Going home

For the purpose of this post, see: Two Sides of a Same Coin
For the ‘other side”s take on this topic, see: When Home is No Longer Home

As much as I hate and love to say it, here goes.

“I’ll be back home in the summer.”

I hate it because I never thought I would ever say that and refer to Korea as home, when I first arrived in 2002. I vowed that I would only use this sacred word for Nouadhibou and Mauritania, my true home.

Yet I love it, because, well, yes, I’m going back home, even if it is for a short while, and I know this visit is going to be filled with wonderful food and people, and then, some not so wonderful people, because you can never escape those, and then some more fantastic food.

One of the main things that often make me wonder, to this day, whether or not I’m making the right choice to spend $1,500 on a plane ticket, plus more to buy presents, etc, and suffer the scorching heat or the annoying rain of the Korean summer, is … people. Not the ‘right kind’, of course, but the distant family, the uncles, the aunts, the family ‘friends’, and the ‘friends’ I don’t particularly fancy meeting but somehow feel my duty to. And of course with them comes the never, ever, ending question of ‘if I have a guy’ and ‘when I will ever get married’, because, you know, I ain’t getting any younger. It’s not even that I’ll actually ‘see’ my distant family (hopefully) or that I have many of them to start with, but I’ll have to call them and that question is bound to come up. And I know, in my head, that it’s one of those questions they ask without really thinking because they don’t have anything else to ask. But still, they may ask it once and move on, but I have to listen to the same question and awkwardly laugh away for everyone of them. And then I have to tell my ‘friends’/acquaintances that ‘No, Boston is not filled with dashingly handsome guys lining up to date me’ when they ask, with sparkling eyes, ‘So~~~~ any cute guys?’ as if we were still high school girls.

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It’s not that I don’t like men. I do, I absolutely love men, believe me. It’s just that I don’t feel like actively looking for one just now. That doesn’t mean of course that if Benedict Cumberbatch really really wanted to date me right now, I won’t grant his wish. Who am I to deny his one wish, really?

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But, like anything that is worth having or doing, dating is an investment. I know that I would have to actually meet guys, go to places where there is the slightest chance of me dating someone. I know that some guy won’t magically appear at my door step when I decide to stay in because I just can’t bother to take a shower. This means I would have to look for places/groups/gatherings/blind dates and what not, kinda look nice, and then work really hard to look and sound interesting. And… the mere thought of that is exhausting. Yes, maybe, one day, I’ll panic and realize I do need to find a partner for life to come back home to and spend the weekends with and post obnoxious pictures and statuses on Facebook. Maybe, then, I’ll join a dating site. Fortunately, I’m not at that stage yet (and hopefully won’t ever be). I just wish people would realize that I have more to share than stories of guys I met, cute guys I passed by and who, hence, could naturally be my potential soul mates; or even that me not sharing these stories could mean, just maybe, that I want to keep some things private. Why would I keep these delicious stories to myself? Oh, I don’t know, maybe because I’ve too often been bored by the romantic details of others that I know not to impose them on others? I don’t know, just an idea.

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This was supposed to be a post about how excited I was to go back home… hmm… I don’t know what happened, something just took control over the keyboard. You are witnessing the very dangerous result of years of repressed feelings and thoughts and unspoken words.

Anyways… aside from all that, I AM excited to go back home, truly.

I can’t stop listing and picturing the foods I’ll inhale as soon as I touch ground.

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Street food…

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I’m going in the summer… which means I can eat bingsu!!!

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Can’t wait to go to the Sushi buffet behind my parents’ apartment, and compared to that, this picture looks like a joke, no kidding.

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Oh gawd sundae…

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Spicy chicken

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And of course, the best kind of food…Mommy’s food!

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Sorry, I got a little bit carried away with the food…

I am elated to see my dear, true, friends back. The ones that stood by me during the toughest times and happiest times, the ones that know me best as I am now, the ones that know what ticks me off and what makes me laugh.

