At the Table with 엄마

The last time I was home, you became privy to three vignettes about my father, a brilliant architect and loving Korean father (you don’t understand how much of an anomaly those last three words that can be).

2015’s visit showcases my mother, a woman conservative in her thinking and mannerisms but liberal in the ways she shows her love.

In contrast to the pasta of less than a handful of ingredients, my mother’s Korean dinners are always “just” a main dish and “just” a 찌개 (stew) and “just” a few 반찬 (side dishes) and then “just” a few more things. Each time she cooks at home, the serving dishes don’t stop coming.

Not just any meal

Not just any meal

My father had planned an elaborate golf outing for the three of us. Mind you, what I attempt with a golf club should in no way be referred to as ‘playing golf.’ But on the dawn of our tee time, it was just my mother and I heading to the course as he unexpectedly succumbed to a sudden onset of the flu. The other days spent traveling Jeju Island were exclusively ours, as he was unable to travel.

“Let’s take a picture!” – 엄마

“Okay.” – 인애, as she busily prepares the selfie stick.

“Do you want a picture of you?” – 엄마

“No.”

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[minutes later]

“Oh this is all so pretty. Let me take a picture of you.”

“No, I’m good.” – uninterested daughter

 

The incorrigible mother  decides that she’ll then take photos of her eldest daughter as she walks down an icy hiking path.

“Look at me! But look natural!”

“How am I supposed to look at you and not fall?!”

Her handiwork

Her handiwork

 

We have a tradition of saying good-bye until the very last minute at airports. These are fairly frequent for our long-distance family, unfortunately. In years past, the clear glass partition that separated residents from travelers allowed for visible hand-waving.

 

Recently Incheon International Airport decided to frost up the glass… but that wouldn’t deter my mother.

 

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How do you not love a face… an eyeball like that?

I love you, 어머니.

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#whatinnaeworld?! Danyang Edition

Sometimes things just leave you speechless. Like a 3 foot-high tunnel that a tourist spot in rural South Korea doesn’t warn you about – and normal adults are expected to be able to get through. Good thing I can kimchi squat.

Expect the use of this hashtag throughout my travels!

 

 

Oh, and that’s my mother saying “조심” [careful!] over and over and over again.

Home: Where the Heart… and Hate is

“So much love and hate.” Words from my father at dinner two nights ago.

 

I couldn’t help but laugh because that’s exactly what I felt I needed to write about next.

 

We all have our issues with our hometowns. Too small, too big, too indifferent, too intimate. And the relationship between Seoul and me is no different.

 

For example, LOVES:

The food. All of it. Now. [차이 팥빙수 / Chai Paht-bing-soo]

The food. All of it. Now. [차이 팥빙수 / Chai Paht-bing-soo]

Transportability

Transportability

ddukboki

More food. [떡복이/ddukboki]

Cafes: perfect for hours of conversation

Cafes: perfect for hours of conversation

Did I mention food?

There are so many reasons why being home = happiness.

 

At the same time, there are moments where being home can bring about a sense of lowness.

 

Here’s where I get real (welcome to the new-and-improved blog?)

 

A few things make S. Korea less palatable. Hard to believe with some of those photos I just showed, I know.

 

1. The land of couples

Don’t believe me? In 10 seconds, I snapped these four photos.

They're everywhere.

They’re everywhere.

 

With the Westernization of its culture, Koreans began to embrace romance wholeheartedly. A little obsessively so. Now, wherever you go, you will find yourself surrounded by couples, arm-in-arm. For a single lady, it’s a bit trying. I may sound bitter, and you can judge me for that, but I do enjoy being alone right now. That gets shaken when I realize I’m the only solo person on the street.

2. The image paradigm

Even after years of being in a career where one’s physical image is scrutinized, I feel the most insecure when I’m in Seoul. Women here are just naturally tiny, and somehow I didn’t get those genes. I grew up in a city that didn’t carry my size in clothing. I was taller than most. While those two facts are now false with the passage of time, the warped self-image still takes hold: I need to diet. Why am I so large? How do I look like her? I can’t possibly be attractive in this country.

 

While I was reflecting on this, thankfully, another fact came to mind.

For you created my inmost being;
    you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
    your works are wonderful,
    I know that full well.

– Psalm 139:13-14

 

This home is not my home forever. I don’t write that because I know I’m returning to the States. I write this knowing that I have faith in a God who gives me a greater purpose than looking like the elevated example of beauty. He sees me as beautiful, born to belong to Him, and better for that.

 

 

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It’s time to enjoy the city and all I love.

 

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Sweet Potato Pie

Thanks to a friend‘s recommendation, this went in my belly today. Feast your eyes on this ‘za from the Korean chain Mr. Pizza, complete with BBQ ribs, sauce, broccoli, small potato wedges, squash and garlic (the garlic is optional, but that question is always answered with a “yes”).

 

Oh, and I forgot.

the Gold 'Oh My Rib' Pizza

the Gold ‘O My Rib’ Pizza

 

There’s sweet potato mousse in the crust.**

 

*drops mic*

 

 

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**Honest assessment: I enjoyed it enough to eat three of the small slices, and the sweet potato in the crust was intriguing, but not desirable enough to order it a second time. Go for the cheese cap (cheese-filled crust).

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P.S. This is not an advertisement.

P.P.S. Thankfully (?) Mr. Pizza has gone global, so K-Towners, feel free to give it a shot.

P.P.P.S. This is a tease to my next blog post! Ta da! Applying journalism skills.