Tag Archives: translation

Subjectivity

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There’s a documentary program called “3일” (3 Days) in South Korea.  They pick a place, and shoot the people’s daily life for 72 hours.  It’s quite fun program.  Last weekend, they filmed the program in Gimpo Airport.  Among the people they filmed, there was a couple.  A woman was departing, but man was staying.  The man didn’t look too happy.  The man was devastated after letting the woman go; and the woman kept crying behind the gate.

They are 조선족 (Chinese-Korean) couple who initially came to South Korea together for a good life (there are ton of Chineses, especially Chinese-Koreans coming over to South Korea for a better life; think of Mexican immigrants in the US).  The man got a work visa, so he could stay, start his journey toward the “Korean Dream.”  The woman couldn’t.  Her visa expired, and she now had to leave.  The man was still on his work visa (not ready to sign up for residence status), and since he was still in his initial stage of settling down, he couldn’t marry her.  The woman asked him to go back to China together; but obviously, the man refused since he would risk too much.  After all, he just got his cornerstone to build his dream and good life.

I shed tears.  I could identify so much with both of them.  I’m sure they worked hard, and I’m also sure they are good, honest people.  The devastation.  The feeling that there’s nothing you can do, and the knowledge of that the decision has been made by factors that is totally out of your control, are terrible.  Honestly, I don’t think I have not gotten over it completly yet.  There’s still a fear within me, especially because I will be heading to America soon again for higher education.  That’s why I worry too much and researching frantically.  I was in a same situation.  Someone I liked very much and I had to depart, because I couldn’t stay and he wasn’t ready to start a family.  Okay, that wasn’t the biggest for reason of our separation, but it had its part in the whole situation.

My mom was watching the program with me.  As she watches the woman sobbing, my mom said: “well, though seperating from someone you love hurts now, but it all gets better later on.”

I don’t disagree with my mom’s comment, but as I hear it, I felt as if there is a large river flowing between us.  Everyone has different responses.  Everyone’s experiences are different.

But in moments like this, I felt so lonely even though my family is right next to me, because I know I feel differently from rest of the people here. I know others would not understand.  So I don’t/can’t tell them.

Decision Made

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I’ve been busy with additional documents and catching up my online pre-law class.  Sorry blog and readers.  I don’t know how the things will turn up, but for now it’s not great.  Yes I bombed my LSAT.  And the recession is making everyone to fly into law school and LSAT.  I was rejected from 50% of the schools I applied.  I haven’t heard or am waitlisted/held in other schools.  And all the schools I really want to go held me.  Sometimes I don’t know whether I am heading to the right path – but then, I don’t really have other option do I?  The economy is bad here as well, and Korean firms don’t like me.  Working surrounded by Koreans is suffocating.  I don’t have green card or citizenship.  I can’t just go to US or Hong Kong and get a job.  I used up all of my LSAT slots, so I can’t take it until 2014. On a good side, I did get into all of my safe schools but…they are safes.  I don’t know.  I just don’t want to be in that situation again – where I can’t even apply for a position because I don’t have the residential right even though I fit in their job description, or job offer canceled at the last moment. So…that’s pretty much what was my life like.

Right, now to the main story.  Though I rant a lot about my father, a small portion of my mind has been wishing that things will get better eventually.  As of today, I gave all my hopes and expectations on my father.  He is so full of himself, and it’s impossible to have any kind of conversation with him.  I know he’s doing what he can, and I have a lot of respect and gratuitous for him supporting his family.  He deserves massive credit for it.  BUT, other than that part, I despise everything else about him.  I want to keep some distance from him (which, clearly, isn’t working well).  I can’t wait until I frigging leave here.

Here’s what happened.  Last night, my father called me to dinner table.  Not a good sign, but oh well.  He asked about how’s my admission going.  So I told him.  Then he asked about my GPA and test score.  Not the most glorious numbers, but I told him.  I don’t know how the story progressed, but what started with “what do you think? do you want to go law school?  are you sure you are not dazed with just images of lawyer?” soon became how he thinks I’m impolite, disrespectful and..all that old shit again.  So I just put my mask on again, just said yes, yes, okay, sorry.  I can’t fucking believe he still brought up that incident before my LSAT. And still never thinks about my position. I am the one who actually took the test and wrote and sent all my applications.  No one can be happy/upset/disappointed as much as I do.   Sounds like he doesn’t think so, because he is to concerend about how he doesn’t get respect and stuff.

Then both my mom and dad insisted me to say something.  Really? I know better than that.  I asked, “well, what do I have to say?  You won’t listen nor understand…”  Again, they asked why. Well, they asked.

“Whenever I say what I think, dad always says I’m either rude, impolite, or disrespectful.  When I make a small complaint, mom always says I can’t think like that, but instead grateful and there are hundreds of other people out there who is like me so I shouldn’t complain.  If I get same replies over and over, what’s the use for me to say my opinions?”

My mom somewhat understood.  Father insisted he has never done that.  Bullshit.  The minimum I remember is 3 times.  When both my mom and I pointed that out, only then he apologized, with massive unnecessary excuses of “I don’t remember saying such things.”  All and all, everything looked like it’s all wrapped up nicely.

But it wasn’t.

It started off as a good day.  I spent too much time taking online lessons and making my notes, so I decided to take a day off.  My mom and I went to a local outlet.  Everything was built in “American size” (=not packed like Seoul) so it was very good.  Father came back, and all hell broke loose again.

