25 March 2008

new start, new daegu!


although i had purchased hard-to-come-by train tickets to go to daegu for seollal (lunar new year), plans changed and i stayed in the states longer than expected. 2 weeks prior i bought tickets again, but again i forfeited them, this time due to sickness. but last saturday i finally found myself on the ktx train en route to daegu, albeit 6 weeks late.

daegu is my mother's hometown. founded during the silla kingdom (or before), this city of 2.5 million people in gyeongsangbuk province in southeastern korea is famous for traditional medicine, big yummy apples and pretty ladies. re: the latter, although mama left long ago, daegu still lays claim to a coupla sets of uncles and aunts along with married cousins and their spawn.

i look really gay. (an earlier post about my grandma from last may.)

the big draw, however, is the family matriarch- my 92-year-old halmoni. although my korean is shitty and her english very meager, we've developed a special relationship that started 29 years hence when she moved to the usa upon my birth. hilarity ensued. i have fond memories of doing her community college english homework, watching her massacre every living thing on the beach, being mortified when she used foodstamps at the local asian grocer, accepting her bingo-won snack foods, and enjoying straight shots of "johnnie walker no rock" together. "g-cash" has always been hardcore.

at 92, however, the terrifying reality is that her days are numbered. for the past year or more, her legs have been worthless, so life is restricted to a 10 sq foot area where she sleeps (on the floor with a heated pad and a yo (요이불), which is a heavy korean blanket), her port-o-potty, and a small area outside her room where the family eats. and although her health and attitude are good all things considered, recently she told my aunt that she wanted to go somewhere alone, which is i guess what old people say when they're ready to go.

surprise surprise... women in korean catholic churches are veiled... and folks don't kneel!

this reality has added urgency to my daegu roundtrips. lately i've been panicking at the thought of life post-halmoni and thinking that i should be living closer to her. but then again, maybe my fantasies of her becoming a centenarian will come true and by then our relationship will include easy breezy conversations in korean... or japanese, which she seems to think i am studying. but minor obligations will probably keep me in seoul, which just means more frequent weekend trips southbound.

to that end, this past weekend i embraced daegu's new slogan: "new start, new daegu" with the aim of making korea's fourth largest city more three-dimensional. i went to easter mass with my very catholic korean family. i felt a little bit naughty taking communion... being that i was never confirmed, am atheist and have sex with men, but being an altar boy for 10 years has got to be worth something. beyond the family compound, i explored the bongdeok-dong neighborhood and the u.s. military's camp walker (hmmm... i wonder how mommy and daddy met?). and... thanks to my korea-born chinese-american blogger friend, i now have an eccentric social outlet in mom's town. yea. i'll be back soon.

2 comments:

william (皓) said...

korea is sparkling, and the colorful sparkles gather in daegu. which means more 'colorful' people like yourself. and by color, i mean your uncolored half.

we welcome you with half open arms.

matt said...

hey billy,
i think thanks are in order.

thanks!

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