today i met an uzbekistani woman named s-----. she's the first uzbekistani i've ever met in my life. she flew all the way over from uzbekistan to study korean. i could not help but gaze deep into her youthful eyes, puzzled, and wondering why she left uzbekistan for seoul. maybe she was one of the lucky ones able to study abroad i thought. i could not help but ask what brought her out to korea. "i'm married," she tells me nonchalantly. i could see it in her eyes. she was unphased by my foolish question, but remained as focused as ever; her deep brown pupils fixated onto mine. it was at that point i could make out the nonverbal words she was sending telepathically: "that's right," she was telling me. "you heard me correctly - i'm married, now go ahead and ask me this question, how old are you?" she seemed to wield jedi mind-tricking abilities.
flabbergasted - the following words slipped out of my mouth like the cascading water falling from the waitress' pitcher. it was too late. "hold old are you?!" i ask. again with unwavering confidence, and a tinge of amusement, she answers, "i'm twenty." at that point all the nerves in my brain simultaneously synapsed; all the atomic particles colliding in every possible direction. perplexed - i took a brief second to ponder how my life would be.. if i too were from uzbekistan. anyways, before i could ask another imprudent question, in a matter-of-fact-ly tone she says, "in my country it's normal for girls to get married at this age. some get married at 14 or 15..."
as we walk towards the subway station she explains to me how through an international bridal company her husband picked her photo from the website, paid for her dowry (flight ticket to korea), and now she is living in korea with him. she tells me that he's a man of finance, gambling in the stock market, and more than twice her age ( [20 x 2] + 7 years ). did i mention that she's more than halfway through her pregnancy with his child. don't get me wrong, i've read about these online bridal services before, but it was still hard for me to swallow the fact that standing right in front of me was the real deal. here i am in korea, a gigantic ocean away from everything i was comfortable with, and i meet a young, beautiful uzbekistani woman whose also here, BUT not from her own free will, but because of her-very-own-personal-life-circumstances that brought her here. a part of me was shocked, another saddened, and surprisingly i was even a little upset about her situation. yet, on the surface she looked as happy as she could be, doing everything in her power to survive in this world. we smiled, waved goodbye, and went our separate ways.
though i may never see her again,
these are the encounters i yearn for.
and in the brief thirty minutes we shared,
i learned a whole lot about another human-being.
in my experience, the life stories that we share,
are undoubtedly what makes us all human.
no woman no cry,
ev'rythins gonna be alright.