Celebrating English Language Day

Apparently it’s William Shakespeare’s birthday today. Well, history has it that he was born and died on the same day. It turns out those aren’t the only coincidences ‘cos, what do you know, today also happens to be English Language Day! I had no idea! The two things in the world that I’m craziest about are celebrated on the same day and I didn’t know? Duh!!!

At any rate, I’m sure I’ve mentioned before in some long ago blog post that I grew up reading Shakespeare and happen to be a big fan of his plays. Although I don’t quote him out loud as often as I used to, his quotes still do pop up in my mind every now and then. It’s still my ambition to be as great a writer as he was when I grow up.

As for that other love of mine, the English language, what can I say?  It is, to me, the most beautiful language in the world. So why aren’t people more serious about learning it and getting it right? I could write a book about that. Suffice to say that over the years, I’ve watched the standard of English decline to a level where some days, it sounds and looks almost unrecognizable to me.

Yes, English is important and it’s not enough to say “I only need enough of it to get by in daily life” because from what I can see, it’s clearly not enough. It’s not enough to be able to string together some random words in no particular order and with a total disregard for grammar and pronunciation. And yes, I’m frustrated at people who refuse to learn.

But clearly today is not the day to lament about what we can’t change. It’s a day to celebrate the fathomless power and elegance of the English language!

Of staring, fast food and not so cold noodles

Of staring, fast food and not so cold noodles

Happiness is finding a new place to add to the Pearl (Picky Eaters’ Approved Restaurant List). We stumbled on this great little Korean fast food place that passed our taste test with flying colors. Well, stumbled isn’t exactly the word. We’ve walked past it a million times and even scoffed at the menu a few times (that was before the Great K Revolution, of course).

The million dollar question is this: How could we have walked past so often and never thought to stop? Well, we couldn’t tell from the pictures on the menu if the food would be good. Thing is we’re not in the habit of staring openly at people’s food as we walk past their tables. It’s rude to stare especially when people are eating. My children were trained never to do that and if they did, they’d no doubt have heard from me!

I’m not sure what made us step in. As with all new places that we’re trying out, we didn’t order much. The Chicken BBQ came with rice in a K bowl (no less), seaweed soup and 3 side dishes  I wish it came with a Korean name as well, like maybe 치킨 바비쿄. But even without that, the grilled chicken is flavorful, mildly sweet and not too salty.

Of staring, fast food and not so cold noodles

The 닭 볶음 (dak bokeum), or stir-fried chicken in chilly sauce had a good mix of veggies in it. It’s reminiscent of 김치 찌개 (kimchi jjigae, or kimchi stew). The tangy, spicy sauce was lip-smackin’ good till the last drop. Even the Colonel would agree heh!

Of staring, fast food and not so cold noodles

As for the 3 반찬 (banchan, or side dishes), there’s 김치 (kimchi), 밀치금 (anchovies) and a random third dish. The kimchi isn’t as crunchy as I’d like it to be but I love the anchovies.

The 파전 (pajeon, or Korean pancake) may look unassuming but don’t be fooled, there’s hidden squid in the batter, and veggies you can actually see. Most restaurants would just serve this ‘blank’, and charge more for the loaded version. I like the light crunch in this pancake. The sauce is okay, a bit too salty so we dip it in the dak bokeum sauce.

Of staring, fast food and not so cold noodles

On another occasion, I surprised myself by ordering their 비빔 국수 (bibim guksu). Remember I swore off cold noodles the first time I ate them because to me, there’s only one way to eat noodles – piping hot.

Then one fine day, I found a stash of buckwheat noodles in my kitchen (I didn’t buy ’em), concocted a meal with them and fell in love, either with the noodles or my own cooking, I don’t know which 😝. Yeah, that was random even for me. But I ended up loving every mouthful of those buckwheat noodles eaten warm, of course, not cold.

Fast forward to when I saw bibim guksu on the menu and jumped at it without even thinking. Thankfully they weren’t served cold but were room temp instead. Awesome, I wouldn’t have had them any other way. Yums.

