Saturday, March 03, 2007

The Reign Has Ended

I am writing this to say goodbye. I like the title I picked for this post because I think it's catchy. To me it means two things: 1. I, aka, Queen For A Year, am retiring this blog and 2. Lately, I have had some hard times and in being proactive and making a change I hope that personally my life will improve and that the "rain" will end. I was thinking about the song from the musical Annie "The sun will come out tomorrow. Bet your bottom dollar that tomorrow they'll be sunshine...."

I will be returning to Eastern Canada on Monday, March 19th, 2007 so I will no longer be living and teaching English in South Korea so it seems like the right time to say goodbye to you and this blog. Moreover, I have not posted since just prior to Christmas 2006 and some of you may be wondering why. I feel that I owe you an explaination. I could very easily just let you assume it was because I was busy planning my return to Canada but that is not the truth. I have always tried to be honest and maintain my intergrity in keeping this blog so to lie to you by omission now goes against the grain. I just can't do it. So, here's the truth.

I have not been doing my weekly post recently and the true and primary reason for this is that unforunately rather than promoting understanding and discussion I have received several "comments" [which although I chose not to publish - at the time] I feel hurt and personally attacked by. This has taken the fun out of blogging for me. It's one thing to write about your own personal experiences while in your own country and culture and surrounded by the people you love and who love and support you. However, it is quite another thing entirely to try and write a weekly blog when far from home. As some of you know, Korea is called "The Hermit Kingdom" [even my Lonely Planet Korea book calls Korea that] and it can be a very socially isolating place for a Westerner. To live here and has been a series of ups and downs but to live my life more publically became too much a strain for me.

After four years here, I will be leaving Korea permanently. I feel that I have given Korea more than a fair chance and I have come to the conclusion that it is time for me to go home. I came here very idealistic and I leave some what dishearted. The truth is I no longer feel comfortable living and working in Korea nor do I feel that I can make a difference here. One of my critics who I had chosen not to publish [at the time] made a comment on my post about Korean Bakeries which I titled "Not Quite Right" and he told me and I quote him "Bob Barker has left a new comment on your post ""Not Quite Right"": Heard it all before.... not quite right? or night quite what you're used to?If you dont like it, go home. " And, I have chosen to go home.

I am aware of the fact that people who write blogs often receive a lot of judgements by people who don't know them and some of them are even harassed over cyberspace. I alluded to this a little bit in talking about Shawn Matthews committing suicide in Beijing and that some people said that one contributing factor was that we deleted his Korean Life Blog and had given up blogging - which he loved in response to hassassment.. I talked about this in my post titled "Goodbye Shawn" [here a link to that post
  • Goodbye Shawn
  • found in my June Archive]. Although, thankfully, I in no way have received the same amount of harrassment that Shawn did I feel as he did - compelled to stop blogging. It's no longer fun and enjoyable. It not longer makes me feel less isolated and more understood but rather the opposite.

    I wrestled with how much I wanted to get into the negative comments and rather I wanted to put them here for everyone to see and read. But, in the end I decided to because I want people to know the truth and I, also, want to serve as warning to other bloggers - becareful what to write. If you are too candid you will be criticized and sometimes even personally attacked.

    Sunday, February 25th, 2007 I received what I consider to be my worst "comment" so far. Of course, the harshes of of the negative comments were made either with someone using "Anonymous" as their ID or another obvious fake ID names. At the time this really annoyed me since prior to this very moment [when I just removed my e-mail address] I have always had my name, photo and even my e-mail address posted on this blog for the world to see. I would have like to personally answer these people. However, now I have decided that it is a good thing it was done this way as it allowed me time to calm down and thankfully now and I more collected. I have chosen not to respond to these critics because I have come to the conclusion that there are some people who read blogs with their own personal agenda of finding fault. I no longer am idealistic enough to think that I can change the minds of these "hard liners". It is the more moderate people who have always been the target audience of my blog - at least in my mind.

    Thus without farther ado here is the latest "comment".
    "Anonymous has left a new comment on your post ""Not Quite Right"": I work at an English Language Center in the U.S. We receive students from every part of the world, and found your blog through a friend. She emailed me the entry about the discrimination you face in Korean. After I read that post, I continued reading the rest of your blog. First of all let me state that the "discrimination" you mentioned you are experiencing in Korea is the same here. I mention this because I can add the voice of many people from many countries with many experiences, not just one person from one country relaying one experience.

