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.