lots of workers from Pakistan come to Korea for jobs
Pakistani #2 ~ “No problem” Viki: After a momentary and bizarre encounter with my first Pakistani in Daegu sometime in October (see my blog entry titled “chance encounters of the quirky kind”), I meet my second one on the evening of November 6, 2010 as I stand waiting for the metro at Banwoldang metro stop. I am returning from the EPIK field trip to Jeollabuk-do, and I have a small suitcase in tow. This #2 Pakistani smiles at me numerous times as I stand on the platform and he introduces himself as Viki. I tell him I’m Cathy. He acts quickly as he realizes the train will approach any minute. He asks me for my phone number and then the train comes and whisks me away to Keimyung University stop, where I return home to my cozy apartment.
The next day Viki texts me and asks if I can get online to chat. I have nothing better to do, it being a Sunday in Daegu. I chat with him for quite some time and he seems fairly interesting. On the chat, he also seems fairly intelligible. I already found him somewhat handsome as well, though he is a young 32 years old. He asks if he can meet me as soon as possible to have dinner. I say if he wants to come to Keimyung University on Monday evening, I know of a decent Pakistani restaurant about 3 blocks from my apartment.
On Monday evening, I meet him at the metro and we walk together in the cold dark to the Pakistani restaurant. Usually, when I have eaten at this restaurant, I have assumed there is no alcohol served because there is none on the menu. Viki knows better. He notes that all one has to do is ask, which he does. We are promptly served two extra tall Hite beers, the order of the day in Korea.
the Pakistan flag
During the dinner we try to communicate, but frankly I am having trouble understanding his pronunciation. He speaks volumes, but sadly it is in such mangled English that I only catch bits and pieces. The other thing he does is to repeat, at every opportunity, the phrase “no problem,” which seems to be his answer to everything. By the end of the evening, I am at wit’s end because the communication is so gnarly. It’s hopeless. I bid my goodbye to him and go back to my cozy apartment. I write for a while and then go promptly to bed, exhausted from trying to decipher Viki’s botched English speech.
The next day, he texts and wants to see me again. I really don’t feel like it, but I remind myself he’s a nice enough guy. Obviously I have momentarily forgotten his “no problem” mantra and his indecipherable English. Besides, there is never much company here in Korea, so I figure, what the heck. I get tired of my lonely existence here. So we have dinner at the pizza restaurant near my house, Dasarang, and then he wants to go to a DVD bang to watch The Ugly Truth. I should know this will be a mistake, as once inside, he doesn’t waste much time going in for the attack. The Ugly Truth is that I must fend him off for over an hour and eventually the blasted movie ends and we leave this place. At this point I am wavering as to whether I should ever see him again.
the ugly truth
The following weekend, I take a trip to Seoul to see my Egyptian friend, Mithad. It is an eye-opening experience when I am finally face-to-face with Mithad’s poverty-stricken living conditions. I know when I leave Seoul that Mithad and I will never work out.
Viki is relentless and over the next week, he calls and texts repeatedly. No matter how many excuses I make, he doesn’t give up. Finally, on the following Tuesday, November 16, I agree to meet him for dinner at my favorite place, the Warehouse, where I had celebrated my birthday in October. Afterwards we go to the DVD bang again, this time to see P.S. I Love You. We go for a pure lack of anything else to do in Daegu after dinner. This is really stupid on my part because I know what the routine will be. Yet. I go and I spend another 1 1/2 hours fending him off. When I return home, I’m utterly exhausted, again from the excruciating attempts to communicate, as well as the wrestling match in the DVD bang.
P.S. I Love You
After this, Viki is determined to cook a Pakistani dinner for me in his apartment. My time with Mithad over the past weekend had made it crystal clear to me that things were not going to work out between us. On Friday evening, after the Tuesday when I see Viki, Mithad and I have a huge argument and I tell him things are not going to work out between us. At that point I am pretty angry with Mithad and so am looking to do something! Anything!
Since Viki has bragged about his Pakistani cooking, and since I am up for an adventure, I agree to come to his apartment on Saturday, November 20, for a home-cooked meal. I really believe he is harmless and kind, so I don’t have any fear about going. It takes me nearly an hour to get to the furthest metro stop east in Daegu, where Viki meets me. From there we catch a taxi and I am surprised that the taxi is taking us out into the middle of nowhere. Cow dung and unidentified industrial chemicals permeate the air. It is farm land, but soon we come upon a small industrial plant. Attached to this plant is a small 2-story building full of rooms for the plant workers. I am a little worried and I asked Viki how I will get back to the metro when I am ready to go home. He says one of his friends has a motorbike which he can use to drive me back to the metro.
Meanwhile, he takes me to a bare bones room covered in Pakistani carpets. There is a desk with a computer and a chair and a small detached closet. No kitchen or bathroom facility is to be seen anywhere. I ask Viki where I am supposed to go to the bathroom, and he leads me down the stairs to the filthiest Korean-style hole-in-the-floor I have ever seen. It is the community bathroom and it’s disgusting.
Viki’s mantra ~ “No Problem!”
