Yesterday, I rushed from work to the store to the school and to home to get things ready for Culture Fest at the kids’ school. I regretted signing up to represent Korea. Back in September when I filled out the form, it seemed like a good idea. But yesterday, I was grumbling because I didn’t want to put on my big complicated Korean dress, hanbok.
By the end of the night, though, I was proud of our school community, happy that our kids go to such a diverse school, and grateful that our kids – who are American-born who have never been to Korea and do not speak a lick of Korean – had an opportunity to feel a sense of pride for their heritage.
For days leading up to Culture Fest, our 4th grader was excited about putting the display board together, asked me about what kinds of food we might take, and set his mind to wear his “Korean pajamas” to the event. Our kindergartner really didn’t know what was going on but was happy to go along with the whole thing.
At the event, we were pleasantly surprised that the cafeteria was packed with attendees with “passports” visiting the various countries and culture represented. Many people stopped by Korea to try a bite of gim-bop, persimmons, and Korean pears. And they were more than happy to take home a Choco-pie and a origami hanbok that my husband and I folded over the course of a couple of weeks. Our kindergartner passed out information about Korea. We dubbed our 4th grader’s friend an honorary Korean for his love of Korean food.
Our 4th grader was busy running around with his friends, visiting other countries. He tried chicken adobo in the Philippines, made his own olive oil dip in Italy, and tried juice from Ecuador (which according to him was the best juice ever).
Later on in the evening, there were performances by a Irish step dancer, a team of high school step dancers, and a hip hop dancer. A friend gave us dreidels and a game sheet to take home.
Cultural events like “culture night” or “international night” are about raising awareness and sharing information about various cultures. But as an immigrant raising children born in this country, I feel like cultural events like this benefit families like mine by offering us the opportunity to teach our own kids about our heritage. So, it’s not just for others that we set up a display board about Korea. It’s for us.
If we can keep up this sense of appreciation for our Korean heritage, maybe they will one day want to visit Korea and one day learn Korean. Maybe that’s how we stay Korean-American in America.