Thursday, 2 August 2012

August 2nd, 2012 Day 13

The likelihood of my appeal being approved is looking more and more remote. I should get used to the idea being here for the next 6 to 7 days and try to make the best of it— or as good as being locked up in a closet with Windows at least for 23 hours a day as I can make it. Thank God, I like to draw and write. I would go crazy without these skills. Even the dumbest person here at least has the luxury of being able to read the newspaper every day. My options are forced to listen to shitty Korean pop music that I can’t turn off or control the volume on loudspeakers piping the music through the prison, watch Korean TV shows or stare at the walls. If I try to sleep, a guard comes and yells at me to wake up. It makes it harder to sleep through the night anyway. Speaking of sleep, I am not used to going to bed sober all time. I seem to be dreaming way more than usual. I’ve been trying to write down interesting ones as soon as I wake up. It’s also been almost 2 weeks since my last cigarette. I still want one, but not as bad. I haven’t gone this long without a smoke in 25 years. I’m sure my body is thankful. I’m pretty sure I haven’t gone this long without a drink either. Poor man’s rehab. Only poor people go to jail, only rich people pay for rehab. One of the ironies of life.
One of the things that bothers me the most about Korea and Koreans are their “rules” and how close they don’t follow them unless it’s personally convenient. The only time the rules matter to a Korean is when they don’t want to do something, and then they have the “rules” to conveniently back them up. Most Koreans have a very defeatist attitude. If they had never done it something before, then they are convinced that can’t be done and I think the fact that to get anything done, I have to freak out and kindly see like a crazy foreigner and then sit there in contempt while they stumble all over themselves trying to prove me wrong only to discover I was right in the first place. Of course, this is all leading up to something— today’s adventure in making phone calls from prison...

So, I want to call my mother to let her know I’m okay and not to worry. First, I was told I wasn’t allowed, so I pointed out they sold phone cards, so why would they sell phone cards if no one was allowed to make a phone call? Then I was told that my phone card could not work because the prison uses a special phone system. I saw the “system” the last time I was here. It’s a normal payphone with an extra handset of the guards can monitor your conversation. Nothing special about it. And the “special” phone card they wanted me to buy is a cashless smartcard, exactly the same that is used for the bus and subway system. You add a dollar amount the card and every time you use it, money is deducted from the card until it is empty. Just like cash without the actual cash. It’s not that special. I could use the coins in the phone and it would work exactly the same. Anyway, I have an international calling card with a toll-free number in Korea. I dial the number, follow the prompts and voila talking to people in Canada. So, 3 guards and 2 inmates with poor English skills telling me it can’t be done. I freaked out, had a temper tantrum like a 10-year-old, and 30 minutes later, I’m talking to my mom and Zoe, who happens to be visiting, using my international calling just as I described. My little freak out also got me and other pen, a pencil, a comb, a watch, a Korean-English dictionary and a subscription to an English-language newspaper. I hated resorting to such tactics but it’s very effective.

I’m sure a lot of people are/will be disgusted by how I portray Koreans. Not all Koreans are this way but unfortunately a lot of them are. It’s a stereotype. Stereotypes exist for a reason. Saying black people like chicken is not racist, is a stereotype.

Take a look at how Koreans treat other Koreans. It’s not pretty. For all the talk about Confucius and respect, I see very few positive examples. Quite often, I don’t seem to get any respect from Koreans unless I get angry first and then they bend over backwards to accommodate me. I have a real problem with this. I shouldn’t have to get upset to get treated with basic common courtesy. A lot of times, especially with older Koreans, they demand to be treated a certain way, while at the same time treating the other person like dirt. When people treat me like dirt, my reaction is not to be nice to tem in return. The funny thing is quite often, I’m the older person these days in my social interactions with Koreans and they still treat me like shit is because I’m not Korean and don’t deserve their respect— yet they expect me to treat them according to their rules and customs. It’s a hypocritical double standard and a game I’m not willing to play. That’s why I feel and act the way I do when it comes to Koreans. I’m sick of being nice only to get treated like shit in return. It’s a deeply rooted custom unlikely to change anytime soon and that’s too bad, because the other stereotype is true, too. When Koreans get to know you, they can be the most generous warm-hearted people. It’s just too much trouble these days for me to try to get to know them.

Today, just got a whole lot better. It looks like my call to mom was all for naught. At 4 PM, I was released into the welcoming arms of immigration, who, no doubt, will deport me tomorrow! Yay! Woo hoo! Got to love Korean logic, illogical but somewhat predictable. By this time tomorrow, I will hopefully be at the airport waiting for my flight out of this one horse burg.

Immigration detention center is a lot dirtier than the jail cell I just left, but much better. For one thing, the TV as every cable channel and no automatic shut off. I can watch English-language movies all night. The holding cell is also communal, so there are eight other illegal aliens to talk to, most of whom actually speak the same language that isn’t Korean. Right now, there are a couple of Filipinos, a guy from Burma, a Russian, Indian and Chinese dude. Clash of the Titans is on TV and dinner should be arriving soon. After two weeks the prison, this is a walk in the park.