guitar playing

20 Apr

Martin_DR-Rosewood-fronti play my guitar often. it’s a habit, years in the making. i play when i’m stressed. i play when i’m bored. i play when it’s just sitting around. i play it a lot. this has gone on, off and on, for about 14 years now.

i have 3 guitars, but one of them i rarely play. it is new. it is a mini. but it sounds like crap, unfortunately. actually, it sounds okay for hand picking, but strumming with a pick, not so good. so in a way, i still feel like i have only 2 guitars.

they both have distinct personalities and distinct sounds. one has a warmer tone that really sings when strumming hard. the other is slightly more metallic, and tends to play better with finger picking.

i genuinely love both. one i bought with the help of my dad (actually, all the help of my dad) back when i was a freshmen in college. after hearing a fellow dorm-mate doodling around on his guitar in the hallways, i decided i also wanted to learn. a few months later, my dad–the generous dad that he is–bought me a wonderful new rosewood martin. it sounds better as the years go by.

one thing i still don’t understand is why the strings get out of tune SOMETIMES while other times, they don’t. opening my case and taking out my guitar is always an experience in surprises. will it sound the same? will i have to tune it? which strings will i have to twist and turn to adjust? they say humidity and temperature affects the sound. still, i wonder what particular conditions for a particular day make my guitar tune in or out in this or that particular way.

music is an interesting thing. more often than not i feel like i’m never truly improving, even if i play a single song everyday for months. rhythm is still the hardest thing to maintain. that was the first and only thing that mattered according to my ex-violin teacher. get rhythm right, first. then pitch, intonation – all that other stuff – comes after. i still believe he was right. but staying ON TIME is still a challenge. wonder if staying ON TIME, on the beat “equaling” “good music” is a social construct or something innate? do baby humans find music OUT OF TUNE or OFF BEAT any less enjoyable than the most polished musical performances? i wonder.

for now, i’m inspired by the smooth, seemingly flawless playing of artists like FINK:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sr2iTl5kkYQ

sometimes i fantasize if i had ever pursued music as a “real” profession. couldn’t have been any less difficult than the grad thing. then you get slotted as THIS genre or that. i like folk and acoustic. but i also like everything else i can get my hands (and ears) on. does this make me some sort of greedy, musical imperialist? out to “try” new sounds, new “cultures,” yum yum?

or just another wannabee erudite type who spouts how much esoteric music he knows. this band, that band you’ve never heard of but i’ve known since i was little. those types bug me. but i suppose i’m sort of like that myself. need to keep that in check.

anyway, i still love my guitars.

poem

9 Feb

Chipotle-burrito

FOOD COSTS

 

order a meal

and it tastes good

robert irvine on restaurant impossible tells restaurant owners their dishes should cost them only

one third of what they sell it for

so if it costs them $1 to make a salad

they should charge $3 to the customer

makes you think

if i buy a burrito that costs me 6 bucks

it costs them only 2 dollars to make it

the 4 dollars extra is paying for their labor and overhead

labor and overhead are expensive

i need to cook more at home

save money on my labor and overhead.

shit hits the fan

9 Feb

021385182_thompson_arrogance_answer_1_xlarge

so it’s that time in the graduate school cycle where they push you to the wall. you have to produce (grant apps in massive volume), read (more books in one sitting than you’ve ever done in your life), and sleep (as randomly and as unsatisfactorily as you can remember).

a lot of this is also just whining over a situation that could have been made less painful with more organization, better prep, and more consistent work in the previous semesters. alas, it is NOW and you can’t revisit the past. besides, “there is no perfect bus,” so just deal with the one that’s arrived. stop the self-loathing, the doubt, and the inner “how did we end up here, i told you sos” and just freaking read/study/write like the maniac that chose to apply (and accept) to this kind of life 4 years ago that you are.

