“Friendship is love without his wings”-Lord Byron, L’amitie’ est L’amour sans Ailes
It can be a rare thing to find a friendship that is both pure and kind, but I lucked up. In 2010 I was working on the yearbook committee at the University of Tampa and ended up doing a piece on the Asian Student Organization (ASO). I sat in on a few of their meetings as well as attended some of their events and before I knew it, I was a part of the ASO family. During one of the meetings there was a presentation on Korea. It was extremely informative about the culture, customs and people. Korea was a place that I wanted to visit, maybe even find work there teaching after I finished my degree.
The thought crossed my mind that if I was serious about this, I should learn the language. Next I started my search for helpful tools that fit into the price range of a university student (free). I came across talktomeinkorean.com and sharedtalk.com. In my opinion these are still the best sites around. Talktomeinkorean.com focuses on Korean only with great pod cast. It’s a great tool when studying on your own, but sharedtalk.com gives you more of a wide range of languages because you are exchanging languages with native speakers.
It was on sharedtalk.com that
I met Soonwon (Sean is his American name). At the time he was living in a shared house in Australia. Once we got the time difference down, we would meet almost every day to exchange questions we both might have had about music and study tools we each might have been using and more. Soon we were sharing each other’s day to day lives, friends, and goals and hobbies.
It was amazing how different and how similar we were. As far as our culture Soonwon was very much the traditional Korean guy, well mannered, respectful, reserved, and innocent as a child and pure. He also didn’t believe in God. I, on the other hand, have a belief in God being that I’m a Christian. I am mostly well mannered especially to my elders and definitely respectful, but I was far from being as pure as a child. My time of running around free had come and gone.
When it came to our similarities we found we both liked other things like Korean foods such as Chaco pies and bulgogee (grilled bar- b- que meat) and some American foods like Oreos, pizza, chicken, etc. We also loved the same musical artists both Korean and American. We shared everything from dramas/anime we both might have been watching and holidays taking pictures and videos to share with one another.
We also started a tradition of our own, every year we would send care packages for each other’s birthday which included anything from food, games, stuffed toys, clothes/scarves, and gifts for each other’s mothers since we had already greeted each other’s parents.
More than those things Soonwon had become my family, even going as far as wanting to protect me from the things that would hurt me in the future when I visited Korea, “Oh, Mina I think we need to have a serious talk.” In this conversation we talked about how I was a little “chubby”. In other words, some Korean people have the tendency to be very blunt (down right rude) and I might run into some people who would point and stare, not just because of my height, size, but also my color. I was not to allow this to upset me because Soonwon would always be by my side and would not allow people to hurt my feelings if he could stop this.
What I took from this conversation was that some Koreans don’t have a filter and what might be rude to me was not rude and disrespectful to them because they didn’t know any better or simply just didn’t care. What I also gained from that conversation was the knowledge that I had helped Soonwon and even his family change their views which were a bit skewed and now I truly had an addition to my extended family. Despite the time difference, sometimes even the culture and language barrier, Soonwon and I were able to develop and explore a genuine friendship and this was only the beginning into the journey of our friendship.