Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Preparing for Korea

It's official.  I am going to South Korea, and I am stoked.  I received my visa at the Korean Consulate in Houston last Friday.  Although I was worried going into the interview, people told me it would be a painless process, and it was.  I walked in, and it sort of had the feel of a doctor's office.  I had to check in with the hot receptionist, and sit in a waiting area for an amount of time, where there was a large selection of K-Mags (korean magazines).  Every time the door opened, and the lady stuck out her head, everybody looked up in anticipation hoping their name would be called.  Well my name was eventually called, and I was led to a dark conference room where the consulate was sitting.  He was younger than I expected, probably in his early forties, with above average height for a Korean, and slim.  He was very polite and well spoken, as he apologized for having us drive so far for the interview.  He asked in a Korean accent, "I noticed you have visited Korea before, where did you visit?"

"We spent most of our time in Hongdae, and spent 3 days in Jeju Island."  He smiled as I mentioned Jeju, and I knew I was in.

"Your middle name is Choi.  Are you aware that it is a Korean name?"

"Yes.  My mother is Korean."

"Do you speak Korean?"  

"No sir," I answered.

"So you haven't been around many Koreans growing up."

"The Koreans that I have been around growing up were my Aunt, my Uncle, and friends of my Mother.  And they were fluent in english."

He then told me what he knew about Koreans in metro New Orleans, asked me if I had any serious contagious diseases, and also if I had ever been addicted to alcohol, or any narcotics.  He continued, "I am going to let you in, and you will probably find that you like it, so it should be easy to obtain subsequent visas if you decide to stay.  I want you to learn all you can about Korea.  You are half Korean after all, and I want you to visit as many places in Korea as you can.  You will find that Koreans love Americans, but there are some that don't, so don't let that determine your opinion."

He wished me well, and led me back to the waiting area where I received my visa in the form of a sticker on my passport.

I am leaving for Gwangju, South Korea on Thursday, March 31 at 7:30pm.  Tomorrow will be my last full day in Louisiana for at least a year.  Tomorrow night will be the last time I sleep in my comfortable queen sized bed.  Obviously I am going to miss my family and friends.  That goes without saying.  But I am also going to miss fried seafood, steaks, poboys, boiled crawfish, bbq shrimp, and Zapp's potato chips. I am going to miss jambalaya and gumbo with a random obscurely brand named sausage made in Louisiana as one of the key ingredients.  I am going to miss Jazz Fest, especially now that Wilco is playing.  I am going to miss watching the Saints and LSU football live, and experiencing the passion of the Who Dat Nation and tiger fans in Louisiana first hand.  I am going to miss First United Methodist Church in Slidell, and being a part of Refiner's fire.  There will be a lot that I will miss.

My Mom, her friends, my aunt, and my uncle all know very little about Gwangju.  Most of their time living in Korea was spent in Daegu and Seoul, and all they were able to say about Gwangju was that they passed through it.  What will my place look like?  What kind of students will I teach?  How will my coworkers and superiors act towards me? How will I make friends?  What kind of food will be available?  Where will I attend church?  How difficult will the language barrier be?  Each of these mentioned uncertainties, among others, are enough to invoke fear in those who are afraid of the unknown, but I seem to always embrace it with excitement.  What if I taste the best thing that I have ever eaten?  What if I make several life long friends?  What if I fall in love?  What if I come to a greater understanding of who I am as an American of Korean Descent?

I am excited about living in Korea.  


  1. Chris, I am so excited for you to be able to take the journey. I hope that it is an amazing experience and that you love every minute of it! I can't wait to read all about it.


  2. nice to see another halfie here.

    if you have FB here's a group that might interest you.