The Culture Vulture, Part 1

So I’m sitting in a Starbucks in Apgujeong, a fairly fashionable area in Seoul, and I’m wondering whether I should call this blog post “The Culture Vulture” or something like that.

What it all boils down to is, I like Korea quite a bit. I lived here years ago (from 2006 to 2008) and almost from the moment I first stepped off the plane, I felt at home here. Like more at home here than from the place I left.

I don’t know how to explain it any better than that. It sounds dumb and cliche maybe, but there it is.

In case you don’t know me personally, I’m a white dude, I’m heterosexual, I’m cisgendered, and as such I am the beneficiary of all sorts of privileges, both back home in the USA as well as here in Korea.

I’m aware of things like that, and I don’t want to act in such a way that makes me seem like I’m not, or that I don’t take them seriously.

But at the same time, when I start writing anything like this, I feel like I might be venturing into “culture vulture” territory, like one of those people who appropriate other cultures and look like idiots.

So maybe it’s appropriate that I am writing this from a Starbucks. This is, no joke, about the 8th Starbucks I have been in since returning to Korea a little less than a month ago. And for sure, Starbucks here has a slightly different menu than Starbucks back in the US (I assume, there aren’t that many of them where I am from) but it’s an American chain, and so by virtue of that, I’m culture vulturing from a place that represents my own culture (such that it is) here in Korea.

Just to get to the point, man, I love Korea.

It’s such a great place.

Seoul is a huge, sprawling city, and it’s got one of the biggest metro train systems in the world connecting all the various districts together. Just about an hour ago, I left my apartment in Samsong and got on the subway. For about one US dollar, I traveled halfway across Seoul to Apgujeong, so I could sit in Starbucks, type this out, and steal glances at pretty Korean women.

See, here we go again.

White guy in Asia, talking about the pretty Asian women. Red flags all over the place, from a sociopolitcal perspective.

But what can I say? I like looking at pretty women. I can’t and won’t apologize for that. I’m not objectifyling anyone, I am just stating a true fact about myself. Pretty women come in all shapes and sizes, and for better or for worse, there are a lot of pretty women in Apgujeong.

There are a lot of good looking people in Korea in general. Fitness and “well-being” is pretty big here, and people (male and female) tend to take pretty good care of themselves.

Where I live — near Bukhansan, a popular hiking destination — there are lots of older people walking around decked out in hiking gear basically all the time. One of these weekends I’m going to hike Bukhansan myself. If not before, when one of my good friends from 2006-2008 comes to visit this summer. He, I, and another fellow partially hiked Bukhansan in 2007 (or maybe early 2008), but we started too late in the day. Plus I was in awful shape at the time, being more into the prominent drinking culture here in Korea than the also prominent fitness culture.

At any rate, man, I love Korea. I don’t know how to say it any more clearly than that.

I don’t believe in reincarnation, and I don’t literally think this next thing I am going to write, I just wanted to record it for posterity.

A while back, I got the idea for a piece of fiction, or a screenplay, or something, about an American who, somehow or other, discovered that in a previous life, he (or maybe she) was Korean, and in this previous life, he (or she) always wanted to leave Korea and go to the US, but he never got to.

Might have something to do with Pure Land Buddhism, where adherents pray to be reborn in a “Pure Land.” As a sidenote, many Buddhists consider all lands to be “Pure Lands,” it’s only our perception of them that makes it seem otherwise.

But at any rate, this person is reborn as an American, but ends up wanting to return to Korea.

And like I said, I don’t believe any of that stuff. But I was here last about 15 years ago. For many people walking the earth today, that’s their entire lifetime, or even more.

So, in a sense, I myself was here a lifetime ago, and I wanted to come back but didn’t until now.

And anyway, I’m enjoying being back.

Man, I love Korea. 🙂

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