Monday, August 31, 2009
He wasn't a boyfriend. He wasn't a lover. He was someone who came into my life when I needed a friend the most. The kind you can talk about endless topics for hours on end and never get bored with each other's company. Mind you, I mean phone and online company. Yes, this is one of those stories that ten years ago would have made people's jaws drop.
A phone / cyber relationship.
But ours was not as simple as just that. We didn't meet in a chat room or online forum but were rather introduced by people we both knew.
To an outsider, the relationship was near perfect. What more could you ask for than a friend who is kind, caring, considerate, sharp, witty, well-liked, respectable...I could go on. Most of all, someone who says "I'm here for you" and actually means it.
Well that relationship ended. Not really ended. But withered away to another galaxy never to be seen or heard of again. At least with relationships, there's a definite "end" or break up. I think it's a bit more complicated when it comes to friendship. Although it happens, people don't 'break up' a friendship. They merely drift apart.
So seven years passed. Last year - June 2008, he crept back into my mind. I thought of him so much and wondered if it was possible to resurrect our friendship after three years short of a decade. Sometimes I'll admit I'm all talk and no action, but even I surprised myself at what I did.
After giving much thought and consideration to it, I plucked up the courage to e-mail him in July 2008. Seven years after we last spoke.
It took me 2 hours to write the e-mail. Probably longer.
As I hit the Send button, I asked my e-mail fairies to please deliver a reply to my Inbox the following day.
As you would imagine, I checked my e-mail countless times - and I kept calculating his and my time difference.
Maybe he didn't check his e-mail yet?
Maybe he's thinking out a long & thoughtful reply?
Maybe he's read it.
And maybe he's deleted it.
One will never understand the expression, "My heart jumped into my throat" until it actually happens.
When I saw I had 1 New Message, my heart felt like it skipped a beat. Seeing his name in my Inbox after all these years made my tummy flip. The next step was to open it and see what he had to say.
He said he was shocked to hear from me and that it had taken him all day and evening to write to me. I couldn't believe that I was reading an e-mail from him. I'd replayed this moment over and over in my mind *so* many times. He was online at the time, and we started an IM chat.
I can't explain it, but - apart from experiencing deja vu (for us both) it was as if nothing had changed. It was like time stood still and we were back in 2002 chatting away cracking jokes and poking fun at each other. No doubt he's changed. And so have I. But our communication was almost exactly the same. And we both agreed that it felt very comfortable talking to each other despite the 7-year gap. We chatted for over an hour.
The next day, we e-mailed and chatted for two hours. Our online times seemed to have worked out perfectly. When he was online at night, it was my lunchtime. I'd gulp down my rice and kimchi and rush upstairs to my office to chat to him - even if just for 20 minutes before my next class.
We continued e-mailing and chatting till about November 2008 (so in total - 4 months of on and off emails/chats)
And suddenly without any warning, my e-mail fairies stopped delivering his e-mails to my Inbox.
It's ok. It's *really* ok. Wanna know why? I figured all I ever needed was closure. That one little word that means SO much. I expressed everything I felt and wanted him to know in lengthy e-mails. I don't care whether or not he read them or deleted them. But I said what I had to.
So the sting of him disappearing from my Inbox and chat list is so much less painful than it was seven years ago. I've grown up. I'm matured. I've moved on.
Getting ready for work this morning, for some obscure reason he came into my thoughts. As far as I know, he's not on FB. I'd know because of our mutual friends. But he was unique like that, I thought - he didn't have to jump on the FB bandwagon just 'cause the whole world (almost literally) has a FB account. And that's what was so different about him. He was cool without tryig to be cool. But my mind occupied itself with my morning make-up routine and I hurried off to work.
Just before my first class of the day, I logged on. I couldn't believe my eyes. Right there, in the top right hand corner of my screen, FB was cheekily suggesting I add him as a friend. This was odd beyond words, as FB didn't point out our mutual friends as I don't *think* he has them on his list as yet.
Of course, I didn't add him. Clearly he doesn't want to communicate with me. And I don't believe in fighting against what's meant to happen.
But what are Big Guys up at FB headquarters up to? I mean, the e-mail address that I use for FB is not even the same one that I use when he and I used to e-mail / chat.
Well, I clicked the "x" next to his name - which was my way of saying to the FB fairies - "Thanks, but no thanks" Not for now anyway...
I met my friend Sarah for dinner after work today. We hadn't seen each other in a month 'cause I was in SA during the summer vacation. I gave her a necklace I'd bought for her - she loved it and put it on immediately. I told her it looked so good on her and the length seemed to be just right.
She looked down and made a zig zag action across her chest.
"I just wish these were bigger," she said.
I didn't see the connection between her chest and the necklace, but anyway...
"You can have some of mine if you want?! I have more than enough to share!"
She went on to tell me about a Tyra (Banks) show she'd seen over the holiday. It was about flat-chested women who so desperately wanted 'more'. They had friends with bigger busts on the show trying to convince their friends that they were "just fine."
Apparently some of the flatter chested women were in tears (and I've seen a few Tyra shows so I can just image) and went on to say that they absolutely hate it when people think they're 16 because of their flat chests, when they're already in their 20's.
In typical Tyra fashion, she reversed the roles (or boobs, if you like). She gave the flat-chested women enough pads to give them enough lift to give them enough cleavage to give them enough attention. And (somehow - I don't know how) the more 'gifted' ladies were changed into near-boobless women.
Tyra sent these women out in public and surprise surprise - ladies with more cleavage candy for the guys were drooling over them and offering to buy them drinks, whereas the those who were not so 'booby' now were simply ignored.
