Saturday, July 31, 2010

The One That Got Away

There have been two men in my life that I have loved. I don't often talk of the one, mainly because he is married and out of respect for him, his wife, and their relationship. But this is *my* blog, about *my* life. He is half a world and half a lifetime away, and he is right here in my mind.

I'm not sure how he became so important to me. I mean, sure there was a connection - you know the kind. You look at each other and know there is something. It's like the air sizzles. People around you notice, say something, you make Freudian slips around each other, but you deny - to each other, to yourself, and to the world. It was like that between him and me. We are friends. That is all. But in our hearts, we know, we live knowing "if..."

We still communicate on occasion, he and I. As always, there's a part of me that thinks that clandestine word "affair". Oh, his wife knows that we communicate. There is no drama llama nonsense, there is no hiding. But still the word flits through my mind like a word on the tip of your tongue - it's there but you can't quite reach it.

He pulls at my heart. I see him, and I read his posts and chat with him every now and then. Mostly, though, I remember. I remember how I felt beautiful and strong and desirable when I was with him. I remember how much he laughed with me, the night he gave me a gift, the joy I felt being in a room with him and dozens of other people, always knowing exactly where he was that night.

Sometimes now, though, i wonder if it is him I am remembering or the feelings he elicited in me. The passion, the desire. I miss feeling beautiful. I miss feeling strong. I miss knowing that there is someone out there who really does have regrets about me.

He is back home, living a wonderful life with his wife. I don't begrudge him that, and he is happy. He's a dad, he has his hobbies and his work. I wish him well. I live my life, writing, working, having my hobbies and such. He wishes me well.

But every now and then, I indulge in a bit of "what if" daydreaming. I wonder about if I'd met him before his wife did. I wonder about if I'd stayed in the USA. I wonder about if we'd felt the spark when it wouldn't have been forbidden fruit. I like to think that every now and then he has a "what if" moment about me, too. I hope, a vain part of me hopes, that I am at times his Eve dangling an apple before the mists of his memory.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Being an Ambassador

My friend Terry, a lovely Kanuck woman (I probably misspelled Kanuck - arrogant American!), and I were talking the other day about the difficulties of being so very different here. It's like we have a big target on our foreheads, people stare. It is sometimes like being a monkey behind bars in the zoo. "Oooo look at that - they can eat with chopsticks, just like us!" or "Wow! They are speaking our language HA HA HA!" or the worst one, "Get out of my way, damned waygook." That last one can be a real pisser.

In Korea, there is a huge hierarchical system set up. They don't talk about, and it isn't always obvious to us, but it's there in some subtle and some not so subtle ways. The people at the convenience store will take the money from the ajeshis(older men) before taking our money, the older folks can touch others without being reprimanded. More obviously,people defer to each other, stepping aside, bowing their heads, averting eye contact. There are 7 levels of respect in the Korean language. So, the Koreans need to figure out which level to put you into. I've not really managed to let them know that we have (from my observation) about 3 levels in English.*

Koreans can't figure out how old we are, they don't know what job we do or how much money we make or what our title is. Therefore, they can't figure out if we are worthy of respect. So... sometimes ugliness ensues. Their sense of hierarchy smashes right up against our beliefs in equality and fairness. For the most part, the ex-patriates are ok with the difference, we handle it, we respect the culture, we let it go. But some days...SOME DAYS we just want to play Smashmouth.

There is a responsibility that most of us see as part of our duty of living abroad. We are ambassadors for our countries and for the world in general. We don't want to offend, we want them to think well or our countries, we are aware we are *guests* in their country, and frankly we don't need a run in with the law. Geesh, can you imagine that kind of fiasco! So, when they shove us or butt in front of us or slurp their noodles so loudly we can't hear ourselves think, we grin and bear it. Sometimes we grit and bear it. Other days we get in their faces.

