I imagine you might be curious to know who we are and how we came to be called F4Plus1. I will tell you the legend. My name is Autumn & this is my story.
The Story of How F4Plus1 Came to Be:
A few years ago I moved back home to the Bay Area (California) from grad school. All of my old friends had moved away and or gotten married. I was in a funk for a long time and felt sad and lonely and lame. Through my church, I met some other girls, Alora and Lindsi, and realized that they were in a nearly identical situation.
Each of us felt lame because we were not living any sort of a glamorous single life. All of our interests were pretty nerdy and we were sick of getting weird stares from people when we tried to explain them.
As we talked, Alora mentioned that she liked listening to K-pop and I told her that I had recently watched a few Korean Dramas. I was so excited; I told them all about “Boys over Flowers.”
They seemed interested so we decided to get together to watch a drama. I decided that we should start off with my all time favorite drama, Dream High. Once or twice a week we would get together and watch episodes. Often we would include music videos that we had found on the internet and taught each other about new groups and songs. We also added some new friends with Andy and Alyson.
A few months after we started watching dramas together, I started to get very sick. It took a few months before my insurance kicked in, so over time my health continued to decline. Finally I was able to go to the doctor and was diagnosed with Stage 3 Endometrial Uterine Cancer. I only had a week between when I was diagnosed and my scheduled hysterectomy. So… I decided to throw a “Bon Voyage Period Party!” Alora and Alyson surprised me with a little picture frame of Teaceyeon & when you pressed a button it played the theme song to Dream High.
After my surgery, I was laid up quite a long time, and since day time TV is the worst thing in the world… I watched a lot of Korean Dramas to pass the time. My friends wanted to respect my peace and not push me to hang out, but after a few weeks I was begging them to keep me company. So we watched Boys over Flowers, You Are Beautiful, & City Hunter.
My recovery was very slow and there were a lot of bumps in the road. Two months after my surgery, I began chemo therapy and ended up in the hospital with an infection a week later. At first I didn’t tell my friends I was there because I was in isolation, and I just felt really bad. But after 4 days in the hospital, I was at the end of my rope. They poked & prodded me till I was a sobbing heap. I needed my friends, so I sent a text message out to my girl friends and told them to come. They were all surprised that I had been in the hospital, but came as soon as they could. When they got there, I told them they were like my F4, from Boys over Flowers. We spent some time debating who was who, but eventually came up with our alternate F4 identities.
These friends really helped me get through some tough times. We also met another girl at church who had graduated from college and was starting a new job out here. Others had warned her that we were weird and interested in this strange Korean mumbo-jumbo. As soon as she heard that she knew she had found her people. She loves K-pop & K-dramas as much as the rest of us!
Unfortunately not long after that, Alora needed to move away to Idaho to complete her student teaching for her degree. We were all sad, but decided to make her a stuffed Pig-Rabbit (from You Are Beautiful) and a journal filled with wonderful k-pop jokes and references and affirmations.
That’s when we decided that we did not want our little group of weirdoes to break up because someone moved away. We started a group on Facebook called F4Plus1. We kept in contact there and posted all the wonderful videos we came across as well as our personal recommendations for awesome dramas to watch.
Andy was the next scheduled to leave. He was planning to serve a 2 year mission for our church and wanted to first go home to Hong Kong. I made him a pillow case with a heart and J-Andy embroidered on it so he could remember how much we love him.
It was during this time that I stumbled upon videos from Eat Your Kimchi. I found Martina’s tutorial on how to make ramyun and decided we need to have a Korean style Ramyun night. Alyson and I went to a local Korean grocery to pick up Shin Ramyun & frozen fish cakes. That night we also watched the video that explained Korean standards of beauty.
Lindsi was going back to school as well. She was in an accounting class one day when the teacher announced a group project. So she turned to the boys behind her and asked if they wanted to be in a group. They agreed, but one of them was shy and explained that his English wasn’t the best.
