Another unusual (to me) aspect of military life is the high population of Asians, namely, Koreans. Apparently, soldiers stationed overseas marry Korean women, return to the States, and find themselves divorced after their Korean wives join the Korean clique and never bother to learn American customs. I first found out about this while at a local base in Pennsylvania. I was shopping in AAFES, sporting an Army jacket and carrying my purchases in a bag that clearly stated "AAFES" across the front. A soldier turned, saw me, and asked if I worked there. Wondering if this was really an example of the world's finest, I told him I didn't. I was later informed that a lot of Asians work at AAFES. It's now a running joke that I want to be a manager of AAFES some day. But, I digress. Less than a mile from base is a Korean dry cleaner, barber, store and restaurant. On base, I saw at least one Korean woman working in the hairdressing salon. One might think that I could actually pass for being a legit Korean in this environment. Not really.
For years, Korea has struggled with homogeneity. Read this article by the NYT if you don't believe me. Marrying outside the race is unpatriotic (but, having grown up in America, I obviously don't have that issue). Also, you don't have to have a Korean mother to have a Korean mother (which I've learned since patronizing the local Korean restaurant). Combine those two facts with the fact that I tend to glare when I'm infuriated. Actually, it's not just a glare -- my dad has dubbed it the Korean Death Ray. And I recently learned that I am not the only one capable of delivering such a look. Every Korean is born with such a capability. So. Combine the racism, the ajumas (older Korean women/mothers) and the Korean Death Ray, and then throw a Korean-American walking with a +6' Caucasian into the mix. It can get a bit dodgy.
For example, yesterday I was in AAFES with The Sergeant. We were preparing to leave when I spotted an ajuma (typically identifiable by their tight perms, use of pastels and socks with sandals). As she neared, I glanced up at her and noticed that her eyes were slowly roving from The Sergeant to me, and back again with the most miserable frown and KDR I've seen in a long time. Since The Sergeant has taken the liberty of telling me that the Asians stare at us quite frequently, I decided that I had had enough. Mustering my own KDR, the ajuma and I had a stare down as we approached. I'd like to add that I totally won -- she looked away at the last moment. That's right. Fasian = 1. Ajuma = 0.