Sunday, September 19, 2010

Road and Other Rage

I thought I was a patient, open-minded person.

I really did. But I am having a low point in Korea today. I am trying not to take it personally that simple, simple tasks are so difficult and traumatizing today. First, I got the worst haircut of my life. The haircut itself isn't bad as long as you are going for a suburban mom look (even when you are single and urban). Even though I don't speak Korean, I showed the woman how much to cut on my hair, no more than half an inch. I don't know how to say "trim" in Korean, but I thought showing her would be explicit enough. She proceeded to chop about 2 inches off my already short hair that I have been trying to grow out.

Why I didn't say something... I don't know. I should have. I am just as angry at myself as I am at her. It's hard in a foreign language, and I don't want to be rude or demanding. I thought she wasn't really taking that much off, but by the time I walked out of the barber shop and ran my fingers through my hair, I was totally deflated. I burst into tears which I have never done before. Over the last few months, I have felt longish hair and been able to put my hair in a ponytail for the first time in 5 years. It's so superficial, I know, but I was really excited about it. To have all that length chopped off is devastating, especially because my hair doesn't grow very fast. Here's a picture of how I feel about this hair cut.

Then after that I rode my bike to a friend's house for a Korean lesson and movie watching. I was crossing the street and I KNOW riding a bike is different at home than in Korea. In the US, you can't even turn right on a red light in all states, and if you can, you have to first stop behind the crosswalk before pulling forward. Here crosswalks and crosslights are just a suggestion. You think you have the right-of-way yet it's a cruel joke. But my US-trained mind saw the green walk light and started crossing. Meanwhile a car sped through the crosswalk. Luckily, we both saw each other in time for him to slow down and me to swerve, but he still hit me and I was thrown foward off my bicycle. It's the first time (and hopefully last) that I've ever been hit by a car. I wasn't hurt but just very angry. The driver seemed concerned as I yelled at him, "I had the green light!! Why don't you look before speeding through the intersection?!" I was more scared than anything, and sat on the sidewalk crying for the second time in 2 hours. I moved my bike out of the road for the honking cars and walked it to my friend's apartment.

I'm just tired of it taking so much mental energy to maneuver like 5 blocks to my friend's house. I have to say, when you drive on the right side of the road, always staying to the right is a VERY logical idea. Imagine the Burke-Gilman trail if people didn't stay to the right, and just walked and cycled and roller-bladed all over the trail with their headphones on. It would be unnecessary chaos. And that's how riding a bike and walking in Korea is, ALL THE TIME. I am trying to be culturally sensitive and not impose my subjective standards on other people. Some friends recently reminded me that 1) Korea was occupied for Japan for a good chunk of the last century and in Japan they walk on the left. So Koreans are used to walking on the left but driving on the right, so road etiquette is a bit scrambled. And 2) Public transportation is really good and the average Korean hasn't been driving their own car for that long, not like Americans who have been developing their road rules and driving culture for almost a century. Culturally, Koreans are fairly new drivers. Okay, okay, I'm taking a deep breath trying to be positive. Happy thought- it's finally cooling off and I can wear a beanie for the indeterminate future.


Jason said...

I totally feel for you cause I've had "I hate Korea" days before yet at the same time I try to reconcile my cultural biases ....

I'm going to write about how in China there are NO TRAFFIC LAWS and how dangerous it is just to try crossing the road let alone riding a bike or driving a scooter in the next couple days...

Needless to say, I think, it is MORE DANGEROUS in Korea....

I hope you have a good day soon.

Ally said...

I've never seen your face look so serious as in this pic. But it is still wildly beautiful. It sounds like a rough day. Sorry girl :( But the good news is that tomorrow (or today for you?) is BRAND NEW! :)
Even when your justifiably pissed off, you still point out the 'other side's' defense. You are a spreader of justice.
I love you.

AmberAnda said...

Thanks for your comment Jason! And hi Ally! You are so serene and kind as always : ) That's funny you mention it being a new day, because this morning I kept listening to the Mason Jennings song "Be Here Now." There is a line, "Sun comes up and we start again, sun comes up and we start again..." which has kind of been my mantra for the day. Love you too!