The Family (Or most of them)

The Family (Or most of them)
The Family

March 2, 2007



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.

Good luck.

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?


  1. You've done a great thing, Chris. How wonderful of you to take him under your wing. And how wonderful of you to make sure we all know that you got as much out of it as you put in to it.

    I'm glad you didn't let him change your really doesn't need fixing at all.

  2. He lucked out in getting you as a tutor since he also gained a friend.

  3. Jung Soek is lucky indeed to have found Saint Christopher.
    Thanks for putting a human face on the challenge of starting a brand new life..besides, what do we in the West really know about Korea?

    We know that Bad Korea (North) has a psychotic sex crazed megalomaniac know as Lil Kim who is about the same height as Yoda,who has threatened to build an arsenal of Nuclear Weapons.

    We forget that the Korean War in the 50s was a war against China and that the Cold War lives on along the border of Good and Bad Korea where thousands of families are separated by the 'Commie' hardliners and the totalitarian iron fisted rule over the people...who live without the internet to make sure that millions of 'prisoners' never find out how horrible their austere half starved world really is.

    But more than anything this land is most notorious for (and I cannot get over the fact) that they wear & eat Puppy-Dogs!!!

    but I digress.

    You did a marvelous thing and I am sad that Soek wants to move to Calgary like everybody else.
    Who have you got lined up now?

  4. Nice one, WW. I have had similar experiences during my years as an ESL teacher. I loved the drive and enthusiasm of English-language learners, eager to become part of their (new) world, and the way they immediately trusted and respected me as their teacher. It's a rare and fulfilling experience.

    But don't let him close the gap. Every time I visit my dentist he almost salivates with the desire to straighten my crooked teeth, but I have no appointments with the runway, the press or the high fashion photographer tomorrow so I pass every time...

    Sorry to hear your questionable sense of humour has driven him to relocate in Calgary, though... :)

  5. I'm glad it was 2 way traffic for you, although what have you done to scare him away? I'm sure you'll miss him.

    Anyway I hear you're having a party - if I start out now I should be with you by this morning as I'm now travelling faster than light.

    zoom zoom

  6. Laurie:

    I definitely got something out of it, and that's what this post was about, L...we both learned a lot.

    He just couldn't understand why I wouldn't take up his offer on fixing my teeth...or at least hiding the real ones with a cast he said he would make and fit for free.

    Even on Thursday night, he asked again if he could do it to thank me...I said I like my "imperfections."


    Yep, we both did...

    Homely Enema:

    I guess we don't know a lot about Korea, but Jung Soek, in his accent, says they are very "seer-ee-oos."

    No one lined up at the moment. I think I'm going to take a bit of a break. If he found out I was tutoring someone else, he'd probably be pretty sad...

    One thing I do remember that I don't like about the Korean culture is this dish he says is all the rage there...I think it's called kim chee. Argh. Brutal.


    It is fascinating and rewarding, isn't it?

    He's like a sponge...and just needs and wants a connection to his new world. It was about being a friend and mentor more than anything else.

    I actually DO have an appointment with a fashion photographer, but I still couldn't not have the gap at this stage...

    I didn't notice you had crooked teeth...

  7. Ziggi:

    Yeah, the things they can do with brooms nowadays...or are you just doing the poof thing with your wand?

    The more, the merrier.

    With Jung Soek, it's his wife who wants to he says. Everybody in Canada is moving to Calgary, it seems, or Vancouver.


  8. Congratulations to Jung Soek!! I wish him and his family much happiness and good fortune in Calgary. I hope the two of you remain in touch and I hope you change your mind and begin tutoring someone else soon. It sounds like such an enriching experience.

  9. A huge congratulations to Jung Soek, the first step on the way to becoming a canadian....A good friend ours became an Australian Citizen, formerly egyptain, we celebrated the only way we know how, BBQ lots of meat and Beer.... You would swear he was part Skip:)

    You did a Great thing, you should be very very Proud... Good Work WW

  10. Anna:

    He does want to stay in touch, for sure.

    He wants to set up his own business there and I've told him he still has a long way to go on his English and he should hire a professional tutor, not someone who has no training in it (like me).

    I'm taking a break from the tutoring thing for a bit and considering other volunteer ops.

    But you certainly are right -- it's an enriching experience.

    Thanks for visiting. I hope you and the baby are doing well.



    Getting his Landed Immigrant Status pretty much makes him gold here, mate.

    He has to wait two years, I think, and then he becomes a full-fledged Canajun.

    That's cool about your Egyptian Aussie friend. But, DUH, what's a skip?


  11. This is such an enriching experience for the mind and for the heart, a real exchange, wonderful ! Great that one day you decided to volunteer.

