By Shannon Noni Selis
I have recently read my cowriter’s entry “How much does your life weigh?” and have to put out a response. I agree with her that we should keep in touch with our friends and families, send out the emails, meet new people, and da da da. All of these things are important for our emotional and mental health.
But I am 5’2’’ with a 44inch ass and a chest that make gay men want to play. I humbly disagree with the material aspect of traveling. Are you going on a backpacking trip? Are you going away for a few weeks to a sweet new country? Are you moving to Europe? Then, yes by all means bring one pair of jeans and a pair of comfortable shoes. I have moved to two Asian countries and one foreign state (Hawai’i… it’s the US, but doesn’t have all the same resources), and I cannot express how much I WISH I had brought this, that, and the other.
My first out-of-country move was to Thailand. I brought three pairs of shorts, a boatload of tshirts, a few skirts for work, and a pair of pants. I brought a few pairs of heels and a couple cute dresses. My TEFL job required a uniform: black pants/skirt, nice black shoes, and provided shirt. I wore pants the first day and then packed them away for the remainder of the year. It was so hot and humid year round that I would never need them. My shorts were too short and deemed inappropriate for many places. Thailand has a slightly conservative style. I had a huge hole in my shorts and wanted a new pair. I also wanted a few new tops since my tshirts were constantly soaked through and pit stains weren’t the worst of it. But in every shop I was denied. No, ka. Yai mak mak. In Thai… that means “No. Too big.” They did this pointing to my chest and butt. I always wore a tank top under my shirt at work to absorb sweat. I would wear only the tank top when I rode my bicycle to work because it was SO hot. The Thai ladies would come to me and say, “ohhhh sexy, Teacher! Teacher Balloons!” of course referring to my chest. I would have bought more appropriate tops but the only ones I could buy were baggy and made me look like a whale. I also only wore the same 3 pairs of shoes the entire time because you don’t wear shoes inside most places. I wore my cute shoes once. Here, I agree with Sonya, the cute shoes weren’t necessary.
Since then I have moved to South Korea. I am a few pounds heavier and a size larger in pants. For a year, I packed about 10 tops, 8 pairs of pants, two pairs of shorts, 5 cute dresses (some long, some short), and I downsized my shoes from 12 to 9 pairs (three pairs were flats, three pairs were heels of various sizes, one pair of not-Uggs, and a pair of Converse sneakers). Does that sound excessive? Maybe to you. But for the first time in my entire working life, I do not have a uniform. I have spent the last 12 years working in required outfits: black pants, khakis, polo shirts, scrubs, etc. I finally get to show off who I am…in teacher appropriate outfits. Most people said ‘Don’t worry about it. Wear jeans and a tshirt. Be comfortable.’ I am happy to dress professionally. I am comfortable looking good. And guess what? My students actually thanked me for doing it. They were so impressed that I was a foreign teacher who dressed nicely (consider their respect earned). My managers said, “You always dress so well with pretty hair and makeup. We love it.” It feels great to do that. It’s nice too because Koreans all dress really nicely. Even the homeless people dress well!
My closet is full. And thank goodness I did pack heavy. I came to Korea with a large bag with weight at 49.7lbs (50lbs limit). I went shopping this past weekend for some warmer clothes. I’m a Floridian and don’t understand the concept of ‘layering’ or winter. To me, layering means a tank top under a shirt and a pair of socks under my flipflops. I was denied several stores because, surprise surprise, my chest is too big. My ass is too big. I tried to buy a pair of XL leggings and was given a sad smile and a shake of her head. She tapped my thighs. Too big, too fat. I really am NOT fat. I am curvy. But for Asia, I don’t fit. My one leg is about the size of an average Korean’s waist. Honestly, my thigh is probably bigger. I tried on some shoes. They had size 6. They had size 7. No size 6.5. I tried another store and actually found a 6.5 (235 for those who need a Korean conversion). The boot was so narrow that it wouldn’t zip past my calf. One of my good friends out here doesn’t bother shopping for shoes because she wears a size 10. A lot of girls out here have feet bigger than an 8 and they have to ask to ship it from home or hope to buy a pair online. I may have large curves, but I have small feet thank goodness.
I knew this would happen, which is why I brought a lifetime supply of clothing with me. If I had been smart, I wouldn’t have packed so many toiletries. I would love another pair of boots from home.
Call me a material girl. You wouldn’t be the first. I’m Effie Trinket from The Hunger Games. I like luxurious things and I care about how I look. I like to look good. Call me vain – that song is probably about me. How much does my life weigh? Let’s just say I’m not a lightweight.
Shannon Selis is an English teacher and massage therapist currently frequenting South Korean karaoke bars. When she’s not teaching, singing show tunes, or mastering recipes, she shares her experiences at wittylmt and Another Food Thing.