Torn among 3 continents, but home is found in KoreaI am in another Seoul taxi. I tell the driver my destination, and off we go on another linguistic adventure. This fellow happens to be the talkative sort. He can tell by my accent that I am no native speaker of Korean.
“Where are you from?” he asks in Korean.
Just to keep things simple, I tell him I am from New York.
“You speak excellent Korean,” he says.
I tell him my father is Korean.
Yes. My father. A lot of Koreans seem surprised by that. I guess most biracial kids here have Korean mothers and foreign fathers.
“Where did you learn to speak Korean so well?” he asks. I tell him I had a teacher when I was younger.
“Do you live here?”
A tough question. I tell him I used to. I say that I went to a foreign school (explaining the flaws in my Korean), and that I go to a boarding school in the United States now. I tell him that I am here during a school vacation.
“Did you watch the World Cup?” he asks.
“Of course I did.”
“Did you root for Korea or America?”
“Korea, Italy and Brazil,” I say.
He asks why.
“My father is Korean and my mother is half Brazilian, half Italian,” I say.
“So, do you like Korea or America?”
I tell him I prefer Korea.
Being mixed really is a mixed blessing. Somehow I fit into three ethnic groups on three separate continents. But at the same time I do not truly fit anywhere. Americans will always see me as Korean, or Brazilian or Italian. Koreans will always see me as a foreigner. And no matter where I am, my introverted nature makes it hard to fit in.
But because of America’s so-called “melting pot,” I am less of an oddity there than I am in Korea.
In fact, no one in the States really seems very interested in my heritage. A friend of mine at school did not even know my ethnic background until he asked where I would be staying during vacation.
“You live in Korea? Since when?” he asked me.
“Since a year after I was born,” I said.
“So your dad is military?” he asked.
“No, he is Korean,” I told him.
“I thought you were a Mexican!” he said.
“Wait ? North or South Korean?”
I just rolled my eyes.
You know there is something wrong when a cab driver, after spending just 20 or 30 minutes with you, knows more about you and your family than your friends do.
by Alex Sull
Mr. Sull is a student at a U.S. high school.