Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Korea's got Seoul!

Holy smokes! Today I leave for Malaysia to meet up with Hera and start our adventures together. In all honesty, I'm ready to leave Korea. I'm sad to leave but only because I'm leaving my family here. I don't see them often, maybe once a year and it has been so good to spend time with them.
But like I said, I'm ready to move on to the next place. Korea has been so comfortable. I know exactly where I'm going to lay my head at the end of the day and I know what faces I will see when I go downstairs in the morning. Hey, I'm not knocking on comfort because who doesn't like it? But I yearned for this long awaited journey for reasons opposite of comfort.
I know many of you think I'm crazy but there really is nothing like traveling in a foreign country and feeling so present. Feeling like every decision is made on how your heart is feeling in that very moment. Even if it comes down to picking a place to eat or which rickshaw to get in to... it is all in a matter of a few moments that you make those decisions.
I totally went off on a tangent-back to Korea.

So this was my first time being in Korea without my mom. Well that's a lie, I came in 5th grade for three months during the summer and lived with my grandma. She fed me so much that I had to be rolled around by umpalumpas everywhere like Violet in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. But again, I digress. So this was the first time I have been to Korea minus mom and old enough to wander alone. My biggest fear in coming was that I would stick close to my family and not explore the way that I actually wanted to explore. I would like to proudly announce to you all that I hit my Chacos to this Seoul pavement and did my fair share of exploring!

The very metropolitan city of Seoul is oddly nestled in between a handful of mountains so I got to do quite a few day hikes around here which was nice (and also scary especially when I stumbled upon the oldest Shamanist Shrine in Korea and ended up in a place where they used to do exorcisms) But I think one experience that I am still trying to process today is when I went to the North and South Korean border also known as the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) or the 38th parallel.
I don't know what I expected or why I had this need to see it but I felt this pull to go.

When I watch documentaries about North Korea, I always get this heart wrenching feeling in my body as I'm sure most of you with a soul do. Watching a documentary is just a tip of the ice berg and knowing that makes me even more sad. After watching these documentaries, the number one thing that runs through my head is, "This is happening right now." And I do the usual, "I live this beautiful, lavish life and these people have NO IDEA what it is to truly live" And another huge part of me says, "They're KOREAN."

I think the reason why I wanted to go to the DMZ so much is because I wanted to feel these things but not just feel, but be a part of it in a weird way. I didn't want to just be a fat american sitting on a couch watching an instant Netflix documentary about North Korea. I wanted it to be more real. I wanted more than just the tip of the iceberg.

This is a picture of the DMZ. That building is N. Korea and
the blue buildings are the JSA buildings. You culd see
a N. Korean soldier standing at the top of the stairs.

Well guess what? I went, and I was a fat American sitting on a tour bus visiting a tourist attraction.
I don't know if you could tell, but I'm pretty disappointed in what I experienced there. In order to visit the DMZ and the JSA (Joint Security Area where North and South have meetings and it sits right on the DMZ. Half in N. Half in S.) you have to go on a tour and up until recently, you couldn't have a citizenship in Korea.
So I'll get right to the point (Gotta leave for the airport in an hour) I went there kind of expecting to feel sad or feel scared or feel something... but instead I felt annoyed at the people around me and myself for smiling and taking pictures next to the soldiers. I couldn't get myself to do that. These soldiers stand at the DMZ staring their enemies straight in the eye everyday and my fellow tourists stood a foot away from them with a huge smile and excitement and snapped away. I know I'm being judgey but it makes me sad that this place that is SO full of tension and conflict is just a tourist attraction. I know I should be thankful because without these tours, I wouldn't be there but I.. Oh, I don't know.
As you can tell I'm still trying to process this. My next move-actually go INTO North Korea. haha, not sneak in or anything but they now have tours for non-Korean citizens IN North Korea. I will be putting that on my 101 List for sure.

ANYWAYS! I am thirty minutes away from going to lunch and leaving for Malaysia!!! Stay tuned for another blog!

my heart, crystal


Mamamia said...

Hello, My baby:
It's time to go to another wonderful experience. I wish you a safe journey.
I always love you sooooooo much and I miss you soooooooo much.

freedramblings said...

i started laughing with your oompa loompa comment. read it out loud to my parents.... made the household laugh (:

bananafishbakedgoods@gmail.com said...

i love reading about your travels, thank you for sharing. :) i can't wait to read about your adventures in thailand and then hear about them in person when we go on our much awaited climbing trip in the fall. much, much love. :)