Monday, September 26, 2005

A few thoughts on Korea

The rallying cry behind many foods in Korea is "why not?" Why not a ham and cheese sandwich with apple slices and ketchup on it? Why not a pizza with potato and kimchi? (kimchi is fermented cabbage) Why not mix pineapple with yellow radish? You honestly never know what you're going to get. And I have learned the hard way that no matter how good something looks, only buy a small portion untill you have tasted it. Never be surprised when you order your pork cultlet and rice and get on the side one tiny container with three baked beans in it. Never be surprised.

I love the whole culture of bowing to each other. It is so polite and convenient. Words need not be said. As of right now it is my favorite thing about this culture.

It's hard to be American in a secluded town in Korea. Especially an American woman who isn't super thin in a Korean town full of people who have never seen a foreigner. I am very grateful that I am so confident in myself and my body. Otherwise I'd be crying every day.
Today I went swimming and didn't think anything of weighing myself as I finished. (I have gotten a touch chubbier than I like this past year or two, so I am trying to slim down) The second my feet touched the scale a dozen grandmas surrounded me. They couldn't believe how much I weighed!(71 KG!! What an elephant! I can't believe the scale didn't break!) They all pointed at it and talked quickly in Korean towards me. As I said, "Hangookmal, mo tambida" (I don't speak Korean) they showed me what they were saying.
They pointed at the scale and then poked me in the stomach and thighs to show me where the weight was. Then they all giggled at how chubby I was. I was then pushed off the scale and the skinniest grandma got on to show me how much I SHOULD weigh. (47 KG) She was about 4 feet 3 inches tall. The worst part is that in the changing room everyone is naked as they shower and change and so forth. Everyone. Foreigners included, and if you try and wear a swimming suit, goodness, the grandmas tell you off.
So here I am standing on a scale, obviously trying to loose some weight, otherwise I wouldn't be swimming every day, surrounded by grandmas laughing at me and poking me in my chubby naked stomach. Kamsamneda adjumas, (thank you grandmas) Kamsa - me - freaking- da. Like I said, I'm glad I'm such a confident young woman.
My boss is the kindest, most terrific guy in the entire world, but he succumbs to it as well. The other day 6 of us had to go somewhere in a car that sat 5. I jumped in the back thinking someone could sit on my lap, but my boss motioned for me to sit up front, explaining, "because you are fat."
I sat up front.

I made my first kid cry the other day. He was a new student and when he came in to my class he was completly silent. He wouldn't speak a single word, even when I had the other kids ask him in Korean what his name was. He wouldn't even touch the pencil I held out as I asked him in Korean to at least write his name. I gave him a moment to himself as my boss came back in and kneeled down to talk to him. The poor kid started sniffling and my boss, Kim Young Sik, put his arm around him and gently led him from the room, explaining as he left, "he's never seen a foreigner before." I didn't even bat an eye.

Sunday, September 25, 2005


I had a bit of an awakening the other night as I was going to sleep. I was thinking about life and how horrific it can be. It was Hurricane Katrina that brought it about. And this thing that I learned, that I'm about to share, is nothing new. It's been said a hundred times, at least seven seperate times to me before. It's in books and media and songs. Everyone says it and then other people nod their heads and agree and say "yeah, that's true, I know it"..but I'm sure that many people don't believe it. I've said it myself before, but I've never felt it, or truly believed it. Now that I know it, really know it, it's made how I feel about life different. Anyhow, this is what I learned.

-Life doesn't owe you anything.
-There's no such thing as Karma.
-Horrific things happen to good people.
-Bad people do bad things and nothing changes what they did.
-Life is difficult.
-Sometimes people have easy lives.
-Sometimes people have hard lives.
-There's no quick way to tell the difference.

I have always had a rough time comming to terms with the injustices in life. Especially when related to God. I've heard people say that they prayed that God would help them on a math test at college, or to help them find their keys when they are late for work and God has helped them. And then again, other people suffer terrible things that God could sooth by sending rain to desert areas of the world, or having a drunk driver crash into someone who deserves it rather than a teenager driving home from a late night at work. Why would God arrange things the way He does?
And the answer is that God tests us, and that we have to have faith and we never know what the eternal plan is. But I've always struggled with that, always. For some reason, I am not struggling quite as much now that I've had this realization about life.
I feel much more at peace, (as overused as that phrase is) when I say to myself, Life isn't a friend. Things are much more simple. The lines are clearly drawn. I now know that I have to fight with life, to wrest my happiness from it's grip. And sometimes when Life is busy hurting other people I can be happy just living in the Wasatch front and seeing the snow-capped mountains as I walk to the corner store to buy some milk.

A sad biproduct of this knowledge is that I have lost a side of me that I liked. I used to think that no matter what a person has done, that if you treat them kindly, they will treat you the same way. That everyone wants to be a good person. What naive garbage. Some people are just bad people. Some people will hurt people that are weaker than they are. Some people are out for number one.

So on I go, in my pugilistic little insignificant little fight with life. Just FYI, I'm winning.