Wednesday, July 11, 2012

The Weirdest Date of My Life

Dating for Kyopos out here can be a weird thing. If you’re fluent already then I’m sure there’s little trouble fitting in smoothly. And I’m guessing there’s some cultural differences you have to work out. In my case, where my Korean absolutely sucks AND I’m not very immersed in the culture, things can get very weird. 
During my first year in Korea, I was full of energy and excitement being in a new country. So I would do things I wouldn’t normally do in the States. Like go downstairs to the convenience store at the bottom of my apartment building to buy bottled water only to ask the 19-year-old clerk to go to the movies with me right after her shift ended in 3 hours.
I’ve seen this girl working at the convenience store a few times before. She’s very petite and cute. 
I grab my bottled water and go to the counter to pay. This time she instigates some small talk. 
“Are you from the U.S.?”
I do my best in my broken Korean. 
“Yes”, I reply.
“I’m Chinese”, she says.
“Oh really?” 
This leads her into a hysterical laughing fit. I have no idea why this is so funny. Why isn’t it a possibilty that a Chinese girl moved to Korea to work at a convenience store? Maybe she’s also a college student and working at the convenience store part-time. That’s not totally unusual is it?
Anyway, she had a really cute, adorable laugh. After a lengthy chat, my “being-in-a-new-country-enthusiastic-boldness” kicks in and it leads to “Hey, what are you doing tonight? I was gonna go to a movie later. Wanna come?” 
She says yes. We formally introduce ourselves and it turns out she has an English name, Esmerelda. Her old English teacher gave it to her. I don’t think I’ve ever met an Esmerelda in my life. 
I go up to my apartment thinking, “Man, she’s too young for me”, and didn’t think it would be a real date. Maybe more like just hanging out as friends. But who knows? May-December works in movies don’t it?
We go to the movies, then after it ends, she asks if I want to have a drink.
“Sure, what bar?”
“Let’s drink in the park.”
In Korea you can drink out in public. But I realize that a lot of teenagers hang out in the park she mentioned. This environment puts a “weird-perverted-old-man-providing-alcohol-to-minors” kinda vibe in my head, regardless of the fact that she’s enough to drink in Korea. Hey, it was her idea anyway!
We go to another convenience store and she buys a few fruit flavored wine coolers called KGB Vodka (We all know Russians know their Vodka. I guess if the KGB are involved it must be good. And a FRUIT FLAVORED WINE COOLER version only proves this!). 
So we’re sitting on a bench talking about this and that. I notice in the background, a group of teenage boys are sitting in the stands of a little basketball court behind us, hocking enough spit to fill the Exxon Valdez. 
She seems to laugh at every little joke I make. Man, what a laugh. 
At one point her phone rings.
“Hold on a sec”, she says. 
She gets up from the bench and suddenly BOLTS, running away like a fairy sans wings. She doesn’t stop running until she gets all the way to the other side of the park. She keeps going and going until she’s a small speck in my sight of vision. I find myself frozen staring at her. This is utterly weird and charming and funny and cute at the same time. 
A few moments later I see the tiny speck running back towards me. At the midpoint she slows it back down to a normal pace, I guess trying not to look like such a spaz (little does she know in her case spaz is GOOD). When she gets back to the bench she has a look in her eyes like she’s gonna crack up again. 
“Why did you run away?” 
“Oh, it was my dad.” 
“Was it a serious conversation?”
“No, he just makes me practice my Chinese. I get embarrassed because pronunciation’s so bad.” 
“Wait, are you actually Chinese?”
Hysterically laughing fit again. (Why is this so funny???)
A moment later her demeanor changes. She begins talking about her parents and how hard it is to live at home. That her parents treat her like a child and her older sister is always criticizing her. 
We down a few of these finely crafted, aged to perfection wine coolers and the ultra lightweight that I am, I start to feel a little buzz. I think she does too, since she’s talking about her personal life. I’m in my best good-listener mode. 
After a moment of silence, she begins the following exchange:
“Can I ask you a question?”
“Have you ever had sex before?” 
An 80s-sitcom-style massive spit take followed by laugh track would have totally fit here.
(Like this)
“I’m 33”, I say. 
“And?”, she says.
“Uh, of course I’ve had sex.” (I just took this question as “young-girl-living-in-a- relatively-conservative-country-naivety”. Or perhaps I actually look like a 33-year-old virgin! Not good.)
My slightly buzzed-ass has to take a moment to decipher why this question was asked, the timing of the question, and how I should react. Since she asked me this right after her little spew about her family problems, and that she agreed to go to a movie with someone she just met in the first place, I figured it was a sign to make a move! 
I turn and kiss her. We make out for a little while. As Borat would say “It was verrry niaaaace!”
A few moments later, she pulls her head back and says-
“I have to go.”
“I’m sorry I have to go.” 
She begins scrambling all her stuff together. 
“Are you ok?”
“Yes, I’m fine, I just have to go now.” 
“Bye, sorry, bye.” 
She bolts across the park again, and this time the tiny speck makes a hard right turn and disappears. 
I’m left alone on the bench, with empty bottles of the powerful Russian secret police created hooch, and the endless sounds of teenage boys trying to flood the entire park with their flem. 
I walk back home and get a text from her. It’s long. I’m pretty sure it’s the longest text I’ve ever gotten in my life. But that’s immediately followed by three or four other Guinness-Book-of-World-Records-challenging texts. I’m reading endless text messages about how she can never see me again because she is still in love with her ex-boyfriend who left her for another girl and is studying in China and how she will get him back one day by moving to China and finding him and also apologizing for meeting me and for leaving so quickly and being rude and to take care and have a nice life. 
Ah, the intracacies of long term relationships!
She quit the convenience store, but I would see her walking around the neighborhood sometimes. She would always give me a huge smile and wave like nothing weird ever happened. After a while she just vanished off the planet. 
As I write this entry, the late, great Whitney Houston is playing over the cafe speakers…
Wherever you are Esmerelda…
…know that someone is out there…
…someone that is thinking about a girl…
…a girl that thinks telling people she’s Chinese is the funniest thing in the history of all verbalized comedy…
…and likes to bolt across public parks for no apparent reason…
“And IIIIIIIIIIII will always love yooooooooooooooooooooooooooou….” 


  1. It's not just kyopos, it's everyone. Dating in this country is strange and confusing and I hear guys (Korean and foreign) complain about similar situations all the time. Being a white American girl, I have guys asking me bluntly if Americans have sex with their friends, and would I like some cheap convenience store coffee?

    Also, I get to hear the girls' stories sometimes, and often they're not lying in their huge post-first-date texts apologizing for ruining your life. Either that or they're laughing it up with their girlfriends like "OMG I didn't know how to dump that old lightweight perv so I just told him I'm in love with my ex! Can you believe I kissed a foreigner and made him think I'm Chinese? OMG LOL WTF like totally" (but in Korean)

  2. Keep up the writing, I enjoy your stories.

  3. I googled "what can Kyopos do in Korea besides teach" and minutes later I found myself reading through your blog posts. You've got the gift of storytelling: Keep it up!