    I think the reason you are so outraged is because you somehow have taken the title "queen for a year" to heart. I hope that you understand that people are allowed to assign their own rules in their own country as they see fit. They do not have to give you special privileges because you are a white Canadian.

    I kept reading your blog because I thought that you were just going through an adjustment period, I was wrong. I also cannot believe your attitude in your later post. You state that some things in Korean are "not quite right." I find it unimaginable that you have lived in Korea for 3 years and you are still fighting against the culture. Other countries are not a different version of the "first world" as many westerners would like to think. If it exist in Korea, then it is just right from bean curd popsicles to eating dogs. I am sure that if you had encountered the same puffed air dessert in France you would rave about it.

    I am well versed in the ways of the ugly American, but the ugly Canadian, for some reason I didn't think it existed. I guess I was wrong. "

    Another comment I received but did not publish at the time was this one. "chacha has left a new comment on your post "New Furniture": Nobody says white people get a lot of male attention. They just stare because they're wondering wtf you're doing there. Don't flatter yourself, babe."

    I even received what I consider to be attacks on my ample figure. For example I got these two comments. "leone has left a new comment on your post ""Not Quite Right"": Perhaps it's a good thing that Korean cakes don't taste so good to you - think of your figure!!!! "

    "Anonymous has left a new comment on your post "Adventures in Cooking": why are your boobs next to your belly button"

    Moreover, even my right to express my opinion and experience was questioned. I write as a white, Canadian woman because that is what I am. I never made a secret of that fact. I can only write about my experiences through my own eyes. However, again and again, I was told that because I was a "white Canadian" I could not write about discrimination or I think that only when a "white Canadian" experiences racism do I think that it is important Here is one such criticism I received on my post "Discrimination Against Foreigners in Korea".

    "Anonymous has left a new comment on your post "Discrimination of Foreigners in Korea": i am a korean canadian, living in US. although i feel sorry for your troubles, for most of us, it's pretty much the same. your post makes it sound as if korea is the only country that treats foreigners like this, but it simply isn't true. i work with a company here in US, in California, and whenever i have people come on an extended business trip from, say, Korea, they go through the same: need to deposit $500- $5,000 to get "secured" credit card (you can only use up to the amount you deposit). they have to deposit $500 (another $500 if they want to call overseas) to get a mobile phone service, if they can get it at all.

    I'd love to join a local country club, but alas, my money is not good with them. apparently, i have to be white and old (they say, you must know a member and get recommended by one - sure if you are new, you'd know people like that)

    You claim that you can navigate through most websites in Korea, apparently not so. I don't have Korean citizenship, so when I signed up for Cyworld, for example, I used my Canadian passport to sign up. And I do use it frequently. i.e. Cyworld does accept foreigners. and yes, i have nate/nateon messenger as well.

    Foreigners in Korea feel they are discriminated against, sure, I think that is true to some extent, but I am not sure it's any worse than what people get when they come to either Canada or US. i certainly hope anyone is implying that only when a canadian/american gets discriminated it's worth blogging about while the other way, it's just way of life here. "


    Not all comments were negative and some were very favorable and encouraging. To those of you who enjoyed my blog and wrote to thank me let me offer my thanks to you. I appreciate your support. I feel you understood the true spirit of my blog - which was not intended to be a social commentary or political lighting rod but rather a frank and sincere personal account of my sojourn in "the land of the morning calm".

    It is with mixed feelings that I say goodbye to you and this blog. If you enjoy my writing and want to hear more from me don't fret. I am in the process of writing a book about my adventures living and teaching English in South Korea. Moreover, it will not just be a recap of my blog but a include fresh new ideas and material. I have always planned to write a book about my experiences and therefore although I used this blog to try and discipline myself to consistently write and to try and hone my writing skills nonetheless it was always with the knowledge that I needed to save some of my funniest and most dramatic experiences for my book.

    I plan to keep this blog as it is and later offer an excerpt from my book as well as a link showing where you will be able to purchase my book - as soon as I complete it.

