JULY 2002
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Floating Weeds

From USA Chosun
June 18, 2002
By Ha-Rim Chang

The famous writer, Bum-Shin Park, once compared the wandering circus troups’ lives to that of floating weeds. My life in America was not much different. Detached from its own root, my life as an immigrant bore that resemblance.

Looking back in time, I think I wrote a very similar journal during my early years in America when I was going from one menial job to another, barely making my daily living. But before coming to America, there was at least a different world in my dream, the one that would be full of promising opportunities. If I go to American, I thought, I would be able to go to a good college, and with that, I would be working at Wall Street in a multistory building looking over the world through gigantic windows.

I did not need anything in these wild dreams. America was the only place of refugee for a person living in a corrupted society full of death and strikes against the government, which was exactly the portrait of Korea in the early 80s. Everything I saw around me was disgusting, and I wanted to break off my unbearable relationship with my country. Indulging in American dreams, I deliberately severed acquaintance with friends and began to erase all my memories in Korea. I ignored all the criticisms I received for condemning my native land and decided to run as far as I could from it. So I left everything behind and flew away just like floating weeds. 

The life of floating weeds turned out to be harsh in this new land. Without a place to go or anyone to turn to, I felt left alone. And I had to do whatever it took to sustain my daily living. How many different jobs have I gone through? Occasionally I myself get confused. First, I was a restaurant waiter and then a sushi assistant, a cab driver, a clothes salesman, a real estate broker, a computer network technician, and a limousine chauffer—just to name a few. Before I knew it, I was always someone else doing new things. There was not a place that I could not go to, or a thing that I could not do. Just as floating weeds move from place to places for nourishment, my wandering life never seemed to be near its end. 

There is a 400 years old magnificent oak tree standing in my backyard. Whenever I look back in time, I take a look at this tree. Who planted the tree? How did it grow into such a splendid one? Since the history of my town goes back 200 years ago, my guess is that Indians planted it. Was my house the site of an Indian’s tepee? With the abundant natural resources of the Catskill’s mountains, perhaps my town was the Indian’s village. Observing this tree for nearly ten months until this one beautiful May Day, I suddenly begin to have a different feeling about my life. I realize that I am no longer living a nomadic life. I see that, just as some floating weeds find a place to root themselves, I finally have settled in this little town after long years of wandering. And before I realized it, I was already the owner of my humble house, and the husband and the father of three children. I am also the proud son and the brother of my family members, all of who have followed my path into America. Now, I have friends to turn to and to depend upon with love and care. Just as floating weeds do settle on a land and flourish, my life has finally settled.  

I would not deny that life in general resembles floating weeds. This becomes truer for the lives of immigrants. I may feel settled for now, but I am not sure when I will have to move on with my life again. The life of an immigrant or rather should I put it, the life of floating weeds, is not something that comes with grace. Just as floating weeds wander from place to place, the wanderings of immigrants may never end. But, perhaps this is what makes the life of immigrants richer and fuller than anything else after all.

Translated from Koran by Julia Yook

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