Saturday, June 16, 2007

Optimistic me

Well it's the end of the term here. Next week is exam time. If it's anything like previous years it'll be heaps of fun trying to figure out how to mark people and post the marks on a ridiculously complicated online system. But who knows, it might be less of a hassle than expected. See? See? I can still think positively! Even though that's always what ends up getting me into trouble.

A brief example. Tonight I had the cavalier shortsightedness to pick up the phone and order pizza instead of saving myself some money and a headache and going with the pick-up option. Why I EVER do that is a mystery to me. Because if the run of the mill garden variety Korean can't understand me when I am speaking perfect Korean with bang on pronunciation slanged up and slurred like I've been speaking it my whole life, how could I ever expect the guy who answers the phone at Dominoes to know what I'm saying? Positive thinking.

So the guy answers with the hello Dominoes Pizza greeting and I start ordering a large super supreme pizza. I said, " Yoposayo, lah ji Super Supreme Pizza ju sayo." Unfortunately in Korea it's not Super Supreme it's shyoo puh shyoo peu leem. The guy on the phone is no rocket scientist. He probably thinks Dominoes is Korean and shyoo puh shyoo peu leem is a clever Korean title for a pizza. I didn't use the Korean massacring of "Super Supreme" even though I DID say "lah ji" in stead of "large". Predictably his answer was, "Ye?"

"Ye" and "Ne" can both be used for "yes" and with interogative intonation as "what?" I have a habit of saying "yup" in English. It's got a bit of an upward intonation that causes great confusion when I transfer it into the Korean language. As you will see.

So I do the Koreanization of the pizza title. He understands. I wish I could record a call like this sometime for classroom purposes. My students and Korean friends are always telling me how "scientific" the Korean alphabet is. Nobody knows exactly what the hell that means including the parrots who say it, but part of it is the idea that any word from any language can be written using Korean characters. When I disagree and tell them it needs to be written and understood they always tell me they can understand it. Which is a total lie. It's why Koreans write new second language vocabulary in Korean characters and it's why every single person has identical pronunciation problems and it's not gonna change very soon. Job security for me! See? See?

Back to the pizza. He asks in Korean where I live. No, I don't know how to ask the question myself but I have logic on my side, (something I can't say for the guy on the other end of the phone), and I know he's gonna ask me where I live so the delivery driver can find me. So I start saying my address in Korean. I've said it many times before, I know how to say it, my pronunciation is fine and we have a good telephone connection but he just can't seem to understand me. I tell him, "Weon Cheong Men syon, B dong, sam baek sam ho." That means Weon Cheong Mansion B unit, room 303. He asks me if I'm in Deok Jeong. I live in Yangju and almost the entire city is Deok Jeong. The subway stop is named Deok Jeong. The high school and middle schools are named Deok Jeong. All the big apartments are Deok Jeong. The Dominos Pizza is in Deok Jeong about a 5 minute walk from my house. There are no other Weon Cheong Mansions anywhere. The guy has made 20 pizzas for me before and probably recognizes my voice. They have delivered umpteen dozen pizzas to Weong Cheong Mansion B dong and know exactly where it is. I am one of maybe three English speaking males in the area. I've seen the phone at the store, it has call display and they know who it is calling if you've called once before like every other Dominos Pizza in the whole fucking world but this guy just had to know if I was in Deok Jeong. Store policy to ask the neighbourhood I suppose. You wanna see the meaning of do as you're told? Give a Korean a rule.

