Tuesday, December 14, 2010

as i viewed my recent blog stats, i noticed that traffic has really increased from places like other adoption blogs. this made me realize that not all readers personally know me, my story, my personality, etc. therefore, if you are a first time reader to this blog, i beg of you: please do not let your first impression of me be drawn solely from the entry immediately below this one, dated monday, december 13th. in fact, how about you just skip that one for now and come back later to read it? the dec 13th blog was absolutely unlike any other entry i have written this entire year. and while i do think it is important to acknowledge the negative aspects of life in korea, i don't really want those sarcastic quips to be the first thing you "hear" from my mouth. i don't apologize for those statements as they are things i've wanted to verbalize for a year now, but i also don't want you to get the 100% incorrect idea that i hate korea. so what do you say...do we have a deal? :)

in other news, i will be attempting to re-design this blog in the coming days in order to make it easier for you all to navigate. when i first started this a year ago, i didn't really expect anyone but my mom to read it, and honestly, i didn't put a lot of thought or effort into page design. now, a million entries later, many more people than my mom are reading it...and to my great surprise, you all are reading these words from many different countries all over the world. i was first shocked to see this, then extremely grateful & humbled. as a thank you present, i will do my best to make this page easier on the eyes, as well as easier for you to find what you're looking for quickly. any suggestions about things i should keep in mind would be more than welcomed. what would make your visit to this blog more pleasant? how can i make this page easier for you to navigate? what sort of information am i not giving that you're really seeking?

i'm off to settle in for a cozy night with my great friend, rosetta stone.
wish me luck! :)

Monday, December 13, 2010

as we near the final days of 2010, i can't help but be absolutely blown away by all that i've experienced this year. by way of this blog, you know about most of the wonderful things that i've seen and tasted and felt and endured. so as i look towards the close of the year and my return to the states, i'm going to do something a little different. i'm going to tell you some of the things that i haven't previously shared that i will not miss about korea. i'm afraid that, out of my excessive enthusiasm, i might not have given you a totally fair look at my time here. the year has absolutely not been all butterflies & roses, and i think i would be cheating you if i didn't share some of the ugly parts, too.

disclaimer: this is 100% my opinion wrought from personal experience. i by no means speak for all of korea or all korean adoptees or all americans or any other demographic group. therefore, nobody get your undies in a wad. if you are a korean reading this, you're probably not going to like most of what i say in this entry. therefore you have the option to 1) skip this one and come back in a couple of weeks 2) take it for what it is - an opinion piece - and not be personally offended. my entire year's worth of blogs have been dedicated to singing the praises of your wonderful country, which has a huge place in my heart.

also, this entry will be absolutely dripping with sarcasm. be forewarned.

so here it is. stemming mostly from my being a koreanless korean in korea, these are the things i won't miss in 2011:

1) going out for dinner with my white american friends & the entire restaurant staff assuming i am the group's hired translator.
:: this happens at least 3 times a week. it's the worst.

2) people (koreans & americans both) telling me how good my english is.
:: uhhh thanks. i studied a lot.

3) people (koreans & americans both) shamelessly gawking at me when they hear me speak english.
:: you would not believe the audacity and general ignorance of some of the people i've met here. at times, i've been genuinely concerned that my mere existence would cause some moron's brain to physically explode. some wide-eyed people have gotten so close to me that i could smell their awful kimchi breath. at which point, i've had to make the awkward situation more awkward by glaring them down until they felt uncomfortable enough to pick their jaw off the ground and keep walking.

4) not being able to talk on the phone or speak out loud on public transportation or just...in public.
:: in order to avoid gawkers' stares, i generally ignore all phone calls until i am alone or somewhere "safe." refer to #3.

5) people assuming i'm chinese when i tell them i can't speak korean.
:: it's no secret that thousands of korean children have been adopted to english-speaking countries. in addition, thousands of korean families have migrated to said countries. therefore, countless korean faces, like me, do not speak korean. however, you would never know that by the reactions i've received. if you can't speak korean, you must not be korean, right?!

6) the snickers i hear behind my back after i try my best at speaking korean.
:: forgive me, but i haven't been able to completely master the language in 11 months. all koreans receive at least 10 years worth of english classes in grade school...yet only a minute percentage can speak fluent english. do you see me laughing at you??

