If any of you are "living for" this blog as the youth are saying, I apologize. If you have no idea what this means, allow me to explain, because this phrase is basically in reference to really liking something. I am fully aware that most slang in today's world makes little to no sense.
Moving on from that foray into popular culture, I had a pretty awesome weekend. I got to be a standing adviser for the first Model United Nations conference put on by Seoul YMCA. In all honesty, I have been helping with it since the middle of the planning for the project, and I am honestly really grateful that I was allowed to help see it to its culmination. I loved sitting in the English room of the conference (There were two Korean rooms) and helping with input as to who should be recognized for things like "Best Delegate" (Israel) and "Honorable Mention" (Sr: Russian Federation, Jr: Finland). The whole thing felt a lot like being back with all my friends from speech and debate. I loved listening to them, surprised by how good most of them were with English speaking and writing skills. I walked out of the whole conference feeling really inspired to look more into the political things that are going on in the world, and to think about the ways that I can try to fix things, even if I can only work on a small scale.
I have to say that the only part of the experience that was not fun for me was a situation that was in blatant disregard of the rules. I can only assume that the people who agreed to staff the conference did not pay any attention to the rules that they were supposed to follow. Basically, one of the guys from my office got drunk the first night of the conference and then called his wife and had two of the women who were also from my office to help him lie to his wife, telling her that he was not drunk. The whole thing made me really uncomfortable because I have little to no experience with dealing with drunk people and I really felt uncomfortable with the fact that it was obvious he was lying to his significant other... This also led to a whole other can of worm, this idea that the older generations in Korea still sort of place women as second place citizens- (I will not get into this now, especially because people around my age and younger are obviously not following along with this cultural ideal).
One of the other fun parts of the experience were the superlatives. The chairs of ECOSOC (The branch of Model UN that I was sitting in) were funny and engaging, honestly reminding me that people around my age all over the world can be amazing human beings-- and they were brave enough to sing a karaoke duet of "Love is and Open Door" from Disney's Frozen for us. My faith in humanity was restored, and hearing a bunch of the delegates sing (Including the Secretary General, and I caught that performance on video, so that will be on my FB page soon). The delegate voted best speaker was New Zealand, and she was asked to give an impromptu speech about the delegate of Germany who was her partner in the runner- up position for cutest couple. Honestly, her speech was kind of amazingly inspiring, even though she was not in an actual couple with the delegate of Germany; the couple that won were the only actual couple in the room.
Basically, this past weekend was the perfect thing to take my mind off the fact that something is going on that is decidedly unsavory with my Korean phone. I'm not sure if any of you remember the whole fiasco with my number apparently being the property of the US military, but I'm pretty sure that this whole thing is involved with the reason that my phone number was cancelled, and nobody was able to help me fix the problem. I have really high hopes that this whole thing can be sorted out by Wednesday of this week, and I will keep you all posted.
PS: Do I want to go into International Relations or Global Logistics and Supply Chain Management? ARRRGGHHH!
What time is it? It is indeed that time again, the time when I reveal that the only exciting things that happen in my project happen at lunch...
On Tuesday, Mongolia and I were dragged to lunch with the women's choir by two of the women in our office. The whole experience was very interesting, especially since the older generation was much more interested in Mongolia than in the US. Honestly, it was just a cool thing to get to participate in. We got to help a bunch of talented older ladies celebrate the end of their choral season. This group of ladies is also the same ones that I put up in a video on my Facebook page a few months ago.
Today brought another lunchtime "adventure". I went to a famous noodle soup restaurant. Yet again, the line was out the door, and yet again the bowl was larger than my head. In addition, it was also incredibly difficult to find, just like the other famous noodle soup establishment. I went with my boss and the one woman in my office who refuses to acknowledge my efforts to speak Korean. My sentences tend to have solid chunks of Korean plopped in the middle of English, since I cannot say very much, and she just says things like "speak Korean". Luckily for me, I can understand that particular phrase very well :/. My boss joked today that if I could not finish all of the soup in the huge bowl in front of me that I would have to pay a fee. Since I do not understand Korean humor, I ate all of it. I ended up eating more soup than anyone else at my table because I had no idea that the whole thing was a joke. The moral of this story is that eating is fun and nobody expects you to speak if you look really interested in the food. Basically, this is how I avoid embarrassing myself any further or frustrating that particular coworker any further who does not think I am trying... She just talks really fast and no one has ever taught me to say "please talk a bit slower"... Or at least, I cannot remember how to say that. It might just be one of those things that conveniently slips through the holes in my brain sieve right as I start to reach for them.
Ah well, Christmas is in 9 days now! Also, everyone in the office is pretty nice, I'm sure. Of course, I could be more sure of that fact if I could understand either Korean language or Korean tone of voice better...
Lots of love,
Useful Saturdays and Musings
Hello people of Earth. (Or I guess anyone else who might happen to be reading this, I don't discriminate).
I promise that I did not fall off of Korea, fall in love, have a falling out with my wifi provider, or fall in any way shape or form other than falling asleep last night without telling you all what has been going on for me. So, basically I do not really get to do much actual work during the week, which is why I get to write this now. Unfortunately, the times when I actually do get called upon to accomplish things in this YMCA always happen to fall on Saturdays or just weekends in general. This last Saturday was actually a pretty awesome experience. My friend Mongolia and I were asked to take pictures and videos for the prestigious youth writing competition that was going on. The whole thing was taken very seriously, and ended up ultimately reminding me of the past two years I experienced of taking IB tests...
