There are always Koreans everywhere. If you're not a student of The King's College living in my apartment building, you're Korean. Often, the hallways will smell a little fishy or tangy, but I've managed to either get used to the smell or just go somewhere else (i.e. outside). At first, it was kind of cool to live around such "exotic" people, but the excitement wore off shortly after the novelty of it all.
Over the past few months, the Koreans have become more and more invisible. Their petite frames are hidden behind the many over-bundled tourists that saunter up and down Broadway. Their language meshes with the dozens of others I can hear every day in front of the Macy's. I'd nearly almost forgotten about the Koreans until today, when I decided to make a trip to the Korean market on 32nd street in lieu of walking 20 blocks in 28° weather to my normal grocer, Trader Joe's. I step out my building's back door, walk a block downtown, and turn left onto the greatest strip of Korean-ness in Manhattan.
The buildings from Broadway to 5th Avenue are lined top to bottom with Korean signs, which, at night, are lit up to resemble a sort of toned-down version of Times Square. I love how strikingly different this street is than the two on either side of it. 33rd is home to a couple of dinky bars and the delivery (a.k.a. unsightly) entrance of the Empire State Building, and 31st hosts a speckling of small, questionable shops. 32nd is much more lively, and I have to dodge dozens on my only half-a-block's walk to the market.
Now, I'd been on 32nd before -- this was not all new to me. I'd passed the throngs of Koreans many times before; I'd peered through the many restaurant windows; I knew that there was a market there, but I'd never gone inside it with any intention to actually purchase something. Upon examining the food inside, I am entertained. So much of the groceries are in bright, shiny packaging. It reminds me of giant versions of little Asian candies I once got in my elementary school Japanese class. The names, ingredients, and nutrition facts of the foods are all listed in both Korean and English.
I ended up purchasing a package of ramen-type noodles and another package of frozen leek dumplings. I had to restrain myself from picking out every colorful product that hit my eye. Those Asians sure know how to market groceries.
To sum it all up -- I'm going to start shopping here more often.