안녕하세요, 이 헬스클럽에 동록하고 싶어요.
(Hello, I’d like to sign up for this gym.)

The drawback to memorizing one line (안녕하세요, 이 헬스클럽에 동록하고 싶어요.) and being an East Asian foreigner in an E.A. country is that the person you are stipulating with will most likely assume that you are any other citizen. This tiny crisis happens even with the smallest of tasks, including checking out at the grocery store. The person will casually respond to your well-rehearsed one line with a slew of vocabulary that you do not know because you’ve only memorized that one line. You are unsure whether to abruptly gesture, “죄송합니다, 한국말을 조금 해요.” or to look like you understand deer in the headlights while trying to pick up a few words that are dodged at you.

Having ignored the fact that I wear gyopo around my neck, the gym’s employee ended his salespitch and our quasi- vis-à-vis exchange by handing me a receipt at the front desk. Feeling Rocky Balboa emerging, I walked out of the building accomplished, but soon wondered whether the guy had said that the gym closed at 9 or midnight.

*

This charming number was sold to me after school while I was at my desk in the teachers’ lounge. The salesperson is a pubescent riot in class, but his sales performance was more than slick. He approached me with an extra large, polluted blue and vomit brown sweater vest that had seen more days in a dry dirt field than inside a washing machine. With my co-teacher translating for him, the 12 year old turned the carefully folded piece into the next, must-have winter season piece:

Mr. Future Yongsan salesperson: (in Korean) Jackie Teacher, I believe you need this shirt. Look how nice it is.
Jackie: (gesturing to him) No, I have sweaters at home.
Mr. Future Yongsan salesperson: But you need plenty of sweaters. The winter season is very cold in Seoul.
Jackie: No thank you.
Mr. Future Yongsan salesperson: Jackie, this looks great on you. Look how comfortable the size is. You need plenty of warm clothes for the winter.
Jackie: I’ll give you the money but I don’t need the sweater.
Mr. Future Yongsan salesperson: (very appalled.) That totally defeats the purpose of me selling this to you. I won’t achieve anything if I cannot sell. I don’t want your money. But you want this sweater. (lays out the sweater on my desk, on top of books and lesson plans)
Jackie: (impressed.) Okay, 500 won? how about 400?
Mr. Future Yongsan salesperson: 450.
Jackie: Deal… (takes out pouch) I’ll give you 500 won anyway. Thanks, I’ll give this to a friend.
Mr. Future Yongsan salesperson: Thank you very much.

It was yard-sale day at school, and I ended up buying five Korean oranges for 1,000 won and the sweater vest which I’ve washed and proudly worn at a recent outing with friends.>

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