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To Sok Jip, Annandale, VA August 31, 2014

Posted by hslu in Food, Life, Death and Yuanfen, Shanghai, Travel.
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Yesterday was one of those days I took my wife to work in early morning and picked her up around 8 to 8:30 in the evening. A 13-hour day at work; most the time on her feet, wears out a person easily even if you have 鐵打的身子。A few times her day stretched to 14 hours because of emergency or unexpected complications. Well, I guess you call this ‘做一天和尚 撞一天鍾吧!’

We went to Annandale for dinner because I was tired of cooking and I picked ‘To Sok Jip’ out of Yelp because we haven’t been to this restaurant before. Yelp gives it four stars; not bad for a Korean  restaurant.

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We have been  to this location before but the restaurant we’ve been to only had menu in Korean and waitress didn’t speak English. It was apparent that the new owner of this 10 table restaurant is doing well because we had to wait for a table and there were 4 or 5 parties ahead of us. It was about 9 pm on a Saturday night and most guests inside  and outside of the restaurant were young students and professionals. Most of them spoke Korean. We decided to wait it out.

The two young guys in front of us were going through the menu because the owner asked them to pick out dishes they wanted to order so that she could speed up the process of service. There were two parties of four behind us: all young Korean girls. As the young guys were deciding their choices, I was almost certain that they came from Taipei: perfect 普通話;台北 style dress and hair and not even a tiny hint of someone who grew up in mainland China.

My wife had the same feelings as I did and she asked them where they were from. One came from Maryland and the other guy was from Arlington, a few miles away in Virginia. After they have decided, it was our turn to choose. We chose dolsot bibimbap and seafood pancake; our usuals. I also wanted to order Bossam because it seemed to be a favorite dish by many reviewers. Well, our down to earth female owner had one comment: too much. Apparently, she thought that two dishes were plenty for us. Well, this was kind first for us: ‘有錢還不要賺.’ Well, 恭敬不如從命 besides it gave us a good execuse to come back later.

Slowly the restaurant became less crowded. Those two young Taiwanese guys were still waiting and soon it would be our turn. The owner soon came back and I thought she’d seat the two young guys down. She instead turned to us and them and said ‘share table?’ Apparently it was pretty late and there were some people still behind us waiting to get in. The young guys said yes and we accepted the unexpected offer too.

Since we already pre-ordered, our food came quickly. Panchan showed up too along with my Korean soju. The young guys also had pancake and they had ordered a big pot of stew with toufu, vegetables and fish? in a red-colored broth.

As we finishing our meal I turned to the young guys at our table and asked them whether they liked their meal. I also wanted to know what they have ordered so that we can try it the next time. They said they liked it but it was too much even for them. I them asked them if they came from Taipei. To the surprise of me and my wife, they both came from 蘇州 Suzhou, about 20 minutes from Shanghai by high speed train. The reason that they sounded so much like Taipei’s young guys was because they learned from their roommates who came from Taipei.

I quitely said to myself that 40 years ago, Taiwan wanted to defeat 共產黨 and go back to mainland China. Now Chinese students from both sides of the 臺灣海峽 Taiwan Strait share a big house together and exchange cultures on a day to day basis. How things have changed!

It’s great! Well, I digressed.

I then found out that one of them was working as a software engineer and the other guy is working on his business degree. Both had EE degree and came to the US for advanced studies.

I asked the business major when he will graduate. He said he’ll graduate after next semester. I asked him if he was looking for a job and he said campus interview starts soon.

I then told him about my son who also had a business degree, his one-year stay in Taiwan and his experience in looking for his job in the field of finance. I explained to him the process that my son had gone through and gave him a tip or two as if I went through the grind myself. For them, I found out that it would be even more difficult because they don’t have PR, 綠卡, or permanent residency.

After I finished my soju and our left overs packed, the business major guy asked me if he could have my son’s contact information. I gladly offered it to him and asked him to get in touch with my son. Hopefully my son can help him out in his quest for a job in the US. Unfortunately they have to go through a lottery procesd to get a working visa even though their employers wanted to sponsor them for a green card because there are limited number of working visas being allotted every year. Each year, they have a 40 to 60% chance of being picked by a lottery process depending on their field of expertise. They have either one or two chances to get one. If they don’t get picked by the computer, they either  have to go back home or go back to school. The software engineer didn’t get picked this year: it started on April 1st and notifications were sent out in mid June. He has one more chance next year. The business major only has one shot because his expertise isn’t deemed ‘necessary’ for the United States.

I wished them luck in their pursuit of their dreams in the US.

As for the food, they were good: fresh, excellent quality, huge portions and fast service. The owner waited for us to finish our meals and by the time we finished talking, there were only four of us still there. I swore that she was more than ready to lock up the shop and go home. It must have been a long day for her too.

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I was happy because I had a little more soju than I should have and I had helped him Probably just enough to get him an on-site interview. Whether he’s from 台北 or 蘇州 isn’t important. I wished him luck and who knows we might see each other some other time at somewhere else.

Chinese has an old saying: ‘有緣修得同船渡.’

We were equally ‘有緣’ to share a table on a Saturday night at a small Korean restaurant in Annandale which we randomly picked out from Yelp.

It was the female owner who actually made all this possible. Wouldn’t you agree? 這也是緣分。你說是不是?

We’ll go back to To Sok Jip again. We want to try Bossam and a few other dishes. May be we’ll meet other young guys or girls from China or Taiwan. Who knows, we may share the same table again.

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