I’m in the Chicago O’Hare airport right now and it’s T minus 1 hour and 45 minutes until our 13 hour flight to Korea. AND WHOA I ALREADY HAD A KOREAN ENCOUNTER!- Okay, okay, I really shouldn’t be freaking out as much, but it’s weird for me.
The Korean language was always something personal for me. I only used it among my family and some Korean friends. But now I’m going to go where everyone uses the language. I can’t even try to imagine how that’ll be. I mean, of course it’s common sense that in Korea, people will be using Korean but it’s hard for me to fathom that everyone will be using the language that was more private for me.
It’s not going to be like when we went to France or when I went to Panama. In those situations using Spanish and French was more like an educational test of my skills and I was okay with not knowing all of the vocabulary. And it was forgivable that I wasn’t fluent since, well, I’m clearly not from Spain or France.
But this time, I’m supposed to know the language. I should be fluent in Korean. I should know the terminologies and cultural things, but I don’t. I think I know enough to survive, but I’m not satisfied with just that. It’s frustrating and embarrassing when I don’t know a word and have to switch to English. And besides just knowing the vocabulary, I have a clearly American accent. Even I can tell that I don’t sound the same as other native speakers.
There’s hope, though. I pick up accents really fast, so hopefully after two weeks my 위국 (foreigner) accent will fade away. As for my vocabulary, I’m pretty sure that it’ll grow as I talk with people and walk around.
Besides the weirdness of hearing Korean everywhere is the weirdness of hearing Korean music everywhere. Hearing Kpop in places besides Chinatown? Listening to Korean music in a mall? THAT’S gonna be…actually, pretty awesome once I get over the initial weirdness of it. (wow, sorry I’m using the word weird a lot..)
Did you know that ‘weird’ originally comes from the word ‘destiny?’ It stems from the Old English word wyrd and originally means ‘having the power to control destiny.’ Shakespeare made the word famous in his play Macbeth by calling the three witches in the opening scene “The Weird Sisters”, which then morphed the word to mean ‘unearthly.’ So in a sense, if I take the original definition of ‘weird’, Korea is my…destiny? (cue Destiny by Infinite in the background…CAUSE YOU’RE MY DESTINY, WHOOOOO~)
It’s going to be crazy to hear Kpop without my friends nearby to freak out with me. I can already imagine the reactions of some friends when they hear their favorite group’s song out in the air (…상남자/Boy in Luv, anyone? YOU KNOW WHO YOU ARE). But I mean, for them it’s not a big deal. Would any Westerner freak out if Bruno Mars came on as they were shopping? Okay, some of us would stop and be happy that the song came on, but I doubt that we would have a fangirl meltdown. What I’m trying to say is that Korean music, much like the Korean language, is something personal to me. I only listen to it from my iPod and can talk about it with only a handful of friends.
In a way, this trip is going to turn my world inside out. The things that were personal to me will now become public. Everyone is going to speak Korean. Korean music will be everywhere. It’s going to be really weird; it’s going to be my DESTINY.
Fun fact: destiny is defined as “the events that will necessarily happen to a particular person or thing in the future.” I agree with the definition in this case; I think that this trip is necessary for me to reconnect with my heritage. It’s perfect timing for me as well. If we went to Korea two years ago, I wouldn’t have been as excited; in fact, I would have been anxious. I didn’t always like Korean things because of some grudges due to some negative memories with Korean people. But gradually I warmed up to my heritage through my friend Louisa’s Kpop suggestions. And then through the music, I rekindled a desire to learn Korean and my culture. And now, I’m excited rather than uneasy about going to Korea.
Forty-five minutes left until departure. Forty-five minutes until a complete culture shock; let’s do this!~