I go back up to play around on the computer while Viki runs up and down the stairs of this building to an unseen kitchen to prepare our meal. He in fact does make a very tasty meal of basmati rice and some kind of chicken with a red sauce. We eventually eat this on the carpeted floor on paper plates, along with some cold Hite beers. This was NOT what I had imagined!! Every minute since arriving at this place, I am thinking about how I must get back home as soon as possible.
Soon after dinner, and another wrestling match with Viki, I insist that I must hurry and go back home. I say though he was very kind to make me dinner, I cannot stay any longer in such a place. I say, I’m sorry, Viki! This is not what I expected!
So, he kindly but dejectedly borrows his friend’s motorbike. He only has one helmet, which he as the driver must wear. We ride along back through the farm fields and the intense cow dung and manure and more cow dung and manure, with a heavy dose of chemicals tossed in. Finally, after what seems like an eternity with my hair whipping about my head on the back of that motorbike, I arrive safely at the metro and ride back home to my nice cozy apartment, where I vow I will NEVER meet this #2 Pakistani again!
Of course, that doesn’t stop him trying, and after too many ignored texts to count, he drops happily off the face of MY earth.
Pakistani #3 ~ Mutton-eating Gill
My 3rd and final encounter with a Pakistani is on February 5, 2011, as I am returning home from my Lunar New Year holiday to Japan. Again, I am on the metro platform at Banwoldang, with my suitcase in tow. I’m wondering at this point if Pakistani guys stand on this platform just to pick up Western women!
Gill, as he introduces himself, strikes up a conversation right away. He is with a friend and they both get on the train going in my direction. His English is pretty good and he’s actually quite cute, very tall with beautiful eyes. A young 31, of course, as they all seem to be. But he chats with me for quite a distance on the train until he exits at the e-Mart stop. In the meantime, he takes my number and asks if I will meet him one evening for dinner.
The next evening, after texting back and forth with him all Sunday afternoon, he comes to Keimyung University metro where I meet him and take him to my favorite pizza place, Dasarang. We actually have a great time, sharing pizza, drinking beer and talking. He is interesting to talk to, his English is good, and he’s very sweet and attractive… I’m actually having a great time and he seems to be, too. He is here working at a factory, as most Pakistanis in Korea are doing, and has already been here for several years. But. He complains that he is lonely, he never has a girlfriend, has no luck with girls in fact. I say I am shocked because he is very sweet and handsome enough to make a girl melt. I don’t understand, I tell him, why he has trouble with girls. He thanks me for saying this, but he continues to insist that no matter what happens, he has no luck.
After our enjoyable evening, we take a walk all around the Keimyung University campus. At one point, we stop at a park bench and kiss for a while. At this point, I find out why he has no luck with girls. Though he is a decent kisser, he has horrible breath!! And I can tell that the breath is not some temporary staleness, from not brushing his teeth that evening or from eating something pungent. His is that kind of bad breath that comes from somewhere deep inside. Something that honestly, I don’t think can be easily fixed. Needless to say, I am disappointed, as everything else about him is so nice. But a bad kissing experience is something I cannot abide. Kissing is of ultimate importance to me. So much so, in fact, that when I look at a guy’s picture on a dating website for instance, I first ask myself the question: Would I want to kiss that guy? If not, I won’t respond to their messages. To me, kissing is the most pleasurable part of intimacy, and without that, I can’t go any further.
So, I tell him I must get home, it is late, I must work tomorrow. I have a lot to do. I walk with him to the corner and we part ways. I know at that point that I will never see him again.
The next day, he texts me, trying to convince me to come out with him for dinner. I say, “No, I’m sorry I cannot come. I’m not feeling good.” He is persistent. On Tuesday, he texts again saying he really wants to see me. I consult with one of my Korean co-teachers, Julie, about this situation. Should I be honest with him? I just cannot stand his breath! She doesn’t know what to say. Finally after ignoring his texts for hours because I don’t know what to say, I write to him: “Hi Gill. I’m sorry. I cannot see you tonight. There is a problem. I am not attracted to your smell. I’m really sorry, but it will not work out between us.”
He calls me right away but I don’t answer. Later that night I return his call and he asks me, “What do you mean, you’re not attracted to my smell? Do you mean I have bad breath?” I say, “Yes.” He says, “I’m sorry. I forgot to brush my teeth that night. Please give me another chance!”
But I know deep in my heart that his bad breath comes from somewhere deep inside him. I say, “No, I am leaving Korea in less than a month, and what is the point? It won’t work out, so there is no point in seeing you again.”
On Thursday evening, I stop at the bone hospital for physical therapy on my knee, and as I am lying on the table getting nice relaxing heat treatments, Gill calls again. He says he has just been to see the doctor about his bad breath. The doctor tells him: “Your stomach is hard and you need to stop eating mutton and meat and eat all vegetables. It will take a month, but in a month, it should all be better.”
“But I’ll be gone in a month,” I tell him. He is silent. I am silent. There is nothing more to say. The problem won’t be fixed within the time I am here, and I will be gone, in just over 2 weeks. There is no possibility.
But of course, that does not stop him from trying. Over the next couple of weeks, until I leave Korea, he repeatedly calls and texts, but I just ignore him. There is no point in arguing with him. I don’t want to be mean. I just don’t want to see him again.
And that is the sum of my Pakistani encounters in Korea.