The friends that make me laugh so hard it's literally impossible to stand still

The friends that make me laugh so hard it’s literally impossible to stand still

And I am looking forward to drinking with these friends. And when I mean drinking, I don’t mean one or two bottles of beer, I mean three, four 3,000 cc beer pitchers, along with a couple of soju.

Korea, the only place where people are secure enough to forego of their sanitary issues to share drinks (this was a vodka-based drink I think)

Korea, the only place where people are secure enough to forego of their sanitary issues to share drinks (this was a vodka-based drink I think)

The actual beer may not be as good as the draft beer here, but gawd I miss those pitchers.

The actual beer may not be as good as the draft beer here, but gawd I miss those pitchers.

It’s not that I’m looking forward to or planning to get wasted. I have absolutely no respect for the people that lie on the streets passed out from too much drinking, or for people who, unable to control their alcohol intake, end up being complete nuisances to the people around them. But gawd I miss those long hours of staying in laughing and talking with friends and then hugging them goodbye as the first ray of sun comes out, leaving with only a vague memory of the night. A good ‘drinking session’ has brought me some great moments, some heart-breaking, some embarrassing, but what I remember from most of them is laughter, talks, and bonds. I don’t know, maybe I’m too old for this, or maybe I’m just glorifying my grad school days in GSIS. We’ll find out.

Maybe I’ll end up disappointed, annoyed at the utter absence of ‘Excuse me’ or ‘Sorry’ or ‘Thank you’ among Koreans, regardless of whether they bump into you in the streets or of whether you’re holding the door for them for an eternity. But at least I’ll have fun being mad at them and giving them the evil eye if when that happens.

Korea is, after all, where 10 years of my life have taken place, and for someone to whom the notion of ‘home’ has gone through years of reflection only to conclude that a clear definition is practically impossible, anywhere where I can find a piece of my story is home.

So, yes, I am excited to go home.

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Certain realization

Here I am again. And it’s good to be back. Updating a blog regularly during school semester, especially the first one, where everything goes by in a haze-like carousel ride, was not something I should have even thought of doing. Yet it’s such a shame, because it is when so many new things are happening, so many “I should write this down” moments. I guess I’ll have to guard them safely with me, until I find the energy, the time, the motivation, and the memory to write them down, some day.

The first semester is over, and although I am relieved it’s all over, I am, more than anything, thankful.

Each of the things I am thankful for could be a post on its own, and one of the things I am thankful for is to have learned.

Sure, I learned stuff in class, but I think I have learned most about myself. Yes, this happens, it seems that no matter how old you are, you always learn new things about yourself. You discover some aspects of yourself you did not know you had, which is usually less than pleasant. But I guess it’s just as important to know those aspects if you want to have a chance at changing them for the better.

I learned that I am far more conservative and far more ‘Korean’ than I thought I would ever be. And I wonder, did the past 10 years leave their mark on me? Or have I always been this person, even before Korea?

Going back and forth between two countries, two cultures, two places, is a tricky thing. I miss things I used to hate, I long for things I never thought were important. I understand the value of certain things I despised, I doubt the impact of certain things I trusted.

I miss the bustling of the busy streets of Seoul, where people push you without saying sorry, even if it’s just for the sake of giving them the evil eye and cursing them under my breath. I wouldn’t mind having subways come every 2-3 minutes, fully knowing on the other hand, that the drivers’ welfare is under no consideration whatsoever. I used to sigh with exasperation at the silence of many Korean students, but I now understand, a little, of why humility and modesty are still considered as virtues there.

And I fully know that I will be annoyed by these same things if I go back to Korea. I will miss the ‘thank yous’ and ‘sorrys’ and smiles, I will criticize Koreans for always wanting to be as comfortable as possible, without even recognizing the sacrifices of others for that to happen, I will point at their complacency as the reason for the lack of improvement.

I do wonder if there ever comes a point where I stop comparing the two countries and accept them for what/who they are.