Of staring, fast food and not so cold noodles

So it’s happy days. We’ve been back many times, and now even the restaurant staff know our faces and orders and give us a special discount. Yes, they have a customer-friendly team unlike the usual ones with fake amnesia. “Why you not early today?” the cute waiter asked when we strolled in on a weekend lunch hour and couldn’t find a table. He found us one pretty quick. Now that’s service for ya!

Lines and people who annoy me

Lines and people who annoy me

바빴어요! (Been busy). So many errands, so little time. Granted I do procrastinate for as long as I can because well, who likes errands? I don’t. That’s why I want to get through them quickly so they won’t be hanging over my head like bananas in a fruit shop. The errands themselves 몬제 아니야 (aren’t the problem). It’s those darned lines and the characters I meet.

(1) The Pretenders

Over the weekend, a couple tried to edge themselves into our line while pretending to be so deep in conversation they didn’t notice there was a line? Nice try but “please get back in line”, we told them and they slunked quietly away.

In another daring episode, a woman pretending like she was all engrossed in talking on her cellphone planted herself in front of us. We were busy sorting through our shopping basket so I was like, okay, never mind.

But when time came for this woman to pay, she took her own sweet time digging out coin after coin to which Hip2bDaughter turned around and said to us, loudly enough to be heard, “Some people cut in line and don’t even have their change ready”.

And you know what. As the cashier was bagging her stuff, she turned around and started to chime into our conversation with her unsolicited advice as if she were our old friend. Seriously! The cheek of some people! As if chatting us up would somehow redeem her from her rudeness. Nope, not working!

(2) The Make-No-Boners

In another the grocery line episode, a woman cradling a few items casually walked up and stood in front of me. I eyed her for a while thinking, okay, maybe she’s with the group in front of me. It soon became clear she wasn’t. I gave her a minute and I couldn’t hold my tongue any longer. “The line is back there. Please get in line!” I wasn’t being nasty, just matter of fact.

Reluctantly she scooped up her items and wandered away… and even as I watched, she cut straight into someone else in the next line. She’s a diehard, that one lol! People like her don’t need an excuse. They just assume it’s their inalienable right. The best part is the person she cut off didn’t object and let her through. Great way to embolden chronic line cutters like her!

Now here’s the joke. The man at the top of my checkout line heard me and shook his head casting me a look of disapproval. I notice many people don’t honk when someone cuts them off in traffic and the next thing, I see them doing it themselves. I can only conclude that this guy’s probably a line cutter himself since he sympathized with her (even when it was none of his business).

(3) That-Cashier’s-My-Friend-ers

One day, I was standing in the bank with my number slip in hand. There were several people ahead of me. Only two counters were open, my car was double-parked outside, and the wait was longer than I cared for. Guess what?

A couple walked in and went straight up to one of the counters right after the last person left and before the next number came up. Instantly there was a friendly exchange and the cashier went ahead with their transaction. I guess if your friend works there, that makes it okay to act like you own the place and ignore everyone else.

Lines and people who annoy me

Image credit

Seriously, line cutters are such a pain. Everyone’s busy. Everyone’s in a hurry. You’re not the only one. I want to get my stuff done fast so I can get the heck home, out of the traffic, out of the sun. Just as you do, So yeah! Have some respect for other people’s time, and get the heck in line.

I’m a reasonable person. If you come up to me with a good reason why you should be ahead of me when clearly I got there first, I’m all ears. If you have a genuine emergency or truly deserve it, I’d be more than happy to give you my spot. Otherwise please stop wasting my time AND the time of everyone else behind me who’ve been waiting endlessly. They too are busy. They too are in a hurry. Tsk!

Peace out!

Profound wisdom of a 10-year-old

Profound wisdom of a 10-year-old

A small news headline in The Korea Times caught my eye recently. “Boy, 10, offers lesson in life”, it said. A third grade boy in South Korea had been given a homework handout showing a malnourished boy dressed in tattered clothing eating breadcrumbs off the floor.

His assignment was to “Think about how happy you are while observing this photograph (of the poor boy) for five minutes”.

Profound wisdom of a 10-year-old
Image credit: The Korea Times

Tears pierced my eyes when I read the boy’s answer. And this is the verbatim quote: “I think it’s not right to feel happy comparing myself to others’ pains. We need to solve their pains together, so that we all can live happily.”

