1. Makes it impossible for me to remember to blog. I think it’s my job… I’m at the computer so much, I want to be away from typing most days.
2. Still a racist effing place. Can’t BELIEVE the level of institutionalized racism that exists here, the lack of understanding about what it REALLY means to be multicultural. However, I see in my students the hope of coming change… they are trying to learn, see the value in difference, and realize the world extends past the peninsula… Not sure I can always say the same thing about Americans who are pretty confident the USA is the center of the universe….Progress, still like watching your hair grow – it takes time to see the improvement.
3. Korean Tour Guides. I’m not sure exactly how these women get their jobs, because their English jokes are really uncomfortable, but a Korean student has now told me that these tours are NOT the same types of guided tours that native Koreans take, that the quality is low for foreigners. Sad. TT-TT
4. Jindo Gae (Gae = Dog). I WANT ONE. I almost brought one home, but my apartment is just too small, and Wagger-Grace promised she would never die if I never got a different puppy while she was alive. Sigh. I WANT ONE, but instead made a lengthy fact-pattern about Jindo Gaes which is making most of my students cringe.
5. Politics are everywhere. I’m beginning to realize I am not cut out for academia. The type of politics is the same here as at my other academic jobs, and I’m just no good at this game. I’m not making any vast proclamations, just noting that there are reasons why I decided to work for myself… maybe I’m just not good at working on a team or playing nice with others, or answering to any boss anywhere ever. That’s reasonable, right?
6. Mosquitoes are no joke. It’s 30 degrees at nighttime. WHY ARE MOSQUITOES BITING ME, BUZZING NEAR MY EAR, or … ALIVE????? Really? WHY?
7. Soup is delicious. Koreans think it’s boring, but I could eat the many common varieties of Korean soups everyday and be completely happy this winter. For awhile I thought I could live off soondooboo jigae. Then, I realized I could not. Then, the next day, I realized there are about five million trillion different cheap semi-homemade soups in Korea, and I could just try those. =)
8. My Korean eyesight. Just found out my eyeglasses prescription is SUPER wrong, like almost a full diopter in one eye, and a half diopter in the other. Since it’s highly unusual for your eyesight to improve before the age of 40, AND it only improves through retraining the eye to avoid bad eye habits, this means I’ve basically just been wearing the wrong prescription for… I think FIFTEEN YEARS. WTF? Also, my eye test was FREE in Korea. America – you might be on my s%^tlist. I can buy TWO pairs of glasses without insurance for LESS than one pair WITH insurance in the States. AND the frames will probably stay on my nose!
9. Fishing, Fish, and Seashells. I’m learning to re-like the taste of fish, since it is inevitable that you must eat it. I’m not sure how people with shellfish allergies survive in Korea, because it’s in the broth, in the sauce, in the stock, in the side dishes. So last weekend, I ended up going to this tiny fishing village, and catching mudfish with a bamboo fishing pole, and digging for clams, and doing a bunch of stuff that regular Ginger would hate. But, since I’m here, I just have to do it – everything and try to find the fun… so the rest of the Korea experience doesn’t swallow me whole.
10. Friends. My friend Erica and her son recently moved to Seoul, Pia came to visit, and I went to visit Gimhae. It was so great to see familiar faces, and be greeted by people who are already invested, interested, and understanding about my own idiosyncrasies Over and over, “Korea-style” takes its toll… it’s why I KNOW I will never be a lifer here. I HATE “Korea-style;” people say “embrace the culture!” but, there are some things that I have made an informed decision NOT to embrace (like most things having to do with male-female hierarchy, workplace (non)strategic planning, child/social welfare perspectives, and race-relations. You know, the stuff I basically built MOST of my career/life around up until I moved to Korea?) But, anyhow, I need to focus on reaching out to my own people, having them here makes it easier for me to be a better version of myself – my authentic self – whatever that means to me… in this current, Korean incarnation… TO BE CONTINUED.