These men admitted that they were more attracted to ladies who offered more to put on show beneath their neckline.
As we wrapped up dinner and headed out, I said to Sarah, "I get stared at too, you know... often on the subway." - And I know they ain't staring at me 'cause I'm a foreigner. The Korean brothers (and older men) are anything but subtle about where their eyes wander to.
I'm not shy to admit that I've been gifted in 'that' department, and compared to my Korean friends, it's like I've hit the jackpot! Some of the comments I've received about my MILK BOXES (as my Korean father, Mr Lee calls them):
"Waaaa - I really envy you!"
"You so glamourous!" as they blatantly pointing to my chest.
Koreans tend to use this word, 'glamourous' rather awkwardly at times. If they like a jewelry piece I'm wearing, or they like the way my hair falls on a particular day, they tell me I'm "glamourous" One of my boy students complimented my bracelet once and said, "Teacher - elegant!"
Sarah went on to say that the guys who were on the Tyra show said that, "flat-chested women look just like dudes" Hmmmm, really now?
*Personally* I'd much rather have smaller boobs than bigger boobs. With a smaller package, you have so many more options - push up bra's, strappy tops, bikini tops etc. The lingerie stores here in Korea cater to almost every woman's need - I've seen bra's of every colour and design ... so many, that women can have a different bra for every outfit she owns.
Ladies with a heavier chest are more limited. Some won't even entertain the thought of leaving home bra-less, and how difficult is it to find tops that FIT snuggly without the buttons across your chest threatening to pop if you relax and breathe 'normally'?!
So while I know that my 'milk boxes' get some attention on the subway, and the onlookers aren't discreet about their eyes, I've stared right back at them. If my eyes could speak, they'd say "Hey fella - my face is up here"
I can definitely acknowledege that men 'appreciate' women's "assets" but their deep and curious fascination about these two amazing (I think) organs still tickles me!
LOADS more to talk about on this topic, but that's for another post.
For now, goodnight :)
I got to work pretty early 'cause I had paperwork to sort out before my first class at 9:00am. I was genuinely happy to see my lil' kiddies again. I taught 6th graders all day & started a new chapter, "How was your vacation?"
"Teechurr! In-ploo-en-za (influenza) ... you ... ok?" :-)
Sunday, August 30, 2009
"Hi Sheetal, how have you been doing? Did you have a good holiday? We miss you"
E-mails from my mum this week have ended with:
"Miss you so much"
A text from another friend:
"I miss you"
Other messages from friends have been signed off with "Miss ya stax"
All these "miss you" messages got me thinking about what it means to miss someone and what it feels like to *be* missed.
Despite the 7-hour time difference between my family & me, I am in daily contact with them - whether by e-mail, quick chats or texts. On some days, my schedule is so jam-packed with back to back classes that the only time I can go online properly is after work and even then, sometimes I'm not in the mood to be in front of my computer.
I can almost be guaranteed that every morning when I wake up, there will be a new e-mail in my Inbox from my mum. I may not reply immediately as I'm usually rushing to get ready for work, but no matter what - mum never fails to write me, and always signing off with "love you"
My mum and brother are in Mauritius for a few days. I'm missing their "online" presence or being able to contact them within seconds so very much.
I'm back in Korea for a week after spending a whole month with my family in South Africa. So many people have asked if I'm homesick, and the answer is always, "Not really." I guess I'm really accustomed to my life here. I have my own routine and slipped right back into it - except for sleep - after a whole week, my body still seems to be running on SA time :(
Now I'm not talking about those impersonal "miss ya" and "miss ya stax" kind o' messages. I'm talking about the ...
I miss you
I'm missing you
I miss chatting to you
I miss hearing your voice
I miss hanging out with you
I miss seeing you everyday
I'll admit that whether or not these folks were genuine in their messages, it felt good hearing it.
Being missed means that someone is thinking of ME during their busy day. It means that they wish they were with ME and not someone else. Hell, if anything - they're thinking *something* of me to make that up in the first place!
Some agree (myself included) that I've evolved into a tough cookie over the years. Having experienced various ordeals with people, I've created a very strong barrier around the one organ I try to protect the most - my heart.
Various circumstances have made it uneasy for me to trust just anyone whole-heartedly. And when talking about trust here, I mean - do I trust them when they say they like me? Do I trust them when they claim to be interested in me? Do I trust them that they actually *miss* me?
But every now and again, someone will come along and pull at my heartstrings - and this doesn't always have to be romantic - but the proverbial wall around my heart will be opened ever so slightly and allow that person in just a little bit.
Sometimes when I'm riding the subway, I look over at the students pondering over their study notes or textbooks on their way home from campus, I assume. I think back to my days on campus. Some days I so wish to be right back there in my lecture rooms or editing suites of the Journalism department.
The things I stressed about back then - essay deadlines, documentary filming deadlines, presentations, tests...it felt like I probably had the most work in all history of my faculty. But looking back on those years - daaayum, I had it gooo-oood! And then I think again. Campus life was good while it lasted. But do I really wish to be back there? Guess I should give thanks that I made it through 4 years there with skills and knowledge to equip me for the 'real world'. But yes, there are times when I *do* miss life as a student.
I never had to worry about shopping for dishwashing liquid or findig a fabric softener that I like. Or worry about paying my bills for my cable and gas every month.
When talking about being in a relationship and meeting someone new, my friend Jenean reminded me: "You can't miss something you've never had"
How can I miss being romanced and swooned over if it never happened in the first place? It makes complete sense!
