Wednesday, May 5, 2010

there's an ocean in my bowl

Yesterday, we went down to Suwon, my father's hometown, where my great uncle took us on a hike around the magnificent ancient Hwasung fortress, a sort of Korean answer to the Great Wall of China, stretching all around the city. the creation of the fortress is a sad story about a king who built it in memory of his father, who was tortured to death by his own jealous father. out of such sadness and suffering comes this beautiful monument, which i think pretty much defines the Korean spirit: suffering, sadness, strength, beauty.

in the evening, we met up with the Shin clan, my father's various uncles, aunts, and cousins from his mother's side. since they spoke no english and we spoke little Korean, there was a lot of smiling and nodding on the part of me and my sister, as our great-uncle recounted wonderful stories about my father when he was younger, stories i definitely wished i could understand to use as blackmail against him later. i did, however, know enough Korean to understand this conversation between my aunts about me:

AUNT 1: in Korean "How old is the eldest daughter?"
AUNT 2: "She's twenty-five."
AUNT 1: (pause) "They sure do marry late, nowadays, don't they?"

She then assured my mom that she made a good choice in raising her kids in Canada - raising daughters in Korea is expensive because you have to pay for the plastic surgery.

Things i learned from my long lost family members:
1. My Korean name is actually Japanese (!!!)
2. My appreciation of soju is genetic.
3. So is, unfortunately, our (lack of) height and, more unfortunately, my neanderthal eyebrows that make every esthetician shudder in horror.

apparently one of my relatives, on the left, is actually a ghost

dinner was at a (Koreanized) Chinese restaurant, a banquet of multiple courses, most of which consisted of seafood. so many tentacles in one sitting! i basically had the entire ocean in my bowl. come on, gloria, eat around the eyeballs. luckily the final dinner course was chajangmyun, my favourite noodle bowl, wonderfully seafood-free. and i really shouldn't complain about my tentacle-triggered gag reflex: on our way home, we passed a restaurant that specialized in boshintang, as in, stew made from dog. when my mother told me this, my sister and i both instantly turned green in the face. thank goodness our family decided to go chinese that night instead.