Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Dear Ki-hong

Today for no particular reason I’m thinking of Ki-hong. He’d be about 30 years old now. Ki-hong was a pen pal of mine whom I met on my trip back to Korea. As a part of our homeland tour, we visited his high school. We all put on a big talent show which was quite fun. The boys actually showed off viable talent skills like tae kwan do and samulnori music while our tour group had to think of impromptu acts that were more amusing than..well..talented. I’m pretty sure my ‘talent’ was singing Old McDonald Had a Farm with a group of people holding paper bag puppets. Eh.

At the end of the show, we had a chance to mingle with the students and kind of paired off. We brought gifts for the students and they brought gifts for us. I still have the sun pendant that Ki-hong gave me. He was 16, a skinny kid with short hair and silver glasses. He was very interested in American culture and we agreed to write each other when I returned to the states. Looking back, I wish I had been more grateful for him and the experience because at the time, frankly, I wasn’t. Why? Because I was young and stupid. I think I’ve mentioned previously that I didn’t have a strong interest in my Korean heritage during adolescence. For me, writing to Ki-hong was interesting to a degree, but I also felt weirded out by the six year age gap between us. I guess I just wasn’t sure how to address him or if I should consider him a peer. And his curiosity about America was not matched by me in return about Korea. Needless to say, I am the one who stopped writing. I think he wrote me once or twice more after I stopped responding before his letters stopped, too. The crappy truth is that I just didn’t care enough.

Today I wish I had cared more, that I had kept writing. I know it's not uncommon to take aspects of your life for granted as a child. And that we all make mistakes because we're just a bunch of imperfect humans. I still have a few letters from Ki-hong written on stationary with an image of a cartoon baseball player. For a number of years, those letters were lost. I uncovered them a few years back and considered trying to write to the address on the envelope, but this was over a decade later. I don’t know where Ki-hong lives now, what he does for a living, if he has married and had a family. He seemed like a shy, yet very earnest person. When I really think about it, trying to write him after all these years would only be to my benefit as I am the regretful one.

Ki-hong, wherever you are, you'll probably never read this or even remember me. I just wish to say I’m sorry for being young and stupid. I couldn’t help it, but I hope you’re out there having an amazing life. I’d also like to apologize for sending you a Hanson cassette tape, but my mom wouldn’t let me buy you a Metallica one at the time (she saw the word 'bitch' in one of the track listings, so that was the end of that.) You sent me the goodbye album by Seo Taiji and Boys which I actually still enjoy when I can find a tape player. If you ended up tossing the Hanson, though, I don’t blame you.

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