Living in Wonju South Korea, These Many Long Years

Living in Wonju South Korea, These Many Long Years: Version 2.0!

Monday, March 3, 2014

Me and my Big Mouth

Sometimes people say all kinds of crap without thinking about it too much.

This blog is a case in point.  I just speak my mind, when I should just sit quietly.

Today around the water cooler several colleagues were commenting on my new hanbok.  I actually like to wear them often, prefering more modernized cotton ones; I find them more comfortable and easier to take care of.  Some were joking about how I was becoming more and more Korean, when Mr. Nam laughed and said:  Mr. Waeg! You are Hamel!

A silence descended on the group as they seemed to sense that some boundry had been crossed and a storm was just over the horizon.  At first I thought Mr. Nam had said Hammington, but luckily for him I understood quickly that he was refering to the Dutch sailor who had been shipwrecked off Jeju island in the 17th century.  I felt my eye twitch as I asked:

Why Mr. Nam, do you say that?  Why do you think I am like Hamel?

You know Hamel?  You live in Korea and do like Korean, you are working for us!

Yes I know Hamel, I'm a nerd who often loves to read a lot.  So do you think I am a slave in Korea, working on Sejong's farm, being forced to stay away from my family and make muskets for the Hermit Kingdom?  Should I be planning my escape?  

Escape?  Haha no you will be here forever Mr. Waeg! You have good life and beautiful wife. 

Before I could stop myself, I felt myself say:

Well, that all may be true, Mr. Nam, but I am surprised you choose to see things that way.  You know, over the years, I used to laugh when people said I looked like Bruce Willis, Brad Pitt, or some other famous movie star; this is the first time I get compared to Hamel, so that is something new, thank you!  Still, I find it interesting that when I read many Asian American websites, many writers chose to subscribe to a cult of victimhood, complaining how society in general forces them to fit very narrow ideas of Asianess, which demonstrates a lack of true understanding and overeliance on stereotypical views, limiting their ability to develop true agency and self identity.  But isn't it the same when you say this kind of thing to me?  Hahaha, no I choose not to think of myself as a slave here, not like Hamel, as I'd rather understand that I'm here because I choose to be, and that most Koreans understand this fact and do not see me as simply a charicature of whiteness. Why can't I just be waeg?  How would you feel if I called you Bruce Lee? Hahahaha

When I said this last, Mr. Nam became very indignant: Bwuce Lee? Bwuce Lee??! 
I think he may have been mad at how I compared him to a Chinese dude, or was perhaps upset that I knew who Hamel was, thus stealing his thunder by avoiding a lecture on how I should understand more about Korea, but I digress.  Before anything more could be said, break time was over and we went back to work.  But Mr. Nam is definitely still sore at me.

Now, I do believe that stupidity is a universal constant, and I'm hoping he won't hold a grudge against me and that his panties aren't in a knot about it.  From experience, these types of conversation never end well.  You can't win and its best to just smile.  When will I ever learn? 

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