    Rest assurred this will not be the last you hear of me or my writing. "Queen For A Year" was rather tame or so I thought - and yet it invited a level of viciousness that was - at least to me -shocking! However, through this experience I have become even more convinced that words are power - they can hurt or they can heal. They have the ability to convey emotion and allow others to learn and grow vicariously though another person's experience. It is with this hope that I embark on the next chapter of my life and journey.



    1. Ann,

      My name is Jason. I recently returned from spending 1 month in Ansan, Korea. I had intended on staying a year, but things turned sour very quickly at the Hogwon I was to teach at.

      Coming home, even after a month, has required some adjustment. I say this only to warn you that when you return home you will go through a period of re-adjustment.

      My experience was neither good nor bad. It just was. It still feels like a dream. I have some bitter feelings and and still having to overcover my insecurieites and feelings that "it was all my fault". I met some nice people, but becuase I was there for such a brief time, I never really fully adjusted.

      I have enjoyed reading your blog and it has helped to make me feel less alone and isolated. The more I read blogs and search the more I realize that many Westerners experience similar prejudices and challenges when teaching abroad.

      You have a friendly writing style and I found little if any of your blog to be offensive. You spoke honestly about your feelings and experience. Who can fault you for that?

      I don't want to use this comment place or you as a "therapist", but what I have also realized is that we ESL teachers do have a common thread. That is.....what brought us to ESL teaching?

      I'm 30 - have an advanced degree in Music and was looking for something secure (or so I thought) to do with my life. I had been unemployed living in the states...looking for various musical things to do and suffedly realized (or not so suddenly) that I need to make a living and sort of get out of my little artistic hole. So I found the ESL stuff and has sucked in very quickly.

      So I did it - lasted a month. Have some interesting memories and most importanly...I know more about myself. What do I know?

      1. I can survive on my own
      2. I can survive with almost no money
      3. I don't REALLY enjoy teaching
      4. I can't TRULY date in Korea
      5. I don't think I would go back unless I was married or in a serious relationship (MAYBE).

      The most important thing I think a person learns when doing ESL or treaveling that far away is....indepndance. Even after a month I felt like I grew and that is what is important.

      Now for YOU:: Three years???!!! That's awesome. You won't realize for a while just what a great experience you have had. You will also start to miss things about Korea. You will miss the bowing and the people and the the children and the drinking and the confusing Subway and the lighted signs........

      You will miss it. The Grass is always Greener.

      What are your plans when you return to Canada? Do you have a plan? Or will you be taking time off? point in all of this...I like your blog and it has helped me.

      Have a nice day!

    2. i feel like crying. your blog has been an inspiration to me through some really rough times here in korea. i've only been here for six months but i found your blog within two weeks of getting here, and it made me feel less alone. i figured if you could do it for so long, then what was i worried about with only a year to go?

      i found your posts insightful and well written. you spoke the truth, which is all one can do. i think about 'not quite right' every time i walk past a bakery! and i completely agree with you... a lot of the "western" things in korea aren't that at all... they're korean 'takes' on western things. which is to be expected...

      i'm so sorry that the few have made you feel the way you do... to all of you out there that can't take anything with a grain of salt, maybe you should stop and think for a second that every person has the right to their own feelings and emotions, and if you don't like it, that's too bad, there's no need to be nasty about it.

      good luck in your future endeavours, good luck readjusting to life in canada... if you ever want someone to mail you some kimchi, let me know!

      thank you, again, for everything.

    3. To Jason & Liz and my other supporters:

      Thank you for your kind words and encouragement. It is the people like you who keep me blogging as long as I did.

      The truth is I am very excited to return to the land of rootbeer and start working in earnest on my book.

      Liz I have your e-mail so don't worry we can keep in touch and someday when we're both back in Canada we can eat kimchi and drink rootbeer and laugh about all this.

      Take care.

    4. Too bad about your blog!

      It was one of the better ones out there. I may have sometimes disagreed with you (I did not voice it through comments however) but you were a reasonable person who seemed to have a kind disposition.

      I was a teacher in Korea for 4 years and I now teach back home in Canada (Ontario). After 4 years abroad I was blind sided by reverse culture shock when I returned to Canada. It happens to everyone.....
      My wife is Korean and she also had to go through adaptation.....

