I sit down to have lunch and look over to my left and see a lovely Korean woman having lunch. I can’t remember my ice breaker line at the moment but it could have been a comment on the delicious pad thai she was enjoying. I had had it a bit earlier myself.
Her name is Sun and she is 41 years old. I asked her what she did for a living. She told me that she was an architect who supervises the constrution of buildings. Because of this big picture view point she needs to know basic plumbing,electricity and carpentry .
She then told me it was very stressful and that she had left the job. She pointed to the grey hairs that it gave her.
She told me that she passionately wanted to live in Chiang Mai but her parents forbid it. As an old Asian hand I’m aware of the strong tradition of children taking care of parents but it still comes as a surprise to me when someone tells me they are doing so. Sun is the oldest of five children. I believe she said she had two younger sisters and two younger brothers . She is the eldest therefore it has fallen upon her to do her filial duty of looking after her parents. She said perhaps she could live in Chiang Mai five years from now.
For an Asian woman Sun indeed did look ten years older. She didn’t have that blossom that women in their early forties that Asian woman possess.
Sun reminded me how different western culture treats their elders.
In past years , I met very few Koreans traveling in Asia, but now with their new affluence ,and the need to escape their pressure cooker many more are seeking a respite from their work places.
I’ve met about half dozen so far on this trip. The first was a Korean language teacher at a coffee shop I frequented when I first arrived on this trip.
The Koreans are quite different from both the Chinese and Japanese. They endured a 30 year occupation by the Japanese so have some Japanese influence. There food and architecture are very plain relative to Japanese. One fellow traveler called them simple yet and one point in Asian history Korea was the center of Asian culture.
They are close knit families who pointed out don’t like neither politicians nor policeman. We had been discussing the fear that Asian have of the police who we would call criminal elements in the West. It’s an old tradition not to pay the police a decent wage so they are expected to handsomely supplement their salaries through corruption mostly shaking down businesses ,controlling the prostitution and drug trade. Unlike Toronto, Canada , I rarely see a policeman here . Most of the places in the area I’m living hire their own security and their is a key less entry system.