So I’m at some internationally themed speed dating/party event, standing around, noshing on the inevitable chicken and beer and scoping out other people’s fashion when…
Random White Guy: Hey!! You’re a foreigner! That’s weird!!
Me: Um…you’re a foreigner too.
RWG: Yeah, but you’re not white!!
RWG: Don’t you just HATE it here?
Me: Uh…no? Why would I…?
RWG: Well, doesn’t the racism REALLY bother you?
Me: Uh…well…I haven’t experienced anything too blatant, I just…
RWG: OH COME ON!!! I have ONE black friend and SHE says that all the Koreans she knows treat her bad because she’s black.
Me: Well, I’ve definitely met some folks who don’t seem to like foreigners but…
RWG: So you mean nobody’s walked up and touched your hair, or told you you’re ugly, or asked you strange questions, or acted like they didn’t wanna be around you, or not wanted to hire you or anything like that?
Me: Yeah…but that all happened with white people in the USA too.
RWG: Well, I’m Canadian.
And THAT, friends, neighbors, and internet stalkers, says more about the state of foreigner race relations in Korea than anything I could make up ever could.
Today’s quote comes from Skunk Anansie’s “Intellectualise My Blackness”. I couldn’t find a video of the band performing it, but I did find this cool video featuring the song and pics of black woman who made their lives doing what it was they wanted to do despite racism.
P.S. I promise this’ll be the last race based post from me for a while, beautiful people. I think…
So for the four months I was in Denver, I rented a room from a 60-ish Vietnam vet who practiced Religious Science and sold organic steak for a living. He was a great person to get to know during my short stay in the US and we had quite a few late night chats in which my new friend dispensed advice without ever really seeming to.
One of the things he said was that a great way to see a new city is to go on dates. When he first moved to Denver as a young man, he invested in a very creative personal ad (this is pre-match.com) and got to know the city by going on a series of low pressure dates with, as he says, “the women of Denver”.
This sounded like a great idea, so shortly after moving to South Korea, I set up a few new online dating profiles on sites that seemed focused on, y’know, actually meeting people to do stuff. I steered clear–I thought–of the hook up sites and the “let’s text and or message each other ad nauseum until we don’t want to meet anyway because you are A BORING PERSON” sites.
I set up the profiles, let them marinate, and came back to check. What interesting, new and/or devastatingly handsome guys awaited me, ready to show me the sights and sounds of Seoul?
Dear GOD. Say it with me, boys and girls…creep city!
Now, ALL online dating has a slight creep factor–how could it not? But honestly…I’ve had an online dating profile in three different countries and nowhere has been as creepy as South Korea.
There are way too many race fetishists and neo-colonial greaseballs floating around this here 인터넷, y’all. Every single profile and ad I’ve seen so far has had an oddly specific racial desire included and a lot of them start with asinine things like “Hi, I’m _____. I can be your white (insert horrible noun here)!” or “If you ever want to try a chubby black girl, I’m here for you.”
Say it with me again, boys and girls…creep city! EEEEEK!
Koreans aren’t exempt from this, by the way. Despite what the apparent legions of Korean culture fans who seem to be constantly asking if it’s possible for Koreans to be attracted to non-Koreans on every single Korean culture website I go to(especially this one) would have you believe—Koreans love them some everybody. Or at least return the fetish favor. (I got a message from a Korean guy asking if I’d ever worn a weave and if not, would I wear one for him. Yeah. It’s like that.)
Jesus be a matchmaker. I can understand having racial preferences(I certainly have a few) as long as you’re not an exclusionary self-hating asshole about it. (As in; “I am a black woman and I prefer black men.” is okay. “I am a black woman, and I only date white/Chinese/Puerto Rican men because black men ain’t about my life!!” is stupid and you just look like a heffa. Cut it out. And really, do you think there are no black Puerto Ricans? Like what you like, but don’t be a douche about it.) I can’t understand creating a dating profile just for the purpose of dating XYZ group of people. I REALLY can’t understand folks who answer that kind of ad. Do you think weave boy got a response from me? NO. That message got deleted, which is the same direction I think that my online dating profiles are going to go.
I haven’t been on any dates here facilitated by the internet yet…but I have been on a few with folks I met in this strange thing called real life. (6 weeks in Korea vs 6 YEARS in England has been extraordinarily good for my mojo. I’m just saying…) They haven’t all been black. And I find that, even though you don’t get the extensive backstory of an online profile, I’m seeing just as much of the city that way as well…without having to side-eye anyone because I’m wondering if they found my profile by checking the “black” box when searching. And it’s nice not to know too much about a date–after all, it gives you something to talk about.
