Monday, December 17, 2012

Back in America: The First Week

When you hear me talk about America for the next couple... months, you can expect honesty.  I have had mixed feelings about America for a while, I have been in a different culture for 16 months and I now have a different country and system to compare America to.  I'm able to see things more objectively, but I am also terrible biased towards Korea and against America at this time.

I want you to know that I am not planning on having these negative feelings forever.  I hope that I'm able to work through them and reconcile them soon.  I do know that this will take time, grace and understanding, not just on my part, but from the people around me, as well.

With all that said...

My first steps off of the plane in Atlanta, I already had a disgusted look on my face.
"America.  Ugh.  Non-Asian people.  Ugh.  English.  Ugh."

(I told you I was going to be honest.)

My second day in the States, I went with my mother to a Kroger's grocery store.  "The American store," I called it.  (I even used American money!)  Everything stood out to me as "American."  The American people, the American language, the American way old people have white hair and wear pastels...  It all seemed very "other."  Reading what I'm typing now allows me to see that I was separating myself from what was around me.  It wasn't my culture, it was America's culture.  And it was weird.

Okay, okay, not weird.  Just different.  Unfortunately, I was not having the best attitude about everything, and I let myself think it was weird. I thought it especially weird when a young employee asked me in a thick Southern accent, "Can I hep ya fahnd so'm?"  I'm so serious right now.  It took me 3 seconds to hear him, translate, register what he'd said, come up with a response, and then bring myself to say it."  "Could you point me in the direction of the Lactaid, please?"  Geeze.

Prejudices against the South in particular were quickly added to my issues.

My second full day in America, my parents and I went to the Dekalb Farmer's Market.  It is a large international market with not so many Korean foods but many foods from all over the world.  There were also people from all over the world!  I was in a group of expats again!  I felt comfortable and like I belonged!  It was a nice break from... from being with only white people.

I said it.

It's been strange to me to be around so many white people.  I live in a predominantly white town.  Through my current filter, I tend to see the majority of the people here as perfectly fitting the Southern white stereotype.  It's not fun for me.  Everyone looks the same.  Everyone seems to have the same priorities.  I don't even know these people, and I'm making judgments about them and their worth!  How awful!

This is what I've come back to, unfortunately.  I assure that I'm working on it, but it not easy.  Breaking down something that feels very much like racism usually doesn't happen overnight.  It's especially complicated because I am of the same race as the people I cringe about.  This is messed up, man.  Messed up.

My stomach had serious problems adjusting to American food.  I had no appetite whatsoever for a long time and got food poisoning.  I was jet lagged for a solid week, but only for a solid week.  After sleeping from 2am - 9pm on my first Saturday, the next day say me completely adjusted to Eastern standard time.  Actually, I felt like I'd lost some kind of battle when I finally adjusted.  I felt like I wasn't Korean anymore.  (Gosh, this has been a blast...)

These are the musings I've collected from my first week.  I had a blast surprising my boyfriend on his birthday, I took a short trip to see my best friends in Virginia, and to see my sister and other friends in Tennessee.  I was able to sleep in like I haven't been able to in 18 months.  Not having any responsibilities has been a nice break from the Seoul work life.  It hasn't been all hard, but a lot of it has been hard.

There's more to come, and I promise that it won't all be negative.  I promise, I promise.  In fact, there are some great developments I can't wait to share with you when I get around to talking about the third week of being back.

If you have any advice, counsel, or sympathy, I'd love to hear it.  One of the best things in all this has been listening to people who have experienced it before me.  They tell me over and over that the readjustment takes time.  I'm starting to believe them.  I'm much better than those first steps off the plane.  If you have anything else to share, I'm all ears.

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