Given how I’ve been late in uploading the next part twice in a row, this translating work is definitely a challenge, but I’m still up for it! I think the story definitely gets more interested at the end of Chapter 3 so I’m looking forward to translating that for next week. One of the hardest parts of translating is that there might be colloquial terms in the original language that you know but can’t directly translate into the target language, leaving much to be desired. Or, the opposite, where if I add a colloquial phrase in English, I feel like I’ve gone too off-track from the original work. People say that translations can be a work entirely of their own sometimes and at times I do feel that. But I eventually do want to be a translator who sticks true to the book. As long as the meaning crosses over, right?
3 months ago, Father became an exchange professor in East Asian Studies at a New York university. From then on Hae-in decided to follow his father and transfer schools. Mr. Kwak was his English teacher. Mr. Kwak’s mother was once a Ph.D student. After graduating at a Korean university, she earned her masters at an American college and intended to go for a doctorate but, due to some circumstances, had to return to Korea. Now, with his mother as a mentor, Mr. Kwak started his Ph. D journey.
To devote more time to teach English to Hae-in, Mr. Kwak quit several of his part-time jobs. Hae-in was half parts burdened by this act of loyalty but also disturbed when Mr. Kwak would scratch at his groin from time to time during their tutoring sessions. He was also not too delighted when Mr. Kwak would declare out of the blue what a really lucky kid he was.
“Even if they say they’re Anti-American or talk about overthrowing the imperialists, what college student in Korea hasn’t dreamed of studying abroad in the States? Once they’re seniors in high school, they take the English proficiency exam and if they’re from a well-off family, they sneakily run off to America. You’re going while still in high school so don’t even get me started on how lucky you are.”
In other words, what Mr. Kwak really wanted to say to Hae-in then was that he was the lucky bastard of filthy rich parents. He would tell his story so often that Hae-in was not even surprised.
At the school he attended, whether the students were middle class and upright or middle class and twisted, they all glared at him with the same judging look upon hearing that he was going to America. To Hae-in, no matter how good it was, it wasn’t a terribly happy thing. And if he thought about it in other’s shoes, he could timidly understand their attitude.
“Your mother, I mean Professor Son Hye-Jin was a legendary alumni in our school. Even though there weren’t that many female students, Professor Son was popular among her upper and lower classmates. No one could deny her skills. She even beat out the distinguished seniors in her field who were older or studied abroad and was first among them to become an assistant professor in her alma mater. It’s really not an easy thing to do in our country that favors those who study abroad, you know? But the first one to return to school was Professor Son, who was favored by all those macho male classmates. I don’t know if I should say this to you, but there was a strange rumor amongst the male professors because she was a woman. She went in somewhere with Professor Lee and came out somewhere with Professor Park… I’m also a Korean man but I’m not despicable to that extent. Anyways, the fact of the matter is that Professor Son paid no heed to that nasty rumor and firmly stood in her position. As the offspring of that incredible mother, you should never take your inheritance for granted. You really are really, really lucky. Sigh… If only I was born with your fate…”
After serving in the military, Mr. Kwak squandered his time in the States and ended up being a simple tutor in his later years. It was during this time that he grew fonder of and longed for his mother. Which is likely why he snatched the job of teaching English without a second thought. At least, that was what Hae-in vaguely guessed. He was reminded of his father’s words: That the losers in life always say useless things.
“It’s lunchtime right now so it’ll take you a good two hours if you take a taxi there.”
After leaving JFK airport and calling a taxi, the Manhattan skyline that was only ever seen in postcards or illustrations was now spread out in front of him like a panorama. The unrealistic sight left him wide-eyed, but it was not long until they entered the highway and, looking north, he saw the typical suburban landscape that was quite unlike the city he just passed.
The carbon copy houses kept their distances from one another and the shopping district was concentrated along the town’s Main Street. A post office, church, flower shop, fire station, animal hospital, pizza shop, Chinese restaurant, and other buildings were distributed and arranged like Lego pieces. The population of our neighborhood was 6,000, with 80% of them being white, Mother explained.
“What about Asians?”
“It doesn’t even reach 5%. And the majority of that is Chinese. The fact that the ratio of white people is high means that this is a safe neighborhood and even if there are public schools, they are highly regarded. If you go to another district’s public school, there are a lot of blacks and Hispanics so the education environment is bad.”
Mother emphasized again how truly lucky Hae-in was.