Where passion and Tikos run wild

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Where passion and Tikos run wild

LIMA, Peru ― It’s funny how you can black out while on a soju binge in Itaewon, wake up and find yourself in a completely different country.
That’s never happened to me, to be sure. But it’s probably happened to somebody. So it’s still funny.
Anyway, your faithful columnist is now in Peru for some reason, and has realized that the most important thing to do, after seeing Machu Picchu, is to find out whether Peruvians can eat kimchi.
To do that, I visited Lima’s best Korean restaurant (apologies to the other two), Nodaji, and convinced the owner to let me grill a Peruvian waitress there, Edita Luciano, after she grilled me up some ribs.
Ms. Luciano, 28, has been cutting the galbi at Nodaji for nearly four years. She’s petite, with generous, come-hither eyes. And she is capable of eating kimchi, as it happens. “At first it was really strange, and too strong,” she said. “But eventually I came to like it.” She added that her favorite Korean dish is samgyeopsal, otherwise known as the world’s most effective grease delivery system.
So she likes the national food, but does she like the national men? “Korean men are O.K.,” she said. “The best thing about them is that they work hard and they seem to treat people well. But they also seem to drink and smoke too much.”
Fair enough. Lima has about 700 ethnic Korean residents, many of whom patronize Nodaji. And most Korean tourists drop in at least once. So has Ms. Luciano ever been on a date with one? “No, never,” she said. “They never asked.”
Curious. Even more curious is this fact: Most of the taxis plying Lima’s busy streets are old, beat-up Daewoo Tikos.
Take an accidental half-stride while on the sidewalk here, and one of those boxy mini-cars with the mini-wheels will start beeping at you. The taxi drivers say they love Tikos for their how they can minimize fuel costs and nimble around Lima’s narrow roads.
Ms. Luciano is less fond of them. “They’re really dangerous. If you crash in one of those it’s the end.” She has a point ― word has it most of the Tikos in Peru were shipped out after being totaled in Korea. Many, reportedly, are in fact composites of two smashed-up Tikos, fused together in South America after the damaged bits of each are sawed off.
Romantic, huh? On that note, Korean men who happen to be in Lima, and whose bits are undamaged, are encouraged to ask Ms. Luciano out. You could take her on a picnic in one of Lima’s ubiquitous parks, which are always filled with lovers. In fact, at any given moment, half of Lima’s population appears to be making out in them. One park, down by the beach, has a humongous statue of a man and woman, horizontal and in the throes of passion. Honest. It’s called Lovers’ Park. Pack some gimbap and take Ms. Luciano there. But not in a Tiko.

by Mike Ferrin

We have been assured that Itaewon Wanderings will return to Itaewon next week. ― Ed.
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