The Journey of the Dreamer
Bae’s 48 years of adventure and search of a “dream come true” life in America
essay written by Soyoung Bae
Bae immigrated to America in the year of 2000. He is currently a PGA professional golf teacher. He has lived in America for 8 years and is currently living with his family in Irvine CA. He enjoyed his experiences here in America as it gave him many advantages despite the hardships he faced as an immigrant. He took advantage of the amount of freedom and the ability of a person to make their own business and be successful here in America-which sometimes not really provided in some countries.
It was the cold winter of 1961, in the city of Dae Guu, one of the third largest city of Korea, the mix of suburbs, with urban cities combined with the old country side shaped Bae to be the way he is today. Bae’s parents were previously residents of Japan during WWII when Japan was having an open Pacific front against US. As Bae’s father “Moved to Japan to study…and he made a lot of money…he was a rich man in Japan so your grandma went to Japan to marry him…”1. Becoming a rather a successful and rich man in the business of steel, and a patriot at heart, Bae’s father, along with his wife returned to the country while risking his life. The couple had four boys and 3 girls and Bae was the youngest boy of the family.
The house had seven rooms with one master bedroom and six other bedrooms that was leased out to the renters. The family had a large backyard raising animals such as dogs, cats, rabbits, and chickens. The house built with cement bricks and other constructional materials needed for a house when Bae remembered as his father took him to the construction site of his new home being built. During summer when the mosquitoes were rampant, the family would burn wood and straw to chase away the insects with the smoke-called ‘mosquito fire’. And in the summer the entire family would “celebrate a lot of food there and…and we can see the sky and the stars and some of the mosquito fires make some streams in the sky…you grandpa talks of old stories”2 as the family enjoyed a simple and content life in Dae Guu.
Bae had a very short but a intimate relationship with his loving father. He remembers his father as a “very good man and he loved me too much and he always loved me and I was always sitting on his knees every time, always”3 a reminiscent past of Bae’s few memories of his father. A very kind and generous man, Bae’s father never hesitated to help the poor and the needy when ever possible a man Jason always admired when he was a child. His father later on became a role model for Bae to be a kind and generous person and a very caring father figure to his children although his time spent with his father was cut short. Unfortunate for Bae Sr. his once prosperous business collapsed due to being swindled by some of his close relatives. After couple of failures at business, he began drinking heavily due to depression and with presumably liver-related health problems, passed away at his early 40’s-Bae was only six years old.
Bae as a child was the ultimate prankster; he was the leader of his gangs of friends who they cause mischief around the town as they have fun. They have once did steal fruits from a fruit cart from a farmer who was going out to sell them to the market. And later on he along with his friends collected manure from everywhere and mixed it up with water and clay, dug a hole in the ground, placed the mix inside and covering it with dirt and grass making it absolutely fool proof. When unfortunately one of his elder sister’s friend in her sunday’s best walked right into the trap unrepentantly saw her leg covered in feces and cried her heart out. Unfortunately for Jason, her elder brother came along right after catching the little mischief and visiting each of the children’s houses until they reached Bae’s house. And Bae got plenty of beatings from his sister that night. He was with out a father so his elder brothers and sisters were the ones that disciplined Jason in home so he would be behaved.
Life was not easy for Bae as he lived in a house of three elder brothers and Sisters, the oldest being 18 years apart from him with a single mother, life was demanding a lot from Bae at an early age. Bae using his bike as the only mode of transportation, he “commuted to school with my bike for 6 years…which took like an hour and half”4. And Bae also had financial problems to support his education system having “no room to study… no money…bought old books, hand me downs, and I studied all night in a study center for a week not sleeping… and I had no lunch(or money) so I starved lunch every day”5 . He was a hard worker outside of his class as well, with the father’s business gone, the mother opened a small restaurant to keep the family going and Bae always helped his mother with the dishes and other hardsome labors and prepared for the next day and studied right on. He also was a newspaper boy waking up early in the morning to deliver papers and sold snacks in a snack cart along with his uncle during winter. Although he came from a lower economically capable family, Bae was one top students of his school, highly competitive and driven to succeed he was able to attend one of Dae Guu’s top middle and high school that required rigorous tests and exams to attend the school much like the American universities with the SAT.
