There are many reasons I like it in Korea. Truly, if I hated the place I wouldn't be here, and I certainly wouldn't have stayed for almost five years now. I've felt a lot of things at various times while I've been here: happy, overwhelmed, frustrated, amazed, overjoyed, depressed, disgusted, curious, jaded, and so on. For the most part if you can name it, I've probably felt it.
I've met my share of characters here as well, and even though some of those have included drunken assholes, perverts, crazies, and aggressive overbearing men (and, to be honest - a few women as well) one thing I've never felt here in any real sense has been unsafe. I often walk the streets alone in the middle of the night, and sometimes even in strange surroundings and I've all but lost the wariness I used to feel in similar situations back home.
I was reminded of this when I spoke with my brother last night. He and his family went to visit my mother in Niagara Falls last weekend, and when his wife and my mom decided to head to bed he opted for walk. Some guy approached him asking for directions, and as my brother explained he wasn't from there two other guys attacked him from behind. My brother fought back and punched one of them in the face and kicked another, but still got robbed. Luckily he walked away a bit bloodied and shook up after the guys took off, but it could have been so much worse - and I spent the day being thankful to have all but forgotten what it's like to deal with punk ass criminals.
By no means is this La-La Land over here; there are a lot of issues for a foreigner to get fired up about. It's certainly best to be aware. But by and large this is a safe society where you can count on not running into wild eyed junkies in a park waiting to relieve you of your cash. Or worse.
I think of my friend Kevin who's "safe" back home in Virginia right now, but I wish him a continued safe journey once his walk resumes in the spring. It's a different world over there.
Meanwhile my general impulse, which is to cocoon those I love in bubble wrap and tuck them in a drawer where I can keep an eye on them has reared itself again. I'm not sure my loved ones would appreciate that, so I guess it's lucky for them my arms can't reach across the globe.
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