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Thursday, December 21, 2006

Privacy, or lack there of.

As a private person, living in Korea has tested my boundaries. In a public restroom, today, a woman set her purse on the sink, entered a stall without closing the door, and started to pee. She trusted I wouldn't steal her purse, or let the view bother me.

Things like this help me better understand my old roommate, Hwan: a Korean living in Montreal, who stuck his bare feet into my slippers, slept in the same bed as his male friends, and always ate communally.

When I first met Chung, he promised, "I won't touch your privacy." He learned through the world wide web that Canadian girls pride Independence and privacy. He wanted me to know that he wouldn't be an intrusive friend.

Everybody seems to know every body's business here, even though I live in a city of over a million. My tap was dripping a while back and I had to ask my landlady to fix it. Not knowing which apartment she lived in, I began randomly knocking with a Hangul translation of "landlord?" in hand. A girl in her early 20's answered and took me upstairs to the old woman's apartment.

Now, the landlady is very talkative. She carries on long, in-depth conversations in Hangul. She touches me and gestures flamboyantly, expecting me to get the gist of it, but I never do. I'm glad to have experienced this because I constantly expect Koreans to read my mind! I speak slowly, loudly, expressively to people who know no English. They probably smile and nod just to shut me up!

At work, one of my coworkers approached me and said, "I heard about the trouble with your tap. ha ha ha." It turns out he's friends with the girl who ushered me to the landlady!

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