My Korean Friend This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

   The reason I met my very best friend ten years agowas because she was different. She had the tan skin and black hair I wanted sobadly. After two minutes of being with her, I liked Elizabeth for better reasons.She was funny, nice, serious and filled my quiet with talk. The earliest memory Ihave of us together is following her on an imaginary adventure across thenursery-school playground. We have grown to be the closest of friends.

Inever really noticed Elizabeth's race after that first time, except I thought shewas much prettier than me. I don't think I ever even thought of her as part ofanother race.

Elizabeth's mother was very smart, and thanks to her, Iwent to Korean Culture Camp with Elizabeth for three years. There I was, a blondestanding out like a lighthouse in a sea of black hair. After my first day, I toldmy parents how weird it felt to be different. My father's reply was that I shouldthink about how Elizabeth must feel every day, everywhere she goes. Icontemplated that for a few days, then forgot. As far as I was concerned,Elizabeth was just like everyone else, only better. To me, an Irish-Italian, thefact that Elizabeth was Korean is the coolest thing. I envy that she can fill inthe Asian-American circle on test forms while I am sentenced to plain old"white."

Last summer, though, I found out why Elizabeth doesn'talways like being Korean. We went to camp together and made friends with the samegirls (whom we secretly called "nice but airheads"). After a few days,one of them told us a "joke" we didn't really get. It had something todo with another girl saying Elizabeth was Chinese, and the girl thinking thisfunny since Elizabeth was obviously Japanese. As everyone laughed we looked ateach other. I was angry and knew Elizabeth was, too, as well as hurt. I surewouldn't want someone calling me English or German just because of my skin, hairand eyes. I felt as though it was my ancestry this girl had taken away. I was toodisgusted to explain this, and Elizabeth sure didn't look like she wanted to,either.

"I know, how could anyone mistake something like that.What else could she be? Obviously not Korean," I added. None of the girls(except Elizabeth) picked up my sarcasm. Suddenly it was our inside joke. Wenever told those airhead girls the truth; they didn't deserve it.

But thatexperience opened my eyes to something I had never really thought about before.Many people, even my relatives and friends, constantly assume they know others'ancestry. They assume all Asians are Chinese or Japanese, and all black people inAmerica are descendants of Africans brought here as slaves. But they might beMongolian, Filipino, Taiwanese, Haitian, Cuban or from hundreds of otherbackgrounds.

When you assume you know someone's origin, you wipe awaysome of their pride. It's better not to mention it than get it completely wrong.As an American, you wouldn't want people from other countries calling youCanadian just because you look it. If you don't know where someone is from, don'tmake it up.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.

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Nicholas_wuvs_u_all said...
Sept. 12, 2010 at 7:06 pm
this is a verry good story & you should get it published in your local paper. your REALLY GOOD!!!!!!
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