Abigail is a rising senior at the Los Angeles Center for Enriched Studies in Mid-City, Los Angeles. She has been a staff writer for her school paper for three years and is the Copy Editor and Page Editor for the paper. Abigail has lived in Koreatown for her entire life. She has a passion for baking, reading, and creative writing. She’s fluent in English and Korean and has been taking Spanish at her school for four years. She’s the President of BRIDGE, a high school volunteering program at KYCC and she also works at Sul & Beans, a dessert cafe in Koreatown. In the future, she hopes to go into Communications or Political Science.
Where is your hometown?
I was born in Koreatown at the Good Samaritan Hospital. Both my parents and my brother immigrated from Korea because my dad’s work stationed him here, but I’ve lived here for my entire life. Now I go to school here, work here, and volunteer here. I’ve lived in three different apartments in my entire life, but I’ve been in my current one since the second grade. I do want to stay in L.A. because it’s so fun, but at the same time, I want to live somewhere where I can experience a new atmosphere, go outside of my comfort zone, and adapt to a new way of life. I just want to experience a bunch of new places. L.A. is nice, so maybe I’ll move back after I graduate from college, but while I’m still learning and gaining experience in the real world, I want to be all over the place.
What are your thoughts on Koreatown?
I like how everything I need is close to me. Madang is right there if I want to hang out; there are buses and train stations everywhere, I have Ralphs right across my house for groceries, and then my work and volunteer place is close by, too. It’s all super walkable. I also think it’s really diverse and very busy all the time. Something is always going on in Koreatown, and there’s always something to do. Traffic is crazy, and there’s a bunch of people from everywhere all the time. One thing I dislike is the growing homeless population. I think the city should be doing more to actively help out the people on the streets, and not just kind of leave them where they are. Also, it’s really dangerous to be on the streets. I feel unsafe even just waiting at the bus stop.
What is your favorite place in Koreatown?
It’s probably Larchmont Village. It’s inside Koreatown but it’s hidden away, so it’s kind of like your own fairy tale village. There’s a lot of vintage boutiques, ice cream places, and restaurants. The vibes there make me feel like I’m in a classy movie, I love it. I remember I’d always go there as a child. On the weekends, my mom and I would wake up really early to get breakfast at Noah’s Bagels. I used to go there a lot with my friends too, and we’d visit all the clothing stores. I don’t go there as much anymore, but Larchmont Village will always have a special place in my heart.
My favorite restaurant in Koreatown would probably be BCD. I like the BCD on Western, not Wilshire. The reason I prefer Western is that you usually don’t have to wait to get in, whereas at the Wilshire one, there’s an entire back patio as a designated waiting area. I always like to get the regular soon tofu stew with pork at the “spicy” level. Tengoku is another restaurant that I like. Scratch that, it’s my favorite restaurant. BCD comes in second when it comes to Tengoku. It’s this Japanese ramen place right next to Uba Tuba. Honestly, I don’t even go there for their ramen. I usually get this thing called chashu-don, which is Japanese chicken on top of rice. It’s the best thing ever (especially if you order baby bok choy on the side) and it will forever be the only thing I get.
What memory of during this time will stick with you?
Definitely the whole George Floyd riots. It’s kind of crazy how we’re dealing with COVID-19 and now the George Floyd riots in the middle of everything. I hear so many helicopters and police sirens passing by my house every day. When I was younger, I used to look out the window and wonder, “Oh what’s happening?” Now, I feel like I’ve grown so desensitized to the sound (of helicopters) and any ruckus outside. It’s kind of the norm. It’s something that you expect in L.A. today more than ever.
What has been the most challenging part of this experience?
My freedom has been taken away, and that has been so challenging for me. I used to work a lot, hang out a lot, go out a lot, eat out a lot, shop a lot, and spend most of my life outside. I literally can’t do anything now, and that really sucks. Because of the second wave, everything is closed. Plus, I think it will take a while before we’re actually allowed to do something, so waiting that out has been pretty tough.
I’ve been dealing with this by binge-watching movies and TV shows. I mostly watch the top-ranked movies on Netflix with my friends on a Zoom call, but I generally like watching rom-coms, chick flicks, and coming of age stories. When it comes to genres, I’m definitely cannot do comedy. There has to be something more. If it’s just people being stupid and pulling pranks, I can’t watch it. I feel like all they do in comedy movies is crack sexual jokes and fall off buildings. I need something that has a substantial plot and character development.
Oh, I’ve been doing a lot of stress baking, as well. I make brownies and cookies most of the time, because they’re easy, but I have made a green tea crepe cake (which was ridiculously hard and tasted horrible). I also got into painting and playing the piano.
What is the toughest part of your days right now? The best?
It would be when I stay up all night, fall asleep at 5 a.m., wake up past noon, and go on my phone all day. Usually by 10 p.m., I’ll begin questioning my life choices and just start hating myself for being so unproductive. I have so many priorities set but I just have no drive to reach them at all. I kind of just go through the day watching TV and then feel like I should do some work, but before I know it, it’s the end of the day, and I don’t get any work done.
