My admiration for best friend is the stuff of legends where we come from in Killeen, Texas where it followed us to college in San Antonio and now lives amongst my boasting here in Chicago. Though she will be mildly embarrassed by a post that is dedicated to the awesomeness that is her and our friendship, it would be an injustice for me not to share how she’s impacted my cultural outlook on the world. Having one best friend to call your own was always a dream of mine coming from a childhood where I was always someone’s friend, but no one’s best friend. Low and behold when I met Christina at the age of twelve in Killeen my life would be forever changed for the better.
When I met Christina, I was happy to befriend this piano playing, bubbly young girl who happened to be Korean/Puerto Rican. I had come from a small town with no Asian ethnicities at all and my only knowledge of them at this point was Mulan, so needless to say I was bursting with questions. Luckily for me, Christina and her family were open to sharing their culture with me that started when I walked through the door. I remember being in high school when I had my first sit down meal of Korean food with them that consisted of Bulgogi and traditional Korean side dishes. I learned how to use chopsticks, appreciate the versatility of vegetables in many forms, and appreciate the beautiful dishware that accompanied the meal.
I don’t remember being scared or even hesitant to try the food, I just had questions on what an item was and then I would just eat it. Christina taught me about what was customary food specific to their culture and the difference between various Asian ethnicities. Between the two of us we had this nice exchange when we got older where she could enjoy junk food, bbq, and fried seafood at my house and I could enjoy Korean food at hers. We truly got different cultural experiences amongst each other’s households that we were both open to and really helped grow my perspective on other cultures. I have a very deep respect for cultural practices, foods, and custom’s outside of my own and love to learn about them. My experience with my best friend and her family’s openness to share, teach and answer my questions about their culture gave me exposure I would have never had otherwise.
As we grew up I also had the opportunity to grow to their local church, which was attended by a majority Korean population and taught in Korean. I enjoyed listening to the preacher speak and choir sing even if I couldn’t understand them because it was an honor to be exposed to such a beautiful language. The church provided headsets for non-Korean speakers that translated the sermon into English that gave my ears a dual treat of languages. In Killeen we have an all-Korean grocer called Omart where we would get to shop for favorite snacks like ramen or seaweed and even dine at their in house eatery. Christina’s mom loves to say “I’ll eat anything” because to this day there is nothing she can put in front of my face that I won’t eat or at least try, but most of the time I will devour it.
It’s been over ten years since we’ve been friends and I can now call her sister, neighbor, roommate and best friend amongst the thousand other titles we’ve amassed in our time together. I love that within our friendship we respect each other’s heritage and can celebrate that together whether it’s going to church, eating, or just inquiring about what’s going on in the world. It adds a different component to our friendship and to my life that I’m happy to have acquired because it makes me value other cultures and have open mind to a world outside of my comfort zone.