Friday, November 11, 2011

Norweans, or Maybe Koregians, Visit Seoul . . .

Polar Neighbors

My daughter Sa-Rah was recently selected to act as one of the local guides for a group of Korean kids who are growing up as adoptees in Norway. I asked her to write on the experience, and here's what she left in my email inbox this morning:
Being a Guide for One Day
Sunday, October 30th, 2011, I got to meet eight kids from Norway. They were Korean kids adopted by Norwegian foster parents at a very young age. I was partnered by a girl named Marie, who was thirteen years old, and I had to be her guide around Seoul for the day. I came to having this experience because my mom introduced me to this activity. This activity wasn't just about introducing Korea to foreigners, but was supposed to give Korean teenagers a chance to think about "Coexistence." Relationships between other countries and understanding differences in culture have become very important, so I thought the activity would be good experience for me. That's why I signed up for this activity by sending an application, and got a yes from the Mizy Center. The Mizy Center is a organization that gives teenagers a chance to experience other cultures or help poor countries by hosting many activities.

After getting a yes from the Mizy Center, I also passed the interview and became one of the eight teenage students who were selected. I felt pretty good about becoming one of this program, but at the same time felt a sense of responsibility. I needed to show the Mizy Center that I could do a good job, and so a couple of days before the actual activity, I decided to investigate Seoul on my own. I visited the royal palace, went to a couple of museums, and went to a traditional Korean town. I also didn't forget to go to Insa-dong, which is a shopping and eating area, very famous for its interesting shops and foods. Tourists usually like to buy gifts for their friends at Insa-dong, so I took a walk around. I got used to the area, so that I could guide my partner around well.

Anyway, after all that investigation, I felt ready to be the Norwegian kid's guide. When I first met my partner, Marie, we had some time to get to know each other. I personally hoped for a energetic, talkative partner, but Marie wasn't that type. That didn't mean I didn't like her, but it was harder to get used to each other. I started asking her questions about her favorite subjects at school, and if she knew K-Pop or Girls' Generation. Marie said she likes Norwegian (the language), and wasn't so good at math, even though she actually kind of liked it. I agreed to her on that subject -– you know what I mean. She told me that she doesn't know any K-Pop, but was interested in Justin Bieber. She said she was a Beliber, and liked Justin Bieber's new song "Mistletoe" and one of his older songs, "Never let you go." Because I was a little bit interested in Justin Bieber, too, I could talk to her about how I liked his "Never let you go" Music Video.

We talked more about each other while designing shoes that would be donated for children in Ethiopia. As I talked to her, I could see that her English wasn't that good, and that we had some problems in communication. Many times, she wouldn't be able to understand what I was saying, so I would have to select easier words for her. Well, she was only thirteen. I could understand that. When we finished our shoe designing, we had lunch with the other teams and a Mizy Center supervisor, and had time to introduce ourselves to others. We had Bulgogi for lunch, which is like a Korean juicy beef barbeque. Marie seemed to be happy with our choice of lunch, because she said she liked Bulgogi the most out of Korean foods.

The lunch time was pretty interesting because I got to talk to other Norwegian kids, too, and we started the tour with other two teams. We all agreed that it may be awkward to walk around Seoul one-to-one for hours. One of the guides was two years older than me, and she was a type of person who liked to lead people. Also, she lived in the area we were going to take a tour, so she could explain the area well for our Norwegian partners. We first went to a police museum, and got to wear police officer clothes. I took some pictures and then we read the history of Korean policemen. It was interesting, because I didn't know much about police history either. We also went to the royal palace and saw some famous Korean actors filming a famous TV series.

After that, the Norwegian kids bought some coffee at Star Bucks, and we walked around the streets of Seoul. There were many make-up shops, and they seemed to be interested in make-up, so we went to many shops. They also bought some make-up stuff that I had no idea about what the heck it was –- I'm not into make-up at all. I don't mean having make-up on is bad. It's just different from what Korean teenagers do. All of a sudden, watching them buy makeup and talking to each other made me feel how different they were from me. They were "Korean," but they were not "Korean" at all. The environment that they grew up in made them so different from us. I imagined what I would look like and be like if I had grown up in a different environment. I would be a totally different person, and would have a totally different personality. That thought made me feel a bit strange.

Anyway, we went to Seijong Museum and went to the Korean traditional town that I investigated before. Marie and I joined three other teams and were guided by a couple of friends that lived in that town. They were friends of one of the Korean teenagers, and they showed us around the town pretty well. The Norwegian kids took many pictures, but were a bit loud. We did ask them to quiet down a little bit, because people actually live in that town, and are bothered everyday by tourists and people that go there, but they didn't seem to see importance in quieting down. I, of course, didn't like that, but tried to understand. I think I should have been more active so they would be quiet. After all the walking, we had dinner at Insa-dong, and the tour was finished.

I felt many things while doing this activity. One thing was that I should have been prepared more. I did prepare where to go and what to do, but I wasn't good at talking to my partner, Marie. I think as time went by, I spoke less and less to her. I tried justify myself by the fact that her English wasn't good enough, and that she wasn't so talkative, but after the whole activity was finished, I felt bad about myself. I should have prepared for situations like that, where people are different from what you imagined them to be, but I didn't. However, it was a very good experience for me, because I could learn from my mistakes and know what to do next time there is an activity like this. I now have more confidence in guiding people, and I understand what's important. Preparation. I believe I have earned a valuable lesson, and hope to do a better job from now on. I thank the Mizy Center for letting me have a good experience like this.

I've not yet talked with my daughter about this essay, so we've not corrected anything, but there aren't many mistakes, and none glaring. I found Sa-Rah's remark that her partner was "only thirteen" amusing since Sa-Rah's merely fourteen. Well, almost fifteen, and two years can make a big difference at that age.

If I had thought more, I would have tried to prepare my daughter better by having her read up on Korean adoptees, most of whom are overseas, and on Norway, for she knows almost nothing about that country.

Maybe we could have located a Norwegian greeting online and practiced it for when she met her partner . . . but I didn't think of that beforehand.

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At 12:50 PM, Blogger Kevin Kim said...

A very insightful writeup of that experience, and it sounds as if many lessons were learned.

At 2:01 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

And I again learned that my daughter writes better than I did at 14.

Jeffery Hodges

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