To start this week I could write you a lovely story about my weekend spent outside in gorgeous Gwangju, drinking beer and feeling pretty positive about life in general. It’s been beautiful here lately, which is both wonderful and confusing. Amazing weather, happy students and activities every weekend until August make it hard to understand why I would leave. I know that I don’t belong here another year, but right now I’m blinded by the spring sunshine. In order to balance the scale of my emotions, I have to really focus on the mundane reasons that, considered collectively, remind me why I’m out in four months. Thus, in no particular order, here are five things right off the top of my head that I will not miss about Korea.
The Sound of Motorbike
Motorbikes are the bane of my Korean existence, mostly because of the frequency with which they interrupt my sleep. Despite the fact that the street I live on is actually ONLY TWO BLOCKS long before it dead ends on either side, it’s a main thoroughfare for every delivery guy/junk collector/joyrider in Korea. As such, there are motorbikes roaring down the block at all hours, ripping me out of my delicate sleep multiple times a night and eventually sending me into an unfathomable rage that has more than once resulted in my half naked upper torso hanging out the window at 2 a.m cursing in English and making scowly faces. Bike noise makes the screaming sirens of Chicago seem like a lullabies.
Height of Counters/Sinks/Brooms
Stereotype Says: Asians are short. Reality Says: Asians are short(er than me). Which means that everything in my house is shorter than me too. Stooping to chop vegetables and do the dishes is super uncomfortable and has probably deformed me into some sort of hunchback. I cannot wait to return to the land of upright sweeping. But the most obnoxious part of my low sink is the splashing. Since the sink only comes up to my crotch but the faucet is at a normal height, any water that splashes at me when I’m doing dishes makes it look like I peed myself. Every. Time.
Armrests on Buses
I have surprisingly few complaints about public transportation in this country, so the armrests on the bus chairs pretty much tops my list as The Stupidest Thing About. The only purpose for arm rests is comfort, and please, who are we kidding? It’s a bus. No amount of comfort is going to make it anymore than a shared torture device. These armrests provide a special kind of ass-to-face awkwardness for anyone who sits down in a double seat. Koreans, ajummas in particular, who sit in the outside seat are flat out unwilling to get up to let you out if you are on the inside. If there were no arm rest, they could swing their legs into the aisle to let you pass, but as the armrests do exist, you have no choice but to sit on ajummas lap while the both of you grunt, legs-a-tangle, trying to unsandwich. The end result is always a mean poke from either the ajumma or the armrest in the most private of places.
Nothing makes me more anxious than a stranger being all up in my business; it brings out the maniac in me. This is standard in Korea, especially at the ATM. I swear, Americans at home would punch a guy who stood this close to them when they were conducting bank business, but in Korea, you are expected to hold your position in line by grinding on the person in front you. And if you prefer not to do this because you are American and uncomfortable with stranger rubbing, you will get cut in line and be shit out of luck.
Crackers and Cookies
Petty complaint? Yes, but also consistently irksome enough that I must mention it. Buy a single box of saltines, crackers, Oreos, etc., and it will appear that inside the box is an entire sleeve of said treat. But when you open it, you find that there are anywhere from two to four smaller packages. The stupidity of this Russian Doll scheme is threefold. It’s a waste of packaging, you end up getting way less cracker than you originally think, and it means you must eat the amount of treat allotted by the snack company. Six crackers. Five Oreos. If you want more or less than what has already been decided for you, tough shit.