Monday, August 10, 2009


a while ago i picked up Min Jin Lee's novel Fast Food For Millionaires. essentially the book is about a twenty-something Korean-American who's supposed to go into law, but dreams about designing fashion instead. she has a major shopping problem and drinks lots of water to suppress her appetite, has a younger sister who is the perfect Korean daughter, secretly loves the Bible, and feels oddly alienated from the korean community, even if it seems to be somewhat of a self-imposed exile. you may see why i like this novel. i was reading it while walking home from work and suddenly found myself crying while standing on the Burrard Bridge. it was just the oddest thing. i felt as though this author had managed to take these feelings and unexpressed ideas that i've been struggling with all my life, and had fit it all into chapter one.

a few weeks ago, meg and i went to the Vancouver Folk Festival where i saw Mavis Staples performing. she told us stories about traveling through the States with her family as a performing group, touring from church to church. she told us about meeting Martin Luther King Jr and listening to his sermons. she blew us away with her gospel songs, and i thought about what it must be like to go to church and sing songs like this. it made me wish for a moment that i was black and that this kind of music was my heritage.

at work on friday i found myself humming the traditional Korean folk song Arirang, and wondering how koreans manage to make songs about wishing foot disease on your ex-love sound so poetic.

i swear i'm going somewhere with all this, eventually.

i spent the weekend with my aunt and her family in mission. a lot of time spent at church. number of times i was asked what grade i'm in: 3 (my usual answer was either a polite nod or a less-polite "grade twenty"). i guess my little boy haircut is making me look like, well, a little boy. i met a man who told me he knew my father when they were teenagers. he told me that my father used to swear a lot, use a lot of "D-words" and "G-words" (i smiled politely).

friday night, there was a choir touring from Korea that was performing at the church. i think that's when i realized that this was our tradition, our version Mavis Staples gospel blues. the music was absolutely beautiful. they sang korean variations on Nearer on my God to Thee, an old traditional Korean folk song, an English vocal jazz number, and (my favourite) a version of Arirang. it brought real tears to my eyes. you know, one of my biggest passions in life is for music, and from time to time i am reminded that my love of music was jump-started by my time growing up in the korean church. listening to my father conduct Handel's Messiah every year since i was a little girl, singing "I Got Peace Like a River" in Sunday School, stealing a guitar from the storage room to teach myself chords so i can play along in the worship services of the youth group where i learned to play in a band for the first time. it sounds cheesy and nerdy but that's where my roots were, no matter how far away i've grown from it. it was a pretty touching moment.