My Brilliant Korea

Almost too famous

Blogging | June 7, 2011

Kids ride their bikes around the streets of this town.

Old men sit on benches and talk away the day, teenage couples exchange shy looks as they walk hand in hand, mothers carry babies in slings on their backs.

Rice paddies and chili fields stretch into the distance.

Crime is non-existent.

Cheongyang, a town of 13,000 people in rural Korea, is a wholesome kind of place- the kind of place where people feel comfortable walking the streets at any time of the day or night.

People, that is, who are not me.

In fact, the longer I stay here, the harder it is for me to rustle up the courage to venture outside.

Here in Cheongyang, I am just too famous.

And I'm not talking about the drinks-with-George-Michael-stint-in-rehab-tearful-Oscar-speech-profile-piece-in-New-Idea kind of fame.

I'm talking about the bad kind of fame.

The kind where you get harassed, like, all the time.

My kind of fame is all related to me being the strange and foreign intruder in this town. The ghostly white, green-eyed anomaly.

As a result, even the most basic tasks have become daunting for me in Cheongyang, due to the unwanted attention I attract everywhere I go.

Allow me to paint you a picture of what can happen when I attempt to run a rudimentary errand.

1. The rubbish run. (This involves transporting a bag of rubbish from the apartment down a flight of stairs, out the front door of the apartment building and approximately ten metres to the rubbish collection area. The rubbish collection area is in plain view of a small convenience store where a middle-aged Korean woman, 'an ajumma' works).

Me: *casts furtive glances from the front door of the apartment building, dashes across to rubbish collection area*

Ajumma: *moves with speed of light from convenience store, appears behind me*

Me: *sighs*

Ajumma: *adjusts my scarf to cover more of my skin*

Me: *nods*

Ajumma: *speaks in rapid-fire Korean and adjusts scarf again*

Me: *smiles*

Ajumma: *whacks me on the back several times*

Me: *nods*

Ajumma: *pushes me towards apartment building entrance and into lift*

2. The walk into town. This task involves leaving the apartment building and walking for approximately 15 minutes along a series of main roads into the Cheongyang CBD.

Me: *commences walk into town*

Delivery driver: *sights me*

Me: *continues walking*

Delivery driver: *stops delivery van in the middle of main busy road*

Me: *mouth drops open*

Delivery driver: *waves from middle of road*

Me: *waves back frantically in the hope the interaction will satisfy the delivery driver and result in him moving from his precarious position*

Delivery driver: *waves again*

Me: *waves back*

Delivery driver: *waves again*

Me: *averts gaze*

Delivery driver: *drives away*

3. The bus ticket purchase. This involves walking through the local bus terminal, to the ticket counter, and purchasing a ticket.

Me: *walks into bus terminal*

Local student: *gasp*

Me: *averts gaze*

Local student: "AH-SUH-LEE TEACHER GIRLFRIEND!!!!!!!!!!!!!!"

Me: "Errr... Yes".


Me: *walks awkwardly away*

Local student: "Have a good time!!!!!!!!!!!! See you again!!!!!!!!!!!"

4. The running shoe purchase. This involves locating and entering a shoe store, trying on several pairs of shoes, and making a purchase.

Me: *stops at crosswalk*

Pack of elderly residents: *sights me*

Me: *crosses crosswalk*

Pack of elderly residents: *follows me up street*

Me: *enters shoe store*

Pack of elderly residents: *follows me inside store*

Me: *selects three pairs of shoes to try*

Pack of elderly residents: *watches me try on first pair of shoes, holds conference about shoe selection* (cycle repeats for second and third pair of shoes)

Me: *purchases shoes*

Pack of elderly residents: *leaves store discussing the major event they have just witnessed*

Fame in rural Korea really is quite exhausting.


1. Samala on June 7, 2011

Bahaha! That's hilarious, but I'm sure it must be really frustrating for you. Lucky you're a lovable anomaly :-) x

2. Nikki on June 7, 2011

At least you're not papped while undertaking these tasks x

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About Blythe Seinor

When Blythe was a journalism student at the Queensland University of Technology she interviewed the former Indonesian president, Abdurrahman Wahid.
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