Every living organism in the world exist and maintain life by having external connections with non-living things, culture and abstractions of any kind. Human beings live by associating with many external aspects especially through the connection of "home" which gives humans a sense of belonging and identity. Seeking an identity and belonging through external associations is true for all human beings. The questions are why, how and for what reasons does a man need external connections. Just like many people, external aspects such as geographical phenomena, religion, and culture gives me an identity and a sense of belonging (a home). Peculiarly, I feel the term "home" as something that directs me to relaxedness and intimacy. My "home" is a pair of equal-length slender cylinders, chopsticks.
Five years ago, when I first set my foot in Colorado, in the United States, I was filled with an excitement to learn English and the American culture. In Colorado, the atmosphere was different from my "home" but similar fresh air. I realized that every custom in Colorado was very different from the customs back at home. With a little bit of shock and wonder inside, I happened to eat at Steak House, which is one of the typical American restaurants. The place was cozy and nice-looking with an organized menu on a clean table covered with a white cloth. While I was choosing an attractive main dish and side dish, the waiter was serving a refreshment drink while putting down silverware on the table. I ordered a delicious-looking sirloin with a salad and unfolded the white cover of the silverware that the waiter had brought. After a moment of observing the silverware, I realized something was missing. "Excuse me...sir?" I promptly called the waiter as he was on the way to the counter. With a clumsy voice, I said, "Why...No... chopsticks?" When I looked up, his eyes were full of uncertainty. The waiter responded with curiosity, "Pardon? I'm sorry sir, but I don't understand. We don't have those things" At that moment, I learned that Americans use forks instead of chopsticks to eat.
It's not surprising that Americans eat food without any inconveniences using the forks. But even after five years living in the United States of America, I couldn't get adjusted to the cutlery usually used by Americans to eat. More so, it is uncomfortable to eat sliced carrots, and beans served in the Steak House as the salad with a rigid fork. Probably, most Americans might not understand what I'm talking about, but I bet at least people from Asia have similar problems when adjusting from using chopsticks to forks.
Chopsticks are mainly used in Asian countries to eat food. The big reason for the chopsticks' invention would be that a variety of side dishes served in Asian menus makes chopsticks more effective compared to other silverware in addition to the easy grasp of the food bits. A good example of where chopsticks are effective is the Korean's side dish, Kimchi. Sometimes it is hard to separate the layers of Kimchi because they are densely overlapped with many layers. But when I started copying the American eating habits using forks, I realized that it is not only chopsticks that can be used to eat Asian dishes. Americans like to eat soup with chips, and unlike the forks or spoons, it is more convenient to eat chips using chopsticks. Further, it is more hygienic to use chopsticks compared to using bare hands, especially when eating outside and you can't wash the hands. Chopsticks are also flexible and more comfortable to control the pressure needed to pick fragile food such as spaghetti from the plate. Additionally, chopsticks, unlike spoons or forks, can skewer food and become practical when toasting marshmallows. As such, chopsticks provides greater convenience when eating different types of food.
Many people do not recognize how useful these simple wooden chopsticks are not only for eating food but also for everyday-life tools. From a personal perspective, chopsticks are not just cutlery for cuisine; instead, they have many functions and can be used in various ways. Chopsticks can be used for propping up the plants, unclogging bottles, cleaning muddy shoes, filling a stripped screw hole, and following words when studying. Therefore, chopsticks are one of the best inventions and their applications in daily life are many compared to the forks and the spoons.
Chopsticks are not just tableware but also a reminder of the precious family memories because they were used in every dinner serving. At the age of seven, my father started teaching me how to grab and move two sticks flexibly with one hand. Teaching children how to use chopsticks is an Asian practice and a significant step towards learning how to eat in accordance to the Asian culture. At first, I struggled to use chopsticks, but willingly I spent time practicing to use chopsticks properly. Being able to use chopsticks has been my pride and source of self-esteem although it seems nothing to most Americans. Often, I recall the past when my older brother competed to use chopsticks in which whoever shifts all slick circular beans first from one bowl to another bowl wins. My brother always won because he learned to use them earlier which made me have a sense of inferiority. I practiced every day and believed that I could be better than him. Finally, I won the competition, and it made me very happy because my elder brother and father praised me by stroking my head.
In the blink of an eye, the time has passed away since my childhood days. Last year, I experienced an event that ultimately and emotionally connected me to my "home" in a foreign country. While the rain was sprinkling and wind was knocking on the door of the auditorium during the high school graduation day at 8 p.m., all my friends, teachers, and we were hugging with affection and gratitude. People prepared gifts and exchanged them. (It was Wilson Hall, my school, traditional custom from a long time ago.) While I was sharing gifts with friends and teachers, one of my best friend, Ben, tapped my back behind and proffered me a nicely wrapped box with a smiling face and a word "Congratulations." After the ceremony and all the day events were over, I finally had time to open my gifts, and when I opened Ben's present, I was filled with joyful tears and smiled widely. In the box, there were the light wooden traditional Korean chopsticks with golden dragons marked on top. Behind the box cover, there was an appealing sticky note that was attached and read 'I know you've been missing home and I wanted to appease the feeling. - from your buddy.'
Ben's chopsticks gift gave me so much joy because it was a genuine connection that linked me to my "home." Indeed, all I needed to feel reminded of my home after five years of studying in the USA came from Ben's chopstick gift. Thinking back, of the five-year life in a foreign country, I sometimes find myself smiling and happy even to this moment whenever the chopsticks gift pops up in my head. The culture shock, especially in the American food and eating habits, reminds me of who I am, not just as an international student in the US, but as a person who fully enjoys my cultural identity back "home."
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