Love to hear your comments on the racial preference thing and online dating sites if you have a moment…please. Remind me that people are still actually reading this blog…pwease…
Today’s title vid is below…and because I know you might be wondering, my racial preference is…
…none of your business unless you are dating me.
Peace, beautiful people!
So one of the 500 reasons I had for coming to Korea was to fast-track my way into a little bit of financial security after the free Jesus for everyone! experiment. I don’t make a ginormous amount of money here–in fact, salary-wise, I’m still way behind the curve of where I wanted to be at this age–but the cost of living is inexpensive and there are a lot of perks associated with being a foreign word slinger for hire.
Now, please understand–I used to be BROKE. So broke I opened e-mail accounts just for the spam. So broke that I considered getting married for the rice. So broke I used to read recipes for dinner.
I used to be so broke, that a bum once gave ME a dollar for food.
I wish that last one was a joke, but it’s true. I gave it back to him. Chicago has some remarkably sensitive and kind homeless people.
Anyway, my point is that I have been SO poor for SO long that ANY money seems like a whole lot. Now that I’m actually making grown person money again, I vacillate between spending way too much of it on silly things(like way too many shoes) just because I can and being scared to death to spend any of it because I am just not used to being not-poor. I can’t get used to the idea that there is more money coming next month and it’s a consistent amount! I’ve been living on noodles and coffee all month because I knew I wanted to go out on two consecutive weekends and also because I haven’t received my bills for the month yet and wasn’t sure how much they’d be.
I just got those bills. Gas and electricity–about $53. Cable and internet–$38. Phone–$106. (Okay, THAT one’s ridiculous but I figured I could afford a splurge upfront. It goes down by $30 in two months when I’ve paid for my phone.)
Let me reiterate.
Gas and electric–which cost upwards of $70 EACH in the US and UK if you live like a Luddite and wear thermals everywhere…was a total of $53.
Cable and internet–which I could never really afford in the US or UK so I have no idea how much they cost, just that it was out of my budget–$38.
Phone–okay, my phone is a terrible deal. But considering how inexpensive everything else is…I think I can afford it.
I didn’t mention rent simply because I don’t pay it. My job does. Or transportation, because I only pay it on special occasions–I live pretty much within walking distance of everything in my town. Even so, the hour long journey into the heart of Seoul only costs aboout $1.75.
I feel like I hit the poverty-recovery jackpot here.
I have student loans and a credit card bill to pay in the US, of course. But I don’t think I’ll have any problems doing that, do you?
For today’s quote, I’m sure you know the song…
Peace, beautiful people!
So I’m on the Seoul Subway now. Literally, right now, thanks to the best cell phone reception in the world and a bomb new smartphone.
And this just happened…
Some dude is hustling haaaaard trying to sell these things. I wish my phone took audio along with video because these little spinning toys inexplicably play Axel F…aka the Beverly Hills Cop theme song.
I know others have said this before but isn’t the subway surprisingly clean?
Peace beautiful people!!
So yeah…how do you like the new look? Thought it was time to lighten things up a bit and actually start blogging a bit more about the odd turn my life has taken recently.
Before I get started on that though, I want to add an update to my last post, on family and the things that I have learned and let go when it comes to the topic.
Shortly before leaving the US for Korea, I got some bad financial news. Went into deep depression, mourned, stayed in bed for two days and accidentally let the whole sorry episode slip to my grandmother when I went to go visit her.
What happened next shocked me. I had started a crowd funding campaign to get me out of the bad investment hole I had managed to dive headfirst into, and while my friends were incredibly helpful, my family members–including some folks I barely talk to these days–were responsible for over half of the donations.
I was stunned. Shocked. And am eternally grateful. As a result, I left Colorado feeling loved, safe and secure. That is a way I had forgotten how to feel. Thank you family. You know who you are.
I guess that’s a good lead in to the point of today’s blog entry, which is…Korea is different. My Korea experience so far has been very different both from my UK expat experience and from all of the blog and vlog and book accounts I’d read before coming, and I’m glad.
I’ve heard horror stories, weird stories, stories of discrimination etc…but I’ve had nothing but good experiences here when it comes to Koreans and Korean culture. The only issues I’ve had so far have been with other expats–primarily white Americans and Europeans but chile, that is a whole other topic for another post. Not gonna touch that now.
My point is, despite what you may have heard about Korea–political turmoil, cultural pecadilloes, etc…–my experience here so far has been one of feeling safe, secure, and remarkably unworried. Even though I’m working a full time job, don’t speak enough of the language to understand most of what anyone says to me yet, and don’t really know many people yet–I feel so relaxed I might as well be on a extended vacation.
Part of that is the usual culture-shock honeymoon stage wide-eyed thing, I know. But part of it…I don’t know.
