As much as I belong everywhere, I don’t belong anywhere. I’ve lost my footing on my origin and now I float in a giant limbo. Is this a common phenomenon in Canada, the giant melting pot of cultures? It is often the easiest thing to do: to lose sight of your motherland and convince yourself that you belong everywhere. It is almost an inevitable characteristic of all living organisms. We change to adapt and we evolve.
I vividly recall coming home crying with a black eye, after a girl punched me in the eye during math class at the back of the classroom in grade two. The teacher never noticed. Maybe I didn’t cry loud enough. Or maybe the teacher was turning a blind eye. There was much violence that was passed from teacher to student and from student to student. Fortunately, I was never on my teacher’s blacklist of troublemakers nor was I the worst in academics, so the old hag’s wooden ruler never came down on me. However, many Korean teachers are ruler-happy – they believe the ruler to be the answer to all, whether it be deteriorating grades, bad work habits or cheekiness. Though other children always snickered when a classmate was receiving a whopping, I never found the heart to laugh along. Instead, I winced every time the stick made contact with the ruddy skin of the unfortunate victim’s little palms.
I was considered privileged due to the fact that my parents are not advocates of violence and that I was born into a fairly well off family. My happiest memories of Korea were never with friends because I didn’t have many. Family was the entire world to me. When I left Korea for good, I wasn’t very sad since I didn’t get the feeling I was leaving much behind. Yes, my beloved grandma and dad, but no more, no less. I was enraptured by the prospects of venturing into the unknown. All I knew was that it couldn’t be any worse than Korea.
The dive into Canada’s foreign culture wasn’t challenging. I embraced its ambience, its people and its diversity. There was no splash of culture shock. My English was already in fair shape and Vancouverites are so calm – a little cold and distant per se, but nonetheless sociable. The weather was a little depressing, but was no worse than the forest of bleak skyscrapers back in Korea.
However, I’ve come to love the rain, the icy winter and Vancouver’s chilly autumns. I find the gentle tapping of rain on my roof inspiring, the blanket of snow cozy, and the bare tree branches poetic. The grim seasons of Vancouver bring the best out in my musings, my writings and my reflections. Of course, I can’t forget about summer, the best time of the year in Vancouver.
Though with all its lovely seasons, Vancouver is the loneliest place to be during holidays for those without families. Friends are no longer consolations during Christmas because they are all off with their own families, sitting around the stereotypical scenery: the stockings are stuffed full, the fireplace is roaring, a cat or dog is curled up in front of the hearth and generations of family members are sitting around a dining table ladled with cookies, pies, pudding and turkey. Meanwhile, you would most likely find me sitting in front of my desktop, thinking up melancholic, poetic things to write or paint about, or hear me singing crestfallen lyrics to the doleful diminished seventh chords I stamp out on the piano. Maybe I would take my mum and sister out for some “holly jolly” dinner at a restaurant. Perhaps, I’d be helping out my mum clear the snow-packed driveway and wipe the frost off our car windshields – anything but holly jolly. On such days, I dearly miss my dad and I try to liven up the house by putting on some Michael Bublé, writing overdue Christmas cards and baking cookies for teachers and friends to spread the holiday spirit.
As great as Vancouver is, with all my newfound friends, its picturesque scenes of nature and magical weather, I never feel completely at home. Sometimes, I manage to convince myself that I belong here, in Canada. Yet deep inside I know that I don’t genuinely belong in Vancouver because all my roots are back in my home country. Regardless, I cannot bear the ridiculous idea of belonging to Korea either. So the question is: where do I truly belong?