Shopping In Translation


This area, in the northwest section of the city, is characterized by a large number of Korean-owned businesses, serving a primarily Korean community, despite signs that simply label this as the "Asian Trade District". The streets are clean, the storefronts barely containing any English to them at all. Several of the more prominent businesses in the area do have English signs, but they are always below those that name the establishment in Korean. Restaurants, cafes, noraebang bars, grocery stores, and gift stores are among the shops found here.

"You must be getting pretty desperate if you're calling me. You do know my speciality is math and not world history, right? So what…a stimulation cypher? Yeah, give me the names again?" «Yes, I need at least five pounds, but as fresh as possible». The slender asian woman is wandering through the open air market stalls, switching between what seems like a handful of asian languages to the cendors, and the phone cal she has pressed to her ear. She has a few bags already, and seems to be looking over a selection of fresh bamboo, of all things, "Yes, so…let's see…they were all holdouts on the global warning talks. They all are stopovers for most people doing medical tourism in and out of Japan. Um…«Yes, that'll be fine. You wouldn't have any fresh clippings for planting, would you?»


Out of his element, that's what Brett is. Born and bred Texan, though minus the boots and hat (instead hatless and sneakers), the on-vacation teacher strolls through the market, looking for 'likely' anythings that might put some colour in the house, and, well.. isn't jade anything in the form of a statue good luck for outside, when his pool is built?

It looks cool, anyway.

The food market actually has a couple of those dark green, not jade but close enough, statuettes, and it is toward them that Brett moves. The little aisle-ways are small, enough for two unburdened customers, but when one is not quite looking where he's going, and the other is burdened?

"Oh.. sorry.. excuse me.."


Xiu Mei was just about to reach for the bag of clippings when the next customer down the way bumps into her and she ends up dropping them back onto the table, spilling water everywhere, but she first turns to right herself, and see who her unmasked assailant might be, "Hard to get used to, right?" She turns back to the vendor, and promptly starts picking everything back up, the woman and the man behind switching back to whatever language it was they were using. But things are soon set in order, except for the mopping up. But it's hot out, hey, it might be good for the living and used to be living vegetation at the stall, "You alright? I didn't break anything, did I?"


"Uh.. no ma'am.."

At least Brett believes he's being addressed. After all the shuffling there, and him looking slightly out of place in the market, he's surprised he hasn't been asked to leave; at least not in a language he can understand, anyway. "It's a little tight, and—" is given by way of explanation and secondary apology, even if it's not actually spoken.

"Was just looking at these lanterns," Brett offers his most 'not really a creep, but gotta ask' expression, "and I was going to put one near the pool I'm putting in. I just.. I just don't want to get something that isn't what it says it is, you know? Like.. the kids that get tattoos of a chinese character and never find out that it means 'idiot', or something like that?"


"Oh, well, you don't want those anyway." Xiu Mei makes a face in Brett's direction, but hold up a hand, as she finishes her call, "Yeah, I'm fine. Yes, I'll keep working on it and drop it off at your office." She clicks off the phone and finishes her business, before she steps back, "I'm Sun Xiu Mei. If you need a translator, you can usually ask, but it's hard to get the right answer." She doesn't bother to say what she's thinking 'because you're an outsider', but it's likely Brett already knows that, "I can give you a hand if you need it. You don't want bad vibes around your pool. That's a horrible movie waiting to happen."


Where exactly to start with the name? Brett knows that the Chinese use their last names first and first names last.. and.. well, it does give him pause for a moment.

"Brett. Brett Coleman." The teacher offers a genuine appreciative smile, "A pleasure.. and that would be great. Last thing I'd want in my pool area is a horror movie in the making."

Twisting around at the cement lanterns painted green, Brett gestures, "These'd be a no-go, then?"


"Good to meet you, Brett." Xiu Mei moves away from the stall, back back out, sort of into traffic. She does manage to find a nook where they can talk for a minute without being blundered into. "No, those only look like cement, they're like plaster with that fake stuff you get from the hardware store painted on." She shrugs, looking into her bag, which could well be a snack bag, if it didn't have such a weird assortment of things inside, plants and…otherwise. One would hope. "It's not that they want to be dishonest, you know? But it's sort of just expected that the first stuff you see is the tourist stuff. You have to dig a little to get the good quality items, and that's hard to do when you don't speak the language. But, fortunately, that shouldn't be too much of a problem. So you want ground lanterns for your pool. I think I know a place you can look." And with that, she walks back into the flow of traffic, seeming at home in the pushing and shoving, which is just normal in a culture where people learn to ignore such things when there are always too many people in too small a location.