So I think, just along with other words like "friend", "hate" and "love", we throw around this word, "MISS" way too much. We use endearing words on each other because it sounds sweet and makes the receiver feel good.
A message like "Hey - 'sup?"
can be sugared and turned into
"Hey honey/sweetie/sugar/babe/luv... how u doing?"
For me, these words of endearment are the
chocolate sprinkles of a bland message.
Saturday, August 29, 2009
Now the details of how we arrived at this point in our conversation is a bit blurry to me, but anyway -
I was telling Johnny about how in Korea there are more Korean girls dating foreign guys than there are Korean guys dating foreign girls. He looked at me confused and asked to explain.
I gave him the short version: Young Korean ladies want out. Korea is a very patriarchal society, and these lasses watch America TV shows like Sex & the City and fantasize about having lovers who will stroke their hair and tell them they love them. I've been told this by several of my unmarried Korean (lady) friends.
As for the foreign guys - well, dating a Korean girl is "The Fantasy", isn't it?
Johnny gave me a puzzled look and asked me cheekily, "Says who?"
Duh - it's obvious! Asian girls are "The Fantasy". They have bodies like this - I held out my hands about 20cm apart - they have long, dark hair, silky smooth skin... they're hot, right?
Johnny looked at me again and just said, "No - not all guys are like that"
Oh *yawn* Was he going to tell me that he's "different"? If only I could count all the times guys have used this line.
Johnny - When they're young, guys like girls like that. They want to be seen out and in clubs with the "hot chicks", but that changes when you get older.
Me - Go on?
Johnny - I used to be like that when I was younger ...wanting only the hot girls, but I've outgrown that. I've outgrown that a *long* time ago, he said as he widened his eyes.
Me - And what about now?
Johnny - Guys change as they get older. They want something simple. I'm looking to settle down now, and ...
Me - ...and you're looking for "something simple"?
He looked at me as if to agree.
Let's lay it down the way it is. I don't consider myself a "hot chick". Perhaps I am, though? I remember one night I was out in Seoul with a friend. We started chatting to this guy, and he told us that he thought my friend was "cute" and that I was "sexy". Ok So he may have been a bit drunk, but whatever - they say you're the most honest when you're "under the influence" ;)
So I don't think I'm "hot" especially - ESPECIALLY - when I'm out in Seoul and I'm surrounded by cutesy putesy Korean girls in hot pants, strappy tops with push-up bras (at least I don't need a push-up bra!), flawless skin and pin straight dark hair.
So am I a "simple" girl then? I guess I am. These days I'd much prefer staying at home watching TV, reading or blogging than being out on a sticky dance floor with creepy guys crawling around me. My friends have been on my case that I need to "flirt more" and stop treating every other guy like a brother. I have this issue where guys find solace in my company, feeling like they can open up to me about their broken relationships and heartache. Boohoo.
But the truth of the matter is that if there is someone I like, I battle to flirt. Throw one of my platonic or even GAY friends on the table, and I'll be flirting so much you'd think I'd co-authored a pick-up line handbook!
Put simply, I think I'm a decent girl. I come from a good home and upbringing. In fact, on some days if you look very closely, you may even be able to see my shining halo crowning above me ;)
Back to Johnny and his story.
One more sidetrack: My mum always used to tell me that guys will date all the hot party girls in skimpy clothing. But when it comes to settling down, they want a nice homely girl. Poor mum was trying to comfort me into believing that my "other half" is somewhere out there and always uses her famous line of, "Every pot has a lid"
Yes, it's true. Guys in their 20s do like to be seen with FHM-like models, right? Guys who end up marrying girls like this - SCORE!
But yes, their (now specifically targeting Indian dudes) eventual wife is a "homely girl" who can roll perfect roti's. She will bare children to carry on his family name and will forever be attentive to his mother. She will go to temple, follow all Hindu traditions and the community will simply adore her. Oh, and she will always have her husbands slippers laid out for him when he arrives home from the office every evening.
I'm having a flashback of something my friend, J told me recently:
Have fun with the wrong ones till the right one comes along. Food for thought, if you ask me.
So - guys admit that they like to date and be seen out with the "hot chicks", but when it's time to settle down, they want something "simple"?
Let me get this straight. For the past 10 odd years of my life, I had to sit back and watch my friends - who were thinner than me and who could wear strappy tops - go out on endless dates while I was at home on Friday and Saturday nights watching TV?
I hated school dances, and in all my school career I only went to a total of TWO dances. One was a Prefects Banquet that I had to attend at the City Hall (I went with a friend who is now gay) and the second one was my matric farewell (prom). I really didn't want to go to my farewell, but I did. And after being turned down by 2 guys (one was in another city writing exams and the other spewed out a pathetic excuse), I eventually went with a buddy ol' pal who was also in matric at the boys school across the road from my school.
So for all of my primary & high school years, I had friends who'd come to school *so* excited on a Monday, tell all about their little date over the w'end. Of course, back then, going to the movies and maybe a milkshake afterwards was the thing to do on dates. How was I to know?
And this continued all the way through to my four years at university, living in res for 4 years. Like clockwork, giggly girls in my res would get dressed up on Friday and Saturday nights and be picked up by their dates. I just looked on from my window and got back to my studying or reading. I always used my studies as an excuse as to why I never had a boyfriend. "I'm just too busy, and don't have time for a relationship." Thinking back to that, it's a bit lame because *so* many people studying the same as me were in relationships or dating.