So I say, "Deok Jeong. Ye." Only he hears my "ye." as "ye?" So he asks me back, "Ye?" I am briefly confused by his confusion and pause to ponder whether he doesn't understand me, if he's asking me whether or not I just said ye, whether he's never heard of Deok Jeong or what the problem could possibly be. And I was trying to think of the sub-neighbourhood to clarify WAY beyond what is necessary to get a pizza delivered. It took me 2.5 seconds to remember that I live in sah dan ji. That's 4, um, dan ji. I dunno what that means. Because Korea doesn't really have street names and their houses don't really have numbers they have a system of ever decreasing sized areas that are used to narrow down addresses rather than actually pinpoint them. Mail carriers and delivery people have to be geniuses. Anyway it didn't come to me instantly and I had to think. Fatal mistake. Another rule Koreans follow is the telephone pause rule. If you are not instantaneous in your answers, despite the fact that you are obviously a foreigner struggling with a very difficult language, they hit you with "yoposeyo?" This means "hello" but it is like "game over" on a video game. You have to start back at the beginning again.

So I sigh heavily and say my address and my order again in impeccable Korean. He understands and superfluously asks again if I'm in Deok Jeong and I say "ye" and drop waaaay down to a Johnny Cash baritone. He understands.

Now Koreans are still having a tough time getting foreign food. It's much better than when I first got here but there are still a lot of people who put odd toppings on pizzas, burgers. sandwiches and such. I've seen, and eaten, some whacky stuff. On pizza I've seen squid, boiled eggs, kimchi, ketchup, broccoli, mayo, mustard, sweet potato, cabbage, peas and the list goes on. They have all those extras but I defy you to get bacon. I miss bacon on pizza. Then there's the ubiquitous corn topping. A majority of pizzas here include it. I don't like it but often don't have the energy to ask them to hold the corn. It's much easier to just pick it off. But on this occasion I had to try. "Ok soo soo eopsoyo," I said. That means "no corn". Predictably he says,"Ye?" So I try a different angle of approach. "Ok soo soo peeri eopsoyo," I said. This means "I don't need corn." He says, "Ye?" Then he says, "Can you speak English?"

I know who this guy on the phone is. I know he speaks English pretty well. I've talked to him while waiting for my pizza several times. He knows who it is calling for a pizza. So I start coming unglued,"YES, I speak English. Do you speak Korean?" Predictably his answer is, "Ye?" "Ok soo soo!" I say voluminously. "Ok soo soo! Corn! Anyo! No! Eopsoyo! None!" The dime, (or hundred won coin), drops. "Oh, weed out cone." he says. "Yes! Without corn."

So now we're speaking English, which we could have done from the beginning. He recites my order and address in English only he says, and by this point I'm starting to think I might be a victim of one of the Korean Jerky Boys, "WEED CONE!"

"NO!" I yell at the phone, "WEED OUT CONE! WEED OUT CONE!"
"Ye ye ye. So dee so dee. Weed out cone. " he says.

So I finally did get my pizza. But next time I'll just go pick it up. That way I get a bit of exercise walking to Dominos. And if I'm ever too lazy to go I'll just choose to eat something else. Probably something more healthy. So ordering pizza on the phone is a pain in the ass but it's sort of a good thing that it is. Wow, look at me go! Positive thinking up a storm.

In other news, I signed a new one-year lease on my house conditional upon the landlord replacing my air conditioner, which is above my computer and leaks like a seive. A few weeks ago a guy came to try to repair it. The third time it has been looked at. This time I couldn't get it to leak. He said that he needed to see it leak before he could fix the problem. I can't understand why a guy who knew what he was doing couldn't just check the possible problems one at a time and find the problem without seeing the leak. But then again, like the first couple of guys, this guy probably wasn't actually a repairman. It's really getting hot here too. So yesterday I went to the grocery store and bought a shower hose and rigged it to my air conditioner so that the water will drip into a rig that kinda looks like an I.V. and then drain out my window. It was on for a couple hours today. Never leaked a drop. Go figure.

You can even see this blog entry on the pic if you look closely. And I had just finished eating some of my pizza. You can just see the plate and crust dipping sauce on top of my printer. And the pizza is what the paper towels are for... of course.

I solved my own ant problem and fixed my own air conditioner. People solve their own problems here. When you have a fender bender you get out your wallets and bicker for a while then drive away. No expensive lawyers needed. People hardly ever sue. My handyman skills are really improving too. I guess this is just another good thing about Korea.

See? See? See?

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