And I'm not referring entirely to the weather.
I wasn't planning on going shopping tonight, as I wasn't planning on giving my co-workers anything for Christmas this year. I'm going to go to Japan next week for a short vacation, and I figured I'd buy them all something decent there and call it a "holiday gift." Christmas Schmistmas, no one cares about it over here. If they did, I'd get a lieu day off. I'm also still a little bummed when I think about my invisible Chuseok gift.
Anyhow, today when I arrived at work, Judy handed me a gift. She had ones for the other teachers as well - we all got pretty scarves. I LOVE mine (all 3 were identical, but I got the best colour.) So I decided I would take a ride downtown and pick up just a couple of small things for the ladies. I already bought the boss's son a very cool remote controlled car. Christmas is for kids, after all. I didn't want to feel weird when I pulled out a gift for the kid at tomorrow night's dinner and had nothing for my co-workers. I knew what I wanted to get for the ladies anyhow, as I had gotten them for myself last week, a pair of super fuzzy great coloured socks, an excellent smelling Glade candle, some vanilla toothpaste (it's like brushing your teeth with cake!) and a couple packs of delicious Andes chocolates. It's all comfort goodies: don the socks, light the candle, eat the chocolate, brush your teeth. Mmmmm,...good night!
Living in a foreign country is interesting. There always seems to be something lurking around the next corner that's bound to amaze and excite you, or shock and horrify you.
On the way to the department store I always pass this fairly large pet store, with lots of fish and aquariums inside, though I've never actually gone inside. On the outside of the store along the windows are a series of bird cages. Each one has a pair or a few different kinds of birds. I always stop to have a look at them, and get a bit disgusted by their filthy water and cages. Today was no different, except I was feeling especially bad for them because it's been so cold here the last couple days. Once I got to the last cage, I saw that 3 budgies were all acting frantic inside their hanging water dish. These normally shy birds didn't even seem to care when I stuck my finger in a touched their backs. The problem was that their water had frozen. They had pecked a hole through the ice and were fighting each other to try to get their little beaks in deep enough to get some of the slush at the bottom that hadn't yet frozen solid. When I saw the fourth bird that usually shares the cage lying face down dead just under the water dish I kind of had a little panic attack.
So I went inside and was met with a disinterested looking dude who called a woman from the back to come out and deal with me. I smiled and tried to be polite as I motioned for her to follow me outside, but my blood was boiling. I pointed at the budgies' cage, and the cage beside it and said "mool opseyo" and then to the dead bird and said "bird opseyo." She was polite back and said she understood, and got to work taking the water dishes out. I bowed and apologized (man, I'm so Canadian) and told her in English "Nobody's going to buy your birds if they're dead." She said she understood (but there's no way she did) and bowed back to me.
Here's another vision I didn't need to see: after checking my goods out, I walked past a mom who was changing her baby's shitty diaper on one of the check-out conveyor belts that was closed. She even had her used diaper and baby wipes (shit side up, thanks mom) sitting directly on the surface people put their purchases on. There were plenty of clerks and even one officious looking dude standing around, so I guess register counters as changing tables is copacetic here.
I saw another white dude shopping tonight. My smile was met with his cold eyes. On our second encounter, me going down, him coming up, he actually turned himself around to ride the escalator backwards to avoid having to nod or smile or (God forbid) wish a "Merry Christmas" at me. I wish I could say that this was unusual, but it's not, really. I know in the far more metropolitan city of Seoul it might be stupid to acknowledge every waygook you might come across, but here, seeing another foreigner always surprises me a little. We don't have to stop and exchange bios or anything, but a little smile or nod would be cool. I know things were a lot different in Japan, when I'd meet another geijen and almost ALWAYS share a little conspirital smile, like "check US out! We're in Japan!"
Yo, Mister Blue Eyed, Blond Hair, Brown Corduroy Coat, if you happen by this blog I just want to say one thing to you:
Just because you're an asshole, doesn't mean I'll be one too.
17 hours ago