      But, life goes on and things work out. I left Korea with a bag full of fond memories and visit Seoul every year with my family (we have a daughter). I also have a book written about Korea and many people wrote such books (including Shawn Matthews) that go unpublished. Don't get discouraged if your book fails to find a can always self-publish like Shawn did.

      I am lucky that my book was recently accepted by a publisher. It will be published in Canada and in Korea...but it took a while and a lot of re-writes!

      Finally, I can say that the only time I truly disagreed with you was the discrimination in Korea entry of your blog. I completely understood why you posted it but I also found your tone to be a little uni-directional. This is a trait often exhibited by us westerners when living in Korea. You worded the comment in a way that gave the impression (even if it was not your intent) that you were engaging in a Korea is not as good as my home country discourse. Hence, some of the responses you may have had!

      If I can make one suggestion, when you write your book (I look forward to reading it if it is published) avoid the same trap! A broader perspective is needed....too many such books fall into the trap of ranting...

      Anyway, i wish you all the best and hope to see your book published...



    5. Hi Jeff:
      I did get your e-mail address. And, thank you. I intend to take you up on your offer to contact you once I am back in Canada.

      I didn't post either post with your e-mail because unfortuately I can't delete just your e-mail address and post your comments. And, if I have learned anything with this blog it's to use a little discretion. I didn't want you spammed to death by posting your e-mail in such a public way. That would be a bad way to repay your kindness.

      I am most interested in your book so I intent to e-mail you all about it and the process. I meant to e-mail you yesterday but I am getting new glasses and contact lenses and getting some dental work done [since I'm sure you know ,as well as I do, that these two things are much cheaper here in Korea]than back in Canada.

      As for the culture shock I am sure I will want to talk to you about that, too. Did you ever see the movie "Point of No Return" with Briget Fonda. She was made into a special agent after a lot of training and virtually no freedom. After she "graduates" one of the first scenes is her in a huge grocery store and she is over-whelmed by all the choices. She literally doesn't know what to do or buy. So, she she wonders around and finally follows a woman and copies exactly what she buys item by item through out the store.

      Not to make a long analogy longer, but that was me in a supermarket the last time I was home in Canada on vacation. I was OVERWHELMED by too many choices. I was like "Why do we need 300 kinds of laundry detergent?" So, I know I will have moments like that especially when I am home again for good.

      Bye for now. I am sure we can share some funny reverse culture shock stories via e-mail. Thanks for your thoughtfulness and support.

    6. Ann

      I found your blog to be both interesting and insightful. Im sorry to hear you have been discouraged by negative comments. But what people have to keep in mind is that when you broadcast your life publicly and allow people to freely comment on your musings, there are always going to be nagative comments. Trust me, my own blog receives almost weekly negative comments about anything from my physical appearance to my family name.
      But thats the price i pay for broacasting my thought publicly. If i didnt want the comments I would close the comment section.

      Hope you find your way back home.


    7. I love your blog and what you've written, it's one most interesting Korean blogs.

      Three years is a long time in Korea for a foreigner, good on you!

      Turn off comments. Please don't stop.

    8. Thanks Chris:

      As I said before I intend to leave this blog here as is and not delete it.

      I will be going home to a farm in the country in Eastern Canada and I will not have internet access everyday. Therefore it seemed like the right time not only to say goodbye to blogging [at least for a while] but a wonderful opportunity to concentrate on writing my book without a lot of distractions.

      If as time passes I begin to miss blogging or I want to try out passages of my book as I am writing it then I may decide to start blogging again from Canada.

      I actually started blogging about Korea in Canada and sometimes I found that the distance gave me more perspective and actually improved my writing.

      We'll see what happens.
      Thank you for your compliments.

    9. Ann,

      As a Korean-American, I have found your blog to be an enjoyable experience to read.

      I wish you well in Canada.

      As to "Not Quite Right", well I didn't feel you were discriminatory in any way, but I do love Korean bakery. It's less sweet and having too much sweets make me feel ill. However, as you may have observed, a lot of the kids in Korea are starting to get a little obese from all the fast food joints that have taken up real estate.

      Again, even if you dont ever blog about Korea, don't stop that from you writing another blog in Canada. I'll be glad to read more from your posts, if you ever decide to do so.

