2005

Sometimes Drunken Idiots Turn Dangerous

I woke up this morning to the smell of smoke. It took a few minutes to realize that smoke usually means fire. When it hit me, I bolted to my bedroom door.

I opened the door into a haze of whitish-gray smoke. The smell was terrible, and I could barely see. The only thing I could make out was the light of a fire on my stove. I rushed toward it and turned it off.

I couldn't really make out what had happened yet, so I turned on the fan in the kitchen and opened all the windows to the apartment (keep in mind, that it's still below freezing right now). Turns out Chris got the bright idea to cook himself some Macaroni and Cheese when he came home (I can only assume he was inebriated) and forgot about it on the stove. Chances are good that it had sat there for a few hours under full heat before I turned it off.

The pot was ruined. The smell was terrible. And the fact that this could have turned out MUCH MUCH worse didn't escape me.

The commotion of me trying to get the smoke out of the apartment finally woke Chris up after an hour or so.

"Chris, you really need to be more careful cooking. The whole apartment was filled with smoke when I woke up."

His response? "Ugh," and he went back to bed.


What happens when Chris cooks drunk. Posted by Hello

My beautiful fruit plate (made for when a friend came over to help me with my Korean). All Korean fruits: in the middle are persimmons, the white fruits are Asian pears, and at the edge are Madarain oranges. Good eats. Posted by Hello

The whole meal. Posted by Hello

Saturday, January 22, 2005

The Personal Stuff: My adventures in picture taking part 1

I've said it for a long time, but now I finally did it: I took pictures of the city. How many times have I taken pictures from the mountains where you can only see the city far away? A lot. How many times have I taken shots of what I see every day? Almost never. But here they are. I seperated the up for easier viewing.

This first set is of things that I've mentioned in stories or have mentioned in emails a lot. Or they're things that I like a lot and see every day. In any case, these are the pictures that are more personal, as opposed to detached pictures of the city. I hope you enjoy!


A DYED DOG! Woohoo! I've talked about them for so long, now I finally have proof. I never seem to have my camera when I see one, but today, oh man, I finally got one. Posted by Hello

My favorite restaurant. I only discovered it recently. The food is just as good as the vegetarian restaurant that I go to near my school (if not better), and the atmosphere is a lot nicer: quieter and more intimate. Plus it's family run, which is nice. They even have carry out, which I take full advantage of because it's cheap AND good. Posted by Hello

Every bridge in Daejon has different sculptures on it. They help you to orient yourself when you're walking around. I've mentioned them in stories before. This one is on the bridge closest to my house. Posted by Hello

Toy & Toys: the shop I passed by five times when my cab driver was trying to find my apartment when I first came from the airport. Posted by Hello

The wedding factory mentioned in "The Wedding Fiasco." Posted by Hello

The Gunman is a little bar close to my house. It's surprisingly quite inside. Posted by Hello

And it has this statue out front. Posted by Hello

This little restaurant is only a few doors down from me. I've never been inside, but the outside looks really cool. Posted by Hello

The house next to my apartment building. Posted by Hello

The Street: My adventures in picture taking part 2

This is stuff I see every day, and have gotten kind of used to. Some of it's cool. Some of it's unusual. Some of it is just to give you a feel for what I see in the city.


Just a cool building. Posted by Hello

There are lots of food vendors on the street here. Along this street, there's probably a vendor every 30 feet or so. Posted by Hello

You can buy practially anything on the street here. This woman is selling snacks--HUGE bags of snacks. Posted by Hello

More street vendin' Posted by Hello

Many people sell stuff from trucks here. This guy is selling fruit. Posted by Hello

One of the many PC Bangs in Korea. I've mentioned these lots of times. Posted by Hello

Puppies! These have nothing to do with anything, but look how cute they are. Posted by Hello

Korean seafood is very fresh, so fresh that it's still alive. A lot of shops have these fishtanks out front. I tried to find one of the ones that has squid and eels in it too, but I couldn't find one today. Posted by Hello

More fish. Posted by Hello

This is one of my favorite fruit markets. Posted by Hello

This is the shop you go to when you're hungry AND are looking to fill up a sandbox. Really, it's Konglish, English that's been translated into Korean, or, like here, an attempt at English. Sometimes it doesn't make sense. Sometimes it's funny. Sometimes it's awkward or misspelled. But it's always fun. Posted by Hello

Another nice like Konglish translation. Posted by Hello

The City: My adventures in picture taking part 3

I've talked about taking more pictures inside the city for a long time. Here are some general pictures of what Daejon is like.


The City. Posted by Hello