Unexpected Commonalities

Just up the road from my apartment, there is a Buddhist temple leaning into the side of the mountain. Up the trail are dozens of what I imagine are altars: cone-shaped piles of stones, found around every turn of each tightly wound path. If it weren’t for the temple, I’d have guessed witches were living in these woods. The monks ring bells every morning at 4:45am.

The day after the election I had a friend teach me how to say “I didn’t vote for Trump” in Korean. A few weeks ago at the Pharmacy, after I apologized for not being able to speak Korean, the pharmacist said, “Aniyo, aniyo (no, no, it’s OK)…. where do you come from?” I said “U.S.” with a sad shrug, then remembered the phrase. I said it to him and he and his assistant laughed so hard. I’m glad they got the humor of a girl who can barely say anything but took the time to learn that sentence.

The Koreans I’ve spoken to are forgiving of me being an American, despite a few reasons they could cite not to be (I’ll post a primer on American-Korean relations at some point, I promise). The pharmacist, after the laughter died down, asked if I knew about Park ¬†Geun-Hye. There is an enormous amount of national shame felt over here about the corruption scandal that the president is involved in. Though I would never presume to know exactly how they feel, I and millions of other Americans are going through our own version of national shame. The mention, here, of my country of origin admits me a kind-of free depressed solidarity and moment of shared baffled silence.

Two days ago, Korean Parliament voted to impeach the president. With a nervous hope, I wait to see what will unfold on the other side of the planet.

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