Sunday, March 16, 2014

Mixed Messages.

Ok...I said I was lukewarm about blogging...
 
...but I thought I would write something small before I leave Korea and go on vacation to somewhere (slightly) warmer this week...
 
 
...so I went through a Spring lookbook that my legs and feet featured in for a Korean company this week...
 
...and I was reminded of how confused I am about presentation standards in Seoul...
 
 
...I've been cast for all kinds of hand and foot modelling jobs this year in South Korea...
 
...and while only parts of my body are required for the shoot...
 
...I get a lot of feedback from most of my jobs about my personal presentation...
 
 
...things like... ;
 
 
"...could you look a bit more Asian?"
 
"...could you look a bit whiter?"
 
"...could you lose some more weight?"
 
"...could you put on some more weight?"
 
"...could you get a boob job?"
 
"...could you cover your chest more?"
 
 
...my usual response is...
 
"네
...
 
"네
 
...
 
"네
 
 
...the trend in Korea right now is for a rather generous bustline...
 
...but who knows...
 
 
...maybe next month the trend will be a pointy bustline...
 
...or a flat chest...
 
...or a moderate chest...
 
...I don't know...
 
 
...in Korea we must attach our photo to our resumes...
 
...so even my translation jobs are graded on my weight, height, eye color, and even chest size (to a degree...) ...
 
 
...I think I could follow the rules if they were more standardized...
 
...however...
 
...I cannot keep up with what is going on in Korea...
 
 
...and my friends adjust their noses to keep up with the plastic surgery trends...
 
...the turned-up nose surgery that was popular last year in Seoul, is now out...
 
...in favor of the straighter rhinoplasty trend this season...
 
 
...the fact that I am even discussing chest surgery with my boss is a little awkward, but not so strange for South Korea...
 
(...but I'm not even considering it...because **ouch ouch ouch**...)
 
...I know my big-breasted Korean colleagues will likely have to change their implants next year or the year after that... and I don't envy that so much...
 

Monday, March 3, 2014

End of Blogs.

I am not so interested in blogging these days...
 
...maybe because it is almost my 5th year anniversary of living in Seoul South Korea...
 
...and the purpose of the blog may have exhausted itself...
 
 
...I suppose the blog began three years ago because I was making a lot of cultural mistakes in Korea and I didn't have so many ways to feel out what I was doing wrong...
 
 
...when I first came to Korea I was getting a lot of strange requests from Korean bosses and I couldn't quite understand what was going on because I was close to illiterate when I first arrived and there was an expectation that I could understand Korean...
 
...but it took a bit of time...
 
 
...there were a lot of investigations into my personal life...
 
...mainly because most of the single girls who come fresh off the boat to South Korea are imported as foreign brides, or alternatively as sex workers, and each foreign girl must be placed in one of those two categories...
 
 
...there are many joys of living in South Korea, but the cultural mistakes were a long process...
 
... and most of the time I was struggling to figure out why I was making everyone so angry...
 
 
...so I think that is originally how the blog began...
 
...as I confused about what Koreans expected of me...
 
...and I was fairly unsure of my place in Korean society (still slightly unsure...)...
 
 
...these days...
 
...I don't feel so much like I need a blog as a crutch...
 
...and I collect quite a bit of hate mail...
 
...so I wonder if I even need blogging as a kind of therapy...anymore...
 
 
...last week my Korean boss cupped her hand over my shoulder blade...
 
...she checked how much fat I have on my back...
 
 
 
...and it came to her attention that I have been gaining weight over the winter...
 
 
...I had a similar situation like this when I first came to Korea...
 
...but at that time I didn't quite understand it at that time...
 
 
...five years ago I would have taken months to figure out why my Korean boss was so fixated on details and monitoring my weight...
 
...however...
 
...these days I just get on with it...
 
...I am not eating in front of my boss for the next while...
 
...keeping check on how much beer/snacks I am consuming at work dinners...
 
 
...of course...
 
...I am still making mistakes from time to time and making Koreans very very angry...
 
...however...
 
