One of the things we love about Chungju is not needing to own a car. No payments, no insurance, no broken fuel transmission injection rod thingies (oh yeah, like you know). But this means that when our feet won't do, we have to seek out alternative transport. Fortunately, Korea is full of cabs. I hailed one a few nights back, my jacket tented over my head to keep off the rain. Yes, I own an umbrella. Yes, it was somewhere in my apartment, forgotten. Can we move on now?

"E-mart ga ju sae yo." Take me to E-Mart, please.

The cabby beamed at me in the rearview mirror. He was going to be a talker, I could tell. Having a foreigner in the car, especially in a town as provincial as Chungju, is a rare and entertaining treat. Mistaking my ability to give a destination as fluency, the cab driver began to emit a stream of bullet-train Korean.

This happens to me a lot. I've got enough Korean to get things started, but before long the conversation pulls away from me and my only choice is to bring up the Chungju Hummels, an endearingly bad minor league soccer team, and let the cabby rant until we arrive.

A few minutes into the conversation, though, I realized this time was different. I was keeping up.

"Why are you going to E-Mart?" the driver asked in Korean.

"I need to buy some food," I told him.

"Why go all the way to E-Mart? Why not hit a local market?"

"Yeah," I winced, admitting my disloyalty to small business, "I'm shopping for foreign food."

He thought about that while zipping through a red. "Foreign food, huh? You should cook for me sometime." His reflection in the rearview mirror winked.

"Ha ha. Yeah."

We laughed together for a moment. Then:

"No, really, you should cook for me sometime. What do you say?"

"Ha ha. I don't think my husband would like that."

Silence. For the first time ever, I had the last word.