Friday, July 25, 2008

To pee or not to pee

I realized today that I haven't written anything about life in Korea for a very long time. Being a mom gets a lot more of my attention these days than being an expat. Nonetheless, I continue to marvel at the ways that living overseas can make you think about things that would ordinarily never cross your mind.

I give you exhibit A. I have been living in Korea for almost two years now, and I have never heard a Korean woman pee. This is not a result of failure to frequent public bathrooms. I drink a lot of water while I work, so at least twice a day, I visit the nearest bathroom, where I get the choice of sitting on an western-style porcelain throne or squatting over an Asian-style porcelain hole. (My choice depends on my mood.) This bathroom is shared by women from a number of different offices in the building, so there is generally at least one other person in there. When I see them go in ahead of me, they go into the stall, close the door, and then... nothing. When I finish peeing, they're still in there, and nothing has happened. Alternatively, if a door is closed when I go in, I sometimes hear a flush and someone leaving. However, I've never, ever, heard anyone actually make the telltale sounds associated with pee hitting porcelain.

So what are they doing in there? And how? And why?

I got a clue a few days ago, when for the first time, I was in a different public bathroom (now I'm sounding creepy--I don't actually seek out opportunities to pee in public, I swear) and saw a button on the wall enigmatically labeled "etiquette bell". I pushed the button, out came the sound of a toilet flushing. As I doubt that most people find the sound of a flushing toilet intrinsically pleasant, I am forced to conclude that the purpose of this device is to cover up other sounds. Is it possible that this entire nation is so shy of bladder that they have to make flushing sounds to be able to "perform"? If so, what is it that they want other people to think that they are actually doing in there? I have always thought of peeing as the LEAST offensive thing that one might be doing in a bathroom stall.

I had honestly never previously considered the possibility that an adult woman might go that far out of her way to avoid having someone hear her pee. The sound of pee is just water on water. It is what it is, and everybody does it, after all. I admit that I don't relish the thought of listening to people performing other bodily functions (something that Mystery assures me is a constant assault to the senses in men's bathrooms). But peeing?

So now I have become self-conscious as well. I don't know how to pee without making a sound (how do they do it?), and I certainly don't want to become known as "that disgusting foreigner who makes the peeing sounds", so these days, I make sure that I pee alone.


There are a lot of reasons that I haven't been posting lately. I've been incredibly busy. It's so hot and steamy in Seoul that every time I try to gather my thoughts, my brain melts. Eggbert the 8-month-old big girl takes even more of my time than Eggbert the tiny baby did. But really, I think I've been struggling because the thing that I most want to blog about is giving me a blog identity crisis.

This started life as an infertility blog. I was desperate for a baby. Yes desperate. I admit it. That word has all kinds of negative connotations, but it is also the right word. Those were dark days, and putting my thoughts and feelings down in black and white helped. Getting feedback from so many kind readers helped even more. I really don't know how I would have managed without all of the support.

Now, my life is very different. I'm happy, and I'm a mom. Having Eggbert was by far the best thing that has ever happened to me. I thank my lucky stars every day. Every minute of my life isn't perfect, but every minute is better because she's here. While so many people experience post-partum depression, I feel like I've been in a place more like post-partum euphoria. Which makes it hard to blog. The thought of infertiles who are trying to conceive their first child coming here and reading about how great having a baby is makes me feel physically ill. They KNOW how great having a baby is. That's why infertility sucks so much. So what to do? Lots of people decide to make a fresh start at this point, either by retiring, or by starting a new mommy blog. That seems like a great option, except for one thing. I want another child, and somehow I doubt that infertility is done with me yet.

So, for now I'll stay here, and try to make the infertile mommy thing work somehow. If my brain doesn't melt first.