Wednesday, January 6, 2010

These kids get older? What?

Today I found myself in University Cafe on the U of M campus. It has been a long time since my last visit, but it was once a place I frequented. Happily not much has changed. You can still smell delicious home style Korean Food from a block away. The place looks the same, more or less - they've repainted with maize and blue theme, and added a Coke refrigerator, but it still has that "hole-in-the-wall" vibe I love. They still don't sell bottled water, they just have a big, bright yellow "Igloo" container with cold water in it. Get your own, don't pay for it.

The patrons, I'm glad to say, are still mostly Koreans. It's a sure sign to foodies that the fare remains authentic. Of course, this is U of M's campus and as such there is a smattering of people from all over the world. A guy with a clearly Eastern European accent, a German accent, an overweight, white haired American "dude" eats with an Indian friend. Probably a half a dozen cultures are represented in a tiny little cafe, all happily chowing down on bibimbab, bulgogi, rice or whatever. It's one thing I love about this country.

I didn't recognize the guy behind the counter taking orders. He's a young, handsome Korean kid, probably a student. I ask him who is cooking. He stammers, looking for the right answer.

"Mrs. Peltier?" I ask.
"Yes," he responds and looks genuinely relieved when I smile.
"Can I say 'hi'?"

And from out of the kitchen she walks... she recognizes me on sight. She and her husband (whose first name won't come to me) used to bring their son William to train with me at Master Kim's school. I don't recall how long he was there now, maybe a couple years. He was a good kid... 6 or 7 when he was there... and I always looked forward to seeing him and his parents. They are good people.

I still remember when they opened University Cafe. Remember it like it was yesterday, as cliche as it sounds. I remember being the only guy in there, and slowly watching it grow. Nowadays you have to share a table with a college kid if you want to sit down. American guy marries Korean lady, has two kids, opens Korean restaurant on college campus, watches kids and restaurant grow. It's story book stuff, and it's beautiful, don't you think?

Anyway, first question out of my mouth is, "How is William?" I'm racking my brain... is he in high school yet? Probably... or maybe not.

"Good!" she says, her voice thick with accent.
"How old is he now?" I ask, still racking my brain to place his age.
"21," she tells me, the number dropping like a bomb in my brain.
"TWENTY ONE?!" Wait, if he's twenty one he's a walking, talking, voting, drinking young man who probably has opinions, a job and a girlfriend! That's not right! He was just SEVEN... I mean, maybe I could see him being 14 or 15 now, but not twenty freaking one!

My next thought? How old am -I- now???