thought i’d return to this blog  after a semester of non-writing. found an interesting blog entry on racialicious–a site i read time to time. http://www.racialicious.com/2013/02/06/on-south-korean-superficiality-we-are-deeper-than-you-want-to-know/#more-27641

apparently it’s about some korean american dude(?) is in korea exploring his roots and complaining about the korea-blogosphere being dominated by wannabe anthropologists. funny, i thought. i’m actually one of those “anthropologists”–legitimate–now. well, minus the ABD status for now. but however way you slice it, i’m being groomed to enter the ranks of officialness.

so what separates me or all those other once-traveled/taught in korea or some other 2nd world country to find myself/make money/”explore” and exploit my global privilege (or realize how little i actually had for you korean american women out there) FROM the same “anthro hacks” this “dude” talks about their blog? i don’t know for sure. but certainly it has to do something with “training?” being challenged to no end by the books i read, the profs i fear, the colleagues i both respect and sometimes dislike. is the real defining factor between “amateur” social analysts and so-called professional ones (in training) like me all about being put to the fire, being grilled, having to pay our dues? the ones writing for the marmots hole http://www.rjkoehler.com/ certainly seem indifferent to this point.

i’m mostly talking about the privileged amateur anthropologists out there loving the sound of their online voices as they wax lyrically about some theory about korea-this or that. and then reading the comments that declare their “amateur” insights so INSIGHTFUL! (of course, i can’t see how the “trained” professional anthropologist oftentimes isn’t guilty of the same–particularly if they aren’t up front about their privilege (i.e., they’re white, native english speaking, male, blah blah. indeed, they’re often much worse–although certainly less prevalent than the annoying non-academic online blog-types).

this begs the question: what of the less privileged amateur anthropologist–the everyday person–usually of poorer socio-economic background, probably working some historically demeaning job, probably a “migrant” of some kind… but also like the rich english teaching amateur anthropologist in seoul or tokyo, or rio possessing equally valid opinions about the world around them–one they’re arguably tied closer to, their faces forced to the concrete by the demands of a global economic capitalistic system that continues to shit nonchalantly on their “kind.” they work and clean after us rich “theorists” (professional academic and amateur anthropologists alike) and no doubt possess theories as valid as ours–although sadly still deemed less “sophisticated.”

i don’t want to romanticize this group either though. how many hardworking, “exploited” poor amateur theorists (e.g., migrants) are still the worst racists, sexists, xenophobes out there? many, no doubt. then again, the same could be said of the privileged theorist (professional and amateur alike) with the same self-righteous prejudices. at the end of the day, though, whose theorizations about the world make print? whose get heard and followed? is it too much to ask for a blog about korea written by those most marginalized, migrants, non-korean women, the like? where are the marmot’s holes of the “oppressed”?

then again, there probably are and i’m probably unaware of them. so there, i might be part of the problem as well, yet another self-righteous heterosexual korean american hegemonic dude thinking he’s the only one to point out this shit, to say i have to be the savior to free the blogosphere from the neo-colonial wrath of other “less enlightened” anthropologists ignorantly defining a place and people they don’t “truly know.” healthy (and routinely performed) self-loathing should be a pre-requisite of anbody who claims to be a “social theorist” – silly blog-type or uppity academic type alike.

this rambling piece is probably about the politics of knowledge production, in retrospect. who writes what. who gets it published. whose word is taken more seriously than that of others. i’m just one voice in all of that–even as i sit here in a library after hour 5 or 6 (lost count) trying to ask myself what i’m doing all of this for ultimately.

and the realization–again–that things certain people write about online, particularly about korea, still annoy me. 😉

back after a hiatus

23 Aug

a lot has happened since i wrote. and yet not so much.

what does travel really do to “change” people? or time for that matter? we like to think that the experience of either is so formative, and yet i wonder. case in point, during my summer i met plenty of flight attendants who had traveled the world 3x over. they talked of all the “worldly” things they had seen. how their minds had expanded. and yet, here they were, still spewing the same this and that about “those poor africans,” “prague is so beautiful,” “the food in x, y, z is so great” – and here is another facebook pic of me in this cool outfit i bought in paris. yay paris. couldn’t they have done or thought the same without having ever left? and yet we say travel is so formative.