How profound!

All it takes is this simple insight from a mere 10-year-old to put everyone in their place. Indeed what message are we sending our children by suggesting that we rejoice in the misery of others, when we should be instilling empathy, kindness and compassion in them.

Maybe it’s time to start thinking about what values we’re teaching our kids.

Flowers and fake apologies

Flowers and fake apologies

So there I am at LA Airport with lots of time on my hands. The place is huge, ever busy, ever crowded. Trying to find a seat to park yourself and your baggage is like looking for a needle in a haystack. Traveling in entire villages seems to be the thing these days, which means there are no seats left for the rest of us. Hel-llo, does your backpack need to have its own seat?!!

After walking up and down 5 or 6 times, I finally spot a partially hidden seat between a man and a woman. Unsure if the man understands English, I ask the woman instead if the seat beside her is taken. It isn’t, whew! At last, I finally get to park myself somewhere.

And do nothing.

I confess I’m one of those rare dinosaur types who isn’t perpetually glued to technology. or peace-signing for the hundredth selfie. So there really isn’t much to do at all except maybe text my kids. And people-watch. Or attempt small talk with the nearest person to kill time. On a good day, a random person might even initiate small talk with me.

I look over at the lady on my right. She seems friendly enough but she’s glued to Facebook on her laptop (duh!). But then, I notice her gazing occasionally at the people streaming by. Suddenly she turns to me and points, “See the guy with the flowers?”

I’m like, where but he’s vanished into the crowd. It’s such a busy place and people are just going wooosh every millisecond! After a while, everything becomes a blur.

Flowers and fake apologies (Image credit: dvo.com)

“I hate people who try to suck up to you with flowers and a fake apology,” she continues. I don’t know what it was about the guy that gave her that idea but “Yup, I have to agree,” I reply, wondering who, in her life, she’s talking about.

Honestly, I don’t know which is worse, a fake apology or no apology at all. Apologies are as rare as blue diamonds with some people. So yeah, if ever there’s one uttered, fake or otherwise, I’ll take it, thanks!

“If they’re not really sorry, sucking up with a bunch of flowers ain’t gonna cut it,” she goes on. “I know what you mean,” is my simple reply. 네, 사과에요 lol! I totally get where she’s coming from. I’m certain now that someone in her life’s been a jerk. Turns out it’s her ex. I gather that’s exactly why he’s her ex.

The man beside me leaves. Instantly a whole village swoops in to grab his seat – grandparents, parents, grown siblings and their offspring. One of the women quickly settles into that one seat with her son on her lap while the village spreads out around her, all talking loudly. The hyperactive boy wriggles around and kicks my leg.

His mother sees it but says nothing. No apology. Not even a fake one? This would be the perfect time to teach the next generation some manners. But no, she was just going to let it go and now that boy is going to think it’s okay to kick someone and not apologize.

My new friend gazes momentarily at them and shakes her head. They’re getting louder by the minute. We continue talking and laughing but have to raise our voices to hear each other above the din.

I give her a small bag of red velvet cookies from my bag. She chomps on them while I nibble on my jam sandwich from home as we exchange notes about hobbies and interests. And there we were – two tired travelers in one crazy huge airport bonding over cookies and fake apologies within that short space of time.

Seafood and civilities, or lack thereof

Seafood and civilities, or lack thereof

So I was invited to a seafood dinner by friends of a mutual friend. No big deal. I shouldn’t have to think too hard. Yet this invite had me debating whether or not to go. Firstly, I don’t eat live seafood, and secondly, I don’t know the host and his wife well which is a legit consideration for me. I don’t like dining with strangers.

On any other day, I would’ve declined without so much as batting an eyelid. But since our K friends would be flying off soon, I figured it’d be my last chance to catch up with them. So against my better judgement, I agreed and didn’t give it any further thought.

Came the night of the dinner. When the first course – raw oysters – arrived, I pushed my portion to the middle of the table and politely offered it to anyone who wanted a second helping.

Suddenly all eyes were on me as everyone struggled to make sense of what they’d just heard me say. Our host’s eyes were the size of aircraft carriers and his jaw positively dropped to, oh, 2,000 feet below sea level.

