Updated/Revised as of September 30, 2016
February 3, 2014
I am taking
Japanese 1 online through Ball State University this school year. I have a
niche with Asian languages. To me they are so elegantly spoken and written.
Plus, the grammar and sounds of Asian languages is consistent throughout all of
them, so once you learn one the others are much easier to grasp. Honestly,
Asian grammar make more sense to me than English grammar (although I still know
English grammar more fluently).
Some background on my border-line obsession with Asian languages and culture:
As a young child my family was quite poor. My mom was constantly going back to
college to get degrees hoping she could use one. She began as an English
education major and completed her masters in it while taking care of two
toddlers pretty much on her own. Over the years she accumulated a bachelor's
degree in Digital Design and another master’s degree in Earth Literacy. My
amazing mother always struggled to find a steady job and was constantly stuck
working in food service. Sometimes she would be called in to substitute teach
at the local elementary and junior high schools, then would work late into the
night at a fast food joint. This schedule was exhausting to my mum, so she
ended up quitting her food service job. There were no jobs available as a
full-time teacher like she hoped for, but because we lived in an apartment
people filled with people from other countries: Russia, India, Korea, China,
Japanese, and many more. Mom ended up tutoring the children in English (this
was always their hardest class). She had the most tutoring jobs teaching Asian
children because of their honorific importance in schooling among their
cultures. Over the near three years of living in the apartment buildings on
Crawford street in Terre Haute, IN my mom made many Asian friends, all of which
who had kids my age. In the apartments I had a best girl friend who was
Russian, a "boyfriend" (we were 7/8 years old so he wasn't really,
but we called each other that any ways) from India, a plethora of friends who
were from South Korea, and a few friends from Japan. It was the most amazing
experience in my entire life. I remember spending mornings before school and
evenings after school sitting in Chinese restaurants being asked by the Korean
mother what my brother and I what we were hungry for (yes, giggle, you'd be
surprised how many Chinese restaurants are not actually ran by Chinese people).
We even got to help wrap homemade crab rang goon when we were there after
school (the handmade ones are always wrapped like this):
As a child, I remember going to my friends apartments and feeling like I was in
another country. It was the best culture shock ever! We had dinner about once a
week with a foreign friend and the Asian meals were always my favorite just
because they were so different. There would be one large bowl of a main
ingredient in the middle of the table (like noodles, meat, and/or soup; all
meals included more rice then you could imagine), then surrounding the huge
bowl would be at least a dozen tiny bowls filled with sauces, vegetables,
fruits, and anything else you could add into the main ingredient. We would all
sit on the floor (usually on pillows) around a low table and eat from all the
dishes at once. It was quite chaotic. They didn't own a single fork in their
house, only spoons and chopsticks. They encouraged us to learn how to eat
everything with chopsticks, but didn't mind if the kids gave up and started
sticking their fingers in all the food! I became a master of eating food with
chopsticks and one of my mom's friends even gave me a pair for my birthday,
along with wooden hair sticks, which are longer and thicker then chopsticks
with pointed ends.
The girls let me try on their clothes from their foreign country, a Japanese
mother even let me try on her wedding kimono. My mom’s best friend, a beautiful
Korean mother of two girls whose husband was still in South Korea, let me try
on one of her hanboks, a traditional Korean dress worn at many special events.
Out of all the different people I've met from all over the world, I have found
no other peoples who were always as consistency kind among their peoples as the
Korean and Japanese. Even if I made a mistake- butchered a word from their
language with my "American accent", held chopsticks wrong, put on
their unique styles of dress on backwards (all of these I've done), they always
did nothing but encouraged me and delighted in the fact that I was interested
in their culture.I grew up having slumber parties with Japanese girls who would bring over
subtitled anime shows/movies to watch all night, which really improved my
reading skills and helped me to pronounce their languages right. I played house
with Korean kids who were always "cooking" exciting foods I'd never
heard of in their play kitchens. I loved every minute of this culture-engrossed
child hood that didn't last long enough.