cue requisite anthropological reflexive guilt. how am i so different? with my pictures of this and that from this place and that. yay, i traveled and you didn’t. i saw where egyptians died in tahrir square. i saw where indians toil in god-awful heat in the deserts of dubai while the rich people drink their martinis in air conditioned ignorant bliss. and yet i criticize those who aren’t so different than me, albeit less racked with political guilt. or is this all too harsh? i wonder.

my dad says it’s all “invevitable.” nothing you can do about it. “that’s just capitalism” – as though it’s just some omnipotent force that you couldn’t stop even if you had your hand on the lever. aiwha ong writes against such universalizing grand narratives. says things are more complicated than that. and they probably are. but things still seem awful simple when you’re on top making +100K, driving two cars, and lamenting about the poor people begging for change on the streets. “here’s a dollar…” god bless. and we move on with our lives.

met two interesting people today. “fairies” who work in disneyland. perfectly nice women. and yet, the conversation sort of stopped short of job hours, creepy guests, and how good jack daniels “honey” flavor is. am i too cynical and thinktastic for my own good? why do i feel the disconnect with such people?

meanwhile, people i’ve “friended” still living in dubai comment on each others posts. guys flirting here and there aimlessly with the girls. “ooh i ate this.” “i ate that.”

my sister has lost faith in the human race, save a double or triple handful of her friends and family. i don’t necessarily blame her given the crap logic you see spewing from the ignorant lot on tv – made all the more glaringly, painfully visible/audible during the election year wars. if academia truly is the last ivory tower bastion for high, critical thought for high, critical thoughts sake… i worry about the fate of the planet when palins, romneys, and their young, suburban, hipster cronies touring silverlake or downtown l.a. come of age – happy in their privileged sense of “pain.” woe is me.

back

16 Jun

it’s been a busy week. about a week ago i woke up early in the morning, having slept maybe only two hours the moments before. i had to wake up before my flight around 5 a.m. packing that early in the morning, so tired, is not easy.

then it was off to the airport in dubai. check-in. security. on a plane for a few hours. i find myself in istanbul. layover for a few hours. the tiredness creeping again in my bones.

then i end up in paris. i have to take the metro to the hostel. a transfer between the way.

ethics of fieldwork

6 Jun

My “ride” came to pick me up early this afternoon. I thought this entire time I was heading to the church for a service. Better that it be a big congregation so that I could just hide in the background. Instead, it was much more than that. The two people greeted me the same warm smiles and cheer they had shown me a week earlier. The minister, in particular, had the same charming, boyish style that left such an impression on me from before. Despite my stuttering Korean, these two, I recalled still were incredibly friendly and understanding. The Korean Church abroad: friendliness just a phone call a way. But wait, I soon discovered we weren’t going to the church. Instead, we headed straight back to my guest house. “Is the owner a believer?” they both asked me, their tone becoming suddenly, and unexpectedly, serious. “Um… I think she said she didn’t really go but I’m not entirely sure.” “We could go in, but then it might be awkward,” the minister who was driving told his “partner” behind me quietly. The two deliberated some more as I wondered… What situation am I in right now?

 

New folks have arrived. It appears to be a short stay, maybe only a day or so for each of the three. And yet, I’m happy just to have company. Been alone too long with the old fogie guesthouse owners. The ahjuma (older woman) is a sweetheart with her constant chattiness, smile, and general concern for my well-being. It’s enough, almost, for me to see past the unabashedly racist and “classist” things she tends to say about “dirty Chinese,” “low-class Indians,” and the like. However, as a reluctant “social scientist” I’m learning to take such comments in stride. It should always be less about having an “my god!” reaction than it is sincerely asking (only to oneself more often than not) WHY and HOW they came to feel that way. That is how change occurs, after all, doesn’t it? But I digress.

