Thursday, November 02, 2006

Karma is a Bitch

As a Dad there are many things I fear now. Electricity, gravity, mechanical physics, chemistry (acids bases clorox drinking drano etc etc) but what really scares the crap out of me is Karma. I think back to when I was a kid and I imagine my one and only Son doing half the crap I did and I think holy holy holy crap I'm a dead man. I know you cannot protect your children from the world...and as frightening as it is, your kid will go out there and explore it...ride it. Bask in it. Smile at its beauty as well as it's wickedness. And they will inhale...deeply, everything it offers. And this is good and also really really crazy. And through all the drugs, violence, despair, hope, beauty and redemption that I called youth there is one shining moment of absolute depravity/wackiness that stands out in my mind and send shivers down my spine. Its somewhat unique to the Korean American experience...yes folks I'm taking about Summer at Yonsei.

Now everyone had a different Yonsei experience. Some recall a good enriching summer filled with Korean culture, history, and language development. But when I think back at my two tours of Korean summer programs...I can only describe it as Lost in Translation meets Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. Now I know there are a grip of you reading this that are smiling right now because you remember being there. For those of you who have never heard of the Korean Summer Program let me give you a brief intro.

Step 1. Take a bunch of Korean Americans from many different cities around the world but especially Los Angeles and New Jersey.
Step 2. Put them in a Dorm at Yonsei University in the middle of Seoul.
Step 3. There is no step three.

Wackiness ensues. For a lot of these kids, this event occurs during the summer between High School and Harvard oops I mean college. This is the first summer many of these brainiac Asians have not had to worry about getting into college for the first time in their life. Add alcohol, drugs, clubs and an fun city straight out of Bladerunner into the mix and you get what I call good times. Most of it consisted of trying to pick up chicks with my broken Korean which makes Borat's English sound like MetroDad's posts.

Henri: Hey girl, I American. You know Hip Hop? I'm do Dancing like Running Man? Hip Hop Number 1.
Local Girl: I am a Korean Airlines.
Henri: Cool. Whisky drink fun times right?
Local Girl: Your friend like me? We go fast to tomorrow?
Henri: Rock on. I have no idea what the hell you're talking about.

It really is unfair to unleash a group of kids onto a city with lax drinking age laws and a great public transportation system. Add the fact that most kids are loaded up with Korean "Pocket Money" from relatives that have never seen them before and you get a wicked combination. Basically its a primer on how to party like rock stars right before going off to college. But amongst the idiocy there are some redeeming aspects. Your kids learns how to make friends fast. Your kid comes back saying "Mad" a lot. Your kid picks up smoking. Your kid learns how to drink. Wait, crap these are all bad things...ok it is a unique introduction to freedom and decision making. Hmmm it was really fun and unique. I think that pretty much sums it up. But I'm pretty sure there is no way in hell I'm going to send any of my kids there. I want boring kids who aren't interested in partying. I want them to love studying. Sigh. Who am I kidding, I am doomed. I remember my favorite response when I got into trouble as a kid...I am but my father's son. If I was raised in a religious family it would have been...I am but God's finger. And now I am bracing for the same smarmy smart-ass response from a kid who just doesn't know how much I worry about his safety and future. But I know, deep deep in my bones, some things in life you have to learn the hard way. Life is shiny beautiful and very very've got to let your kid handle it eventually. But for any of you that have been to Yonsei, Love Boat or the other variations of this summertime rite, would you ever send your kids there?


thisislarry said...

aahhhh. "The Love Boat."

I never went, at the time I was busy rebelling against chineseness. I still think its about as good of an idea as church camp. Doh, did I say that out loud?

I guess I have a basic problem around camps for organized ideologies. In that respect being chinese enough to want to hang out with just chinese kids for the summer was as much an ideological choice as being religious enough to go to church camp.

I wouldnt offer it to my kids, but if they really wanted to go, I guess I wouldn't have any problem with it. Not like you actually pick up any bad habits there, right Henri?

Mama Nabi said...

Hah, so YOU were one of those American kids I saw at Yonsei (took some French classes there after I 'finished' high school early)... I personally don't see that as culturally enriching - more like unleashing a teenager in a teenager-candy store.

However, I went to a boarding school where I had already picked up bad habits so that'd been fun but tame... being a mother of a daughter, I guess I'm not as worried about the 'naughty' things she'd get into (there's no way she'd do half the things I got into) but more about her safety. Seoul can get pretty dangerous for a young girl.

papa2hapa said...

This reminds me of the thing the Amish do to their kids called "rumspringa" where they send their over-protected children off to do drugs, sex, and rock and roll...all convinced that these kids will say "NO!" to the hedonistic lifestyle and return to the good days of Amish beauty.

That said, my Korean summer experience wasn't that wild, but for some reason, I always had a beer in my hand. And this was often encouraged by my Korean birth family.

Ben said...

Great post. Brings back memories. Mostly embarrassing ones.

Angela said...

Yonsei summer program was a great experience, got to meet lots of my relatives, great food, cool clubs and Korean pop music and let's not forget shopping, shopping, shopping, oh,...yeah, and the classes were fun too! Would I let my children go on the program...probably not, I'd want to experience Korea with them.

MikeKim said...

I did smile while I was reading this blog entry. I spent 12 months at Yonsei during college--June '89 to June '90 (gosh, I feel so old). I was a part of the University of California Education Abroad Program--there were about a dozen of us from various campuses. During the first eight weeks, we lived at the famous (or infamous) International House, the "Agricultural Study" dorm by the north hill, and a private residence owned by the University.

That one year will never vanish from my memory...I drank enough soju to kill a small horse, smoked enough cigarettes to have a farmer in Kentucky to send his/her child to college, and so on...

Nows, as a dad (two daughters), I'm not sure if I like the idea of having my daughters spend a Summer, or a semester or a year at Yonsei, knowing what I know from personal experience...

Ah, the memories of Shinchon...