Apparently, he was upset that I didn’t say clear apology for that goddamn incident.  Jesus Christ.  Any average person would think it’s all the story of past, especially after a conversation with a nice wrap up.  So I just went usual, saying okay, okay, sorry, sorry.  But he went on and on and on, saying how he should have really give me hard time on that moment.  I’m pretty stressed these days again, and I couldn’t just frigging believe he’s still on it. So I finally said:

“Look, I am sorry about how I responded.  But don’t you think you could just hold it until my test ends? And spank me or handle stuff in any way you want?”

Yeah, I should have just held my tongue.  He got furious, saying that now I’m trying to “teach” him.  What? What the?  He also said I was really rude to him when he asked some computer stuff to me.  I really don’t think that is true, because knowing is temper and learned from experience, I did my best to not to raise my voice when helping him out.  I think it’s just his sense of inferiority.  Somehow it was wrapped up and I kept watching the show I was watching.  Then, 10 minutes later, he yelled again and made an ugly scene.  So I started that okay okay sorry routine again.  Then he said I’m being sarcastic and I don’t mean it.  Jesus,  What does he want from me?

He also said I’m being rude, that I keep glaring his eyes.  First, I wasn’t staring his eyes.  Second, I fucking grew up in the States, where it is rude to NOT look at someone’s face/eyes when talking.  If he sent his kid to the States, has that much admiration to a foreign country, and watches plenty of American TV shows, he should’ve known it.  I couldn’t take it anymore.  I said that is so not true.

“Look, you seem like you think conversation as figuring out who’s bad, who’s good and whose fault it is.  I think conversation is stating each other’s thoughts, and just respect that difference – at least that’s the starting point.  So I say what I think, as you asked.  Then your response is how I’m being rude and disrespectful.  How can we actually understand each other if we can’t even agree on where to begin?”

It looked like he eased down a bit, but then it was all about himself, again.  How he feels lonely, sometimes sad, working hard to support family so I should treat him well and just try to understand him more. Okay, fine, points taken.

I understand sometimes it’s lonely to have no one to say hello and goodbye, or prepare your meal.  It’s nice to have them.  BUT isn’t that most part of the life?  It sucks, and sometimes it gets terribly lonely, but in the end, there will be no one (or very few number of people) there to babysit you, so you’d better know how to handle the situation.  I hate to say this to my own family member, but the whole thing sounds like him playing the baby.

But if we wants such a treatment from someone else, shouldn’t he first try to put his feet in other’s shoes?  For instance, he always says I and my mom shouldn’t cut in when he’s talking.  But he ALWAYS cuts in when my mom and I are talking.  Who is he to say cutting in is impolite?  How can he actually understand someone if he’s lens to the world is wrong/right and filled with sense of inferiority?  How can he expect to someone to actually apologize, when he doesn’t even remember his faults (or refuse to admit) yet acts really annoyingly picky about other’s fault on him?  How can he expect someone to be good to him when he is so full of himself?

I don’t want him making all that visual gestures of niceness and friendliness, like holding my hands.  Stop.  That’s just vain.  Just look yourself around, and try to change your mind and behavior.

So as I wrote above, as of today, I give up all of my hopes on father.  Which actually feels pretty good, because now I don’t have to be frustrated or worry.

Wall

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I always feel as if I am talking to a wall whenever I “talk” with my dad.  We are a pair of parallel lines.  I think I already wrote this for a million times – how he wants me to explain something, to have a “conversation,” or asks me about my thoughts; and how I state my thoughts; and him picking on me, usually saying how my way of talking doesn’t suit his preference, or how I am being rude.  Then I try to explain.  Then again he thinks I’m rebelling or something (I’m too old to be a ‘rebel.’ Please.).

If you have been reading my blog (thank you), you know what my culture-conscious solution is.  I just zip my mouth, say yes to whatever.  Then the household peace is realized.  My dad complains about it, saying how I don’t share stuff with him.  I don’t intend to do it, at least for a while.  Because, if I do so, there are things he doesn’t know, which leads me having to explain.  And if I do the “explaining…” you know what will happen (for the reference, read the earlier paragraph).

Here’s what really put me off.  He wasn’t the kind of dad who calls/e-mails his kid frequently, unlike some parents who sent their kids to boarding school.  Not even once I envied them or upset at my dad.  I didn’t get into any trouble.  I managed my daily life.  I did better than average.  All was good, without him directly intervening.

Then, all of sudden, after I moved in with my family, he complains how I don’t share stuff, and tries to execute authority on me.  If I were still a teenager, sure, I understand.  But I’m well over the legal adult age.  I have work experience.  His experience and my experience are two completely different thing.  I respect that.  He doesn’t seem so.  How can you share something and understand each other, unless both parties respect each other, and recognize they are different?

Long story short, here’s what happened today:

While I was busting my brain with LSAT and applications, he said maybe it’s a good idea to take a course in accounting, or finance whenever I’m free.  I agreed, and looked up for some courses.  It turns out all hagwons I could find were either for government certification exam, or using Korean SW (which, of course, is not used in countries other than South Korea).  What I wanted was a general intro class.  I felt exam prep courses are too serious for me, and learning only some Korean finance SW seems to be too limited and waste of money.

