On the outside I am Korean. Very Korean. Once I open my mouth, I am no longer Korean. I found this out during my visits to Korea.
I love Korean food. By far my favorite food in the world. To list a few of my favorite dishes: rice, kimchee, bulgogi, galbi, kimchee chigae, mandu, ja ja myun, duk bukki, Andong ssim daek, Gam Tang? potato soup (with Pork bone, forgot the exact name, but its my favorite), Nam myung, ramen, kimbop, fish (cooked and uncooked), haemaul, chim (I love this stuff, kimchee mixed with anything), cant forget the sweet pancakes, silk worms, fish cake on a stick, hot dog on a stick, and anything else you can put on a stick and fry or boil in broth!
I love Korean music and dramas. My family makes fun of me because I absolutely love Korean dramas. They say they are the same as soap operas, I argue they are not what American's think of soaps. These are much cleaner and way better story lines. The prime time TV in the US is way more raunchy than Korean dramas. They are so innocent, which is probably why I really like them. Ive liked all of the ones I have seen which include: Full House, Kim Sam Soon, The Coffee Prince, You are my Destiny, Likable or Not, Mother with horns (this is the best translation I can get because it is still on the air).
I think culture wise, I relate more with Korea and things Korean. However, when I visit Korea I realize how different I am there. I love Korea for the fact that when I am there I blend in, Im part of the crowd. You can no longer "pick me out of the crowd" based on my skin or hair color, maybe my weight/build as I still have an American gut..lol. That is until I open my mouth.
I can only speak very little English. My skill is my ability to understand Korean's trying to speak English. Even my family can attest to this on their recent trip. This isnt too much of an issue when I was traveling with my parents, because people understood they were Americans. Heck we always had a trail of people following us to get their picture taken with the white people.
What is hard is when you are traveling by yourself and you explain that you can't speak Korean: "Hanguk-mal muteyo" (I don't speak Korean). They give you this real puzzled look and then continue speaking to you in Korean. I've also had people turn down service to me because we can't communicate. I don't hold this against them, its probably not worth their trouble to work it out. However, this really hurt me. Being in the country I was born in and not being able to communicate and being turned away because I couldnt not speak.
Overall though, Koreans are about the most friendly and pushy people you will ever meet. Pushy because don't ever try to get in their way of free samples or the subway! They may be little but they will run you over. They are the friendliest and most helpful people in general. In restaurants and shops and even on the streets in general they try to help as best as they can. Even though I was in Korea I constantly ran into people who would help me out, once they realized I didnt speak Korean. I had restaurant owners cooking my food at my table (usually done by the people eating) because they could tell I didnt know I was doing. I also had them ordering or just giving me food they thought I would like when I couldnt understand the menu.
And of course there are the Hongs. The Hongs have told me that they have re-adopted me back in Korea. Now I can have an American family and a Korean family. This almost made me cry (quite a feat since I hardly ever cry). I will write more on the Hongs later. But there generosity has been the single most important thing that makes me feel like I belong in Korea.
Lastly, my Korean friends. I have 3 that I have met. I have however lost touch with 1, which makes me sad, maybe someday we will "find each other" again. I met Kim Mingon through a Korean website for langauge exchange. He joined me for a couple of days of skiing during my trip in January. And of course Kim Youngmin. I have kept most in touch and contact with Yougmin. She is a lot of fun to write to on emails, but even more fun in real life. I met her when she agreed to translate for me at my orphanage during my October 2007 trip. I have met up with her on my trip in January, and explored different parts of Seoul with her on my most recent trip in May (she had just moved to Seoul from Daejeon).
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