Bae was very dedicated to his schoolwork and other activities outside of school as well when he was a kid, as his “style is ‘do it or die’ on everything and such and I was really devoted”6 which said a lot about his personality. Every day he would wake up six in the morning passing out papers in his neighborhood and going to school in his bike when the school started. Being the top student in his school, Bae studied every moment he could get as much as possible. The Korean society based importance on education and successful students in school as Bae tried his very best to perform well in school. Bae did not have a proper room to study in his home, which were one master bed room with 7 bedrooms but the 7 rooms being rented out for renters for the family to receive an income on. So Bae relied upon study centers, spending maybe hours and even weeks without a wink of sleep studying for his exams-he was pure dedication and hard work.
In Korea, the teachers have a very personal and close relationship with each of the students as much as possible- so they are more like parent and children. One thing Bae found so surprising about American education system is that teachers did not care about their students. The teachers came to the class, gave lectures and lessons and left the students on their own with no time to build a personal relationship between the teacher and the student. Bae also remembered how he viewed the elders as “We Koreans…will respect teachers first the first is that we respect the teachers and we have to follow and we have to obey what the teacher has to say right or wrong”7. The Korean society being all about respect to elders and teachers it became a struggle for him when he came to America when he found out that there was no respective connotation for elders or seniors in English. He felt appalled when the younger people called the elders ‘you’ when in Korean society ‘you’ is only used for younger kids from an elderly.
Bae worked as one of the employees in one of the top banks in Korea named Wae Han Bank. All of the employees there took a lot of pride in their work and in fact they were working at one of the best jobs possible in Korea. Bankers in Korea had one of the steadiest incomes with many benefits. Bae met his wife through his work as he remembered “ I saw her...and then suddenly there was this feeling inside…but then there was my pride and so I would never tell a girl “Oh I like you” in a million years”8. Although he avoided girls as much as possible she wasn’t easy to avoid, as she was one of his coworkers who constantly called him to join for a lunch with the rest of the employees (which he rarely joins unless ordered by his superiors). He dated her for seven years in unofficial relationship until in the year 1984, they were married-and they were a very happy couple. The wife’s side of the family disagreed on this union because Bae came from a lower social family and her from a higher social class. But despite all the hardships the couples faced with the families in the end they married for love.
The couple’s first child as soon as he was born had serious medical problems and spent a lot of his time in medical hospitals getting treatments and surgeries. With a little or no chance to live, things looked dark for the couple. Then three years later their second child was prematurely given birth due to the mother shocked at a burglar breaking into their house (who left the scene due to Bae’s surprise attack) but their second child died after one month. At the peak of his despair, Bae cremated his daughter’s body as he recalled his memory when “the baby died in about a month and I had to cremate it and that was the most despairing moment of my life, I was so tired, and so I was like “lets not have no more kids”9. Then things turned out better for Bae as their son got better and the birth of their second child who was very healthy much to their parent’s relief. Hoping that the fresh air and environment will do good for his son, Bae moved his family from Seoul Korea to Che Juu island just off the coast of south Korea.
Being a very outdoorsy person, Bae did not want to spend his life inside all the time, as one of his philosophy “Life is too short to spend your time indoors”10 he wanted to teach golf since this was his hobby and he enjoyed it very much. However, Bae saw that Korea’s golf teaching structure was very underdeveloped compared to some of the major countries that played golf- like Britain who was the originator of the sports of golf, and America, that also had a very prominent field in the world of golf. Bae was determined to become a PGA (Professional Golfers Association) gold instructor, and as he told his family members and his friends about his dreams and ambitions, many disagreed and some even thought it was crazy to go to America. Many people did not see the point of leaving the job of banker to become a PGA golf instructor Bae remembered how he “wanted to come here and live in US and depend on my family… but all of my relatives and my friends called me crazy… like why would I leave such a good job to go to US?”11. Feeling very discouraged, Bae went to his wife for advice who simply told him “If you want to do it, go and do it, I know you can do it”.
