While mom was here and as the walls of my small apartment closed in, we decided to spend a day at Hae-su-pia, a bathhouse, jimjilbang and rooftop garden with pool.
The jimjulbang occupied a whole floor and consisted of several dry saunas; a 'sweat' sauna, a 'jewel' sauna with quartz and semi-precious stones and more, including a 'cold' sauna with refrigerated walls. The saunas were clustered along two walls but a jimjilbang is more than that. It is also a little like a youth hostel (I am told youth hostels are more like business or university retreats here). There is a large open area for people to sleep or sit and talk (and drink) all night. I think people don't actually sleep much. There was also a bar, a restaurant, a PC room, a video game room and a children's play area.
With the bad weather, it was a good place for the little guy to run wildly and play with other children. For us, it was a place to let the little guy run and give mom a different experience.
On the roof there are two pools and the little guy and I swam in them last year. This year, the larger of the pools is now drained and the smaller one has aerators and thousands of little fish -medical fish (the ads are titled 'Dr Fish').
You are expected to pay some small amount to stand in the water and let the fish nibble away (stuff?) but no one was around so I stepped in and took a few photos.
On to the serious stuff.
Whenever I go out with the little guy, people are interested in him. He is a cute baby, I must admit. Still, passers-by are a little too curious and they are curious differently than Canadians would typically be. Many times a middle school girl would see him and call friends over and perform a 'Dr Fish' style visit on him.
While I am complaining, I will add people would frequently give him hard candy. One time in particular, we were walking and he choked on the candy, coughed it up, wouldn't spit it out and choked on it again before swallowing it. If he were still, he seemed to handle the candy fine, but it was still annoying and troubling.
People: Don't give my son candy.
If you feel you must give him candy, ask me first!
Back to people mobbing my baby. Probably they noticed me, the big foreigner, first. I would hear shouts of 'Waegukin!", the equivalent of "Tallyho" or the baying of a hound on the scent or ...do sharks make a call when they scent blood? Then, one person would arrive to see the baby and quickly summon others.
I am foreign. Still, I know two Koreans of Caucasian ethnicity well and there are others, so I could be Korean. My son is Korean. His eyes are larger and rounder than most Koreans and his hair is much lighter in colour ...
I almost wrote above "His eyes are larger and rounder than most ethnic Koreans..." but that is my point.
My sister invited her university roommate to dinner with our family once and my grandfather asked where she was from. "London [Ontario]", She replied.
"Where are you really from", my grandfather interrogated, curiously, with the latent racism forgivable in the elderly.
I get the same attitude here and it is getting less and less dismissible or forgivable.
A friend of mine, with his Korean wife and their child, have recently moved home to the US. Here is what he told me in an email:
Yes, for us school age is the cutoff as far as being in Korea, unfortunately. I don't know how you feel about it, but I think [name] would either end up being really reserved or bitter about being Korean, living in Korea, but always being singled out as a foreigner. ...I want him to have a secure identity, so if it can't be as a Korean it can easily be as an American. That's the way it goes.
I am always considering leaving but never all that seriously. My work and lifestyle here, though not even close to perfect, are comfortable enough that its hard to leave. Returning to Canada would mean great changes and a definite drop in standard of living, though possibly an increase in quality of life.