Besides almost dying from cholera when I was one and getting my hand crushed by a large, steel door when I was three, the rest of my early childhood in Korea was mostly a time of innocence and fun. I do have that one memory where my mom is pumping breast milk for my sister into what seemed to me at the time a large basin, but I’m still not really sure what to make of that image, whether it traumatized me or simply surprised me. But other than that, it’s hard to recall anything remotely negative. All I see is a skinny, Korean boy playing in the stream trying to catch frogs and tadpoles; hiking and exploring the hillsides and woods (we visited the shigol [countryside] often); waiting around the corner, listening for the man with the pull cart to ring his bell so that I could buy and devour a newspaper cone full of bundaegi (roasted silk worm pupae), which, at the time, was by far the most delicious thing on the planet (today, I can’t go near the stuff); feeding cute, fluffy, yellow chicks with rice grains; throwing a hammer at my grandfather’s head; and running away from my three uncles after pouring a bucketful of soapy water into the well, our main source of drinking water (they had to empty the entire well and wait for the next rain to replenish the supply). Of course, I only remember bits and pieces, but from those fragments and the stories my folks share with me, it seems that I really was a rambunctious, happy, little kid who, unlike the current me, actually loved to dance. Continue reading
It happened sometime during my years in junior high. I still remember it being a dark and dreary day. (Talk about a hackneyed beginning. Please forgive. ;p) I forgot why our family was on the road, but I remember thinking that I didn’t want to be in the car anymore. What made things worse was that our family was hungry. Not hungry in the sense that we were starving as a family, but hungry because it was time for dinner. But even this type of hunger makes things unbearable for me and those within my “killzone”. (My wife learned this lesson early on, the hard way.)
Anyway, I remember finally stopping somewhere to eat dinner. My dad parked the car, and the rest of us quickly followed him into the restaurant shielding ourselves from the drizzle.
I’m not sure which restaurant it was, but I can still see vividly the entire encounter unfold before my mind’s eye. My dad is walking up to the long, well-lit counter, he places an order, and then pulls out his wallet to pay for the meal. Continue reading
Sometime during my years in elementary school, my dad was estranged from us. There was some issue with the status of his immigration visa, and it took over a year to resolve. For some, this might sound routine; however, for us, it was a very stressful and painful experience. Not only were we unsure if he would ever be able to come back to the States, but we were also not very well-off.
My mom suffered tremendously that year trying to put food on the table. Since the separation was unexpected, she had to scramble to find a job in a country where she could barely speak the language. Thankfully, a church friend offered my mom a wage for sewing little clothing pieces like socks and cuffs. But to make even a little money, she had to sew thousands of these things. My mom shares with me that she spent many sleepless nights sewing sock after sock; oftentimes, she fell asleep at the sewing machine exhausted. I still have many memories of my Continue reading