I was woken up this morning by noisy neighbors screaming in English!! It felt really strange. I lived in an apartment in Korea, so I was used to noisy neighbors, but if I was woken by noisy neighbors, they were yelling in Korean. To hear English being screamed randomly in my sleep this morning gave me pause. It just didn’t feel normal. It made me think of other strange things that I have felt since I have left Korea.
I was actually shocked at myself when we were on the plane coming to America. The stewardesses were coming by. I was accustomed to only speaking English to people I knew well, and everyone else got Korean out of me. It was just the way I did things in Korea because most people didn’t speak English. When the stewardess came by on the plane, I needed to talk to her, and I blurted out what I wanted to say in Korean, and then I looked up, and she was American and didn’t understand a word I said. I felt silly. I didn’t know her, and she spoke English!!
Yesterday, I was enjoying something I could never do in Korea. I began pulling my car out of its parking space to pull it out of the parking lot, and it was wonderful! I had all the space I needed to turn around without even thinking about where other cars were because there were only two other cars in the whole parking lot!! It felt good and strange. I knew that would never have happened in Korea. In Korea, the parking lot would have been packed in very small sparking spaces one car right after another, as close together as they could be, and there wouldn’t be much room to back out either. There may even be cars parked in front of other cars that had been left in neutral in case they were in the way when another driver came out, so they could be pushed out of the way. However, yesterday, the parking lot was almost vacant, and turning my car around was a breeze! I was so happy, and it felt strange!
I have also realized something else since coming here. My daughter took a test to work at WalMart, and she failed it. She said after she failed it, it looked like they wanted someone who was more pushy and confrontational than she was. She guessed she had a Korean personality because it just wasn’t in her to do the things that were supposed to be the right answers. I remembered the first time I went to Japan, and I fit so well it was crazy! I was shy. I wasn’t pushy at all. I was polite and kind. I have always been the kind of person that gets pushed around in in America because I can’t hurt someone else purposefully. In America, you have to learn to stand up for yourself, but in Korea and Japan, the only people who stand up for themselves are the ajumas (old pushy Korean women) or just some of the old people in general in both Korea and Japan. I am not as shy as I used to be, but I still try to be polite and kind. I still never hurt someone one purpose. I am glad I am not pushy because that is one of the things that has made me successful in other countries. I can learn to do things someone else’s way. I don’t insist on my way, and that has made it easier for me to live in other countries than it is for many other people. I don’t get pushed around in America anymore because I stay away from people who try to push me around. I have learned to stand up to them, and they don’t like it when I don’t do just whatever they want, and they don’t want to be around me anymore.
I also realized something else that is strange for me about living in America last night. I was watching an American TV show, and they were acting like it was just normal for people to sleep together when they are dating. However, I am a Christian, and I have never done it. I know that many Americans model their lives after what they see on TV because there are even people in my family who have. However, I don’t. There are Americans who try to model their lives after what they read in the Bible, and that is what I do. When I was growing up, at first, no one went to church at our house. Later, I walked to Bible classes with my sister that our French teacher was teaching in Morocco. After that, when we came back to America, my mother became a Christian. My dad thought it was good for all of us to go to church, but he didn’t go. He said he wanted us to learn the difference between right and wrong, but he didn’t want us to take it too seriously because he wanted us to fit in the American society. Well, I took Christianity seriously. I couldn’t really be a Christian without taking it seriously. I believe in God and Christ. I try to conduct my life right. I would never cheat, not even in a game. I don’t believe in sleeping with people I am not married to like they do on TV. I think acting gay is a sin. I think getting drunk or getting high on drugs is a sin. I think cussing is a sin. I know there are many around me in America who just model their lives after what they see on TV and think those things are fine, but I know that where I have been living, the people on TV are not allowed to act that way. They are out of a job if they are in the public eye and do those things. The general population in Korea has higher morals than the general population in America or other English speaking countries. I remember having an argument with a guy from South Africa because he thought it was okay to live with someone you aren’t married to, and I thought it was wrong, and he kept saying, “You have the moral high ground.” I am a Christian, and America is not a Christian society. However, about 50% of the Koreans professed Christianity, and they still thought those things were wrong that are accepted by many in the American society. In fact, the morals of most of the countries where I have lived are higher than they are in America. That makes it hard in America. However, I would rather live in a place like Oklahoma because the morals here are higher than in other parts of America. My dad used to say he thought I had the morals of his grandmother. He wanted me to live in the modern age, but some things are right to me and others are wrong. I have taken Christianity seriously. I don’t believe in the “if it feels good, do it” philosophy that came from the hippies into America. I feel better around people in America who are truly practicing Christians, and not just those who talk about God, but don’t actually do it.
On the TV show, they have a character that just is not what a Christian is, but they have characterized her as a Christian. She is severe and mean to other people. She sleeps around just like the rest of them, but she calls other women “mattresses” thinking they sleep around, but forgets that she also does. Those things are not Christian at all. I think the writers of that show really don’t know what Christians really are.
We are living in an efficiency apartment that is the same size as the apartment we had in Korea. The only differences are that the apartment in Korea was divided into very small rooms, and this one is one big room, and our kitchen here is bigger than our kitchen in Korea. My daughter feels like Americans are going to find her strange because the efficiency apartment is acceptable to her, and the Americans we know all live in nice big, luxurious houses. One of the reasons we came here because we want more space, and we will eventually live in a larger place, but initially, it is okay with us to live in a small place. Where we are living was made for just one person, but we are two, and it doesn’t bother us.
Back to the language thing, we were in a store one day standing in line to buy our things. We were in a conversation, and it seemed everyone around us were listening and understanding. In Korea, we could have conversations wherever we wanted, and more likely than not, people around us didn’t understand, but I have had to caution my daughter about conversations in public here because everyone understands when we speak.
We ran into a Korean lady in an office one day here, and we were excited and both of us began speaking in Korean to her at once, and she looked at us, and just walked away. My daughter was reminded of the Koreans who spoke English who tried to use their English on us, and how much they bothered her. She said she didn’t want to be like that in America toward the Koreans, but she is happy to get to speak Korean because she became accustomed to speaking Korean, but now, there are very few people around who speak Korean. I am actually happy to have it easier to communicate. I speak Korean, but not as well as my daughter since she speaks like a native speaker of Korean and I only carry on conversations and teach classes in Korean. I have missed speaking Romanian. When we first came back from Romania, I used to translate everything I heard in English to Romanian in my head because I was used to translating for everyone, but I didn’t have to translate for anyone anymore. Settling down to one language is hard. I have been listening to the radio in Spanish because it is more fun than listening in English.
We will adapt, and after a while, things won’t seem strange to us. Hearing people we don’t know speaking English will become normal again. After a while, the larger parking spots will no longer seem such a luxury. However, we will never back down on our Christian principles no matter what so many people in the American population think. We saw a Buddhist temple yesterday in Del City, Oklahoma. It was a strange sight because of where it is. We visited with Buddhists in Korea and Japan, and I am tempted to drive back over there and see who they are at the Buddhist temple.