When we moved when I was nine years old, I cried more than I ever have over
anything in my entire life. We decided on moving out of the city to a
"big" house on three acres of land, but stubborn little me told mom I
hated every house we visited because I didn't want to move out of our barely
500 square feet apartment. Of course, it wasn't the place I actually cared
about. It was the community; the mashed-up community of people from every side
and corner of the world. Even with how different all of my neighbors were I
have never felt the same sense of a closely knitted and healthy community as
the one I was a part of in the apartments.
Sadly, the chapter ends with me moving miles away (which I was used to, I just
got too used to being in one place for so long) and falling out of touch with
each and every one of my friends in the only place I've ever felt comfortable
enough to call home. However, the story doesn't end there!
In 2011 I was re-introduced to Korean culture by a college friend of my dad and
stepmoms, who at the time was learning the Korean language and taking Asian
history classes. I fell in love all over again, this time diving head first into
Korean television, food, music, and even the language. My family and I took
Korean through the Terre Haute Korean school at a local Korean Baptist church.
Once again, I felt like I was back home with the friends who had become my
family. Our teacher was Soon-Hwa (meaning "the galaxy" in Korean);
she taught English in South Korea and came to America to teach Korean! I
excelled in this class faster than all my fellow students and after less than a
school year I could read, write, and pronounce all of the 40+ characters in
romanized (written in English letters for pronunciation purposes) and hangul
(Hangul is the name of their character system. I can translate over 100 words
and know a few handfuls of sayings and greetings, but am still nowhere near
fluent). Because we didn't finish our whole textbook by the time class ended,
Soon-Hwa continued to meet with my mother (who was taking the class with me)
and me at the public library until she left for the summer to visit home.
I didn't get any school credit for this class because of where I took it, but I
never minded because the experience itself was worth it.
At our graduation party/ceremony I made the delicious, traditional Korean dish
kimbap to share, which everyone found very amusing since our Korean friends all
brought pizza and cake.
made for the celebration... delicious kimbap....
characters in the very middle of our certificates are our names in Korean.
sister, Ariel, hates getting her picture taken... so I distracted her!
Not the best
picture of me, but what I hold in my hand is the fruits of my effort!
My mommy, so
happy she finished this class with her daughters!
when I came back to Grant County I quickly discovered that I couldn't continue
my Korean studies. Luckily, a local college offered Japanese. So, I am
supplementing my Asian culture joys by learning Japanese (which I must admit is
much more difficult then Korean, just in the fact that there are over 4x as
many Japanese characters than Korean).
Plus, my Korean class was free for my mom, little sister (she was in the kids
class), and me. In fact, because the church was administering the lessons and
paying for all of our textbooks (the teachers were volunteers, but all
certified instructors) the church received money from the county because they
were spreading culture without charging the students. Quite a symbiotic
Anyways, even though Japanese difficult and costs more then I wish to
acknowledge, it's worth it just for the experience and the chance for me to do
what I've always loved, and missed so much when I left the apartment, once
Added June 6, 2014
The last project I did in my stained glass class was the whole reason I took
the class. I made a South Korean flag window (details about the size and glass
can be found in my gallery). I could not find any patterns for it online, so I
made an original design for it. I wanted my love for language to show in this
flag, so at the top of the flag is the word, written in Korean characters, for
Added September 30, 2016
Well, my childhood dreams are about to come true. I have finally been
approved to study abroad in South Korea. All of my childhood experiences, my
knowledge of Korean culture, and tenacity to love a people so unlike the people
I was born among will be put to the test, examined under a microscope. “Are you
excited? Are you ready?”- these are questions I am asked daily. Of course I’m
excited, I’ve wanted nothing more desperately in my whole life than to study in
a country I’ve put so much care and effort to get to know intimately having never
walked along her lands. As for if I’m ready, I still haven’t found any
breathing room to exhale after holding my breath for so long waiting for this opportunity
to come my way. Now that this opportunity has opened its doors, I’m charging
through to the other side to learn, experience, and most importantly grow.