Saturday, July 2, 2011

"There are no boats in Korea"

Alec commented to my sister, "Why are there so many boats in your neighborhood?"
She responded, because in Minnesota there are a lot of lakes and people go boating.
"There are no boats in Korea," he said.

We're straddling cultures, aren't we?

A year ago when we announced we were moving to Korea, so many people commented how "good living in Korea would be for the kids" and "what a wonderful way to expand their world view."  Sure.  Of course, I thought.

Now that we are spending our summer break back in the Mid-west of the US, I'm getting it.  My kids know and understand life as a Mid-westerner (Walmart, fast food, rolling hills, long car rides, back yard BBQ, a day at the lake, eating with forks and knives, blending in as a member of the majority).  But they also know and understand life as an ex-pat in Seoul (apartment living, public transportation, walking and biking paths, listening to and learning Korean, eating with chopsticks and a spoon, and sticking out as a minority).

My kids know that there are no boats in Seoul.

My kids also know what kimchi is, the view from a 15th floor apartment, what a Buddhist temple looks like and sounds like, that not everyone is Christian in the world, that not everyone lives in houses with lots of stuff, that there are no pickup trucks in Seoul, that you give up your seat for someone older when on the subway, that milk is 4000 Won for a litre, that little Korean children are cuter than the dickens, that Korean saunas are separated by gender and that everyone is naked.  Sure, they could have read all of that in a book somewhere, but now they KNOW it.  And this fact means that they are now straddling cultures.

We've been blessed tremendously this past year; we've been able to show our children the Ice Festival of Harbin, China, the Terra Cotta Soldiers of Xi'an, China and the Great Wall.  They've eaten Beijing Duck in Beijing, and they've seen the Beijing Acrobats. .  .in Beijing.  They've lounged on the beach in the Philippines and snorkled in the water there.  All these things are amazing to say, I know.

But I'll tell you something just as amazing.  My kids have seen the rolling hills of Southwestern Wisconsin and Amish buggies, and hummingbirds so close you can hear that they sound like bumblebees.  They've eaten the best apple pie I've ever tasted (I may be biased, but everyone I know agrees that my mom's is the best).  They've fed rainbow trout in their Grandpa's pond and fished them out.  They've eaten at a drive-in restaurant where the waitress arrives on rollerskates.  They've experienced every missed holiday in a matter of a week! 

My kids know how to swim in a pool or lake, as well as an ocean.  They know how to find pretty rocks in the freshwater stream and drink the water.  They've seen beautiful horses and cows and have eaten World winning Wisconsin cheeses and Amish maple syrup.  They've eaten wild strawberries and "dug for gold".  They know what it is to meet great-aunts and uncles, second cousins, and cousins once-removed.  They have been surrounded by everyone who loves them from grandparents to great-grandparents, to aunts and uncles, and cousins.  Even a birth-family!

So this is what it is to straddle cultures and "expand their world view."

I'd have it no other way.

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