By Hyo New Organizing Project blogger =========================================== It’s been an evolution in my lifetime how common it has become to travel to and from faraway places in a 24-hour time span. It’s simple as booking an airplane ticket online to your desired destination and actually be there at a date and time of your choosing. Our lives have become so transportable, flexible and open to more possibilities to explore. As exciting and fortunate as this sounds, every day many people make the decision to take a journey filled not only with excitement, but with complications, barriers and hardships; like the final days in Korea in March 1999, when I was only 9 years old, joining my family on a plane that would take us to a place so far away, a place called America, a country I now call home.
I began to reflect on the final days in Korea after a recent trip home to see my parents in Salisbury, Maryland. I am becoming a frequent traveler myself (and this includes very local travels to faraway ones), and I hope to explore the world as much as I can, but I often forget to appreciate my past, my experiences and where I’ve been. I wanted to remind myself of where I came from, where my roots are and how my past shaped (and continues to shape) who I am today.
I don’t remember how our move to the U.S. came about, but I do remember the farewell visits to our extended families. First, we visited my father’s side in a famous port city, Daegu (대구). I remember going to the homes of each of my father’s siblings – his 5 elder sisters and 1 older brother to be exact. The family gatherings had amazing food and drinks, reflections, conversations, and at last, our final farewell. We visited my grandfather’s grave, paying our respects and my dad offered a small prayer before making our way back down to his childhood home. We also spent the night with his mom, my grandmother, stocking up the kitchen with her favorite drink, makgeolli (막걸리) and meat. I couldn’t stop wondering how difficult it must’ve been for him and how he was able to say goodbye to his mother with so much grace. I don’t remember seeing him ever cry.
Then it was on to Seoul, where my mother’s family resided. It was our final night before departing. I laid my head on my dad’s leg, falling in and out of sleep, while the adults stayed up, talking. My uncle, my mom’s oldest brother, shed tears quietly while her sisters and nieces kept the spirits up by sharing stories of their childhood. My grandmother sat holding her daughter’s hands while looking at my dad and blessing our future. Why and how did my parents decide to do forgo their comfortable life? Why did they leave their home, family, culture, society, friends and everything behind to come to a foreign land where everything was an unknown? I may not be able to answer these questions now, but I truly admire their courage.
I decided to share a very small portion of my childhood memory hoping that you can take some time to do so as well. It certainly is an emotional task. Looking back to how I came to be, the sacrifices my parents made, the unknown reasons and dots that are not so clear to me now and probably will never be.
However, everything aside, I learned that every one of us is a traveler on a voyage. May it be your dream, your next new gig, your vacation, your children or even your car ride to and from work, we are constantly traveling. So next time, think about the purpose of your travel. Why did you make that trip? Are you headed in the direction of your choosing? Or are you making that big sacrifice in hopes that one day your loved ones will enjoy a better life?
As for me, I’m ever so grateful for the beautiful sacrifices my parents made and are still making for my brother and I. Now that I am older and am capable of making decisions, I hope that I do them justice by being as bold and brave as they are. It has been an amazing life that my parents provided for me and I hope to continue to explore the world as they did. 엄마 아빠, thank you.
Enjoy this video of another child’s love for her parents and gratitude for all the sacrifices they made. It was originally posted at StoryCorps.