This is the trailer for the first Korean movie I ever saw. (Or was it Shiworae?) Its commercials looked sappy, but I found the theme song addictive.
A Millionaire’s First Love
I know a lot of you are shuddering. But goddammit, it made me cry.
But I do have some good films waiting in my apartment. And I’m looking for more KDramas. Any recommendations?
I had just finished shopping with Shelly in Dongdaemun and was sitting on the train when an elderly man turned to me and asked me why I was speaking in English.
At first I was startled, and pleased, because I still don’t understand what people are saying most of the time. But languages and nationalities are covered in the first few chapters of my Korean textbook, so I told him that no, I’m not Korean, I’m American.
He said my face looked Korean, so I added that I’m also Filipino.
“She’s an American,” he said, gesturing towards Shelly.
“No, she’s British,” I said.
Then he asked why I was speaking English. “Korean language, small,” I said in Korean. “Very sorry.”
“So many foreigners come to Korea,” he said. “People from America, Canada, France, Africa, England . . . and they don’t know Korean. They only speak English. Why?
“And you’re face . . .” he added, waving his hands over his own, “it’s Korean. Korean people, Filipino people, same-same.”
He didn’t address Shelly. This happens quite often, especially out of Seoul. Even after I tell people I’m a Filipino-American, they keep talking to me as if I’m a local, all while ignoring my non-Asian friends. And a few of my white friends actually have a better grasp of Korean than I do. It’s embarrassing sometimes.
“Speak Korean,” he told me. “Your English is so loud. My ears . . .!”
“I’m sorry, Grandfather,” I said, bowing.
“Did he just tell you off?” Shelly asked after we stepped off the train and caught a cab.
“Yeah,” I said, near tears. It wasn’t the first time I’d been lectured by an elderly person. A few months ago a little old woman told me not to date a Korean. “You American, you Filipino,” she’d said. “Go, marry, same man.”
But this was a little more troublesome, because it had occurred in a public place. And the truth was that in the past few weeks, I hadn’t studied the language. I’d been so busy with work, the new teacher and yoga that I had neglected my textbooks. I felt guilty.
“That was rude,” she said after I told the cab driver to head for Wal*Mart. “He didn’t know us. What if we were tourists?”
“Yeah, but he has a point. A lot of people don’t make an effort to learn the language or the alphabet, and it can be an inconvenience to others. Even if we were tourists, we should know enough to travel out of Seoul.”
We stopped near E-Mart. “This is the wrong place,” Shelly noted.
“No, they just changed the name,” I said, getting out of the cab. “This used to be the Wal*Mart Supercenter.”
It saddened me–when I first arrived in Korea, one of my first big outings had been to Wal*Mart. Going there had also been the first time I’d taken the bus all by myself.
It was the same shopping center, just with a different name. But Wal*Mart had been a link back to the states. Something western, in a sea of east.
“You look shattered,” Shelly told me after I’d taken a cart.
“I had a dream about my Taekwondo instructor last night. I don’t remember exactly what happened . . . just a lot of talking. And he spoke American English.”
“Why don’t you just see him?” she asked.
“Because it took me weeks to get over him, and I don’t want to put myself through all that again. We can’t date, and I can’t be friends without feeling torn up about it.”
“But you know enough Korean. I saw you talking to that old guy on the train for five minutes!”
“I only understood snippets of what he said. And I only know basic stuff, like how to order in restaurants and ask where the bathroom is.
“Look,” I snapped, “He made me happy. He made me happier than anyone in this entire country. And I still think about him. I . . . I still miss him. But it would be stupid to pursue any kind of relationship!”
“Okay, okay,” she said. “But I just think you underestimate yourself sometimes.”
Yesterday we held another birthday party for the students. I sat down and held Cathy in arms, while Sammy pat my back. Elly threw her arms around me and June tugged on my elbow.
“Teacher is my box,” Sammy said, resting his head in the small of my back. Tears filled my eyes, and I reached over to rub his hand.