Love in the Land of Morning Calm – Chapter Four
“Uh, hi. Can you speak English?” I mumble and then kick myself mentally because of course the guy speaks English. He just did.
“Yeah, don’t worry, I can speak English. I went to university in the States. What’s your name?” he says smiling, nicely pretending that I didn’t ask the stupidest question.
“I’m Mandy. It’s nice to meet you but I should warn you, I have no idea what I’m doing. I’ve just arrived in Korea from Canada and my new co-workers are showing me some of the fun and interesting things that Seoul has to offer.” I reply.
“Don’t worry, I’ll be gentle,” Jin Woo states, looking at me with that amused look that some guys have when they think a girl is doing something cute. “Here, have a drink. How long have you been in Korea? I assume you’re an English teacher?”
“Thanks. Yes, I’m an English teacher at an academy. I’ve only been here a week, well, eight days now. Everything is still bright and shiny. Seoul’s so nice and busy. There are just so many people here but luckily, I’ve met some nice people who are showing me around. ” I babble. Damn, it’s like I have verbal diarrhea when I’m nervous. Words just keep spilling out my mouth with little to no cohesion. Maybe a long gulp of this drink will help. No, probably not.
“I hope I’m one of those nice people,” he says, “I’d like to get to know you better. Do you have a cell phone yet?”
“Umm, yeah, my academy set me up with one when I arrived.” I reply wondering if it’s normal to give out or even ask for someone’s number this quickly. I remember Paul saying that it was basically the purpose of booking clubs but… what should I do? He is really good-looking and so sure of himself. I wonder if that’s normal. I’ve never dated a Korean guy. Wait… I’m getting ahead of myself, he just asked for my number. Maybe he’s just friendly? The running commentary in my head continues making me more nervous… why do I always get nervous around good-looking guys? Arg, this is awkward.
Jin Woo pulls out his phone and hands it to me saying, “Can I get your number?”
When in Rome… “Sure,” I say as I take his phone and type in my number.
“Are you free tomorrow? I’d like to take you out for dinner and show you around Seoul a little.”
Oh wow, he is asking me out. Holy crap! What do I say? I mean he’s hot and all but I don’t know him… slow down silly, just do the same thing you would do at home. He’s just a guy. Pretend you’re not in a foreign country for a minute and just treat this as a simple guy-girl situation. A really hot guy is asking me out situation. Wow, Seoul is getting more exciting by the minute!
“I don’t really have any plans. I was just going to walk around Seokchon Lake as I live close by it and my co-workers say it’s a nice walk. And maybe go shopping at HomePlus for some stuff for my apartment. Perhaps I can meet you somewhere nearby for coffee.” I reply trying to scale back the meeting. What if we have nothing to say to each other tomorrow? I mean it’s not like we know each other. I don’t even know what he studied or what he does for a living. Coffee is quicker and safer, just in case. Oh crap, I think he’s laughing at me now.
“How about I meet you at Seokchon Lake and we go for a walk around it together. We can chat and get to know each other while walking. If you don’t like me by the end of our walk, then no dinner but if you decide you like me, I’ll take you to a nice restaurant you’ll love. I can also take you shopping at HomePlus if you like, so you won’t have to carry it all back to your apartment.” Jin Woo says completely obliterating all my objections.
Yep, he’s definitely laughing at me. Grr… I was just trying to be cautious. But his confidence is seriously hot. How to salvage this without looking like a complete flake?
“Okay, that sounds like a good plan! How about we meet at 4pm?” I reply as I get up, “I should probably get back to my friends. It was nice to meet you.”
“4pm is fine. How about we meet at the south end of Seokchon Lake? There’s a small platform there so it will be easy to find each other.” Jin Woo says smiling at me, “It was nice meeting you Mandy. See you tomorrow.”
I flew back to my friends thinking that if Jin Woo is an example of what dating a Korean guy might be like I’m in trouble. It was like he saw me and decided we were going on a date and simply arranged it so he was happy. This can’t be normal? I’m going to be putty in their hands if it is. Plus it didn’t help matters that I get so easily flustered around guys I find attractive and Jin Woo was seriously hot. Holy cow, my pulse is still racing.
“Mandy! Oh my god, sorry. We didn’t think anything would happen. What was it like? What was he like?” Emma asks as I sit down looking a little dazed.
