I might be more Korean than I give myself credit for

Obviously, being American-born, there’s a ceiling of just “how Korean” I feel like I can declare myself.  I don’t know more than a few passing slices of actual Korean history, I don’t have tremendous knowledge of my personal bloodline’s lineage and journey of how things have come to be, and my capabilities with the language are pretty elementary in the aggregate; I feel fairly confident in my speaking abilities to have navigated throughout the country with relative ease, but ask me to write anything from a written note to text messages to my own parents, and it’s like a 4-year old trying to write High Valyrian.

But over the last few months, I’ve been reading some young adult stories to my daughters, because I’m of the belief that even if they don’t understand the words that are being read to them, hearing them helps with absorption and future comprehension of the English language.  And the thing is, the authors that I’ve been reading lately, have been of varying Korean descent, and their stories have been featuring Korean characters and telling relatively Korean-in-America types of stories.

One of the common tropes I’ve observed from the youth generation of Koreans in America characters, don’t speak Korean.  Sure, they know choice words that they hear from their parents, but in the grand spectrum of things, these characters are about as American as Wal-Mart and Panda Express.  I find that to be kind of tragic, and rather depressing to my soul, because these characters’ parents are all basically like my own, where they know very little English, but with them knowing NO Korean, they clearly have way more communicative obstacles than I have ever experienced in my life.

Additionally, when I went back up to Northern Virginia to have #2’s first birthday party, it was effectively a large famiry and famiry friends reunion on the side.  Among the famiry friends that were present were the parents of my childhood best friend, as well as several of my parents’ friends from my hometown.  Knowing the mixed audience, when I welcomed everyone to my daughter’s party, I did so in both English, and the best rendition of Korean as I could, because in my head, it would be disrespectful if I didn’t even try, because I did know some Korean.

When I went to do the rounds at each table, the family friends from my old hometown all marveled at the fact that I spoke Korean to the room; to me it was really no big deal, and honestly I appreciate having the opportunity to actually use the language, because I never want to forgive it.  But the kicker was that my old best friend’s parents told me that their three sons, two of whom went to the same Korean language school I did from ages 6-8, have basically forgotten all Korean, and don’t speak it at all.

Again, when I thought about the conversation, the whole thought made me feel really sad.  Sure, I would venture to say that they speak way better English than my parents do, but on the same token, they’re put in a situation where they can’t use their native tongue with their own children.  Yes, I have my own communication issues with my parents due to the language barrier, but at least they can say whatever they want to get off their chest, even if I don’t understand every word of it.

The thing is, this hasn’t been an uncommon story in my life.  Whenever I come across random Koreans in my everyday life, most of whom are usually workers in some sort of service industry, I still like to utilize my own Korean with them, because I figure it would help expedite service.  And so often times, I’m met with some degree of marveling at the fact that I’m an American-born Korean who actually speaks Korean, as rudimentary as might seem.  And I’m often told that their own kids don’t speak any Korean, and I kind of frown and explain that such is unfortunate.

I like to think that encounters with me, cause some parents to get mad at their own kids for not learning Korean.  Like they go home and give some not-so-passive-aggressive remark about how they met a second-gen Korean-American guy who spoke serviceable Korean, and give them the pregnant pause of death to let them know that they’re disappointed in them.

Without question, I want my daughters to pick up some Korean.  Mythical wife and I already discussed that it will be mandatory for our daughters to learn a second language, because the world is way too small to handicap ourselves to knowing just English.  Obviously, Korean is the first preference, so they can communicate with their grandparents, but honestly I’ll accept any other language, as long as they learn it.  Very few of the next generation of children in my family really speaks any Korean, save for maybe 1-2 of them, and again, that’s sad to me.

Last Thanksgiving, I had a cousin of mine ask me to speak to his eldest son, to try to sell learning Korean to him.  I’m the youngest cousin of the generation, and his son was one of the eldest of the next, so I think he was hoping I’d be able to get through to him, so I explained to him how much I hated Korean school and the sacrifice of every Saturday for years, but when I visited Korea and went off on my own, I realized just how confident and capable I felt, because of my ability with the language at all.  I was met with eye rolls and a rebuttal that my example was such and isolated scenario, that it didn’t seem like a hard enough sell for him.  I left it with that I thought a Korean that didn’t know Korean was kind of tragic, and let him go do his thing.

The bottom line is that no matter how inadequate I might feel as a Korean, there are constantly plenty of reasons that come to light how apparently I’m more Korean than so many other Korean-Americans out there.  I don’t want to let it get to my head, but whenever the realization sinks in, I am proud of it.

Not feeling that thankful this year

Oversleeping was my fault. A lot of the day’s issues don’t happen if we don’t oversleep, but it’s simply something that can happens when living a life as exhausting and draining as ours of raising two under two can be.  But it’s how the rest of the day transpired that has left me feeling few emotions aside from disappointment, regret, and the polar opposite of what Thanksgiving is supposed to be all about. 

