The content of each post is solely written by that contributor and only expresses the contributor's personal views. Each post does not represent the views of all the contributors or Women of Color Living Abroad as an organization. Each contributor is speaking from their own person experiences and/or perspective.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Home Again and Natural Hair Care

By Rukiya McNair

So...in the past few years, before I had a family of my own and after, I've bounced around quite a bit. Now, being fully transitioned back home in Pittsburgh, PA I am finding it to be a positive experience as well as a bitter sweet one filled with great memories of my travels abroad.

In the past 5 years I have been (not necessarily listed in the order of importance):

1.  physically thrown out of a bar simply because of the color of my skin (Jakarta, Indonesia)

2.  in a fist fight with a male taxi driver (Jakarta, Indonesia)

3.  bitten by a centipede (Christiansted, St. Croix)

4.  told by an 8 year old student that she didn't like Black people (Jakarta, Indonesia)

5.  told by the SAME 8 year old student referenced in #4 that Jennifer Hudson was beautiful like her teacher (i.e. me), the day after I had a conversation with her about her comments

6.  the Ambassador to all things Black in America (Jakarta, Indonesia)

7.  taught that the words cheeky, thick, and spiked mean something completely different in the U.K. (everywhere but the U.S.)

8.  sick from food poisoning more times than I can count (everywhere but the U.S. but primarily Jakarta, Indonesia)

9. almost in love (no comment)

10. out of almost love (no comment)

11. in love again (no comment)

Now that I'm back, there are a few things I am glad to experience...everyone speaking English, concerts, music and the variety of foods. I'd like to think those are all typical reasons for enjoying being back home. There are other less common reasons as well I suppose, like police sirens in the city, Mexican people, VH1Soul, face cream that doesn't contain bleach, terrible pop music, consumerism, oh...and proper hair care products. As a natural-haired African-American woman, those products can be hard to find abroad, if you can find them at all.

So, what does a woman do when she can't find her most prized hair care products abroad? Stock-up before you go, or order them from this magical place called the internet. Recently, I spoke with Gwen Jimmere of Naturalicious.net.
I asked Gwen what she thinks the most important natural hair care products are to take abroad she said, "It’s very important to take moisturizer with you. Our hair gets very dry and oils alone do not moisturize the hair. When hair gets too dry, it become brittle and it will break off like nobody’s business. Carry a good moisturizer with you at all times."

Gwen Jimmere, CEO of Naturalicious, LLC

I can say I learned this lesson the hard way when I was living in in St. Croix. I had locs for 10 years when I decided to chop them off and rock a small afro. I guess island life had me feeling a little too carefree because my hair began to break-off about 6 months later when we moved to Puerto Rico. I hadn't been moisturizing my hair properly (probably due to the lack of natural hair care products where I was living)...and I was paying the price! I was thrilled when I found the Naturalicious website because they shipped outside of the continental United States (and internationally) so easily!

While you are waiting for your products to arrive via snail-mail, one easy mix (depending on where you are in the world) is olive oil and shea butter, according to Gwen it provides,"great shine and excellent moisture."

For now, me and my hairs are going to enjoy our stay here in the U.S. and everything that comes with it.. for as long (or short) as it may be...

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Dining Out in Muscat

by Stephanie McCreary

I moved to Oman a little more than a year ago and since then I have been living a double life. During the week I am a resident of Nizwa, a conservative small town in the interior of the country where I have to cover my arms and legs whenever I step outside. On the weekends however, I escape to the capital city of Muscat where I wear short sleeves,  Capri pants and indulge in activities that are unavailable in Nizwa. As a food lover, one of the things I love to do is patronize great restaurants. Aside from a couple of decent Indian places and a smattering of hole-in the-wall Arabian joints, Nizwa doesn’t have a whole lot to offer in terms of fine cuisine. Muscat has more options, and since I’ve stayed in my small town for the past four weekends, I have a strong desire to sample from the capital’s culinary platter. After waking up early and eating a rushed breakfast of shredded wheat, I hit the road.

