I’m not really sure what this post will be about or why I feel like I need to write it. I wrote down a goal earlier this month “write a blog post about Korea this month”. So here I am, on the 31st, buckling down and hoping it will make sense.
Growing up, people would ask where I was from and I’d reply, “I was made in Korea, born in the USA”. I would say it with just enough pause in the middle that I would usually get a few laughs. But it was no joke that my mom flew to the US eight months pregnant, leaving behind her entire family, to be with my father who was from a small town in Central Pennsylvania. They met while he was in the Army and stationed in Korea. That first flight (in the womb) marked the first of many.
Over the course of my childhood, my mother and I traveled to Korea every couple years. My family would be waiting at the airport for us to come out of the doors – Many hugs and smiles were exchanged. It always felt as if no time had passed. This last time was no different.
I love being with my Korean family even though I can’t really understand what they’re saying. Aside from my mom, only my youngest uncle can speak English.
I always wished I learned Hangul (Korean) as a child. My mom and dad didn’t speak Korean at home – simply because my dad wasn’t Korean and my mom was in the process of learning English so she could go to college and get a good job.
Despite the language barrier, I find joy in being around my family and trying to converse with them using the little Korean I know and lots of hand signals (luckily, Google Translate + apps like Drops/Duo Lingo have helped quite a bit in recent years).
When I was little, my older cousins would entertain me by taking me to the movies and teaching me how to fold origami. It’s funny, being 30 now, they still found ways to entertain me. Coffee, shopping, and, most importantly, feeding! No one ever leaves a Korean household hungry.
This is my eldest uncle who I spent a lot of time with as a kid. He would bring me on hikes with him on the mountain behind his home. In fact, I got to see my first long-eared Korean squirrel on one of those hikes.
There are so many things I wish I could say or ask my family members. I won’t always be able to depend on my mom to be around to translate for me and one can only go so far with a translation app. This notion hit me during this particular trip. It made me incredibly sad to think that someday my kids might be further removed from this experience. I vowed to try my best to finally learn Korean, so that this fear doesn’t become a reality. That or Google needs to hurry up and create those cool voice translator doo-dads (as seen in Black Mirror, Men Against Fire, Season 3 Episode 5 ).
I look forward to the day we can bring our children to Korea. To see them experience an entirely different culture. To see them play with my cousin’s kids, learn how to fold origami and use chopsticks for the first time. To hike the steep mountains and walk through the colorful fish markets. I want them to know about this part of me and see that it’s also a part of them too.