Another piece of paper proving nothing but necessary for survival in the tug of wars between nation states, it’s not a human force, it’s bigger than me

November 30, 2018 § Leave a comment

I’m at the 고양시 출입국 외국인 사무소, an immigration office, pretty brightly lit and not unpleasant space to be (except there’s no free WiFi). Everyone is pretty friendly; the bathroom is squeaky clean; you can make copies of what you need and even take your passport pictures for a bargain next door. I have come two times already to register as a foreigner, because yes I am a foreigner now in Korea. Another story. This is the third I enter this office after a back and forth with one of the administrators who tell me I need more papers (family certificate? proof? specification? something something, to ensure I have Korean national parents I suppose). Good thing I could ask my aunt to fax me the copy of my U.S. citizenship too. The hotline I called two days prior did not request that I bring any of these, just my social security card, U.S. passport and the form my uncle signed to confirm that he lived in the address he would provide me.

Luckily, I don’t have to wait super long in line, like so many foreigners in this room: Indians, South Asians, Blacks, Chinese, old people, young people, men and women, all kinds of folks. They’re quietly filling out forms, whispering to one another in broken Korean and other tongues asking questions, watching the screen mindlessly while waiting for their appointment number to be called up.

I, too, wait. A mom and her son (I presume from the way they’re talking to one another) in front of me, they’re clearly Koreans, ethnically yes. They speak in colloquial, they may dress a little differently (you would not know how to tell from a Western gaze), but blood wise they must be. The entire history of 조선족 is also another story for another time. But their passports show red, probably China, and who decided that? How? On what basis? We’re stuck here in this office waiting for more papers to prove who we are and where we belong, and all of the borders we have crossed and have crossed us stack up line by line on the green or blue or red papers.

Another lady catches my eye on the left side of the windows. She is of a small stature, short bob hair, dressed plainly in sneakers and black jogger type pants. Her Korean sounds a little off, I immediately assess her as a Southeast Asian laborer perhaps. She seems to be pleading with one of the officers about something, an extension of stay maybe. Later when I am about to be called up, an older man appears to complain about her situation to another officer. He stands by her as she tries to explain in her limited Korean. I can’t tell what their relationship is yet. The lady is told she needs to come back another day I think, she looks so destitute. The older partner person also looks upset. They both come back to the waiting area and sit down, he speaking to her frustrated but not without gentleness. Let’s go, he says in Korean, there’s nothing we can do right now. Something to that effect. His Korean is unmistakably native. She does not move. She sits silent. I can feel her disappointment and anguish seep out. I cannot see her face but I can picture her pouting. They sit for a while. I wonder if they’re husband and wife. A Korean male (usually older and never married, from the country and/or financially unsuitable) and a picture bride from Vietnam is a common story. I wonder if she has to get deported. I wonder if she cannot work. I wonder if she’s regretting anything. He nudges her once more to get going. She slowly gets up without saying a word to him, walks over to another window where another officer engages her in another futile conversation about papers needing stamps or whatever.

I’m called and proceed to the window to present more papers myself. I am approved for fingerprints at another window after paying ~$30 and many trips to many offices for many verification papers. I will get my alien registration card in the mail in two to three weeks. I reassess my privilege, even as a foreigner.

The lady and her man have left.



Wonderful thing a friend from your childhood

November 27, 2018 § Leave a comment

She doesn’t feel or look really that different from how I remember her twenty or so years ago. She says she’s done her eyes (plastic surgery is just about as common as getting an over-the-counter drugs here). She says she’s gained weight (she always been a little chubby, in the most endearing way). She says it’s so strange to be seeing me here after all these years. And none of these phase me, or how we spend time together. Eating brunch at a 설렁탕 joint because all the restaurants around us aren’t open for another hour. Walking toward Starbucks, as if we have always done so (there were no Starbucks when I was in 3rd grade in Korea). Talking about her family and public transit and rent in Seoul and church hopping. Everything is so natural, as if I have done this everyday for the past two decades, my English just as rigid as if I’ve never spoken with a foreigner, my laughs as high & loud as always. And it’ll be like this, I hope for the rest of my time here, in a land where I’ve left everything I’ve known to find home. Again.

“Reminding myself that being alive means pain & sorrow coexist with intense joy & naked knowing. We gonna feel everything there is to feel.”

