Some Play Acting and a Flower Ring

South Korea, 1997

It was just getting dark when our bus arrived in Chinju. I knew that the area around Chinju Fortress had plenty of cheap accommodations so we grabbed a short cab over there. Skylark was traveling with 2 bags so we needed to first obtain lodging before traipsing around to get our sightsee on.

Neither of us had a ton of extra cash so we made the risky decision to share a cheap room at a cheap motel. I had no intention of hanky panky and I was pretty sure Skylark had no designs on my bones. And, as if we were not stared at enough for being a traveling international duo of American man and Korean woman, Skylark came up with a "bright" idea for our cover story when checking in to the motel.

For some reason she thought she could pass for a Japanese girl. She wanted me to speak only English to her and she would stammer English back. There were so many holes in her plan that I was dumbfounded as to where to begin shooting it down. I went along with it hoping to show how lame it was. An object lesson if you will.

We went up to the front desk of a cheap motel. It was wo-manned by two ladies one might call older, except there were probably the age that I am now, and I ain't "older." But they were clearly well aware of the primary reason that clients sought out their establishment, and they looked at us as if they knew what we were after.

I spoke to them in Korean, they looked past me and spoke to Skylark in Korean, she looked at me in a phony confused way, I spoke English to her really fast as if to sell she had strong skills, she said something basic in Korean-accented English, I spoke Korean to the two "older" ladies. Quite the ridiculous charade. I don't think anyone bought it, not for a second.

After much back and forth, we were able to get a room.

We dumped Skylark's luggage in the room and went out for some food. After food, we sightsaw. After sightseeing, we repaired to bed. I forgot a toothbrush. I went out to the front desk to ask if they had any on hand. I was directed to a vending machine at the top of the stairs. It had toothbrushes alright. It also had cigarettes and condoms. I noticed the brand name of the condoms and laughed out loud. The motel owners must have thought me the strangest of tourists as they watched my every move.

It might not be funny to anyone else but me. Maybe not even funny haha as much as funny weird. But the condom brand name was "꽃반지" (Flower Ring). That made me think of an old Korean pop song about putting on the Flower Ring you gave me (당신이준 꽃반지 끼고). Everyone knows that song. I don't know if everyone thinks of it euphemistically as I have from that moment in the lobby of a cheap motel in Chinju. I certainly don't think the young female pop star who originally sang it many years ago ever thought of it that way. That young girl who became so popular from that song that she disappeared to the States for 10 years, returned to Cheju Island, married The Master, and spent two weeks in early 1997 entertaining me by singing that song.

Think about that.

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