“Strange, a little unnerving and I think I have a date. Is that normal?
The girls all cluster closer to hear what happened but I notice in my bemused state that Daniel looks a little unhappy. Hmm, wonder what’s wrong with him?
“So…” I proceed to regale them with the details asking if what happened is normal again.
Claire, Emma and I turn to Kyung Mi, Sun Hee and Min Ah.
“Getting your number is normal if the guy likes you up close and the meeting goes well but generally they don’t make a date with you on the spot.” Min Ah says.
“Was he nice?”
“How old was he?”
“What does he do?”
“What did you talk about?”
“How was your first booking experience?”
“Would you come to a booking club again?”
“Was he hot?”
Laughing and feeling normal again I reply, “One at a time! He was quite forceful but in a nice way. I don’t know how old he is, he didn’t say but I’d guess about 30. I don’t know what he does for a living but I’ll ask tomorrow. He did go the university in the US though. We just chatted a bit so I really don’t know much about him; it was a little awkward, well for me anyway. Umm… not sure if I’d come back, being dragged away from my friends was odd. It all seems so surreal now. And yes, Claire, he was attractive but I’m pretty sure he knew it. He was so confident and just took charge.”
“I can’t believe you have a date already!” Claire says laughing, “You’ve only been here for a week. I’m jealous, it took me longer.”
What am I going to wear? What does one wear on a date with a guy that one met for 5 minutes at a club… er, sorry… a nightclub? I haven’t been here long enough to know what’s normal in this situation. Even if we did know each other, I don’t know what to wear. Oh well, guess I’ll just have to wing it. I’ll just pretend I’m back in Toronto. A sundress and a cardigan is always a safe bet. I’ll look cute but casual. I can do this!
A few minutes later – okay, 30 minutes later – I’m ready to leave. Emma said it was about a 15 minute walk to Seokchon Lake so I grab my camera and purse before heading out the door. I’m a bundle of nerves but that’s normal for me. But thankfully, the newness of being in Korea takes over once I leave my apartment and I soon forget about being nervous and just gaze around at everything around me. I know Seoul’s a city just like Toronto is but everything seems so different and exciting that I can’t help but play the tourist and gawk at my surroundings. Some things look almost the same – like convenience stores – except for the signs being in Korean and some things look different – like that restaurant I just passed with everyone sitting on the floor. It’s going to be so much fun exploring my new home.
I was almost there when it hit me… this is my first date since Eric and I broke up six months ago… back to being nervous. Deep breaths Mandy, you’re just walking around a public area with a guy. With a really hot guy… hmm… I wonder if he really is as hot as I remember?
“Hi Mandy,” I hear a voice say as I was gazing at the lake. I turn around to see Jin Woo walking up to me looking just as good as he did last night. He’s about 175-180cm tall with dark hair and intelligent eyes that are currently smiling at me. Yay! He’s taller than me. His hair is casually tossed in that way that you just know must have required a good stylist and he’s dressed kind of preppy casual but with pants that are slimmer than I’m used to seeing. I’ve noticed that a lot of Korean guys seem to wear slim fit pants or jeans. All in all, it’s a good look for him, well, except for the look in his eyes. Damn, I think he’s laughing at me again… oh wait, that’s probably because I’m staring at him. Awkward!
“Uh, hi,” I reply blushing.
“You’re cute when you blush.”
“Umm… you aren’t supposed to notice that I’m blushing”
“Why are you blushing?”
I so don’t want to go there. How does one say ‘Oh, I’m blushing because I was just caught staring at you and thinking how hot you are.’? Definitely not going to happen. I may be a social idiot at times but I’m not that bad.
“I blush easily,” I reply and it’s the truth, but doesn’t really answer his question. “It’s a beautiful day today, isn’t it? A perfect day for a walk!”
Yeah, I’m talking about the weather. When in doubt, in an awkward situation or when I just need to change the situation… I talk about the weather. I wonder if it’s a Canadian thing or just me.
“It is a nice day.” Jin Woo says as we start walking around the lake. “Are you always this cute?”
“I’m not cute!”
“Yes, you are. Have worked up the courage for dinner yet?”