Korea: all that is bad… and good

I shouldn’t be idly looking at Friends videos on Youtube and writing blog posts, but I have good reasons to.

1. I just had to deal with a full week of a mid term, a horrible math homework and a 400-page book, so I think I deserve to take a break for this evening.

2. I’m on my second beer and I don’t feel like studying. And I might go on to my third. It’s only 8:00 pm. Maybe I’m a leetle drunk. I don’t know. That’s the beauty of being drunk. You don’t know. I probably am, seeing how I’ve been rambling for 5 sentences on this.

3. It’s been a while I haven’t written anything.

4. I have good reasons to write.

So… I recently saw this on Facebook.

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This was posted at an establishment called ‘HO Bar’ in Gangnam (Yes, the area that has become famous thanks to Psy). Gangnam has always been busy, filled with young people, and it is also an area highly frequented by foreigners. So to see this in such an area (although, yes, it does make sense, that you would put this in an area highly frequented by foreigners, you wouldn’t post such things somewhere where foreigners rarely go. But! Not the point!) was, to say the least, quite a shock.

Let me see… I don’t know where to begin as to where the shock began.

Was it the use of the word “natives”? The crying face? The need to capitalize “KOREAN”? The hypocritical “Sorry” at the end? (I don’t know, if you’re going to be an asshole and a racist, at least, own up to it so that the rest of us can criticize you properly) Or even the tiny I-don’t-belong-here heart at the end of “Sorry”? Or even the simple fact, pointed out by a friend, that for once, they got all the spelling right? (At least we know there’s improvement in some ways)

Or maybe, simply, the fact that some people felt it was OK to bluntly put this sign in front of their establishment.

As one of my friends pointed out, yes, it is true, Korean bars and likewise establishments have had to deal with drunk “foreigners” in a nastier way than they would have liked to. Many GIs because of the US military presence in Korea, but also other exchange students and such to whom Seoul might appear to be a paradise for drinking. I’m not saying that Koreans are polite drinkers, absolutely not, they can provide a very obnoxious sight just as well, but I guess Koreans notice “white drunks” more easily than the average Korean drunk right next to them. And so, simple beings that we are, we often over-simplify and over-generalize things and think “White drunk man = red alert!” Maybe, if you’re the owner of or employee at such establishment, your idea of the ‘white man’ might not be very positive. But I don’t think it’s the ‘white’ factor that’s at fault here. It’s the ‘drunk’ factor. It doesn’t make much sense to expect a respectable behavior from anyone in their 20s or 30s (or does age really matter?) who’s pissed ass drunk, be they Korean or other. (And I would like to take this opportunity to apologize to all the establishments that have had to deal with my own less than ideal behavior – sorry, *crying face* *little pathetic heart*)

No matter what the excuse is, it is just, plainly, simply, WRONG to put such a sign. You may have your own personal prejudices, I don’t think there’s a single person living who doesn’t have some sort of prejudice. But when you decide to display such negative and discriminatory sentiment officially and publicly, it becomes a different matter. You build a ground for racism. You class people of a certain race, ethnicity, different from yours, into one single homogeneous group. You forget and discard the other portion of the population (probably the majority) who don’t relate to the characteristics you have arbitrarily assigned to them. You set a precedent that allows for discrimination to be ok in some ‘special cases’ (in this case, for private business and interests – I would guess). You perpetuate the eternal dichotomy of “us versus them” where “us” are always the good guys and “them” the bad ones. And, frankly, on a more personal level, you just hurt people. You hurt people who just wanted somewhere to spend a good time, and you hurt their friends who somehow feel the need to apologize for your behavior.

I could go on. But I think I made my point.

Korea has for a long time, been proud of its “one ethnicity” “one race” “one big happy family” history. Not only is that historically false, but it has also made the arrival and daily lives of foreigners extremely difficult, regardless of their nationalities. It is high time Korea accepts the fact that non-Koreans also have a place in this country, and a proper one. It is about time they realize you can’t group them all into “Americans” or “Chinese” or “Whites” or “South-East Asians” or “Blacks” and think they are all the same. I think enough Koreans face the same discrimination abroad for them not to make the same mistake.

