September 28, The Humanity

I spent the afternoon in near hysterics having realized that the way I applied for an absentee ballot was completely wrong for a citizen abroad.

Once that was sorted, I ate a boring and healthy dinner due to the copious amount of cookies I had for lunch, and was joined by the Brazilian and the male Korean roommate.

What a strange little family we are, I thought to myself at one point.

The Korean asked me if I was from Miami since I said I was from Florida and Miami is a Florida city.

“No,” I answered, feeling gleefully vindictive in a short and obvious reply.

The Brazilian had made both of them garlic olive oil pasta to which the Korean said had an aftertaste of Yakult, a drinkable yogurt.

The Brazilian and I looked at each other.

“But isn’t Yakult sweet?” He asked.

“Yes, it is,” the Korean responded, still somehow finding something sweet in a pasta that has no sugar.

“Yakult is a very famous Korean drink,” he explained rather needlessly since the Brazilian and I have been in Korea long enough to see the yogurt ladies driving their motorized carts and clipping pedestrians’ heels.

“Is it from Japan?” The Brazilian mused. I agreed and did a quick search to confirm.

“My girlfriend and I argue about that all the time, she gets so mad if I say it’s from Japan,” he commented while I read him the Wikipedia article, which is understandable if you understand Japan-Korean relations.

The Korean asked me if all the Chinese students in my class yell.

“No, they don’t yell.”

The Brazilian, who was working in China up until borders closed, added that older Chinese people are loud.

“Just like Korean older people! Must be a senior thing.” I explained.

I think the Korean started to realize I was making fun of him which made the effort lose its fun and instead made me reconsider that he was human and I shouldn’t judge him on a single note.

As an unspoken offering, I later brought him some candy from the German classmate. I warned him that it was sour and then sweet to which he replied,

“So like Yakult!”

The Brazilian and I bust out laughing.

I’ll admit, he has great comedic timing even if he doesn’t know it.

I took a long walk on the beach as the weather is cooling off and when I got back I discovered the Brazilian in his day clothes with interesting additions of green plastic slippers and a lit cigarette.

“I didn’t know you smoked.”

“I only smoke when I’m stressed.”

“And why are you stressed?”

“I’m arguing with my girlfriend.”

“Ah.”

“What am I doing if she doesn’t even care about me?”

He looked at me with that naked look of a drowning man and I had the horrible realization that he was about to cry.

My immediate thought was, young love, followed by a rush of gratitude that I don’t have it.

But the Brazilian and his girlfriend are in their mid-20s, and I think of them as young mid-20s at that. I’m sure they’ll be fine shortly.

Although I do hope she remembers that while she might be in her home country, her boyfriend is trapped in a country that’s not his own and also not his place of work.

However, if there’s one thing I can do, it’s talk my way out of awkward situations.

“You’ve almost made a complete ajusshi transformation,” I observed, waving to his cigarette and shower shoes. I told him the only thing left to do was an Asian squat.

We tried but heard his knees crackle in protest and echo in the alley and thus promptly gave up, but not without a few laughs.

I told him about my walk and the misspelled tourist sign and we briefly discussed the cost of cigarettes in our respective countries.

The key to comforting a boy fighting with his girlfriend is to never comfort too much and so I soon told him not to stay out too late and have a good night.

I can be and enjoy being everyone’s big sister.

During my walk I left my bedroom window open and now it smells a bit like my hair used to the morning after Thursday Thursdays in college. It’s comforting in a way.

Or maybe that’s just the smell of fall.

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