THE PERSON WITH ME BELOW IS JUNG SOEK.
I've posted about him before. He's from South Korea, near Seoul. He moved to Canada with his wife and two sons (now three) a couple of years ago.
I met him when I volunteered as an English as a Second Language tutor through the International Centre.
Initially, I volunteered hoping to be able to help disadvantaged people, particularly refugees from war-torn countries, who had come to Canada to escape persecution.
I got him instead. OK, I thought at the time.
I tutored Jung Soek for more than a year. We met every Tuesday at a shopping mall. His English improved dramatically, but that's not really what this is about.
This is about how two human beings from completely different cultures can meet and share their experiences and help one another to more clearly understand what being is all about.
Jung Soek is driven. He is driven to becoming a Canadian.
And the reason for our most recent meeting was because he has now been granted Landed Immigrant Status, along with his family.
I was his first tutor. He became attached to me like a moth flies to light. Yes, we talked about the English language. I'd correct him all the time and we tried to use books, etc.
But what became more valuable to him -- to us both -- was just talking about our different lives, cultures, experiences.
I've gotten to know a lot about South Korean life through him.
They are much more serious than we are in North America. Honour means so much more. Discipline. Respect. People don't smile there nearly as much as they do here, he has told me.
But we here are much more impatient, he has lamented...especially with people from other places who don't know how to speak our language very well.
We don't treat them with respect.
He is often treated as stupid, even though he is very intelligent. And I know this. He is very emotionally intelligent, as well as intellectual. There is a huge difference.
I have gone with him to his banker, to his lawyer, to cell phone salesmen, to help him do what he needs to do.
I understand his accent and what he's trying to say, because of that year or more with him. I've been his translator many times.
Others don't seem to want to take the time to understand, literally or figuratively. And I know it can be frustrating.
But I tried to imagine myself moving to South Korea and getting over the language barrier there, trying to learn Korean.
I wrote some letters of recommendation on his behalf to the Canadian immigration people.
It took what seems like a long time, but he has finally received that Landed Immigrant Status.
Now Jung Soek has the freedom to move away from his oppressive South Korean/Canadian employer, who brought him over here in the first place as a dental technician on a work visa.
Now he can move to Calgary, knowing he has a future here in Canada.
And that's what he plans to do and what he wanted my advice on this week as we met at yet another shopping mall, where I took these pix.
Jung Soek has been bugging me to let him measure my teeth so he could make me a new set that would hide the gap between them.
I told him I had lived with these teeth my whole life and I wasn't about to have them "fixed" now. He doesn't understand that, but he smiled that big smile you see and accepted it with grace.
As thankful as he is to me, I am equally thankful. He is a deep-feeling person with a completely positive outlook on what's ahead of him and he's very happy to be here.
What more can you ask of any person, no matter where they're from?