She was so excited to meet a real life Korean, and what more, he was tall and handsome. They got along so well, they began hanging out outside of class and went on many adventures. She bragged to the rest of us about him, but for a long time she couldn’t tell us his name. He had told it to her, but she could never remember it. All she remembered is that his initials were S.H. because that’s what he put on his assignments.
In October, I started a 6 week session of radiation therapy for my cancer. Every day I would have to go to the clinic where they would put me in a cold, hard machine for 15-20 minutes, shooting radiation into my body. Luckily, they told me I could listen to any music I want. So I went home and filled my iPod with K-pop. Often it would make me smile and laugh to listen to the music, but there were a special few times when I closed my eyes and I swear it felt like they were right next to me, singing encouragements to help me get through.
Alyson had also graduated with a degree in secondary education and was looking for jobs at the time. She found out about a job position in Arizona for an overcrowded school that was hiring a teacher mid semester. Of course they loved her. How could they not love her! So she had 2 weeks to pack up and move to Arizona. For a going away gift, I came up with an amazing idea- how about an ABC book of all of our favorite Korean things! Unfortunately my ambition was much bigger than my time frame, so it wasn’t ready by the time she left. But we did come up with a killer idea for a going away party. We found a place that specialized in K-Pop Karaoke!!!!
What made it even better was Lindsi invited her Korean friend SH, and he agreed to come sing K-pop with us. That was the first night we’d get to meet him. On the way there, we decided that he needed a good English name, so we could stop calling him Shhhhh, and I said that he looked like a “Henry” to me.
Henry was so sweet and kind, we all fell in love with him right away. This was the turning point for one of our members. Through all of our Korean mania of the year earlier, my younger sister Becca refused to get involved. She walked out of the room when we started watching dramas and rolled her eyes at the “weird” k-pop music. But when she met Henry… all that changed.
After that, we decided that we wanted to introduce Henry to every American holiday. For Halloween we carved pumpkins, went to a haunted house, & made him a Pig-Rabbit costume to wear to a Halloween party. On the way there, we told him that secretly behind his back we started referring to him as “The Korean Boyfriend.” Not that he was actually dating any of us… we just liked him so much and he was so cute, so collectively we called him “Our Korean Boyfriend.”
For Thanksgiving Henry & Andy joined my family for the most traditional meal imaginable. My sister Barbara was there with her husband and his best friend, both of which hail from Hyderabad, India.
At Christmas we decorated the tree, sang Christmas carols and iced sugar cookies in the shape of stars, candy canes and snowmen. But we found out that Henry was planning on moving back to Korea at the beginning of the New Year. We planned a Christmas Party on the only day when everyone would be in town, including Alora. At the party, I presented everyone with their own copy of the “ABC’s” book & Alora gave each of us our own F4 character doll. Then we presented Henry with signed pair of suspenders. Also, Alyson and Alora surprised me with a prototype for the game, Kimchi to Kimchi. It was a wonderful Christmas!
Since then, Alora moved out to Utah to look for a teaching job. Alyson is back in Arizona teaching middle school social studies. Henry took a month to travel across the US and Europe before returning to Korea. Andy eventually renewed his passport and returned home to Hong Kong and will receive his mission call any day! Becca has already purchased her flight to go visit Henry in Korea this summer, and hopes to stop by Eat Your Kimchi Studio and meet you too!
For myself, I finished my final sessions of chemo therapy in January and am getting healthier every day. I often tell people that k-pop cured my cancer. They look at me sideways and I reiterate, “The doctors cured my body, but k-pop cured my soul.”
As a group spanning thousands of miles, we still keep in close contact with our F4Plus1 group on Facebook, and get together to google+ chat every few weeks. In between, we catch up with our other good friends, Simon and Martina at eatyourkimchi.com. They are both so fun and cool and nerdy. If you haven't watched any of their videos, you need to... No really... Right now! Those of you who heard about our blog from eatyourkimchi.com, we're so glad you stopped by to learn more.