It was at church this past Sunday that I realized something. I have spent the last 9 months here pointing out all the differences between Americans and Koreans when I should be focusing on the ways we are the same. A Korean woman asked my friend and I if, in America, husbands and wives grow apart over the years. She was completely surprised to hear that, yes, American couples can also tend to lose touch with each other. Maybe they are focusing on their kids so much they don’t spend enough time together. Maybe they work more and spend less time at home. This poor woman just couldn’t believe that American couples dealt with the same issues that Korean couples face. It was in that moment that I felt sad for always building a bridge between our cultures. I think it’s my frustration and confusion over some of the aspects of Korean life that always leads me to point out the canyons of culture when in reality we are the same. There, are, however some major differences in the fundamentals of how we and Koreans live but overall, we are the same people, designed by the same maker.
That being said, last week Joe and I had the priviledge to attend a Korean/American Cultural Friendship Day in Taejeon. The Korean military’s weather unit invited the American military’s weather unit (Joe’s squadron) down for a day packed with activities. A 2 hour bus ride delivered us to the Korean Weather Squadron’s headquarters in the beautiful valley of Taejeon. We sat through translated weather briefs from both sides, scanning Powerpoint slides with weather diagrams, the wives having absolutely no clue about this part. After the shop talk we were led to the ball fields for some Korea vs. America sporting events.
The Americans whooped some ass in basketball and softball but the Koreans made the Americans eat dirt on the soccer field. After cheering until we couldn’t speak anymore the Koreans hosted all 50 of us to a wonderful outdoor Korean BBQ.
Mingling at tables with our international counterparts we attempted to ask questions about the food that was presented to us in what broken Hangul we spoke. Some of the Americans brought food to share with the Koreans. For some Koreans it was the first time they had ever had a pot roast or a homemade chocolate chip cookie.
There’s something endearing about watching 4 grown Korean military officers heating up a serving of tuna noodle casserole on a tabletop BBQ grill. Joe and I taught our table how to play our favorite American drinking game, Flip Cup, which we played with Soju and beer for the Koreans. I introduced a few Korean servicemembers to the thirst quenching raspberry-flavored Smirnoff Ice and hugs were exchanged by all when we left. Before leaving, a Korean officer handed me a scrap of paper with his name and email address written on it – he wanted me to email him copies of the pictures I took.
My flip cup team, we won 5 in a row and it was their first time playing! They rocked!!!
Yes, that is a pot roast heating up on that tabletop grill. I can honestly say I have never eaten pot roast with chopsticks before. Thank you 73rd ROKAF Weather Group – it was a great day!