Thursday, May 17, 2012

So, if you go to Korea this is what you might find

Markets.  Everywhere.  I walk into my local market Jwadong Market in Jangsan.  The writhing eels tangle and twist in their nets.  Just a quivering mass of future suppers.  The heat steams off of the pots cooking something or other with red chili paste.  And my garlic woman, crouches and shucks clove after clove of garlic.  I walk towards her.  By now, she knows me.  We do not speak a word. I press 3,000 won into her hand, and I hope it says enough.  I stroll among the labyrinth to calls of, "Pretty Lady want strawberries?" Or something of that nature.  The leafy greens stand baffles me.  Never have I ever seen such a wide variety of produce with which I was unfamiliar.  I quickly walk away, afraid of my own ignorance.  That's sort of how I live here, "Oh, I have no idea what this is? I'm going to remove myself from the situation."  It is like the fight or flight of foreign produce.  Which, is a little ridiculous to say, because the produce isn't foreign, I am .  I keep this in a pocket of my mind as I continue with this big life adventure.

You will also find nice people everywhere.  When people on the subway are not gawking at the far too loud way-gooks (foreigners...and frankly, we bring it on ourselves), most people are incredibly nice. Today, on my way to the bathroom (we'll discuss my pee anxiety later), a teacher stopped me as I was entering a stall, and asked if I liked juice.  A little baffled, I said, "Yes?"  "Okay, okay, come.  Oh, after bathroom, come to my room."  So, I went to her room and in the break time between classes, she set up some juice and biscuits (crackers and/gingerbread) for us to share.  It was such an extremely kind gesture.  Even in the hustle of ten-minute breaks when I have to make copies, get coffee and fill up my water bottle, I realize that you need to take time to enjoy a cup of juice with crackers.

There is also a legion of gentlemen who play soccer on the beach.  It is pretty evident that they do nothing with their life but work out so that their muscles have muscles.  Then, they don the tiniest possible speedo they can find, oil themselves up, and run amuck.  Never have I ever seen so much man thigh or tookus (tuchus?). I mean, yes, I can enjoy an incredibly ripped Adonis as much as the next girl, but really, it is so not necessary to see all of that. Jeez.

I think the biggest culture shock I've had is the industriousness with which Koreans build stuff.  Now, I am from America, a rather slothly country.  Moreover, I am from Wisconsin, which means that there is construction on the same building, highway, stretch of road for months on end.  Speaking of which, is HWY 41 done yet?  Criminy.  Last week, I walked home and there was a really fancy hibachi restaurant.  I thought to myself, "Self, I would really like to eat there soon." The next day as I walked home, they had gutted the restaurant, at which point I thought to myself, "Self, I no longer would like to eat there soon."  And not 72 hours later, a golf and luxury clothing store was built and opened for business.  I had never seen anything like it.  It was like watching one of those flip books where the knight or bold peasant woman fights the dragon to reach the princess at the top of the tower, each scene meticulously drawn in the corner of a bespeckled composition notebook.   No, just me?  Anyway, but it was real life.  These men were working so ferociously, that I sidestepped out of the way to keep from becoming a part of the plastered wall.

You will also find some of the greatest people you will ever meet.  Often times, they are like minded, which is always a bonus, but sometimes you'll get a head to head confrontation, which is almost as fun.  But, the ex-pats are friendly, and we all have shared similar experiences that make us uniquely ex-pats in Busan, South Korea.  I have found friends that travel 90 minutes on a rickety bus to comfort me when I am hurting.  I have found friends who will keep their word when they lose a drinking bet.  I have found friends whom I will never, ever forget.  No matter how far the miles seem between us, we will always share this one time in this one place.

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