I have been here in Korea for two years, as many of you avid bloggers learned last-ish week. Here is a list of ten things for which I am never prepared. Ergo, my reaction is usually awkward and lacking the normal grace and poise with which I carry myself. In essence, I need to check myself before I wreck myself.
1. Ajjeossis sit outside of the hospital in their pyjamas and IVs. They also drink so ju and smoke cigarettes. It just seems so counterintuitive. I have to do a double take and hide my confusion every time.
2. There is a store that is a magical place full of things you didn't know you needed. My EPIK roommate (for the first week of training), a fabulous Irish lass who is 100% cooler than I will ever be, commented, "Daiso is solid gold."
Scene: I walk into a Daiso store; I have a game plan, "okay, I need cleaning supplies, nothing else. Focus, Botsford." I leave with three sparkly ties, a garbage can shaped liked a frog, a dinosaur staple remover, chopsticks, baskets, a Nerf gun, and a Hello, Kitty alarm clock.
Then, I go home, unpack, and realize that my room is a mess. I think, "I should probably clean the floor." I rummage through the bags and find that I forgot to purchase the ONE thing I actually needed.
This happens every single time I go to Daiso. I never know if I should be angry at myself because I have the attention span of a humming bird OR excited that I have a T-Rex staple remover and a Nerf gun with which to shoot Rufio and probably my roommate. Maybe year three will be better in this regard, but I am not hopeful.
3. Contrary to popular belief, hiking is a very communal activity. You need to bring enough to sustain yourself and at least three three other people. As you stop to take breaks, many Korean hikers will stop as well. They will share their fruit, ramyeon, and makgeolli. It is only polite to share your trail mix, protein bars, and rum. There is always an awkward moment when I have given my last tangerine to the ajjuma at the rest point before the top. Then, I have nothing for the ajjeosis at the summit who give me makgeolli, crackers, and mixed nuts. One time, I bartered English lessons. Usually, I just awkward antelope around, take photos for them, and give them the last swig of my flask. Sometimes, it is water. Most times, it's not.
4. Not much is more humbling than walking through a crowded hospital lobby carrying an uncovered Dixie cup of you own urine for a drug test. I have various levels of discomfort during this process, as evidenced by my facial expressions.
5. Dogs in jackets. I know that is a thing in the States, too. Most dogs here are the size of a chipmunk, so I suppose they need it. But, when I see Labrador and Golden retrievers in parkas, I just... I just can't....I just...don't know what to do.
6. There is a guy in my neighborhood who starts selling his wares around 7:00 in the morning. He has a blow horn and every ten seconds he says "blaaaaaah blaaaaaah." It sounds a lot like, "Taaaaaaaahhhhhhhh Cooooooooohs." Now, if someone is blowing a horn at seven a.m. selling tacos, I would run down the stairs and find him. Let's be honest, starting your day with a taco would be a complete game changer. However, he does NOT sell breakfast tacos. "What is it, Botsford, you tease?!" I don't know. I may never know. I just know my disappointment waking up to not breakfast tacos. I guess I will go eat my boring adult cereal full of flax and oats. Stupid healthy eating.
7. My entire stay here, I have been going to a orthopedic doctor for various bumps, bruises, and old age. Usually he just sends me upstairs for "physical therapy" which involves me napping while a nurse does something electrical on my body, plays a laser light show on my knee cap, and bundles me up in a heating pad. Seriously, these are the best naps ever despite being in a hospital and my body contorted into weird poses. But, my most recent trip has me splinted up with a semi-hard, removable cast. All of this is fine. However, what I absolutely do not understand is how much bandaging the nurses use. It is at least 10 yards of ace-type bandaging. There is a first down wrapped around my leg. I understand my leg is a bit big around, but really?
I have no idea the science behind any of these procedures, but my doctor has gotten me through plenty of pretty serious scrapes, so I should trust that this is the best method (or, at the very least, a working method). He is, incidentally, also a tenor who performs for various classy events. He is pretty great.
8. Eight is still my lucky number. I received an email from my sister two days ago. All it said in the subject line was, "Kit Kat." It then went into a childhood memory of going to Sentry grocery store on Moreland Boulevard, and shopping with our mother. Every time, we would get a Kit Kat bar. Katie would get a piece, Sarah would get a piece, and Mom would get two, "Because I have to deal with you hooligans." Then, we would fight over who could sit in the front seat.
Early on, we devised a plan that on even days I would sit in the front because my favorite number was eight and my birthday was on the tenth. And, Sarah would sit in the front on odd days because her favorite number is odd (I dunno if I am allowed to impart this sensitive information), and her birthday is on the seventh. At the time, I didn't realize that more than half of the months have more odd days than even days. But, by the time I wised up, it was too late to change the system. We still followed this system this past January when I was home for a month. I did not, however, have to split a Kit Kat bar. I opted for the Butterfinger.
The point of this is a) I will never get over how much I miss my sister and b) that I still check the date every morning to see if I can sit in the front seat of my scooter.
9. I am never prepared for elevator conversations. In any country. At any time. When you walk into an elevator, children here look at you with a mix of wide eyed terror and wonder. They whisper in their mom or dad's ear, "hhhhhhello." I respond with "Hello, what is your name?" in Korean. Sometimes they answer, mostly they hide between the legs of their adult pretending I exist the same way a platypus exists in the zoo: something to be looked at and appreciated for its oddity, but never really knowing why it's there.
I am especially never prepared for the "Too Heavy" beep when you walk into a crowded elevator. You just hang your head in shame and start taking the stairs to ensure it never happens again, until it happens a week later at the same elevator with the same people. Worst. Ever.
10. Smart phones are everywhere. On the subway, when I look up from Lydia, my sassy blue and white phone, I see that everyone has their phones out messaging, playing games, or watching videos. Then, I look back at Lydia and research the statistic of smart phones vs. less than intelligent phones in Korea. I find the information I need, Instagram a photo of the subway car with the statistic in the description box (hashtag KoreaLyfe), then scroll my newsfeed and share a clever meme on a friend's timeline. Only then do I realize that I am part of the problem.