"Gotcha." Brett can understand that, really he can. When one's income depends greatly on the tourist trade, the name of the game is 'look good and be cheap'. After all, they're not selling it with the price tags of an antique jade elephant… not here, at least.

"Yeah, I'm a little lost on the language thing. Makes me a target. 'Course, that's probably true anywhere you go." One can only 'get by' so long, and so far. "And, I really do appreciate the help. Don't want to invite anything bad with the pool. I mean, the place is oldish, so I don't want it to be ghostie central, or bad karma corner.."

Brett follows his new translator out and into the stream of traffic, moving around the immovable, laughing objects in their way. It really is a hustle and bustle here; a testament to the growing population. "How far down is it?"


"Oh, it's not far, just a duck around here," Xiu Mei skirts a makeshift corner of stall, and turns down a rather…dank looking alley. Which is saying something, considering they're in a mostly desert state, "Just this way." She looks back, probably no stranger to the reaction her companion will likely get, "When you only have so much money for appearances…you know?" At any rate, she soon pauses, and there is indeed a shop here, that's selling nice decorative wares, with an older woman manning the store. «Miyaka, can you help us? We need some decorations.» The older woman nods and comes out, «I think he would love it if you used your english.» The older woman beams, and she gestures for Brett and Xiu Mei to come in, "Come, I help you find everything." Her voice is heavily accented, but she seems pleased at being able to put her english to use. And with immigrant communities, it's unusual to find the older generations that speak english.


Brett's not all that sure about the route they're taking, which is definitely off the beaten path to say the least. It's yet another time when he's thankful that he's got something of an escape Ace, minus the tripping and getting caught in clothes, that is. When is he going to learn?

"Lead on.." is given brave voice even if he's not all that sure of their destination. Still, his companion doesn't seem to be too terribly worried, and through the dank looking alley he follows until they come up to the older woman and her not quite so impressive frontage of a shop. His brows raise, but says nothing; not until the conversation between the two women is complete.. and oddly enough, he doesn't believe that they're talking about how they're going to take the 'round eye' for all he's got.

Now there's faith.

"Yes, thank you, ma'am.. I do appreciate it." Following, though not before he gestures before him for Xiu Mei to enter before him, he steps in, ducking his head out of .. instinct. While the ceilings may not be too low, they're not as high..


"Brett, Brett Coleman, this is Miyaka Nakamura. Miyaka, this is Brett, he's looking for lanterns. To put around his pool." Despite her own obvious fluency, oddly enough, now that she's actually speaking to the woman, her own american accent goes away, and she switches to something very similar to Miyaka's own accented english. Which stands to reason, perhaps. It's like the way someone speaking heavily accented Australian english can more easily understand someone else speaking the same sort of english then say…someone speaking english from spain, or america. You get used to the way english sounds with your accent. She does not, however, make the grammatical mistakes. Miyaka looks slightly confused at the last word, and Xiu Mei repeats the word in the language they're using, and the older woman nods, smiling brightly. "Oh, I have a few of those. Come." She moves over towards the far right of the shop, spryly skirting obstacles, waving the young man to follow her, until she pauses. Yes, there they are, looking quite nice, too. And very sturdy. And likely a bit on the heavy side, since they are real. "You know Xiu Mei? Very nice girl."


"A pleasure, ma'am.." Brett dips his head in greeting, the smile returning to play on his face. Looking around the small shop, he nods slowly, "Nice place here.. whole lot of—" stuff that he doesn't know the beginnings of, "-interesting items." Oddly enough, he's not feeling quite the 'odd man out', even if he is, in so many ways.

Listening to the ladies speak, once they turn their attention back to him, Brett perks at the words, "Great.. that'd be find, thanks. Don't want anything even resembling horror movies for my pool.." Probably sound like a babbling nonsense, but..

Picking his way through the shop, maneuvering around some things, he slows as he gets to the lanterns and he kneels down to look. "Now these are nice.. what are they.. saying? I'm hoping good luck, right?"

As for his knowing his guide? "Well, she seems to be, yes ma'am. I bet she takes in strays and lost kittens, too.."