I've been here for two months, and already someone has confronted a Korean *for* me and I've confronted one for someone else. We do it when they cross a line that means "danger" to us somehow, and we are careful. Because we are in a foreign environment, we don't always see the danger that comes our way or we don't want to confront it. Realistically, it could be a misunderstanding. So we try to be gentle about it. Ok, sometimes we do it when they just piss us off and have caught us on a bad day. But hey, you don't get to shove (truly SHOVE) my friend out of the way so you can go stand at the front of the line to get into the subway. Evidently men don't get to openly stare at my breasts about a foot and a half from me either.

In the end, we feel the weight of being on display and needing to respect their culture while honoring our own. It can be at times something of a heavy burden. Holding back because we know there is probably misunderstanding is one thing. Letting people bulldoze us is another. It reminds me that there are assholes everywhere. Sometimes I'm the asshole, sometimes I'm the one shat upon. Meh. It's the same everywhere.

*Nothing scientific about this or necessarily even correct, but in case anyone is wondering, the levels as I see them: Authority (the way you talk to a judge or police officer or the principal at school using words like "May" and "would you mind if..."), Informal (the way you talk to most everyone else, ("Can" instead of "may", using first names and no titles, etc.), Friends (the way you can say, "Hey bitch, what's up" to your best friend and not begin a smackdown).

Saturday, July 24, 2010

The Urge to Hide from Life

It's not always easy, life.

While generally things are bright and good if we choose to look at them that way, there is always something that is a monkey on our backs. I certainly have them, we all do don't we?

Today is a difficult day for me. I look around my room, the little pink post-its with words that tell me of stories I want to write, characters I want to breathe life into, ideas I want to use, and even though I'm surrounded by these little bits of inspiration, I find it hard to pick up the pen.

I'm feeling overwhelmed - by the simple things - paying bills, errands to run, letters to write, gifts to be gotten, mail to be sent. There is truly nothing overwhelming about them. I just don't know which one to do first!

So, rather than just sit and stew, I'm off to Mrs. Jung's Coffee Shop. She plays jazz music over the speakers and old black and white movies on the wall (no sound). The coffee is good, the chairs are comfortable, and the setting is relaxing.

I think I will make a logo for her ... just for fun. (after I do at least 2 of the things above - paying bills, writing a couple of letters, and perhaps even reading a chapter in a book. I think I'm allowed to rest. I'm allowed to have peace. And as importantly, a good cup of coffee is a blessing.

Best to you all.

Coffee mug is at this website:

Friday, July 16, 2010

A Room of One's Own - a room to create

I found a new place to stay - a place with an actual bathroom! I have a water boiler and made a lovely cup of tea tonight. With a little more space, I've bought plants and, there is a window, there's a desk with a chair. And mostly, there is breathing room.

It's amazing what a little space can do for a person. Dinner here, a pot of coffee in the morning, and a bottle of wine just waiting to be opened. My place to create is here.

Recently I decided to write a book. It poured out of me, the silliest little thing - a book of humor and joy. A book to celebrate silliness. I wrote this short little ten page book the other day as a gift for a friend. Looking for an artist, I realized something. I am an artist. I am learning to draw. No, I am drawing. There is space in this room for art supplies. I am committed to drawing the art work for this little ten page book that I'm making for a friend.

I am writing a book of prayers. Inspired by my friend Mo, I have been writing "Say it in a Sentence" for several months. These little moments of truth are the basis for a book of spirituality. Perhaps the truth of the art will flow through me as well. I can only wait and be open to it.

A place to write... Virginia Woolf said, "For it would seem - her case proved it - that we write, not with the fingers, but with the whole person. The nerve which controls the pen winds itself about every fibre of our being, threads the heart, pierces the liver." And so, my whole person needed a place. This place is my writing place.

Don't be surprised if I write you a postcard, a letter, a note on the back of a used envelope or a book jacket. The need to write is like a drug for me. If I don't write, I will fall inside myself and shrivel into tiny crystallized, broken, brittle pieces. Do you see the words? They sear read hot and smoking in my heart until I open and let them out.... they dance and weep and fly. And I am nothing more than the incubation chamber for the words that live, live, live... Let them breathe. Oh my friends, I must let them breathe.