 

The man of the house, however, is a figure in gruffness.

it’s june and i’m blue

2 Jun

found something of a routine here finally. it’s been an intense week and a half throughout. i’m realizing i’ve been here only since last wednesday and yet i’ve already done so much. and yet i feel there is still so much i need to do. for refuge:

http://www.anthropologymatters.com/index.php?journal=anth_matters&page=article&op=viewArticle&path%5B%5D=10&path%5B%5D=10

racism

2 Jun

if the history of a concept or practice is different from one context to another, how appropriate are certain “local” words in trying to define it? when my korean guesthouse owner says “koreans in the middle east do ‘high-class’ work–not like the chinese or filipinos,” what gets gained and lost by labeling her disturbing comment, “racist?” for one, it glosses overly the highly classed nature of her outlook. class, race, and gender tend to be chicken and egg concepts, of course. they intersect, mess, and scatter out with one another in different moments and under different conditions. her logic appears equally complex, i’m presuming. nevertheless, it may look like the following: people she sees outside her (she admits) sheltered life indoors are different. somehow they fit her basic of categories of difference: korean and non-korean. within this binary is another level of stratification: emiratis, white europeans, and other arabs on top. koreans and japanese (the few that are here) occupy the UPPER middle rungs, and everyone else not worth mentioning are below (read: filipina/os, indians, sri lankans, and other brown folks). next.

can i call what’s happening here “tribal?” where things get reduced very quickly. you’re dark so i think you’re this. you’re chinky looking so you’re this. but wait, don’t call me chinese because i’m with LG and SAMSUNG “you know, the tvs! lcds! not chinese! not low-class!”

it’s rampant. somehow the 95 degree heat outside only magnifies the spatial isolation and “tribal” thinking. it seems always under the surface. to the point where when i see white “ex-pats”–inevitably almost always european or from down under–that i think automatically, “man, i wonder if you even HAVE bad experiences cuz of your color here. or are you just oblivious to it?” maybe too harsh, but it’s there for sure. and i’m certainly not exempt from it–although i fight actively to confront my prejudices. more often than not i suffer from a kind of naive HOPE that we can just get past that shit and relate on some level, have a conversation. but here (although perhaps not so different than any other city) most people seem content to be drones in their routines: i get in the taxi cab and the driver is indian–standard at this point. “indian music” in the background. i think, i should try to make use of these “ethnographic moments.” “you drive a long time?” i ask. “huh?” he turns around, lazily startled that someone in the back seat doesn’t just sit mute. then he looks confused. he probably doesn’t understand what i’m saying, something i’ve encountered more often than not among the foreigners i meet here who are not automatically distinguishable as “western” from their accents, sartorial styles, or pigmentation. “14 years,” he says curtly and then keeps driving turning the radio volume up again. “you like dubai?” i ask. he looks tired, as though even more speech would exert too much undue effort. “yes, i like,” he says unenthusiastically. keeps driving.

so much for conversation, i think. yes, i’m the privileged (asian) american “grad student” here to “study people,” instead of the hard-knock experience of driving a cab, serving mcdonalds burgers, or greeting people with samples at the grocery store. i’m highly sheltered in that sense. and yet, the experience is still highly alienating. and i still have feelings. days like the last few have been blue for sure.

i go into the local lebanese bakery nearby. there are plenty of foreigners, white euros, south asians, arabs, and even the full-body-clad emirati women and white-adorned emirati men in the general neighborhood. why would the lebanese bakery down the street be any different? and even if it were, they’d probably be generally friendly to me, no? i walk in. looks like only arabs go in this bakery, i think. oh well, let ‘s see what happens if *I* go inside. can’t be too bad. besides, i love arabic sweets.