For example, right now, it’s Friday night. I’m chillin’ at home. Ordered a pizza(in Korean! Amazing, right?). Went to the corner store and got a beer and some cookies too. I had all these grandiose plans to clean my house and work on some crochet patterns, but I’ve been talking to people all week so instead I’m sitting in front of the TV with my laptop and a terrible beer and a decent pizza typing nonsense and watching this;
No, really. What the hell is this, anyway? Is this a grown ass man in a hipster outfit doing crisp choreography? And do I actually think it’s CUTE? What has my life come to?
Comfort, that’s what. I don’t feel guilty for relaxing. I don’t have the constant pressure I felt in the US and UK to always be doing something, working on something, making something happen. I don’t feel like I need to be talking to someone, forcing a social connection, or helping somebody.
Maybe it’s selfish. But if this is what life in Korea is like so far…I think I’m going to love it here. It won’t last forever, but right now, I need the break. It is so nice to have options to do a lot of stuff–and not HAVE to do anything.
There are pressures and odd spots and major cultural differences, of course. I’m 15 minutes away from the DMZ(aka the North Korean border) and that’s certainly interesting, if not as drastic as most English-speaking media makes it seem. Hearing K-Pop music everywhere constantly has pretty much ended my temporary love affair with it. Americans are often racist morons, to my chagrin. Koreans seem to be polite to us allanyway, which is kind of them. And I am really embarrassed by my low level of ability in the language…I’m so used to talking my way into and out of things that without that ability, I feel like I seem stupid and inept. In fact, I AM kind of stupid and inept. Viva humility. Over the course of time, I’m sure I’ll blog about all of that but right now, I’m still riding out my first impression of Korea. That impression is…
…I like this place.
But seriously though. THIS just came on. What the hell is this? Where’s the dude with the Bane mask?
Follow me on Twitter for more consistent updates on the mamalazarus Korea experience and hit the subscribe button on this blog…it’s somewhere over there. —>
PS; Today’s blog title comes from this song…
In the getting better people chronicles…
It’s taken me 31 years to realize that a)not EVERYBODY gets to have the privilege of being in my life and b)SOME of those people are family.
I’m different. I don’t say that because I am some special little butterfly. It’s just that I like to tell the truth. And this is it; I have, somehow, developed a very different way of thinking and behaving than most of my family. There’s nothing wrong with how they or I think or live–we’re just different.
The problem with this is that I am by nature a very family-oriented person. My family–not so much. So while I have gone through hell, high water, and embarrassment to try to stay close and appreciate my family–I don’t really think it’s a mutual thing all around.
I do have a few relatives who read this blog, and y’all know I’m not talking about you. Generally, though, I’ve had to just realize that I’m not going to consistently have family interactions of the quality that I hope for and move right along with my life. It’s hard. It’s something that is an ongoing process and I just have to do it if I am going to continue living life fully. But it’s hard.
After 6 years of living abroad, not a single blood relation visited me.
Most of my family has any real idea what I do for a living now or what I have been doing.
I’m pretty sure most of my family doesn’t remember how old I actually am.
I’m certain my own mother doesn’t know when my birthday is.
I could go on and on, but the point of this post isn’t to bitch and moan about family and what I feel they should or shouldn’t do. That’s none of my business, we’re all grown, and honestly, there are very real challenges and reasons explaining all of the above. (Not saying they’re all VALID, IMO, just that there are reasons.)
I guess the point of this post is to say that I am coming to terms with not having a storybook, fairy tale, suburban, stable, loving, supportive, consistent family. That’s not my life or my blessing.But I do have a family, and I’m fortunate to be in contact with many of them and friendly with some as well. Sometimes you don’t get what you want in life, and you have to go ahead and work with what you HAVE. You also have the option to create some of what you want, and that’s where I’m headed, I think.
I’ve been blessed with very good friends who have become like family. I’ve been with good relationships with some family members, and developing ones with others. I’ve been blessed with the wisdom to know that some people’s insistence on behaving in ways that are only detrimental to my life and spirit is not my fault, and I’ve been blessed with the strength to bounce those people to the outer circle of my life, blood ties or not. And I’ve been blessed with a lot of emotional resolve and healing through this process of figuring out how to progress from here.
One thing that’s startled me is that, in coming to terms with my own family, I’ve discovered that I want one of my own. For years I wanted nothing to do with marriage or having children because the whole topic seemed like a mine field of pain to me. But as I come to terms with what my family is and is not, I’ve realized that I really want to get married and have a family, and have all along. I want fat babies and domestic bliss. And I am okay with that and believe it might happen. It’s not a painful thought, anymore. Sometimes you have to release childhood disappointments to have adult hopes. And my adult hope is for a healthy, happy family of my own. Not a perfect one–just a healthy one. A supportive one.
