From the BK to the SK
 
"Sometimes, I forget you're an American," my co-teacher said to me the other morning.
I won't lie. I was kind of shocked. I never really thought of this as an actual possiblilty, but it's funny how it works both ways. Sometimes, I forget my co-workers, as strange as it sounds, are Korean.
When I first arrived at my school in August and everyone was introducing themselves with names I was sure I'd never be able to pronounce or remember (especially since their names all begin with their last names first, and their last names are pretty common), one girl came and introduced herself as Jennie. It was like a breath of fresh air, such absolute beautiful relief: Jennie.
My mind ran a million miles per minute. She spoke perfect English, though all she said to me was, "You can call me Minny." Four words, and already I decided that this Jennie girl was going to be my lifeline in Korea.
I enjoy hanging out with Minny. She lived in Texas for one year while attending college, but after coming back to Korea, she barely practiced or used her English. It's pretty choppy and it has its moments where her words are like bait, and I'm just trying to catch one sentence to work with. Other times, I forget she's Korean.
I know I blogged about this before a little bit, but it's true. Sometimes I have to remind myself, pull myself back to the fact that she is, in fact, Korean. It's weird how easily overlooked such an assumption can be.
It sounds terrible to say this, but it's like, Minny is normal to an extent. She's as normal as normal can be for a Korean-American friendship, but she's no one from home. I hate that moment of realization when it hits me that she's not American, that she is Korean and that we are really very different people with very different lifestyles, very different cultures. It's like a disappointment she's not awaring she's brining with her. I like Minny all the same, even after that fleeting moment of disappointment - I mean, it doesn't change my friendship with her. It's just funny to me how much I wish for her to be an American sometimes, how much I wish I could just talk to her like someone from home, how much I wish I could just vent or have a normal conversation with her like I would one of my friends.
There are so many inexplicable language barriers just because of our culture, and there are just so many little things that are just completely tossed to the side or overlooked. The amount of times that a teacher turns to me and asks me something in Korean, only to snap into it a second later and realize I caught on to maybe two words, well, they probably aren't even countable anymore at this point.
Anyway, I guess this isn't making too much sense. Bottom line is, it's interesting that I never thought of the situation in reverse as an actual possibility. I know that the thought crosses my mind from time to time, when they're offering me endless amount of rice cakes every minute of the day and not understanding that no means no, I think to myself, "sometimes it's like they forget I'm American." But I guess I never really truly considered it. I mean how could they forget I'm American?
But I guess it's the same way as how I can forget that they are Korean. The slightest bit of familiarity they share with something that reminds me of home can make me forget they're not Korean-American is what i mean I guess, you know? Things can catch me off gaurd, a lot, and brng me into that small realization that they're Korean. Sometimes, when I hear my co-teachers speak in Korean, it does freak me out. I forget that Korean is their first language, and I am amazed at how much faster they talk, how much more pronounced and louder they are and at how smoothly their conversations flow. It's funny that that surpirses me, you know? Like, duh, they're Korean, Alexandra.
And it's kind of interesting to know that they really do tend to forget I am American, that they kind of just assume I'm in their circle, that I'm in on their language and their culture and the intricacies and their traditions.
It's funny the way things work, you know, how miscommunication can occur without any words even. I might walk the walk, like bowing, using two hands, using the bits of Korean I know, but when it comes down to it, I can't really talk the talk. I'm American, they're Korean. Through and through. Does this even make sense?
Yet the irony of it is that it kind of only extends to my co-teachers, or at least the teachers I talk with in English on a daily basis. The other teachers I work with, the ones who I can't talk to, I know for a fact they're Korean, and I don't ever forget to realize that. I'm sure they never forget to realize that I am Korean. Today, when i turned on the TV, an episode of Law and Order came on, and an Asian man was on the TV screen. (I think he is Chinese, but i could be wrong.) But as he opened his mouth and spoke perfectly, unaccented English, I found myself stopping what I was doing. That completely caught me off gaurd. I expeced to either hear Korean, "Konglish" or mediocre English. It was so, so, so weird. It happened  to me one other time in China when I was watching the Office, and I blogged about it and how strange it was to feel so surprised.
I'm pretty sure that this blog makes ZERO sense and is probably the worse written thing I've ever published, but it all makes me think of one other point.
I remember sitting on the bus in Budapest, Hungary, listening to all the people speak and saying to Corina, one of my best friends from Italy, "That sounds like a fake language. The fact that those words are actually words and that they mean something freaks me out."
It's interesting to listen to a language like Korean that's so heavily focused on tone (at least in my opinion), becaue it does tend to sound like sounds. I always wish I could hear what English sounds like to a foreigner's ear. To me, it's crazy to think that English would sound strange or like just sounds, but I reallly wonder if that's what it sounds like. I wonder if people listen to me and my friends while we're on the metro or on the bus, and if they're thinking to themselves, "That sounds like a fake language. The fact that those words are actually words and that they mean som 
 


Comments




Leave a Reply