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Take Me Home This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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     I am a yellow-skinned, slant-eyed, dark brown-haired A student in math and I am a Korean. It was a fact I accepted fairly early in life, sort of a given in the skin-deep reality of a child’s mind. When I looked around my classrooms I saw “Americans,” yet when I looked in the mirror, I saw something different - I saw an Asian.

My mother is Korean, my father is white. Not that any of that mattered to me, in my mind I was a Korean. As a child, you judge everything from the outside, and from the outside I looked like a typical Asian. To me, I was living on a foreign continent half a world from home. I guess you could say it was my way of dealing with the ever-present “China-man” statements and the queries about my origins. Instead of meshing with a place where I obviously didn’t belong, I decided to go with the flow and be what I looked like. It was easier to be the citizen of a country halfway around the world than to suffer the embarrassment of having “real Americans” tell you the truth about your identity.

As time progressed, I became the stereotypical Asian. I relished the op-portunity to astound people with my mathematical abilities, or talk about my piano lessons. I found myself checking in the mirror to make sure I had the straight parted hair and the nice, thick, dark plastic-framed glasses that are key elements to stereotypical Asian apparel.

I spent my earlier years striving to find an identity in the color of my skin, trying to make a tangible connection between the way I looked and who I was. It was a sad and lonely journey. I was stumbling across identities trying to find what made up me. Then one day, my father announced that we were going to Korea. We would spend two months visiting relatives and I was ecstatic. This was the chance I had been looking for - I was going to join my people. I would finally belong!

I vividly remember walking off that plane in Korea, looking around at the faces and for once not feeling alone or different. I belonged. My skin and eyes matched those of everyone else. It didn’t matter that I couldn’t understand most of what “my people” said, or that I didn’t understand the culture or how to use chopsticks. What mattered was that if a person was to pull out a camera and take pictures, I wouldn’t stand out. It was great. All the way to my grandparents I was in pure ecstasy. The second we arrived, I leapt from the car pulling my little brother along. I was on a mission to find friends. I was done being alone.

There I walked along the street, still glowing from my “return home,” trying to find a group of youngsters with whom I would instantly bond and become lifelong friends. Suddenly, I heard footsteps. I thought calmly, Don’t act too excited. Be calm. Remember, you belong. Slowly I turned around, but then I stopped.

I had heard a chatter of Korean voices as the children approached, but to tell the truth, I hadn’t been listening to what they were saying. Then I heard a clear voice break through and say, “Look at the American.” Instantly my world came apart. I stumbled to my grandparent’s house in a fit of tears. I was alone.

As the trip progressed I began to see how different I was from “my people.” After just two weeks of Korean food I found myself yearning for a cheeseburger. I found I had turned into a spectacle. One day as I stood at a Korean café waiting for my order, I was approached by a girl with a tape recorder. I opened my mouth to greet her in Korean when she said “Hello,” in heavily accented English. She started talking in English, but I resisted, trying to tell her in Korean that I could speak Korean. She didn’t care. All she wanted was for me to speak English into her little box so that she could show her teacher the wonders of the Western world. I had become an English project, nothing more than a tourist.

I left Korea in a haze of disbelief. I hadn’t found the home that I had come searching for. I was headed back to where I had felt so alone. The whole thing was depressing. Most of the flight back I sat staring at my hands.

When we finally landed, I found myself feeling better. I looked around to see a mixture of colors and faces, and they all seemed to belong. It was here that I understood the language, here I understood who the Brady Bunch were, and how to celebrate a proper Thanksgiving. As I handed my passport to the customs official, I noticed that at that moment I felt more comfortable than I had the whole trip. The customs official handed my passport back, smiled, and said “Welcome Home.”

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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