Saturday, November 13, 2010

The Shrinking World

Before I came to Korea eight months ago, I never gave a thought to all of the people who travel around the world looking for work to support their families and themselves. I knew about it, but I just did not give it much thought. Like so many Americans secure in their own little worlds, I lived my life dwelling on the world around me and that world consisted of my children, my 9 to 5 job and friends. When I read that Americans were isolationists, I never thought I was one of them.

Then I saw a bit of the world and saw how different people worked hard to make a living when the ability to do so at home was impossible. The world shrank. No longer did places like China seem so faraway. I have been to a few countries such as Japan and the UK and others. They are no longer pictures in a book. They are real to me. I remember looking down at the Atlantic Ocean and seeing ice as my plane few overhead. I wanted to see Iceland and Greenland but there was a cloud cover.

I grew up in San Diego, California and saw people from all over the world when their navies would come into San Diego. That was just the top of the iceberg of reality. The bottom half still was hidden from me until I was in those countries and saw the people and I rode the buses and used the money and talked to people.

Today, I met a professor of engineering from Romania. Since she lived in the United States for a while, she spoke English. We had a pleasant conversation. She was learning Korean as she was going to live in Korea for a while. I have met people from India, Pakistan, Poland, Russia and many other places and they are here trying to make a living so they can send money home to their loved ones. Korea is doing relatively well in comparison to other places and there are jobs in certain professions. I have met some men and women who come from the Philippines who are working in factories who are doing the same. All of them speak English as well as their own and they are earnestly trying to learn Korean too.

My mother's family came from Manchuria and she used to say so many of us in this country was spoiled. I just knew she was wrong. Her favorite peeve was ice cream and cake together. Since I hate cake and ice cream together because it is too sweet for my tastes, I was sure her other assumptions were wrong too. Now, I am not so sure. I had gotten spoiled by my car and by the fact that I can buy anything in the supermarket in the US. Here in Korea, I can't, but it is a matter of taste not availability. In some countries, people don't have that much luxury. Here in Korea, I won't eat pigs feet. I guess I never got that hungry where I had to.

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