the semi-reluctant hippie

Monday, May 26, 2008

Moving back to SK has caused us to make some changes (some mandatory, some not) that benefit the environment.

The mandatory:
* line-drying clothes -- clothes dryers are not common here. Supposedly, some people have washers that also dry. I think those are the rich people. We're not rich, so we hang our clothes. Matthew takes his dress shirts to the dry cleaners, so that get ironed all pretty-like.
* hand washing dishes -- dish washers are also considered a luxury. I'm not sure how much water/energy this actually saves, but I'll pretend that it's significant.
* composting (I think) -- food, at least "wet food" MUST go into a separate bag and then be placed in a separate bin in the garbage/recycling area outside our apartment building. I'm not really sure what happens to the food garbage, but I'll assume that it's composted, because that makes me feel good.
* recycling more -- Koreans are not as picky about recycling. We have to separate plastics, glass/metal, and paper, but beyond that the sorting is all done at the recycling center. More types of plastic are recycled here, too.

The voluntary:
* using public transportation -- We could get a car fairly cheaply, but we're not taking that option (at least at this point). We live very near the bus stop, which takes us anywhere on Sokcho's "main drag" quickly and cheaply. There are also an abundance of taxis (which in an American town of 80,000 would be highly unusual), which, again, are very inexpensive. When I have Liam and a heavy bag of groceries, a cab ride from the door of E-Mart to the door of my apartment building is worth the extra dollar (W 1,000) or so.
* cloth diapering -- I started off with cloth when Liam was born, but gave up because the inconvenience (of traditional flat folds) was overcome by the cheapness of diapers at big box stores. My guilt and the lack of bulk-buying opportunities here in SK convinced me to switch back to cloth. I'm using FuzziBunz (a pocket diaper) and they work great. I have 21 size mediums for Liam, so I wash diapers every 2 or 3 days. I'll buy smalls for the new baby, and we'll be set until potty training, assuming that baby #2 is a skinny little thing like Liam.

Maybe I'm finally living up to the words of my "Think Global, Act Local" t-shirt.

local celebrity or dirty little monkey?

Sunday, May 18, 2008

You're bound to think that I'm exaggerating some of this, but I promise I'm really not.

Most Koreans, especially in a smaller city like Sokcho, have never seen a blond-haired, blue-eyed toddler. Even taking that into consideration, I'm surprised at how much attention Liam gets wherever we go.

Adults, teenager, children, men, women, boys or girls; it doesn't matter. Everyone wants to touch him. He's like a freaking rock star sometimes. The other day, we were mobbed in the middle of the crosswalk by a group of squealing teenage girls. Another day at the local park, it was a group of teenage boys that surrounded Liam, touching his hair, handing him rocks to throw, and cheering every time he threw a rock or clapped his hands. Women randomly walk up to me and try to take him from my arms. People want to touch his hands, his hair, his cheeks.

I get fed up with it at times, and so does Liam. He likes the attention from kids the most, but he gets overwhelmed at times and just wants me to hold him. He's getting good at brushing people off if he just doesn't to be touched or held. He's usually a little man on a mission -- to see the fish in the restaurant tanks, to throw a handful of rocks in the river, etc.

And people want to give him things: ice cream, candy, a toy at the Seorak Park outdoor restaurant where we ate lunch. I'm trying to politely decline (especially on chocolate!), since I don't want a child who thinks he's entitled to everything his little heart desires.

On the other hand, Liam always seems to be filthy here. Part of it is a difference in environment. Instead of wood chips, the playgrounds here are covered in the coarse sand from the beach. (Cats are rare, so it's not a giant litter box.) He likes to lie down on this sand. I don't know why. He has a tendency to put everything in his mouth, and to touch everything. I think I'm just being realistic when I say that Korea is a bit dirtier than the States. Part of it is a cultural thing. People do not touch "dirty" things. They remove their shoes when they enter a home or some restaurants. There's a clearer distinction between the public and domestic spheres. So here comes my child, who likes to do everything by himself. It quickly became clear that it's socially unacceptable (and gross) for him to crawl up stairs using his hands. Despite my best efforts, he always seems to have a dirty face and hands and clothes...

He also threw a few very public tantrums (i.e. in the grocery store check-out line) the first few days, mostly due to jet lag. Since he's a representative for all American children, I was quite embarrassed. Since he's adjusted to the time and to daily routines, the tantrums have basically stopped...thank god.
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