We all have one thing in common. We are HUMAN and a very social group. With being human comes making mistakes and learning about each other.
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Thoughts from a Social Transplant
AuthorHouseCopyright © 2015 Choi
All rights reserved.
A new Life
My life as I knew would soon fade into the darkness as open arms snatch me up with smiles and warm hearts in a sea of people rushing like ants around the queen. The buzzing of people moving about in a frenzy I have never seen and the sounds that I never heard. Voices coming from nowhere, ... bright lights all around me, defending me from darkness that creeps around the fringe where the light is fading. Yet all those people moving in directions with such intensity, with such wonderful symphony of movements. I had no idea of what was to come yet alone what was going on with me. What did all this mean? Why am I in a crowd of strangers, who is holding me and why? Again all I hear is strange sounds from the mouths of strangers, yet I feel no fear being in the mist of all these wonderful things and people too. What is to happen with me now that I am in a land of strangers? I know for sure that I am no longer near where I started my life and if I will ever see it again. Yet I know noting of the place I have left behind. Again. ... Thoughts are blank; as if I had any to start with on this journey in we call life.
I don't recall much more about what I know as the busiest airport at the time in northern Illinois. I do recall a few moments in my first ride as we left the area of the flying buses. The bright lights along the roadways (as if I had any clue ...), these cars were bright in color and fully enclosed. Yes, I have seen four wheeled trucks and cars but most in dull colors and had the taste of rice (yeah we've been there ... boring!) and never fully enclosed. I watched as we passed other cars and trucks with kids peering out the windows as I was but maybe for not the same reason as I. Later driving off the busy highways we made a stop for what I had no idea. Again with the bright lights and people on wheels (what the f*&^.....?k (not that I knew cuss words or the English language at this point)) ... Wow! What else can these people do? When we left that place I smelled something I never smelled before (later to be explained as a chili dog ... excuse me ... the dog did it ...). At some point we reached the place I would later call home.
I was taken inside to this palace full of things, things I had no ideas or concepts on what they were yet alone what one does with them. Everyone took seat on what later was known as furniture composing of chairs and a couch. I don't believe I sat in any of those but the floor worked just as well for me with the exception that I had some additional padding under my own. I sat as items were taken out of this magical bag that contained food (chili dogs). I don't believe I had any problems putting those dogs down and chasing them with brown fizzing fluid (root beer). Good thing I was not afraid of trying new things but later maybe my new family would think twice about ... phew! I was later told (years later) that they should not feed me much American food right away, that rice would be just fine (whatever! ... Another chili dog please). That my stomach would need time to adjust to new foods and spices. Maybe they just did not understand who I am, person who adapts to change, person who moves ahead, a person who thinks for himself, ... maybe ... whatever the reason, I took to all the new things that this new life had to offer. Soft beds to sleep on (blanket and floor would be enough ... rriiight!), a toilet to relieve oneself without the notion you might fall in if you lose your balance, the idea of bathing in hot water that you control with a dial (not a sun dial), I also took in the idea of going to school shortly after arriving. I knew I had to learn the ways of this culture to have a sense of belonging or just to fit in as best as possible. I learned to communicate ... that was key to my early months. Although my first sign of communication was a simple gesture, a simple finger pointing towards the item or items was very effective but had its limits. I over came all the things that people from the agency said it would take time for me to adjust and to take it slowly. Ha! Again, what did they know! They say that food is the way to a mans heart, it can also be said that food is the key to a young child's dreams of success, of freedom, of life ever lasting.
My mother for all those years she tried to make my belly happy! She cooked up meals that were tempting for any pallet but not always mine. I would become to appreciate the foods that would be presented at the dinner table even when it did not please the nose but could dance a mean jitterbug once on the welcome mat of sustained life. That dance would take a ride to maintain the furnace of life as the body fades to a state of limbo where dreams are manufactured so that we may pursue them once again in the physical world we live in. Food! What is it that we crave so much and why? What defines it as good or bad? What defines it as food? Its life we are all consuming to survive in this existence in the hope we can move onto another? When we look at life and what it means to live we have no real answers but to live as it comes, to take life from those things we consume as food, are we the last in line for the cycle of life before life itself is recycled? So then we eat to provide for ourselves but also to our future.