I guess I'd just gotten used to being the onlooker. After 4 years, I graduated and left campus with a squeaky clean reputation. I knew no one would be able to say they saw me "pissed outta her mind" or "motherless in the gutter" after a night of drinking. It wasn't my thing, and I still don't regret not doing those things. So in that sense, maybe I *am* a 'simple' girl.
I'm in my mid-twenties now and people are becoming curious if I've met anyone during my exciting travels around Asia. My reply is always, "No, not yet" and they go on to tell me how young I am and that I still have my whole life ahead of me and that I should enjoy life while I can. It almost gives me a picture of doing everything I possibly can right now because once I have a ring on my finger, it's lock-down for life.
I fear you may be getting the wrong idea and thinking that perhaps I didn't want to be involved in a relationship. Well, honestly speaking who doesn't want to be romanced? Who doesn't like waking up to text messages and emails from someone special? Or having someone to say goodnight to - apart from dear mum.
People keep telling me that I should put myself "out there" - what this means, I don't know. I love going out and meeting new people. I thrive on exciting conversations. I've experience a few of these before, but at the end of the conversation the guy will still call the skinny girl in the white tank top, and before I know it - they're an item.
So for most of my life, I've been a "simple girl" just being an observer to friends (hot friends, mind you) going on dates and having fun with guys. I'm always being re-assured by my mum and friends that my time will eventually come. Yeah yeah... old story that!
30 is a few years away. I can't quite see the red flag yet, but it's there. And I'm approaching it. Maybe - just maybe - when guys want to settle down, MAYBE someone will find out that there's still an available "simple girl" out there (ala me).
I won't have stories about exotic boyfriends or exciting /disastrous dates from my teens and 20's. Why?
Well, I wasn't a "hot chick". I'm just a "simple girl" waiting for my future husband to settle in his studly ways and realize it's time to get married. And maybe then, we will eventually meet.
Ha! * Thanks to Johnny for giving me something to write about :)
Friday, August 28, 2009
I log on less frequently on MSN, and when I do AFD apologizes AGAIN for his 'behaviour' (?) at Dunkin' Donuts. He goes on to say that he knows he probably didn't make a good first impression and would I please give him another chance.
Gotta give the guy credit for THAT - that he didn't make an impressive first impression.
I tell him not to worry about it. Everything's cool. I figured I needn't be ugly to him as he was going to be leaving Korea soon anyway.
So one evening, I'm having dinner at my favourite restaurant with my friend Kim. AFD sends a text.
"Will you be online later? We need to talk"
I reply saying I'm out and don't know when I'll be back home.
(I always reply texts)
Later that night - even forgetting about the text - I go online.
A box pops up in the bottom right hand corner of my screen with AFD's pic and a message saying "hi sweetie"
AFD - Can we talk?
Me - I just got in and on my way out again.
I had actually just showered and was in my PJ's.
AFD - Ok sweetie, we'll talk another time.
Me - What's up?
AFD - You go. We'll talk tomorrow.
Me - Tell me now. I have a few minutes.
AFD - We have to talk about us.
Say what? "WE HAVE TO TALK ABOUT US"??? Since *when* did HE and I become US?
Me - Go on...
AFD - I'm sorry again for the first time we met. But I think ur really special. I only have a few months left in Korea, and was wondering if you'd want to ... start something?
This guy was not for real. Was he?
Me - I don't think I quite understand you?
AFD - I'm leaving for Germany in June. But I'd really love for us to go out.
Ohmygod! I forgot that I was supposed to be "on my way out" so went on to say:
Me - Thank you, but ... I don't think so.
AFD - Ok, that's totally cool. But can we hang out sometimes? Like over week-ends?
Me - Ye, if I can.
What the hell was that? "If I can?" Even I thought that was a pathetic line!
AFD - If you can??
Me - Yeah, I'm going to start working on Saturdays soon, so I'm gonna be kinda busy.
(Korean school's are open every second Saturday, so this is believable)
AFD - Ok, cool sweetie. Anyways, you go... and we'll talk again.
Me - Sure - g'nite! :)
I logged off MSN. PHEW - I finally got rid of AFD!
But he still sent me a few texts - usually on Saturday nights asking what I'm doing that night, or merely informing me that he was on his way to Seoul. I wasn't particularly interested to know his whereabouts. The more off-ish I was to him, the less he texted.
From his FB status updates, I could tell he had left Korea and was on his way to America before heading off to Germany. He never Inbox-ed, texted or called to say that he was leaving.
While I was in South Africa and relating this story to a friend, I tried searching for his profile to show my friend his picture. But he wasn't appearing on my Friends list. I hadn't deleted him.
He deleted me.
AFD deleted me.
I guess he needed space on his Friends list for the girls (Indian?) he's bound to meet in Germany. Let's hope THEY can satisfy his curiosity. Coz I sure as hell disappointed him ;)
I had *nothing* to say to this guy in the cab. And I didn't want to make idle conversation about any random subject.
AFD tilts his head to the side, squints his eys, smiles and says - "Whaddya thinking 'bout, sweetie?"
Ughhh..... Thank goodness we arrived at Yong-san quickly.
So AFD was being stationed to Germany in June 2009. He told me he wanted to buy an entertainment system and blah blah blah and have it shipped over blah blah blah. I was really not interested.
He didn't know his way around Yong-san. But then again, I don't think anyone does. It has 7 levels. To avoid walking around the entire building with AFD, I found the information desk and asked them where we could find what this man was looking for. Right. Go.
To be honest, I didn't want to be seen with him. I didn't want other people to think we were "together" so I pretended to be looking at other things and told him to "carry on with what he wanted to look for"
AFD - How about going for coffee?
