Korean-American Culture: Through the Generations
December 6, 2012
At the time I just thought we were going on vacation. I was too young to understand that my mother was being transferred due to work responsibilities. At the time we were living in Los Angeles, where I was born and raised until the age of five. Los Angeles was all I knew, it would be ridiculous to say that I still remember my California life, but who wouldn’t forget all of the times one spent with Mickey Mouse and the gang? Yes, we were frequent visitors to the happiest place on Earth. I had cousins who I played with every day, a community with people who looked like me: yellow skin, slanted eyes; a community that catered to our cultured needs. It was home. I remember eating at the same restaurant every Sunday because it was my grandfather’s favorite place to eat out at. I had a favorite dish, and to this day when I go back to visit I order the same item and it still tastes exactly how I remember it. Every few years or so we pass by the old house I grew up in. The window where the room was once mine is now covered with stickers; belonging to another young child I assume. The front yard where I would run around in, especially when the sprinklers came on. We still visit the church my parents grew up in since they were elementary students. It’s always so nice to see their eyes light up when they find that their friends are still avid goers. I miss Los Angeles and it’s Korea Town; something that San Antonio definitely lacks. I was five years old when my mother was transferred to San Antonio for her work. I was oblivious as to what was going on in my life at the time, but then again what five year-old is aware? I was so excited to be on “vacation”, especially since I was able to see my mother after five months of separation; with her getting settled into her new job and our new apartment. But, I soon came to realize that I did not like this vacation one bit. Once I entered kindergarten I started to notice that I was different. It was my first day of school, and my first time on the school bus. I sat down in my assigned seat and sat next to Stephanie. She was my neighbor that I had lived next to for the previous year and a half and had yet to play with her. As soon as I sat down I did not make any eye contact whatsoever and tried to mind my own business. All of a sudden I hear Stephanie’s deep southern accent as she asks me “you speak anglish?” I was stunned and did not exactly know how to react to that question. Of course I speak English, why would she ask me such a question? I was so taken aback I could only stare back at her. “Doooo youuuu understaaaand wuuuut I’m saayyyinnnnn?” The shy, little Stacey that I was could only whisper back a simple “yes”. That was the beginning of what I could expect for the rest of my life.
Through globalization our society has matured and diversity is not the issue it used to be. However, I still cannot help but to always be aware of the fact that I am Korean. Until sophomore year of high school I was always the only Asian student in my classes and even grade. Every restaurant we walked into, we were the outsiders. It was not uncommon for people to hesitate to speak to us, just in case we would not understand English. I started to catch on to the way people approached me and in some ways I was able to numb myself from the stares. With the help of my older cousin, who played the role of an older sister, she taught me to interpret the stares as a positive thing. “They’re just jealous because they don’t have pretty, pin-straight hair like us,” she would say. There were pros and cons to being in the situation I was in. I turned my complex into a strategy to gain friends. I would make my friends laugh by imitating the Asian accent, blame some of my actions on my Asian culture, and sometimes I would even make fun of myself; all for that small spotlight amongst the...
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