But the best part of my days would definitely be baking. When I bake, I mostly do it for my brother and myself because my parents don’t like sweets. And, I don’t know, everything just tastes so much better when it’s homemade and fresh out of the oven. I usually like making cookies, brownies, chocolate cakes, and any other chocolatey things because I am obsessed with it. I usually eat everything that I make in a day. I don’t understand people who make a batch of cookies and eat two and ration the rest out for the week. I have to eat everything that I bake, on the same day, or I cannot function.
Do you live or work in Koreatown?
Both, actually. I live in Koreatown, and I work in Koreatown at this place called Sul & Beans. You should come—we have takeout orders! We were closed until two weeks ago because of the pandemic, but we recently reopened. We serve desserts like shaved ice, drinks, and toasts. Some people might think that serving all of that sweet food would make me sick of it, but I don’t know, I had a toast today. My parents think it’s so weird that I enjoy buying food from where I work. To be honest, working for so long hasn’t really ruined anything for me. I still enjoy eating the Earl Gray Bingsoo and the Yogurt Berry Bingsoo. Sometimes I’ll even make my own food and customize it.
I went to a school called CMCS in Bel Air for elementary school, but I’ve been going to LACES, a middle/high school in Mid-City since the sixth grade. I think it’s pretty fun. My school’s not really big; we only have a little less than 2,000 kids. It’s a middle and high school, so you’ve been with these people since the sixth grade, and you’ve spent eight years with them once you graduate. So it just feels very homey. We don’t have a football field or anything, so that’s kind of disappointing, but I still like it. Also, this is kind of embarrassing, but I played golf and was on the cheerleading team when I first started high school. I quit later, though. I always wanted to be a sports person, but I don’t know, that just didn’t work out. My school doesn’t really support our sports teams. We’re much more focused on academics, and, like, taking all AP classes and stuff.
Have there been any crazy things you’ve seen, when you’re out and when you’re working?
I have two moments that are super memorable. I had an opening shift two weeks ago and I was setting up the shop, when this homeless man just kind of tried to come into the store. But the thing is, we’re not allowed to have people in our store and I wasn’t really looking at the front, so he just popped out of nowhere. I ran to the front and I was like, “Excuse me, sir, you can’t come in.” He looked all disappointed but thankfully, he didn’t try to force himself in. His hands were really dirty and he was looking for a restroom, so I offered him some hand sanitizer and some napkins. He left, but 30 minutes after he did, I heard a bunch of yelling and shouting in the mall. I think the security guard tased the homeless guy.
In the second instance, I was in the kitchen while my other coworker was at the cash register. It was taking really long for her to get the order so she called me up to the front. The man was apparently deaf and could only sign, but that took us a while to figure out because he was wearing a mask and so were we. He kept pointing and we were so confused, until I realized that he couldn’t hear us. So then I kind of started doing sign language with him. I only know the basics, though, because I self-taught myself a bit and was a part of a school club. Anyways, we got him his order (which was an iced green tea latte) and I signed with him until it was ready. It was just interesting to see how Koreatown is such a complex community, full of groups that you’re never really aware of. I never would have expected a deaf man to come into our store, but he was there and we were “talking.” He was just very much a part of the community, just as I am, and it was a very heartfelt epiphany.
What has given you hope and comfort during this time?
Something that has given me comfort and hope would definitely be the walks that I go on. Sometimes I’ll go on walks with a friend, but most of the time, I go alone. I stay six feet apart from people and we all keep our distance. It reminds me that we’re all going through the same thing. We’re not the only ones suffering. Through this situation, everyone’s life has been changed dramatically and the unspoken kinship that I feel on these walks has really helped me in this situation.
The experience has definitely helped me to recognize the smaller things in life. Before COVID-19, I was so caught up with school and extracurriculars and such, so I didn’t really have time to focus on the small things in life that really matter. Because of quarantine, I find myself having more time with family, and I cherish the small moments. I notice things that I wouldn’t normally. For example, I never knew the color of my mom’s kitchen apron that she wears every day (which is blue with flowers) and I never noticed that my dad would always go on his phone after work. I feel like this whole experience has helped me in that sense. I didn’t usually talk to my family during school and when everything was normal because I didn’t have much time. We didn’t even eat dinner together. But now, we always eat dinner together and even sometimes lunch, depending on the time and situation.
Are you afraid? What frightens you?
What frightens me is the uncertainty of this whole situation. You don’t know when you’re going to go back to school or when everything is just going to return to “normal”. There’s no real stability yet because of the obscurity behind COVID-19 and the current situation. We have no idea what’s going to happen or what we’re going to get hit with the next day. Plus, I’m not sure if a vaccine will even solve the entire problem of COVID-19. It will definitely be beneficial, but I doubt that quarantine will be over. There have been people who contracted the virus and got better. Not everyone dies from COVID-19, so even if we had a vaccine, anyone would be able to catch it again.