When You're Dying of Thirst and You Get a Canteen of Saltwater

May 1, 2019

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As someone with a terrible personality, I've been the recipient of many dirty looks and stares in my life. There is, however, one particular death glare that comes to mind as the moment where I was confronted with the highest degree of fury and frustration that I've ever experienced. For those among you that are feeling competitive, please don't try to top this one. It's been going on fifteen years since the story I am about to relate took place and this interaction still has the record. Let's roll back the clock and revisit this moment where I turned from a source of salvation into a member of the permanent scorn hall of fame.

 

I have discovered throughout the years that despite what most white people think, I have a very Korean face. This gets me into some sticky situations, like whenever I go to the dry cleaner or to a Korean restaurant. Encountering another Korean person, I don't get the normal "Hey, how are you doing?" in Korean. Nope, I get the "Hey, how are you doing? I've been waiting to talk to you about global zucchini production and the optimal harvest times relevant to growing zones." Often I will just imagine dialogue like this, and then I'll respond to what I think they might have been saying for the past four minutes of uninterrupted speech that they've been directing towards me. Frequently, the person who is enthusiastically jabbering away is bilingual, so when I respond in English related to my hypothesized topic discussion, they will stop, look at me in a very confused manner, and then a hostility appears as they sullenly take my pile of shirts or whatever the situation calls for that caused me to meet another Korean person. Needless to say, unless you are a Korean adoptee, I make very little effort to meet other Koreans. It's just too tiresome getting looks of dismay. I could handle everyday disappointment, hell, most people who interact with me eventually come to that same conclusion, regardless of ethnic background. This situation ended way beyond that. 

 

I often like going to places where there is a high probability that no Koreans will be there. Japanese War Memorials are almost always a safe bet, but coming in at a photo-finish second place is the Dublin Airport. I've been there many, many times, and almost every single time, I don't encounter anyone that could even remotely be confused as being Korean. It's pretty fantastic, really. This terrific trend came crashing to a halt one fateful day in 2004. I was blissfully bopping down the terminal, headed to my gate when I spied a chilling sight about 100 metres ahead of me. Standing in the near distance was a very forlorn, and obviously lost little old Korean lady. She was holding a ticket, had a backpack and two large suitcases, and the requisite visor on her head, instantly giving away her ethnicity. She was looking up at the arrival and departure screens, which were in English and, if memory serves me correctly, Gaelic. I have been to many international airports that list services, directions, and flight information in many languages. Dublin, is not one of those airports. Maybe now it's different, but back then, you were hard pressed to get even French or Spanish language options. Korean was very, very low on the language priority list, as it honestly should be for Ireland.

 

I instantly assessed that this poor woman was very, very lost. I quickly scanned her surrounding area, and also concluded that she was travelling alone. Unfortunately, my body did not respond to my brain screaming "Hide! Don't let her see you!" fast enough, and of course you can imagine what happened next. Yup, she saw me walking towards her. Little old Korean lady must have been an alternate on the Korean Olympic track & field team back in her day, because after she smiled a jubilant grin of salvation upon seeing me, she dropped all of her stuff and Usain Bolted right towards me. People were dodging out of her way, and as they turned around, clutched their hearts as they assumed they were witnessing a tender reunion between mother and son. I don't want to say I was the inspiration for the opening scene of Love, Actually, but I bet Richard Curtiss was one of these ignorant passer-bys. Time slowed down, just like in the movies. And I was slo-mo shaking my head and uttering "Noooooooooooooooo", but it was too late. In record setting pace, Mrs. Kim (Statistically, you know I have a high probability that I'm right, don't be a douchebag) was in front of me, totally blocking the trash can I had intended to crouch and hide behind. People expecting the tender moment must have been very confused, because instead of a tender embrace, I got a frantic lady shaking her ticket in front of me and speaking faster than an auctioneer at a Game of Thrones memorabilia event. 

 

