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Monthly Archives: September 2012

Something shiny is over there!

Yup.  I just now started doing 11 things at the same time, including: starting a PowerPoint for tomorrow’s AM class, outlining Thursday’s class, beginning a semester outline for tomorrow’s afternoon class, dialing to call my mom (the magicjack is not working), uploading pictures, starting a new blog on my writing site, grading papers, making tea, cleaning the bathroom,  and writing this blog. WHEW. Now, none of them are finished, but I did manage (importantly) to change the profile pic on Facebook.

So, I decided I’m probably not gonna love where I am in Korea. This might be because I miss the beach, or because I miss the sunshine, or because I miss all the things that are bad for me at home (yeah, we all know who he is), or because for the most part, working according to someone else’s rules and opinions is not really that much fun. And I’m getting really tired of people telling me it can’t be that bad, because guess what?  When I’m having a conversation with someone in America, only one of us is in Korea deciding that I don’t like it here in Korea.  Wait, what?  You are in America?  Then it’s probably me who gets to decide if I’m not having fun in Korea.

However, sometimes my annoyingly well-intentioned, intelligent, reasonable friends have good meaningful points that seep into my self-righteous rightness from time to time.  I don’t know how. What I do know is that I was once a terribly reasonable person, and I can reinstitute reason for a few months/years.  To that end, here’s a list of things that are going well in Korea:

1. My hair is growing out. Yes, it’s because I got three bad haircuts in Korea last spring and I’m scared to get my hair cut.  And it might also be because Not BF told me it would be IMPOSSIBLE for me to resist cutting it when I got back to Korea.  Quote: “You’ll never make it. You will cut. You just keep cutting.”  I think he knows reverse psychology does not work on me.  But a CHALLENGE always does. I’m gonna win.

2. I got paid.

3. Wagger-Grace has not died of broken-heartedness in my absence. Shit. I hope that’s not why my dad was calling me yesterday. Dad, if you read this, just lie and say Wagger-Grace is alive and well and happily eating lots of people food. And, just to make me feel even more secure, also lie and say her dog ear is all better, she learned a new trick, and she has regained her sprightliness.

4. I have eaten so much ramyeon I may be completely made of msg and noodles. Ramyeon is delicious.

5. Etude House had a 30% off sale today.

6. My friend Lynne made me homemade soup because I felt sickly.

7. It is not 100 degrees outside.

8. I go to visit Inje Dey-hahk-gyo in two weeks and have a 5 day break from my 16 hour work week.

9. I have a 16 hour work week.

10. I finally finished The Girl Who Played with Fire (except now, I have run out of English books.  I’ll have to read my textbooks for fun).

11. I do not have to read/hear/listen/see any campaign propaganda except on Facebook, where I just block people left and right. Pun intended.

It might not be much, but it’s a start… I know more challenges are to come as I begin the next goal in my Korean Adventure…  With all my might, I regard myself as an observer in Korea.  And it appears it will take all my might and resolve to remind others that that is my perspective, my philosophy about my current status, and my desire. Not all returning adoptees want to be “remade” or reintegrated or re-Koreanified.  Right now, I’ve been kind about my stance. Soon, I will dig in. (All of my loved ones just sucked in their breath). But for now, I’ll just observe, breathe, and take a nap whenever I can…

OKAY, I must return to the 11 Things I started 15 minutes ago….

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So, I wanted to write an amazingly positive post about how much Korea and I were becoming good friends, but it seems Korea might not want us to be friends.  After the ajumma pushed me, I decided to take cover in my dorm.  I finally got hungry enough (and sick enough of instant noodles from 7-Eleven) that I found a kimpab nara restaurant.  Thankfully, it was one with little paper menus for you to check what you want (like a sushi bar) so I could take the requisite 7 minutes to read the menu and decide I wanted to eat sogogi kimbap and mandu ramyeon (it tasted delicious-er than I remembered!) I brought an English-printed book to help reinforce that I do not speak hangukuh (spoken Korean). The ladies were kind but curt, yet I was thankful that I had at least learned how to sound out hangul (written Korean) in order to feed myself.

My office space continues to be covered in black, gritty mold.  I finally moved at least my computer to another crowded work area so that I don’t have the teary eyed coughing fits (which might be psychosomatic) that seem frequent in my assigned office. AND I do really like, appreciate, and am impressed by my students.  At the very least, I can say that my job itself is going to be fun and hopefully beneficial to both me and my students. I find it challenging and rewarding to work with college-aged students and also think that I have something unique to offer – though I constantly fear my much-ingrained American personality may serve as a detriment instead of an asset here.

However, walking home from my office the other night, I was happily eating an Isaac Toast hot chicken sandwich (spicy chicken patty on butter grilled bread with cheese and honey mustard), when suddenly, this huge, ginormously winged butterfly flew into my hair. I batted it away and heard a little screech (which might’ve been me) only to discover the butterfly was a BAT. Yup, a BAT flew into my hair. I was mortified. BUT, it didn’t get my Isaac Toast, so I call that a success =) If I start foaming at the mouth soon, hopefully I won’t get Old Yeller’ed due to bat rabies.

