Autumn N. Hall
"...and all I got was this lousy t-shirt!"
A year ago, I'd marveled at roof-tops reddened with hundreds upon hundreds of hot peppers parching in the sun. My nose wrinkled at the stink snaking up from clay pots of rotting cabbage around their perimeter. And the dawn chorus of the clack-clack man scissoring his shears, the huckster hawking her strawberries, the peddlers pushing their eggs struck me as some fantastical backwards version of the market scene from the musical Oliver.
But I'd developed a taste for kimchee. I'd survived the monsoons. I'd learned the lingo, at least enough to barter for what I wanted. And I wanted that shirt. The one in the stack with "Korea World View" satin-stitched in bold-face beneath a mercator projection of the globe. The only one in the entire pile that had the world map sewn on upside-down.
The vendor, torn between the desire to suck the last American dollars out of my pocket and the embarrassment he felt at my jaded perspective, tried to talk me into one of the North-Pole-up versions. "Half price, this one nice." In the end, persuaded by green-eyed Abe and Andrew, he handed over my first choice; and I left the peninsula with only the shirt on my back, "Kamsahamnida—thankyouverymuch."
red bean ice cream
suddenly sweet as it was