Then, I heard that though getting a job in the States might be tough, Singapore, Hong Kong, China and Japan can be different story.  As someone going for an occupational school and dying to secure employment in international Asian places out of South Korea after graduation, I thought learning Chinese can be a good option.

After weighing my options, I went for Chinese.  Yes, learning about accounting and finance is very helpful.  However, it’s not my immediate need, and it is less related to my goal.  Besides, I couldn’t find any courses that suit my needs.  If I get a job and luckily start to build my career, the finance/accounting knowledge will be handy only then.  Maybe I will be in MBA.  Who knows.  I’ll need them if I happened to specialize in tax/financial law.  But that ‘s not going to happen soon – I’ll be one of those pathetic 1Ls who are just struggling to stay afloat.  What I know is, it all starts AFTER I graduate and get a job.  And for now, my priority goal is to get a job in international Asian places.  I will have a bit more edge in the market with foreign language skill (which, by the way, I already speak two).

I was talking with my mom about potential Chinese courses.  All of sudden, my dad called me to come to his room.  Ooops, not a good sign, here it goes again.  Clearly he wasn’t too happy about my decision.  I wouldn’t be surprised if he said “are you not respecting what I said?”  He didn’t.  Instead, he kept going on, trying to convince me that I need to take finance courses.

Math is all about logics.  Wouldn’t you need it for case analysis and such? Wouldn’t you need it since you are going to law school? Like, case analysis, tax laws, and business law.”

– Er, well, pre-law courses I’m looking at are much more directly related (and if academic math is that helpful, I honestly think it would be better to go to academic math hagwon instead of accounting hagwon…obviously I didn’t say this out loud).  And, all that tax and business specialization happens after 1st year.  1st year, you just take common subjects and none of them are finance related.  I’m not even in school yet.  I don’t know what I’m going to specialize in, and I think taking finance and accounting courses then will be far much more useful.  I’m going to take Chinese courses, because there seems to be much more job openings in places under Chinese influence.  And that’s my priority at the moment.

What about the speech courses?
– It’s only about 8-10 sessions, once in a week and I can get discount.  I can do it while taking pre-law courses.

As you can imagine, he started to preach about my way of talking.  Dear God.  How I just cut in, make him uncomfortable as if I am teaching something, how listening improves the mood, etc.  If I need a speech class for that sense, he needs to be in it, too.  His speech is flying everywhere, so many times my mom and I have to “what ? wait what? what’s your point?”  And he cuts in all the time.  And he preaches.  I guess it’s okay when HE cuts in and not listen, but I can’t cut him in and not listen.  Another thing that puts me off.  Why does he keep pointing fingers at me, especially on things he knows no better than I do?

He concluded saying “I know less than you do in this field.  But I’m uncomfortable to ask because you just pour it out, as if you look down on me.”

Honestly, I’m satisfied with it.  If he really want my answer or explanation on something he doesn’t know, it’s him who needs to start to listen and not cut in.  From the beginning, I have had no intention to “look down” on my dad.  It’s him who feels that way – like hundreds of other Korean men.  Few days ago, I read an article by a chef and a high-end restaurant owner.  They all agreed how Koreans get angry whenever someone tries to correct/teach the proper table manner with good intention.  Quoting from them: “it’s the inferiority complex.  For some reason, not knowing and someone merely pointing it out is translated to ‘oh, right, this guy is slighting me!'”

I do pour it out and I do cut in my dad.  Why? I usually spend a lot of time thinking through, and usually have my answers ready when someone asks for my reasoning behind certain decision.  And I don’t want to have a long conversation with someone who regards my statements and reasonings as “being impolite.”  I guess it’s kind of “you asked, here’s your answer, done.”  I don’t want any nonsense stuff raining on me just because of someone’s authority.

If he knows that I know a bit better, than maybe it’s better to leave me to handle this.  After all, it’s my burden and it’s something I can’t just pass to others.

I wonder when he would accept that his world and my world are completely different, have even a minimum understanding of why I act “impolite,” and stop rubbing his values in my face.

Why is it me always have to say sorry?

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You’ve probably heard stories about Asian dad.  Though exaggerated, it does have some grain of truth.  Tell me about it, because I am living with one, and I bet you know some of the past troubles if you’ve been reading my blog.  Sure, he’s not the worst and he’s doing his best.  But what drives me absolutely crazy is that…there’s no “communication.”   He says it’s conversation/communication.  Well, not really.  It’s more like him lecturing. 
Tomorrow’s my big day.  So I prepared everything and planned what I will to today before going to sleep.  My parents know it is my big day.  I will be fu*king anxious and touchy for all day (and, readers, it will be easy to infer that I will go nuts if something doesn’t go like my plan.  We all do, no?)  It will be a long day tomorrow, meaning I will need a nice snack.  There’s a particular bread that I know which would be a good snack for a day like tomorrow, so I bought one and came back home. 
What if my dad eats it away, like he always does?
The thought has occurred, but I soon thought, naaah.  He knows it’s my big day tomorrow.  He really wouldn’t think it is coincidence that there is a single loaf of small chubby bread with potato fillings on the table, from a store that is not near from our home.  He knows better.  Besides, after doing the same thing over and over, he developed a habit of asking “okay to eat this?”  Yeah, it will be alright.
As I was preparing my early dinner, my dad came.  So we ate together.  He didn’t ask for more food.  Usually, he goes to his room or watch TV after dinner.  That’s what I expected. 