During the actual writing part of the day, Mongolia and I rediscovered how blatantly useless we were. Now, I say this because we both have a lot of trouble communicating, and not because we actually are incapable of successful endeavors. Mongolia is finishing her Master's degree and currently reformulating her thesis proposal, both of us are bilingual, and I am actually pretty useless... (At least, in Korea). Essentially, we were supposed to be patrolling between the aisles and around the perimeter of the room to ensure that no one was cheating and to cater to any of the children's needs that might rise up, such as getting an eraser or extra paper for them. The one flaw in this plan that our coworkers probably should have seen coming was that neither Mongolia nor I could actually understand any of the questions we were being asked. Okay, so this is untrue, we just had not been granted enough information or authority to allow people to leave the room to use the restroom. So, basically whenever the two of us tried to help, it ended up looking more like a strange interpretive dance than two people actually trying to provide assistance. Ah, the joys that come with living in a country where you can barely communicate!
I will really miss Mongolia, since she is the person in the office I feel the closest to. She and I get along well because of our lack of proficiency in Korean, but also our feminist viewpoints and interest in other cultures. She honestly feels like a big sister to me, and this is her last week in the office, so I am not looking forward to the time after she leaves :*(
On a different note, I am honestly reaching the point where my body is rebelling against the idea of more rice. I would do Voldemort's makeup in order to eat something other than rice, white sandwich bread, or noodles in broth. Also, there is only so much ramen I can eat before I get sick of it, and I reached that point two months ago. I guess that I never really thought about how spoiled we are in the United States, having the access to so many different kinds of food. Also, I am really wishing for a little more Christmas spirit, something that I am aware I already mentioned. It just strikes me as odd that all three of the Christmas trees I have seen are decorated exactly the same, with shiny bows and like three baubles apiece. I miss the cacophony of ornaments on the tree and the time spent with my parents making gingerbread and avoiding my grandmother's cranberry relish. I wish that there were someway that I could retain this happy warm feeling that always comes with December for me even through the whining and complaining of my host siblings who refuse to go to bed and the refusal by my female coworkers (who are 1/2 to 1/3 my size) to lift anything or actually do any of the things I can actually do by myself by myself. Thank you all so much for struggling to carry a box that I can lift with one hand. I appreciate the gesture, really I do, but please let me feel less useless :)
Also, would there be any interest for me to post something I wrote that is more like fiction? Please let me!
Love and holiday greetings!
An open letter (or two...)
An open letter to the things in South Korea that make foreigners uncomfortable or things that make no sense to us:
1) To the man who flinched away from me as though I were doing something wrong by having hair that looks as far from natural Korean hair as possible: I send you an incredible amount of love, in the hope that I can keep the world from creating another Donald Trump. I am also sending you love to heal the crack in my heart at your expression, like you thought I was nasty or dirty. I forgive you, go love someone else.
2) To motorcyclists driving on the sidewalk: I promise to always jump out of the way because none of us understand why you do not drive on the road. Please do not hit anyone or anything important. Trust me, a life is way more important than someone's bulgogi, even if it does not always seem like it. Thank you, please do not hit me or run over my feet.
3) To people who always take the elevator: There is nothing wrong with most of your knees, why look at me so strangely? The stairs are good for you, why is it necessary to take an elevator up one or two floors? At least take the stairs once in a while. On that note, why design buildings with easy access to staircases and no light in them. It is far too easy to fall when you cannot see what is in front of you. I still love all of you.
4) To the halmonis who elbow me and cut in the lunch line: I will treat you like I treated my grandmother, who acted in much the same way. Basically, I will ignore the things that come off as relatively rude, and sigh as you try to rush me in the lunch line, there is nothing I can do to move any faster, the dude in front of me is slowly placing pieces of kimchi on his plate with the speed of the undead. I love you because this interaction reminds me of someone important who is no longer on this earth. Now, quit shoving.
5) To Korean Drivers: To misquote Jane Austen; "It is a fact universally acknowledged that a person driving a car must always be in need of giving pedestrians the gosh darn right of way". Obviously, Jane Austen and I are in agreement over the fact that roads in Korea are constantly reinacting the race scene from the movie "Footloose". I forgive you, I love you all, but I have the right of way, especially when the little man on the sign is green.
6) To the people in my office: Thank you. Honestly, thank you for everything. All I ask is that you give me more things to do during the day so that I can actually learn something and that you stop laughing when I try to speak Korean. There is a lot of love in my heart for all of you, thank you for not treating me strangely because of my appearance. Three cheers for the two clubs I get to work with in January.
7) To South Korea as a whole: How do you eat rice for three meals a day almost every day and not get sick of either it or kimchi?
Lots of love,
Feeling the Difference
Coming out of culture shock is like the end of "Spirited Away". In the end of the movie, she comes out of the scary adventure world and into the sunlight. Everything is the same as when she left it, and yet everything is completely. That being said, this morning I was talking to my parents about mixed race/ African American people living in Korea who have people touching their hair all the time. At the subway station, I had this happen with someone that I do not know. A halmoni came and sat down next to me, and I greeted her. She chirped something at me, and then grasped some of my hair (which is currently in twists, sometimes referred to as "flat twists"). I can honestly say that I did not mind, thinking of the experience as something stemming from curiosity and not racism. I feel like I am seeing everything around me through different eyes yet again.
On that note, I still had to work today (Saturday). The reason for this is that if I work on Saturdays and do not take any time off during the week, I can store those hours up for when my parents come to SK so I have to work less days at the end of my project.
Back to the idea of "feeling the difference" is the idea of the Holiday Season. I love the anticipation in the air leading up to Christmas day, and in the United States so many different people are getting ready to celebrate that everyone is really happy. This feeling in the air is missing here in Korea, and I can honestly feel the difference in this too.
I hope that my newfound excitement can help me through everything that is to come, and hopefully there is nothing else on this trip that will be as hard for me as culture shock was.
Sending you lots of love,
Everyday Acts of Activism