Before I left for Seoul, life in Cali was rather hectic. Before I had the opportunity to wipe the summer sweat from my brow, graduation happened and SPOP was over. Before I had the chance to take one more look behind me into the euphoric mass of people and memories of college life, there was only the glassy Pacific ocean that peered back. That was almost 5 months ago. Life happens fast doesn't it?
Living in a Korea has been quite the eye opener. More than just a cultural experience, it's given me a new perspective on the life I've lived in the states--the life I've taken for granted. I understand why the outside world looks at us the way it does--like we're all rich. In Korea, when you go shopping, you definitely don't want to speak any English or you'll get ripped off. The first times I experienced this I would get so angry and just walk away. After living there for a while, and then coming back to the states, I've realized, regardless of what my socio-economic background is, the fact that I live in America puts me higher up on the global food chain. Coming back to the states gave me a new revelation in terms of how good we really have it here. Despite the fact that we're in a recession and it's the "worsts it's ever been," we still have it pretty damn good compared to the rest of the world. We're still a first world country, we still have easy access to clean water, and we still have the luxury of wasting SO much of everything. Even the poorest in America still have cars, TVs, computers, garbage disposals, washers and driers. In Korea, it's a luxury to have a drier, and no one has a garbage disposal, the majority of the population hang dries.
When I first got to Korea, I definitely had a problem with the cups and paper products. All cups are usually the size of a small dixie cup from a water cooler and napkins and toilet paper are single ply. I guess the cup thing was easy to get used to, but the paper thing took a while. Let me explicate. A standard restaurant napkin in Seoul is the size of 2 toilet paper squares, and for some reason it never seems like any Korean ever needs to use them. When I first got there I would use like 20 napkins and they'd sit crumpled and stained in front of me like snowy hills for a diorama. After a while, I learned how to minimize my napkin use. I guess I didn't realize this until I came back to the states and I got handed my first stack of napkins from McDonalds; it was like a small pillow. So many napkins! My old self would have thrown them out when I was done with the meal, but I left the extras in my glove box, in case of emergency. Now, the toilet paper thing. There are three things you must know before heading into a public restroom in Seoul. First of all, not all public restroom have toilets you can sit on, most of them time you have to squat. It can be a little tricky at first, but with practice, it's actually super quick and easy and it saves your tushie in the winter time. Second, not all public restrooms have toilet paper. They actually have vending machines outside most of them that sell little packets of tissues. If a place has toilet paper, it's usually in a dispenser outside of the stalls and you stock yourself up before you head in. Third, Korean bathrooms stink like shit because dirty toilet paper is thrown inside the trash cans. It's really gross, but you get used to it. Well, not really, I don't really follow that rule, but shhhh, don't tell anyone ok?