I dropped by my room to check my materials for tomorrow.  I came out, and could not believe my eyes.  The bread bag opened, my dad munching a good half of the bread away in one bite, saying “this is greasy.  Ew.”  You can imagine how I got really flipped.  Or how my face would have been turned white.
“Why would you eat that!?  It’s my meal for tomorrow!  You know what’s coming up!”
My dad looked like a bit startled, and said he will get another one, but I really did not care.  He can’t tell the difference between bread shops nor where’s the place.  Or what kind.  I was pissed, and all I could do was wishing that the bread store is still open, and the bread I got is still there (it’s Saturday and breads are sold out quickly on Friday and Saturday).  I just slammed the door and ran out. 

 Fortunately, I was able to get the breads.  While I was angry because of his thoughtlessness, I knew it would be better to not to make a big deal about it (it’s hard to stay calm and relaxed before big day, and that was my primary aim for today – to stay calm and go to bed in a relatively good mood).  Alright, if he’s there, I’ll just joke about it or keep myself quiet.’
He was in his room, so I thought “right, no big deal, I’ll just play some game and watch TV and go to bed.”  He came out from his room, as if he is going somewhere.  All of sudden, he said to me, “don’t you think you have something to say?”
Oh no.  You got to be kidding. 

According to the Asian rules of indirect communication, that is roughly translated as “you did something bad and you’d better apologize for it.”  But hey, here’s my question.  One, though I was pissed and it affected my mood control before big day, is it really that much of a big deal?  Two, if this really is a something to decide guilt and innocence, is it my bad?  For both questions, my answer is no.  In addition, it is my big big day tomorrow.  And he’s picking on a fight.  Fuc* me.
I simply said (speaking in honorifics), “look, I got the breads again, so it’s all sorted out.”
Guess what his response was: “Oh, so it’s just that simple, huh?”
I was like OMFG LEAVE ME ALREADY ALONE YOU ALREADY SCREWED MY MOOD CONTROL BEFORE MY BIG DAY but of course, instead of saying it, I said, “Yes, indeed.”  He left.
I mean, is it really a big deal though I’m not too happy about the incidence?  Does he want to set his “authority” that badly?  Even before his daughter’s big day, in a situation like Eminem’s Lose Yourself lyric?  (“You only get one shot, do not miss your chance to blow”).  So as you can see, I ended up blogging because I needed a release.
Honestly, it’s not just my problem.  A Korean-American friend of mine once told me: her parents would just break into her room without knocking.  That part is understandable.  Well, but whenever she’s startled by this sudden break-in, somehow, SHE has to apologize for nothing.  She’s not on drug or sneaking some boys in.  It’s not a big deal, but if someone has to apologize for this situation, it really should be her parents.  But somehow, she ends up apologizing.  It drives her nuts.
Another Korean-American friend of mine has a lot of similar stories with me regarding his dad.  He understands his dad isn’t the bad guy and he is doing what he can.  BUT still, it irritates him whenever his dad goes “we need to talk,” but really he means “I will give you a long lecture and you don’t dare to speak back to me.”  So, my friend found a nice solution, just like mine: whenever his dad says something , he just shuts and say “oh, yes, you are right, I’m sorry.  All good?” 
Dad might get some authority and keeping of his face and no-talking kids, but not a communication.  So Asian dads, don’t ever complain about how your kids are shutting you away and you feel isolated from the family as time goes by.

Living in the World They’ve Never Experienced

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A friend of mine – let’s just call her Jane – is a so-called “international student” in America, working on her MA and PhD degree at U-Penn.  Recently she finished her MA and went back to America to work on her PhD.  As Jane’s mom drover her to the airport, they started chatting.  The topic soon went to her MA graduation:

Jane’s Mom: You see, the professors’ gowns were really pretty.  I guess Harvard is actually a better school than Columbia or U-Penn, indeed.  Like, the Columbia and U-Penn gowns were all strange blue and not as pretty as I thought.

Then Jane started to cry, saying

Jane: What, are you ashamed of me because I went to U-Penn, not THE Harvard?  Did you want me to go to better school?  I could have gone to Harvard, and I picked U-Penn because you talked about tuition all the time!!!

Her mom is not very sure what she did wrong (or, I suspect she thinks her daughter is being sensitive).

As someone who went to boarding school away from parents for many years, I can totally see why Jane was so hurt.  Living away from family and going to school bring lot of stress.  All the other kids can just call up their parents, and they will be there in a day or so.  Not us, though.  Our family is 13+ hour flight away from school, so you are pretty much on your own.  There’s no safety net and we know it.  On the top of that, non-citizens constantly have to update and care about all the regulations and stuff, especially because it is getting so much tighter and tighter (all thanks to Bush and Islamic extremists – go to hell, all of you).  Of course the local kids don’t have that.  After all it’s their country.  This goes on every single day.

On the top of that, the Korean culture is all about connecting their kids’ school name with keeping the family’s face up, and indirect communication.  Parents complimenting or supporting their kids’ choice is scarce, when compared to western countries.  I don’t know for how long my mom pestered me for not going well-known (in Korea) Ivy schools and choosing a lesser-known (in Korea), mid-sized college.  I had to repeat that I want to be where I like for four long years, and I want to do what I want in college.  Well, if it worked at one shot, I didn’t have to repeat myself, right? And honestly, I can’t really think of times when my mom complimented me.  I can think of so many times of her screaming at me, though.  Which I will blog in detail later on…

Long story short, parents, please keep in mind that your kids know how Korean culture is all about school names and keeping up to the family expectation.  And also do keep in mind your kids are living in a world that you have never experienced and will never know every day, with great amount of stress, knowing that they don’t have safety net like other kids around them.  Please do not think they are all fine.  Just let them be and let them relax in peace.

