Happy New Year!
In a few weeks, all calendars will have recognized the transition to a new year. I returned from our winter holiday in the tropics on the first day of 2012. Somewhere in the Pacific Ocean, the new year rang in on the East Coast.
January 1 is a big day for Koreans. It took me a while to get and appreciate the importance of why my now Korean American husband had to get up way too early to go and celebrate the day with his family. While dating though, it made celebrating the New Year’s day a little anticlimactic. Wanting to share the day with the one I love and spending most of it alone was not so fun.
I enjoy it more now. Aside from the great food, the kids get into it with the whole sebe thing (bowing to the elders and getting money in exchange). There are some traditions we have incoporated into our lives. This one, I really cherish. So, we dragged our tired butts to Grandma and Grandpa’s house practicing the very long phrase (nine Korean syllables to the English three). The bowing was rather humorous but I am glad we went. It meant alot to the grandparents.
It still trips me up when anything Korean is incorporated into my daily life. 10 years ago, such a morning would not have existed for me. I think about all the Korean people doing the same thing as we did, as I would have done my entire life, if only…And now, it feels so natural.
I have made my rounds of calls and text messages to Korea – Umma and brother, YJ (my little from the orphanage), George’s cousin. Last call was to Sun, my dear friend. We laugh a lot to fill in the spaces for words we do not know in our respective languages and our Konglish is something no one else can understand. I always go in another room and make sure she is home so she is not embarrassed to talk to me. Anyone listening on her end would think she is completely mad or something.
We have known each other for exactly 18 years this week. Our first time together was sitting vigil all day and night at Kangnam hospital for a boy who got hit by a car on new year’s day just outside of the orphanage. No doctor would come to see this boy who had no money and no family to speak for him. My American cash could not sway any of them to come out in the wickedly bitter cold to address his medical needs. Luckily, the man who owned the car was wealthy (an imported Volvo speaks volumes) and he was able to gain the boy admittance to a great hospital in Seoul two days later.
Kangnam hospital is a Catholic Hospital and at the time I was a practicing Catholic. Sun is Buddhist. All night long we exchanged dictionaries and had the deepest most profound conversation about religion – what we believed in, who we prayed to, why we prayed, should we pray. We talked about the irony of our budding friendship at a time of great stress having witnessed the hardhearted to the compassionate in just a couple of days. She concluded that my presence in her life was enough reason for her to believe in my God. Her presence in my life at that moment confirmed for me my faith in humanity. My relationship with God was forever changed and I have not been a practicing Catholic for a long time.
We are ajummas (colloquialism for old married women) now with children of our own. But hearing Sun’s voice makes me feel young, happy and loved. She continues to remind me of the goodness in others.
I don’t make resolutions but I try. This year, I will try to remember I don’t have to work so hard at loving and accept that everyone really does the best they can.