YOU DON’T EAT SEAFOOD?!!!!!“, he bellowed.

The look of sheer shock and horror on his face was priceless. I could totally have been this little green woman with antennae on my head the way he was staring at me. I was tempted to wink and say, you’re right, we don’t have seafood on Mars!

“No, I don’t eat live seafood,” was my reply, plain and simple.

Our host started looking desperately around the table for help dealing with this alien, the expression on his face clearly screaming, What the h*ll are you doing here? You shouldn’t even have come! Are you crazy?! When no support was forthcoming, he changed his tone and started selling it to me instead.

“Not even a bit?? You’ve never eaten seafood? Why don’t you try some? It’s VERY good!”

See here’s the thing. People either don’t listen or they don’t process information too well. I don’t know which. Instead they conjure up their own funky ideas of what they THINK you said. Now did I say I don’t eat seafood, or did I say I don’t eat live seafood? Big difference there!

Okay, 다시한번더, let’s try this one more time.

“I don’t eat live seafood.”

YOU DON’T EAT SEAFOOD??? REALLY?!!!?

Here we go again!

Seafood and civilities, or lack thereof

Okay, let’s see what happens if I explain the meaning of the word ‘live’ and while I’m at it, throw in some visuals.

“I do eat seafood. I just don’t eat the live ones swimming in those aquariums over there.”

You think I made myself clear enough this time? You think he gets the picture now?

Well, he should because in Asia, many seafood restaurants have all kinds of live fish and sea creatures lined up in rows of aquariums, all swimming happily, oblivious to the fact that a diner could walk in any time and hand them their death sentence.

They would then be hauled to the kitchen, thrashing helplessly in a net, to be tossed into pots of boiling oil or water depending on how the diner wants them done. Woah, and then they’re dead meat. On the table. Literally!

Frankly I don’t subscribe to this concept. Already there’s so much killing in the world today I think the least I can do is spare these poor harmless creatures .

Our host seemed to be enjoying the drama. He started throwing both his arms into the air and bellowing.

BUT THIS IS A SEAFOOD RESTAURANT, YOU KNOW!!!

And this isn’t Hollywood, you know! 너무 이상해요! Strange that you should mention it. Now I may not be the ex-CEO of a multinational (like you, dude) but please give me a little credit here.

Seriously, who would’ve thought? Maybe I’m too used to being around civilized company, people who would’ve flagged down a waiter right away and ordered something else for me. It’s really just plain good manners.

Which brings me to this question. How is someone’s food preference even such a big deal? True, I don’t walk around with a neon sign on my forehead advertising it. But in a world full of people who are vegetarian, gluten-free, diabetic, lactose intolerant, allergic… how is this even news?

Long story short, while our party gorged on seafood, all I had for dinner that night was a heap of vegetables and a few slices of stir-fried venison (the only non-seafood dish he had ordered, not for me, of course but simply because it’s his favorite).

Not complaining here but this goes to show our gracious hosts were only too happy to let their guest go home hungry. Epic fail *shrugs*! I didn’t go home hungry. I had dinner at home before I went to their dinner. Sixth sense perhaps. Or maybe I was half-expecting this. Still I had the last laugh *cheeky wink*.

Friend and flock

You know those deep, meaningful conversations you have with close friends? Don’t you just love those? Yeah, me too!

They can be quite refreshing. For one thing, you don’t have to worry about being judged because there’s no way your close friends are going to judge you, right? *ponders* 😐

Well, they know you so well you can practically say anything and know you can get away with it, right? *ponders* 😔

Yeah so, we had one of those while driving to dinner at LK.

Friend: I haven’t been to LK for quite a while because A (a mutual friend) prefers to eat at S.

Me: Yeah, but the food at S isn’t any good.

Friend: What do you mean, it’s not good??!! It’s always crowded!

Me: So?!! That doesn’t mean their food is good.

Friend: What are you saying? Why do you think it’s so popular? There are always long lines.

Me: Because people have poor taste?!!

Silence.

I was going to add:

Because people are like sheep these days. All it takes is for one person to say this is tasty, or the internet to say that is delicious, and the next thing you know the flock is rushing there regardless of whether the food is actually good or not. Peace out! 😉

Related Posts with Thumbnails