An hour an a half later, I get my hair cut at the Intercontinental Hotel in Shatti Al Qurum and a pedicure at Totem Nails. As the end of my pedicure approaches, I feel my stomach growling and begin to envision lunch. I know that I want a special dinner later so I  need something light and fresh. I choose Automatic, a Lebanese restaurant conveniently located in Shatti Al Qurum. I walk inside to find a fast food restaurant in a casual dining setting: open and bright, with tables covered in black, white, red, and green cloths. I find a seat away from the bright October sun streaming in through the window side and peruse the menu, which offers a wide array of Lebanese food, including appetizers ranging in price from 1.200 to 2.100 OMR. Hommos, hommos with meat, and tabouleh are a few of the featured starters. I choose the rocket salad and fried kebbe. The salad is crisp and fresh, a mix of verdant green arugula leaves, fiery red chopped tomatoes, and red onion, drenched in the sweet tang of balsamic vinaigrette. The fried kebbe, torpedo shaped Lebanese meatballs made of fried bulgur stuffed with ground beef, onions, and seasonings, leave something to be desired. The bulgur coating falls apart too easily, and I have to sprinkle lemon juice and salt on the filling to add flavor.

For entrees, Automatic has a good selection of fresh juices like pomegranate, avocado, strawberry and apple, ranging in price from 1.100 to 1.700 OMR. Grills include lamb chops, chicken kebabs and chicken wings starting at 2.300 OMR. The lunch menu features sandwiches like the classic vegetarian falafel to the not so vegetarian sheep’s brain  from 300 to 450 baisas.  For early risers, there are breakfast dishes like foul, and eggs with meat that range from 1.200 to 1.700 OMR. If you like seafood, grilled hamour, kingfish, and grilled prawns have a place on the menu. If you care for a sweet ending, there is a variety of sweets including Oum Ali, a middle eastern style bread pudding, and Kataif, a pastry made from shredded wheat filled with cheese and topped with a fragrant syrup.  The total cost of my quick lunch: 3.700 OMR. Automatic has four locations: Shatti Al Qurum in the Bareeq al Shatti building, Al Ghubra, Seeb, on North Hall Road, and Al Khuwair, across from the Radisson SAS.

After a few hours of shopping, I meet my driver to go for dinner at Mumtaz Mahal. Oman has a large Indian expatriate community, so there is no shortage of Indian restaurants to choose from, but Mumtaz is without a doubt the best. Sitting atop a hill in Qurum overlooking the city, this establishment recently underwent renovations and the new décor is subtle yet warm, elegant yet inviting.  The ceilings are chocolate brown and beige, with dark wood tables and chairs with beige cushions.  A small stage is at the front of the spacious dining area with sophisticated paintings in earth tones and deep reds hanging on creamy walls. As I sit at my table and look through the menu, I notice the gold placemats in front of me that compliment the amber hued lights hanging from the ceiling and pillars.

I start with the prawn and coconut soup. Light, with a delicate citrus bite, this is a mellow introduction to the rest of my meal. I feast on American corn saag masala, a pureed spinach dish with Indian spices, punctuated by plump, sweet, sun yellow corn kernels and served with steamed basmati rice. Next, I try the tangy tandoori potatoes. Marinated in raw mango pulp, coriander, and mint and roasted in the tandoor, these are some of the most delicious potatoes I’ve ever tasted. Their outer coating is red from the marinade and flakes slightly  when touched with a fork. I sip the sweet truth of a ripe mango in a lassi, the perfect fruity, ice-cold dessert. As I finish my meal, live sitar and tabla music ring out from the stage and lend a mystical and enchanting atmosphere to the evening.

The extensive menu reads like a tantalizing novel, featuring dishes like tandoori whole lobster, cajun spiced chicken tikka, chicken and lamb kebab platter, and desserts like strawberry phirni brulee, a chilled rice flour pudding infused with strawberry puree sauce. Starters range from 2.200 to 3.200 OMR, soups from 2.000 to 3.000, chicken entrees from 5.000 to 5.500, vegetarian dishes from 3.500 to 4.000, seafood from 6.900 to 18.000 and lamb from 5.500 to 6.000 Rice dishes range from 2.500 to 18.000, breads from 200 baisas to 1.800 and desserts from 1.800 to 2.600. My entire meal set me back about 16.000 OMR. If you’re out and about in Qurum and need a fast lunch in a clean family restaurant, head over to Automatic. If you want to be transported to India encapsulated on a hill with a sparkling  nighttime view, have your dinner at Mumtaz Mahal. Reservations are recommended.

