Annoying couple post: me and Korea.

Ah, I’ve got the warm-fuzzies for Korea this morning. Fuck knows where it comes from.

Actually, scratch that. I know where it comes from. It comes from:

1. The weather finally being warm and sunny and (rare for Korea) unhazy.

2. The only people being out at this time on a Sunday morning being lovely small-townish ajummani/ajeosshi shop owners, milling about chatting with each other, and with you, in cool easy Korean. Because they don’t give a fuck that you’re American (other than your pretty blue eyes) and they certainly don’t give a fuck about trying to speak English.

3. The only other people being out at this time on a Sunday morning being your very sweetest, shiest students going to the shops with their lovely, gentle mothers. The way they grin from ear to ear when you recognize them out of their uniforms, and the way their mothers will hide behind them, until you bow and greet them in Korean.

5. Cherry blossoms.

6. Buying coffee, donuts and flowers!

7. Although the donuts are now giving me a stomach ache.

8. The ajummani selling the flowers talking you into also buying the pot because a. it’s pretty, b. there is no flower pot in your house, c. you can’t have flowers without a flower pot, d. she’ll give you a special speaking-Korean-as-a-foreigner discount.

I really do love this country. I always think about how, because it was so foreign to me to begin with, I think I flipped some switch in my mind that I can’t really explain in words, that changed everything to “familiar” instead. And now, if I ever leave, I’ll feel in a way like I left another home. Even Smalltown, my most whimsical of compatriots, can’t understand this when I try to explain it. He’s got a soft spot for Korea the size of Texas, but when I talk about this, he always eventually ends up with a cold, hard face, telling me that he’s happy I’ve managed whatever this is, but he’s sorry, no, Korea will never feel like a home to him.

It's (not) funny, because this is pretty much a mock-up example of numerous conversations I've had with my nearest-and-dearest, re: the extremely few people I've ever "cared about". My loved ones appreciate these people on some sort of external level, but can't ever really seem to understand why I feel the need to take it to the extreme of almost even using that L word. To them, the person in question is usually fundamentally un-L-able, in that way, in some sense.

Maybe me and Korea just jive. And that’s all there is to it. Which is usually the answer I end up giving up and just giving in the latter example, as well.


Burndog said...

An unusually short comment from me...but I feel the same way. I can't explain it either...except to say that I never really went through that phase of feeling like Korea was a magical fairy land, and I was so special. At work I try to explain to my teachers that Australia is like my wife (who I love, and will always love, someone I understand, and she understands me), and Korea is like some fiery mistress (we have mis-understandings, a strong attraction, a feeling of something beginning, and fears that it isn't right).

Anonymous said...

hey i'm no picasso,
what the hell are you doing hanging out in your neighborhood on a beautiful sunday morning? shouldn't you be at a church? hahaha .. just kidding, just kidding!

I'm no Picasso said...

Burndog -- It's deep and it's real, man. What are we gonna do?

Anon (PD?) -- Darling, my neighborhood is my church. And every step was a prayer.

Burndog said...

I dunno! I figure I'm just going to feel forever in the middle. Or maybe I'll change how I feel about Korea once I know her better. It's difficult to say...but when I went home for three weeks last year...it was slow and boring and not very Korea!

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot said...

Sounds to me like you're learning to "Think in Korean" which is a concept I didn't get until I watched an old Clint Eastwood movie called "Firefox" wherein our hero defeats a communist regime in their own prototype fighter plane by "Thinking in Russian". There comes a time where you stop translating and begin creating the images in your head and heart by just hearing the sounds and seeing the body language. Congratulations!

palladin said...

I know exactly what your talking about with the whole feeling Korea is your home. For most people, no correct that, for damn near every foreigner Korea is a place to work and meet people. They learn to adapt and integrate into the society, but they remain as visitors for the most part.

The change came for me after I moved into my first apartment and got my life setup (my company provides me with a yearly living stipend) to cover housing and bills). This included buying a car and doing things the Korean way. To me Korea (specifically Daegu) isn't just a place where I work, its my home. Home being used in the possessive is the real defining line. The point where your mindset goes from "I'm living here for reasons x / y / z and plan on going home one day" to "This is my home" is how you know that.