i’ve been in korea for almost 9 months now. the first month was mostly traveling around korea visiting family members all throughout the country. the second month i spent in jeju, living with my aunt and uncle in a village called jeoji, and visiting the anti-military-base activists in gangjeong. the third month, i briefly came back to seoul and then was off for a month-long trip to thailand, cambodia, and vietnam.
since i got back from my trip, i’ve been living in seoul. i got my own apartment in hongdae, a cool, artsy neighborhood of seoul where the streets overflow with cafes and drunk people by night, every night… the nightlife is like nothing i’ve ever seen anywhere else. my time here has ranged from interesting to dull, frustrating to inspiring. it can be very isolating at times, considering i can count the number of friends i have on one hand, and my acquaintances here on two, but in a way that has helped me to develop a new capacity for peace and happiness in solitude. other times, i feel enveloped by the warmth of new relationships, new forms of love, mainly the bonds i’ve cultivated with family members here. sometimes i feel like i’m not doing much beyond existing, and it is often challenging to renegotiate my existence, now that i am so removed from a defined community. all in all, i know my time here is invaluable and will inform the rest of my life in beautiful, necessary ways.
i feel like, as a korean american, i existed in american society with all these random hooks, extensions, nodules attached to me, which seemed to have no purpose but to get in the way… since i’ve been here, it’s like my experiences are hooking onto all those parts of me, giving them use and meaning. i begin to understand how much of me belongs to another history and heritage, deeper than i can hold, that shapes the way i interact with the world, the way i talk, socialize, process information, empathize and express emotion…
it feels like there was always this pool of liquid, my “koreanness” as opposed to my “korean-americanness”, that was right beside mine, separated by a thin membrane, and as i poke holes in that membrane, the two mix so effortlessly, changing what i know/knew of myself, and helping me realize how much was already mixed up all along.
as i learn more korean language, every little bit that i learn unleashes a trove of language that i already possessed, brings forth all that vague knowledge that had entrenched itself in the nooks and crannies of my brain and filters it into something useful and distinct, expanding my ability to communicate here exponentially. i realize expressing myself in english has always felt like such an effort, even though it is my primary language, as if i have to carefully construct everything, and i can often express myself more naturally and directly in korean, especially when it comes to the rawest things i feel. i guess it makes sense since it’s the language that first taught me love.
everything about my life is nuanced by my time here. sometimes in ways that make me feel incredibly proud or validated, other times in ways that bring me back to sources of trauma, and force me to confront my heritage beyond my idealizations of it, the security blanket version i have used to protect the marginalized parts of my identity.
i spend a lot of time thinking about the rampant capitalism/imperialism/westernization/militarism/cultural erasure, etc. going on here, how they are so much the same force. i feel the weight of the title of my favorite book, “the inheritance of loss”, and it eats at me and will continue to do so until i can resist it in an effective way.
so this is something of a scattered update. sorry there is nothing very specific. somehow the process of writing about literal things and recounting day-to-day events makes my brain hurt… some kind of negative conditioning related to homework.
til next time