Monday, October 22, 2012

The Scared Traveler: A Slight Change in Plans

Dottie Hill

I think there is a saying that goes something like this, “Even the best laid plans change.” I know the universe will not always bring sunny skies nor will it allow all of your cards to fall into place. So, a planned trip with friends has its ups and downs. What happens when one friend is prepared, and they can no longer take the trip but you aren’t prepared? For anyone that knows this, it can spell disaster while scrambling to make the most of an unprepared vacation. The one thing that can make a vacation less of a disaster is choosing the perfect place to stay. Luckily, for me that’s what I did even when one friend who possessed the know-how of the vacation spot could no longer go. The central location of the hostel I stayed at proved to be a blessing in disguise. Not only were there great places to see in the city center the location provided easy access to other places nearby using the subway or bus.

Forbidden City

With so much to see I was clueless to all the great tourist spots and not so great spots. Since I’m a firm believer in relying on the kindness of others, I did just that. This kind person happened to be the clerk at the hostel. What I got was more than what I was looking for. Not only did the person at the front desk give me a map of the historical places of the city, he also gave me a subway map. As I talked with him he mapped out everything I was interested in seeing on my map, and even provided information about great places the locals go in the city.

Street Food
As I explored the city and saw lots of things I couldn’t help but wonder how interesting it was without knowing anything before I came. I can tell you, if you decide to go to Beijing make sure you bring a great pair of walking shoes. There is so much to see in this city and different kinds of foods to try as well. Although, my palate screeched at the thought of candied fruit, it loved the steamed pork dumplings. Not surprising, there were no short supplies of familiar western food chains (McDonald’s and KFC). As always Starbucks is never hard to find anywhere you go, but seeing a Haagen Dazs store made my day.
For travelers like me or the most prepared travelers here are a few tips you may consider when traveling. Remember a great hotel or hostel will provide travelers with up to date maps of the city and/or subway lines. These are great sources for understanding where you are and getting an idea of where you want to go. Don’t just take the map and GOOGLE “sites to see in …” Talking with the person at the front desk will give you good insight to the city. Here are a few questions I asked the clerk on my recent vacation:
What’s a good place to eat around here? 
The Great Wall of China
Where do the locals go to shop?
Where are the clubs and bars?
Where are the bars the locals go to?
Is it easier to get to ... by bus or subway?
Which bus should I take?
Do you offer tours to different sites?
Where are the movie theaters?
Where are the running parks?

Tiananmen Square
These questions are general enough to get the desk clerk talking. Make sure you include questions that are geared towards things you like. Also, while you are chatting with this person, remember to have them outline places on your map. This will give you a better idea as to how far certain places are, and help you at planning your time. Then you will be able to choose where you want to go, and know if it’s a great place to visit.

Having a handy dandy app is a must for a scared and unprepared traveler like me. One of my favorite travel apps is Triposo. It’s an interactive travel guide that uses the web to give information on popular travel destinations around the world. You can download the guides you want on your phone and they’re all free. It has information from history to food and culture as well as maps. Although, I went on my vacation clueless I managed to have a great time. I hope that you are able to have an adventure whether you are prepared or not.

Good Luck!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Making Yourself at Home in the World

By:  eternitysojourner

In my four years of living abroad, I’ve lived in five different homes.  Each was unique and filled with memories of felicity, frustration, and fellowship but one feature noticeably absent, as I mentally tour each residence, is the apparent lack of “stuff”.  Not the kind of stuff left behind by an old roommate but the stuff that makes a house feel like a home; the stuff that adds beauty to your abode and makes it, not just functional, but inviting.  A nomad’s dwelling need not be bland or bare!  There is room for art and comfort in your life abroad without the burden of added luggage weight or overseas shipping.  While our family is not yet ready to plant our roots in a particular land, here are some ways we've found to “sprout” and make our home homely in the here and now.

Unpack the Suitcases

Nothing says “nomad” like storing your clothes in an open suitcase.  No matter how neatly you fold your clean laundry, a suitcase is still a suitcase.  Adding a simple set of shelves, stacked crates, or a modest bureau conveys the message that you’re not sneaking out in the middle of the night.  You’re sticking around for awhile, so unpack, put the suitcases out of sight, and get cozy.

