Lola O.
The constant though running through my head is how cold I am. I should have brought my jacket. The minute I walked outside my apartment building I realized my mistake but since I was running later than usual I decided to brave the cold and head off to school. Now I sit at my desk thinking just how cold I am, and wishing I had a nice fleece blanket at my desk. Seriously, coming from Arizona to Seoul I get cold so easily, so you know I am beyond dreading the winter here. I fear it so much, it's become a bit of a joke between my co teachers and I, even though it's not funny to me.

I mailed off my fingerprint package to my sister to handle it for me back in the States. I used the EMS (Express) mail so it should get to her by Monday at the latest. I'm crossing my fingers that the FBI gets it back to her quickly. Now I need to figure out how to get the diploma part done. I have my diploma with me, and I've looked into getting it verified here but it costs around 60,000 Won, pricey much! So I want to see if I can go through my University to get it done. I emailed them, but they haven't gotten back to me, so it's time for a phone call. I'm not sure if I can just make a photo copy and mail it to the Registar's office, and then go from there which is a lot cheaper but more timely. These new visa regulations give me migraine, but I gotta do what needs to be done.

Oh, on a random note I had a really strange, more than the usual strange bus encounter on Tuesday. It always happens on Bus 150. I took the 150 heading to Itaewon because I wanted to get one of those mink blankets since it is getting colder (I ended up getting one with a red dragon on it). Anyway this woman got on the bus and immediately started staring at me. I only noticed because I had that feeling of being watched. She decided to sit down in front of me. Whatever. I put on my music, and tuned out everyone else. Well this lady, decided to be a pain in my butt. Every other minute she would crank her head around to stare at me with this creepy smile. Let's call her the Creepy Adjumma.

The CA did it so often that I started to get mad. I usually don't bother about it, but that day it was just a little too much to take. I mean can I not sit on the bus, and be left alone like everyone else? Staring at me repeatedly is ridiculous! I'm not going to perform some kind of magic trick if you keep looking or transform into a monster. I decided to let her know I was aware of her creepy staring by catching her eye when she did it again. She didn't blink or stop staring, she just smiled at me in a creepy manner. I just looked out the window and tried to ignore her, but I couldn't. I could feel her eyes on me, until about 10 stops later when she FINALLY got off making sure to give me one last look.

It really bothered me. I wish I could always ignore the people who stare at me like I'm a freak of nature here, who make it a point to make me feel uncomfortable, but sometimes it gets to me. I don't want to get angry or hurt by their ignorance and rudeness but sometimes I do. I get it, I'm different from you. There is no need to make it so obvious. I'm never going to "fit in" here and I don't plan on trying to. I can't change my skin tone, or my hair and I wouldn't want to, but when people stare at me like that it really makes me aware of just how different I am here. I think I was so upset by it, because I wasn't doing anything wrong to be stared at so blatently. I was sitting on the bus, minding my business like everyone else, and you just had to make a spectacle out of me. People started noticing her turning back to stare at me, but no one did anything or said anything. I didn't expect them to. Even when I made it clear to her by glaring that I was aware of her, she did as she pleased and the bus was too crowded for me to move. Why should I have to change seats, or change buses because of her? She doesn't have that kind of power over me.

It bothered me, and I still see her creepy smile as I type this out. I've been here for almost 9 months and the staring is still there. I've gotten used to it, and I've become more oblivious to it because it's mostly just curiousity and I accept that. I don't accept, like, or tolerate the rude ones. I really wanted to say to her why are you looking at me, but I knew if I opened my mouth in this bus full of people I'd be the one at fault. I'm not going to cause a scene, so I sat there, raging, and closed my eyes trying to get away from that feeling of being watched.

My friends ask me how I put up with the staring. I just do. But some days it gets to me, and it can really ruin my mood. A part of me felt hurt, that she couldn't just leave me alone. Why keep staring at me like that? It's just so rude and disrespectful as a human being to another human being. The upside to all of this, is that it's taught me not to do that to other people. Not to stare at them if they are different because I know those feelings of discomfort, anger, hurt, and insecurity that comes from being stared at.

I love my life here, but time and time again in moments like this I'm reminded that this will never be home to me. I'll never have a place here where I "fit in." I will never be able to go to the local open market without being pestered or heckled at just because I look different. I accept that, but I'm still going to enjoy my life here. I'm still going to live it, and those people who stare a little too long will feel ashamed of themselves.

Even with bad moments there are a lot of good ones to overwhelm the bad ones. Yesterday I went to get some dukbokki from my local kimbap adjumma and we talked for a bit in Korean. She was mad that I cut my afro hair. Asking me why I cut my beautiful hair, that I shouldn't have done that. I smiled, and laughed and explained to her I just needed a change. It was getting too long, and tangled. I wanted something new. She tsked and tsked and I told her it will grow back fast. It was a nice beat in time, and made me think that I don't need to "fit in" here. I just need to be me, be kind, be open, and the people that matter will notice.

Be blessed,
~Lola O.~

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