I am quite sure that at some point in my adolescence I had a dream that I was mobbed by a roomful of Asian women. Probably more information than you wanted to know, but last night when my co-workers decided to use me as a prop in a photo shoot it felt like deja vu. But actually the reality yesterday was a whole lot better. I got to go home with my wife. If you don’t know her she is a spunky East Tennessean that prefers country music to rock, doesn’t cook kimchi (or any chi for that matter), pronounces light “lye-t,” and doesn’t gush over anybody. Well, except for maybe Matthew McConaughey.
The funny part is this photo frenzy went more to Lindsay’s head than mine. I tried to explain it away with an analogy about chicken and beef that I had been developing, but she refused to hear it. “Whit,” she said in all seriousness, “you’re just hot!”
Here is the thing, and the point of this blog. Korea lacks diversity. That’s what makes me such an oddity to these women. Korea is the home to Koreans, end of story. You are not going to find African-Koreans, Mexican-Koreans or Irish-Koreans. Most people here have black hair, brown eyes and have the surname Kim or Lee. But in a land the size of Indiana, there are going to be few people that emigrate to Korea, or are even allowed to do so. While we are at it few people are going to emigrate to Indiana or will want to move there. It just ain’t gonna happen. This probably explains why a Korean child on the running trails today looked at me like I was a 6 foot tall talking roach, and why the women think I am “handsome.”
This also makes Korea interesting. Coming from the melting pot that is the United States and living now in a country that has kept so much to itself in terms of race makes life seem very different. The other day in class, one of my students wanted to change her English name to “Lisa.” “Are you sure,” the Korean teacher asked in all seriousness and without reservation, “remember the story we read the other day, the African American’s name was Lisa. Is that okay with you?” I am sure this teacher meant nothing malicious by this comment. She has probably been around African Americans for less than 3 minutes in her whole life. To put it bluntly, she has no idea what she is saying.
But before I get too nostalgic and proud of America’s diversity and political correctness, I have to remind myself that we didn’t come by it honestly. Remember slavery, migrant workers everything we would rather not talk about? Nor do we always think about race appropriately.
But as Americans we have been given the opportunity to live peacefully with people different from us. We should take advantage of it. Americans should recognize and revel in diversity. I think that makes our culture so cool. We have awesome music, food and people simply because all of us come from such different places. But sometimes we tend to walk around with negative preconceptions about other people because of their race, religion, or sexual preference. But what I have found here is people are people no matter what. Despite what we might think, we are ALL trying to get by and make the best of our time here on Earth.
But if you are a young and single white male, come to Korea if you really are looking to make the best of your time here on Earth. Or marry a Chattanoogan.