Buy Dining Sets for Four (or at least Two!)

Unless communal drinking and eating is your custom of choice, you’re going to need more than one set of cutlery to entertain guests.  Being able to have a guest, even if it’s just one, forces you to look at your living space through the eye of another.  Those little touches and details you pay attention to when having company ought to remind you to cultivate a home that’s inviting to you too!  Don’t just sleep and eat in your spot- dream and thrive!  Your home should be a sanctuary and place of respite, no matter how small in size or brief your stay may be.
Pack Your Spices

The tastes and smells of familiar foods bring us great comfort. It’s awesome to taste new dishes and experiment with a new cuisine but sometimes you have a craving that the best of foreign dining can’t fill. When you need to cook a “down home” meal, compensating with substandard spices or trying to substitute with a local equivalent may you leave unfulfilled. Leave the spice rack at your mom’s house but pack just a few sachets of quality spices and herbs to make your soul food sing. This will at least buy you time to try out the locally available spices and see if they fit the bill.

Have Company Over

Now that you have more than one spoon and bowl, it’s time for fellowship!  Even if your offering is nothing more than tea and biscuits, strengthening your social ties outside of a passing wave in the street or chatting after work helps you to nurture your connection to others and where you are.  Your social life can make or break your experience abroad, so once your settled, consider having a guest every once in a while.

Add a Little Green

Nothing says “home” like a plant- a little shoot of life growing in your home.  Whether you grow a plant from seed in soil or nurture a fallen flower in a jar of water, grow something!  If you want to test out your “green thumb”, you can try a little windowsill herb garden or grow pots of tomatoes or strawberries in whatever green space you can secure for yourself.  You can always “gift” your plants to a neighbor or resident when it’s time for the caravan to pull out.

Invest in Art

Art is not just for artists- we all benefit from the sight of something that moves and soothes us.  You can carry a few favorite prints and have them framed locally or look for art in your environs.  A calendar page, a cherished greeting card, hand-dyed fabrics, a decorative candle holder or handmade crafts can add a much needed aesthetic to your flat without breaking your budget.  Even when you have to buy items for your home like sheets or floor rugs, think beyond function. Factor fashion and décor into your selections.

Cherish Your Photos

In this digital era, many of us have files or disks of pictures, not stacks of photo albums.  Use your screensaver for virtual trips down memory lane or play a slideshow of photos that capture worthwhile memories.  You can have some of your favorite photos printed and framed locally or invest in a digital photo frame to display your favorite shots.

How have you made home abroad feel more like home?

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Eduation: The Passport to the World

“Though we travel the world over to find the beautiful, we must carry it with us or we find it not.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

google images
In 2009, I left America for South Korea, which was my first international travel experience. I was excited, but I never thought that my one year teaching contract would turn into a three year life changing experience. However, that is exactly what happened. Now, my life is changing in a new way. I have a new passport and I am traveling internationally in America through EDUCATION!
“One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things.” Henry Miller

When I came home in Feburary, I was certain that I would be returning to Korea to begin my fourth year living and working abroad, but due to a head-on collision I was unable to return. At first, it wasn’t such a big deal because I was at home with family recovering, but soon the nostalgia began to wear off—quickly!  I missed the life that had become very familiar to me. I no longer had my wonderful lifestyle in a foreign nation where I could country hop all over Southeast Asia. I was stuck in America where I had already seen EVERY state I ever desired to see. I was jobless and spending all the money I had saved, and not to mention I was starting to rebuild the debt that I had completely paid off due to medical bills and other miscellaneous expenses. Yet there was a bright light at the end of the tunnel—graduate school in one of the states I had never traveled to, Vermont.