  12. your question about skip -from an aussie slang site:

    Skippy: An Australian or kangaroo.

    But I think the way that most of us would use it is to refer to a white australian. It can be used as an insult - e.g. lebanese australians might use it to refer to white aussies - does that make sense? :).

  13. Anonymous7:38 p.m.

    Awww sweet!


  14. Forget Napoleon Dynamite! These newer frames make you look like Ted from Queer Eye For The Straight Guy. Big improvement. HUGE!

  15. Yay, my p.o.s. govt computer finally decided to let me view your blog! Hopefully the CIA will stop following you now. ;-)

  16. When I was in high school I met someone who would have a profound impact on my life. His name, Kyun Taek and he was from South Korea.

    I met him in algebra class, he was brillant in it...getting nothing but flying grades. He was also in my English class where he failed nearly everything. I remember resenting the teacher, as she did not take into consideration that english was his second language.

    He was a snazzy dresser, dressing in all the latest fashions. He introduced me to seaweed potatoe chips....he introduced me to Korean rap music.

    He introduced me to things I could not imagine on my own. He was such a wonderful friend. Late nights and hanging with him after school was some of the best ever.

    Culturally different we were the same.

    Both kids, dealing with school, life and growing up.

    Dang, I miss him so. He wrote me after he went back to South Korea and joined the military. I lost the address and have not heard from him since.

    Excellent post, WW.

  17. I see you and HE have come out of the closet over at his place, although confusingly you said you were on your bed, do you keep a bed there as well as a toothbrush? Anyway, would you like to have my wand cos I can't make it do the Poof thing but you obviously have a talent, or is it a need? Just say the word and it's yours :)

  18. Hildegarde:

    Yes, you're right. :-)


    Yep...thanks. my guess is that Aidan meant it to be an Aussie.

    When somebody is referred to as a skip here, it means the leader of a curling team, the one who calls the shots the other players throw and who makes the final two shots of every end.

    Does THAT make sense to YOU?

    Ms. Val:

    Maybe I'll go back to being Napoleon...


    No, the CIA is hot on my trail. I've had to pack up and leave, like The Fugitive.

    I'm operating my computer from a little gas station in northern Saskatchewan right now...


    That's a beautiful story. This guy also was in the military (they all have to serve two years or so).

    Thanks for telling it. :-)


    Yeah, we've come out of the closet. As you might have read from Ms. Val's comment, I'm actually Ted from Queer Eye for the Straight Guy.

    HE and I were posting to his blog from my yes, he was sitting on my bed while I was typing.

    You HAVE seen the post, have you not, of him posing on my bed a la Burt Reynolds?

    But yes, I do have a need for your wand. Can you just poof it here into my hand or will you Fed-Ex it?

  19. hello ww. this is a great post. i love it when a friendship equally gives and gets. jung looks like a wonderful guy. i've been pondering the differences that divide people so this sweet story is my uplift for the day.

    brrrr...hope all is well!

  20. Hi KJ. Glad it uplifted your day.

    It's not terribly cold here, a lot better than what we had been "enjoying."

    Be well.

  21. Skip... as in skippy the bush kangaroo, it was a kids show here, kind of like lassie but with a Kangaroo and larger Vocabulary...

    "whats that SKip, Osama Bin laden, weapons of mass desturction in Iraq, Are you sure?"

  22. Sometimes I think you're an utter smartarse. Then you post something like this and you're just so sweet!!! I envy you having the time, energy, and dedication to do something like this for somebody. I'd hate to sound patronising, but I'm going to: Keep up the great work!

  23. u r a great person WW!


  24. Aidan, Stace and Keshi:

    Arby Dar, it's Aussie Hour!

    Thanks for droppin' by, mates.

  25. I love the song on your blog, Chris. It's one of my favorites.

  26. Great post, WW. ;) I think I know why you're not fixing those teeth and it has nothing to do with living with imperfections.

    That grin is too huge. You have some sort of "talent" that you perform through that space, don't you?!

    I'm going to have to question the women of Whateverpeg about your special talents.

    And then I'm going to see about getting my boyfriend to put spacers between his front teeth. He's already got a little bit of a gap, but not enough to do tricks.


  27. Laurie:

    It is a gorgeous tune, ain't it? He's a Canajun, but then you might have known that...


    Yo, girl, and when you conduct that questionnaire with the girls of Whateverpeg, make sure you send me the results, huh?

    So I know?

    I think these little tooth faeries come out of that space and do a little number. And women either love 'em or hate 'em.

    I think the little faeries do the can-can or something. I do my own little things, but they steal the show...



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