Snippet of Borderline Case

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As I walked back from the public library to the bus station, the gigantic franchise bakeries on the main street were throwing opening special events.  One was Paris Baguette and another one was Tour les Jours.  In front of Paris Baguette, a bras band made of three or four white men was constantly playing tunes, wearing uniforms as if they are one of the Paris Baguette crew or bakers.  Of course they are not.

In front of Tour les Jours, they, too, had a random white guys in front of the newly opened store.  Also in Tour les Jours uniforms.  But I doubt they are actual staffs. Either way, the stores hired some random white boys for a one-time event boys.  Like how old Harrods department store used to have exotic animals to attract more customers.

I couldnt’ help thinking how they are like caricatures of foreigners in South Korea: good ornaments, looks like they belong ,but not so in reality.  But who cares, they are 외국인 (foreigners).

Then what about me?  I look like belong but not so in reality.  I might be a good ornament, but less so because my passport, looks, blood and names are not foreign enough.  I can’t really tell which is worse or better.

“Sorry, You are Disqualified Because You are Not Foreigner”

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So while I am struggling with the endless battle with LSAT, my friend called me about a possible part-time position.  I was not too keen on it, but hey, at least someone thought of me and that is a terribly nice gesture.  And earning a few more wons won’t hurt me, right?

Friend: Well, they are looking for a native speaker, or “foreigner” for the position.
Ceberus: What?  For the English-Korean translation part-time position?
Friend: Yeah.
Ceberus: That. is. insane.
Friend: I know! I told them they won’t be able to find a “foreigner” with a good-enough control on English and Korean.  But as I heard about the position, I thought of you.  You grew up in the States, speak good English and Korean, right?
Ceberus: Yeah I guess so.  So should I write to this person in English of in Korean?
Friend: Er…both?  ‘Cause that shows you are good at both languages?
Ceberus: Er…I’ll just write in English, since you said they want a “foreigner.”  You know it always helps to be foreigner in Korea, as much as you can.
Friend: AH, TRUE.

There goes my resume.  Which clearly shows my extensive experience on dealing with foreigners, foreign documents.  And I have seperate block for my freelance translation/interpretation.

Oh, and my friend did not have a clear idea about job description (after all, the job wasn’t for her company – it was for her client company), so I also asked them to give me a job description.

The job description never came, nor the reply.  Naturally, I thought the position is bygone.  Well, as I munch down my lunch today, my cell rang. It was the company.

Company: Thanks for the resume.  But we are looking for the foreigner, I mean, native speaker for the position.  I think there was some kind of misunderstanding.  And you are Korean, so unfortunately, we believe you are not the best match for our position. 

And then “we hope to see you again if there is another opportunity” blah blah shit.   Yeah thanks whatever.   Oh and I never thought being a “foreigner” matters that much in terms of job performance.  I didn’t even bother to argue, since my friend already said that they are looking for a “foreigner,” and I am very well aware of Korean (Asian in general) companies’ fantasy on having a foreigner in their office.  Oftentimes, it’s usually a white person from North America.  Never mind that there might be some other Korean who speaks better English AND Korean than that person – it looks cool, who cares?  But if they are really looking for a “foreigner” who can actually translate Korean – English, I say their chance is really, really slim.

It reminds me of how I wanted to join FBI, CIA or MI-5 back in the old days.  The things looked good, because many of these organizations are always short in people speaking good East Asian language.  I happen to speak 2 East Asian languages quite fluently, and my educational background is a good match.  However I had to give it up quickly.  All of them were only accepting US citizens and UK citizens.  No surprise, they are still short in people who can do that.

It’s not my first time, nor this is something that happens only in Korea.  Maybe there was a miscommunication.  Nevertheless I hate this bullshit.

CCK from Mono-Dad

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My dad is a good man.  He is very responsible, good at his job, and hard-working.  While he is not exactly the romantic family man type of father, he is dedicated for family.  Compared to millions of other typical Korean dads, who still believes they are the king of the jungle hence get to be the “bum” back in home after work and command other family members, he is far better.  Most of all, I would not be able to enjoy what I have now without his dedication and hard work.

But he is still Korean dad.

Ever since I came back, there were moments of conflict.  I, who grew up in States, was accustomed to state my position clearly in words and direct communication.  My dad did not.  My dad took this as me just throwing excuses and not respecting him, unlike his colleagues’ kids.  Now we somewhat got over with it.  I do not meddle in his land and he does not meddle in my land.  Still, there are moments when I get pretty irritated, such as him NEVER EVER answering the phone in home (instead he tells my mom or I to do it) or asking about my future plans and “advises” on it out of blue.  It is better than being ignorant, but I cannot help thinking, ‘since when were you that interested in my future plan, when you barely sent me an e-mail or regularly asked about me to my mom?’  (due to the working hours and time difference, my mom got the most updates on me real-time) While I value his advice on some topics, like interpersonal stuff, it is a bit baffling when he started to say I should do this and that on field that is not his expertise.  Lastly, when he suggests that we should have a conversation, that conversation usually ends with him saying whatever he wants to and me only allowed to say “yes, yes, gotcha.”