After much contemplating on my future endeavor, I decided to enter graduate school. It’s only been two months and I am truly grateful for making this decision. In 2009, I was accepted into graduate school for a Master’s in Public Health, but after moving to Korea, I made a healthy decision to postpone that choice. As I reflect back, I think that was very wise on my behalf. However, now that I sitting in Vermont, an interesting story that should be told at a later date, I am appreciative that I am in graduate school at this very time and moment. I am even happier that I am pursuing a degree in International Education, an entirely different focus, which was influenced by my experiences working in Korea. 
google images
“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” Nelson Mandela

            Prior to Korea, I really never thought about living internationally on a permanent basis, or what it would be to have a career internationally. However, after living and working in Korea I wanted to make sure that  more minorities had the opportunity to travel abroad and begin to look at the world through a global lens. As Thomas Friedman would put it, “The World is Flat” and we should all have a level playing field when it comes to globalization (in context). Today, a job that many people only perceived as “local” may very well be “global”.  At one point a job like nursing was only thought of as a local position even though the career field has always been global, because nurses have been employed internationally through military and government opportunities. However,  I want minorities to stop thinking in terms of their local options and start thinking about traveling the world and having international careers and educational opportunities. Business isn't the only field that is transferable on a global level. Think of all the things that you do and/or have a need for where you currently are,then think about all the people who do or need those same things around the world. Can you say globalization?

“Ours is a world of 24-hour news cycles, global markets, and high-speed internet. We need to look no further than our morning paper to see that our future, and the future of our children, is inextricably linked to the complex challenges of the global community. And for our children to be  prepared to take their place in that world and rise to those challenges, they must first understand it.” Roderick Paige, Former U.S. Secretary of Education
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                It is my desire to help young people understand that they have options through education, and despite many obstacles, they need to start looking at the world as if it is flat. At this time only 4.7% African American students study abroad compared to 78% of Caucasian students. (Institute of International Education http://opendoors.iienetwork.org/) This is the focus of my education and what I am passionate about. I desire to change the numbers. I want the next generation of minorities to travel the world and have more educational options than I could have imagined. Studying abroad isn't for some people, it should be an optional for all, and we (minorities) must understand that opportunities are available, then take advantage of them.   
I am no longer getting my passport stamped as I travel from one country to the next (at least for the next nine months.) However, I just began my journey with an even bigger passport that can open more doors for myself and those that I am able to encourage and influence. I use to travel with my U.S. passport, but now I’m gaining an education that will give me authorization to travel, live and work without boarders. 

If you are interested in getting a degree in International Education, Sustainable Development, and/or Conflict Transformation, then please consider SIT (School for International Training) www.sit.edu 

Sunday, October 7, 2012

The Scared Traveler: Finding Adventure Close to Home

When I first set out to travel the world, like everyone I had a dream. A dream to see and do everything possible. The reality of it all is that, it’s only a dream. I don’t really want to do everything, and I’m scared to do anything. The thought of venturing into unknown territory has always given me butterflies in my stomach. Like most scared travelers, I rely on the assistance of my friends when travelling as much as possible. Thank God, there are people in this world who love people. I tend to avoid a lot of first time travelling “alone” excursions. Then there are times when I do surprise myself, when I go at it alone.

Recently, I decided to not harbor in my apartment in the lovely Korean countryside to brave the unknown. This unknown happened to be a widely locally publicized festival (Yesan Story Festival) in my town that is actually twenty minutes from my home. I will admit, since I work within the city limits I go no further than I have to on a bus. Any travelling that involves me going anywhere has mostly been done by train. So, this was my first local adventure near home, and I was looking forward to seeing the unseen of Yesan. Luckily for me there was plenty of information posted everywhere about bus times and the event location. I read all of the signs so I was at the right place and even had the bus timetable. In my head I was prepared to take the free bus to the festival location. I read all of the signs so I was at the right place and I even had the bus timetable. After much waiting for a free small yellow bus that takes you directly to the festival dropping you right at the entrance. The only thing that came to my head was, “I wish I knew how to take the local bus there.”  Like most of my great ideas they are ideas until I act upon them, but considering my lucky I stuck with the free bus. The bus ride wasn’t the best since there are people in this world that like to be lumped together like a can of sardines.

Once in the countryside, and happily off that bus I was amazingly surprised. For such a small festival it surpassed my expectation. There was everything about Yesan which is widely known for apples, and a friend told me ginseng (don’t know about ginseng). As I walked around, I was surrounded by the smell of deliclious foods scented in apples. Well, like a true “foodie” I followed my nose to those wonderful scents. What I found was apple marinated pork, apple wine, apple made tufo and lots of free apples. Also, there were venders everywhere selling the normal Korean street food, plus drinks loaded in sugar and free food samples from ready made pop rice to apple jam. I would love to tell you I tried  the apple pork, but I didn’t. But something usually did happen to me involving an apple pie. Like anyone who happens to see a pie sitting on a table, and thinking “Wow, apple pie I have to have it.” That was me. It’s not like I see it everyday like I would at home (USA). In all smiles, I paid the money and asked for a pie.

