Family in Far Places

To be honest, I had never really thought much on the idea of family before December of 2015. December is when I visited my family during winter vacation. Back in Texas my nuclear family had an addition, however, a new foreign exchange student living with my family. A new brother. So easily had my family accepted him as one of their own that I, too, began to think of him as a member of our family.

But why was it so easy for me to accept this boy from halfway around the world as one of my own kin? I realized it was because I had grown my own extended family since my time in college. Upon thinking about it in more depth, I realized I had made family in three places: Korea, Hawaii, and Texas.


Korea:

This May when I spent the summer in Korea I had the fortunate opportunity to live with a host family. This family, who had already accepted me as soon as I stepped foot into their house soon began calling me their daughter-in-law-in-training. They took me to the doctor when I was sick, they cooked for me, and they did so much more. I also gained an international family in my Korean language classmates. On my last day of class I slipped letters of goodbye into some of my friend’s bags. I waited and hoped that they wouldn’t find them until they had gone home, but one of the girls found hers during a break. She read it silently, then called out my name from across the room.

“너 썼어?” (You wrote this?) She asked as her eyes turned red with imminent tears.

“언니, 너 울면 나도 울 거야!” (If you cry, I’ll cry too!) I said, before we both laughed at our red faces. She became a family member. They all did.

I catch up with them every so often, still concerned with their day-to-day lives just as any family member would be.

Hawaii:

In August I returned to my large Resident Assistant family. We spent late nights listening to coworkers’ life stories, eating home cooked desserts, and playing video and board games. I learned my place in that family as a kind of big sister regarding how the RA position worked. One night I was called to help assist in confronting a policy violation and saw a new RA successfully handle the situation with only a little of my guidance. As we stood on the tenth floor we just began talking and as thirty minutes passed by I realized how close we had become and how much she had grown as an RA since I had first met her. She became a member of my family. During the weekends I rejoined my Hanwoori Club family as we explored different parts of Oahu. I learned to let members of my family go as the Spring semester drew closer, signalling the departure of two friends/family members to leave for a study abroad semester.

Texas:

My original family was waiting for me there in December. The people who raised me to be the person I am today. I returned to these people and remembered that family is truly a special phenomenon of the human experience. Family is not only a thing humans are born into, but we also have the ability to choose who can be considered family: best friends, coworkers, pets. As humans we get to create interpersonal relationships that shape our lives. On my last night in Texas my family went to an engagement party. As the party began to wind down the adult-ier adults formed a group, leaving us youths to create some amusement of our own. Without pool sticks my sister, brother, and I began to play billiards. As we bickered at what counted as a point or not I looked at them and laughed. All in one moment I loved being with my family and missed those members of my family who were added on in recent months.


I’ve realized that my family grows as I become older. Some family members are here with me now and others span time zones and oceans. They have filled my life with so many wonderful experiences that have made me laugh, made me cry, and made me wish I would never leave them.

I hope that my family grows exponentially in this new year as I begin a new semester and begin to write more seriously for HKC. I hope that HKC can finally become a place for me to gain new family members as well. Because I know now that happiness is multiplied by family, no matter where that family resides.

 

Author

Raquel “Rocky” Reinagel is a MA candidate and graduate assistant in the Department of Second Language Studies at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa; former president of Hanwoori Hawaiʻi; and Co-President of the Second Language Studies Student Association (SLSSA) at UHM.