Thanks for not forgetting me
March 11, 2011 20 Comments
I’m glad you guys haven’t forgotton about me. I really have been having kind of a panic attack lately wondering if people back home will just move forward without me. Some of my friends told me they were a little jelous of me…but the honest to god truth is that they really shouldn’t be. One thing about being in a country where you can’t speak the language is the feeling of isolation you get. Sometimes it’s nice to get the attention, while other times its so disorienting you don’t really know what to do about it. If you are a loner back int he states you would be a regular hermit here. Im slowly starting to realize the main reason why I made so many friends at the orientation. Its because we all felt the same way. We all felt completely isolated in this strange country and we were willing to cling to anyone that was like us…and that pretty much just amounted to being able to speak English.
You do not know how hard the language barrier here is. Most of the people here know enough english to say hello but otherwise its hard. You don’t know how many places I’ve gone to wanting a meal, and because no one there spoke english and I couldn’t read basic hangul I resorted to just pointing at the largest picture I could find. Sometimes it works out…but last night I ended up paying about 9,000 won (about $9) for an appetiser I absolutly hated. Whats worse was that I thought it was authentic Korea food only to learn it was knock off Chinease. I could have even been ripped off and i wouldn’t know. Honestly it wouldn’t have been the first time. In order to pay for the services at this PC Bong I have to have the clerk write down the price on a spare sheet of paper. I remember today I walked through the halls and the kids actually tested me. Two girls said “Hello” as they usually do then the third one said “Anyo.” This was actually a sign of disrespect. While “Anyo” does mean hello, its a greeting you say to someone beneath you. The children are supposed to say “Anyohaseyo” to teachers and the students say “Anyo” back. I caught this and the other girls did and started laughing but I didn’t really know how to respond. Theres a fine line between repremanding and scolding and I honestly wasn’t entirely sure about Any vs Anyohaseyo at the time so I just continued walking pretending like I didn’t know what they were saying. One time before I greeted a child in the hallways and the conversation was going well until he suddenly broke into korean. I asked him to repeat it and even though I had no idea what he was saying I scoffed and walked off, pretending to understand. The kids know these weaknesses and they like to test you. They’ll push until they find a way to get around. Its really frustrating keep in mind I don’t have my first real lesson until Monday next week. I found all this out just wondering the halls aimlessly.
I’ve made some friends from orientation but until I get internet installed in my place (hopefully tomorrow) its hard to meet up and hang out. They make plans on the fly and most don’t have cell phones so they post up on facebook. I got lucky last weekened that I had a female friend with some pretty good connections. We were supposed to meet up with a small group of friends, but somehow everyone from orientation happened to be there and I JUST BARELY managed to hang out with this really hot chick I knew (Amanda ). For some reason she remembered me (I was the first person to talk to her off the plane and I was very creative about giving her my name but remembered her name very well) and she invited me to hang out with some of her friends. One day while I was showing Simon my apartment I walked down the hallway and saw Michelle. I originally met michelle indirectly through the same friend with good connections weeks ago and we went drinking in a group but barely talked. Now that she’s in my building I stop by her room frequently and when she was sick I brought her some food and a vitaminC Drink. A lot of other people I used to know pretty well have pretty much completely fallen off the map as I haven’t really seen them or heard form them since the end of orientation. Whats more…I should also remind you that these people will be here only a year. I might be here two so there is a good chance I wont see a lot of them next year. Now making native Korean friends is more difficult because some have their own biases on race and others as stated before just can’t speak my language.
Im sorry I haven’t posted up any photos or pictures. It’s hard to get all of my things into the P.C. Bong and plug them into computers. It took a little searching to find a place with a good price (about 1,200Won or $1 an hour after the first hour ) with unlocked computers that let me download movies and T.V. Series. When I get the internet in my apartment tomorrow I want to do a web chat marathon. It will start around 10 or 11pm until about Midnight your time. THAT MEANS TODAY! TODAY AT 11pm or 10pm to Midnight! I keep forgetting I need to specify the time and date. While you all will be probibly heading to work right now (friday morning) I’m going to bed (friday night).
Some people asked me about the sights smells and sounds…It’s hard to describe. Especially after being here so long. I know I haven’t been here for too long…but sadly things are all starting to meld together and some things seem the same. Also keep in mind I’m a little barred from going deeper into society because of language barriers and physically limited by time. I haven’t really been to many specific sites of awsomeness…hence why most of the photos from the last post were mostly just random bars and street corners. Everything is squashed here. There isn’t a lot of space. But it’s deceptive in that way. You’ll look down an alley and think nothing good will come of it and it’ll be where all the good cheap food vendors are with freshtreats wafting from their doors. You’ll see a nasty doorway with a bright shining neon sign above it and think it leads to some room where Jigsaw would want to “play a game”…but instead you’ll see the nicest bar and loungue with a bamboo bar and leather chairs. You’ll see a nice huge established resturaunt with large english fonts and go inside to see the price of all the food was jacked up and if you really wanted a hamburger and a bud light you wouldn’t have traveled thousands of miles to get it. Many buildings will be multi purposed. So I’m never surprised to see a Kindergarden, under a resturaunt, on top of an apartment building with a “Massage Parlor” in it. It makes for an interesting cityscape. The entire city feels like it’s encircled and pierced by mountains on every side. Huge towering mountains are always in the distance, even if they’re only tall hills obstructing the view of the real mountains. Honestly the place is so hilly every community park is built on a hill and it felt like they only did that because they didn’t feel like leving the ground.
As for the smells…it’s pretty bad. I mean it depends on where you go but I promise you…as you walk down the street the smell of rancid feces will smack you in the face atleast once or twice. It won’t last for more than a second and you’ll never figure out where it’s comming from but it will be there. Rememeber in Korea the food is different. You’ll have stomach problems the first two weeks. (Simon’s friend got an inflamed intetine and spent a week in a hospital…keep in mind though that he had a history of stomach problems, but it is still relevant information). The smell of rotting food is so revoulting that the city has a seperate waste disposal division set aside to collect food waste from regular trash. I should also mention they don’t flush used toilette paper they put it in a trash can to be thrown away. And yes, I mean used toilette paper, as in the stuff that has tire tracks on it. However, its not all bad. Street vendors line the streets and the food is so good you get to a point where you don;t really care what you’re eating. I liked sweet bean paste before…now I love the stuff. And the smell just drags you in from miles away. Sometimes I find myself stopping on an empty street after smelling some really good fried treat and everything around me is closed.
The people here are interesting. It feels good to be a black man of above average height in the city. I feel pretty safe in every back alley I walk though…and honestly considering a good portion of where I live is a series of back alleys I kind of need to. Its a little weird though. Everyplace feels so safe. Right now the time is 10:50 and 15 mins ago when I walked here I saw children playing on the playground. And I’m not talking 10-12 year olds, I’m talking 2-3 year olds with their parents in tow. I know there are gangs here and I’ll be honest I have been to places where I got the “What the hell are you doing here forigner” look and had to walk away from really fast, but I never really felt seriously threatened. I remember one night not too long ago where I saw two drunken korean men trying to have a fight and it was the funniest thing I ever saw. These two men would literally just hold an open smaking hand or a shaking fist in the air as if threatening to strike, but never was a move made. One mad would walk away thinking he was the victor and the other would grab the sleave of his coat, drag him back and show him the same vaguely threatening gesture. I stood and watched for about five minutes until I got bored and wondered off.
Korea is hard to describe as a country, and it’s even harder to describe as my wide optomistic eyes are half closed with the eyelids of reality. Hopefully I can say more if I can talk to you and everyone else later on (TODAY for you and TOMORROW for me.)