Wow, already April is slipping away! Half-way through the month already. Pretty soon it will be Christmas.
Ahh beautiful cherry blossom snow. Another cherry blossom season come and gone - all the trees are now covered in in bright green leaves.
This school year is so much easier than last – I know the school, I am familiar with most of my students, I’ve taught all the lessons. It’s amazing how much energy newness takes up because so far, it’s been a breeze. I hope it stays that way!
A parent of one of my students (she was also my student last year) gave me all these delicious treats! She owns a bakery near the school and saw me walking home and pulled me inside and blessed me with yummy food (which is a love language of mine - yes, say you love me with food)!
Two interesting changes have come over me. At first glance they seem almost opposite of one another…but I think they are related.
The first is that I’m actually craving kimchi! Now, I came to Korea already liking/tolerating most kimchi (there are many many varieties), eating it at restaurants and such. So it’s not that I overcame a kimchi-fear or something. Instead, it’s that now I actually want it – like if it’s not served with a meal I find myself getting a little huffy.
I first noticed this when we returned to school after the long winter break. Most of you know from my facebook/Instagram that feeds I love my school lunches. They put American school lunches completely to shame. Upon returning to school after the winter break, I heaped that kimchi on my plate. And then I got up and had two more servings. Someone had also brought in homemade white kimchi and I scarfed it down, probably eating more than my share.
My school lunches are the bee's knees.
Over the break, I bought kimchi, but mostly for making kimchi fried rice or kimchi jiggae (stew). Well, apparently it really is true that if you try a food long enough your taste preferences do change – and not just from hating something to liking something, but from liking something to loving it! How strange and wonderful! I’m kind of worried what will happen when we return to the States – will the stores have good enough kimchi? I must find myself a stateside ajumma.
The second is – get ready for it – I kind of miss Mexicans.
Okay, okay. That came out wrong. Maybe even a little racist.
Let me try again: I miss Hispanic culture! The food! The sights! ¡Español! Basically, I haven’t seen another Hispanic or Latina/Latino for over a year. Living far from a Hispanic community has made me realize how much I love being a part of it – even if it’s in a small way.
Missing Mexican food is such a strange experience for me because before moving to Korea I never in my life craved Mexican food. The only reason for this, that I can think of anyway, is that I ate a lot of it growing up. So, I never craved it – it was just always there. Except now. We’ve been to a couple of “Mexican food” restaurants here and…yeah…not even close. I hear there are some pretty exceptional places up in Seoul, but that’s four hours away.
I actually really miss hearing Spanish – even though mi español es malísimo. Sad face. (But it’s still a heck of a lot better than my Korean! Ha!) This is also weird because I never thought I cared that much about Spanish – I mean, growing up I heard it from my dad’s side of the family, and many of them know Spanish, but they don’t speak it to me anymore. I’m in no way fluent, though I understand more of it than I can speak. And living in southern California (and even when we were living in Texas) it is everywhere – the Hispanic culture is such an important part of California’s present and past.
But now, after being so long without it, I about cried when my vice principal handed me this packet of Mexican coffee and asked me to translate the preparation directions (although, I realize now that perhaps he thought it was in English – I’m not sure if he is aware that I am half Mexican, since I’m straight up “white looking”). Then, the next day, I randomly came across the Frida movie soundtrack, and listened to it non-stop for three days straight. I used to listen to the soundtrack in college when I was reading a ton of Chicana/o literature and it was a walk down memory lane. All of sudden I missed reading Sandra Cisneros, and Sonya Saldívar-Hull, and Lorna Dee Cervantes, Gary Soto and Francisco Jiménez.
It’s funny. Looking at those writers’ names, I see how much an influence Chicano/a writers have had on my desire to write. So many of their books were ones I began really loving as an adult. Some of you may not know that I hated reading in high school. I read a lot in elementary and middle school and then just got tired of it when I was focusing mostly on music. I don’t think I actually finished reading any books in high school. It wasn’t until university, when I had decided to change my major from music to English that I started absolutely loving reading. It became my favorite thing to do and these writers were a huge part of my realization about how great reading actually was…which then lead to my desire to write.
These two things – loving kimchi and missing a big part of my home culture – are related. It’s these two changes that make me love living abroad and doing something new. If you go into a new experience or country with an open mind, you’ll find yourself simultaneously loving something new and appreciating from where you’ve come. So moving to a new place is not about running away. It’s about embracing your entire life, all of the bumps and falls and skips and the new adventures to come. You’ll find yourself opening up to new things, getting challenged, and also loving your home and family even more.
It’s kind of a weird feeling; in some ways it feels like being pulled in two directions. Just another mystery life has to offer.
But still – thank God my brother is coming out in a couple of weeks. I’ll get to see another Mexican face.
Spring has definitely hit Korea! Here's a Kanzan cherry tree right by my school that's still flowering. This variety has deep-pink double blossoms. Overwhelmingly beautiful in person.