Yesterday, fellow adoptee and UIUC alumna Beth played “undercover Koreans” in the Sinchon/Hongdae area.
Beth took me to Loving Hut, which is a vegan restaurant chain in Seoul.
After lunch, we wandered over to the Hongdae area, which is filled with so many Korean hipsters. Except, here, they’re not hipsters, they’re just Korean college students. It was refreshing to see all the fashion after the standard collegiate uniforms at UVA and UIUC.
The amount of stuff in Seoul is truly overwhelming.
Hongdae is apparently the artsy university. It was kind of shocking to see a large amphitheater in the middle of Seoul:
Beth doesn’t speak any Korean, except for what she has picked up in the last ten months. I can’t imagine what that would be like; her progress and acclimation is really impressive.
It is not always apparent what word adoptees should use to describe themselves here. When we speak, we are immediately identified as non-native, but our lack of language seems to be initially perplexing, if not irritating, to native Koreans. Upon SooHyun’s recommendation, I have been using “foreigner” (외국인) to describe myself because “American” (미국사람) can be interpreted as “second-generation Korean-American who didn’t learn the mother tongue.”
On the other hand, using “adoptee” (이뱡아) apparently elicits [unnecessary] sympathy. Beth said that there’s an eye clinic in Seoul that gives away a number of free Lasik eye surgery procedures each year to adoptees. Instead of retrospective sympathy, I think it’s better if Koreans change their attitude towards unwed mothers, encouraging a climate where they can raise their own children. It seems like things are slowly moving in that direction, but I can’t say for sure.
There I go again, making cultural judgments….
Things I learned today:
이뱡아 – adoptee