Technology is an amazing advancement and yet it can also be a tremendous hindrance. Technology allows us to focus on other areas because more arduous tasks are now performed by computers. If you think about it, it is absolutely astonishing that your smart phone today has more computing capability than all the computers it took to put a man on the moon. You don't need a thermometer anymore, your phone tells you the temperature. If you want to see if the picture you hung up is square, you don't need to go to your toolkit anymore, you just download a level app and it does the job for you. So many functions are performed by technology flawlessly. Sadly, we cannot put language translation quite in that category. "Pickled fish business afros" was the translated message that I received from Han Mu late last week. Now we all know that he doesn't always say the most logical and coherent things, but this would take his incoherence to avant-garde performance art levels that even he is not capable of reaching.
I received a phone call at 3:30AM Korea time from Han Mu and I stared at the screen. I was immediately impressed how little time it took for him to violate his agreement. You see, we had discussed (I thought fairly comprehensively) why it was stupid for Han Mu to call me in the middle of the night. I think the reasons I gave were pretty terrific. The primary reason is that I know of no language translation service that is available at 3:30AM that Han Mu can afford. The old adage that money can buy anything is pretty much true, but I promise you that no service that caters to clients at 3:30AM is a government/welfare service. They tend to enjoy following normal business hours at best. 3:30 is above the call of duty for anyone not making $150 an hour. So doing the time conversion, I know that Han Mu does not have a translator just hanging around waiting to translate, and neither one of us is bilingual enough to have any sort of productive conversation. I also told him that having him call me stresses me the fuck out and that I need to prepare myself for communicating with him. Although I saw him nod his head in agreement, I should have known that there was no way in hell that he was going to adhere to this, and sure enough, it took less than a week for him to start drunk dialing me.
Needless to say, there is a higher chance that I will hold a Mike Pence rally in my living room than there is of my picking up this phone call. I'm just wondering how many times I will have to not answer his calls. The magic number is shockingly low. Only 2 times! Several minutes transpire and then I get the first of 2 text messages. In Hangul. I am thinking maybe it's more cathartic for him to send the message then it is for me to understand what the hell he is saying. Language is such a fascinating thing because it cannot comprehensively communicate what is truth and what isn't. Clearly he did not send me a message discussing pickled fish business afros, even if Google Translate and Papago both seemed to think that was what he was saying. In communicating with the Sane One, she immediately told me that I should name the next blog post Pickled Fish Business Afros, and since I always listen to my wife, here we are. What would be amazing is if Google Translate actually did a 100% perfect job translating and what he wanted was $100,000 not for a taxi, but for a new business venture applying large African hairstyles on pickled fish. Now THAT I might be convinced in investing in. But only if he went on Korean Shark Tank and convinced all of the sharks to commit to this incredibly creative and unique business opportunity. After inquiring around to friends who could decypher his lack of spacing, it is believed that what he was trying to say instead was that I am not his son. Now this could be spiteful and angry, or this could be a huge revelation and confession. Either way, it's terrific news to me and a welcome perspective for Han Mu to take on. The next message that came was eventually translated to be "Never come back to Korea and live out my days in the US". IF I am not biologically his son, my concern for how dominant nature is over nurture gets to go away a little. IF he's mad as hell at me and doesn't want to acknowledge any connection with me whatsoever, I see this as a huge win and the closing of a chapter of my life that really didn't need to be started in the first place.
These are hard concepts to translate well, and without proper context of tone, situation, mood, etc. we can only come to dangerous assumptions as to what the intent of the messages really is. I have the common sense and slight sanity to not respond asking clarification because the idea of conversing with Han Mu gives me Level 3000 anxiety and there just aren't enough sedatives in Smith County for me to even attempt to do so in a civil manner at this moment. I have been in communication with the social worker, and he's North Korea pissed right now because he blames her and the translator for turning me against him. According to Han Mu, we were on great terms before this trip, and my attitude toward him completely changed after the four-hour session. Being reminded that your biological father tried to kill you does tend to drastically reduce someone's outlook and opinion on you. He is apparently having trouble connecting those dots. So, yeah, it's definitely all the translator's fault. He has also renewed his threats to burn down the buildings, although given the ineptitude that he approaches everything else in his life, his attempts at arson would probably fail in a spectacular manner.
Whether Han Mu knows it or not, his statement is 100% on the button. I am not his son. I am not Korean. I do not think like a Korean, I do not talk like a Korean, I walk around inside with my shoes on, and I only eat three or four things at a time during a meal. I'm a really, really, really lousy Korean. I am an even lousier Korean "son." I have never fulfilled Han Mu's request to call him "papa" because I just don't see him in that role and he relinquished that right when he tried killing us and we came halfway around the world to the United States. Some languages are easier to translate to English than others. Some cultures are more congruent to American cultures than others. Korean is not one of those languages, and Korean society is vastly disparate to American society. For an adoptee, that is both a welcoming and terrifying concept to deal with. I think I am becoming more accepting that like the Borg, the United States has successfully completely assimilated me. I may not like tractor pulls and I actually know almost every capital of every country in the world, but like it or not, I have more American values than any other country's. I may be a global citizen and have transnational beliefs, but no matter how you look at it, I'm just not very good at being Korean. It maybe something that I will try and remedy in the future, but one thing is relatively absolute. I have no need to try and be a Korean son, or a Korean cousin, or a Korean nephew. My family might not be perfect, but it is exactly what I need in my life and in the exact shape and format that I desire it to be, and no amount of pickled fish or afros is going to make anything else any more appealing. 'Murica! Fuck yeah!
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