Light the lamp for TinaThat ancient philosopher Diogenes, the one who used to walk around ancient Athens naked and holding a lamp, told people that he was looking for an honest man. But we all know the truth ― he was looking for the prettiest girl in the world. According to what we’ve heard recently, he was looking in the wrong place. He would have had better luck toting his torch around Ulan Bator.
We got word recently that said prettiest girl ― a long, tall Mongolian with a splash of Russian in her pedigree ― was in town and working at Mia Fiore, a hostess bar behind the Hamilton Hotel. Naturally, we grabbed our lamp ― but kept our clothes on ― and went to investigate.
Unfortunately, when we got to the bar, the manager told us that the tall Mongolian, “Tina,” no longer worked there. We asked her to describe Tina for us. She started out with “so beautiful,” but then her English tailed off.
She grabbed a Korean-English dictionary and started riffling through the pages. Then she pointed to a Korean word. The definitions were “fairy, sprite, nymph, benevolent mythical being, prettiest girl in the world.”
With our Diogenic hopes confirmed, we asked whether Tina was still in Korea. The manager shrugged and said she had no idea. But we could meet another Mongolian, she said. Fine, we said.
“Lily” sauntered over. Though not quite the prettiest girl in the world, she had a lovely smile and a nice personality.
We’d never really met a Mongolian before, so we had plenty of questions for Lily. To wit: Did she grow up in a yurt? Do Mongolians call their Down’s syndrome kids “Caucasoids”? and How much did her country pay Parker Brothers to make Korea part of Mongolia in the board game “Risk”?
Lily didn’t really answer our questions, but she did deign to giggle after each. No surprise, that. A session at a hostess bar means you fork over about 150,000 won ($OUCH) for someone you don’t know to laugh at your jokes and pretend that everything else you say is profound.
In other words, it’s the exact opposite of writing newspaper columns.
Speaking of Mongolia and benevolent mythical beings, the actor Steven Seagal was in China recently saying he’s about to make an epic movie about the life of Genghis Khan. Seagal, a Buddhist, will play the Khan man. In the runup to production, the Hollywood star is even claiming Mongol ancestry, as is the pop singer Kylie Minogue, who will make her acting debut in the film as Khan’s wife Borte.
Back home, we’re keeping our eyes open for long, tall Tina. During our search, interestingly, we’ve found that Itaewon has quite a few other Mongolians. If you see someone who looks Korean but speaks Russian, we’ve been told, you’re probably looking at a Mongolian.
And that new, attractive bartender you’re smitten with? Don’t be surprised if she’s a steppe sister. And hey, if she’s Tina, please let us know where to find her. In the meantime, we’ll just content ourselves with dreaming about Tina ― in a platonic way, of course.
by Mike Ferrin
with the Korea JoongAng Daily
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