I am aware of the fact that my parents are not CCK like myself.  I am also aware that my dad is not a big travel bug like my mom, visited USA less frequently, and does not speak fluent foreign language.  I do understand why some people of homogenous country treat light-skinned foreigners and dark-skinned foreigners differently, rather than calling them “racists!” instantaneously (I knew an American girl from Ohio working in Korea – I was pretty baffled when she says Korea is such a racist country and she is so thankful that she is American.  Not entirely false, but she failed to understand that Korea is historically homogenous country just started to take baby-step for diversity and forgot US had a long history of obvious racism too!).  I know non-CCKs’ definition of foreigner is different from that of CCK’s.  I also understand while homosexuality in some countries is socially accepted, in some other countries it is seen as perversion, mental illness and/or sin.  It is not because these people are just ignorant scumbag; they grew up in a different society with different values and thinking process.

But I really do not know what to do, or how to react when my non-CCK, Korean dad calls homosexuals as “homo saekki (Korean, literally brute, figuratively and realistically “fag” or “bastard”).”  If these are the words from some person of my age’s mouth,  I could have just yelled that you are such a narrow-minded impolite douche.  Obviously, I can’t really do that to my own father.  Especially when I am perfectly aware of him being middle-aged Korean man, and how Korean society views homosexual individuals.  On the other hand, it is hard for me to stay quiet since some of my dear friends are homosexual.  Things would have been so much easier if I were just any non-CCK Korean who has no homosexual friend and have Korean understanding of homosexuals, or an American with very little understanding of Korean society.  Well, I’m neither.  All I could say was “Dad, please.  Some of my good friends are homosexual.”

As we eat our meal at the  Moroccan restaurant, the chef’s family and employees – all Moroccan – were enjoying lazy and relaxing Sunday brunch, and family time in the same space.  There was a very cute, lovely, cheerful 8-years-old girl.  After watching some Korean pop program on TV, she got bored and started to play doctor with her cousin in perfect Korean.  I thought it is great she is fluent in Korean, but I was not that surprised.  Nor did I thought her as a foreigner – the ultimate CCK question, what is the definition of foreigner and who can define it? Though she might be Moroccan physically, is she really a Moroccan when she is living in Korea with Moroccan family, interacting with Koreans on daily basis and attending Korean public school?  In the middle of friendly conversation, I heard my dad: “so how many foreign students are there in your school?”  I froze for a few seconds.   I was just begging secretly for either the girl or others in the presence not to take offense of my dad’s question.  No one took offense.  To my dad, of course she and her family are foreigners.  To me, that’ is hard to tell.

He is my father.  Without him, I would not be here, writing this.  Without him, I would not be enjoying many comforts in my life that I have now.  We chit-chat and joke around.  Yet he does not feel like a close family member to me.  Being a CCK (or just “someone who is literally all over!”) I really do know that blood tie is not the only thing about family.  He is my dad and always will be, but is he a family to me?

I don’t know why CCK/TCKs have all this questions coming up in life in addition to all the other common questions……

Transformation

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(All names are replaced to alias for the sake of their privacy)

There is one good aspect of current depression.  Thanks to the bad economy and job market, I get to see many of my college friends in South Korea.  Of course I never expected this to happen at the time of my graduation – I was too sad that I have to leave USA and lose the life once I had (TCKs can related to me, no?).  Recently I re-connected with Joe, a fellow alum of mine.  We were never really “friends” in college.  He was a friend of my now-strained friend and I met Joe only twice.  He is the man of “legend” – his GPA was 4.0 out of 4.0 for four straight years.  Yes, you read it correctly.  Of course he went to one of the best law school after his college graduation.  Then I did not get to hear about him – my friend became a part of history and Joe’s major was different from mine.  After all,  I wasn’t really interested anyway.

Now that I have been job searching in this depressing economy, the option for law school is certainly looming into reality much more vividly than before.  Fortunately I have connection with some lawyers with international background, and I’ve been asking them questions and such for more concrete planning.  After experiencing my post-college job plan failing (the potential employer, who was willing to sponsor my working visa, canceled everything at the last-minute), I care more about post-grad school than the grad school’s reputation.  Like I said before, I want to be away from Korea or big group of mono-Koreans after my higher degree.  While the information from lawyers are helpful, I also wanted to be advised from someone with more “fresh” experience of law school and the field.  Then Joe came across my mind.

I logged on to alumni directory website to find him.  But I did not know his last name, year of graduation and major.  So I asked my now-strained friend’s mom (her family and our family are still friends).  To my surprise she had no idea.  After many tries, I thought this is a sign and there’s no other choice than giving up.

Next day I logged on internet to find a bit more information about LSAT.   Among the search result, there was several news articles.  On one of those article, there was a picture of someone and that someone looked pretty familiar.  So I clicked it.  And….(Drumroll please) it was Joe.  That Joe whom I’ve been looking up for forever.  To my surprise he has been teaching in one of the best college in Korea for 8 months.  A Korean proverb goes, “the darkest part of room is right below of the lamp.”  Surely that is my case.  I went to the school’s website, got his e-mail address and sent him an e-mail.  So we agreed to meet on Sunday.

