Hope everyone is having a good start to 2019! Zach and I have been laying low since we leave for vacation in 3 days, but all in all its been a good start to the year and we are excited to explore 2 new countries in a few days.
Zach and I brought in the new year with some friends of ours, and in doing so we learned that Korean’s bring in the new year by watching the first sunrise of the year. It was pretty neat seeing all the pictures of the sunrise the following day on social media, and maybe next year we will partake in that tradition. Since we didn’t learn about this until right before midnight, there was no way we were waking up to see that sunrise…hey, at least I’m honest. Instead of watching the ball drop, we watched them ring a bell in downtown Seoul to symbolize the new year. I have to say, it was kind of weird being 14 hours ahead of the East Coast, but still a fun night overall.
We have officially been in Korea for 6 months now, and though the honeymoon stage is over, overall its still been a great experience; its hard to believe our time here is a fourth of the way over! I guess time flies when you are busy exploring. I will say that now that the newness has worn off, I’ve been noticing some things that I didn’t in the beginning, and its been pretty eye opening to say the least…
I know racism and nationalism is not something that is only found in the United States, and quite honestly found all over the world, but I will say I was pretty naïve to how prominent those two sentiments are here in Asia. I had no idea that the Koreans don’t like the Japanese, that the Filipinos don’t like Koreans, and NO ONE likes China. Seriously, no one likes the Chinese, but everyone happily takes their money because they are big vacationers. When we were on our honeymoon in Bali, our tour guide made a few off hand comments about the Chinese during our trip, but I kind of just brushed it off, thinking nothing of it. When we went to Malaysia in November, both tour guides we had made off hand comments about the Chinese. Its been eye opening. Right now, there are signs right outside the main gate professing hate towards China. People actually paid money to print “we hate China” signs. Multiple signs. Its a little intense. Needless to say, its been very interesting observing and learning about why these cultures hold negative feelings towards each other and seeing it play out as we travel and live our lives here in Asia.
In many of my blog entries, I have reiterated how accommodating and nice the Koreans have been towards us, the foreigners as we are called, and that still holds true to what I have experienced so far. However, I have been hearing stories about Americans being denied service at various establishments in Seoul, and even here in Pyeongtaek. We met a couple at a party a few months ago and they had been in Seoul the night before and were kicked out of a bar for being foreigners. I have seen posts on our spouse’s Facebook page about this happening to others as well. And of course these individuals have been outraged: how dare they! Is this normal? Its also been interesting to see that all of these people who have either posted on the Facebook page or that I met with these stories were all Caucasian. I couldn’t help but find the irony in the situation being that shit like this happens all the time to people who have a darker skin complexion. I might have internally said to myself “oh you poor thing…you don’t like that???” I remember when I first moved to Virginia, I had a friend in school who wasn’t allowed to come to my house because my Dad had some color to his skin. I didn’t know what racism was until then, because I grew up with a Caucasian Mom and a Puerto Rican Dad…I just didn’t see color. I lived my life blissfully unaware of assholes like that until I was 15 years old… Thanks Virginia. So, like I said, its been fascinating to see people be the victim to that kind of mentality for the first time and how outraged they have been in response. And don’t get me wrong, it sucks that it exists and that it happens, and I was really surprised to hear that it was happening here in Korea towards us foreigners, but seriously, worse shit has happened in our own country. I am by no means belittling what happened to them here, because it does suck, but a part of me finds it ironic. If that makes me an asshole, so be it. At least I own it. And then, ironically, I was walking to post just the other day and noticed “Koreans Only” painted on a door not even 3 blocks from base. The things that become obvious when you are in tune with an issue; I have literally walked by that “Koreans Only” sign for 6 months without noticing it.
But you know what? Right outside of base feels a little like an American shopping center…everything is in English, there are all kinds of restaurants and shops that make it feel like home, and we as a foreign population make little to no effort to learn the language while we are here, not only taking advantage of the hospitality we are shown, but also expecting it. So shame on us. While it sucks that there are places that I am not welcome at here in Korea, I kind of get it. And honestly, I don’t WANT to go somewhere I’m not welcome. So as much as I hate that it even exists, I’m not up in arms about it like some of my peers are, because overall I have been showered with nothing but kindness and warmth from the Koreans, but realistically I can’t expect for every Korean to be happy we are here and welcome us with open arms. We have to remind ourselves that we are guest in this country, and unfortunately some of our peers act like grade A jackasses while here, making a bad name for those of us who are respectful of our time here. Because of these shenanigans, we have curfew and there are establishments that are anti-foreigner: I’m not going to let that hinder the awesome experience I am having so far, but I will definitely be more mindful while out and about in Korea to make sure I am wandering into places where I am welcome.
Hope I didn’t ruffle too many feathers with this post, but the purpose of this blog is to share my experience here in Korea: good, bad, and ugly. And unfortunately, I am learning that there is an ugly side of Korea, but luckily I haven’t witnessed it personally directed at me. I can only keep treating my fellow humans just as that, humans, and hope that this way of thinking is contagious.
Next blog entry will be about our upcoming adventures in Cambodia and Vietnam! I am so dang excited for this trip! After that, we will be taking a few month break from traveling; Zach’s work schedule is cray cray for the next few months and we aren’t made of money LOL.
Until next time…