Sunday, August 31, 2008

What's The Big Deal?

What's the big deal? It looks like a box. To you, the photo above may look like an ordinary box from a Korean post office but looks can be deceiving even here in South Korea. This box represents what I've been working on for the past 3-4 months. It's my next book and Friday was the day I had to box it all up and ship it to the States.

I've talked about this in a previous post how traumatic it is for me to put all the book projects along with the other things required into a box and then trust strangers to deliver it to the appropriate people, meaning my editor. It is even more traumatic when I'm mailing the box from South Korea and speaking to a postal clerk that speaks no English.

Curt (hubby) took Friday off and went with me to deliver the box to the post office. He was surprised at how long it took me to fill out the paperwork. I usually can handle it by myself but I had put a US value on the box higher than my normal $50.00 so the postal clerk was really reluctant to process the package. A quick call to my Korean girlfriend, Hannah, got the postal clerk to proceed and finish the paperwork.

As we waited for the finally processing, I found myself touching the box and reluctant to let it go. It represented months of hard work and diligence. It finally came time to pay the postage and turn my back on the box. I did give it one more glance before exiting the post office. There was nothing more I could do and it's up to the postal Gods to get it to the States.

My second big deal has to do with the bathroom situation in a lot of places in Korea including the building that houses my maedeup classes. Yes, there are separate doors for men and women but when I enter the women's side, this is what I am greeted with. The left door is locked and actually the men's side and the right door is the only women's stall.

Even after a year, I am still freaked out when I encounter a bathroom like this. But this past week, I was more freaked out than usual. As I approached the bathroom, there was a Korean man standing in front of the bathrooms. As I went into the women's, he entered the men's. I hurried up to you-know-what while I heard total silence on the other side of the partition. I kept looking up to see if I was being spied on.

I then heard the women's door open and as I left the stall, an older Korean women was in the process of spitting a nasty glob of who-knows-what into the only sink. I was unable to hide my look of shock and she responded on seeing me, a foreigner, with an equal shocked look. We just stood there looking at each other. She then realized (at least I hope) that she should turn the water on and wash out the glob. Well, just turning on the water didn't remove the nastiness and she looked at me to see another shocked look, still left over from the first look. She she turned the water on again and this time she used her hands to flick water all over the sink therefore removing the glob.

She started bowing and saying something. I just said, "kamsamnida" (thank you in Korean). She left and I washed my hands. When I told my Korean girlfriends about this incident, they wondered why I had been so shocked and that it was a normal thing to have occurred. I do know all about spitting here in Korea (I'd only seen men do it until now). They were really surprised that such a little thing shocked me.

Because of the cultural differences, I can be shocked or surprised as soon as I leave my apartment. In fact, now I enjoy the adventures just outside of my door. But I guess I need to work on my ability to control my reaction. I should have covered better and not had the eye raising, mouth dropping reaction to what I saw. I'm sure I embarrassed the poor woman and I feel bad for that.

But back to the bathrooms, am I the only one who thinks that a partition just isn't enough to divide the men's room from the women's room? Another thing that my girlfriend's pointed out is that in a public bathroom in the States, the stall door does not go to the floor. I had not noticed that before in Korea but it is true, the stall doors go all the way to the floor. They think it's disgusting that you can see someone's feet while they are using the bathroom. So, it's just another one of the cultural differences that makes me go hmmm. I do that a lot!


Helena said...

I don't think I ever saw a bathroom like that (though I did once use the men's room accidentally. That was embarrassing.)

Having doors that go all the way to the floor can be even more important when you've got squatters!

CreekHiker said...



Sarah said...

I'm still surprised at some of the bathrooms here after 6 years. I hate it when I see there are no separate bathrooms, or no soap and paper towels. I find it's either one extreme or the other -- either really luxurious bathrooms with bidet, sofas, automatic taps, ... or dirty squatters with inadequate washing facilities.

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