American [no longer] In Korea

The New Jersey of Asia


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A Dream of Spring

It's nice to be able to walk down any street and see pizza in windows, unmolested by sweet potato and sweet corn. New York has been good to me for the past two months, better the Seoul ever was. Although I will miss the Uzbek restaurants by Dongdaemun History & Culture Park, New York isn't exactly short on ethnicities. The Uzbeks are still here, but they cut hair instead of noodles. My neighborhood is mostly Latino, and after two years in Korea, I'm grateful for it. When I walk by a restaurant, I enjoy the scent instead of cover my nose. There are still tons of Asians in Queens, but aside from one or two places selling re-heated packaged ramyeon for $7, most of the Korean presence is limited to dry-cleaners and clandestine human trafficking operations.

Which is how I prefer it.

The most exposure I've had to Korean culture since leaving Korea was this fine establishment. The laughter I got from reading the reviews alone got me amped for my friend's going away party here. The hospitality was almost bad enough to be authentically Korean. But because the Korean to Subhuman-otherkin ratio was favorable to the club, we weren't given the typical Korean hospitality, and mercifully allowed to part with our money. I was on ecstasy and therefore enjoying myself, but other than that it did remind me of any generic club in Hongdae, which is to say, all of them.

I still get the occasional group of noisy, perpetually irritated ajummas clearing their throats in a gossip circle while I'm trying to enjoy lunch at the cafe around the corner, but now I see this behavior from all sorts of Asians, so I don't attribute it to Korea as much. Overall, I'm happy. I'm happy to have enjoyed all that I could from Korea, and I'm much happier to be out of there. I haven't tasted ssamjang or dwenjang in months. I have no craving for any Korean cuisine whatsoever, not with all the options from gastronomically superior countries here. My time in Korea has made me ever more grateful for access to fresh produce in the US, and garlic that actually smells like garlic. I can't say it's been tough adjusting to a life without boiled octopus and fermented sauces.

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