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Archive for the ‘Search and Korea Trip’ Category

Korean Exasperation

19 Feb

I’ve been tallying the various words of Exasperation, and so far Aigoo is more common with the ajumma… and people outside of Seoul. I’ve heard more Aiyu in Seoul… I figure I may as well have fun, and someone asked me this question… And that’s my answer. Aissi is more for males who are in a tight and frustrating situation. Aigoo is more like, “life is hard right now” or “Oh really, why life” Aigo, etc are various variations of the same, but are less prevalent.

The shoes thing, I noticed that women with children wear sneakers of the Filas brand. Also College students. Men get to wear all the sneakers while the women wear heels. Also the bright colors seem to be confined to the true ajumma… I think it’s fun to observe these things.

Scuffing seems to be a result of wearing slippers half the day… they even scuff on the stairs. I tried it out and I learned that it really builds up your legs, but wears down shoes fast. (It’s definitely easier to keep on slippers if you scuff a little.)

Standing up straight seems like that one should have pride in ones culture, so stand up tall and in that statement I can see how Korea never was truly defeated and run over.

New cultural item: You can’t eat the wing tips of chicken if you are a male, ’cause if you do you will be unfaithful! Good to know for a date…

 

Culture Shock

19 Feb

My brother speaks Korean a bit too deadpan… flat… completely flat, so they think he’s Japanese. I think this goes to show that one can be a fluent idiot. Even the ajussi here have more inflection than he does and because he doesn’t inflect properly, no one seems to be able to understand him.

I’ve had NO culture shock. Sure, I’ve been surprised at things, but I roll with it and try it out. However, my parent’s culture shock is severe. I think somewhere inside my parents, they truly believe that who you are in connected to what culture you live in, but I don’t think that’s the case. I think who you are is so ingrained that you’d have to go to the cradle of humankind and kill the ancestors there to unmake yourself. Who you are is ingrained in a long line of history, and who you are was ingrained into time before you arrived. It’s made up of a sum of choices that billions of people made, including yourself, to make yourself who you are right now. I think because of adoption I’ve learned this beautiful thing tremendously, and thus I’m able to let go of what makes me, “American” “Korean” or whatever and adapt to the world around me. And I found when you let go, listen, observe, watch that you learn sooo much more about who you really are, versus who you thought you were. Probably sounds a bit philosophical… I hope it sounds wise.

I fumble horribly with speaking Korean. But I lack the confidence with speaking. And I pronounce well, and even have slipped into Korean mannerisms. But my parents aren’t listening and watching so much. They are so tightly balled inside that they aren’t actually seeing the country for everything it has. My Mom is whining about her back problems, but I think complaining makes everything worse, because you internalize that pain from your head, blame your body, your body responds by making you hurt, which is your body saying to you, Hey! it’s not my fault.

I’m trying to get them to say Kamsahamnida… My mom is slowly trying, but my Dad won’t even start with annyounghaseyo. Plus they keep insisting on going to Starbucks for breakfast. Uhhghh!

My objection is that you can be tourists, but if you listen, watch and try to open your mind and learn there are sooo many beautiful things to see. When you do so, you stop othering people and you start to see past the shell of culture and what truly makes this world of people human isn’t how you take a shower, what shoes you wear on a subway, how one dresses, what language you speak, but what makes us all human transcends all of those things.

Because I prepared and opened my mind, pressured myself to learn Korean, be Korean, and learned the culture before I came, I think that all those years of abrupt culture shock in the United States has culminated in me having no culture shock and even being able to blend a little. I’m willing to make mistakes, look like and idiot, but my pride isn’t surrounded by my outsides, it’s by the confidence that the world is as it is right now and this is where and who I am because everything has culminated in this direction. So I belong here, right her, right now. Having that kind of confidence I think really makes it easy for me to blend and adapt to culture…

