Jillian R.

Ever so often in Korea, a person who has seniority in age would walk up to a younger person and reproach him/her for something which he feels strongly about (negatively). I've had an elderly ajashi (Korean word for 'uncle') approach me, pointed at the cigarette I was smoking and started grumbling some gibberish. I didn't understand a word he was saying so I ignored him and continued puffing away.

I was warned before coming to Korea that old men do that to girls sometimes. Not that I care.

Koreans always feel the need to tell others how to live their lives. When I was working at the academy, the Korean teachers often told me that when serving food, the rice must always go on the left side of the lunch tray, and the soup on the right. And of course I never liked the soups (more like broths) they served at the school.



(A typical Korean meal. Image from http://tangyfuture.wordpress.com/)

I find it quite ridiculous, so I ignored them and served the rice on the right. I sure felt rebellious then!

But of course, the kids wouldn't start eating until I moved the rice to the "right" (left) side. Get it? These kids obviously had been told by their moms from birth that "rice must always be on the left, or else...!". Well, these kids are merely 4-5 years old. When they become parents themselves, they would tell their kids the same thing. Therefore, Koreans will always have their rice on the left.

However, what happened today was beyond comprehension. Eric and I were sitting in the park. Well I was sitting on a bench and Eric was standing next to me. Then out of no where, a drooling (yes, DROOLING, like a baby) bum approached us. I say bum because he looked homeless.

The bum kept inching closer, pointing at me, then Eric - continuously mumbling in Korean (again, gibberish). It sounded like "puh-ty...puh-ty" whatever that means. It was the first time in my adult life that I didn't know what to do (in the face of danger! No less!). I wanted to stand up and move away from the bench but I was so afraid that he was going to drool on me!!

And yet, sitting there, I might get drooled on.

So I just sat there, frozen. At the same time, he got closer and closer to Eric. Koreans; I feel, have no sense of personal space, sometimes on the bus and in queues, I have to push people away from me because they were breathing down my neck. I don't know why they like to stand really close to strangers! Anyway, he got to merely inches from Eric and I was praying he wouldn't touch Eric, or else I would have to bleach the shirt he was wearing - which I didn't want to do because it was black. Eric went "DUDE!"

Fortunately, another Korean man was nearby and he came and pushed the bum away from us. I guess he (the bum) didn't approve of us; and Asian (he probably assumed I was Korean) being with a foreigner. I hear that they take it personally as an insult.

I don't know how long I can hold on to my sanity living here.
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