Friday, December 31, 2010

How To Learn Korean

I spent my New Year's Eve trying to learn Korean. Korean sounds like a jumble of consonants to me, and when I'm trying to buy corn flakes all I can do is look like I smelled a fart while the clerk tries to make small talk. However, the repetitive nature of infomercials--the products being named, and the rote catch phrases--make them perfect for learning a few words.
            The infomercials are plentiful, but I need one that will hold my attention. My apartment is the size of a meat locker, and just as cold. I find one about a space heater. A balding businessman in glasses with the look of a mole stands in front of exploding fireballs and aggressive manga symbols that look like pagodas with dragons wrapped around them. He counts: Hana (1) and then points at the screen with a cigar finger.
            I've been thinking about ways to heat up my apartment. The one I decided bringing in a trash can from the street and starting a fire next to my bed was the way to go. But there are no trash cans in South Korea.
         The wrinkled Mole claims the Korean cold makes you stupid. In a black and white scene a man slaps his forehead inside his cubicle. He's wearing a see-through dress shirt and thin trousers. He squints at his computer screen and then spins in his chair. If the text was in English he'd probably say, "This cold is Jamaican me crazy."
        A bug zapper with glowing red plutonium rods smashes through the black and white. This must be the space heater. It looks like a nuclear weapon. It levitates to the next screen and floats around a man sitting in an arm chair. The man puffs out his cheeks and speaks slowly ending each strain of consonants and aria like phrases with, "day," holding it as if it were summer and he were sipping lemonade.
          A woman wrapped in thick scarves, two cotton ball sweaters, and a blanket made for an arctic winter shivers on a black and white screen, saying, "Choo-ah," as she blows into her hands. I think this means cold, and I say it over and over while I blow into my hands and pull on a second hoodie. Snowflakes fall outside casting little shadows across my opaque, vinyl windows, and I wish I were back in America where I can find a trash can on any street corner.
        The Mole holds up four fingers and says, "Net." I now know, "Choo-ah," "Hana," and, "Net." He talks while a halo of space heaters spread out behind him like a peacock's tail. Some numbers weaved through Korean letters flash across the screen. A man comes on the screen with bulging eyes and bugle lips and says, "Muya, chin-chin." I think that means, "holy shit, that's cheap," or maybe, "what? really?" I also hear a lot of cums, days, says, and many ch and sh combinations. I try them out and hear my neighbors giggling in the hall. My walls are very thin. I'm not on the level of the Korean Sham wow guy yet, or Tony Robbins, but I hope I can put enough together to buy a bottle of whiskey at the corner store. Or I hope I learn enough to ask where I can find a trash can and a box of matches.