Anti culture shock then is made up of these things:
1. Confidence in who you are without labels. “Writer” “American” “Korean” That is NOT who you are.
2. An open mind. I’ll try ANYTHING as long as I’m in that country. Silkworms, fine, they smell good. Escargot, fine, I’ll try, I’m in France.. gotta be good for something.
3. The ability and willingness to make mistakes *then* correct them. If you let go then beautiful things happen. You understand why people do what they do, what effect it has on them, and you can see past the surface. I learned about Korean pride by correcting my posture. I learned to go with the flow by not pushing through the crowd like one foreigner. I learned many things and was able to see into the face of what makes us human, just that bit more. Human beyond what our culture tells us is human.
4. Don’t panic. If you panic, then you think you are a victim. Which ends up in an us v. Them which means you’ll never accept the culture. For example, the subway wouldn’t take my ticket, so I was thinking, how to get out… So I called, but since Ajumma here was busy, so I breathed, I centered myself and then watched. Eventually I learned how you get through. You go to the exit labeled “help” raise your right hand.. if the attendant doesn’t see you you call out to them, “Ajussi.”

My mom experienced the same thing… but instead, she completely panicked. Then my Dad panicked. I was trying to explain, but they wouldn’t listen. They wouldn’t calm down at *all* wasted 3,000 won, making it hard for me to go home later. Later my Mom basically said, “Why me?” “What did I do wrong?” If she had calmed down not thought, I have to stay American and thought that this is another country, so everyone and everything is out to get me, found herself and watched, she would have been able to get out, listen to me and what I was trying to say.

20 years of constant culture shock in the US, somehow having a different kind is always freeing… but I’m still waiting for it. ’cause I think culture shock can be fun… which ironically gives me none.

 
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Posted in Korean Culture, Search and Korea Trip

 

Changdeok Palace

19 Feb

My brother was working at Ulsan at the time and my Mom, being my Mom was insistent that she see my brother. (She measures love by two things, how proximity and money.)

However, since she was getting uptight at this point she was also insistent that I come with them and do what my brother wanted. They’ve been like this before as well. When we went to France and England, I wanted to go to an English maze Garden. My brother chose the Eiffel Tower. They ignored me.

I was determined to do it my way this trip and get in the things I wanted, with or without them, but my Mom was acting phobic of everyone in Korea, so she didn’t want me out on my own (I was 27 at the time. Uhhh and living alone… so you can see where this is going).

To make sure I stayed with them, they put the things I wanted to see last and topped it by not telling me they were doing so.

So we went to the large palace that my brother wanted to go to first. because to my mom, this would guarantee both children near her and a degree of protection….

This is the entrance to said Palace. They use this in a lot of dramas as well.

There are several entrances you have to go through the get to the main audience chamber. The guide said that these entrances are symbolic (I don’t remember of what). And I noticed the architecture changed just so slightly as we got deeper into the inner court.

This entrance goes to the main area where the court would be. You can see this in multiple Historical dramas.

This is the audience hall. This is where the King Meets his ministers, etc.

When I looked in the main chamber because I watched so many dramas for a fleeting moment I could see how it must have been then… like ghosts, I could see the ministers lined up in front of the king, bowing and saying “Jeonha!!” and the maids off to the side with their heads bowed, the royal guard and all of the people. The chamber filled and the place brightly lit with candles flickering against the walls. The overhead lights gone and the inside windows not there. For a moment I thought I could hear the ghosts of the people in the past calling out to the king as they bowed.

 
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Posted in Korean Culture, Search and Korea Trip

 

Namsam Tower

22 Feb

This is Namsam tower. This is the highest point in Seoul. Originally, Ajumma wanted to bring us up there but the rules had changed so we had to take a bus which was too inconvenient, considering that she had taken a car.

This is also another point that’s used a lot in K-dramas.

 
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Sunset in Seoul

22 Feb

The woman I was staying at has a balcony. This is the view from it. By the time I got back I was dark out…

 
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Halmoni in Korea

22 Feb

It’s true that in Korea, the older you get the brighter and more patterned clothes that you wear. I’m amused by this idea quite a bit, considering the reversal in the US.

