And one would think that'd be okay in an Asian, semi-confucian-hold-over society like Korea. Timidity in a foreign woman would seem especially acceptable. It's a rare time when anyone directs any comments directly at me when I'm with my guy. When in a pack I can normally just smile and nod and get away with it.
But when alone the population issues of Korea become exceedingly apparent. There is just too many people and not enough space for anyone to be timid. If you're to survive without sneaker marks on your cheek you better throw some elbows. This I have trouble with.
The other day I was jogging and found myself on a path through the more residential part of my town (as opposed to the ONE sidewalk along the highway where I normally run). I kept to the side and looked out for scary vegetable trucks zooming down the narrow alley. Unfortunately, being on the side, I found myself behind people who were walking, in particular an ajumma who was shuffling her way ahead of me.
To others the choice in this situation would be clear...just run around her. To me I freak out. Should I slow down? Should I wait till we near an intersection? Should I give up the running and walk? Do I cross the street completely? Should I just turn around? Crap, now I'm really close, what should I do? Do I say hello so she can hear me? No, she knows I'm there...what to do what to do what to do?
I cut out, gave a wide berth and started to pass her. She, at the very moment I was passing her, cut out herself for no apparent reason and walked directly into me. As I tripped over myself and attempted not to do a face-plant into the asphalt she started yelling. A lot. In really fast Korean.
I don't know much Korean and sometimes the culture throws me for a loop but I do know that this is not one of those situations that I can smile and nod my way through. Instead, I ran. Away. Fast. She yelled louder. I ran faster.
I am so not proud.