Yes, this is a social and political issue, some might even say this sets a bad image for Korea as a country. But more than anything, you hurt individuals, people. Your behavior can turn an ok-day to a really gloomy one for the guy who was just trying to have a drink after a long day of work. Your words can draw tears out of the woman who has left her country and family to work. Your thoughts can make the exchange student more homesick than usual. So please think once, not even twice, just once, before you blurt out your misconceptions and bigotry.

Having said that, since I’m usually an optimistic person, and would hate to end this in just a negative and hopeless note, and most of all, because I still care about Korea, I’m sharing this other link: http://www.humansofseoul.org/

Hopefully this will restore a little bit of faith in Koreans. Policies, discussions, measures on a national level are necessary, but I do believe each of our own personal and individual actions matter just as much. In fact, we are the ones who can make such changes on a larger level come true. And for one racist HO Bar owner, there are 10 other people who criticize him/her… I hope. Although Korea as a country has its terrible and horrible faults, what makes it still a livable place are the people in it.

PS: Obviously the starting day and ending day of this post are not the same.  

Dear Americans: Stop being nice

Daily Prompt: Community Service

I was grocery shopping yesterday and saw a woman in her power wheelchair coming toward my way on my right. She seemed to stop at some point, so I decided to walk my way to the aisle in front of me, when I heard “Excuse me” coming from her. Having been long enough in the States and in Boston to learn that people are generally nicer and less rude than the ones in Korea, I was all smiles and said “Yes?”, in the eager hope that I might be of some help. Instead, what I got in return was a cold and stern look and a “You shouldn’t look in the air, you’re in my way”. I mumbled a barely audible “Sorry” and quickly disappeared behind the stack of merchandise. I wanted to tell her that I had seen her, and had decided to cross because I thought she was stopping for something. But I was left too disturbed, even for just a moment. This small incident totally bummed and upset me, to the point that even as I was feeling this enormous discomfort in my heart, I knew it wasn’t normal to feel this much hurt by something this banal.

And then I realized, the nice Americans had totally spoiled me.

Had it been in Korea, I would have shrugged and gone my way without thinking twice about it. When you have middle-aged women shoving you in the subway or in the bus so that they can get the seat you didn’t even want in the first place, without a ‘Sorry’ or an ‘Excuse me’, you get kinda numb to the lingering disrespect in the air. When a well-dressed girl with perfect make-up overtly looks at you up and down with obvious disgust (or something else I couldn’t decipher) because you’re carrying a gift bag that says “Sexy Cookie”, you just think “Oh, it’s one of them” and look away (in my defense, it was a birthday present and Koreans do have a knack for coming up with the cheesiest names for their products – in this case underwear). So once in a while, when a stranger on the bus offers to hold your humongous English Literature Anthology book when you’re about to collapse from a long day at university, you feel immense gratitude and stop yourself from hugging the person. When the stranger you just shared a cab with coming down from school because the bus just wouldn’t come kindly offers to pay for the ride, you give a bigger than average smile and you continue the rest of the day feeling this world is indeed beautiful.

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Korea makes the simplest nice gestures count, because they do happen oh-so-infrequently.

But when you have people waiting for the bus with you compliment on your shoes and engage in conversations, when you have people opening and holding doors for you, when you hold the doors in return for others and they always say thank you, when you hear some “Have a great day” that do sound genuine at least once a day, you eventually get spoiled. You take kindness for granted and expect the whole population of Boston to be the same. And a simple, ordinary, not-so-nice-yet-not-totally-evil remark that you are standing in the way nearly draws tears out of you.

So please, before you break my fragile heart again, Americans, stop being nice.

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“Fresh Off The Boat” by Eddie Huang

I’m a girl, he’s a boy.

