Friday, January 14, 2011


"‘Cause we all just wanna be big rockstars
And live in hilltop houses driving fifteen cars"
-Nickelback lyrics from "Rockstar"

I can honestly say I haven't dreamed of being a rockstar since I was 15 and in love with Air Supply. However, being a Caucasian in an Asian country such as Korea sort of puts you in a position of "rockstar." Let me explain. . .

We were warned. We were told people would stare at us and want to touch us and take our picture. So we knew. But we didn't KNOW.

Upon several occasions, our kids have had their pictures taken by complete strangers. It usually goes something like this; we're in a subway station waiting for a train or in a store standing talking about something or at a tourist destination enjoying the view when a group of 3 - 5 teenage girls approach us giggling. They'll look at the kids' hair and giggle some more. Pretty soon one will come closer and use their best English to ask if they can have their picture taken with the kids. We always oblige. Sometimes they want us in the picture, too. (It's amazing how Koreans seem to carry their cameras with them 24/7.)

It goes without saying now when we go somewhere in public that at least one older gentleman or lady will pet Alec's hair. Once a week an older woman will insist that Anna take her seat, be it on bus or subway. (Elders are supposed to take priority for seating on public transportation.)

Also, whenever we enter the elevator in our building with kids between, say, seven and eleven years old, invariably they'll meekly utter "Hiyeee [hi]." When we smile and say hi back, they'll burst into giggle fits as if saying "They're spoke to me!"

All this unwarranted attention could go to one's head! Yet, I never thought about the movie star analogy until a cabdriver told me that anytime a Caucasian woman gets in his cab he feels like he's seated next to a movie star. (I'm sure he told all his buddies that night that he drove us around.)

But here's the crowning story.

One day I took the kids to a local outdoor park. I was just standing enjoying the scenery when a Korean young man about college age approached. He said hello and asked me if I spoke Korean. I told him no. He then tried his best to explain what he wanted. "Can I get a picture of your kids?" he asked. (Here we go again.) "Sure." But he wanted something else, as well. He pulled out a small wipe board and a black marker. (This is new.) His English was a bit rough, but eventually he managed to communicate that he wanted ME to write a love message to his girlfriend on the board.

I was surprised, but amused by his romantic gesture. "Are you wanting to ask her to marry you?"

"No. No!" he said.

"Do you want to tell her you love her?"


"How about something like, 'I enjoy spending time with you.'"

"Yes!" he says. So I write the message. "Put some hearts on it too," he says.

Finally the message is done. He takes out a camera.

"Do you want me to take a picture of you with the message?" I ask.

"Yes," he nods, "but can I have your children in the picture, too?"

(There you go!) So, somewhere in Korea there is a young lady with a picture of her boyfriend holding a board with my handwriting saying "I enjoy spending time with you. Love, --------" and a few hearts while my children stand in front of him smiling.

No one has asked for autographs yet, but there's still time!

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