It's difficult to find Asian decor that isn't standard tourist type of things. Desiree is in the market for items which will enhance the ambiance of her patio garden. Perhaps some lanterns, or maybe miniature shrines. She'll know what she wants when she sees it. She's been going from store to store, but so far, nothing. Finally, she stops at one of the many restaurants for tea, and begins a conversation with the waitress/owner. The big, gold lanterns on the ceiling are exactly what Desiree wants. Perhaps not quite as large. She inquires, and is told where to go to find them.

Now Desiree is wandering through alleys, hoping she's on the trail to a shop instead of a mugging. Oriental eyes peer at her as she passes. She tries to pay them no mind, but it's kind of hard when they stare so intently. She passes markets displaying odd food in windows and outside. This is the /real/ Koreatown, not the kind of place tourists often see.

Finally, Desiree finds what she thinks is the right place. She looks at a small piece of paper, checking the Asian kanji on a sign against what the waitress wrote down for her. It looks like the right place. She steps into the interior, pausing just at the threshold. "Hello…?" is called softly.


"I have things I find. Son helps me." Like many older people, regardless of who they are, they like a person with a willing ear. "He lives home, in Taiwan." She looks back towards Xiu Mei, the young woman offering her an encouraging smile, and a nod, but she turns back, pointing to each in turn, as Brett looks as them, "This hope, this good fortune, this light, this happiness. Not many different." Her selection's only so big, yeah? "But I have plain, can paint words you want." At Brett's comment, Miyaka giggles, a sound much, much younger than her grey hair and wrinkles would indicate, "Xiu Mei hate animals. Thinks they want to eat her." At that, Xiu Mei makes a face, "Not eat me, Miyaka." Miyaka waves that off, "You came by house, ran from cat. I was in kitchen, but I see." But before Xiu Mei can do anything else to defend her position, there's the sound of someone at the door, as it were. "You look." Miyaka lets Brett do just that, as she goes to meet her new customer, "Yes, I am here."


Brett nods in the litany of which is what available to him, and as each is mentioned, he follows the hand as they're pointed out. "I like.. light. You know, and happiness."

Looking up between the ladies again, his brows raise, "It wouldn't be bad to mix the two, right? Like.. giving me bad luck for wanting good luck?"

At the sound of the older woman's laugh, it's immediately echoed in the relighting of his own grin. "Really?" His eyes flicker from one to the other. "She doesn't seem to be that sort, but.." Here, his attention comes back around to the older of the pair, "I'll take your word for it."

A nod is given, however, as the store's owner makes her apology, and twists his head around just to see who else is entering. Someone familiar.. and someone he hasn't seen in some time, actually. Almost seems like a lifetime ago with so much happening in the meantime.

"Miss Sun," and it's back to his question, "My pool won't blow up or get sucked into a black hole if I go with 'light' and 'happiness', right?"


"Oh, good," Desiree says, relieved to hear English (accented as it is) being spoken. "You speak English." She smiles nodding her head at the older woman. She also notes the presence of two other people: a man and a woman. The man is familiar, but Desiree can't exactly place him. She'll give it thought, though. Eventually, it will come to her.

"I'm looking for bronze lanterns like the ones in the 'Kingdom of Heaven' restaurant. Do you still have any of those, or maybe some a little smaller?"

Desiree's eyes wander the shop, looking at all the things. Odd things, things not often seen in the more touristy shops. "Wow … this is amazing." She can't stop herself from eyeing the various items for home decor: satin and silk accent pillows in jewel colors, statues of Oriental gods and heroes, small tables, incense burners, vases. Beautiful things which make Desiree's mouth water. "Oh, my checkbook is going to suffer…" she murmurs as her mind begins to decorate the lobby with Oriental accents.

Her attention returns to the woman as she waits for her answer about the bronze lanterns.


"Have those, but not out. Too wet, then too dry, makes…" Miyaka's face scrunches, as she tries to pull the words out of her limited vocabulary. Finally, she turns to Xiu Mei and rattles off a few words. Xiu Mei nods, looking to the woman who she's not met before, "She says it makes them tarnish, and become pitted." Miyaka nods, in agreement. Clearly, she trusts the chinese girl to tell them what she's saying. And so, she waves Desiree inside, going towards the very back, as far from the open environment as her little stall allows, to two crates, wooden, transport kind, "Here, top opens." With Miyaka now occupied with Desiree, Xiu Mei moves to look over Brett's selection, "No, I think they'd work very nicely together. And Miyaka's calligraphy is exquisite. She says she's falling out of practice, but you wouldn't know it to look at her work."