I’ve never lived in the States, he’s lived there since 1982.

I’m Korean, he’s Chinese (Taiwanese) American.

My so-called encounter with hip-hop is limited to club music (which I guess he would never consider as ‘true’ hip hop). He would tell you the history of hip-hop in a beat.

I’ve never dealt drugs, never even been close to any (hopefully it will continue being so), he was a major (or so it appears, to me) dealer in marijuana.

I don’t get the rules of American football, to me it’s just a bunch of overly equipped male high on testosterone hitting into one another with no particular purpose. He’s been in football teams at school.

The only adjective I can find to describe food is ‘delicious’ and sometimes, I can go as far as ‘yummy’ if it’s really good. He can talk and analyze food as much as, or more than, I can talk about and analyze Nikita I guess.

As you can see, Eddie Huang and I are worlds apart, but strangely enough, I could connect to much of what he was talking about in his book.

True, when I saw that the book was a memoir of some Asian American dude, I thought to myself, it’s going to be a typical success story from an Asian American, surviving the pressures and ‘discipline methods’ imposed by his Asian parents, and ‘making it’ to the top, and achieving the American dream. Not that I don’t enjoy those books, even if it is merely for getting the satisfaction of knowing that my parents are definitely not the worst you could ever have as Asian parents, but come on, we all know the story of the Asian-American dream. But Eddie Huang is not your ‘typical’ Asian American (and yes, I’m aware of the stereotype I am setting here already). He’s a guy full of controversies and diversities, as much as an Asian guy could ever be. Or maybe he is simply one of many Asian Americans like him, and simply the first one who was able to talk about his atypical life. A life that may be shared by all these Asian Americans whose journeys have been over shadowed by the success stories of the ‘model-minority’ type, represented by lawyers and doctors, and definitely not by a ‘former drug dealer/former lawyer/hip hop connoisseur/restaurant owner’.

But I guess the reason I was able to connect with him is that, despite all our differences, we are both/all searching who we really are and want to find our place in this world; we want to connect with those around us and belong to some group or community, all the while trying to differentiate ourselves from the rest through our uniqueness.

“I saw that my interests in hip-hop, basketball, food, comedy, and writing were symptoms of a larger interest: finding a place for myself in the world or making one. School helped me give that larger interest more precise names – racial identity, social justice – and I was determined to figure it all out.”

For him, finding that place was a road paved with struggle, fight against discrimination, and efforts not to be seen and labeled as a stereotype, and I admire and respect how he managed to always fight his way back, against the system and the people that we hardly recognize or acknowledge as discriminatory because we are too busy trying to fit in.

“It was all about Uncle Chans and how they fucked up the game up for Asian people. For too long, I wrote, we’ve been lapdogs. The people who don’t want to offend anyone. We hide out in Laundromats, delis, and take-out joints and hope that our doctor/lawyer sons and daughters will save us. We play into the definitions and stereotypes others impose on us and accept the model-minority myth, thinking it’s positive, but it’s a trap, just like any stereotype.”

By doing so however, he also falls into stereotyping the other, the ‘white man’, and the ‘model Asian man’, of whom he already has a certain idea of, and whom he judges according to his own prejudices, and I guess my biggest criticism of his book would be that discrepancy. But I’ve never lived in the ‘white world’ that the US sometimes can be, despite all its myths of ‘melting pot’ or ‘salad bowl’, so I guess I can’t really criticize his experience with racism. I’m kind of dreading living in the States in the very near future, in that sense. I still have this naive hope that living in the same country, especially one as big as the US, will not necessarily lead to the same unpleasant experiences, and dearly hope, on the one hand, I won’t have to go through this subtle discrimination and racism every country kind of holds against foreigners. On the other hand, I feel like I should prepare myself for such encounter, instead of holding on to a futile hope, and think of smart ways to overcome them and perhaps, learn a thing or two.

