I picked up a little something at the DC Mart over the weekend. This is him:
It may be hard to believe, but at 33,000 won ($35) this awesome humidifier was the best value on the whole shelf. It took me a minute to figure out why, but I think I got it.
Maybe most people don’t want a green plastic frog sitting on their floor, spewing steam from the top of his eyeballs.
Well, I’m not most people. I matched up the Korean words on the front of the frog and compared them to the devices that I knew to be humidifiers. Satisfied that it wasn’t going to be a wind-up toy or kimchi-making machine, I marched right up to the checkout.
It took a minute to strap the box to the back of my bike, but I got it in the end. One of my students saw me as I was locking up my bike.
“…Lauren teacher?” he said, staring at my frog box.
“Yes, hello,” I said, unwinding the occy strap and gingerly lowering my new purchase to the sidewalk.
He looked like he wanted to say something but just nodded and left. I guess we haven’t covered, “Why do you have a giant plastic frog” in English class.
I burst through the door of the apartment.
“I’m back!” I announced.
Jared looked up to see how many bags I had brought home.
“You bought a…frog,” he said.
“That’s right I did.”
I sat on the floor and pulled the frog out of the box. First I tried to translate the instruction manual by laboriously typing each sentence into Google Translate.
A Korean sentence of about eight lines came back with, “Do not water the goddess.” Or something like that.
On second thought, I didn’t need an instruction manual. It couldn’t be that hard.
I took the frog to the sink and ran water into the hole which I thought was for filling the head.
Water flowed straight out of the other side.
I tried multiple openings with no success.
Eventually, Jared tore himself away from the Rugby World Cup.
“Let me try,” he said.
So Jared tried the one hole I hadn’t tried (I swear) and Leonard was soon chugging along, humidifying our air like a champion.
The whole reason I had to buy Leonard in the first place is because there is NO FALL in Korea. Just summer, pre-winter, winter, and post-winter. Right now we are in the throes of pre-winter, which for me means an invisible sponge sucks all of the moisture out of my body while I sleep.
It is so bad that the inside of my right nostril turned into a giant scab. I’ll spare you further details, but it’s gross. And it hurts. So I went to the pharmacy.
I had been to this pharmacy before, and the guy there spoke English. If he wasn’t there, I had a backup plan. On a piece of paper, I had written the words, ‘nostril, inside, dry, pain,’ in Korean.
He wasn’t there.
It was an old guy I’d never seen, and a bunch of ajummas (middle-aged women) sitting in the plastic chairs against the wall. I don’t even think they needed to buy anything. I think they just hang out at the pharmacy, like the high school kids do at the Baskin Robbins.
When I walked in, everybody looked at me.
I was flustered. I wasn’t expecting an audience. I forgot all about my cheat sheet.
“Uh, hurt,” I said, pointing at my nose.
The trouble is, the Korean word for ‘hurt’ also means ‘sick.’
The pharmacist stared at me.
“Hurt/Sick,” I said again, putting my finger as close to the inside of my nostril as possible without actually picking my nose.
The ajummas were horrified and began whispering amongst themselves.
“Help me,” I whispered. “Please.”
The pharmacist reached below the counter and extracted a slim cardboard box. It had a picture of a faceless man with a runny nose.
The exact opposite of my symptoms.
“Dry?” I tried, in English, while pulling my nose to the side and raising my chin so he could see the inside of my scabby nostril.
He didn’t look. He just pointed at the box. “Three thousand won.”
“Okay,” I said meekly, paid for the useless medicine, and got the heck out of there.
That’s when I decided to buy Leonard.
Sometimes the best purchases are unplanned.
What have you bought overseas that you wouldn’t buy at home?
Tragedy has struck. Less than 48 hours after writing this post, I picked up Leonard’s head to refill it for the night. In an attack of clumsiness, I fumbled. This was the result.
Leonard humidifies no more.