Was he kidding? I wanted a subway home. Not coffee. With him.
Me - I really should be getting home. It takes over an hour to get to my place and...
AFD - Ahh c'mon! We won't be long, I promise. 20 minutes?
I was really pushing it with this guy. But I kept thinking - Ok, I bet this is going to make for a good story for my friends! So we found a very crowded Dunkin' Donuts with an empty table with 2 chairs. I offered to pay. And I did. I ain't a cheapskate like that. Full stop.
Again, I have absolutely no idea what we talked about at Dunkin' Donuts. But he started yawning a lot. And rubbing his eyes.
Me - Gee, am I that boring?
AFD - No no no no ... it's not you, but I'm just suddenly very tired.
Again with the yawning. Eye rubbing. Damn. This guy was anything but subtle.
Me - Umm, I think I really should get going now.
AFD - I'm really sorry, I don't know why I'm so tired like this -maybe it's just really hot in here?
We took the escalator downstairs and walked outside.
AFD - Are you going straight home, or you going somewhere else?
This sounds like a normal question, but with his cheesy tone and smile - I was pissed off.
Me - I'm going home.
So now we're outside the subway station. A tall guy (foreigner) approaches us and asks AFD how to get to a certain army base. AFD tells me that it's easy for army dudes to spot one another - even if they are strangers.
He thanks me for coming out to meet him. He apologizes for his 'sleepiness' (?) in Dunkin' Donuts. He wants to hug me to say good bye.
Fine. If I like you, I'll give you a damn good hug! But with AFD, sadly - he got probably a quarter of a hug from me.
I walk away from him *very* quickly, not turning back to wave or anything. I reach into my bag for my MP3 player and try to drown the afternoons events with a Justin Timberlake tune.
When I reach home, he sends a text thanking me for coming out and meeting him. He asks again if I went straight home. I reply saying - Hell no, I went out! He sends a reply saying Ooooh I'm so cheeky. He said something else which I didn't understand.
I had to turn to Uncle GOOGLE for a definition on the word. After finding out what he meant, I decided at that very moment that I was *not* going to speak to this idiotic pervert ever again.
But he was still on my MSN contact list...
This is something I *never* do, but at the time I was rolling around Asia like a free spirit, having recently visited Singapore and missioning to Malaysia from there alone. I'd also just been to the Philippines. I was a tough cookie. Ain't nothing could knock me down!
Fine. I agreed to meeting AFD for lunch at the Hard Rock Cafe in Itaewon. I really don't like going to Itaewon. It's swarming with foreigners, mainly US army folk. But I agreed to meeting AFD at the Hard Rock Cafe. If anything, I knew that it would be a story that would entertain my friends back home. Or you - reading this - for that matter!
He sent me a text while I was on the subway heading there saying he's starving and that he was on his way.
We met in Itaewon, in front of Burger King. He wasn't subtle about looking at me from head to toe - sizing me up? Did I "have it going on"in the flesh as I apparently did in my FB photos?! He, on the other hand seemed to be one of those people who photograph very well, and whose personality seems to shine through in their photographed face. But in reality? ....
We went to the Hard Rock Cafe, which has stairs leading underground to the actual restaurant. Once inside, it's like you've escaped Korea. Everything about it is American.
I ordered a vegetarian starter as my main meal while AFD ordered a burger. He wanted to know something about an item on the menu, and was confusing our waitress. He went on to speak s-l-o-w-l-y as if she was a retard. This already pissed me off. I hate it - hate it- when people do this to non-English speaking people.
He sat slouched in his chair. This didn't sit well with me.
AFD - So tell me more about yourself?
What am I supposed to do? Memorize my CV (resume) for when people ask me this question?
Me - What would you like to know?
This seems to always be my response to that question.
AFD - Well, what did you do before you came to Korea?
Me - I was a journalist.... and
AFD - Really? (He takes out a motoring magazine from his bag) I've got this really great idea I wanna tell you about.
Ummm... I wasn't quite finished with what I had to say ?!?!?
He rambled on and on about something to which I'll admit, I just shut down.
For the next hour, the conversation was crumbling. And as I write this, I can't even remember what kind of topics we covered. But I can remember this: Thinking that I need to get the hell out of there becaus this guy is 1) obnoxious and 2) keeps cutting my answers to his questions with something else HE wants to talk about.
When we're nearing the end of the meal, he asks if I'll go with him to Yong-san (a mega digital store near where we were). I REALLY didn't want to. But I figured, I'd just catch the subway home from that station. And maybe a change of scenery would do good for our conversation - or lack thereof.
I reached into my bag to pay for my meal but he said lunch was on him since he invited me out. Ok. Fine. Score 1 point.
He walked with a typical guy swagger, with a backpack on his one shoulder - giving off an impression of "I'm the man"
Ohmygod, was I really out in public with a person who I always vowed I'd never been seen out with? And we caught a cab to Yong-san.
AFD and I began chatting quite often, almost daily. We talked about his life in America and Europe. We talked about what kind of things there are to do in Seoul over week-ends. He said he found me very interesting and open-minded.
Of course, this is a compliment I can accept quite gracefully :)
He was about 29 years old, and didn't drink alcohol.
Me - But you're always going to hoff's (Korean bars) when you're out.
AFD - I have Coke. Or OJ (orange juice)
This guy was turning out to be quite nice, and I almost thought he could be placed on my list where only Brian's name lived - the list is: "Americans who defy stereotypes" In other words, they're not obnoxious, arrogant and actually KNOW that South Africa is, in fact, a country.
