Feb 11, 2016

Throwback to jeju, in black and white

There are days when I randomly crave Familiar Things from my childhood, like the kind of food I grew up on, sound of the aggressive rain during the monsoon season in Korea, walking around the tiny narrow streets of Korea with my hand in my mother's, or just simpler things like the sound of my own language and what it meant to have family nearby. I miss and crave all of those things even when nothing triggers them. For awhile I couldn't wait to get back. All I knew, at 12 years of age, was that I had just temporarily moved to North America until I could go home, and I never imagined I would never move back ever again. This was a huge deal for me. I had such a strong identity rooted in my country and language that until I finally accepted the fact that I am supposedly something called a 1.5 generation Korean-American, a new, awkward breed of species that all of my peers and I were still struggling to figure out, I wasn't quite sure what I was supposed to be. My tiny little brain couldn't quite grasp the complexity of my identity because I had never once considered what it meant to be a minority somewhere or what it would mean to feel like I don't truly belong. I'm sure this is a similar struggle across generations of immigrants and everyone deals with it differently.

So when I finally decided to visit the motherland for the first time in 10 years last March, I was anxious to find out if I'd fit back in the country at all. On the surface level, I've managed to retain most of my Korean vocabulary so people would say stuff like "Wow, you don't sound like you ever left!" and not treat me like a foreigner, which was great. I instantly belonged to the sea of people everywhere I went, because I obviously looked like everyone.

Nothing significantly life-changing happened during or after those 3 weeks, besides the awkward moments of meeting younger cousins who absolutely had no idea who I was (or could care less). Like the sky didn't open up with a thundering voice that told me who I'm exactly supposed to be and told me the answer to the burning question and frustration I've carried for half of my life.

The most precious thing that happened though, was just hanging out with family and learning deeper about my roots. My grandparents spent hours telling me how my dad was blue when he came out of my grandma's womb and she, being a nurse, basically brought him back to life and they believe he's a miracle child. I learned that my uncle, who's a talented TV producer, has a library filled with literally all the classic literature and music you can think of. I watched another pair of aunt and uncle argue from the backseat of their car. I literally visited all of my families' homes (my mother's side of the family is huuuge), spent hours looking at photographs that are at least 40 years old. I hold my family dear to my heart, and maybe that's supposed to be more powerful to me than having a strong tie to a country or a culture or a language when it comes to the whole identity thing. After all, every person's identity is unique and ultimately more complicated than we'd like it to be.

Anyway, the motherland will always be incredibly precious to me and I will miss it indefinitely, no matter where I am. I'm still unsure of how to categorize the Familiar Things - but I think I'm okay with not assigning it a country, or a group of people, or a specific sound or smell and accepting that it's an infinitely growing list of everything I associate myself to be. Or whatever my long-term memory decides to hold onto.

Okay, anyway, woah, that was a long rant. I'm sorry if you accidentally stumbled in here from that one Russian spam site (which, wildly enough, is the main driver of traffic to this blog according to Google. I have so many questions.) and was attacked by this aggressive rant on a 21st century Asian American identity crisis. Anyway, I've been wanting to upload these film photos from my trip to Jeju last year - they had light leaks so I deemed them ruined but they don't look so horrible in black and white. I was listening to a collection of sound from Jeju (literally just like, sounds of the earth) and was inspired to edit and post these.