Saturday, September 25, 2010
WE ARE FAMILY!
Two weeks before I left Korea, my Uncle Bob and Aunt Shina returned to Korea! I had previously met my aunt's family at the Chuseok holiday in October when they made us unlimited amounts of traditional Korean food for the "Thanksgiving" celebration. Then, my aunt's family showed us around the city of Gwangju and brought us to the side of a mountain to enjoy rice wine while we watched the sun set. That time, I had brought Britney and Shauna along to share this authentic Korean experience with me. This time, a bit selfishly, I went alone to enjoy my last weekend with my relatives before returning home.
I took the high speed KTX train after work on Friday and arrived in Gwangju around 12:30am. Thankfully Shina's brother was willing to pick me up. I stayed up late catching up with my aunt and uncle about their last visits in the United States, the moving process, and their much anticipated arrival back to Korea. This time around, their length of stay is indefinite. That just means I'll have to go back and visit! My uncle will continue teaching English as a professor while my aunt enjoys living near her family again.
Saturday we did a walking tour of my uncle's new campus where they live, enjoyed some local Korean food, and then headed to a baseball game. Outside the stadium is where you get your "goods" for the game. The most popular ones include: fried chicken and beer, pizza, and the normal assortment of dried seafood snacks. Take your pick from one of many vendors selling the same things. No such thing as dome dogs at this stadium! It was packed with fans from both teams with all sorts of noise making souvenirs. The game was a blast with fan cams, lots of fun Korean chants, icecream, and the eventual stadium lights after sunset. It was so fun that sadly, I can't even remember if they won or lost! Shows my interest in baseball and how much I was actually paying attention to the game, huh? I was just enjoying the time with my aunt and her family! After the game, we enjoyed a delicious samgyupsal (like thin strips of bacon on the table grills) meal. Not surprisingly, I fell in love with the my aunt's sister's children who I played with during the game and dinner, although we couldn't say a word to each other.
On Sunday, we met up with Shina's family again who drove us back up the same mountain we had gone for the sunset. This time we went much further until we reached restaurants running alongside a serene waterfall. There were people everywhere playing in the water, having picnics, and eating at the outdoor restaurants. We had a delicious spicy chicken meal with rice wine and the whole variety of delicious sides. Then, we joined everyone else splashing around in the water. I could have stayed there forever with my family. Once again, though we couldn't speak to each other as much as we would have liked, the smiles, hugs, and kisses were enough to express the love that everyone was feeling that day. I could tell how happy Shina's family was to have her and Bob back and to spend those last moments of my year in Korea with me.
We returned to the apartment, grabbed my things, and headed to the train station just in time for me to catch the KTX. Because we were so rushed, I didn't get to say a proper good bye to everyone who had come to send me off but were still out parking cars. This of course, was the beginning of my real farewells in Korea. I got closer to my dad's brother and his wife than I ever imagined in that year seeing them more often than I ever got to in the United States. Shina's family took me in as if they had known me forever. Just before I walked away, I lost it (the same way I am loosing it right now, writing this) as I hugged Shina's mother and nephew, who also began to cry. Saying good bye to Bob and Shina was hard, but not as hard as saying good bye to her family. I took some comfort in knowing I would see my aunt and uncle again next summer when they return for their son's wedding. But, not knowing when I would see her family again made it extremely hard to walk away this last time. Looking back, I have pictures and more pleasant memories with them than I ever dreamed I would have going to Korea. Still, I have peace in knowing that although it may be a long time before I see them again, I know it will not be the last.