Unfortunatly, I wasn’t given the response I was looking for, but instead an experience. I actually had to make my own pie, and it turned out pretty good. With little assistance (Bascially, I asked the lady to not help me. I don’t believe in many hands in my food.) I proceeded to follow the picture instructions. Once, finished I gave it to the lady in charge for baking and I set off to wander until it was finish. Walking towards the other booths I was able to taste apple tufo, and the highlight of my tasting was the delicious sauce that was paired with it. Needless to say there were too many people coming to the line for that sauce.By the way, it wasn’t made with apples and I didn’t get the recipe. I was able to taste apple wine which was really good, and reminded me of the wine I used to make with my great-grandmother. After feeding my face with some really good food, I picked up my finished pie.

As I set about eating my pie and walking through the festival I found other things of interest besides food. The festival offered bare hands fishing catching, traditional tea tasting and performances of various plays (dramatic pre-historic dinosaur story, high school performance of Chunhyang the “faithful” and other interesting comical performances). A lot of the performances were for kids and the kid at heart; reminding anyone that inside all of us there is a kid waiting to break free. As the day progressed to night, visitors were treated to a free concert with fireworks. For those that wanted music that is totally Korean this was the concert. Traditional dressed men and women playing traditional Korean instruments was a beautiful ending to an adventurous day.

All in all an adventure close to home reminds you that you don’t have to travel too far to have a great time. Find a local festival or event in your town and you may be surprised by what you find there.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

12 Things About Korea That Make Me Smile…Now…(But Not Before)

By:  Brittany S

I can’t really say I had “culture shock” when I arrived in Korea, but I will say there were several things about Korean society that I didn’t really care.  But it’s funny how things work out; now I like them!  I guess all I needed was time.  Here’s a short list of a few of my new likes.  (NB: When reading this article, be sure to click on the highlighted texts so you can see the associated images and video clips)

1                    K-Dramas:  In my opinion, soap operas in general are over-the-top and not the highest quality of acting (just overly emotional, beautiful faces).  But Korean Dramas are even more extreme.  Someone is ALWAYS angry, crying, sad, and/or dying.  They are SO CHEESY!  But, I will say, on any given day, one might be playing in a restaurant or on a bus and it is VERY entertaining to “dub” them with a friend.  You should hear what we come up with.

I have no idea what this one is about but I can make up one heck of a story about it.

2                    Commercials:  If you watch the commercials here, ½ the time you have no idea what they are advertising (what does a talking radish have to do with a phone plan?) or you have no idea WHY they are advertising that (and in that way).  When I got over the futility of the commercials to me, I found them to be quite comical.

 (Top: Yea, you were thinking it...especially on the slow-mo's. O.o
  Bottom:  We definitely don't advertise ice cream like THIS back home.)


3                     Cafés:  I am not really an avid coffee drinker and if I was Stateside, you probably wouldn’t find me in a Starbucks (or anything similar) for service or hanging out.  But here it is possible to stand on the corner of a street and see four different chains at one intersection.  Eventually, you make time for the cafés and it becomes a bit of your social norm.

4                    Dogs: I LOVE dogs…but not “purse dogs;” you know, the dogs that never walk, but just get carried.  Those are pointless to me.  But here, usually only foreigners have bigger dogs (a bulldog is considered big here).  I was slightly annoyed with people carrying dogs, but when you see all the little cute doggie clothing they dress them in (and occasionally they dye their fur some neon colors), you can’t help but say “Awww…”

TOP: Even dogs get to wear "hanboks"--traditional Korean clothing (As seen on weddinggraphics.xanga.com) BOTTOM: Not uncommon to see a dog that looks like it's been playing with a hi-lighter.  The owner usually looks really reserved, too.

5        Konglish:  Korean-English can frustrate a native speaker:
BUT, there are times where it is REALLY funny.  I often search for Konglish and/or English translation merchandise just so I can get a quick laugh.

