Saturday, August 29, 2020

How a KDrama Changed My Life

About 4 years ago, I lost both my Grandparents unexpectedly within weeks of each other.  One was of natural causes, but the other was not and to say that my world was in chaos would be an extreme understatement. During this time of grief, anger, sadness and confusion, my mind was often overwhelmed and in the evenings, when I would go home from work to the now empty home that I had shared with my Grandma, it could be a bit more than I could handle at times.  

One night during all this, I turned on Netflix and it recommended the Korean Drama (KDrama) "Boys Over Flowers." It had been recommended to me several times before, but I'd been uninterested in watching anything with subtitles.  However, this night, it occurred to me that I would have to focus on the subtitles to watch the show which would keep my mind occupied so I decided to give it a try.  I had no idea how pressing "play" would change my life.

As I watched the show, I was intrigued by the storytelling and the fact that there was so much happening in each episode. I also found it interesting that the soundtrack was repeated throughout the show.  Each character seemed to have their own song that would play in various parts of the story.  Plus, the drama was clean. Though Netflix often likes to add swear words that are not there, the reality is Kdramas are generally very clean and family friendly.  What a breath of fresh air to my weary wholesome entertainment parched soul.

From that drama, I branched out to other Asian Dramas and began to watch shows first from Japan and Taiwan then eventually including China, Thailand, and other countries. As I watched I became curious about Asian culture and wanted to know more. Because I am quite conservative, it was so cool to FINALLY be seeing my lifestyle and values reflected in the shows I was watching.  I had not seen that in American television in ages and it was so pleasant to see my world reflected in those shows.  

The soundtracks led me to Kpop which I love and now listen to all the time.  As a former music business major, I am intrigued not only by the phenomenal talent showcased by the groups, but also in the way it is marketed and promoted. When KPop got popular here in the USA all of the sudden, it was the first time I ever felt ahead of the cultural curve.  When young people mention their favorite artists they are usually shocked that I'm already quite familiar with that group and generally know more than they do about them.  LOL.  

A few weeks into my drama watching, it occurred to me that my church was going to have a massive convention before long and that there would be delegates who spoke Chinese, Korean, and Japanese there.  I thought it would be so cool if I could greet them in their own languages.  So, I downloaded beginner lessons audiobooks for all three languages.  I started with Chinese and the tonal aspect was too scary for me, so I set it aside. When I started the Korean lesson, one of the first things it said was that if you learn Korean, it would make learning Chinese and Japanese easier.  I am very much an audio learner when it comes to language, so since it seemed like there was more Korean language content available online to watch and listen to, I decided to focus there.  So my language learning journey began and continues to this day.  Now about 4 years later, I'm still not great since I rarely get to practice, but I do understand quite a bit and can speak more than people realize.  I'm taking one-on-one tutoring from time to time now and that is helping too.

As I continued to learn about the culture, study the language, and watch television from South Korea, there began to stir in me a desire to see the country for myself.  To see the places that I'd seen only in pictures and video and try the foods and activities I'd only heard about up to then.  After doing some research I discovered that though, it would take some time for me to be able to afford it, that a trip to South Korea was not terribly expensive and if I planned well, I'd be able to go in a few years.  However, another issue was my size.  I've had weight issues all my life and I knew that if I wanted to go overseas, I'd need to lose a lot of weight.  First so that I'd be able to comfortably sit in the plane seat for the trip and 2nd so that I could do all the things I wanted to do while I was there.  So, that began my weight loss journey.  

As I learned about the food in South Korea, I started changing my way of eating so that I'd be comfortable eating the foods I'd find there.  I've been a very picky eater most of my life, but I knew that would not work.  Korean food tends to be spicy and full of veggies...two things I'd always avoided.  I needed to get used to those things.  For about 2 years I worked on learning to like vegetables as well as increasing my spicy food tolerance.  Then in October of 2019, I joined Weight Watchers and continued my weight loss journey in earnest. I have recently also added more exercise in my life as well and that too is helping with the weight loss.  I'm now down around 83 pounds (with much more to go) and have lost 71 inches. I've lost 5ft 11 inches off my 5ft 7 inch frame, but I've got more to lose, so I press on.

One of my biggest goals for my trip to South Korea was to be able to hike Mt. Hallasan (pictured below).  I want to see the beautiful scenery in the photos for myself.  When I began my planning, that would not have been possible.  My size would not have allowed it.  Now, I am encouraged that I will be able to do it.  When I go and take a picture from the top...I may just burst into tears from excitement of finally reaching my more than 4 years in the making (by the time I go).

People often ask me, "Why are you learning Korean?" It feels so inadequate to say that I became interested through a drama, even though it's the truth.  With the exception of my Faith, nothing else has caused so much positive change in my life as pressing "play" on that Kdrama. I started learning a new language, am studying new cultures, changed my bad eating habits, and am on my way to a healthy weight and lifestyle...and the reality is, it all started with "Boys Over Flowers."  I'm so glad I watched it. 

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