Chogi Issoyo & the Creepy Girl in the Coffee Shop.

Since returning from a year of living in Asia, I’ve started playing a “guess the ethnicity” game with myself. Before I moved to Korea, I will admit, I could not tell you if someone was Indonesian or Chinese, and that’s pretty bad. I’m not much better now, except that I can usually tell who the Koreans are in the bunch.

So I’m sitting here in one of Vancouver’s coffee shops, enjoying my americano and whiling away my Monday with caffeine and a guidebook, because I’m sort-of-kind-of-trying-to-get-an-idea of the places I’ll be visiting in the next few months. Anyway. In walk a couple of 20-something Asian guys.

Success! Game-on.

Everything I was doing is no longer important. My fingers fall back into my lap. My back straightens. I stare at them. I weigh their every movement. I watch for any indication of a Korean gesture, and I ogle their clothes. Korean fashion is something that I was always in awe of when I was over there, so I look for things that might pull me back to Seoul. But most of all, I try to listen. I crane my neck in their direction and I shift my position on the bench so I’m more directly within their earshot. Language is the best indicator. If I can catch a word or two, I’m golden. So here I am, craning my neck and staring at them. I am, quite literally, that creepy girl in the coffee shop.

One of them looks up at me. He has died blonde hair, and he’s sporting a Giordano “Cheer you up shirt” which I totally recognize from Seoul. In fact, I own a hoodie of the same brand. And I’m trying to look at his face and see if he looks Korean, and I think he does, and I convince myself that he does, though I have no idea if he actually does or not. And then I hear it – chogi issoyo – and, bam! it’s like music to my ears.

I have no idea what he was talking about. All I know is that he was talking about something that exists “over there”. Maybe he meant that their coffees were ready over there. Maybe he meant there’s a creepy foreign girl staring at him over there. Maybe he meant “we’re Korean, and we’re over here!”. It doesn’t matter. What matters is that I won. In this retarded little game that I play with myself, I emerged victorious.

Great success! Koreans exist over there.

I am that smart. I am really, very smart.