“What?!?” I reply almost stopping in my tracks, “I’m not afraid to have dinner with you. I’m just not sure if I want to yet. We haven’t known each other very long. Is it normal for you to just ask out a girl you just met?” I’m blushing again and trying desperately to salvage this situation. I mean, it’s embarrassing… I’m a 28 year old woman who’s normally quite confident and this guy is constantly reducing me to a babbling idiot.
“Blind dates and booking clubs are common in Korea but I knew as soon as you blushed when you sat down beside me last night that we would date.”
Oh no, I blushed last night too. Just great! But what the hell? He’s already decided we’re going to date. Don’t I get a say in this? It’s just my luck that the first guy who’s interested in me is super confident which is virtually guaranteed to make me go weak at the knees. I love confident guys. Damn, Jin woo is hot and confident. I’m going to be putty in his hand. Must be strong! Must change the subject to something a little more bland and normal… must…
“So what did you study in university? You mentioned last night that you went to school in the US.” I say, trying to scale back our conversation to something that won’t make my pulse race.
Jin Woo looks like he’s about to pat me on the head for doing something cute. Great, my social ineptness translates well I think sarcastically.
“I studied English and Business before getting my MBA. I work as a business consultant mainly with foreign companies doing business in Korea, helping them bridge the language and cultural gap. What did you study? How old are you Mandy? Did you work after graduation or come directly to Seoul?” Jin Woo replies, allowing me to lead the conversation for a while.
“Wow, that sounds like an interesting job. I bet you get to meet lots of interesting people. I think I’d like a job like that.” I respond, “I studied Marketing and Communications and worked in marketing for a couple of years before coming to Korea. I liked the writing and creative aspect, but it wasn’t inspiring me so I starting looking for something different. And while I was looking for a different job, I was recruited to teach English in Korea. It sounded fun and challenging, just what I needed in my life so here I am. Oh, and I’m 28. Why did you ask how old I was?”
“It’s a Korean thing. We always ask new people certain questions like ‘how old are you’ when we first meet. I should have done it last night. Hasn’t everyone been asking you it?” Jin Woo asks.
“No, but then I’ve only been here for a week and you’re the first Korean person I’ve met outside of work. How old are you? And do you mind telling me why ‘how old are you’ gets asked all the time and what other questions I should expect?” I question him, completely forgetting I was nervous just minutes ago. The combination of the interesting conversation and the relaxing scenery as we walk around the lake has had a calming effect on me.
“I’m 30 in Western age…”
“Western age? Oh sorry, didn’t mean to interrupt but what’s Western age?” I interject confused.
“Don’t worry, it’s good that you’re curious.” He replies smiling at me, “Basically Koreans are born one year old and their age changes on Seollal – the lunar New Year – so Korean age is different from Western age. Western age is how you – and other people from Western countries calculate age. Do you understand? There’s a bit more to it but that’s a basic explanation.”
“Thanks. So Korean age is older than Western age… oh no, that means I’m that much closer to 30 in Korea. Yuck!”
Laughing Jin Woo says, “Yep, so the question ‘how old are you’ will often be followed by ‘are you married’ or ‘do you have a boyfriend’ or both. Don’t be surprised if people ask ‘why’ if you answer no or volunteer to set you up on a blind date. Or you could go for dinner with me.”
“Okay,” I answer smiling, “You’ve convinced me. I’m not so nervous around you now.”
“Why were you nervous before?”
He had to ask that. Damn, now I have to answer him. This is going to be embarrassing. “Um, you’re attractive and I’m always nervous and slightly awkward around guys I think are attractive. Plus, you are the first Korean guy I’ve met and I’ve just arrived in a new country that I’m unfamiliar with so I’m a little unsure to start with. And you seem so sure of yourself, like you already know the outcome. I like confident, attractive guys but I get all girly around them which is what I’ve been doing around you.”
“Are you always this honest?”
“Yeah, I may not always volunteer information but I always answer questions honestly.”
“I like you too.” Jin Woo says smiling down at me. And this time his smile seems sweet, not like he’s laughing at my silly cuteness.
“Really? But we just met?”
“Does it matter?”
“No, I guess not.”
“Come on; let’s go do your shopping in HomePlus before dinner. I’ll feel better knowing you didn’t have to carry anything heavy.”
I think I’m really going to like Korea!