And that’s the other thing about his book that is atypical and refreshing. His clear and bold voice denouncing the blunt and subtle racism that exists in the States (and probably any other country) to this day. We have all become somewhat race-conscientious today that we are afraid of being called as a ‘racist’ whenever we talk about race. So we’d rather overlook certain things concerning race and be satisfied with the superficial talks on this issue, to be on the safer side. Ironic, isn’t it, that the more we become aware of certain issues (race, gender, etc), the less we are encouraged to actually seriously discuss them?

Anyways, Eddie Huang’s way of dealing with such prejudice while growing up was to always ‘fight back’, and not be the docile, weak and polite Asian kid who, after being on his knees to find the glasses on the school playground, glasses knocked off from his nose by the white bully, only dreams of his vengeance in the future, when he’ll be the successful lawyer that will sue that kid’s ass off. I felt small learning of this distinct way of fighting, wondering whether I myself had not been that ‘docile, weak and polite Asian kid’ who preferred to be quiet instead of barking back. I don’t think I was that docile when I was little, back in Mauritania, although, technically, primo, I don’t think I ever faced ‘racism’ back there, and segundo, little as I was, I was always more comfortable using words than fists. But I think I’ve become more docile when I grew up, mainly because I just don’t like confrontations. Especially when it comes to certain images and perceptions foreigners have of Korea. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I can list you a hundred things that I think this country is clearly doing wrong, but Korea is, in a way, like my mom. I can spend days and nights about how she/it annoys the hell out of me, but don’t you dare trash talk about her/it. It may be a fucked up country, but well, and I hate saying this, it is my fucked up country, you know? It’s one thing to have both foreigners and Koreans hold a critical point of view about Korea, and carry on a civilized and sensible discussion, for instance, about how many Korean companies have insane working hours. But it is another thing to have a foreigner ‘criticize’ the drinking culture in Korea and complain about how Koreans love drinking, when that very same person is clearly having tons of fun drinking with his other foreigner buddies, and nobody is forcing them to. And just because I didn’t want to be seen as that ‘nationalistic Korean kid’ who will defend her country against the big white evil, I nodded along most of the time. But, just like Eddie Huang puts it,

“Whether you accept it or not, when you’re a visible Asian you have a torch to carry because we simply don’t have any other representation.”

At first, I felt as I I had been betraying the ‘Asian race’ because I didn’t have the physical strength to fight back with punches like he did. I felt as if I was the spitting image of that ‘Asian stereotype’ he was so clearly against, because, well, I’m a nerd who likes studying, I have never even dreamed of doing, let alone, dealing drugs and I don’t have the energy or the time to be that invested in hip-hop. I absolutely hate sports, especially when they involve a ball of any sort, because I always feel like the balls are just rushing to hit me, and only me. And in a way, I was jealous that he got to be both cool and smart. As much as the ‘good Asian’ in me was saying ‘Gosh, he’s such a bad Asian, and a bad son! His parents are working their butt off to educate him and what does he do? Deal drugs? Shame on him…’, the ‘rebel Asian’ in me was simply envious of his genuine love for food and cuisine and passion for something besides studies. But Eddie Huang is not telling us to be exactly like him. Au contraire. He is telling us to find our own way to stand out in the dominant system and culture, to find something proper and unique to us and be proud of it. To make your own culture and your image and own them. And this is the biggest lesson I draw from Eddie Huang’s memoir.

Why I don’t like the Olympics, especially in Korea

The Olympic Games.

It’s an irony that while the first Olympic Games held in Ancient Greece provided an unprecedented occasion for conflicts and wars to be postponed at least during the duration of the games, constituting a symbol of peace and unity, what the Olympic Games have become is quite the opposite.

Instead of calming down conflicts and presenting an arena where differences were overlooked and amateurs could leisurely compete, the Olympic Games are now providing every bit of excuse for people to light up feuds that had been absent before. The pride of each country is at stake, countries have their own ways of ranking so that they can find an easier way to come at the top, and worse, the amenities of technology and modernity are being used as major tools to exacerbate the competition, which left the ‘friendly area’ a long time ago.