The days turned into weeks and then October happened. I have no idea how. Everyday feels the same here, and yet, time is moving along steadily. I stay busy, but have become totally routinized… I am remembering now why I liked owning my own business and why living a transient life for the past two years actually seemed pretty cool =) RIGHT until it wasn’t cool anymore… (I don’t want to mention being stuck in the elevator again, but yeah, that’s where the story ends).
It’s hard to express how much I am not enjoying my current city. I’m not being a debbie-downer by acknowledging the truth of the matter (almost added the rules for hearsay right there), which is that I am bored, misplaced, oppressed, and hateful when I think about Daejeon. It’s extremely conservative here at my school, and I am finding myself to be more liberal than I expected to declare myself. On the flip side: my students are amazing, inspiring, thoughtful, and young. I sometimes forget how hard it was to be 20 years old. I also really like my department dean, though I do believe it’s difficult for him to adjust to having me as a staff member. Of course, I’m pretty sure every boss I’ve ever had since the beginning of time, including my parents and Not BF, have said the same exact thing. He is a kind-hearted man who seems to have high ambitions for our department. I also think he is very student-centered, which I appreciate. So, I’m just gonna have to grin-and-bear Daejeon to the best of my ability, which is not always very gracefully or happily.
During Korean Thanksgiving (Chuseok), I ended up having a 6 day weekend, so I decided to visit Gimhae, Busan, and then head to Gimcheon to do an orphanage stay. SO WONDERFUL. I loved seeing old friends and I loved seeing the sun and the beach and feel the cool sea breeze and warm sand. I also loved having a super soft mattress at a little hotel on the beach =) I think what I need to do is commit to visiting Busan more often, as a means of pressing reset and keeping myself focused. I was so much happier to be in Korea after my visit!
The orphanage – I might need an entire additional blog entry to discuss Korean social and child welfare and why it’s an EPIC FAIL, in my meager opinion. Of course, I have yet to find a system which I do not grade an EPIC FAIL, so I think I might do a comparative study of child welfare systems as an academic paper. I’m also interested in Korean adoption law, because it seems they keep changing the rules – with complete arbitrariness. I realize now, that by remaining silent, those of us with relatively “normal” adoption stories have failed current orphans; we allowed a vocal (and disgruntled) minority to change a lot of the laws that helped enable overseas adoptions. I’m not really sure how to turn things back.
What I am sure of: children deserve affection and attention. The kids at the orphanage in Gimcheon were bright, polite (relatively speaking), energetic, creative, and super cutie patooties! The hardest and also BEST, part of the visit was the baby room filled with 12-20 month olds. They were adorable, by far my favorite age group for kids. But, sitting on a lap is a hot commodity. These children are socialized to learn they will not be held, to not EXPECT to be held. They are taught early to self-comfort, to play independently, to be distrustful, and to see adults as incidental. Yup, basically they are taught to foster reactive attachment disorder. BUT, they are also taught that developing those independent-comfort skills means survival. Anyhow, sitting in the baby room means lap war. If a baby is on your lap, expect a line to form. Expect a battle of king-of-the-hill-style “I call shotgun” racing-to-be-held to happen. Expect the child you want to hold to avoid you. If you think about it too much, it will hurt your heart and your brain. These children are generally content and relatively happy, so take heart in knowing they are not pitifully broken. However, I still made an extra effort to hold every single baby at least once or that it doesn’t mean it didn’t hurt to have to put one down so the next baby could have a chance to be hugged.
For Korean Thanksgiving, I felt grateful, thankful, appreciative. I don’t take for granted my life, my good fortune, or the happenstance accident of my birth. I strongly advise, encourage, and demand that people who feel frustrated by their life, or who lack gratitude, should volunteer at their local orphanage (in America it’s called “crisis nursery” or “group home”). I promise, it will change your perspective, and hopefully, someone else’s life =) Happy Chuseok!