The mute foreigner

I later learned that my father had an addiction problem. He was a drunk, an addict, and a gambler (a musician, some might say). Because he was in debt to Korean gangs/mobs, my father maxed out all of the credit cards, sold the apartment under our noses, bought a plane ticket, and fled to Australia. My mother fought all of the debt in court but most importantly for my custody. My father’s side of the family wanted me as I was the only heir to the family name (still very important for the traditional folks in Korea), but they were mostly terrible people. Since the 90 lbs woman couldn’t protect me from the kidnappers who’d hold me for random, I lived with my uncle in another city briefly. Apparently because things got worse in Korea, I was shipped off to the states to live with my aunt.

The Atlanta airport was HUGE. I had never seen anything so massive in my life. The best part of the arrival wasn’t seeing my aunt and uncle; it was riding in a stretch limo while getting a full view of downtown Atlanta, just like the movies. Anyways since blog is a story about Korea, here are some highlights:

  • My aunt had 2 girls: 1 mean, 1 nice
  • I got put into a public school without knowing any English
  • I had an academic rival named Kenji (go figure, a Japanese kid)
  • I learned about nursery rhymes that kids are religiously taught in the states
  • I got a bloody nose in school and couldn’t explain it to the teacher by saying “Blood! Nose!”
  • I ran away from home and got my ass beat by my uncle (25x metal ruler edge on knuckles)
  • I didn’t miss my parents
  • I saw a hamster eat its own young
  • I “helped” my mean cousin house-sit by letting a cat named Miracle trip the house alarm because I wanted to pick the lock
  • I made a friend named Jack who had a basement full of toys and video games including a Pac-Man arcade machine
  • I learned to speak English (2nd grade level) and to play the piano
  • I thought that penis was spelled and pronounced “pee-nuts”
  • Teachers wanted me to skip a grade

Fast forward 1 year, and I’m back in Korea with my mother. The next couple of years were the happiest moments of my childhood – arguably my life. We lived in a neighborhood called 신월동. I lived in Apartment 1 and still remember the landline # (697-7790). It was a typical neighborhood with multiple highrise apartments, a park in the center (well, more like a dirt field with a gazebo), and convenience stores by the highway. I attended a school called 강월국민학교 (now, 강월초등학교) and came into the 2nd semester of 2nd grade.


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