One night, AFD said we should play a little game.
AFD - We both ask each other 3 questions. It can be anything.
Me - Hmmmm, Ok...
Right now, I can't remember the questions we asked each other exactly, but they were along the lines of:
- What's your favourite dessert?
- If you had any super power, what would it be and why?
- Who's your role model?
It was fun, and got me thinking. Till he wanted to play it again. One of his questions:
- Do you kiss on a first date?
My answer? I'm not replying.
He asked me something else that I won't write on here, and since I refused to answer he said he was becoming more curious about me.
AFD - I'm curious about you.
ME - Why? I'm just a regular girl.
He went on to tell me about the time he lived in London. There were Indian girls all around, but they tended to stick in their cliques. He said he's always been curious about Indian girls in particular.
So I thought - Ok, I know where this is leading. And I hurriedly made an excuse that I had to log off, and I left the chat. Turns out, he was no better than the other American's I'd met while in Korea. American guy (in the army) interested in one thing.
I went to the Philippines for a week, and didn't have to chat to him. I was hoping he'd forget about me, eventually delete me off FB and find someone else who could satisfy his curiosity.
Because I knew for sure - It ain't gonna be me.
When I came back to Korea from the Philippines, we chatted again for about 2 weeks. I was off-ish with him at first, but then he was coming 'round to being decent again and not talking about being "curious" and whatnot.
AFD - Have you been to the Hard Rock Cafe in Itaewon?
Me - No, is it good?
AFD - I had lunch there the other day. I wanna go back there.
Me - Mmmm, sounds good.
AFD - Let's have lunch together tomorrow.
AFD and my FB chats moved over to MSN. We began chatting often, and I was beginning to enjoy his online company. He was sharp and witty.
He kept mentioning that I should let him know when I'm in Seoul so that we could meet up. I agreed to. But of course, I knew I wouldn't. He also claimed to make the "worlds best pancakes" and that I should definitely "try it out sometime!"
One Saturday night, my friend Kim wanted to go clubbing. The club we usually go to is *always* packed, but on this particular night it was almost frustrating being there with so many people. You almost couldn't dance and had to rely on being moved around by people around you to the hip hop beats blasting away.
Kim met a foreign guy (Kim's Korean, so foreign to her would be anything BUT Korean) and as usual, I was bored. I didn't want to go out that night in the first place. I'm not that big of a clubber, but Kim really wanted to go out that night. I wanted to go home, but my friend begged me to please wait a big longer. Of course I would. We arrived together and we'd leave together. No question about it. So while my friend was being charmed by an American (!) I was left leaning against a wall watching Korean guys in hip hop gear (baggy pants, over-sized hoodies, bling & shades - yes - SUNGLASSES) dance to some of the latest in Korean pop.
30 minutes later, I'd had enough of people pushing me over and having drinks nearly spilled all over me. I convinced Kim that it was time for us to leave. Her new American friend wasn't happy about this and was getting irritated with me, till I glared at him with my big eyes. "We're going now!" And we left.
The next evening (Sunday) after recovering from a late night, I was online as usual. AFD logged on.
AFD - What did you get up to this week-end?
I didn't wanna lie.
Me - I ended up going to Seoul with a friend.
AFD - Yeah? Me too. I was cruising solo.
Me - Do you like going out alone?
AFD - I prefer meeting up with people, but doing my own thing.
Me - I see...
AFD - So where did you go?
Me - We went to Gangnam.
AFD - No way. I was in Itaewon with some friends, but ended up in Gangnam (alone).
Me - Really?!!
AFD - Yeah! Where did you go in Gangnam?
Me - Oh we went to this club, but I was really bored. But my friend wanted to go, so...
AFD - Which club?
Me - NB
AFD - WHAT??!
Me - Have you been there? I didn't enjoy it, it was too full.
AFD - I WAS THERE!
Me - You were at NB?!
AFD - YES! Ohmygod... I can't believe this! I wish you told me you were there. But it was too packed, so I left and went home.
Part of me was relieved that I hadn't bumped into him. But the other part of me wished I had told him I was going to be in Seoul that night. If anything, at least I wouldn't have been bored to death waiting for Kim to finish playing with the American.
"So and so would like to add you as a friend"
Usually, I'd send a message to the person to kinda screen them before hitting 'Accept' (I share *way* too much on FB for just anyone to see) It makes it a bit easier if the person and I have mutual friends.
I got such a request a few months ago from someone who we'll call Air Force Dude. Or AFD for short.
AFD and I had no mutual friends. His "Hello & introductory" message seemed decent. He said he found my profile randomly on Facebook and that "I had to add you... you're gorgeous."
For some reason, I don't take compliments like I'm "gorgeous" very well.
As you can tell by his "name", he was in the US Air Force and was stationed in Korea for the second time. He said he'd lived all over America and Europe for a while. He was going to be in Korea for a few months longer before being stationed in Germany.
He Inbox-ed me with messages of "hey, what's up?" and that I should go up & visit him in his city, where it's apparently "happening" thanks to the large foreign community. In other words, the US army community
NO THANK YOU.
Put bluntly, US soldiers have a bad reputation here in Korea, especially over week-ends when they're let loose on the streets of Seoul. Some clubs in an area called Hongdae even have signs outside saying "No GI's allowed"
One night, AFD caught me online on FB chat. He didn't come across as an arrogant and obnxious soldier - much like others I've encountered here in Korea. He told me I was beautiful. Now, I'm not one of those girls who go weak at the knees when I hear this line. In fact, I'm like *yawn* - "Try another line, brother!"
