Today was a rough day at work.
On Sunday I woke up with a head cold and my body has been struggling to fight it off ever since. Koreans generally do not take time off from work for being ill, so you are typically expected to work even when you are under the weather. Teaching Kindergarten requires a truckload of energy on a normal day, so being sick makes it quite a challenge. My brain was fried by the time I left work. On my walk home I popped into the doctors for some medicine, then I bought “Frozen Mango Meat” – half of a frozen mango on a stick- to sooth my sore throat and ended up at a noodle soup restaurant that was recommended to me by my co-worker. My co-worker had also recommended what kind of soup to order, but my tiered brain couldn’t remember and sadly there were no pictures on their menu- uh oh.
I have been living in Korea for almost five months now, and my Korean is pathetic. I have such great intentions to learn and plan to take a language course in the fall, but between my new job, Ultimate Frisbee, Muay Thai training and weekend travels, my language goals have taken a backseat on my priority bus. Today I was reminded why I need to put this goal in the driver’s seat.
As I stood in the noodle shop staring at the Korean menu, a very friendly woman approached me. I was able to say hello in Korean, and that is pretty much where the communication ended. She was obviously asking me what I wanted. I said “Noodle Soup Juseo” Juseo means please, but since that was the only Korean word in my sentence she, understandably, did not understand. I tried typing noodle soup into the Google translate app, but she stared squinty eyed at my phone screen and shrugged. A man from the kitchen came out to try and help, but I was hopeless and they both laughed at me. I laughed at my self. Seriously, who can’t order noodle soup in Korea after five months? Sigh. I then uttered the phrase I use most in Korea “I’m sorry. I don’t speak Korean,” with a very apologetic and sheepish look on my face. After lots of laughing by everyone and a failed game of soup charades, I resorted to pointing at a random item on their menu and gave thumbs up. I was unsure of what I had ordered but happy to be getting something to eat. The lady ushered me to sit down at a table and wait.
Five minutes later my meal was given to me in a huge take out bowl. It cost me 4000 KRW ($4.45CAD). When I got home and opened my bowl, this is what I found:
I dipped my pinky finger in to test the temperature. The noodles were luke warm. The big question – Had I ordered hot noodles that had cooled down on the walk home? Or had I ordered cold noodles that warmed up on the way home? It was a hot day, so hard to say. Since I was sick, I was in the mood for hot soup and decided to heat up the noodles on my gas stove. I poured half (there is no way I could eat it all in one sitting) in a pot and turned on the burner. The only ingredients seemed to be noodles and broth, so I also fried up some onions and mushrooms in a pan and added them to the pot. I cracked an egg into the soup let it poach. Finally, I poured my soup into a big mug to eat. With my first bite I realized re-boiling the noodles was the wrong decision. They were now uber mushy. The broth was flavourless so I tried adding hot sauce for a kick but it didn’t really work. Luckily I still had the other half of the ‘unboiled’ noodle soup in my fridge. I lifted those out to eat cold but after a few bites, I decided I was too tiered to eat and returned them to the fridge. Noodles had bamboozled my brain and I just wanted to lie down. So I went to sleep. Tomorrow, I thought, Tomorrow I will noodle again.
I learned a few lessons that day. 1) Don’t boil noodles that have already been cooked. 2) I REALLY need to learn more Korean. 3) If someone recommends a particular meal at a restaurant, WRITE IT DOWN!
My medicine makes my brain drowsy – here is hoping this post makes sense! Over and out my friends. ZZZZzzzzzzz…..