Thursday was my birthday. I didn't tell anyone though, so Eun-hye (the ballet teacher at the school I go to on Thursday) was all upset that she didn't know to buy me a present. When she asked me after school what I wanted for a gift after school, I had to think for a minute. I live a very frugal life, and pretty much anything I need I already have. Moreover, I already have most of the things I want, and the things I don't have are related to wisdom or life experience and can't be bought with any currency other than time. Consequently, I felt under the circumstances a cheap umbrella would be a good gift for me.
I've mentioned before that the Koreans I see are more or less petrified of the rain (just the other day I saw a man sprinting the ten feet from the taxi to his door in a light drizzle). While I still don't really care if I get wet or not, and would not normally have purchased the umbrella, I do have concerns about the contents of my back pack which cannot be protected by my jacket.
Conveniently for me then, the Koreans' fear of the rain has forced them to master the art of the umbrella. While I'm sure you can find small umbrellas in Canada too, in Korea I can buy them in a subway station or from the local corner convenience store. I was easily able to find a full size umbrella that folds up into a bundle smaller than a 500 mL water bottle for less than $10 at the first store I walked into (they pretty much all cost about $10 anywhere you go, so there was no need to shop around).
Eun-hye and I then went to a nearby coffee shop to talk, but after a while she had to leave for another appointment and I was left with a good hour and a half to kill before my MEC meeting. I figured I might as well treat myself to a birthday gift from myself, and so I headed to the Kyobo book store in Gwanghwamun (Charles and I went here back in September) to look at the books (I love books).
While there I found the remaining two books in the series of books on how to learn Korean that I'm currently using to study. At first I thought the series was to easy to be effective, but I've since dedicated myself to following its system faithfully, and I now credit this series' simple, straight forward approach to my recent exponential increase in Korean speaking ability and comprehension.
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At the MEC meeting I was treated to a birthday cake and perhaps the most well thought out present I've ever received. Sally, one of the members in the club, had remembered me humming the tune to Astro Boy some time ago. She gave me her collection of really old Astro Boy comics, in mint condition, that she had from when she was younger. She also gave me an Astro Boy toy she found McDonald's to be giving away in a Happy Meal a few years ago. The toy included a UFO like object that has a gyroscope inside. The gyroscope can be revved up by blowing through a certain hole in its body. The revved up gyroscope-UFO can then be balanced on top of the Astro Boy toy's outstretched arm and "it really spins!" It's absolutely brilliant.