Now or Never – Korea
Didn't plan on my parents joining me for another RAD AND HUNGRY sourcing trip this year but when my mom casually nodded that yes, she’d make a return to Korea – I knew I had to make the trip happen. I saw an opportunity to finally reunite in Korea with my mother. She realized it was time to make peace with her past. Forty years later – it’s now or never.
We moved to America under-not-so-happy circumstances, and my mom always defiantly claimed that she would never return, under any condition. My parents’ marriage was straight-up Korean drama kinda-drama that left her scarred. My father’s family firmly seated in the Yangban class wanted nothing to do with my mother and her lower-class status. Choosing her over his family put them to the test – disowned and broken, barely survivin’. How were they gonna navigate their future with the world against them?
Eventually, my father returned to Korea with my siblings and me in tow. My parents’ restaurants were thriving, and he was learnin’ how to juggle his sense of shame, guilt, hurt, and pride so that his children could connect with his family. It took only one visit for my father to decide it would be an annual trip. Two, three, four, and more trips… they were stackin’ up, but they never included my mom.
Without even realizing it, I've been waiting for this moment my whole life – to return to my birth town with my mom. She was born in Busan, and so was I. The first day was rough for her – eyes vacant, no words, pensive. Surrounded by the past, reelin’ from the hurt. Wonderin’ why she returned.
By the second day, it was the total opposite. BIG smiles and bright eyes. We chased beaches from morning to night. Once we arrived at Haeundae Beach, my mother turned to me and said, “We’re here at Haeundae. We’re really here.” And just like that she transformed. I watched the energy in the air surround her – she was home. An unusually windy day marked her arrival. The howlin’ wind was pullin’ all the pain out of her, breathin’ it in and blowin’ it out to sea. Every wave pushed her pain further and further away. Have you ever witnessed this kind of magic?
We journeyed back to the hotel feelin’ accomplished for hittin’ three beaches and the ultimate Korean spa, Shinsegae Centum City Spaland, in one day. That night my father was wondering why the room was so cold only to discover the balcony door was open.
It was freezin’ yet my mom was cold chillin’ on the balcony watchin’ the ocean. Woke up the next morning and the first thing I saw? My mom on the balcony. The spell the ocean cast on her, and how it pulls her close? It totally makes sense. From the place she used to be to now. Survin’ Korean drama, my strong mama.