Alla Ponomareva: Anjali,where are you from and what do you do here?
Anjali: I’m from Minnesota, but teach here in Daejeon in an Elementary School. I’m starting my 5th year living and working in Daejeon.
AP: This project – “LOVE: First love yourself” is meant to showcase various people and their personalities and what makes them unique, would it be through a hobby, passion or our personal aesthetics. Have you always felt comfortable inside your own body and skin?
Anjali: Hells no, I was always too dark for my environment. I’m of an Indian descent and I grew up with a lot of Mexicans and Latinos and always looked more like them than like Indians. High school was kind of painful, because I was the only dark person. When I moved to Minnesota, it felt like I was the only minority in my city, which is fine, because I was used to being alone. Not quite alone alone, but just race didn’t matter to me, it never came up as a subject.
AP: Did you have a similar experience at your university too?
Anjali: At university, there were some Indian students, but they felt like I wasn’t Indian enough. Feeling different and looking different is the issue that I had to tackle, because I don’t see myself as being different, when I look in the mirror I just see me. It’s when other people project their differences, it reminds you that you’re not like the others.
My parents have always said that looks fade and personality and characters remain and that’s what I’ve been trying to focus on instead of dwelling on other people’s negative comments about my looks.
Over the years though, I’ve learned that people weren’t tearing me down because I’m ugly or of my looks, it’s just that they were insecure or felt intimidated, because I wouldn’t date them (but it took me 20 some years to realize).
AP: What do you think of Racism in Korea?
Anjali: I hear a lot of Caucasians or other people, who are not used to racism back home, they get it here in Korea and then get super offended.
In my experience, I’m used to looking and feeling different, but in Korea, I actually get a lot of compliments on my looks. Korean people tend to dissect different parts and compliment on either eyes, lips, hair, style or sum it all up in “Wow, you’re pretty!” package. In Korea, I feel like compliments are completely objective which has been so motivating and encouraging. To me, they don’t have an agenda, familiar ties or obligations to give me compliments, they are just raw and not subjective. I really like that about Korea. They have nothing to gain by complimenting my very different looks and I appreciate that for making me actually feel good about myself. Being here, has made me turn and be more realistic about who I am. I’ve realized that physically speaking, there are features about me that can’t be changed (unless it’s plastic surgery, but who wants that), but still they transcend nationality, gender and age and location. It was true in America too, but I always felt like compliments were coming from family, friends or were always followed by a BUT…
When people objectify me in Korea, the last thing I think about is negative. In my experience, Korean people don’t think “Oh you’re ugly!” It’s more like “Oh you’re different!” I didn’t feel like that back home, in Minnesota kids are mean, they weren’t very nice to my self esteem.
AP: Do you have a message for anyone who may be in the same multicultural or multi-ethnic situation that you’ve experienced?
Anjali: Taking compliments has always been a horrible trait of mine. Now that I’m in my 30’s, I’m hoping that younger generations who may have had similar experiences as me would just embrace each compliment. Even though we think we see ourselves clearly, sometimes people around us may have a better image of who we are. Don’t try to dissect it or figure out people’s intentions that lie behind their words. Appreciate the fact that someone took the time to notice something special about you and comment on it, be grateful and thankful.
If you would like to be a part of the LOVE Project or would like to contribute in any way, get in touch!
Looking to fill the following categories:
In LOVE for/since
First: LOVE Yourself – a portrait
Unconditional LOVE – a pet story
Grow, laugh, LOVE – a kid’s story.
A City of LOVEly places
A little LOVE goes a long way – A home-cooked meal
Loving South Korea since…