Here's the highlight reel for my mudder's (as well as my dongsaeng's) trip to the Motherland. Features "Oh Momma" by Justin Nozuka. I didn't mean to give the video such a sad vibe. I just recently purchased his album "Holly" so I have become mildly obsessed.
As mentioned previously, my mother has not been back to Korea since the late seventies. She was born and raised in Seoul, but immigrated to Hawaii when she was in her late twenties. You could argue that Hawaii, with its large Korean population, is not a far stretch from Korea, but my mom has spent over half her life in the ol' U.S. of A. She was definitely looking forward to her sojourn back to the Motherland.
I think she had seen this trip as a sort of homecoming, but quickly learned that Dorothy wasn't in Kansas anymore.
Here's what she had to say about the whole experience:
What did you expect to find before you landed in Korea?
I knew what it looked like because of TV [K-dramas and documentary specials]. It's more crowded than I thought. When I arrived in Korea, it felt like I wasn't in Korea.
What surprised you about Korea (Seoul)?
All the buildings and signs. So many! People changed. They are not friendly. People so mean.
People were nicer back in your day?
No, they wasn't kind, but... People now are nervous. Everybody is nervous breakdown. It's like they're [being] chased by something, so I get nervous too.
What do you like about Seoul?
All Korean people around me. It's like everyone is family. I recognize everybody. I like to see all the hangul. I can read all the signs. And, the food. Korean girls also got prettier than before. Before, it was all dark messy face.
One thing, they all over-dress. The use high heels with anything. To me, it doesn't match short legs.
What didn't you like?
Food is disappointing. Too sweet. I like country food like san-namu (moutain vegetables?). All the ingredients [for the country food] are fresh.
How do you feel about Korea?
I just want to say [its] o.k.. All I [will] remember is too many people. Scared to walking around. No more taxis on the street!
The hanshik was good [Thanks for taking us, Heng!]
What do you have to say to the Motherland?
Manner 촘 있어면 좋껫다. (If [people] had a little more manners, that would be good.) Especially the girls.
Too many apartments. Just like a box. I miss the old time rice farms.
I think my mother had really missed Korea, but now accepts that her former Homeland has changed dramatically. In her day, Seoul was the big city, but it wasn't the metropolis that it is today. I think time and nostalgia may have colored my mother's memories of Seoul, so in comparison, today's Seoul seems noisy and dirty, and the people brash and impatient.
I wish I could experience the Seoul in my mother's memories, a city where young female bus attendants collected your fare and held people into the overflowing bus with a rope strapped to their bodies and the bus entrance. I'm curious to see Myeongdong littered with artists. I'd like to walk the busy streets of Jong-no, waiting to catch a glimpse of the day's most popular recording artists. On the other hand, I suspect that after spending a year in modern-day Seoul, I'd end up tapping my foot impatiently, bemoaning how shigol the town was.
My mom is set on returning to Korean next year, but this time with my emos in tow. Next time, however, she's going to book a tour around the Korean countryside and just limit herself to a few days in Seoul for shopping.