After waking up from dreaming about you and half expecting to see you outside my window for about a week and a half, I’m starting to believe the last four months really were just a dream . . . I mean, things really didn’t exactly turn out the way I had expected and now that I’m home, you seem even farther away than before!
Growing up, I had always dreamt of seeing you again and have my parents to thank for practically making me take advantage of so many opportunities to get to know you. By the time I was in high school, I had read so much about you and fell so in love with your music that I had the nerve to say that I knew all about you . . . Even though my knowledge of your language was quite elementary, I felt as if I were more “Korean” than “American.” I think if you had seen me then, you would have either been disgusted or quite proud of the baby Hye Young (the name you gave me) you sent away on a plane. ^^;;
When I entered college, however, my love for you had cooled as I learned more about life and started to find my place in society. However, I had promised my three-year-old self, known as Sammie, that I would spend a semester with you, and so, after an uphill battle, I went . . .
I don’t know what I was expecting, but even though I had grown out of little Sammie’s grand fantasies about you, I couldn’t help but be a little disappointed. I mean, don’t take this the wrong way, but your tourist ads of a highly technological first-world society are kind of misleading—not everyone can spy on their kids via cell phone ^^;; Not that you’re third-world either! Oh no . . . yes, you have your poor spots, but so does every country . . . No, I’d gladly say that you’re second-world. ^^
Now, the boys were a WHOLE other issue—I mean, come on, do you really have to encourage skinny jeans and tight shirts for men?? I must say, I did really like how you made me wear heels though . . . Would you believe that before I visited you, I was made fun of for my inability to walk in one-inch heels?? Now I can rock your adorable 2 or 3 inch heels all day! (boo-yah! ^^) You did also teach me how to dress my age and gave me a whole lot more self-confidence . . . At home, I receive about 0.1% of the attention you eagerly gave me for my looks everyday! ㅋㅋ
Even though I didn’t formally learn much about your language, I didn’t really realize how much I did learn and integrate into my everyday speech until I came home. Seriously, you wouldn’t believe how many times I held back a “jincha?” (really?), “na-do” (me too), “allaseo” (I know), or a “jal cha!” (night!) when talking to my friends or family . . . I miss saying those . . . Anyways, I can at least say that I could understand about 80% of what you were saying! ^^;;
I’m sorry I didn’t get a chance to do everything I promised I would . . . If your brother wasn’t making death threats, I would’ve seen the DMZ like I said I would, but hey, it’s not your fault. ^^ When I can get enough money to see you again, I’ll make sure to go there . . . and Olympic Park . . . and Bukhansan . . . yeah . . . o_O
In any case, I’m really glad I had fulfilled my promise to little Sammie. Yes, there were some things I would rather forget and there were things about you that I really didn’t expect, but I did learn some very important things about my heritage and about myself. For example, even though I don’t necessarily believe in Confucianism or the social hierarchy that came from it, the pride I had in the culture that supported it has grown stronger. Also, although some of my fairytale visions about you were disbanded, it really made me appreciate the sacrifices my birth mother made in sending me to America. No offense, but if I had grown up with you, I think I would have been a totally different person- which isn’t a bad thing, but I can’t imagine what I’d be like if I couldn’t play soccer when I was in a bad mood! ^^;;
I should thank you for helping my birth mother send me to the States . . . Yes, I don’t know the situation and I probably never will, but I think I would have had more regrets about my life if you had held onto me. I will most definitely thank you for the confidence you gave me though- I can’t remember the last time I felt good about the way I looked . . . In fact, I can’t even remember the last time I felt like I looked like a girl! ㅋㅋ But in all seriousness, even though it was a little weird to be given so much attention, I no longer feel like a high school student and I really do feel like I look like I’m twenty and deserve to be treated as such . . . I know I didn’t make many friends, my host family was absolutely wonderful!! You better take good care of them while I’m gone!! ^^
Although I know I could never be with you the rest of my life, you will definitely always be in my heart . . . I will see you again! I know I won’t talk about you much to my family and friends since our time together won’t really mean anything to them, but please understand that I will always remember you . . . Even though being with you really does feel like a dream, I know it must have been real since I have 4,000 photographs and some new clothes to prove it!! I know that I am very different from the little Sammie that dreamt about you as a little girl, but the baby Hye Young that left you 20 years ago will always be a part of me. ^^
Thank you Korea for welcoming me back- I will see you later . . . I promise!! <3
Samantha Leonard 이혜영 (LEE Hye Young)