 
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Tools for the Trip

22 Feb

Pictured is a wallet I picked up from a Yomikiri in Nakayoshi (Japanese.) Nakayoshi is a compilation magazine of manga (Japanese comics) and they put in gifts into their magazines. I put that on a string and wore it below my shirt.

Also pictured is a public transportation card. At the time, there were no magnetic cards like that in the US, so tapping it like I did was a joy to my mind it was stuck on paper tickets. It’s also a lot cheaper than in the US for where I live. Also the thing that keeps the charge–the reader is also stronger. I kept it around pretty much to hang onto something even after the tripe to make me feel Korean, as if that small token could finally prove that to me. Or maybe to remind myself that I really was there.

And lastly, Korean money which doesn’t go higher than 10,000 won. Higher denominations are done in notes one gets from the bank, which can go up towards 100,000 won and higher. Many people use that instead of money.

Credit cards are only used for withdrawing money.

 
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Clear shot of Namsam Tower

22 Feb

Koreans have a lot of pride in their country. Why one stands up straight with their back up is to show that pride. Why one tries to get their visitors to see all of the tourist spots possible in the city in one go is because of that pride. It’s not the kind of pride that’s self-serving so much as the kind of pride that is entrenched in history and time.

So when I was shyly trying to take shots of Namsam tower, Ajumma was pushing me to take more pictures–you don’t take enough pictures and even helped me a few times. This is taken from her car when I wasn’t with my parents, but I was meeting up with them. I think she didn’t understand why I liked pictures of the very common things–at least to her, but not these huge tourist spots.

So I took another picture of Namsam, because I liked the mix of Namsam with everyday life with people coming and going in their cars.

 
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Korean Tunnel

22 Feb

I really like this shot. On the way to meet up with my parents, we went through this tunnel and something about the orangey glow appealed to my art sense. The way it blurs and saturates everything really made me impressed.

 
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GOA’L

22 Feb

I insisted to my parents that we should go to GOA’L. This is an organization that helps adoptees. I wanted to get them a translator so when we met Appa, they could understand what he was saying. I thought this would help. And since the translation was free, I thought this would be a good idea.

What I didn’t realize was that my mom was getting more and more wound up. After asking my brother to meet Appa, and after I had started to act more and more Korean with a lot of effort, exchanging cultural notes. She became a lot stiffer. And since she became a lot stiffer, my Dad had a compulsion to protect her from everything, including me and my brother, even if it meant alienation.

So when I asked them to come to GOA’L with me to pick up a translator, I think this broke my Mom. My mom who really didn’t want to face the fact that her children had to be shared with someone she had never met. She had to meet other adoptees like me and confront the fact that she took children from another person. GOA’L seemed to represent that for her–all the issues that she never faced in the adoption were sitting right in front of her.

The nearer we got to GOA’L and the more I was happy to finally find the place from the subway station, the more my mom stiffened. She seemed to hate this country that was stealing her children, only her children one by one. What if on this trip, I decided to stay? I could feel that come from her. A desperation and an anger that we were leaving her, despite the fact we’d been adults and found a place in the world, she could not deal with it.

So by the time we got to GOA’L, she was so stiff in the chair and her back so straight that it was visible that she really didn’t want to be there. As the person there talked to us, (I know his name, but I’m trying to be fair), and talked more about adoption, the loss, gave us maps, the more I could see that she was breaking. And he talked about how I’d talked to him before and I could feel a wave rising within her. She was about to break. I tried to signal him that it was not the best thing to talk right now about adoption issues.

I calmly called my brother and got him the information and got them the translator after coordinating with my mom. I knew at this point that it was going to blow up, deep inside of me, but at the same time, I wanted to believe that even for a second they could handle this–they could handle facing my adoption, the country that they adopted from and one of the languages of my heart. I wanted to believe it so hard and tried so hard to believe it hat I was willing to delude myself that it wasn’t going to blow up.

I could feel my mom saying that I couldn’t leave today. The same air of control I felt from my last boyfriend sprung up and I knew it wasn’t going to be alright.

 
 
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