Happy Sunday everybody! My goal for this weekend was to buy a bike. Mission accomplished. I walked down to the local bike store today, shopped around, spied a bike that I loved, found out it cost a month's salary and decided to go with a bike I found acceptable. I purchased an American Eagle brand bike. I found it oddly fitting. It's functional; it'll get me around, but it's not like my bike in the states. Compared to my old bike, the Eagle needs to go on a diet. It is heavy, but we'll manage.
I was a pretty shrewd businessman at the bike store. I've been listening to my Korean tapes and they've been teaching me phrases like: "The weather is nice," and "Would you like to have dinner at my place?" Never mind the fact that if I ask a Korean person to have dinner and they say yes, the only thing I could talk about over and over again is how nice the weather was. I was starting to question the validity of these Korean lessons when, at the bike shop, the phrase, "Please give me a discount," shot into my head. This was a sentence that I filed under, "something I'll probably never use," but I decided to give it a try and the guy at the shop knocked thirty bucks off the price! I think I startled him with my sudden burst of demanding Korean. The other guy in the store started laughing and I knew that I was a hit.
This is something that I don't understand though. Bargaining is common in Korea. It's not so much the act of bargaining that I don't get, but the items that are bargained for. I've haggled for items in Mexico when I'm looking to buy a handmade chess set or a bongo drum. These are novelties, but here you bargain over things like bicycles and electronics. With a hand made Guatemalan shirt the price is negotiable. Here it seems like these items should have a set price. What does the salesman tell you about a camera that you want to purchase? "I can't possibly go that low. It took me all day to make this thing." Still, it looks like this bargaining thing might work to my advantage.
Later on, I took my new purchase on a spin around the riverwalk. It's starting to get nice out so all of Korea was outside. There's miles and miles of paths along the river and people were out riding every sort of wheeled contraption imaginable. This made my bike ride a bit hectic as the road bikers were scattered along the path, so were the octogenarians traveling at half the speed of smell, the wanna-be speed skaters on their thousand dollar roller blades, the five-year olds on their new bikes, the couples on their first date who made the horrendous mistake of deciding to go rollerblading, the fashion queens out for a Sunday stroll, the dog walkers, etc. Because of the number and the mix of people, bike riding was be a bit chaotic. I didn't help much either. Where did I fit in? I'll say that my group was relatively small: the speeding waygook. I haven't been outside that much since I arrived here so once I hopped on the Eagle, I was gone. I was weaving in and out of Koreans, just a foreign blur. I imagine that after a few weeks of riding that trail I'll become notorious, "Aiyee, look out! It's the American Eagle!" One can only hope.