7) the obnoxious coworker who just knows i'm lying about not being able to speak korean and therefore continues to speak korean to me. every day.
:: you'd think my continual blank stares would give it away.

8) the glass ceiling i've encountered in the workplace.

9) the crazy ahjummas & ahjussis who yell at me when they hear me speak english.
:: i've actually had an old lady chase me down the road screaming when she heard me talking on the phone. it's generally something like "i don't want to hear your english" or "speak korean" or a simple "shut up."

10) the koreans who feel i owe them or their country something in lieu of my 23-year absence.
:: wait -- what?? how does that one work?

11) koreans doing whatever it takes to save face. including a lot of lying.
:: i've been played wrong more times this year than i have in my entire life combined. thankfully, i've also met some kind & good koreans who have helped me not to lose complete hope in the entire korean race. based solely on my personal experiences, i now live by the following - "don't trust a korean any further than you can throw her."

12) koreans' lack of any sort of filter.
:: "what's on your face?! you have some skin problems..." yes, that's a zit. sorry if it's personally offending you, but i get them sometimes.
:: "you look tired." yes, i am tired. thank you for noticing.
:: "your clothes are not so good. i think you should buy new ones." sorry if i'm not the country's top fashionista, but were you planning to sponsor my new wardrobe?
:: "you should wear make-up" sorry. i'm too lazy. i like to sleep 10 extra minutes in the morning. sue me.
:: "your hair is terrible." well, stop looking at it.
:: "you are big size. you need more exercise." i'm an american. americans, generally, tend to be fat and lazy. sorry that i'm not a size 0. believe it or not, i would actually be considered quite slender in the states.
:: yes, i have personally heard each of these statements & more.

13) my friends either a. getting awkward or b. feeling like they have to defend me when somebody makes a stupid comment or gawks at me.
:: while i certainly appreciate their concern, i'm a big girl and i can fight my own battles.

14) people pitying me.
:: life is full of ignorant people and crappy situations. you gotta buck up & move on.

15) a workplace that is freezing during the winter and sweltering during the summer.
:: assuming that a/c & heat are too expensive, my school generally doesn't use either unless absolutely necessary. it's miserable for everyone.

16) the english paradox.
:: koreans are obsessed with teaching their kids english. the government is cramming it down students' throats. english, english, english! but when they hear me speak it, i get the death stare. wait...what? i'm confused. i thought you wanted me to be good at english? ohhhh, but i'm just not supposed to use it? ok sorry. i missed that memo. makes perfect sense now.

17) unplowed streets during winter.
:: it's not pleasant when you don't have a car, but rather rely on public transportation and your own 2 feet to get you to work and back.

18) koreans who are baffled by my ability to read or speak korean.
:: korea is full of paradoxes. here is another. after i can finally pound it into a thick, korean skull that i, in fact, can only speak english fluently, they literally can not wrap their brains around how i can say "thank you" or "hello" in korean. or how i can read a road sign or restaurant menu in korean. they get all confused all over again and i have to explain for the thousandth time that i lived in america for the past 23 years, but have been studying korean in 2010. strangely enough, it is possible to know just a little of a language without being completely fluent!

19) people assuming that my brother is my boyfriend. and my having to agree that he is.
:: korea has an obsession with love and dating. it's unhealthy, really. so if they see a picture of me with my brother, they automatically assume he is my boyfriend. when my students see it, i now just say - "yes, he is." it's a lie, i know -- but YOU try to explain in english to a korean 3rd grader that i'm an american who just met my korean family this year...and that i have 2 families - a white one and a korean one. it's a lot harder than it sounds, huh? you would lie, too.

20) korean "breakfast."
:: koreans don't differentiate breakfast from any other meal of the day. it's the same thing 3 times a day - rice, kimchi, meat, side dishes, etc. much more spice than my poor american stomach can handle at 7am.

there you have it. this is by no means a comprehensive list, but i hope it gives you a slight glimpse into the not-so-pretty parts of my year in korea. i knew i would face some challenges when i boarded the plane to get here, but i had no idea what all i was getting myself into. while some of these things were laughable at first, they tended to get progressively less funny with each passing day. now they are simply obnoxious things that i have the pleasure of dealing with daily.

if you're about to leave a hateful response, just...don't. take a breath, re-read my disclaimer above, and move on. korea has been a challenge for me and this has been my experience. again, i don't speak for any particular demographic, and this list doesn't apply to every korean...just most of those that i've had the misfortune of encountering this year. every country & people group has it's flaws, and i'll be the first to admit that america sure isn't perfect. actually, i think i've even blogged about that before...

i am interested in hearing from other adoptees or gyopos who have spent some time in korea. maybe you have a similar experience or something you would add to the list...or maybe your time in korea was totally different from mine. what are your thoughts?

after reading this, can you now better understand my love/hate relationship with korea?