Trust me when I say it’s amazing that I can say that with a straight face and no bitterness.
Anyway, that’s my 0.02 for the day. Believe me when I say that I hope to one day have children who can sympathize with the sentiments, if not the utter cheese of the video below, and won’t be writing maudlin blog posts like this one(or whatever passes for it in the not-so-distant future).
I haven’t blogged in a while, and I really don’t feel like it right now, but I feel like I owe my few followers a few words to prove that I am really alive and kicking. That said, here is a random list of 5 for your Thursday viewing…
1)I am bloody DEPRESSED. I haven’t been depressed in a long time and forgot what it felt like. It sucks. How on earth did I walk around feeling like this all the time for 27 years and not commit any minor crimes? Ugh. I’m also grouchy as hell all of the time lately, which explains the four further items…
2)No no no! What is this? BLASPHEMY, I tell you!
3)I am all for trying new things and covering classic songs in your own way, but Afro-Blue should sound like this;
4)I cannot WAIT to leave Denver. For me, it’s become a place to visit, not to live. Also, I really can’t with the silly people per capita in my current suburb.
5)At least all of my brooding and griping has resulted in some startling grown woman realizations concerning family and God(separately, not together). I’ll be posting my ruminations soon, if I can manage to stay out of jail.
6)Eh, whatever, let’s make it a list of 6. I have gone on and on on this blog about Junsu Kim and his startling good-looking-ness but apparently, this guy was in the band with him the whole time and I. Never. Noticed.
Dear Lord, if you’re listening, let me run into one or two dudes with diverse energy like this while I’m in Korea. THAT guy is way out of my league, of course but can one of his fanboys be my mailman or something? Just so I can get hype off of complementary male energy rather than being the world-expanding hype woman date for a change? Just saying, Lord. A Bane mask as fashion statement is hard to find, and I appear to be going somewhere where it might be possible.
Okay, I find myself marginally less grumpy for having written 6 silly things. Let me go throw myself at the world before it wears off.
Peace, beautiful people!
Returning is hard. Leaving wasn’t easy, but it was gradual. A six month visit turned into a 6 year stay, but I was never there permanently and it took some time to adjust. I’m not sure I ever really did. But there was always that sense of adjusting, of moving, of changing and adapting to my surroundings.
Coming back happened all of a sudden, and all of the things I remembered that made me want to leave were bigger and even more annoying than before. I didn’t want to be back. I didn’t want to deal with 8-lane highways, gridlock, and hours on public transportation. I didn’t want to deal with jumbo sized everything and flat Midwestern accents and well-meaning racialicious white people who felt entitled to inform me how unracist they are.
More than anything, I didn’t want to deal with the questions, or the assumptions behind them.
“You must have money, right? Anyone who travels like you do must have money.”
“You musta got your heart broke by some Englishman. That why you came back?”
“Did you bring me something nice?”
“Do you think you’re better than everybody now?”
It’ s not that people here in the US are any more ignorant than people in the UK, or anywhere else in the world. It’s just that returning has reminded me how ignorant we all are, and how few people actually are aware of that ignorance.
I can’t wait to be consciously ignorant again. Here’s to February, and blowing this big ol’ red white and blue popsicle stand again.
Dear men of the world;
Kindly cut the following three things all the way out;
1)Honking at me while you drive by in your car.
What, exactly, is supposed to be my response to that? Am I supposed to step out of my heels and sprint behind your hooptie in gratitude?
2)Offering to put a smile on my face with any object other than a joke.
This happened today. My response, to paraphrase, was to ask if the gentleman in question actually owned one of the objects in question, and if so, did he actual know how to use it in company or only solo?
Seriously, soap is cheap, water is free. And if you don’t use them, you are nasty.
None of the above will get you my phone number. Seriously, what are you even thinking?
I’m not much of a feminist but y’all are for damn sure trying to turn me into one.
P.S.; for today’s song clip, we have the one and only Notorious B.I.G. Say what you will about the way he referred to women in his songs, but at least he knew he had to have actual conversations with us in order to get anywhere.
Another quickie for today because, well, it’s just been that kind of life lately.
It occurs to me that most art is simply the act of finding something so beautiful/powerful/transcendent/important within yourself you have no choice but to share it with the rest of the world, and in doing so, transform a bit of it. Like I said in a song once, it’s loving what you have so much you have to give it all away.
And some art is simply the act of filling your own world so thoroughly with the products of your own imagination that it starts to leak out onto unsuspecting passers-by.
It really gets interesting when the two collide.
Peace, beautiful people.
P.S. NONE of what I wrote up there explains why on earth I thought this was the epitome of genius for five minutes when I was 16.