"Great. Then I'll take both of them, or rather, two each. Two at the top and two at the bottom." While the pool may be round (he's not sure yet) there are still four distinct spots. "There isn't a 'north, south, east and west' thing I have to look at too? I mean, if I'm going to do this, I should do it right."

Brett's sure that the glanceover means that she has no idea who he is, which is pretty much par for the course. Once, it was a little hectic, and the other? Well..

"Miss Miyaka's calligraphy is perfect." He grins lopsidedly to Xiu Mei and adds, "Whole lot better than mine."

Rising to his feet, he wipes his hands on his pants leg to straighten the jeans before nodding appreciatively at his choices. "Thank you.. and I mean it. Miss Miyaka may think you're too afraid to take in strays, but you sure helped this one."


Desiree's face lights up when she hears the Chinese woman's translation. "Oh, I understand. They will be outside, but I don't mind them getting a big of a patina," she says, following the shop owner to the back. Opening the crate lid, she's delighted to see the exact lanterns she wants. "I'll need six of them," she tells the owner, holding up six fingers.

The shop owner nods, helping to unpack one of the lanterns. "It just like it come from makers," Desiree is told in heavily accented English. "You not put outside. It not good for metal."

Desiree bites her lip. "But, I'd like something to make my patio look better. I'm afraid paper lanterns will tear in the wind. Those bronze ones are just what I want. I have poles to hang them from even." She seems disappointed or, maybe even frustrated. "Do you have any others in stock that might work for my second floor roof garden, then?"

As she waits for an answer, she nods a greeting to the man and woman. Might as well be polite. "Thank you, Miss Miyaka," she adds, politely.

And then she looks at the man. "Excuse me, but you look extremely familiar. Have we met before? My … ah, my memory isn't what it used to be." Odd for such a young woman to not have a good memory.


"I'll help you go and wrap them up. Miyaka will be over as soon as she can." Xiu Mei moves to gather up one of each, "No, I don't think so. Miyaka's not chinese, she's Japanese, and she probably thinks feng shui is a whole lot of nonsense." And considering how much cultural practices such as feng shui were repressed during the cultural evolution, and how those ideas trickled down to other nearby parts of asia, well, that's not hard to believe. Xiu Mei starts towards the counter, looking over towards Miyaka as she shows Desiree her wares. And she does catch the comment and the question, it's not hard to overheard conversations in a storefront this small, "You are welcome, miss, but metal is bare, cannot put outside like this. Must cover, paint." Xiu Mei doesn't interrupt the conversation, however, clearly proud of the older woman, and happy to see her doing business all in english, and so, she turns back to Brett, "Calligraphy, writing is the highest form of art for her. And I'm not afraid. Cats tends to scratch me. Most animals either want to bite off some part of me, scratch it off, or rub it off. It's alarming. And her cat has it out for me. I know it sits in wait for me, just waiting for a chance to sink its teeth into me."


"That's fine. I have time." For the most part. Brett doesn't look to be pressed for time in the least. Everything is slow and deliberate, which may be a problem for his translater and guide, but again, once everything is done, he'll apologize again and offer something of a reward. No idea quite what yet, but..

"They're going to be a little heavy, all said and done, so here.. let me help with that." Never to let a lady do work without offering..

Brett's smile relights and he nods his acknowledgement of the words, "Okay. So, Japanese, feng shui is a load of bunk. And, Japanese lanterns, so I'm covered. Great." He actually sounds relieved, if only somewhat theatrically. "Don't have to worry about it."

Picking up one of the ground lanterns at a time and bringing it to the desk, he looks back over at Desiree, his brows rising again. "Yes, ma'am.. I think so. Met you a couple of times, though wasn't much each time. Things were happening, and well.. a pleasure again."

Setting the lantern down, he goes to retrieve the others that Xiu Mei may not have gotten. Over his shouder, he offers, "Brett Coleman.. and for the life of me, I can't remember your name, though I know we've met.. sorta."

Then, it's back to Xiu Mie. "Don't disappear anywhere, either. I owe you something for your help. And I promise, I don't bite.. or scratch.. or rub, though I've learned to enjoy digging."


