Monday, May 13, 2013

Dear Korea:

Dear Korea,

A confession: I’m keeping score.

Truly I try not to because I know it’s unwise, unfair and all sorts of other un’s to live with a scale before my eyes, especially when pursuing life away from my home culture. There will always be things I don’t understand, things I prefer simply because I grew up with them. I like sugar and strong women and questioning authority and you don’t. You like uncomplicated enthusiasm and extroversion and acquiescing to a group, and I never will.

We both have to “deal with” the differences and move on with things. That’s the right thing to do, to note the incongruities, accept them and live grace-filled lives within the ambiguity. That’s the lesson we expats are sent overseas to learn, after all, and that’s definitely the Christian thing to do.

Unfortunately, I suck at being a Christian. I always have. I’m probably not a very successful expat, either, considering exactly how racist I think I’m becoming here in my last months in Korea.

So, in case you were wondering, here is where the score stands after this weekend:

In one corner: The stares. The hocking of the many loogies. A drunken indecipherable come-on from old Korean men. The plastic surgery holding everyone’s face together. The enormo-pupil contacts that make women look like hungry Twilight vampires without the sparkle. The money obsession. The hand in my back as you, old lady, push your way onto the bus. The stink of beef jerky from heaven-only-knows who. The rude questions. (“How many times a day do you shower?”) The violent arguments in public. The vomit at the bus station.

In the other corner: two acts of unsought kindness.

On Saturday two rock climbers taught me and my prayer buddy Alison how to boulder. Alison, who knows more than my nothing about rock climbing, found a climbing gym/wall that cost $2, so we decided to have a go. We were making fools of ourselves on the level one bouldering course, until two slender spider-monkey men taught us how to use our legs properly. Learning new things is awesome and even awesomer are the people who gently seek to improve the world.

On Sunday a Korean couple sat behind the foreigner brigade (us) at the Lotte Giants Game. Being more than a little un-crafty, when the promised and long-awaited orange bags were distributed (seriously, I’ve been waiting a year and a half for this), most of us were unable to do proper bag hats. This couple made us not only the bag hat, but also the Minnie-mouse ear-hat and the cute “I’m a Little Monster” ear hat.

In both cases there was no awkward chatter ("It's too bad you have such a red face! Ha!") or ulterior motive (“By the way, now that I’ve helped you, do you want to be my English tutor?”). Both sets of people saw us in “need,” and jumped right in to help.

Thank you for that, Korea. It meant a lot to me, enough that I can pretend I’m not pretty sure how the score still stands.

I’m sorry Korea, that I am and will continue to keep score until I leave. It’s stupid and petty and perhaps I ought to be grateful for my Minnie-Mouse ears and be done with it.  Maybe someday. Someday when I’m a good Christian and a flexible expat. Someday when your people don’t stare at my red face and your women don’t giggle at the thought of doing a push-up and some people choose not to have smartphones just because, but actually they don’t say “just because” but they do have a logical, personal reason for doing so. Until then, you’ve got some serious catching up to do.

Still yours,

(but only for 49 more days)


P.S. I do enjoy your baseball, however. Keep it up. Pics from the game:

Hot dog wrapped in potato and deep-fried.

David and Mary. Actually, Korea, every week they're the ones keeping you in the game. Be proud. Give 'em an MVP some day.

oh the humanity (of brown-haired people)

We sell dried squid here; no peanuts.

Behind us (texting) are our hat-angels.

Once the bags were out the crowd became completely uncontrollable. Also, the giants scored three runs almost immediately after and pulled ahead to win. Bam. Power of the orange bag.

1 comment:

  1. Don't forget to add the inability to wait the 5 seconds necessary to let you off the elevator before they try rushing in, and the coughing without covering their mouths. Ew.
    You cannot deny the power of the orange bag! I wonder if the Giants hold back until they see the bags go up...