the first thing i sense are the stares behind the counters by the bakers. i look around quietly. it appears i am the only person noticeably, visibly different. play it cool, i think. i look at the sweets behind the counter. mmm, i think. then i gesture for the lebanese guy behind the counter to get this and that. he seems frustrated by my requests. again, he doesn’t seem to understand. a faux pas on my part, no question–this i’m not afraid to admit. i walk into a store with my ugly american english. better if i were to try to at least attempt arabic. nevermind. he begrudgingly gets me my order. later, as i pay, another cashier behind the register nearly throws me back my change. i say thank you and leave feeling empty.

still, even those “social rejections” are important to experience, telling, educational. is it possible they read me as a “dirty chinese” or filipino in the vein of my sweet but unredeemably racist korean guest house owners? i wonder.

finally, i stop by for a burger at mcdonalds thinking, this is the litmus test when abroad. how does THEIR big mac fair? (as i “cheat” again against my better nature to avoid meat–here, unfortunately, it’s a near impossibility). i order the big mac meal while the filipino responds in tagalog-infused english, “do you want beef or chicken?” wha? i’m thinking. what does a CHICKEN big mac look like? gotta try that next time, i think. “thank you, come again,” he says with a broad smile. don’t mean to overanalyze this, but here i’m treated like gold. i’m the east asian, he’s the southeast asian filipino. for better or worse, the “latino” of the middle east and east asia. clearly a power dynamic here i think, that or it’s mcdonalds and their culture of happy fakeness. but contrast that with the lebanese who seemed to send me the clear message that i wasn’t welcome made me wonder again… in this place, the hierarchies very well be as clearly defined as my guesthouse owners have implied. perhaps they speak such badly of indians, chinese, and filipinos because they’ve experienced the humiliation, confusion, or discomfort of being targeted because of how they look? i get a taste of it here and there here. but, of course, it’s never completely bad. at the end of the day, my privilege will probably always protect me. can’t say the same for everyone here.

i’ve been reading “a handbook for social science field research” lately in preparation for my workshop in france next week. one scholar wrote how one universal of fieldwork is that it is hard. i’m reminded yet again of how true this is.

grocery stores in 95 degree heat

23 May

walking out of the “korean world” of my guesthouse and it’s night and day. weather is oppressive and hot but the freedom to roam is terrific. it reminds me of why i love traveling so much. i don’t care so much for the touristy sights and sounds, although those are always very nice. it’s the mundane, everyday stuff. that’s what gets me.

walked around a bit and thought, this isn’t so bad. it was around 10 a.m. and probably 85. by 12:30 it would hit 95. surprisingly, it’s actually bearable enough to walk around, although you’d be hard pressed to do it without some water on you. for me, it was two cokes, bought at a mcdonalds nearby. less than half a mile really. they really are everywhere aren’t they? moreover, food here is cheap. a small coke costs around 80 cents. 3 dirhams to be exact. but with 3.6 dirhams equaling a dollar my math says i bought a drink for less than a dollar.

i’ve always loved grocery stores in locations i’m not familiar with. based on this criteria, almost any grocery store will interest me, including ones even in “remote” places in “rural” parts of california far from what i’m used to in southern california. all the more so for grocery stores in dubai. after about 10 minutes of walking around here and there in the small suburban area that is the guesthouse’s surroundings, i found a supermarket/”stripmall” area within walking distance of the residence. by the time i got there, the heat got so bad i felt desperate for relief. interestingly, all the while i recall saying to myself, “this isn’t so bad.”

similar food with the addition of more “exotic” ones here and there, like “ALL HALAL” food signs and interesting candies. then there’s the arabic on the boxes. and plenty of women completely in black from head (and face) to toe. minus that, it’s pretty mundane, normal stuff. just at the grocery to shop. the local is foreign. the foreign local. all it takes is a plane trip, a bus trip, or a walk to blur this border.

interesting.