The irony is that even if we don’t oversleep, there’s no guarantee that we would’ve made it to the airport on time.  Airlines appear to have tightened up two hours in advance rules to where they don’t even check people in for flights once within 105 minutes.  Long appears to be gone the days of when I could roll in with 75 minutes to go, no checked bag, TSA precheck and be ready to board group 1.  But with kids, all the kids’ stuff, and checked bags, that creates a tremendous amount more room for complications.

Ironically, regardless of if we left at our originally intended time, there’s little chance we would’ve made it on time anyway, because Atlanta airport’s parking is basically the worst lot in the galaxy, and it took us probably 30 minutes to find a place to park, and we would’ve missed the check in window anyway.

At this point, I’m kind of ready to punt; our original plan was to get us there as efficiently as possible, and pivoting with kids and checked bags never seems like a good idea to me, but mythical wife seemed more determined to see my family than I was, so after a 47 minute phone call with the airline, $465 basically paying for a full fare, we’re rebooked for a later flight to a different airport that gets us in four hours later, which slashes my already short trip and I’m wondering if it’s even worth it. 

Calling my mom to give an update is met with more disappointment and aggravation at the change of plans instead of any modicum of empathy or understanding. After my mom asks if we can uber to dinner after the money and effort to make sure the girls had car seats waiting for them, I’m already having regrets for not punting and heading into this trip with more dread than any sort of anticipation or excitement, that my family is finally getting to meet my kids for the very first time. 

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When did Annandale become a giant PF Changs?

Over the weekend, mythical wife and I went up to Virginia to visit my family, as we had some pretty important news to tell them.  Since good Korean food outside of the litany of all-you-can-eat KBBQs are pretty few and far between without having to drive some distance, we decided to meet up with my family at a Korean restaurant in Annandale, which anyone with any knowledge of Northern Virginia is astutely aware is very much, the Korean part of town.

Or so I thought.

Clearly, things have changed a great deal throughout the years, most notably the fact that Korean food is very much en vogue and extremely popular these days.  The restaurant that my family and I went to was slam packed when we got there, and the vast majority of the diners in the restaurant were very much not Korean.

I had fond memories of this place from when I was younger and still living at home; for one, my parents were still together, but I remember how the place was much smaller, very much more rustic, with a décor that was definitely trying to lean old country, with rice papered walls.  Everyone in the restaurant was Korean, and the atmosphere and ambiance was much more relaxed and slow paced, and the soondooboo jjigae was scalding hot, and the absolute most perfect food on the planet to eat on a winter’s night.

When I suggested the restaurant, my mom questioned me if I was sure if this was the place I wanted to go, saying it was always slammed, and that there always a wait.  I didn’t realize we were talking about the same place, but clearly as she still lives in the area, has witnessed the PF Chang-ification of not just this particular restaurant, but presumably the rest of Annandale, as Korean food began to catch the imaginations of all sorts of white people who love to claim to be adventurous eaters, and relished at the thought of being the pioneers amongst their peers to delve into the worlds of all this oriental food.

Needless to say, when we pulled up to the restaurant, I was at first a little surprised at how the place was now substantially larger than it was the last time I was there, and the parking lot was three times larger, and just about every single spot was taken.  It’s actually amazing that the two cars we had were able to find spaces.  But upon going inside, it was another surprise to me to see just how slam packed the place was, and with the vast majority of diners, most definitely not Korean.  This was very much a shocking contrast to my last memories of this place.

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Waynesboro, Virginia, the land where professional wrestling stood still

I recently went to an indy wrestling show out in the sticks of Virginia.  Waynesboro, to be exact.  This was actually the impetus for a trip I made in order to spend some time with my family, since I frankly don’t really spend nearly enough time with them.

The decision to go to this show was really quite an easy one, because when it first came onto my radar, Juventud Guerrera was listed to be on the card, among a pretty star-studded guest list, especially for an indy show as this one was; guys like Sting, Lex Luger, Vader, Ron Simmons, and the Rock ’n Roll Express were also slated to be at this show.

But as legendary as some of those guys are, I have this ironic love for the weird, and the jobbers, and the guys that don’t get nearly the credit they deserve, like Juventud Guerrera.  Plus, I really wanted a Juvi mask to essentially complete my collection of luchador masks on my shelf, since the Juice is somehow considered “too old” in Mexico itself, to have his masks for sale on the streets of la Playa del Carmen. Without question, Juvi was really the only reason that I wanted to go to this show at all.

So plans were made, flights were purchased, tickets were acquired, and I was on my way back to Virginia for a long weekend of family, friends and Juvi Juice.  I was looking forward to it greatly.

And then as the show neared, I went to the promotion’s website to refresh my memory of what else was in store; and noticed that Juventud’s profile was no longer a part of the promotional banner.  To make matters worse, all mention of Juvi was gone from the site.  My friend messaged them on Facebook, but because they’re a yokel backwater promotion, they never responded, but all signs were pointing to the idea that Juventud was no longer going to be a part of it.