...I don't think I need my blog so much anymore as a sounding board for how clueless I am in Seoul...
 
...maybe I am a bit too old for that...
 
(...and yes, as the siberian winter is ending, the weight should fall off shortly...hopefully...)
 

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Girls.

I frequently worry about Korean girls...
 
...maybe because I am at the end of my twenties...
 
...and when I first arrived in Korea I was at the start of my twenties...
 
 
...and somehow I feel responsible for Korean girls...
 
...because I have lived with so many of them...
 
...and my district is the club district in Seoul...
 
...and so many girls in this area work late nights...
 
 
...a couple of years ago I lived on campus at Yonsei when I was studying in the 어학당...
 
..and walking around Sinchon and Hongdae...
 
...any hour between 10pm and 3am...
 
...there were seriously drunk kids (often yonsei freshmen) on the street...
 
...completely unconscious...
 
...often abandoned by their friends...
 
 
...this worried me a lot...
 
...and sometimes I still see it...
 
 
 
...as my dormitory was divided based on gender...
 
...I often overheard a lot of talk among girls that concerned me...
 
...and often younger Korean girls asked me questions that they were scared to ask other Koreans...
 
 
...the most frequent questions were along the lines of ;
 
1. "Is abortion the best form of contraception?"
 
2. "What happens if I wake up on Sunday morning in a Love Motel and I remember nothing?"
 
3.  "My physics tutor forced me to go to a Love Motel, what should I have done?"
 
 
...as one of the older girls in my dorm...
 
...I could only cry when I heard these questions...
 
...because...where does one start...(?)
 
 
...for all the romanticism that exists in Korean dramas...
 
...there is rarely much romance going on in the lives of young Korean women...
 
...and all the romantic imagery in such dramas only goes further to confuse Korean girls about how to address real life issues...
 
...there is really not a lot of space for Korean girls to talk to their parents or even their peers about these issues...
 
...so as an 언니...
 
...and as a foreign 언니...
 
..I try to address these questions with some cultural sensitivity...
 
...even though I am raging inside about how such incidents even occur...
 
 
...I asked my boss recently if Korean girls check their health frequently...
 
...and my boss explained that most Korean girls are concerned about the shame and the expense...
 
...which of course leads to students encountering incidents at school of multiple abortions and problems regarding sexual health...
 
...these are all very sensitive issues...
 
...but I felt that they were issues that were affecting students and they were things that probably should have been addressed by student advisors or by parents...
 
...these are topics that will maybe never come up in Korean dramas...
 
...and it's why I still worry about Korean girls...
 

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Appropriation.

I just returned to Seoul from Istanbul and I think I may still be slightly jetlagged...

 
...this was my second trip to Turkey...
 
...and this time everything went relatively smoothly...
 
(...my first trip to Turkey involved food poisoning...)
 
 
...the bazaars in Turkey are extensive...
 
...there is no shortage of old Turkish men pimping spices, carpets, gold, and "traditional" Turkish garments...
 
 
...every month I sort through markets North of the river in Seoul looking for traditional Korean hats, hanboks, fabrics...
 
...it's a futile hobby because I barely have enough space for my hedgehogs in my apartment...
 
...nevermind the 25 hanboks squashed next to the washing machine...
 
 
...I generally have the same mind when I am outside of Korea...
 
...I collect traditional hats and traditional garments in the Middle East and in Asia and maybe even further abroad...
 
...whether or not these items are in fact true "traditional" cultural items is really very subjective...
 
...a lot of it is really very kitsch...and maybe that is part of the reason I like it...
 
(...as I don't think I am really a Jewish man when I wear peyot/kippah...but something about it intrigues me...)
 
...however...
 
...recently I have pondered if I am really being very offensive by appropriating people's cultural wares...
 
...a discussion about this has been brewing in internet land for quite some time...
 
...see here...
 
 
...I could have bought all kinds of Turkish hats/sultan outfits...
 
...but...
 
...I am getting self-conscious about "stealing" other cultures in a way which is perceived as imperialistic...
 
 
...am I overthinking this... ?
 