Especially in Korea, the 30 days of what should be a pleasant and exciting experience for viewers and perhaps a less than pleasant and quite stressful ordeal for the athletes, become a ground for lashing out all the negative aspects of nationalism in full motion.

The winners are lauded as ‘national heroes’, with their names making the covers of every newspaper front page and internet page, with adjectives and descriptions that often make me wonder if we sent these athletes to fight a war. Those who haven’t made it to the podium to be awarded the precious medal and given the opportunity to place their hands on their hearts are encouraged and acclaimed to have ‘well fought‘.

Moreover, this is a great excuse to find every bit of so-called proof and evidence of a ‘global conspiracy theory’ against Korea. True, there have been incidents where what should have been a sound and fair judgment from the umpires have been questioned for Korean athletes, during these Olympics more than anywhere else. My sympathy goes to the athletes who waited four years to be on this stage and enjoy the immense happiness and sense of achievement they could have had. I’m not even saying that the referees were fair, my obvious lack of knowledge in anything related to sport forbids me from making such a judgement. However, is it fair, I ask in return, for the large majority of a population to bombard those involved in the process with insults and defamation? Is it fair to expect that the athlete who has been given the joy to be awarded a medal should relinquish his or her rights to it because he or she may also think the referee was unfair? Most of all, is it fair, or even reasonable, to even fathom the idea that this is all a big conspiracy theory against Korea, a nation oh-so-great that people actually care?

Get off your high horses, and also, get a life, people. Being the main responsible ones to shut down someone’s Twitter or Facebook account is NOT something you should be proud of, or something you should be doing in the first place. It feels like shit to think you’ve been cheated, but you’re not the only country to have experienced a controversy in these games (if you don’t believe me, check out the Wiki page for ‘Olympic Game Controversies’). Also, well, shit happens in life.

The incessant and frankly, overwhelming, attention given to the games and athletes does not end once the Games end, unfortunately. Even now, while the Games are still in full motion (although I think that the heat will somehow be assuaged now, now that Korea has won its medals in the few categories they had the most chance to), the female athletes are described as ‘hidden beauties’, ‘pearls’, ‘pretty faces’, and so on. None of these adjectives are used for the male athletes, and I do wonder, why is it that although these female athletes have done everything to prove their abilities, the only image people still want to remember by is their physical trait? And, no offense, with all due respect and admiration, I, honestly wouldn’t describe some of them as ‘objectively pretty’. True, beauty is skin deep and these are all ‘beautiful’ women because they have shown their full potential, but we all know that the media does not mean ‘beautiful’ in that sense.

Once our proud athletes hit the Korean soil from their plane, they will be the target of every photo shoot, interviews and TV shows. They will -especially the women- pampered with the latest trendy make-up and dresses for photo shoots, they will be interviewed to recount every detail of their precious moment, and the ordeal they had to go through during their years of practice under less than recommendable conditions. Their families will be interviewed, their friends, their teachers, their classmates from pre-school, and basically anyone who ever came across them in their long lifetime. They will be invited as special guests to TV shows where the MCs will prod on sensible questions so that they can show their tears of frustration and joy and hence make all the other guests and thousands of viewers cry. Their performances will be shown over and over on TV, on an array of channels. (The 2002 World Cup games are STILL shown on TV).

And then, God forbid, should they make the slightest behavior or make the tiniest comment that the great populace of Korea considers a ‘mistake’, they will never be allowed to show their faces in public.

Thank God I don’t have a TV at home anymore.

My respect goes to the creators of the Olympic Games and those that believed in its spirit, whatever they may have turned to now, as well as to all the athletes to whom each second of these Games matters. The Olympic Games can still be enjoyed and be considered as ‘Games’. But unfortunately, Korea is making this whole experience unbearable for me.