Tuesday, September 1, 2015

The Twinkie Chronicles … American Assimilation in Korea

“Mama Bear. She is said to have birthed the first Korean.”

“Seoul is like the New York City of Asia!”

“Why is your name spelled ‘Losita’?”

“Can we get delivery McDonald’s?”

Exhaustion and hunger. Those two things result in “hangry” family dynamics. My husband and I insisted that we explore our new neighborhood and eat Korean barbecue. Just a few doors down … we found it.



Awkward smiles for the family, but a familiar one for me by the woman in the restaurant. She approached me speaking Korean.

The feelings of inadequacy, mixed with anticipation and fatigue, welled up within me. My mousy voice said, “Do you speak English?”

She shook her head but kept speaking Korean. She appeared sympathetic. I felt horrible.

We tried ordering beef but out came pork. Regret and shame consumed me.

I had spent the majority of my life trying to fit in … assimilating to survive in the white world of America. It worked adequately most of the time, and I have had more privileges than my peers of color because of it.

I can never fully assimilate, but my forced attempts at doing so sever me from my biological ethnic history. It’s survival in America. It’s shame in Korea.

If asked in my 20s, 30s and early 40s if I would ever return to Korea, I stated an emphatic “NO.” I never foresaw the yearning I would have in my later years. Many of today’s young adult adoptees amaze me. They have a sense of self that I am still struggling to find as I approach my 50s.

For our first full day in Korea, I allowed the kids to roam the neighborhood alone. This fact comforts me. They can learn to navigate together without me.




As lunchtime approached, I took them to Insadong, a Seoul tourist area where most speak some English. I visited my calligrapher friend and checked the antique alley for my fixer. I was able to order for us a nice lunch.

My learning curve is steep, but theirs is just peaking.



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