first morning in dubai

23 May

05/23/12
9:04 am

slept around 5 am – surfing the net, one of the few familiar things i had in this strange new land – not necessarily dubai mind you but living in another person’s ‘house,’ back in the grind with having to speak korean constantly, minding my forms of speech, and always adding the obligatory, “i’m sorry my korean is so bad” at the beginning of each social interaction. already off to a slightly crappy foot. the airline, dutch, didn’t bring my bags. there was a line of other similarly sorry souls like myself yesterday. i like them have to wait until tonight or maybe even tomorrow morning for the basics. no chargers, leaving me with this new mini-notebook whose advertised “10 hours of battery life” is more of a lie than anything else. i’m lucky if i get 5 hours. meanwhile, yesterday after so much commuting, hours on a bus, hours waiting at o’hare, hours on a flight to amsterdam than the same in the airport, to dubai, to customs lines, baggage claim (then lost), to commutes and awkward meetings with my new guest house “owner.” tired.

had to do my laundry by hand in the sink and left it to dry last night i had no clothes. better to do it by hand lest i wanna stink all day today from my travels yesterday.

rudely awakened around 8 am. “food. eat and then you can sleep” was the owners few words. i heard he’s from gyeongsando, a region my mom’s from where the men, in particular are stereotyped as gruff and monosyllabic. he’s not helping the stereotype. still, he seems kind enough, helping me with the basics – a phone, etc. still, at 8 am hoping to get more shut-eye, hardly hungry i thought, shit you gotta be kidding me. i am not in the mood to wake up this early.

coming down, i was in a sour mood. but i knew i had to be “on” immediately. at the table were two korean guys, probably in their 30s to 40s. apparently, both work in the construction industry, although my koraen vocabularly is too rusty to have caught exactly where they worked. i said hello as the korean owner introduced me gruffly. “this is a guy from the u.s. studying here in dubai.” the two guys give me their best korean guy welcome–sort of a korean version of the male “head nod” thing in the u.s. only less obvious. i sit thinking, shit, i gotta formulate questions in my head now. i still find myself translating things in my head, filtering them, and then making an attempt in korean. i guess for the most part i did alright. one of them was more chatty than the others, frequently asking me where i was from, how old i was, etc. the other kept asking the chatty one questions, while making less of an attempt to say anything to me. it’s the first morning, i thought. plus, i’m still a zombie so don’t expect too much. still, i just wanted to eat my food, be cordial, and then do my thing later. not really too much in the mood to be ‘on’ at 8 in the morning.

turns out the one guy was here only temporarily–the company sent him, he said. then he kept asking me if educational dorminatories (dorms for students?) were available only in “big cities.” how expensive they were and the like. i told him it depended on the city and proceeded to ask if he had ever been the u.s. he said no but that he had hoped to send his kids there for school. whether champaign, ilinois or dubai, ua koreans don’t seem al that different. the same concerns throughout – education, hopes to go to the u.s. then the guy went on about his daughter wanting to attend some fancy school on the east coast. somewhere near north carolina i think. he said it was prestigious and asked if i had heard of it. i hadn’t but feigned that i did to maintain some semblance of rapport. then the two guys continued talking to each other. a lot more side dishes than i had expected. fried shrimp tempora, seafood, seafood dwengjang soup. the works – and still only 8 am. shit, hope lunch isn’t this heavy, i thought. “eat eat” was the owner’s wifes words to me. not before asking if i ever had eaten korean food before. i smiled and said, of course. this, i’ve also experienced in abundance while living in korea – a sense that if you’re a korean american – you might never eat korean food. i guess they can’t make the distinction between us and adoptees. yes, i eat koraen food. but oh well, not a big deal – just smile and say thank you, the food was delicious–which, thankfully, was actually the case.