So then life is the real key to our survival. We need to maintain the food chain that exists in order to keep the doorsteps to a full belly open and the dance of life flowing in our bodies. Not just the bodies that exist now but for the ones that have yet to come. When I first tasted something more than rice and what it meant to be alive in a world beyond the boundrys I would later become sad for those who live on both sides, on the inside they know of nothing more than a simple way of life but on the out side many are taking things for granted that could easily help someone else survive another day. I know not what I do but I know what I do can make a difference all around me and even beyond my reach. The food I have come to love so much is a killer as much as it saves lives. I never realized how much I cared about having food available to me until the day that my plate of food was dropped onto the floor. For that second it took for it to hit the floor, I felt it was my last that I would ever taste. At that moment I almost started to cry when I realized I could still get more food unlike my past life. That day made me think, even when I don't have much, there are others who still have less to eat and would even enjoy eating the food that just hit the floor. After that moment I made a choice that even when I don't have much I would make an effort to pass on money to help feed those who need it. I have been known to give money to those who ask even for the reasons they give me knowing that it's the wrong reason but they still deserve the chance to live and fill their belly. Yes I have enjoyed having the variety of food presented to me by my mother who did everything she could to keep me from closing my mind on the world I left even if she never intend to. If there was one thing my mother passed onto me is to keep an open mind when it came to eating food. Just like people are different, so are the foods that people are eating. They can all be enjoyed and loved. Don't judge the food by the smell, appearance, but give a good taste before making your decision and don't just try it once, try it again some timer later and then make your final decision. People are in many ways like food, they sometimes smell funny (good or bad), sometimes look funny (good or bad), and sometimes taste funny (usually not intentional to taste someone), and they sometimes sound funny but we all are not alike just like the way the same food is made differently by each and everyone who cooks. We have character and so do foods, and like food I have different tastes and have different kinds of friends. Without the love and appreciation of food I would have a hard time to enjoy the people I have met in my life. One might say that food is not just a way to a man's heart but also a way to look at life and the people around you.
Food wasn't the only thing I learned to appreciate. I learned to approach my curiosity with some caution. There were many new things I have never seen or dreamed of. Power tools to me at the time meant I use the tool and I provide the power. Well, this was a new world after all full of magical visionary oddities I wouldn't even dream of. I walked out to see what my stepfather was doing in the garage (a place where a motor car slept) and noticed this spinning device he just used to run some metal against that produced little flying light particles (sparks). This device was just turned off and knowing I have never seen this type of machinery and knowing noting about the way it works just got the best of me. Since my stepfather was able to produce those fancy dancing lights why couldn't I? And since I didn't know any better I used my thumb ... can you say OUCH!?! ... Can you say dumb ass! Hell! What did I know of these things? That day I also got to see the emergency room (one of many visits) of a hospital. I'm not sure if I cried, but of what I know, what I did was not the right thing to do. My thumb still reminds of that day. If I was not crying at the time but by the time they started to stitch my thumb back up I would be in tears, tears flowing like the rain in a monsoon. The pain of getting it cleaned and numbed were the worst of it. Stitches were noting more than an inconvenience. I did have the best thumb to go with my clown costume for my first Halloween. Some clowns have a big nose some have big thumbs. From that I wanted to know how things worked and would take things apart just to see if I can put it back together in working order even if it was originally broke. Just as life is a puzzle we struggle to assemble all the pieces without a picture to go by, only what we see through our eyes and mind (life, some mental and emotional assembly required ...). At this point my mind has been opened up to so many possibilities and much more to come in the years ahead.CHAPTER 2
Birthdays and holidays
There is something about birthdays; particularly mine I hate to celebrate. Even my very first one I just never understood the meaning of celebrating your birth every year. Even as an adult I still don't care for it. I will always make the time to help celebrate everyone else's when possible. I have enjoyed the ones I have celebrated with my family as a child but maybe not in the way that most kids do. I enjoyed it because we were all together, the gifts were of course great but from someone who had nothing as of family and friendship, the gifts are a distant third and the cake was of course the best to a distant second. After all, it was one time a year you could enjoy all your favorite foods (yes, thinking of food yet again! ... LOL! (Laughing-out-loud)). To me every day is a celebration of your life/birth and every day you wake up is a reason to celebrate. Some may never understand that and those who have noting making it to the next day is a curse and a blessing all the same. Why celebrate just one day out of the year when every day is another day you live! Life is a gift from the universe, just like the vast universe we know very little and little of ourselves. Life should be celebrated till we take our last breath.
I grew up celebrating my date of birth year after year in my new home but wonder sometimes about those I left behind. Those kids never get special food on that special day and gifts too. Maybe that's why I don't care to celebrate much and enjoy celebrating others because of those other lives I knew back in Korea. Again, I will never know.
Life is a strange thing to define to most since we never really try to define it. If we were to define the truth about life and what it means we may be disappointed in what we discover. Maybe Monty Python had it best or Shakespeare in his tragedies of forbidden love and such over whelming hatred, or the Greek stories of Gods and men fighting over a mere mortal woman. However it maybe defined in each one of us will be our own, but we celebrate our life every day willingly or not, knowingly or not we do every day. Life is not a gift but a reason to live. Gifts come and go, life never truly ends, only the physical presence and the memories of each other we have left behind.
