December 10th 2015
Story originally written and experienced: July 7th and 8th 2010
A pen and paper weren’t enough.
It’s how I felt the entire time.
Two days in specific.
Both jam-packed with “had to be there” stimulation and probably best remembered with the human mind.
I wrote about them anyway:
And came up with this:
It was a scorching hot day in Seoul, South Korea.
My mom, sister and I were in town under cultural circumstances.
With “getting to know our roots” being the main excuse.
Responsible for the Korean half our heritage, my mom booked flights for the family in the summer of 2010 saying, “I want you to learn about where you come from. Korea is a part of you, and I want you to see it.”
To which my sister and I said:
In total agreeance, we boarded an airplane labeled the “StarCraft”:
And proceeded to embark on a series of adventures starting with street market indulgences:
And continued on to custom-built stations around the city made for whenever the elderly just felt tired and didn’t want to do shit anymore:
Bought snacks from sitting street vendors:
Took regretful pictures in ill-advised stances:
And of course, invested in cheesy Korean boy band posters.
We woke up the next day pleasantly exhausted.
Our bodies victim to the adventurous gravity of day one.
We were ready for more.
We were scheduled to come up close and personal with one of the world’s greatest living controversies.
The North and South Korean border.
Which is simply put in a screenshot is:
I felt a lot more at ease after picking up intense pamphlet to go along with the bus tour:
Especially after our tour guide told us everything.
And suddenly it all felt so real.
The brutal aggression of the North, the secret tunnels they carved underground in order to invade South, the story about the time a lost tourist was mistaken for a spy and shot when they accidentally wandered into the DMZ…and crossed the line.
Not to mention that thing where the North Koreans excessively shelter and brainwash their own citizens with communist ideals on a very regular and extreme basis.
photos please,” most every area demanded of us.
I saw binoculars.
Curiosity took over.
And I had to look and
ZOOM into the other SIDE.
Barbed wired hugged every inch of their borders, screaming an unwelcoming vibe.
It was disheartening. Crazy to think about. Hard to process.
Especially considering it was a part of who I was.
“Your grandparents were from the North and fled to the South,” mom told us. “They never saw their friends or family again. But they came here so they could give a good life to your aunts, uncles and I. Then moved us again to Paraguay and then Argentina—just in case.”
It was an odd feeling.
Feeling connected to such a dis connected place.
Especially after we made friends on our tour bus.
One being a Korean man named Kevin who asked me a lot of great questions like, “what has been your emotional status throughout being here?”
In exchange for my answers, he captivated my family with his:
He was from the Netherlands—adopted, and currently in Korea to find out where he came from too.
“Yeah, my mom really wanted us to be ‘immersed in our culture’ more than just the food and the words. So here we are.”
“I love that.”
He also told me (as we traveled between peeking into binoculars and visiting abandoned train stations) about the time he applied to 190 jobs. But none of them felt right. He desperately wanted to find his dream job. Or at least a job he actually wanted. He knew it would take time. But that’s okay.
It would be completely worth it.
“Me being here is proof,” he said. “I found this great job with a great boss. One who let me come here for an entire month to just so I could discover where I came from.”
Meanwhile, I glanced over at my mom and she was bonding with a Brazilian guy named Juan Diego and some other dude named Mark from the Czech Republic.
We all exchanged information with the intention of staying friends.
And that night as I laid there in our temporary loft, I became well aware that in just two days, I had just experienced one hell of a cultural makeover.
A refreshing dose of reality answering where I came from, what’s going on there, what’s still going on there and how fleeing triumphs for a better life and new friends after visiting were two unintentionally powerful things that came out of it.
It was amazing.
And I wanted to write about it.
Except a pen and paper didn’t feel like enough.
I wrote about them anyway.