Well, there he was – still wearing like a college kid than “law school faculty.”  We had a good time, but I was pretty surprised to see how much he changed in terms of personality.

I met him for the second time in Seoul (when we were still in college).  That was my friend’s birthday and all these Korean kids called us up for celebrating her birthday…or, actually, use it as an excuse to drink the shit out.  I did not drink until I was 21 – I was there but did not drink.  Joe was there too.  Like most of Korean cluster, no one was talking to this “random white guy who clearly does not belong to our circle” and he was just sitting at the corner.  As someone who spent most of life in town that is white as snow, I felt bad for him.  So I decided to go ahead and talk to him.  Well, it was grand failure.  Clearly he does not know how to carry a good conversation.  Having a conversation is like playing a ping-pong.  You serve the ball and he/she should send it back.  I was serving the ball, but Joe was just saying “haha, right” and not sending any of my balls back to me.  That was one of the most frustrating moment of my life.  In summary, while I did acknowledge he is a good lad, he was socially inept.

So I was expecting pretty much same thing.  Lots of silent moments and awkwardness.

To my surprise, he was so very talkative.  Almost like someone has implanted a Ferrari engine on his mouth.  I like conversation but, boy.  It was so intense! For example, there is right moment for you to say something like “well, let’s get going” – when the raw material for conversation is running out, there is a short moment of silence and this is what you say at that moment.  I was deliberately waiting for this moment but there was none.  As we were walking, I expected some moment of silence (so I can relax a bit).  No, he was just non-stop talking.  If I was not talking, he would ask something – “so what did you do on your last job?” “wanna drop by the cafe? (for 2nd time)”  I was completely exhausted at the end of our day – I actually texted my mom, who was visiting my aunt at the area, for a help.  As I arrive my aunt’s house, my aunt said “you look really tired but as you step inside my home, your face was so happy.”  oops.

I did have a good time hanging out with him, and it is always a pleasure to spend time with expats here – not to mention ND alum!  But it was tiring.  And suprising.  So this very same guy, who sucked at carrying a good conversation, is uver-talkative after 4-5 years.  As I “report” the meeting to my mom, aunt and Annabel, they all said: he was hungry for decent conversation.  In English.

Oooh…..now I get it.

It’s not easy to live on your own in foreign country where the culture and language is drastically different.  When I was a high school student, there is a time where I spent the entire week without a good conversation.  On weekend, a clerk at local Express store said something nice – more than “your total is xx.xx” and “receipt in the bag?”  I think it was something about me.  It was really nothing, but I almost teared up (of course I did not burst out of tears at the Express store…no I would not).  At my college freshman year, I was really depressed.  It was like I am carrying a dark cloud over my head when everyone else is just so happy to be in college.  By then I was very used to passing my birthday just like another day.  All of sudden my friend visited my room with a piece of big brownie, singing happy birthday.  I still thank her and for sure I am not going to forget it until I die.

It is kinda funny that now I and they are in completely different position.  Now I’m in my home culture (technically) with family and I speak the language fluently.  But now my friends are in random alien country, away from family and lack the language skill.  I guess my experience starts to shine at the end.

Life does take strange turns.

How to do Interview in South Korea – 2

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Friday was my second job interview session.  For some reason the specialist guy was nicer than before, and one of the participant was just a living laughter buster (=continuously laughs out loud when she is nervous or frustrated) so I was able to enjoy it a bit more than last time.

If you are familiar with American style hiring process, you are rarely required to write a personal statement (unless you are applying for school).  There are companies asking for it, but majority of companies do not need this.  Instead you need to turn in your cover letter.  Sometimes you are asked to send your writing sample, or answer some more question in written format, no more than 2-3 questions.  Obviously, in South Korea, it’s completely different.  Depends on the place, you are required to make a hand-written copy of resume.  Sometimes the employer asks you to do so on the day of interview, at their office.  Why? So your employer can see how well do you handwrite.  It’s good that you have a nice handwriting, but does it really matter for fulfilling your duties as executive secretary?  Okay, if you have completely illegible handwriting, that might be a problem because your boss won’t be able to comprehend your memo.  However, if someone who is keen on time and great at organizing loses out just because she has a messy handwriting, that’s not only wrong but also unfair, in my opinion.  And if the handwriting is that much of a problem, she can be trained later on.

Almost all of Korean companies ask the candidate to write a paragraph or two on your job application.  Usually the categories are: self-introduction, challenges in your life (and how you dealt with it), your experience, your passion, and where you would be at after 10 years.  Now, you might start wonder…”but isn’t that supposed to be interview questions?”  Yes, I do think so, too.  And they do ask it in interview.  Now, if you are going to ask same questions twice, and if you know the answers will be pretty much reiterating the written answers, what’s the point? While I was thinking this and secretly sighing, the specialist guy added: “make sure you have a headline for each questions, before you write out your answers.”  Um…okay, why?  “Many interviewers don’t read your writings.  So, by placing headlines before your answers, you are informing them about what to ask.”

Okay, so all that writings of your blood and sweat are to be read only by HR staffs, but not by the interviewers.  You have to be so nice to tell them what to ask about you.   I understand that many of interviewers are not HR staffs but someone who will work closely with the candidate.  I also understand that majority of Korean companies don’t let you keep a good track of 9-to-6 but squeeze the life out of their employees, therefore many of them would not have time to take a good look at resume and personal statements.   If the company is to ask someone to be an interviewer, shouldn’t it allow the interviewer to have at least one good look of the application?

