Multnomah Falls, Oregon

Multnomah Falls, Oregon

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Ajumma Yelling Match

Well, I'm not the only one getting into quandries, luckily. A few days ago I was walking through my apt. complex, and I saw a mom walking with her 2 yr.old (who was riding his bike) while pushing her infant in a stroller. An SUV rounded the corner, but the corner was a good 15o meters or so away. Her 2 yr old. crossed the street and she chased after him a second later (she had stopped her stroller for a minute for some reason). Well, he couldn't get up on the sidewalk since the pavement was uneven (big surprise there- I don't know much about civil engineering, but apparently it's very difficult to make even pavements here). So she helped him up, but the stroller was still in the street. The SUV stopped maybe an inch from her stroller. I was pretty shocked, because the driver had to have seen them- I had been watching the whole thing, and I have a feeling the driver deliberately stopped just short of hitting them.

So the mom says something to the driver, and then the driver honks her horn (geez, that poor woman had an infant asleep in the stroller). Then the mom raises her voice, and the driver rolled down her window to argue with the mom. I felt really sorry for the mom cuz she hadn't done anything wrong-she was doing the best she could. Maybe I'm on the mom's side since I can sympathize. But then again, pedestrians do have the right of way (at least on paper...).

Anyway, I couldn't believe that driver. I think she was PMSing or something- anyone else in their right mind would've patiently stopped and waited a second for her to move out of the street. Our apt. complex at 4pm is filled with kids rollerblading and biking at that time of day. Hell, it's a residential area. I nearly told that driver to be careful (I was passing by just as she rolled down the window), but I figured it was best to stay out of it. With my luck, being the foreigner, they would've rounded on meγ…‹γ…‹γ…‹. Oh, well. It might sound bad, but I was relieved to see that I'm not the only one who gets into these kinds of messes.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Attitude Adjustment

I write too many status updates on FB about the crazy stuff I encounter here. I'm starting to worry about it, so that's why I came over here to vent. My cousins, friends back home, etc., really don't need to read some of that stuff. I don't want to portray Koreans in a negative light, and my friends have started to make some comments. It's nice to have the support, but I need to chill for a bit. Just today my friend Alex went off on me, which was pretty embarrassing since it was on my status update. He had a point, though. Basically he said, "Put up, or shut-up." He's probably not the only one to have that viewpoint, so maybe on FB I should do what my mother (and everybody else's) always said- if you don't have anything nice to say, (you know the rest)...

He's probably the only one who could say that to me and not get de-friended (he came close, though- I'd prefer a pm in this case. It's not fun to be publicly lambasted). I've tried to explain some of the things I deal with here, but he doesn't sympathize. I don't blame him. He thinks if you are unhappy with your situation, you should change it. Maybe I sound like I'm giving excuses, but it's a little more complicated than that. I made a choice to marry a Korean man, and I don't regret that. I wish we didn't have to live here forever, but that's the choice I made. I accepted that a long time ago (I like my stress-free job and tons of vacation time), but I'm still a foreigner that will never be completely accepted here- I will always be an outsider. Maybe he's placing his American value system on my situation (which you can't do). Meaning that in the US, people (generally speaking) don't have any problems with foreigners- it's a melting pot. Maybe he assumes it's the same way here? I've tried to get him to see my point of view, and he certainly knows some of the crazy stuff I deal with (11 year-old boys have come on to me TWICE in the past month), but I guess some people see things in black-and-white. So he figures, take it or leave it and move on. So I need to figure-out a way to (fully) take it. It's easy to embrace the good stuff- it's the bullshit I have a problem with. And I deal with alot of bullshit.

I felt ashamed after what he posted. I thought, god, am I a complete bitch? But most (western) people would've reacted the same way to a pushy woman. Geez, I go to the doctor feeling horrid and people can't leave me alone and afford me the same amt. of privacy they would another Korean. But I'm not Korean. So I need to be prepared for annoying situations at all times, no matter the situation. And handle them with finesse. This is extremely difficult. I'm having a really, really hard time right now. Fertility treatments are really not fun (sorry to whine- just trying to put things in perspective), and my haywire hormones even put me in rages (luckily this seems to happen at night- I just can't sleep. I did think about taking a baseball bat and smashing bathroom mirrors while at Dongdaemun Stn., but that was just a fantasy). I'm doing the best I can right now. I would like to do better and learn how to handle things with my husband's graciousness and kindness, but I'm a work in progress. I tend to have a lot of off-the-wall encounters (more than the average person here), but that's another post. Sometimes you need sympathy from others who understand what it's like to be a foreigner here, and I'm grateful to everyone for their funny, encouraging, and sympathetic comments. Sometimes I need a kick in the butt (and I know that), but sometimes you need a (virtual) shoulder to cry on.

Monday, June 14, 2010

The Silent Clerk

This happened yesterday, and I'm over it now (or maybe not, since I'm blogging about it). The supermarket at my apt. complex has a new clerk. God, I hate dealing with new clerks at my regular haunts (cuz it's my territory). I always get the shocked, deer-in-headlights look when they seem me. They're like, "OMG, it's a foreigner- what do I dooooo?!" This is incredibly alienating. I used to be embarrassed, and sorry that they had to deal with me (even though I, and everyone else I know, can conduct a simple money transaction in Korean... Well, actually, it's not so simple, because they ask 10 million other questions, like, "Do you have a discount card?", "Do you need a bag?", or, "Do you want your iced latte hot or iced?" But, I digress).

Well, I'm not sorry anymore. My general attitude these days is distant- I guess I try to have out-of-body experiences during these awkward encounters. But if I'm not in the mood, which is often these days, it's frustrating and very irritating. Anyway, everyone has encountered the silent clerk, I'm sure. First, you get a shocked, tentative look out of the corner of newbie's eye, and you ignore the look. You ask for a bag (in Korean). Noob hands it over wordlessly. Then they ring up the sale, and gesture to the signature pad (or they hand you the calculator). You ignore the gesture and say, "Ne?" just cuz you're feeling cunty. The clerk laughs (grrrr), and tells you to sign it. Finally, he/she silently hands you the receipt. And they think they're through with you-ugh, what a relief for the xenophobic! Frankly, I don't like to be ignored after I just spent a chunk of change at a store I spend over $500/month in. So I raise my eyebrows and ask in English, "Cat got your tongue?" And then I vow that from here on out, I will deliberately go through her line, because she obviously requires some repeat therapy to help her overcome her phobia.^~

My husband tells me I should use English only because people are insecure about their lack-of English, and it gives me the upper-hand. But I don't want the upper-hand. My (pipe) dream is to be treated with the same amount of respect afforded other Koreans (alas, one can hope...). JS also told me that he has many Korean friends who go to Japan and can speak adequate Japanese. But he says they don't use it. They use English because it gives them authority, whereas if they use Japanese, they will be treated on the same level if not a lower level. I prefer not to use English because it eliminates potential misunderstandings, but I do use it in Itaewon because I have noticed that what my husband says is true. Generally people are more polite if you use English (although there are always exceptions, and I have examples, but that's for another post).