Wednesday, July 7, 2010


Let's talk about shit, shall we? Yes, I do mean shit. The real stuff.

In Korea most older bathrooms are squatters. For a woman to "go", one must lift one's skirt, lower one's panties, squat, aim, let flow.... or plop. The Koreans must have amazingly strong legs and great aim. I have neither. And when I'm sick, I'm lucky to get my panties out of the way.

Last week I couldn't keep anything down. Alternately vomiting and diarrhea-ing, my friendly goshiwon bathroom (and kitchen, shower, street vent) became my very own sicky-stop. It was never ending! I did all the things you are supposed to do, eat a BRAT diet (bread, rice, applesauce, tea), lots of fluids, rest. Having had food poisoning a number of times, I presumed that's all it was. One day, possibly two, clear out the old system, and I'll be good as new.

Day three, fever, sweating, chills, and right on the cusp of hallucinations because of dehydration, I decided it was time. I walked into my teacher's art studio, she took one look at me and went into high gear. She didn't even wait for me to speak to tell me she was taking me to the doctor. I must have looked seriously bad. Her tiny little feet click click click around while I moved at a snail's pace trying to just put on some clothes, drink some water, get my insurance card. Oh... and stop to be sick twice before even getting in the car.

By the then, the news of my sickness had spread to all my Korean friends like wildfire. Did I send out a text? Was the timing such that they all happened to contact me at that point? It was actually a combination. I told 2 people, and yet 5 different people were texting me - Can I bring you something? Do you want me to meet you at the hospital? Are you ok? The outpouring of concern was touching. I couldn't talk and concentrate on not getting sick at the car, so AhYoung fielded the calls.

At the hospital, the lovely Dr. Kim (shocking a Dr. KIM)spoke good English and told me about the lab work they would do while some nurse was able to stick a big enough needle into my hand as to break through my nauseous haze. OWWW! Poor Dr. Kim. I laughed and giggled as he checked my tummy. When I put my hands on top of his for the exam, a very intimate act here, the lovely Dr. Kim pulled away. I explained it was the only way to stop the tickling. Ahhh. And then the suggestion of an x-ray. No, I tell him. I'm mildly averse to x-rays, and then re-think(ish)through the fog. What is it for? To check for a blockage. No, I respond. We'll wait till after the lab work and see if it's necessary. He was all *blink blink*. People rarely question doctors here.

The IV fluids did wonders for me. No longer dehydrated, I could think as clearly as I generally do. I didn't have to pay the nausea price for that either! A bacterial infection they tell me. They don't know what, only that I have a fever, and they will treat the symptoms, letting the bacteria die out naturally after about a week. I will feel better in a few days.


I can barely walk, I'm still sweating profusely, and my tummy is dancing somersaults. But I'll feel better in a few days. *sigh*

The prescription - several attempts at explaining my multiple medication allergies resulted in finally learning that the medicine was not any of the hive-producing, itchy tablets. But they are placed in little sealed packets. In this bag, take one little packet 30 minutes before eating. This packet, 30 minutes after eating lunch, in the last packet 30 minutes after breakfast and dinner. All of them 3 times a day to stop the mass exodus from my body after only one bite. I guess they didn't realize I eat 5 small meals a day instead of three big ones. Ahh well.

For the next three days I still had some bouts of sickness, tapering to mere stomach gurgling (like there was a DRAGON in there!) and before I knew it I was good as ... well someone without diarrhea.

I still don't squat, but at least I'm not using everything in sight as my own personal regurgitorium.

Did I mention - ER visit, medication, lab work, IV, the whole shebang. Total bill about $150. Insurance paid half.

*photo off the internet - you don't think I'd actually *go* there, do you? With my knees?