As we move along the road, one of the mock interview question was this: “how much can you drink?”

Yes, yes, you western readers of my blog, this is a totally nonsense interview question.  But to your surprise, it is quiet common for Korean employers to ask this to candidates.  A lot of “real deal” is based on after-work drinking, and participating the collective drinking session is deemed as a team spirit.  Many businessmen – especially salesperson who need to get the quota before due date, no matter what – ruin their health because of this drinking.  South Koreans finally started to take this as a quiet serious problem, but like anywhere of the world, change is always slow.  After all, this society doesn’t have much outlet for stress release for men, other than gamble, visiting shamans/evangelist pastor, drinking, and/or drinking at escort club, buying woman.

Back to my mock interview session.  I did not know what to answer.  I am allergic to strong alcoholic drinks, like straight vodka shot.  Unless it is diluted with juice or non-alcoholic beverage (like Screwdriver), and/or consumed slowly, disgusting red rash will cover my entire body with extreme itchiness, and for the next 3 months at most I will be forced to eat like a rabbit – no, not even a vegan.  I don’t say about my allergy a lot in States, because you are free to drink at your pace.  In Korea, the very common form of drink is Soju, which has like 20-45% alcohol, and people drink it as a straight shot, on and on.  You could probably tell that this isn’t my cup of drink, literally.  Well then, should I say “Barely, because of my allergy?”  I don’t know, because so many Koreans either laughed about my allergy, if not accusing me for making some silly excuse and bailing out from the great team-spirit session.  Thus I decided to ask the specialist guy – what would be the best answer for my situation?  Yes, some people laughed but now I’m used to it.

Then the specialist said: “Well, you can just say, ‘I don’t really enjoy the drink itself, but I do enjoy the social part of drinking.  And I light up the occasion.’  What they really want to know is how social you are.”

Connecting alcohol consumption with social – how very Korean is that.  Yet to be honest, I am not a fan of hoeshik, or company dinner (this is not your usual company dinner; I failed to find a good explanation, and this is the best I got).  And, it is possible to be a social person without massive shot drinking.  So I got even more confused.  I said, “but then I’m not telling the truth.”  The the specialist said, “who cares?  You can change your answers after you get the position.”  My jaw dropped and there was nothing more to say from me.

I did not have that uncomfortable feeling like last time.  Rather it made me think a bit about how everything I experienced and know about Korean society connect – and also shed some light on why I felt so uncomfortable when having an interview with Korean employer.  In States, the question means itself.  No tricks there.  The candidate can sugarcoat their answers, or just don’t bring up something that is disadvantageous to him/herself.  But the candidate is expected to be honest.  And as long as you can wrap some disadvantages and negatives as positivity, there shouldn’t be major problem.  If something of your answer turned out to be a lie, then that puts you into some serious trouble, possibly eliminating your future job options.

In South Korea, usually the question does not mean what is asked.  Like the Korean language and the Korean way of communication, it often has another question, just like the other side of moon.  I guess in western sense it can be called as ‘cheaing’ or ‘insincere.’  But in return, the candidates are allowed to lie to some degree.  As long as you can get the position, and as long as you are not lying about confirmable facts (schools, address, etc), who cares! Sometimes the ability to improvise a lie is complimented (to some degree I see the point here).  Maybe I am making too much of big deal out of a small thing, but it made me recall the majority of Korean students’ behavior back in my high school, and recent scandals on SAT exam in here.  Back in my high school, Korean boys were notorious for sneaking out and sharing past exams without permission (it was forbidden by school regulation, unless the teacher handed it out voluntarily with permission), and sharing the answers of assignment.  Their attitude was, “who cares as long as I get a nice big A?”   I still remember how they asked me to show my assignment to them on daily basis.  It’s no secret among American college admissions that Koreans’ TOEFL score is not very trustworthy: despite their near-perfect score, they can’t even write a decent paper, let alone talk with their professor.

Very recently, a big scandal on SAT exams shook the ETS and South Korea upside down.  So many SAT instructors here smuggled out the SAT questions, which is not allowed to be taken out from the testing site, and students bought it for the exam.  What a shame.

Sure, everyone wants to excel the exam and take the easy way.  But there are things called “fairness,” “integrity,” and “rules.”  It’s there to be kept by everyone.  In States, adhering to those values and respecting  the rules are valued and counted, even if your skills suck ass.  But in here, rules are generally seen as obstacle that can be beaten by tricks.  While integrity and fairness is respected in South Korea, it is respected to a lesser degree: you will find more people who disregard these values, saying “those who stick to honesty and fairness are idiots, kind of.”   Seriously, if Koreans can have a common respect of law and rules, I bet this country would be about twice better and foreigner-friendly then now.

I know this is all process of learning, and I try my best to think every step in positive way.  I know it will help me in the future.  I know, through this, I will be one of the very few people who can explain Korean culture well in English.  I know that being TCK is a kind of mission, which can improve the human races’ understanding to each other, and I also know I’m not the only one who is going through this.  But to be very honest, I am often tempted to give it all up, throw a middle finger to everything, and run away to a random grad school.   My headhunter said it is really nice that I speak fluent Korean and English.  I agree.  However also because of that, people just push it right on my face.