Desiree's brow knits in confusion. "I'm not certain I understand," she says to Miss Miyaka. "Paint? Cover?— I like them bronze, though. They're perfect for my patio. They match the poles exactly. They're the ones I want. Six of them." She's a little frustrated at her perception of not being understood.—

"I'm sorry," she says to the man. "Forgive me for not recognizing you. I'm sure we were both caught up in something or other. I'm Desiree DeVillers— and it's also possible you saw me on a commercial or something, too." She smiles at the man, nodding a greeting. "Nice to meet you again, Mr. Coleman." She'll eventually remember where she saw him, or met him.

Then she's back to the lanterns. The crate is large, and Desiree is sure she cannot move it. "How many are in here?" she asks, pointing at the crate. "I'll be glad to help unpack the crate if there's more than six in it. If there's just six in it, well, I'll give you a delivery address." A pause. "You do have a delivery service, yes?"


"It wouldn't do much, anyway. I mean, Feng Shui is like any other folk practice, or even religion, if you want to use such a broad analogy. If you don't truly believe in it, it won't help or hurt you. At least that's what my parents told me. I think you're safe to arrange them however you like." Between the two of them, the four lanterns are carried over to the counter and set down, "Miyaka never throws anything away, when she gets her shipments, we can probably find something to put them in, for you to carry back to your car." She's assuming he did bring some form of transportation with him, since these are a bit too bulky to carry on the city bus. "You don't owe me anything, I was glad to help. I might run off to get a snack though, at some point. I love to come here for the foods I can get from home." As she looks over to Miyaka and Desiree, and she sees the younger woman's confusion, she offers, after a few brief words to Miyaka, "I think she means you need to put some sort of protectant or sealant on them. So that the weather doesn't destroy the metal. Something like, I dunno, Thompson's Water Seal maybe? But for metal and not for wood."


"Okay, then.." Brett's mollified. After all, what if he's questioned? He needs to have the answers and backed by a reputable source, and he's willing to offer 'a really nice Chinese woman took pity on me' as a source.

His hand goes into his back pocket for the wallet, and takes the money from there. "I do, actually.. my truck is parked a block or so away." Twisting around, he tries to get his bearings, but fails.. and so gestures in a more general direction. "A couple of trips, tops. Not heavy, just unwieldy."

At Desiree's introduction, or re-, "That could be where I've seen you.. and," he nods at the storekeeper, ".. I'd follow her advice. She knows her stuff." Even if he's just met her moments earlier.

And it's back to Xiu Mei.. "Well, I owe you.. I do. And your kindness'll be repaid. Promise."

With the payment made soon after, Brett begins to heft his new possessions up and take them out to the waiting truck.. after he searches for it…

Now, where did he park again?


"Ah! all right, I understand now," Desiree says with a nod. "I can get that at the hardware store." She brightens considerably. "Thank you so much," she says to Xiu Mei, smiling. "I'll take six of the bronze lanterns, then," she says, pulling out her wallet. "Do you take credit cards?— or is this cash only?"

"Probably. I do a lot of local commercials," she tells Brett. "But, we could've met any number of places. I also do a lot of volunteer work: charities, museum, dance recitals." She grins at Brett, nodding, then turns back to Miss Miyaka.

"And I'd like three of the silk pillows, and three of those lovely swaths of silk. The blood red, the dark cyan and the black." Pricey, perhaps, but she knows they'll look beautiful as bed curtains and accents in her bedroom.


"My son can deliver. Too heavy for little woman like you." Hopefully Miyaka has more than one son, and not just the one in Taiwan. That would be a heck of a delivery charge. "More inside, large and small. I will pack which you want. Come we get other things." As desiree indicates the other articles she wants to be added to her purchase. "Xiu Mei, you take his money. Pack his things." Again, just like any older woman, the younger people are there to be conscripted into service. But Xiu Mei does what she's told, and she rings up Brett's purchases, "A good deed is only a good deed if you don't expect or want anything in return." Of course, she might need to go rescue him, before he gets lost in the maze that is the real koreatown, but for now, she's happy to stay and help. Until Desiree has everything she needs, and Brett is on his way. And then, the last of the merry band of afternoon shoppers will be back on her hunt for bamboo. And maybe a few tarantulas.

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