Saturday, May 22, 2010
A couple of weeks ago, I had the opportunity to talk with Pulitzer Prize winning author Junot Diaz. We talked about his book The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao which deals with a story of an immigrant family from Dominican Republic and our immigrant experiences. We both agreed that designating a place, or wanting to identify with a group to feel a sense of home were futile. Home for immigrants is like holding sand in your hand. The moment you loosen your grip, it falls through the cracks between your fingers. But to my surprise, he did have a way to consolidate that nebulous experience of home. He said it is only through loving and being loved that you finally find a home. His book portrays an immigrant family searching for love for the express purpose of finding a home. I haven't read the book yet but is in my list of books to read. Maybe I will find some closure to my identity quest as a Korean-American.
Here are some quotes from his interview on our show.
"As far as being an immigrant, I have a lot of students, friends who are Korean, Korean-descents who immigrated to the States. I have friends who did the reverse-immigration from United States back to Korea... Being an immigrant is probably the hardest thing a young person can ever do. Nobody is happy to see an immigrant, no matter what they say. No matter what the success of the immigrant... you could be the most powerful actor, be the most amazing sports figure but being an immigrant is a difficult thing. Countries don't want to have to admit that they are so poor or weak that they have to send people abroad. And other countries don't want to admit that they are receiving people. They want to hide that they need to get people. We don't meet anyone's myth or make anyone's sense of themselves easy. And I would argue that for me, being an immigrant was a great experience. It was difficult; it was wonderful. It was exciting; it was alarming. But if [you know a young] immigrant, I promise you [he/she] has worked very hard just to be normal."
"Feeling like a guest in two countries makes you appreciate the concept of home. [It]makes it obvious, makes it clear in your head the way nothing else has. I really believe in home now the way I never did."
Wednesday, May 19, 2010
Today we had Tai-sik Lee, a civil engineer, on our show to talk about his collaboration with NASA to build a shelter and highway on the moon. This project will be completed by 2020 for the purpose of importing helium 3 to earth. The process of transporting helium 3 is projected to be completed by 2025. Helium 3 will be used as an alternative source of energy. Imagine how that is going to change the world. Very cool, eh?
Monday, May 10, 2010
1. People don't say "excuse me" or "I am sorry" when they bump into you in public. It really annoyed me at first but one of my American friends looked at it differently. She said Korean people don't make a big fuss about bumping into each other in crowded places. They don't get offended over that. It made me re-think the whole thing.
2. Looks are considered much more important in Korea than in the States. You see women in heels everywhere even in the rain and snow. Plastic surgery advertisements are all over the subway, on buses, vending machines, and on restroom doors at an eye-level when you sit to do your business. It seems like people judge who you are much more by the way you look than anything else. But I did notice that people (especially women because I don't really pay attention male fashion) are more trendy than stylish. Most people seem to just follow what looks good on celebrities and ask the plastic surgeons to make them look like the actress so-and-so. Is it the lack of individuality that was bred into the Korean mentality? (I feel like some Korean feminist is going to shoot me for writing this.) Who knows, but I think it makes a good topic for cultural study.
3. Korean work ethic and politics: Koreans are workaholics. I am sure many don't want to be, but the infrastructure of Korean businesses and corporations are carved out to make people work long hours--unnecessarily long. One time we had company dinner (and they usually go for a loooong time) and our boss wanted to take us to karaoke afterward. I was tired and didn't want to go, but I was told I should because if I didn't, I might be branded as the "disobedient and arrogant" Korean American who didn't respect the ways of Korean business culture. For two seconds, I vacillated on the fence of "Do I just go and conform?" or "Do I say hell with it and vindicate my independence with a huff?" Then my dad's voice came saying "Be respectful, remember you are Korean no matter how American you think you are, your history is deeply rooted in your Motherland..." Like an obedient daughter I agreed to go but felt a little bit like a sell-out.
4. Korean women are small and thin. The biggest shoe size here maxes at 8.5. and you can't get clothes that are bigger than size 8 or 10. If you want bigger clothes and shoes, you have to go to Itaewon, a town for foreigners, or get them made.
5. In the subway restrooms there are what they call "modesty buttons." They are used when you have to go do some noisy no. 2s. You push the button and through a small speaker comes the noise of either a flushing toilet or a sound of birds chirping. I personally prefer the birds chirping. It makes a forest out of a potential thunder bucket. In Korea, when nature calls, the forest responds.
Tuesday, May 4, 2010
Last week, I met an Italian jazz pianist Giovanni Mirabassi and talked about the music industry. Today I met a cute Korean-German classical pianist, Christopher Park and got free tickets to see his recital this weekend. I also met Sumi Jo's music producer this morning. Next Monday, I will meet the Pulitzer Prize winning author, Junot Diaz and will talk about his novel "The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao". That same week, I will meet a Korean scientist who is collaborating with NASA to build a shelter on the moon. The week after that, I will be entertaining the Washington State Senator Paul Shin. I love my job.