This word of encouragement from the person he loved the most helped Bae to get backup on his feet and start his trip to America. He immediately applied for a visa, which came out very quickly, than the normal standards; which was a sign Jason believed he was suppose to go to America to study for his golf career. He came to America alone in 1999 to study in a university to receive proper golf education he needed to reach his dream. His family was left behind in Korea as Jason finished the hardest part of his immigration-to finish his school and receive a diploma. But he was all alone in a foreign country with no one to talk with as he remembered “it was really hard all by myself so we all came here…I needed your mother…I needed your mother so you just tagged along with your mother”12 and he later on brought his entire family to US. The brand new culture, people, customs, and systems in a brand new country and “unlike Korean it was hard…difficulty in communication and everything was so hard…”13 and it all felt strange to Bae as he tried to get accustomed to the American system. Also Bae saw that the American road system “Took sometime getting used to and freeways were funny”14 which he thought was too complicated, and the introduction of stop signs which he never saw in Korea. And the amount of inconvenience he felt as he saw that there were no supermarkets close by that he can just walk up to the purchase items when in America you had to drive to the store with a big ware house style (he meant Costco) and buy food in big packages which is rarely seen in Korea. He also had a tough time with English language as he tried to improve his English accent over his hardened Korean speech. He also had to adapt to the amount of racial diversity in America as he was exposed to Hispanics, Blacks, Whites, and other racial ethnicities that are often rare in Korea. His experiences were all so new and life-changing for him but he tried to adapt to it the best as possible.
After 2 years a long and hard decision Bae brought his entire family to America in the year of 2000. Their oldest son was 14, their middle daughter 9, and their youngest being 2 years old. Bae was the only person in the family who was capable of speaking English. The experience was very tough for Bae as he simulated into the American life with his family, sending 2 kids to school and still working even though his English was not perfect. Bae sometimes also had problems as he was trying to communicate with his American students. But there were good times as well as Bae remembered when “we are(the entire family) here all alone I get to pay attention to more of my family now and we can spend family relation time together….and our family became more united and loving through this land…and the chance that US provides…the opportunity”15. His family came much closer through the hardships all the members faced and the support each member gave to each other.
His American dream was realized as from the beginning he came from a humble background being born in Dae Guu with three brothers and sisters and a single mother. Proving to be a very successful man in Korea but wanting to chase his dreams to live the life of happiness, he came to America knowing all the harshness and the pain of moving into a new country. But even through all the hardships he created another new and successful life in America, as he have said “I think it is possible for anyone with the right determination and right mind set and that if they want to do it so much then they can accomplish it…”16. Bae has truly achieved the “American Dream”, where opportunities brought him to be independent and successful in his profession. And he is still in the middle of that process- he is still waiting for all of his kids to go to a university, to graduate and have a career, have grandchildren and make their family circle bigger then before.
1. Bae, Jason. Personal interview. 5/25/09. 3
2. Bae, Jason. Personal interview. 5/25/09. 3
3. Bae, Jason. Personal interview. 5/25/09.4
4. Bae, Jason. Personal interview. 5/25/09.8
5. Bae, Jason. Personal interview. 5/25/09.8
6. Bae, Jason. Personal interview. 5/25/09.8
7. Bae, Jason. Personal interview. 5/25/09.4
8. Bae, Jason. Personal interview. 5/25/09.13
9. Bae, Jason. Personal interview. 5/25/09.14
10. Bae, Jason. Personal interview. 5/25/09.15
11. Bae, Jason. Personal interview. 5/25/09.15
12. Bae, Jason. Personal interview. 5/25/09.16
13. Bae, Jason. Personal interview. 5/25/09.16
14. Bae, Jason. Personal interview. 5/25/09.17
15. Bae, Jason. Personal interview. 5/25/09.16
16. Bae, Jason. Personal interview. 5/25/09.18