November 24, 2018 § Leave a comment

Not sure if I am sad yet, felt something like anxiety and wanting. I wonder if there’s ever a gladness with seeing family without feeling also the absence, loss of the person miles away. I wonder if I can ever rejoice seeing someone without also remembering we shall say goodbye again. I wonder. I shall be open to tears, I am no longer afraid.

As you were driving away, I realized there was another person who also watched me drive away like this. Well, maybe not quite

November 12, 2018 § Leave a comment

Winehouse and Smith combined, yes I did die a hundred times and no I’m not at all good at goodbyes. Garret is BAE though:

When you left, took the air out my chest
It’s any wonder I’m still breathing, breathing
Every night, tell you I’m still alright
Just trying to make you believe it, believe me
Your love hurt, chauffeured and unrehearsed
Don’t act like you don’t own it
The way we worked, covered in fragile words
Waiting for the other to crack open, open

And then I’ll go
And then I’ll go
And when I go
Well, you’ll hardly know it

If you ever change your mind
Don’t tell me what you want in case you don’t mean it
Leave me behind, just try to hurt me once in case I don’t feel it
In case I don’t feel
In case I don’t feel it

Easy to say that I’ve not been the same
Since I gave up on praying
But in my head, it’s not so hard to catch
Exactly what I’m saying

And I know you hear my songs in your head
The way you bite your lip when I’m with you
Don’t say you’re not feeling me now
And every single word we said
I still holding onto feelings for you
I can’t help you’re controlling me now

If you ever change your mind
Don’t tell me what you want in case
If you ever change your mind
Don’t tell me what you want in case you don’t mean it
Leave me behind, just try to hurt me once in case I don’t feel it
In case I don’t feel
In case I don’t feel it

Not sure what else I would’ve written today even if I had all the time in the world, but I feel a mandate to write

November 9, 2018 § Leave a comment

Nights like these I feel awake, I wanna talk to you. We won’t go there right now though.

It’s happening so soon. I’m leaving. I am enjoying everything I think. I don’t hurt too much and not as much as I thought I might. Maybe when I arrive and parents leave and the dust settles again and I feel you for the millionth time and I don’t know what I need, when all these come crashing down, maybe then I will feel and grieve and hurt. But not today. Not today.

“We are in this for the long haul”

November 8, 2018 § Leave a comment

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I’m thinking about tonight two years ago (OK not exactly to date, give or take two days, whenever the first Tu of November was in 2016). I was in Miami; Teressa’s dad had not passed yet; Jon hadn’t happened yet. I remember Gwen’s messages–texts were pouring in from anxious friends in PST–and I was bawling in Jason’s car, speaking to Jesus out loud I couldn’t believe what was happening. I tried to put myself back together and returned to the Little Haiti Cultural Center where we were all gathered. No matter how long we stared at the screens, the numbers were not gonna change that night. Near midnight we left defeated, decided to hit the beach. Some of us went skinny dipping, I sat on the cold sand talking about what would happen next to all the people I loved. Everyone was cursing the shit out of everything. Art told me he was glad we met, I wished him luck in Detroit. 2am ish the rest of us, half delirious, went to get pizza. Gihan paid for us all. He asked me what I was thinking, I didn’t know what was happening anymore. Wet, sandy leggings, my feet tired & cold, a plane back to the Bay in a few hours, nobody slept that night.

Who knew, how much this experience would set the stage for the next two years of my life? Did I foresee Korea then? You knew LORD? Of course you knew. And it’d take another year, going to Cuba for me to reach something as remote & concrete as another continent across another timezone. Even after the inkling, still it wouldn’t be another six months for me to decide my move. And here I am a little less than a week away. I remember the terror, the repentance, the resolve. There would be no more be a home for me in the Bay, or anywhere else for a while. 

I’m going home. But the fight continues.

Watching the kids with joy can only last so long. I am losing steam, hopefully I last the next five hours…

October 27, 2018 § Leave a comment

The kid shows are vapid and unrealistic; there’s no way children say or relate to any of this stuff. They’re probably not even listening to what the characters are saying. Most likely tis the sound and the colors. Yet I get why parents turn on the screen after five hours straight of playacting and make-believe and constant emoting with them. But having said that, it’s funny that these things should tire me. Are boundless imagination more consuming than calculations of adulting? I realize that nothing the kids say or do are out of character. They’re fully in the moment and say what (in grunts) comes into their minds. Is that not how we want to live in a sense?

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