T-minus 22 days.

The prospect of going back to Korea is one I had entertained even from our first few months there. And although it became painfully clear to me as our contact wore on that another full year there may not have been the most positive choice in regards to my mental health, the idea of going back for a short stint did not make me want to run screaming in the opposite direction.
Always a good sign I think.
Seeing as the boyfriend took it upon himself to decide that, for him, another full year in Korea would be a positive experience, I decided, after deliberating for a few months, to join him for the summer, living together, but not working together, an approach we are both sincerely hoping will be an improvement over last year’s living-together-working-together situation.
What can I say? It seemed like a good idea at the time……
Regardless, with my departure date looming, while preparing to arm myself with a suitcase full of toothpaste, deodorant and Burt’s Beeswax lip balm, I’ve also been preparing myself to, once again, assume foreigner status, female foreigner status to boot and everything that goes along with it.

I am preparing myself for the complementary and not-so-complementary comments that will be thrown at me from time to time. Jeering laughter, unapologetic stares, shy smiles, open-mouthed gawking, you name it. The regularly of these charming occurrences are somewhat reduced when walking with a male, Korean or otherwise, increased ten-fold when walking with another female foreigner. It has little to nothing to do with any kind of attractiveness factor. Trust me. It’s the skin, it’s the build, it’s the fact that we are “other”. Along those same lines, I am also preparing to control my facial muscles that automatically form an expression of disgust when, and I do mean when, I will be approached by middle-aged Korean men, wedding rings firmly in place and am solicited for sex, as they will have made the assumption that I am indeed a hooker, based solely on the fact that my skin is white and my hair is blonde. I have touched on this delightful aspect of daily life in Korea in previous blogs, so I will leave it at that. Suffice to say, at least this time, I will be a little more prepared when I am pulled down a side street and $7 is thrust into my hands. I’ve been practicing the “knee-move” my dad was always talking about, I’m good.

The ayjimas poking my bared shoulders and acting scandalized that I dare to wear a tank top when it’s 38 degrees outside, while I watch a Korean girl sashay down the street in a skirt so short I can see the bottom of her underwear…in the front. The elbows my ribs will receive while clamoring to get on the crowded subway during rush hour, with no apologies. The street smells that come at you from every direction; garbage, fried food, sugar, car fumes, exhaust, stewed silk-worm larvae, sewers, perfume, cologne, the list can go on and one and on……The cinnamon smell of Insadong, and the cool breeze that forever resides on the walkways next to the stream, even when it’s disgustingly hot and humid. Rollercoaster rides in the back of a taxi, spicy tofu soup with a thousand side dishes. Namdaemun market, the streets of Meyongdong. Dee. Dave.

Could do worse I suppose.

Comments

Vivian said…
oh korea, why do i miss you so??

i used to hate the smells... the mosquitoes... the humidity... but i think i'd do it all over again now, just to be able to ride the seoul subway to all my favrurite spots once again, and be lost in crowds.

you can get out of korea, but korea never gets out of you!!!
LH said…
I've really enjoyed reading your blog. Keep it up! I'm actually about to go over and have learned a lot from your descriptions of Korea.
Kathy said…
YAY!!! Steph is back in Bloggerville!

When, my young, hip friend, are you going to put an RSS feed on your site so my Google homepage will deliver me your posts as soon as they hit... hmmmm?
Melvin said…
great to read this ....
thanks for sharing....

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Melvin
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