“Card subject to change” is one of the bigger tropes of the business, and because professional wrestling is full of flakes and bums, it’s the thing said to easily Mentos out of just about any sort of card changing, like Juventud Guerrera not being a part of it.  Unfortunately for those of us outside of the business, the real world doesn’t work as conveniently as the scripted one inside of it.  I still had plane tickets and vacation time punched out at work.  Juvi or no Juvi, I was still going to be going to this show, disappointed as hell that I wouldn’t get to meet the Juice and pick up la maskara for the colleccíon.

Oh yeah and Vader died, so that was another blow to the card that was going to be hard to cover up.

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This is precisely why my trust in white people is fractured

Among the vast majority of nerds that comprise of the vast majority of my social media circles, there was an individual that many of us knew/knew of identified as having been present in Charlottesville during the weekend of hell there.  This was confirmed by commentary made by them that stated as such, and that’s pretty much all that there needed to be known by the community before the witch hunt began and the shit started to fly.

Typically, my go-to move on social media is to unfollow people but not outright unfriend people, if I don’t like seeing what people post.  Whether they post too much for my liking, post opinions that I don’t want to see, flood my streams full of narcissism and/or selfies, or all of the above, among other reasons, I’ll usually unfollow first, but rarely unfriend.  I don’t want paranoid people eventually discovering that they’ve been unfriended and to have an uncomfortable conversation later down the line, and if it can be avoided, I’d rather avoid it.

But it’s not every day that you find out that someone you know personally, have allowed into your home, and allowed to pet and carry your dog, with smiles and seeming sincerity, marched in a rally and chanted discriminatory rhetoric with known white supremacists.

This is why my trust in white people has taken a critical hit, and why I can’t feel like I can ever let my guard down with them.  Even those that I’ve known for a while, apparently.

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What Charlottesville has done to me

It’s not often I want to go back to a major topical event, but admittedly, I’m having a hard time letting this one go.  It’s on the tongue of every news outlet, and even in the endlessly flowing stream of social media, it’s still a hot topic that is still the talk of the town.  But the emergence of blatant white supremacy, the supposed neo-Nazis, and just plain eruption of bigotry that took America by storm in of all places, Charlottesville, Virginia has been a pretty big story, with some everlasting repercussions and impressions, whether people other than myself want to admit to it or not.

Originally, I assumed it was mostly populated by the degenerate hill tribes of Virginia where the KKK is known to still be around, but it turns out that it was slightly more organized, and comprised of people from all around America.  Why Charlottesville was chosen as their point of conglomeration was a small question I had, but given the obvious answer that such a demonstration would never have been able to fly in Northern Virginia, where they’d have been eaten alive by the vast mixing bowl of the region, with the same sentiment being similar in the Commonwealth’s capital of Richmond. 

My friends and I have laughed about how this would only have ended in tragic-ironic gun violence if it happened in the next largest populace of the Virginia Beach-Tidewater region, which has very large black communities with many notorious gang issues, whom would probably love to band together to oppose a bunch of white supremacists, so it pretty much left Charlottesville, home to the University of Virginia as the only logical place to gather and blather on about white-this and white-that and all their stupid shit that they somehow think is remotely acceptable in 2017.

I can’t get over the irony in that Charlottesville is the place where I learned Korean, a language not belonging to whitey, is also a place where large numbers of angry white bigots gathered to light tiki torches and chant about their supposed dying culture.  Obviously, it’s not so much a reflection of Charlottesville itself, as much as it is the unfortunate choice of gathering of a bunch of racists, but that’s how history works; Charlottesville is a site where hatred gathered, boiled over, and became national news.

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This is precisely why Northern Virginia wants to secede

I want to do nothing but make fun of the fact that they’re all carrying tiki torches, probably purchased for $3 a pop at their local Walmart or convenience store, and how they probably bitch about how fuel costs more than the hardware itself.  And how it’s hard to really take them seriously because they’re protecting themselves from mosquitos at the same time they’re marching like sheep, preaching bigoted messages of white purity and some other hateful rhetoric.

But it’s because of the bigoted messages of white purity and some other hateful rhetoric that I can’t just laugh at the tiki torches, and instead have to wince and acknowledge that somehow, this is 2017 and not 1917.

Here’s the thing – I am a native Virginian.  I was born in Virginia, and spent 21 years of my life in Virginia.  Seeing shit like large, organized white supremacy groups marching down the campus of the University of Virginia is something that I never thought I would really see in my lifetime, and really, really makes me glad that I don’t live in Virginia anymore.  It makes me ashamed of the state I was born in and grew up in, and I wish I could deny my Virginia origins.

This isn’t a post about a topic because it’s topical, it’s a post because there is a part of me that has some relation to the situation in the fact that this shit is happening not that far from where I grew up.

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