I don't want any "butt cheese" at all!  I don't care if it's American! (As seen on: "Quilly in Kowea")
Could you tell this was about "Dirty Dancing"?

6                    The Staring:  Sometimes it is innocent and you can see the curiosity in their eyes, but other times it is condescending and flat out RUDE.  Originally I was quite offended, but now I just imagine all of Korea is a catwalk.  If I catch you staring, get ready for the show.  I’m about to think I’m Naomi, and I might even wink/blow you a kiss.  Now who’s uncomfy? ;-)

7                    “Can you…?”: Although their intentions are good, I absolutely HATE when Koreans ask:
“Can you eat spicy food?” (No, if I eat it, it will cause my body to combust.  -_-)
“Can you use chopsticks?” (Not at all, not even to style my hair. I don’t understand these mystical sticks.” -_-)
So now I reply to them with:
“Can you eat a hamburger?” or
“Can you use a fork?”
When they think my question is absurd, my point has been made and life goes on. :-)

8                    “Where are you from…Africa?”:  Now don’t me wrong, I don’t see my skin color’s association with the Motherland as an insult.  I embrace it.  (But, as a Black American, if you say I’m African, where exactly am I from?  In reality, if you say I’m an African-American, does that mean I’m like Obama with 1 African parent, or Charlize Theron, a S. African native?)  The reason Koreans think I am African is for no other reason than that I am not White.  Whoaaaa…since when is America monochromatic?  Then whenever Koreans put anything about Africa in their media, it is usually derogatory in some way.  So in some cases, a person calling me African might mean it as a slight.  No need in getting mad anymore.  I just ask them “Are you from Japan?”** and that usually settles it.

9                    Korean hierarchy: This Confusionist culture is admirable.  I wish Americans respected and looked out for each other more like Koreans do, especially in when it comes to education.  You should see the complete authority that a Korean co-teacher demonstrates in our classes.  With that being said, there are times that as a foreign English teacher, nobody tells you anything and it all pertains to you!   Then if you do find out, they only tell you ½ truths, and at the last minute, all the while not including your input.  Fortunately, as time goes on you learn how to beat the system and to navigate “the Korean way.”

10                Walking Everywhere:  There have been times that because of #9, I ended up going on long hikes in sandals.  Honestly, if I had tennis shoes, I’m not sure how much better off I would have been.  It’s a little shameful how out of breath I was getting.  But now I am used to it and I feel healthier.  Plus my legs look amazing! ;-)

11                Being Told To Go To The Hospital:  In America, especially for someone who can’t afford to take off work and/or does not have insurance, we only go to the hospital if it’s an ABSOLUTE NECESSITY.  The first few times someone forced me to go to the hospital here, I thought there would be major problems because of the language barrier, and that it would cost me an arm and a leg.  In both cases I have been wrong.  Most doctors speak quite a bit of English, no matter the city.  Also, I have been to the ER, gotten a prescription, and had an ultrasound done and had a follow-up visit when my lymph nodes were swollen and all of that cost a little over $100 (without insurance).  Plus it only took about 30minutes!  So now if I even THINK I’m getting sick, it’s off to the hospital I go! Why not?

Koreans often LEAVE the hospital and go around town just like this. (As seen on: lauraeff.tumblr.com)

12                Shopping Difficulties:  Back home, you can try on almost anything before you buy it.  Here?  NO.  In fact, many places sell “Free Size” clothing so you can either fit that one, or none at all.  Considering I’m not built like the average Korean woman, this would irritate me and I would often end up buying something that had I been able to try on, I would have put back.  But now I shop like a pro.  I walk in, check the price, hold it up to my body, then buy it.  I also have become less materialistic.  Some things I can’t even buy here (like shoes for instance) and I am ok with only using what I have over and over, after all, see #6.
I mastered the art of shopping and shopping as art. ;-)

**If you don’t know the history between Japan and Korea, please research it.  In short, to associate them with anything Japanese is a bad idea and vice versa.

***Many of the links used in this post are from two of my favorite comical sites about expat life in Korea.  One is called "Dear Korea:  a random comic made by a random expat" and the other is "#kikinitinkorea"  Please support these two!  They are good laughs and VERY accurate.