Identity Crisis

Mitchell.

Last week, after nearly three months of waiting and paperwork, I finally received my state-issued health insurance card. It’s a good thing too, because I was getting really fed up looking both ways before crossing the street. When my principle gave me the card she told me how to use it, and also informed me of a minor glitch: the name on the card read “Mitchell Schwimmer.” She said it was no big deal, but just maybe to expect nurses to call me Mitchel, instead of Eli. She didn’t know quite how it happened, but my theory is that when translating my name from English to Korea, Michael, my middle name, somehow morphed into Mitchell. This is understandable, especially when one considers that, according to the database www.behindthename.com, Mitchell is actually a direct derivation of Michael. How it came to replace my first name is anyone’s guess. In an interesting cultural contrast, Koreans actually put family names first, followed by two given names. This difference is illustrated whenever Korean sport stars make it to the big time. For instance, Chan Ho Park, a pitcher for the LA Dodgers and one of the first Koreans to make it into the MLB, is actually Park Chan Ho. Same goes for Ji Sun Park, or should I say, Park Ji Sun, who plays midfield for England’s Manchester United. There are other confusing identity issues as well. When I first arrived my principle told me to tell students and parents I was 25 years old. I thought that was kind of strange, but maybe a few more years gave me a little more legitimacy so I rolled with it. I soon came to learn that since many Koreans follow a lunar calendar for birthdays, a person can actually have two ages. That being said, I totally missed out on two birthday parties and subsequent presents, so feel free to send gifts – preferably size medium to large in earth tones.

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