Friday, December 10, 2010

good morning from south korea! it's already friday here...which is good enough news on its own. but to add to the goodness, i woke up to this marvelous sunrise today. it instantly put me in a wonderful mood. wherever you are in the world, i hope this post finds you sipping from a mug of hot cocoa by the fireplace. winter has officially arrived in korea and we had our first snow of the season this week. i happened to be teaching 3rd grade that day and all of my kids went absolutely crazy, shouting "선생님! 눈! 눈!" or "teacher! snow! snow!" needless to say, that was a less than productive class period. :/

things are well here as 2010 comes to a close. i absolutely cannot believe how quickly this year has flown by. sometimes i look back on the past 11 months and think - "there's no way that actually happened." life is an interesting adventure.

last weekend, i stayed at my own place instead of traveling north to seoul...but my cousin came down to visit. i picked her up from the train station and we had an awesome indian feast of a dinner, courtesy of my big brother seong-bae. he heard sun-mi was coming to visit me so he gave her some money to pay for our dinner. what a guy! afterwards, we went to a singing room to work off some of the calories...where we found these awesome wigs.
out of gratefulness for sun-mi's willingness to speak mostly english for the weekend, i subjected myself to the embarrassment of attempting to sing a few korean songs. i'm pleased to say that it wasn't the train wreck that it could have been, but let's just say my korean still has room for improvement.

the next few shots are a little old. a month or so ago, i nabbed some free tickets to a NANTA performance. NANTA is a long-running musical here in korea that has been making it's way around the world. i hear it was performed on broadway in NYC awhile back? anyways, they sponsored a day for foreigners so some friends and i were able to see it for free. it was such a fun day...i'd suggest taking in a show next time you are in seoul!
several weeks ago, i visited the 63 Building in seoul with my aunt and cousins. it is a beautiful skyscraper overlooking the han river that features some restaurants, an aquarium, and an art gallery, among other things. a really cool place to visit...we had a great time there. (above) with cousin so-mang. (above) at the aquarium with 큰고모, which literally translates as "big aunt." i'm supposed to call her this because she is my father's oldest sister, but i always feel awkward addressing her. blame it on my americanized brain, but i don't feel like my aunts back home in the states would appreciate being called "big aunt."

quick story. ever since i came to korea, i've gotten a lot of facebook friend requests. that sounds cocky, but i don't mean it that way. i realize that it's not because i'm an incredibly cool person - but because people hear through mutual friends that i live in korea or that i met my birth family and they think the story is cool. honestly, i mostly ignore these requests. for the most part, my life is an open book but i guess i feel like "friend requests" give me some sort of control over who has access to my life. that probably sounds stupid. anyways, the other day, i got a friend request from a korean and the profile had no picture. i didn't recognize the name, but i saw that one of my cousins was a mutual friend. that should have been the first clue. in hindsight, i see that i'm not exactly the brightest crayon in the box. so i posted on my cousin's wall in korean - something like, "who is this person?" she replied with "he's your cousin. don't you remember?" hahahaha. i had a big family in the states before i came here and met my big family in korea. i swear i need flashcards to keep up with everyone. aye, aye, aye.

i'm currently in the process of making some big decisions for my future. so if you're the praying type, your prayers would be appreciated. it's a lot of pressure to have to make the best decision for yourself, your american family, and your korean family. fortunately, i tend to work best under pressure! :)

i'm off to seoul again this weekend to visit with my family. my best to each of you. i pray that you stay warm, healthy, and enjoy the holiday season with your loved ones. i look forward to christmas 2011 when i will be able to eat my mom's casseroles and celebrate the season the way it was intended to be celebrated...american-style! :)