Tonight was another difficult experience in downtown Daejeon.  After an evening out with some people I met through one of my Adoptee Family in Gimhae, we decided to relocate.  Daejeon is having summer monsoons, and we found ourselves in a warm downpour. We were five foreigners: me, three Canadians, and an African-American male. The boy couldn’t flag us a cab for several minutes, and we watched as at least three cabs turned on their light for Koreans, but refused to pick us up.  I had vivid flashbacks f a night in Seoul a decade ago when several cabs refused to pick me and another adoptee up late at night.  It was not fun. It’s hard to explain to others the intense resentment I feel as an adoptee in Korea, and less so as an American, but it is part of daily life.  I am in the constant process of dual goals: trying to adapt and appreciate a new culture while simultaneously being prepared for rejection and hostility. So, sometimes, my bed calls me more strongly than Daejeon does.

Sigh. I do want to be friends with Korea.  I guess sometimes, you just have to try harder.  Tomorrow, I must finish my semester overviews, but Sunday I plan to get on a bus – any bus – and figure out Daejeon a little better.


Aiyah, Korea.

So, it has been a rough start in Daejeon. After locking myself out of Global House more than twice, I finally got a key chain and a laminated card holder to put that little card buzzer thingie into. You’d think this would help with my getting locked out problem, but I also managed to lock myself out of my actual apartment (NOTE: Pick passwords you can actually remember).

The rain picked up as two different typhoons approached Korea (NOTE: just learned from Google that a typhoon is a pacific hurricane), and the wind became dramatic. Most Koreans were unphased, though not many people were just hanging out in the streets like regular. Also, it made doing any laundry impossible.

Typhoon Bolaven.

The camera can’t really capture the intensity of the wind. But I have yet to learn how to make videos on my 6 year old camera.

Anyhow, the area of Daejeon where I am located is pretty isolated (for Korea), so the “walking distance” places to go are much farther walks than when I was in Gimhae. The typhoons didn’t help with the exploring the first few days, and I’ve been hesitant to take cabs or buses, since, to be perfectly honest, I wouldn’t really know if I was going the wrong direction to or fro anywhere. If the beautiful weather we’ve had yesterday and today holds out, I will walk to the “walking distance” bus terminal area and probably feel all around more comfortable once I can get my directional bearings.

SIGH. It’s also been rough because there is a lot less English signage and fewer English speakers. Basically anywhere we went in Pusan/Gimhae, we ran into someone who could help us with even SOME broken English. And those that could not speak English just laughed at us, but were generally helpful. This was a happy occurrence since it was not what I remembered from my trip to Seoul in 2002. This has not been my experience in Daejeon.

So, on one of my first days in Daejeon, I ventured out to find some kimbap or something, and wandered around. At some point, I was perusing something outside a daiso and this ajumma (old lady) started asking me something. I smiled and shook my head, but she was insistent. She patted me on the arm and animatedly repeated whatever she had just said. I replied “Meeguk sahrahm imnida.” (I am American). She looked me up and down with furious blinks of her eyes. And then she pushed me. Not hard, but she definitely pushed. And she clicked her tongue and shook her head. Yup, that’s when I decided to eat instant noodlies and spend the rest of the weekend in my dorm.

I’d heard stories from other adoptees or Americans that occasionally, they had encountered some unfriendliness or hostility from Koreans. This is natural, since Americans have an (often deserved) international reputation for being ethnocentric, entitled, and generally rude. But, adoptees have also said they get some bias because Koreans try to shame them for not knowing Korean culture and language. (As a friend says, “Yeah, because as tiny babies we jumped up and said ‘Hey ship me to America where I will never speak Korean and know nothing about Korea!'”) I’ve been warned as a professional to be careful about with whom I share my status as an adoptee because there is a stereotype connected to being a Korean adoptee, and whether or not it’s conscious, many native Koreans will treat me differently. There is also this Korean need to “turn me into a Korean” which I find a bit overbearing, but is nonetheless impossible to avoid. Frequently, I hear “You will find your family and stay in Korea forever!” I think this is the reason why I so consciously resist learning the language (which, yes, I know is dumb of me).

I will never know for sure why this ajumma pushed me. It might’ve been simply because I refused to answer her questions. It might be because I’m American. Maybe, it’s because I’m an adoptee (BTW – it ANNOYS me a lot that “adoptee” isn’t a word according to spell check). What I know is that her push shoved me back 10 years in time to when I was 22 and overwhelmed in Seoul and basically wasted most of my cultural experience hiding in the ESWS guest house holding babies after I had a negative experience on the street.

And that’s essentially what I’ve been doing – hiding.  Yesterday, I finally got tired of eating snacks and found a kimbap nara type place that has an entire menu in hangul, but at least gives you a paper ticket to mark what you want. Since I read hangul super slow, I was comfortable to sit with the menu and I managed to order mandu ramyeon and some sogogi kimbap while reading a book in English. Then, right after the Etude House girl had a long conversation with me in Korean, after which she gave me some face whitening cream and said in English “You need!” SIGH.

Baby steps.