Lost in a wilderness between 2 countries

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Lost in a wilderness between 2 countries

At 6:40 in the morning, I wake up, quickly munch my piece of toast with milk, get changed into my Abercrombie clothes and head out the door. I get on my school bus and head for the Seoul International School, where I take biology, general literature, world history and other classes taught entirely in English (except for Spanish, of course).
When I return home, another side of my life is turned on. I eat bean-paste soup, galbi and rice for dinner and watch Korean dramas like “Lovers in Paris.” I hum along with BoA’s new song and laugh at Kim Je-dong’s jokes in “Yashim Manman.”
I have an American passport and speak English pretty fluently. But I have black hair, brown eyes and I look totally Asian. I used to proudly categorize myself as a person with two identities. However, as I grew a bit older and got to experience life, I began to see myself differently. I began to look at myself as a “nobody” who didn’t belong to either society.
Living here in Seoul as a Korean teenager with an American upbringing, I find myself getting a lot of attention from native Koreans. Once, while chatting with friends as we walked down the street, I unconsciously tossed out an English word. Suddenly, all eyes on the street were focused on me. They stared at me.
Another time, I was in the subway reading “Catch 22.” When I started reading the book without any difficulty, I again became the center of attention.
At first, my uniqueness started to arouse curiosity in people. However, they later gave me disapproving looks that read, “Who is that girl? Is she Korean or American?” They probably realized better than myself that I somehow didn’t fit perfectly into either society.
Similar things happen to me when I travel to Western countries, like the States. I may be capable of speaking with everyone, but they still give me a look that I somehow don’t belong there. Their eyes are rested on my Asian, exotic looks, before they even get to know me.
I admit there are advantages to living with both cultures inside of me. I can enjoy whatever I like about each culture and mix them up proportionally as I want. However, I have lost a sense of who I am.
When others are so full of patriotism, I am lost in the wilderness between the two lands. I don’t know which way to go; if I move one step toward one side, the other world will completely fall apart. Now that the Olympics are here, I’m stuck in deep contemplation again, whether to cheer for the Koreans or the Americans.


by Janet Shin
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