Living in Wonju South Korea, These Many Long Years

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

Sunday, May 18, 2014


Saturday afternoon. Waeg is out with the fam; an old friend who left this most finest of peninsulas years back has returned for a visit with his wife’s family.  The decision was made to spend the day at world number one best amusement park, Everland, as the kids had been pestering them about it for weeks.  There were reservations expressed about this plan, as the incredible popularity of said number one world best park would ensure massive line ups, but the kids had latched on to the plan and would become inconsolable if it were changed.

The crowds are thick as respective broods are led from ride to ride. The interminable waiting becomes near unbearable when a break for lunch is suggested; a cold drink greatly appeals to waeg, and the herding of the kids towards the concession stands begins. The lines seem longer for food, but no matter: sustenance will be procured! The heat and noise of the crowd are starting to affect the band of adventurers, evident as the kids start to bicker. While standing in line, waeg daydreams about pandemics that wipe out 50% of the world population. He imagines how such a scenario would play out when he is interrupted by a yell of pain from his friend. He turns around to see him holding his hand tightly and glaring menacingly at a little girl; she looks bewildered, shocked, then darts off into the crowd.

She freakin’ bit me! She just kept tugging at my arm yelling how she wanted some water and then sank her teeth into my hand!

This is truly a WTF moment, and waeg understands his friend’s anger. His friend rants on about being glad for leaving Korea, how he got really sick of listening to the kids act like such rude little idiots around waegs, always acting so disrespectful since they hadn’t been taught properly.

When I was a kid, the first time I saw a black guy I pointed to him and said, Mom, look, a black man! She smacked me upside the head and lectured me on how rude it was to point, that there were many different types of people in the world and they all deserved respect. Korean parents just don’t teach that kind of shit man, it’s more like randomly walking through Emart and Korean mom or dad tells little Minsoo to go up to the only waeg in the store and practice his English! Or they would come over and start petting my kids, and flat out say how cute the little mixed race kid is! I would just say look lady, be civil or just leave me and my family alone, got it? Man, I can’t believe it, been here less than a week and some kid comes over and freakin’ bites me! Unbelievable!

Waeg can understand, as he too has experienced similar situations. But the tension is too high, and won’t help get cold drinks and food, so he deflects the situation by asking about his friend’s new promotion to district manager. This works reasonable well, and soon they are seated at a bench staked out by the kids enjoying frosty drinks and sandwiches. The mood is much improved as they finish up and decide to try the bumper cars before calling it a day.

They are standing in line waiting when suddenly a little girl a few meters ahead starts bawling her head off. Waeg clocks that it is the same girl that had bit his buddy; she is standing next to a man who is probably her father. She wants to leave, wants to get out; her dad tries to console her, to calm her down, but she will not listen. Dad, annoyed as they’d wasted considerable time standing in line, has no choice but to take her away. As they pass, waeg does a double take. The dad is wearing a lime green polo shirt and tan pants. His buddy is wearing the same. Waeg draws this fact to his buddy’s attention: maybe the girl had been tugging on his arm asking for a drink since she had confused the two, and bit him when he didn’t respond thinking she was biting her dad.

Dude, really? I’m not Korean, don’t you think she would have noticed that?

Possibly. But stranger mistakes have been made, and the big city is bright and loud, maybe the heat and confusion just got to her.

Yeah, sure, whatever. What kind of dad lets it get to the point that your kid thinks it’s OK to bite you when you want attention? Forget it man, I’m glad I left.

For a moment, waeg thinks about what he can say, but nothing comes. His buddy is right: it probably is a good thing he left. Many a waeg gets stuck in a loop, living in cheap crappy housing, surrounded by ijits, doing work that brings no satisfaction and few rewards. Being a long term expat can take its toll on even the most intelligent and hardy traveler; waeg is just happy it’s been a while since he’s had a meltdown or gone off on someone for idiocy, although he knows it will happen again eventually. Such are the trials of living as a waeg. He changes the subject, and talks about happier times in lands far, far, away.

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