Sunday, September 5, 2010


Life is about sharing the awesomeness. So, as a correlate to this credo, along with practicing the art of good hugs and incorporating Super Marios Bros into my classroom lessons, I purchased a second helmet in order to have passengers on my scooter.

It is ridiculous. Where else can an agitated cartoon bulldog, a phallic reference, a frisbee, some spiders, and safety all come together? And be worn on your noggin as you zip across the Han River at 75km?
The full-face visor is a nice feature, but I learned the hard way that it's best to raise it up before you sneeze.

Owning a scooter in Seoul is not only super fun, it's practical on a number of levels. They're pretty cheap to buy and maintain-- I bought mine used for less than $550, and to fill up the tank costs $9 every other week or so. I stopped in at an autoshop to have my brakes tightened (a request mostly communicated through mime, but my Korean's getting better!) and to buy some $6 oil, and they only charged me for the oil. It might be possible to shrug that off as an anomaly or the sympathy of a mechanic with a soft spot for lovely little horses (my scooter's name is 애마), but..

The same day, I went over a bump in the road, and suddenly the roar of my 99cc engine doubled in decibels. Part of me felt badass (rawrr my machine makes big noises rev rev), but mostly I was nervous about if something was wrong, and I felt very conspicuous about the way my steroidal sound waves were announcing my presence as I interrupted my way down quiet streets. It was like Zeus was farting out orange bulldog helmets.

I went to my second auto shop of the day, and I said, "Excuse me, my good craftsman, might you be able to discern the malfunction of my farty two-wheeled vehicle and execute the necessary repairs?" ...

What actually happened is that I pointed at my scooter and said, in Korean, "really loud." And I pointed to my ear to indicate the subject of my my sentence as 'sound' and said the word "changed." Clearly my greatest tool in communicating here in Seoul is my finger. If someone took away my ability to point I would be lost.

The mechanic ended up taking apart part of the bike in order to remove the muffler and weld the crack in it, plus he freshened up the wiring and plugs of the battery... and did some other mechanic-y things for over half an hour. In the U.S. I've been conditioned to be mistrustful of mechanics and their insistence that YOU NEED TO REPLACE ALL THESE EXPENSIVE THINGS IMMEDIATELY NOW NOW NOW OR ELSE YOUR VEHICLE WILL EXPLODE IN A FIERY STORM OF HORROR AS YOU DRIVE AWAY FROM HERE, but I wasn't in a position to be overly questioning of this Korean man's judgment. I just had to sit back and wait for him to give my lovely horse some antacids and drop the bill on me.

It was 30 bucks. Awesome.