I'll never forget one line he used on me, "I don't think you know it, but baby - you got it going on!"
Judging from his FB photos, AFD wasn't too bad on the eye. He was African-American, bald, well-built with green eyes (I know - green eyes on brown skin? Probably contacts, but they looked good!) with a smile that - dare I say it - was pretty sexy, I won't lie! I kinda liked his dressing style - waistcoat, hat, scarves. It looked like the brother could dress! Which girl doesn't appreciate this, right? What struck me most was that even though he loved going out and having a good time, he said he didn't drink. Or smoke.
But the fact still remained that he was 1) an American and 2) in the US Air Force. And from past experiences, people I've met who fall in these categories *always* disappoint - with the very big exception of my friend, Brian (also an English teacher) who I met when I just arrived in Korea.
So as much as AFD asked me "When are we going to meet? I'd love to meet you", I always made some excuse to get out of it.
After a while, my excuses were becoming a bit lame. Even if I have to say so myself.
Thursday, August 27, 2009
While I was home over my summer holiday, I went to a well-known club in East London. Not really my thing, but my brother had a gig that night and I wanted to see / hear him play.
It was during the Hindu fasting month, so there were almost no Indian party-goers that night. During the course of the night/early hours of the morning, I noticed about 5 Indian guys standing on the stairs overlooking the dance floor. I could tell they were out-of-town-ers. They stuck in their group awkwardly holding their glasses and merely bobbing their heads to the tunes of Pitbull. I think they must have been there for a total of one hour, 'cause they seemed to have disappeared.
A little while later, 2 other desi guys caught my eye. Not because of their drop-dead looks or stylish dressing, but for the way they were going on for themselves with girls on the dance floor. Mind you, skinny blonde girls wearing items of clothing that left very little to the average persons imagination.
By 3am, the dancefloor was nearly empty and tables and chairs were bare. People were trickling home in their drunken state. Sitting with a friend at a table waiting to go home ourselves, I noticed that these two desi guys sat at a table near us. They were drinking. They were smoking. They were dancing with a blonde girl - quite suggestively, I might add. And I just looked on shaking my head. A few minutes later, they were standing near us talking to someone in our group. They didn't acknowledge my friend and I at all. Why should they have when they had their arms strewn across their giggling blondes.
So this is my conclusion. Note that it can relate to any man, but in this case (since I'm Indian), I'm directing my arguments at Indian guys specifically.
Guys can go out and have fun. Boys will be boys? Drink, smoke, gyrate with girls on the dance floor. They can date anyone they like, regardless of social status or race. They may even earn the label of "Player" or "Casanova". But when it comes to tying the knot, and if he walks 'round the fire with a 'nice, homely Indian girl', everyone will look on saying - "So good he turned out, isn't?" And the reputation he once carried around town will whither away like the flames from the fire he's walking around on his wedding day.
On the other hand, a (Indian) girl goes to a club. Drinks tequila, takes a couple of puffs from a friends cigarette and is always the life of a party - well, sadly this girls reputation won't escape her as easily as her male counterpart. Instead, while she's walking 'round the fire, head bent down and eyes lowered, no doubt there'll be onlookers in the audience talking about stories they heard about "that one".
Going further, these guys date all the "fun and sexy" girls in clubs in their 20s, but when it's time to "settle down" they want a "decent Virgin-Mary-like" girl?
Unfair judgement if you ask me?
Sunday, August 24 2009
Note: Desi boys = Indian boys
If there ever lived an Indian girl who had bad luck with Indian guys, then it’s me. I’m not kidding, and no I’m not exaggerating. I knew this from a long time ago. I attended what was then called a Model C all girls school. My friends were my classmates and girls who did the same afterschool activities as I did. I had white friends, black friends, coloured friends, Korean friends, Taiwanese friends, Christian friends, Catholic friends, Jewish friends and even some who believed in a bit of witchcraft. I had friends who shuddered at the word, “hell” or “shit” and then I also had friends whose every second word was “fuck”.
During my university years, I had friends from all over Africa – Zimbabwe, Namibia, Mozambique, Kenya and Zambia. During lunch and dinner, we occupied nearly two tables in the dining hall. In the group, I was the only South African and the only Indian. They were all in various fields – from pharmacy to BComm. I was the only one pursuing Journalism. In my final year of Journ, when I specialized in Television, I was the only Indian in my class. I was also the only Indian in my Anthropology class – my other major.
I had random Indian acquaintances on campus – people I’d met via other friends. Very few of these people (acquaintances) would later earn the title of friend. I think we use this term very loosely. And besides, a friend is someone whom you would confide in and share exciting and share moments with. But few of these people were that. Also, I found that we had very little in common except that we were Indian.
Then I moved to Korea in 2007 to teach English at an elementary school. I work with Koreans. I socialize with Koreans. So much so, that I am sometimes mistaken for being a Korean when talking on the phone. With my broken Konglish and all (Konglish = Korean + English) The only thing that would give me away was my chocolate brown skin and big eyes.
I’ve had some broken small talk with a few Indian guys through various circumstances. Nothing of substance or value really. During my campus days, I spent a fair amount of time at the “kaif” (cafe) a popular hangout and meeting spot for students and socialites. I spent some time there, usually with another Journ / Anthro classmate.
There wasn’t a single time you would go to the kaif and there wouldn’t be an entire table (or two) occupied by entirely Indian students. They reminded me so much of the group of cool kids on campus in Bollywood films. I always watched them from a distance. There’d be one guy in particular who seemed to be very popular. He was dark in complexion, wore black glasses and always had a cigarette attached to his hand.
