I am sitting in the Incheon International Airport, four hours away from binge watching movies on a 12-hour flight back to the Bay Area, so I couldn’t think of a better time to word vomit (for lack of a better word) and reflect on the past eight days I spent in Korea.
For me, coming to Korea has always included a heavy bag of mixed emotions. I traveled here from Texas about seven years ago, and long-story-short, due to my Korean American appearance and elementary Korean language skills, I stuck out like a sore thumb, which left me feeling disoriented and in between two cultures. Prior to that trip, I had heard great things from other friends who had visited Korea before me, especially when they related their shopping and food ventures (definitely still worth the hype). However, when I went to Korea seven years ago, I ended up feeling completely overwhelmed and inadequate as a person of Korean heritage.
One of my strongest insecurities is not being able to fit and blend in to a given place. Growing up in the U.S., I encountered multiple Korean elders who looked down upon the fact that I could not speak Korean well, which further triggered my insecurity being in Korea, not being able to fluently speak Korean—not being able to fit into the spoken culture. My main point is not to complain about how awful I feel when I go to Korea because I did not feel awful this time. Rather, during this trip I found myself being more in awe of the place from where my heritage stems. I am in awe of how resourceful and creative Korea proves itself to be thru its long history, public transportation, packaging, and food, among many other things.
Coming back to Korea has been challenging and on my part requires humility and boldness. It takes boldness to dive in and order food without the help of my parents or to ask where the bathroom is at a restaurant. I need humility when I mistakenly ask for the price of a notebook or when I don’t understand what someone is saying to me. As a side note however, my sisters and I agree that we felt less conspicuous as Korean Americans in Korea during this trip, perhaps due to the continuous global wave of hallyu as well as mutual styles of clothing (thanks to the internet + social media).
Overall it was a lovely albeit brief stay in Korea. We came to Korea for a family wedding, which was a uniquely striking intersection of Korean, American, and Latin American cultures. It was heartening to see that my paternal grandmother still contained the same amount of her characteristic moxie, if not more, as she did seven years ago. It was refreshing to be reunited with cousins we have not seen in years, to see how they further matured and established themselves. And, I personally was over the moon to see the myriad of picturesque cafes in Seoul.
All this being-said, I am incredibly proud to be Korean American and to have roots in the beautiful, resilient, and resourceful nation. I am grateful to have grown up experiencing two completely distinct cultures, even if it means sometimes being caught in the middle.
If you so desire, please see the photos I managed to capture these past eight days.
- If you’re wondering what milk in heaven tastes like, go to Korea and drink the milk there. It’s insanely delicious. (I grew up hating milk, by the way.)
- The favorite things I ate in Korea were the cheap kimbap + fresh fruit juices. The total cost for one roll of kimbap + one medium juice was around 5,500 won (~$5.25 USD).
- Korean convenience stores are so well stocked + the variety of drinks you may purchase impresses me to no end.
- My cousins, Jon+Dan, started a chocolate business called P.Chokko in Korea not too long ago, and we were able to visit their brick + mortar shop during this trip. Check them out here + here.
- The Seoul Sky / Lotte World Tower is a must-see if visiting Seoul, in my opinion. The design of everything from the tickets to the magnets in the gift shop are wonderful.
Thank y’all for following along. I hope to keep this blog rolling throughout the summer + beyond.
Have a productive day and restful night.