Foreign Friday: Oppa

Oppa. She always hesitated to use that word. The intention was too confusing, she thought. How was he supposed to know if she meant “oppa” as in “older brother” or “oppa” as a term of respect for an older guy she knew…or “oppa” as in “honey…” “darling…” “sweetheart?”

It was unfair for a word to have so many meanings. Okay, maybe it was the only word in any language to have such nuances, but it was one word whose meaning should be absolutely clear and without question.

They started walking to school and back home again everyday. It wasn’t planned. He lived two floors above her. She hurried out of her apartment one day, shouting exasperated agreements at her mother, only to come face-to-face with him on the stairs. That was when it started.

She would walk beside him, listening to him speak, trying to think of the right things to say. Her clammy fingers would find their way to the skirt of her school uniform and clutch at the fabric. She always wondered if he would notice her if they didn’t live in the same building.

All the while, her mouth would rebel against her efforts to call him oppa. Honey. That was what she meant, and she wanted so much for him to know. How was it so easy  for the other girls to call the boys oppa? They didn’t waste any effort doing it. She was the only one who seemed to have something broken inside her.

In a fit of desperation, she took to listening to Girl’s Generation’s Oh! on repeat. “Oppa, oppa, I’ll be, I’ll be, down, down, down, down,” she sang with them. Maybe she said it over and over, it would be easier to finally say it when it counted.

It seemed to work.

“Yes, oppa,” she said in response to his question, her heart ballooning in her chest, sweet spring air filling her lungs.

He patted her head as though she were a child–or a puppy.

“I’m so glad you’re finally calling me oppa,” he said. “I think of you as a sister too.”

Oppa. She could imagine the deceptively innocent word pointing and laughing at her.

Boy, did she hate it.

Curious about the meaning of “oppa?”

Foreign Friday is an introduction to Indian and Korean culture in honor of my YA contemporary novel (tentatively titled) Shadows Fall Behind.

Foreign Friday: Sunny

Sunny is a South Korean film about a middle-aged woman who tries to fulfill her friend’s dying wish of reuniting their group of high school friends. The film alternates between two timelines: the present day where the women are middle-aged, and the 1980s when they were in high school.

This is an absolutely adorable film that very elegantly transitions between the present and flashbacks of the past. It beautifully captures the universality of the human experience. The closeness of a group of high school girl friends, the pain of first love, the way it feels like nothing’s changed when you’re back with that certain group of friends–even years later.

For anyone who wants to watch it, it’s available on Netflix Instant Watch.

Foreign Friday is an introduction to Indian and Korean culture in honor of my YA contemporary novel (tentatively titled) Shadows Fall Behind.

Foreign Friday: Wildflower by Na Tae-joo

(Romanized)

Jasehi boaya
Yeppuda
Orae boaya
Sarangseureopda
Neo do kureota

(English)

You have to look closely
To see that it is pretty
You have to look long
To see that it is lovable
You are the same

There’s something about hearing a poem in another language. Hearing the words without understanding them means I listen more to the sound than to the words themselves. If poetry were only focused on the meaning, it could just as easily be written as a short story. Poems have a cadence that feels more apparent, somehow, in another language.

You can hear the poem recited here.

Foreign Friday is an introduction to Indian and Korean culture in honor of my YA contemporary novel (tentatively titled) Shadows Fall Behind.

Foreign Friday: Holi

Holi festival the big toss by -vannie-lou

Holi Hai! During Holi, the sky is filled with colors. People attack each other with them, essentially tie-dying formerly white clothes and getting on hair and skin. The Festival of Colors is certainly one of the most enjoyable Hindu holidays. Where I come from in India, it’s also the chance for people to set aside old rivalries and start afresh with the people they know. I love that idea because I love the idea of everyone getting along (although it admittedly doesn’t make for a very good story).

For anyone who’s in the Bay Area, there are a few chances to join in on the fun: the Sunnyvale temple, Stanford, and Berkeley, are all hosting their own Holi festivities!

Foreign Friday is an introduction to Indian and Korean culture in honor of my YA contemporary novel (tentatively titled) Shadows Fall Behind.

Foreign Friday: 3 Idiots

“Follow your passion, and success will follow you.” – Arthur Buddhold

In the world today, everything seems both possible and impossible. Anyone can record songs, make films, write novels because of [things] such as iTunes, YouTube, and Amazon. We no longer need to go through big companies. We can do this on our own. Because of this, there are more people than ever singing, acting, writing, etc. That’s why it sometimes feels impossible.

That’s where this movie (one of my absolute favorite Bollywood movies) comes in as a reminder to stop focusing on success and just follow your passions. It happens to me quite a bit: I worry about whether or not I can make anything of myself with my writing.

But then I ask myself why I write. The answer is simple: I write because I love it. I write because I can’t NOT write.

This movie captures that feeling beautifully. If you haven’t seen it–even if you don’t usually watch Bollywood films, I’d recommend it. You can find it on Netflix (although not on Instant Watch, unfortunately).

Foreign Friday is an introduction to Indian and Korean culture in honor of my YA contemporary novel (tentatively titled) Shadows Fall Behind.

Foreign Friday: Korean Words – unnie/noona

Screen Shot 2013-02-21 at 1.35.17 AMThis is a companion post to [last week’s Foreign Friday]. “Unnie” and “noona” are used very similarly to “oppa” and “hyung.” A girl will call her older sister “unnie,” while a guy will call his older sister “noona.” However, a girl can also call an older friend or an older girl she knows “unnie” without being blood-related to her. A guy can use “noona” the same way, but he can also call an older girlfriend or lover “noona.”

Basically, “unnie” and “noona” are the genderswapped version of “oppa” and “hyung!”

Foreign Friday is an introduction to Indian and Korean culture in honor of my YA contemporary novel (tentatively titled) Shadows Fall Behind.

Foreign Friday: Korean Words – oppa/hyung

Screen Shot 2013-02-21 at 1.28.14 AMI grew up calling my older cousins by the Marathi terms for older brother and older sister. My younger sister and younger cousins still call me by the term for older sister. As a result, I thought I could understand the Korean use of the words for older brother and older sister.

Nope. In Korean, what a girl calls her older brother and what a guy calls his older brother are different. As noted above, a girl would say “oppa,” while a guy would say “hyung.”

I also find it interesting that “oppa,” isn’t just used to address a blood brother. A girl can call an older friend or acquaintance “oppa” as well. As if that wasn’t confusing enough, she can also call her crush or boyfriend by the term.

In a similar vein, a guy may refer to his blood-related brother as “hyung,” but he may also call an older friend or acquaintance by this term.

Foreign Friday is an introduction to Indian and Korean culture in honor of my YA contemporary novel (tentatively titled) Shadows Fall Behind.