      Every blogger has negative comments, just ignore the negatives. As you said, words can effect a person and letting some negative words disillusion you to the culture and people of Korea would be terrible, especially for those students who have had the fortune of being taught by you. I feel that you have truly put every effort into your teachings so I know that Korea needs more teachers like you.

      Good health, and best wishes.


    10. Maybe, instead of leaving Korea entirely, you could move to a different area? I would hate to see your experience of Korea be ruined by all of this. :( I really enjoyed reading your blog entries, and your experiences that you had in Korean. I'm half Korean, living in California, and when I first found your blog last year, it was one of the blogs that inspired me to keep pursuing English, and teaching credentials, in college... I'm hoping that one day I'll be able to go to Korea and Japan to teach English... starting out in Korea first, because my mom's family is there. I know how hard discrimination can be--it exists everywhere--but to give up is to give in to others' hate, and give them power. Don't give up! :) Even though there are people that bring you down, there are also people that support you! And definitely there are SO many different areas/districts/cities/etc... in Korea, where different peopel reside, and you never know... you might find an amazing area where the people are more welcoming. Take, for instance, Seoul. Anyway... I wish you luck, and I hope your spirits feel better and are lifted. ^___^ Later! And God Bless you. :3

    11. Hey, I only just found your blog.

      Good luck with the book, how are you getting on?

      I've been in Korea almost a year now and I often say 'wow I could write a book about it' but I don't think anything will come of it. My blog will be my record of my stay.

    12. please don't write a book whining about shocking discrimination you felt as a foreigner.

      instead, go to work for the labor movement in North America and try to help the thousands of honest, hard-working people who are daily ignored by locals and generally treated as subhuman.

      i am a foreigner living in Korea and an American who worked for the labor movement in Colorado. I can say that the strange or awkward and alienating moments I have experienced in Seoul are nothing compared to the willed mistrust and aggressive racism I witnessed in the US against the Mexican and Central American immigrants... .

      Within 3 weeks of living in Seoul I had a phone, an apt, cable service, internet service, an alien registration card, health-care, a pension plan, and dozens of new Korean friends.

      Korea is a close-knit and often hard nut to crack. But Korean history can illustrate reasons for the general mistrust of foreigners. These folks have survived war and occupation for much of their modern history.

      I doubt you'll write a whiny book about prejudiced Koreans. Nobody would read it.

      As I wrote above: turn your anger to activism. Work at the grassroots level to help insure that a few less human beings are purposefully alienated by the ruling classes.

      I don't know if you'll read this as it is long after your tenure here. But I am more than tired of listening to privileged white folks bitch about racism. It smacks of hypocrisy and ignorance. Naivete, let's say.

    13. Gary sounds like a fa66ot

    14. Hi All:

      After some consideration, I debated posting the above comment re: Gary but I decided to - since I chose to share the negative and sometimes personal comments I received.

      Moreover, I'd had negative comments posted about me with as little on no real basis.

      However, I hope in the future that posters will stick to debating the other commenters view points.

      As a funny aside I now (volunteer)to help Koreans adapt to my Canadian hometown and I often help tutor them English and adapt to life in Canada - since things like cleaning the lint filter of a clothes dryer can be a strange new experience for them.

      So those of your who called me "bitter" were either premature or way of base.

    15. Hi Ann!

      I am writing as someone who never intended on getting sucked into the "silly fad" (my own judgement) of blogging. However, after stumbling upon your blog while researching discrimination of foreigners in South Korea I have been pleasantly surprised. Your posts are all well thought out, articulate, and as objective as a blog can be.

      I hope to simply encourage you to keep writing and blogging because there are readers out there like me who appreciate someone who can give a great account of their experiences and share them with the world. I am sorry at your feelings of isolation while you were abroad and hope that the negative feedback does not deter you from accomplishing your goals. I am appalled and disgusted by some of the comments on your blog and hope that those people can realize that though their opinions may be warranted, there are respectful ways to disagree. I love hearing your opinions and thoughts as well as other respectful debaters and hope that you regain your optimism and dreams.

    16. Hello Ann this is Chris. We had the opportunity to meet while I was stationed at Camp Carrol back in 2003-2004. I hope all is well and good luck with your book

    17. Hi Chris, I remember you and my days in Waegwan and Gumi as fond memories.