 
...in India last year I was advised about what to wear by multiple people who had worked in India...
 
...and I was told to wear saris...and to cover my ankles...and also my face in certain areas...
 
...by "appropriating" an Indian sari...
 
...I would hope that I would not be "stealing" Indian culture...
 
 
...but in the US...
 
...apparently it is offensive for a white person to wear an Indian headdress...
 
...as this is symbolic of white people oppressing Native Americans and "stealing" the culture of the Native Americans...
 
 
...I understand this could be a very sensitive issue...
 
 
...my question is...
 
...if (as a "white-faced"?) Australian female...
 
...am I sending an offensive message of imperialism if I wear a hanbok...or a kimono...or any other form of national/historical dress... (?)
 
 
...maybe the issue is about intent or motive...
 
...or perhaps it is about the cultural context...
 
 
...I could issue a statement...;
 
"I... Luigina of Australia...
 
...have no desire to impose my "imperialistic" Australian values on Korea by wearing a hanbok...and I in no way want to steal from Korean culture by appropriating a hanbok..."
 
 
...I don't think my motivation here is to actually steal parts of other people's cultures...
 
...I think I am just depressed about the fact that Australia has no "traditional food", "traditional music", "traditional headdress" that defines the nation...
 
...and it makes me want to understand why Koreans have so much complicated heritage/traditions...
 
 
...I am mildly irritated when I see Australians complain about Asian immigrants, and then when they turn around, I see they have a geisha tattoo on their arm and chinese characters tattooed on their back...
 
...what the hell is that about...
 
 
...I don't find my Australian values to be superior to the values of Turkish people or Korean people...
 
...I hope nobody thinks I am trying to fly an Australian flag and enforce my own culture if I wear some kind of Mongolian traditional dress ...

Saturday, January 18, 2014

'No'

I have been hearing the word 'No' a lot in Korea this week and it's starting to grind on me a bit...
 
 
... there is mounting pressure on me to marry a Korean man as my Korean age is now over 30 and maybe my colleagues want me to change companies...
 
 
...when I explain to Koreans around me that I can support myself independently in Asia into my thirties, forties, and beyond...
 
...they usually laugh and say; "No"...
 
 
...many older Koreans are starting to give me (unwanted?) advice because Lunar New Year is fast approaching and all my Korean cousins (in my Korean homestay family...) have gotten married in recent times and I am the last remaining old lady...
 
 
...when I decided to move out of my homestay family's house six months ago to live alone everyone said "No"...
 
...because single women who live in Gangnam are considered less virtuous that Korean girls that live with their families...
 
...and I was advised that living with a Korean family would reflect better on my character during sogaetings...
 
 
...when I explained that I would be able to cover my rent alone without having an arranged marriage in 2013...
 
...everyone said "No"...
 
 
...I am aware that a full interrogation of my working and personal life will ensue at 설날 in Korea...
 
...as I have been avoiding all the sogaetings and talk of sogaetings in recent times...
 
 
...when I originally planned to move to Korea 5 years ago I said I would learn the language and customs over a certain period of time...
 
...and everyone said; "No"...
 
...many people advised me that Korea was too dangerous or not a safe place for single women...
 
 
...when I first visited Korea 10 years ago...
 
...women were not socially allowed to smoke...
 
...and if they smoked in public they were publicly shamed...
 
...everyone said "No"...
 
 
...and often when I take vacations by myself...
 
...many Koreans say "No"...
 
...because single females travelling by themselves has a negative connotation for Koreans...
 
 
...while I am polite and accept advice from people who want to lead me in the right direction as I am a 동생...
 
...I feel like most of the advice that Koreans give me about marriage and survival is a little bit quirky...
 
...I am often told not to do Taekwondo and boxing as it is...
 
 ..."not very feminine, and Korean men prefer girls who do yoga..."
 
 
...if I fail all the sogaetings and if I am seen smoking or if a rumour circulates that I went on a vacation by myself...
 
...I am really not so worried about how that will affect my status in Korean society...
 
...because everyone likes to gossip about foreigners regardless...