Thursday, August 30, 2007

and in news of the bizarre....

I think I just got punched in the gut by Korea. No, literally. I was walking on the street at approximately 8:30 pm after purchasing some ttakboekki and illegal DVD's when an old Korean man walking toward me reached out his hand and punched me in the gut. And kept on walking. Being bumped into is a daily, nay hourly occurance in these parts and I don't even think twice about it anymore (watch out America) but this was definitely a straight up, no bones about it, PUNCH.

I've been reading a book called "Eat, Pray, Love" by Elizabeth Gilbert which is a memoir of her travels through Italy, India and Indonesia. I'm only at the beginning of the book, but I've read enough to already be sick of her incessant gushing about her undying love for Italy...the seemingly day to day beauty and non-stop glamour that infuses itself into the core of her life, such that even paying the electric bill is a priviledge in dear, darling ITALY. I'm at the edge of my seat to see what going to the bathroom in Italy will ellicit.

Yes, I'm being sarcastic. And yes it is with good reason. This book that hovers near travelogue pornography is making it very very apparent to me that I do NOT feel the same way about Korea. My sarcasm is simply a mask for my true feelings of confusion and jealousy. Why don't I love Korea that way? Why am I not having an orgasmic experience every time I walk down the street and see old women hacking open pig heads and selling them to me? Lest you think I'm being flippant, I will reveal to you my secret concern: I am using Korea. For the money. For the experience. For the dot on my facebook "Where have I been?" map. I don't love you, Korea. Not yet anyway.

And other people DO love Korea in that all consumming way, so it must be possible. Lumina is leaving in 6 months and she's desperately trying to figure out how to do it without breaking her heart. Other foreigners I've met leave and come back, transfixed by this place like a co-dependent lover. Perhaps I will get there and I just haven't found my touchstone yet? I've done everything I know how to do to make it happen and there ARE signs of it's eventuality. I have found many amazing Korean friends who teach me everything about the culture. I have immersed myself in the food and find that I CRAVE gochujong. In fact, it feels a bit unnatural to use a fork when perfectly good chopsticks are available.

But don't you see? That's what makes what happened tonight so maddening and bizarre. I'm trying. I'm here. I'm learning your language. Yes, I stand inches above everyone on the bus. And yes, you can't miss my "yellow" hair that screams, FOREIGNER!!!! like a suburban kid at a concert in the early 80's. But I'm working on falling in love here; you could at least wait to punch me after we've had a true falling out.


Skye said...

Hmmmm. I was thinking about reading the book "eat, pray, love," but your description makes me reconsider. I think I would be annoyed by someone so gushingly infatuated with a far-away not-here kind of place. It's like how some people only like stuff and even people if they're different and unfamiliar.

For what it's worth, I really do think that some people actually resonate with a place and a culture. Living in Oregon has taught me that. There are so many people here, from all over, who really love it and really belong here. They are just Northwesterners, even if they came from the east coast. Other people complain about rain and hippies and moss and they really should just go back to L.A. Anyway, maybe Korea just isn't your soul's favorite place.

Tamara said...

oh sweetie! no, no! ninny gets punched? not good!
i must say that i saw a similar incident here... a girl i work with was standing in line at starbucks and tried to tell the woman (who looked slightly "off") that she was next in line. the woman turned around and punched her in the arm.
i was dying laughing! i know. horrible response! but i'd never seen anything like it!
peeing on the subway? yes.
smoking pot on the street? definitely.
but beating someone for being NICE?

i hope your bruised gut - and heart - heal soon!

Emily said...

I want to say that you're not in love with Korea because it's just not Italy. But I lived in Italy for a few months and was shocked by my dislike of it (parts of it anyway).

Marie said...

Korea needs a time-out. Korea will never make friends if it can't play nice.

I'm sorry it's been rough going. I still admire you a whole lot. When it's bad, just write down your Korea story as you'll tell it to your grandkids. Wallah! You're the hero of a grand international adventure! And in that version you can whack the guy back.

Jordon & Sara Roberts Family said...

You know what? My wife and I didn't love Taiwan. We loved living by the beach (in Taiwan), we loved living near the mountains (in Taiwan), we loved the incredible Taroko Gorge near our house (in Taiwan), we loved being able to walk 5 minutes off of a paved trail and be in absolute private wilderness (in Taiwan), we loved a few people in our branch and a few of the kids we taught (in Taiwan). But...overall, we didn't like Taiwan. At first I felt guilty. You know, when you travel you're "supposed" to develop this profound appreciation for all of its many virtues and noble culture, and superior lifestyle, blah, blah, blah. But, you know what? That's just not always the case. In fact, we kind of thought Taiwanese culture was LAME. Bad marital relationships, overworked people, overschooled kids, no adventurous spirt, no independent thinking, little creativity...I could go on. But I don't want to talk too negatively about it either. (That gives Americans a bad reputation). My point is that you don't have to like all aspects of every place you travel. It's ok to think things suck. And, it's ok to think things back home in the good 'ol USA aren't so bad. :D