i asked the quieter guy how life was in dubai. he said it was very different. the weather for one. but i got the impression that he planned on going back first thing he could to korea. such a liminal state here, i thought. made me think of my folks back home. the owner of the guesthouse also waxing nostalgic about their own son abroad in australia… i’m using his cell phone now. it made me wonder what their lives really are here – or any of the “displaced” or “mobile.” i remember asking the owner in the car yesterday as we drove quietly past the amazing dubai skyline (much more expansive than i had thought it be – not so unlike new york in its CONCRETEness) how he ended up in dubai. he said he originally had come for work in saudi arabia. according to him, saudi arabia is much more conservative than it is here in dubai. it’s “freer” here in dubai, if my korean serves me correctly.

back to the theme on aspirations… i wonder why it’s not “my son is attending school in abu dhabi” or “africa” or what not. but back to the familiar places in the west. i live here in dubai – now going on 20 years, but my son is in australia. is this space in the middle east still so liminal. do they imagine it as such? i wonder. also, how much of it is gendered, as i chat hesitently with those two men not so much older than me–but who joke i look much younger than i do. which i know and should expect, especially after practically shaving my head – in a style most korean men would associate with a new recruit in the army.

the owner of the korean guesthouse sits in his couch as we eat – just like a scene out of a dozen back home in ca, chicago, or new york around relatives or acquaintances. the man, the king of the castle, on his couch watching KBS – this time an animal special on sloths. something my dad probably would be watching alone himself back in california. indeed, the diaspora continues almost wholesale across time and space. but what doesn’t? I noticed calendars on the wall, the kind i find in my own home. cheesy koraen decorations or artwork with korean text and the name of a company on the bottom. this time the address said, DUBAI, though. funny how different it feels reading that, and yet the actually “text” itself is virtually the same as something i’d find in koreatown in california.

my bathroom – hell even the toilet and showerhead are something out of korea. the single channel i have in my room, complete with JVC brand tv  and samsung vcr/dvd player – “KBS world” with korean dramas on loop. guess i don’t have to worry about where i can get my korean fix everyday. i wonder if the korean women i’ll meet are any different? if they express less a longing to go back to korea – although this is less an open sentiment i’ve heard than one i’ve assumed – than a sense of satisfaction here.

only my first day, but i’m already feeling a bit confined. not even sure if i can just walk around outside, save for the background with pool and lawn–again, something not so different than what i might find in chino hills or riverside (the latter more so with the intense heat already in the morning).

thinking back to tariq and nadra, the two kind dubayyans i met yesterday. how different their narrative and affect was compared to the korean folks i’m meeting so far. of course, this seems gendered as well. nadra was more than happy to keep chatting – the happy-go-lucky emirati woman more than happy to inform me on this new land, its people, and how so many people outside still get it wrong. her husband, himself a bit gruff, but increasingly so–i started to infer–because his english actually is not as good as that of his wife. but still in the quiter moments as we sat next to each other on the plane – he’d give a warm smile or a gesture that if i needed anything while i was here, not to hesitate to contact them–two people i just met for the first time. are they the “natives” putting on a good face for me the “anthropologist” here to study them and their ways, to put a different spin on this place most koreans-like the construction working men i met this morning-say don’t really know about or actually follow through on coming to visit; instead coming only as tourists on holiday or honeymoon STOPPING OVER ON THEIR WAY to another destination like europe?

before i came, i wondered “how i’d be read” here. save for tariq and nadra, some customs folks at the airport, and a handful of “expats” i met crossing customs, i’ve been read like i was back in korea or in italy – at times american, korean american, and perhaps sometimes east asian. something i noticed in the airport. there are so many more men here than women, in general, and mostly south asian, indian or pakistani (althoguh i can only guess). i was probably the only “east asian” guy around 30 in the airport. there were only a few i saw, either as tourists or perhaps on business i assumed. but the demographic makeup of this place certainly is something to think about. maybe i will check out one of those “expat” spaces to see what else is out there. if one of the most common laments i hear about this place is how spatially segregated and hard it is to meet people, then i’m sure i’ll get a taste of that in time.

meanwhile, more korean studying to do in the interim. it’s the only way i might get a little more comfortable with these people i’m still reluctant to “study.”