Did I say ticket? I might have spoken too fast, or spoken like a normal person. Mrs. Kim did not, in fact, have a ticket. What she had was, and I am totally assuming here, a detailed instruction list IN KOREAN. Mrs. Kim was frenetically pointing at the screen, at her list, and speaking faster than any person has ever spoken in the history of mankind. She looked like she was about to breakdown in tears at any moment. Her frustration and fear was palpable. Something was clearly very wrong. And thus began the world's worst game of charades. Or, come to think of it, a preview of how my conversations go when Han Mu drunk dials me and after the tenth call, I pick up to yell at him that I know he doesn't have an interpreter, so how the fuck are we supposed to communicate, especially when he's hammered and I'm sleeping. Anyway, Mrs. Kim refused to play charades. She just wanted to continue yelling at me in Korean. I tried my absolute best to calm her down and to figure out where she needed to go. I didn't have the heart to tell her that I thought her list in Korean, though very comprehensive and potentially delicious, was actually a recipe for making Hungarian goulash. Why did I think that? Because I'm a sick bastard, that's why. I can't discern any words in a language that uses the latin alphabet. For you youngsters out there, this was well before the time where you could just pop up a translation app. I was sporting the cutting edge technology back at that time, the Motorola RAZR flip phone. Mrs. Kim still hadn't stopped talking, and if I had to guess, her words directed to me were something like this: "Hey fuck-hole, why can't you answer my damn questions? What kind of retarded douchebag are you that you can't help out someone in need? Do you think this is funny? Why are you making a sign for cutting up beef in 1" cubes? I use the metric system and I'm too frazzled to do the conversion of 2.54 centimetres to 1 inch, and I'm lost, not hungry, you worthless pile of Korean DNA!" All I responded with was "English? English? English?" She probably shot back with, "If I spoke English I wouldn't be in this mess, you deranged imbecile!"

I was looking around for help of any kind, and instantly, anyone nearby suddenly had to use the bathroom, stare at the ceiling, or just flat out started running away. I could not help this lady. I couldn't even guide her to a kiosk for help because I already knew there wasn't one location in the entire airport that could help her. I was also wondering why none of her bags had those destination stickers on them, and I honestly remember wondering if she should even be at the airport. Maybe "airport" and "Holiday Inn Express" sound really alike in Korean (they don't, but I didn't know that!). This was when the look happened. I couldn't help her. I really wanted to, because I do enjoy helping people when I can. I just didn't possess any ability whatsoever to be of use. She clearly did not understand any of my hand signals, and back then, the only Korean word I knew was "kimchi". That's it. The only English word that she knew was "kimchi". So unless we were at a Point Out the Kimchi contest, we were pretty much fucked in terms of successful communication. Realizing this, I had to walk away. As I was apologizing in English and turned to leave, she grabbed my arm, and when I looked at her face, there it was. The look. The gold-medal winning dirtiest look I've ever received. I instantly saw in my mind my tombstone, and inscribed on it was "Looks really can kill."

 

I often think about that poor lady, and I wish there was something else I could have done besides walk away and make a bad situation even worse for her. While I hope she ended up ok, I don't relish the fact that she's probably telling every person she can about the Worst Korean She's Ever Met and that potentially hundreds of thousands of people detest me without ever hearing my side of it. Actually, come to think of it, I don't think my side of the story would end up making me look any better, especially the whole goulash part. Yes, I have been confused for other people before, especially Chan Ho Park. But to be confused for a Korean by Mrs. Kim at a time where she really, really needed an honest-to-god actual Korean was definitely an experience that, if you're not a KAD, you thankfully will never have to experience. If you can, go to the Dublin airport and visit Mrs. Kim's Kimchi Korner. It supposedly is a really good place to eat. Tell her Goulash-Boy says hello and joesong haeyo. Or just show her this:


헝가리 굴 라쉬 레시피 :

큐브 1 "품질의 고기 조각.
파프리카를 현명하게 선택하십시오. 모든 파프리카가 평등하게 창조되는 것은 아닙니다. 이 조리법에서는 달콤한 헝가리 파프리카 만 사용하는 것이 좋습니다 (aff - 이것은 항상 사용하는 특정 브랜드입니다). 그건 당신이 절대적으로 정기적으로 또는 연기가 나는 파프리카를 사용할 수 없다는 말은 아니지만, 그것이 맛의 기본이기 때문에 다소 맛을 바꿀 것입니다.
조리 시간을 줄이지 마십시오. 이 스튜는 스토브 탑에서 약 2 시간의 조리 시간이 필요합니다. 그 시간이 많이 걸리는 것은 냄비에 그냥 앉아있는 것입니다.하지만 시간이 있는지 확인하고 싶을 것입니다. 또는 느린 요리 도구로이 조리법을 만들 수 있습니다. 스토브에서 고기와 야채를 몇 분 동안 먼저 갈색으로 만들고 다른 재료를 천천히 4 시간 동안 천천히 밥솥에 넣거나 6 시간 동안 낮추십시오.
크림처럼 보이게하십시오. 조리 할 때 각 사발에 사우어 크림 덩어리를 넣거나 조리 시간의 마지막 몇 분 동안 무거운 크림 1/4 컵을 넣으십시오. 파프리카의 향은 매우 강렬 할 수 있으며, 크림은 약간 아래로 톤을 도울 수 있습니다.

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