Sunday, December 29, 2013


Since we joined our gym back in October, I've been using the elliptical and looking out the window. There are buildings and billboards, parking garages and road signs. At first, the signs were littered with designs that held little meaning to me. Just scribble. Just color. Just shape. Almost overwhelming to know that these symbols meant something, but that something was just out of reach for me. Before I knew the alphabet, all I saw were meaningless symbols. And in a way, it was freeing to be blissfully ignorant of what was written there. Before I understood the meaning behind the writing, it was decoration to me. And sometimes, quite beautiful. 

We've been learning Korean slowly, and day-by-day we've begun to identify those symbols as sounds and words with meaning. But with the license of someone who is new to the Korean language, I decided to paint a picture using these symbols only as designs without meaning. Not trying to form grammatically correct sentences. Not trying to make sense. And I can do that because I'm not expected to use this language correctly. 

Painting this picture was good practice in sounding out letters. But it was also a bit of a meditation on privilege. On the things I am both expected and not expected to be as a white foreigner in Korea. There's a bit more grace for me. I can write the alphabet like a 2nd grader. I can stumble over words. I can be playful with the language because no one expects me to be perfect. 

On this entire painting, the only actual words (at least, that I know of..) are written here in turquoise: ahn young ee gay say yo, which is "goodbye" but only when you are walking away from someone who is staying put. Our Korean teacher told us that the literal translation was something like, "stay in peace." 

And I just thought that was beautiful. And worth painting. And remembering. 


Lindsey said...

This is beautiful, Heather!