DUBAI, UAE — I didn’t actually run into Jason Statham in Dubai, unfortunately, but what do you think? Does this guy look like him or what? Talk about a brother from another mother. This is seriously his long-lost twin. An Emirati version of Statham.
HANOI, Vietnam — The trick is to walk across at a steady pace. People will avoid or maneuver around you. It took me some time to get used to crossing the street this way. I thought it was too dangerous. This is how crossing the street looks like in most Asian countries though. You must adjust to adapt. One thing to remember, no matter what you do, DON’T run across. That’s how you die.
DMZ, South Korea — The Demilitarized Zone is a border barrier that divides the Korean Peninsula. We were warned during our visit not to make any sudden movements. It was a tense and engaging atmosphere. A soldier checked each of our passports while we were waiting on a tour bus. Korean nationals aren’t allowed to visit the DMZ—something about spies.
SEOUL, South Korea — “Have you heard of Bakomon?” I asked George, who was sitting next to me, on the tour bus. “Pokemon?” he replied. “No BAKomon,” I said while laughing. He shakes his head slowly and stares at me with the same blank look he always had on his face since the first day I met him at Dallas Fort Worth Airport. “You mean Bakugan?” a girl’s voice announced from behind my seat. “Yes! Bakugan!” I quickly answered. I can’t remember her name, but she was one of the 75 students who participated in the South Korea scholarship program with me. “I used to work at a toy store,” she told me. “I remembered the kids were obsessed with those things.” I hurriedly gave her my attention and started to tell her about what I saw at one of Seoul’s buzzing shopping district the day before. I wanted to know her advice.
It was around night-time when I went shopping at Myeongdong with two friends, and we came across a toy stand. There were two guys working the cart, one older gentleman, maybe in his late 40s, and a younger male, probably in his early 30s. There were a variety of anime, action figures, little knickknacks, and I’m guessing a few novelty items. The first thing that caught my eyes though was a clear, plastic container, the shape and size of a small lunch box with a Bakugan image on top. It reminded me of my youngest brother Toan. I remembered he played with these Bukugan toys he had collected from McDonalds.
I picked up the box and examined it. There were circular, plastic balls the size of a big playing marble in numerous color designs evenly spaced out inside. These where the same Bakugan toys he had insistently wanted to buy when we went to Wal-mart together a few months ago. Even though it was his money, I kept telling him no because I thought it was a waste of money. Toan isn’t the bratty type nor is he a bad kid. He just always says okay in a down voice and becomes sad when he can’t have the few things he wants. I just feel so shitty on the inside every time I see him like that, so of course I let him buy it.
I held the box in the air and asked the older guy, “How much?” He answered with an accent “50,000krw,” which is a little less than $50 in America. My first facial reaction was what the fuck?! Are you kidding me?! I thought he must have meant 15,000krw or $15, so I said how many zeros while I drew round circles on my palm with my finger indicting what I wanted to know. He thought for a second and raised up four fingers. I looked at him in disbelief and said this (shit) is cheaper in America! One of my female friends shook her head and said in a small voice “no don’t buy it.” She had this unwelcoming look on her face as if telling me you’re getting ripped off. Later, after we left, I knew this was exactly what she was thinking when she told me, “$50 for some plastic? It’s not worth it.”
I was thinking about that toy box on the bus the next day, and I recalled that my little bro had bought one of those circular toy things for around $7. This Bakugan toy box had 14 of those things, which means 14 times 7 equals a little less than $100 bucks.
“So, do you think I should buy it?” I finally asked her for reassurance on the bus. She looked to the side to think of an answer and then replied, “Yeah, that’s a reasonable price, I would think.”
I continued to contemplate whether or not I should buy it for my little bro. Later that week on the Friday before I left Seoul. One of the scheduled events we had to attend was at Myeongdong, so I decided I was going to stay there to do a little more shopping and go back and ask for the price again. I saw the same stand and the same guys, and I asked the older guy again how much was the box. He gave me the same answer. I placed the box down and decided I’ll do a little shopping and come back for it later.
A few hours gone by, I finally came back but this time I pulled the younger guy over, while the older guy was distracted helping someone else, and I pointed to the Bakugan toy box and said, “Hey, $40,000 for that box I’ll take it right now,” while raising four fingers in the air. He kinda smiled at me a little, grabbed his calculator and punched in $45,000. I gave my hand a slight wave as if gesturing whatever I’m not interested in any number you’re punching, and I raised up four fingers again and said, “$40,000 I’ll take it right now and go home.” He kinda smirked at me again and without any refutation, he went over to grab the box and then a bag and placed it inside for me.
Yes! I thought as I pulled out $40,000 and handed it over to him. Just to make the exchange a little more lively, I started to make conversations and asked him if he was Korean because I thought he looked Japanese, and I also heard his coworker speak Japanese. He said no and asked me where I was from in Korean. I said I came from America, but I’m Vietnamese. He looked surprised, but we eventually made the exchange and that was the last thing I bought in Seoul.
Whether I got a good bargain or not I still saved 1o bucks, so yay lol. When I got back into the U.S. I called my lil bro and told him I got him a toy, and I asked him how much he thought it was. “Uh $25,” he guessed. “It was actually $50, but I told the guy I’ll take it for $40 and he sold it to me,” I replied. He then said with surprised emotions in his little 11-year-old voice, “Whaat? yu cann doo that?” I said, “Yes. It’s called bargaining.” I could hear it in his voice he was happy I bought him a toy, but he’s the type that doesn’t show his feelings regardless if he’s sad or happy because apparently to him that meant I got the best of him. Anywho, he just knows I bought him some kind of toy. He doesn’t know it’s the Bakugan thing he had insistently wanted, so I can’t wait to see the look on his face when I present it to him!