I never understood Halloween, I mean, what was the point of dressing up?? After the first year I then realized it was time for kids to collect free candy so the parents could tell you not to eat it. Come on, what's the point if you can't eat it? I did go out with friends, run around the neighborhood on Halloween like a bunch of crazed kids desiring candy. I don't recall going out that much after the first couple years. I did however enjoy going out with my friends' kids every Halloween years later. Seeing them dress up in the great costumes their talented mother would create for them every year. I have gone out with them every year since the first and soon the time will come when they to stop the ritual, even they must grow up as we all did (well, most!). The first major events in a child are not just the foundation of that person's character, but the beginning of that defining moment of whom that person will be when they are at the age of reason and Halloween could be darn right spooky!
As I mentioned I was a clown the first year and maybe that was my beginnings of my humorous side of my life. I clowned around a lot as kid in school, a side that my family really didn't see. I can't really tell you what else I was for Halloween beyond the first. I know I wasn't a clown every year and some may say that I am still a clown today and every day. I know now that all hallows eve is not what we think of as a child collecting candy.
So each celebration is not always the same and the meaning also may differ from group to group, country to country, and person to person. One of those is the biggest eating day of the year, the day of all days for those who only ate one thing in life would think they have died and gone onto a better life. For those this would be greater than Christmas. Yes I am talking about Thanksgiving, The day that is known best for stuffing yourself to the point of exploding. Foods I never heard of nor dreamed of. Turkey? What f&%#^ is it? ... Don't care; it tastes great (but not quite less filling) ... LOVE IT! Just pass it on down! Yams and hams yet no green eggs with that ham, jell-o that is so mellow and even some yellow for your best fellow whose about to bellow ... please pass the Stuffing! I thought that was what I did with the rice every day, stuffing it down my gullet every day. This new stuffing, well! Pass it on down too! Did the turkey eat this stuff? I can't believe anything that would be this tasty be made by hand of man. Who would think of stuffing a bird and cooking it? All this great food that would be served for kings and queens are laid out in front of me now to consume at will. I guess this world has some good things about it. It wasn't just about food at this house; it was also about friends and family for this particular feast. Yes there was the family but my parents always had good friends and extended family. I really liked the idea of sharing such bounty with which you don't see that often day-to-day life. I would appreciate Thanksgiving even more when a college professor (whom is now a great friend) would invite international students who couldn't afford to fly home to his table to share his feast with his family (... that's a story for another day). I enjoyed those days; it gave me a sense of humanity that is good, a sense of purpose to be alive. Just because you don't have a lot in life doesn't mean you have noting to share or to give to others. This was after all ... THANKSGIVING! Not a time to give thanks but to give thanks to others so that they may live well ... so that we may all live well for what we have or don't have.
Excerpted from Reflections by Choi. Copyright © 2015 Choi. Excerpted by permission of AuthorHouse.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Reviewed by Jane Finch for Readers' Favorite Reflections: Thoughts from a Social Transplant by Choi tells the author’s story of how, as a young South Korean child, he was given a new life with adopted parents in the mid-west of America. Although always grateful to his adoptive family (the parents had four children of their own and one other adopted child) Choi struggled. It was the Sixties, and people’s attitude to Asians was not particularly encouraging or welcoming. The story follows Choi as he learns to adjust to life in a country not his own, to a language he does not speak, and to a culture that is alien to him. It follows his struggles, his determination to succeed and overcome the difficulties he faces, and brings him to a better understanding of the person he has become. The author, Choi, gives an emotive account of his life after leaving South Korea, from the social aspects of integrating into an unknown and strange society and culture, to the impact of sitting of furniture, lying on a bed, using a bathroom, and tasting American food. Along the way, Choi gives hints of the life he left behind, describing the endless meals of cloying, tasteless rice as an example. This account shows Choi's strength of character as he excels in the areas where he has talent, such as sporting activities, and deals with racism and attitudes to his own heritage. Above all of this, Choi shows his love for his adopted country, and how he holds the values of his oath of allegiance to the country he now calls home.
Reviewed by Vernita Naylor for Readers' Favorite Life is challenging and these challenges are different for each person. Our experiences shape us into who we are. In Reflections: Thoughts from a Social Transplant by Choi, the reader may be able to not only take a journey with the author but see themselves in the story. If they're unable to see themselves, maybe they can see someone that they know. Either way you view the story, Choi displays how everything was new yet frightening as the transition of life began to take form. Life how others see us can either celebrate or isolate us. This story will make you pause and think about the stigmas that we see or that we place on others. “Like Superman, we would both be molded by our past and polished by our future to come as a new citizen of these great United States. Much like Superman we both believe in our adopted country, not because we are like the others, because we are different. It’s the difference that makes this country great and why our founding fathers named our country the way they did “These United States”!” says Choi. This book displays a great way to view the diversity biases and the lack of inclusivity that we've encountered throughout the centuries. Choi provides a new meaning behind what our forefathers meant as this country was being formed. It may not have been perfect because we are not all created equal, just like now, but at some point in time we must understand that we all deserve to be treated not by the color of our skin, but by who we are as people. Being a social transplant by uprooting from one place to another, and trying to operate within the environment or communities that we may find ourselves in can be a challenge but, if possible, we must look for the light.