Korean, American friends separated by recent moves

Published 12:00 am Saturday, August 26, 2006

It's always a daunting venture to pull up stakes and move, even a short distance. There are a lot of adjustments to make.

For the Koreans who have become a part of the Greenville community in recent years, it was a very big move.

In 2004 South Korean families began moving into the Camellia City as part of the growth of the auto industry in south Alabama.

These families became pilgrims of a sort as they left behind their native country, customs and extended families.

Greenvillian Linda Daniels discovered her new neighbors were among the South Korean transplants. When Daniels first met John and Christin Hahm, Christin only knew one word: &#8220Hi.”

That soon changed.

&#8220Christin was really determined to learn English, and so she got together with other Korean wives who also needed to learn the language. They were tutored by Betty Watts, who did a great job with them,” Daniel said.

Daniel also got into the act by helping her new neighbor with reprints of the classic &#8220Dick and Jane” books, and by encouraging Hahm to read restaurant menus, church bulletins and school programs.

&#8220Another neighbor, Emily Pitts, also helped Christin improve her ability to read and speak English,” Daniel said.

Daniel and Hahm began trading traditional favorites from their kitchens, with Daniels offering rib-sticking southern fare to Hahm, and Hahm delivering South Korean cuisine to her American neighbor.

&#8220As our friendship grew, Christin and her two children, Emily and Billy, would join me for meals in restaurants and at homeŠfor the family's first Thanksgiving and Christmas in Greenville, they joined my family,” Daniel said.

It didn't take long before Daniel, her mother, Winnie Gafford and Hahm joined with South Koreans Helen Nam, Karen Bae, Yvonne Kim and Young Kown in celebrating birthdays and special holidays together.

With the young women's own mothers thousands of miles away, the South Korean ladies seemed to adopt Winnie as their &#8220American mother,” Daniel said.

The Korean and American friends enjoyed pizza suppers on the Daniel front lawn on trick-or-treating night for back-to-back Halloweens and touring the city's historic homes with Annie Crenshaw as their personal tour guide. Sometimes, Daniel said the friends would meet to play games of croquet and badminton, hula hooping and sidewalk art, with their children and grandchildren.

It's been said all good things must come to an end, and so it would seem to be the case for the group of Korean-American friends.

&#8220The Nam family moved to Bejing, China this May; the Hahms went to Montgomery in mid-July, and the Kim family also moved to Montgomery this month. It's been hard to see these new friends go,” Daniel said.

On June 25, Daniel hosted a farewell party for her neighbors, the Hahms, at her home.

Marinated sausages, smoked turkey, assorted cheeses and dips, grape tomatoes, watermelon and ice-cold Cokes were served as refreshments.

The very next day, Daniel and her mother were guests of honor at a luncheon held at Cambrian Ridge hosted by Christin Hahm, Yvonne Kim and Karen Bae. It was a bittersweet time as the friends realized life would not ever be quite the same again.

&#8220James (Hahm) told me he was really going to miss Greenville. Meeting and becoming close friends with the South Korean families has been such a wonderful experience. It's one I know I will cherish the rest of my life,” Daniel said as she looked at a group photo of the cross-cultural friends with affection.