Now I am attracted to two very extreme kinds of guys. The first kind is the type that seems to always be the life of the party. He’s friends with everybody and everyone around him adores him. Someone who keeps people at the edge of their seat with their stories and cracking up someone with a funny anecdote. The other kind that I’m attracted to is the quiet kind. Please note. I said quiet. Not shy. They only really speak when spoken to, but when they do have something to say, it’s of substance.
So sometimes if I see a guy who fits the above description, I'm curious about them and want to know more about them - JUST to know about them. NOT to have us married in a couple of years time. OK?
I also noticed that most Indian guys (in general) shared one passion. Cars. With many of these guys, I couldn’t carry a conversation with them. I'm sorry about this, but my knowledge of cars and rims and sound systems is shocking.
During university, I started writing a column in a national magazine. Kind of like your Indian version of “People” magazine. My column was thoughtful and cheeky at the same time. I certainly didn’t go around campus advertising what I did, but when people got to know (Correction: Indian people my age. Second Correction: Indian guys my age) what I did, they often fled in the other direction. It was only after I graduated that I learned why.
I spent two months in Cape Town where I was studying towards my TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) certification. I met up with a friend from university (an Indian guy, no less!) We spent quite a bit of time together and I was introduced to some of his friends. One guy in particular, we’ll call him Andy, was one of them. He was also guilty of ignoring me when we were in the same company back on campus.
During lunch one day at the V&A Waterfront in Cape Town, we were in the same company once again. Right now, I don’t know how it came up in conversation, but I asked him, “Why did you never talk to me on campus?” His reply blew me away like a hefty gust of wind.
“I was intimidated by you.”
What I’d been told by my mum and other friends was confirmed. And I was flabbergasted to say the least.
“But why?” I had to get to the bottom of this.
He went on to say that some students on campus used to talk about me if I walked past, saying that “It’s THAT girl who writes for that magazine”
I met a few other guys during my trip to Cape Town. After I returning home, some of them added me on Facebook. Of course, I accepted and was pretty chuffed that I was starting to make new Indian (guy) friends. I’d send a message to say hello, they’d reply with a similar greeting. And then – nothing. These guys still live in my Facebook account, albeit dormant. Talk about being dissed.
Wednesday, August 26, 2009
There's a certain sense of comfort I feel when I arrive at Incheon airport. Almost like I know my way around the place and I'm comfortable navigating it on my own. Before reaching Passport Control, there were brief check ups for this whole H1N1 (Swine Flu) drama.
After collecting my luggage, I thought I was good to go.
I'm so used to greeting Koreans in Korean "Ahn-yong-ha-say-yoh" And you'd think that they'd let me go through, yeah? But when I say I have "Nothing to Declare" I mean it. But they still sent me to have my bags checked out. I was irritated 'cause I had to put my heavy luggage through another scanner. The lady went through my carry on, rummaging through makeup and what not. Of course they're doing their job, but it irks me when they go through my things so untidily and then just leave it for me to repack.
After all that, THEN I was good to go. Got my bus ticket and waited for a bus to Sosa Yeok (Sosa Station). From Sosa Station, I had to catch a cab to my apartment.
Finally. I was home.
My brother and I were trying to figure out what we'd done each day that the weeks went by SO quickly. I was very sorry not to have met some of my friends, and I hope they understand that time was simply not enough and for most of the time, the days and times that I was free - they were not.
Sunday morning, August 23 2009 I woke up early to catch my flight to Jozi. I know my mum was sad and she'd been dreading the day ever since I arrived in SA almost a month back.
Arriving at EL airport, even before stepping into the building, the guy who does the shrink-wrapping of the bags greeted us and made idle chit chat with me as I was walking. He asked, "Where are you going to? Durban?" GRRRRRRR
I stopped in my tracks and demanded to know why he said that.
"Is it 'cause I'm INDIAN that I must be going to Durban? For your information, I'm actually KOREAN and I'm going HOME to KOREA."
My luggage was overweight so I had to take a few things out and send it home with my parents (which will ultimately be sent over to me in a couple of weeks time)
And then, I heard that my flight was delayed - but not for too long.
I flew SA Express and again, was not impressed with the service of the flight attendants. I was the first to board the aircraft from East London, and I was battling to put my carry-on luggage into the overhead cabin.
"Do you think it'll fit?" I asked the attendant standing near me.
She just stood there looking at me and said, "I don't know."
Anyways, the flight itself wasn't too dreadful - except just very cramped. I read a bit of my book, Eat , Pray, Love.
Arrived in Jozi and made my way to International Departures where I waited for my flight to Hong Kong. I flew South African Airways. Thank goodness for my netbook - I was able to write a bit. (If only I could get online from there) and read as well.
Hong Kong airport is pretty easy to navigate. I flew Asiana from Hong Kong to Korea. After getting my boarding pass and finding my gate, I was able to log on quickly with my netbook and send a few emails and reply some messages and Tweets.
Boarded the flight to Korea and within 3 hours, I was back at Incheon airport.
This was held on Saturday, August 15 2009.
The birth of Lord Krishna is celebrated at midnight on Krishna Jayanti. At midnight, the ritual of waving lit lamps (aarti) is performed.
His statue is placed in a swing and devotionally offered many sumptuous food dishes, in particular kheer (a sweet dish made from milk, sugar and rice/vermicelli) or halva/sheera (a sweet dish made from semolina, ghee and sugar).