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  • Writer's pictureBryan Jun

Downtown Chicago 6/6/21

In an effort to help him learn English (he's actually relatively fluent but wanted to become more comfortable engaging in "American" discussions" - ironically, I'm technically an immigrant myself), I started an "English only" hangout with my friend "Bob." I usually speak to Bob in Korean, which if you're a bilingual person yourself you'll understand what I'm about to describe, so the first five ten minutes were a bit awkward. When you switch languages forcefully, especially with someone you've only spoken another language with, you require a form of a "rebooting" period. It's similar to updating your computer, switching between MacOS and Windows if you're into that kind of stuff.

Paul was actually a lot more fluent than I expected, as he severely downplayed his language skills when we were first floating around this idea. We met back in November and stayed pretty close friends since, but this was the longest we've ever spoken 1-on-1. The fact that our first "intimate" conversation was in a language we've never spoken to each other in was an odd thought. What was even more strange, and I expressed this to him at the end of our hangout, was that although his language barrier was higher than when we previously interacted, I felt like I knew more about him yesterday than I ever did before. Perhaps it speaks to his English being better than my Korean - time to go back to binging Netflix Korean shows.

On our walk we ran into three separate conversations with strangers, all of which were quite unique in nature and symbolically meshed well with the purpose of our little get together.

  1. During our walk in Millenium Park (for those of you not aware of Chicago lingo, this is where the "Bean" is and basically where Lollapalooza is held), we ran into a man clearly in panic asking us if we were from Chicago. I'll be honest and say I lied here because Bob and I were amidst a pretty serious conversation so I didn't have the mental real estate to explain where I was really from. After hearing that we were from Chicago (once again, neither of us are), he asked if we knew how to find a certain parking structure that he parked at and couldn't locate. I actually experienced this exact problem before and suddenly had an urge of shared frustration - the parking lot is extremely difficult to find once you're on the surface (it's basically under Millenium Park). I tried my best to explain that you had to get out onto the road and take an elevator down - our guy seemed extremely thankful for what I thought was a rather unhelpful tip. Not to put too much meaning in a 5 minute conversation, but I think human beings are easily pleased in desperation. I hope you found your parking space!

  2. I'll preface this one by saying I fully acknowledge this is a weird flex. We walked into a Walgreens because Bob wanted to get a Diet Coke (I'm not sure why anyone drinks these). As we're walking to the drinks section, someone taps on my shoulder and asks "do you make Youtube Videos?" I've had this only twice before, both times (unsurprisingly) being college-aged boys. This time was no different and he went on to say how he recently graduated college and was thinking about jumping into finance. He then asked my name (which I thought was funny, he probably watched that one video of mine that everyone watches) and I told him about three times during our conversation to stop watching my videos. I think that's my defense mechanism for this niche "fame" that I have or a sad attempt to cover up the immense joy and adrenaline rush that anyone would get from being recognized in public (or I'm just weird). We then took a picture together and did a COVID fist bump - hope your career treats you well bro from New Jersey.

  3. I actually found this last one the most fascinating - and this was actually a conversation, not an panicked inquiry or F-Class celebrity meetup. We stopped at the River Walk to cool off and an older lady (she was clearly the matriarch of this giant family she was leading) asked us where we were from, pointing at my UC San Diego t-shirt. She was also from California; after our brief conversation on our geographic roots, she asked if we were doctors (Bob's a consultant and as many of you know, I'm "growth at startup). I noted that I'd love to be a doctor to which she replied "you guys look like my doctor and my daughter's dentist." I took that as "you guys look Korean" and then went through this deep internal thought spiral about how I should've just pursued pre-med during college. As many of these conversations go once the elephant in the room is addressed (about where I'm really from - which I actually don't find to be a racist discussion as many do, I'll write about that another time), the lady let us know how obsessed her granddaughter is with BTS. Her daughter (probably a couple years older than me) stepped in and noted how she was also obsessed with them and then both of them noted how neither Bob or I looked Korean (I get this a lot). My one takeaway from this interaction was a subtle reminder of how much I love California and how grateful I am to go back.

I think this actually might turn into a series - I will say yesterday was a bit of an anomaly in terms of the diversity of interactions I had. But, I do run into a lot of interesting people wherever I am and as I've always told my mother, my ideal job would be to eat three new meals a day with three strangers and get paid for it. Hope to run into y'all soon!

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