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Finding My Name, My Tūrangawaewae

Posted by Gayeon

Date posted:



You may know me as Nala, a Korean woman from New Zealand, under a Japanese disguise. I had no intent to be dishonest, but just needed anonymity: the Korean community in New Zealand was incestuously small, and I was not ready to be working openly at the time.


On a parenthetical note, I promise that I didn't choose a name like Nala knowing that I would be known as Japanese. Those who know me well know that I actively boycott Lululemon for its choice of name! When I was newly independent, an old friend told me that he knew I was not Japanese, but I kept my old name for as long as I stayed in New Zealand.


As I moved to Sydney, I chose the Korean moniker Areum, to present myself more authentically. And more recently, I feel more comfortable to be more open about my story, in appropriate ways.


Bina is just the Korean translation of my Sino-Korean legal name, to shine bright, and Gayeon ("Gaian") is my birth name that was never documented.


My mother had gone to great effort to gift me a meaningful name, as she grew up in postwar Korea as Mija. It is a very popular name given to daughters around that time, and because of her common name, I think my mother was determined to give me a name that was special :)


But you can call me Gayeon. It means beautiful providence or fate in Korean.


And that is what I think of the special relationship between you and me. It doesn't matter where in the social strata we come from; chance has somehow allowed us to connect, and I'm really grateful for such chance that brought us to meet.


Or you can call me Bina, if you think its meaning suits me. Last year, I had to work through a few challenges, as everybody has to at some stage in their life. And with the support of benevolent friends, I have been able to find my feet, a place to stand, and smile brightly again :)


But if you met me when I first settled in Sydney, you can still call me Areum if you would like to. It is still the sentiment I embody, "to be honest and true to myself", unpretentious, without trying to be somebody I'm not.


Every iteration is still the same person, with maybe a little more wisdom and a little more experience. And by no means should you feel like you gotta catch 'em all.


But I am looking forward to hearing from you - especially if you are one of the benevolent souls who have helped me during a time I felt quite alone, please don't be a stranger! I will always welcome news from you, even if we are oceans apart.


Now, I think I have been a little self-indulgent and a perhaps a bit too meta about a string of foreign names, when you may just want to call me darling or babe, and call it a day. So, I'll finish writing here, but I am happy to answer any questions you may have about these changes :)


Yours Sincerely,


Gayeon Areum Bina


(It's a little long, but teenage me would be very happy to finally have a middle name!)

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