My go to chicken place, Poktan Cochi (Bomb Chicken), went out of business. This is a common theme for most small businesses in my neighborhood. But unlike The United States, where it seems the buildings go unoccupied for months or even years, there is always another business up and running within the week. Half of the time they are selling the exact same products to the exact same target group.
I was sad the day everything was being torn out of the space, but not as sad as I might have been had my students not already prepared me for this exact scenario. Only a week before, April 1st to be exact, my students had very casually brought up that Poktan Cochi was going out of business. I cannot recall ever falling for an April Fool's joke, but that day I did. One of my 12 year old girls brought it up 5 minutes into class. She was in mid-conversation with the other girls and then she seemed to leave the group's train of thought to speak with me. I believe this is where I lost any inclination that she could have been tricking me. The other girls continued talking and her facial expressions looked as though something had just dawned on her. I now believe it was just the confused look some students have when they are trying to piece together English words into a coherent sentence. She went on to say that Poktan Cochi was closing and a flower shop was going to be opening in its place. I asked her if she was serious and even believed the other girls when they finally broke from their conversation to back her up. We talked about it for the next couple of minutes and after coming to terms with the fact that I was going to have to find another chicken place, we continued class as normal. Only in the last minute of class while we were leaving did she speak up and say, "Teacher, Just kidding. Poktan Cochi no close."
I do not believe that April Fool's joke to be the sole reason for the unfortunate demise of Poktan Cochi, but it couldn't have helped.
I was soon on a mission to find a new chicken place and what better place to start than the next closest one, BBQ Chicken. I quickly became a regular (3-4 times a week) and the family that runs it seems to be fond of me. A husband and wife do all the work with the occasional help from there son (19) and daughter (16). One week into being a customer there, the woman decided that I was paying to much at W 9,000 and now only charges me W 8,000. She told me she was giving me a discount because I was "pretty," which was soon corrected by her daughter, who told her she meant "handsome." She has given me free things, "service," such as, chicken, coke, rice, beer, cake, etc. They are open until late and if I go around the time there kids are eating, they always invite me to eat with them. I try to say no thank you, but sometimes take them up on it, not to seem ungrateful.
So... I had been doing this for about a month, when the chicken lady, Mrs. Lee, asked me if I had a girlfriend. Not by saying, 'do you have a girlfriend?' But by speaking a whole lot of Korean I did not understand, then finally saying the singular word GIRLFRIEND. I told her no and before I could realize what was actually taking place, she was writing down some girl's name and asking me for my phone number to give to her. I, of course, was smiling/laughing at the situation she was creating for me. She assured me that the girl spoke English and went on to tell me that she was going to have the girl call me the next night. I asked Mrs. Lee to have the girl text me first because I didn't answer unknown numbers, and I was worried about her English speaking ability. That was Thursday.
Saturday night I was back at BBQ Chicken to get my fix and Mrs. Lee, the chicken lady, was back to using sign language to communicate with me. She asked me if the girl had called me. I shook my head no and after a short puzzled look from the chicken lady, she was picking up the phone and speaking my name into it. I'm not sure, but I believe she was speaking to someone else about the potential Girlfriend and I, who may or may not have been the mother. She hung up the phone with a smile and then told me, after consulting with her daughter, "studying." Apparently, the girl did not have time to make a call over a 48 hour period because she was studying. However, the chicken lady seemed to think that the potential date was going to contact me.
Monday morning, the chicken lady was outside as I walked past BBQ Chicken on my way to the bakery. She communicated the question of whether or not the girl had called me, to which, I communicated a negative response. I was in the bakery and out in time to walk back by and see and hear Mrs. Lee speaking my name into the phone, once again. I had assumed by this time that the girl was not going to contact me, but the chicken lady seemed determined to make it happen.
However, as time went on, we both came to terms with the fact that she had not contacted me and was in all likelihood, not going to contact me.
The thoughts that had ran through my head concerning this unknown girl can only be chalked up as experience in thinking. I will never know if she was pretty. I will never know if she spoke English. I will never know if she was kind, funny, loyal, smart, intuitive, understanding, athletic or loving. I will never know if she was good with children or if her family was accepting of me. I will never no what that blind date would have been like. I will never know...
...for now, she's just a chicken lady.