I Am a Product of Two Great Families – Part III

My South Korea Adventure

“At least one of your wishes will be answered here through your heartful prayers.” – Haedong Yonggung Temple’s focal point motto

First of all, I’m not really sure why I started doing these in “Parts” when it is turning out to just be the days. Oh well! Guess you’ll just have to deal.

Trip Day covered in this post: Sunday, September 21, 2014

Sunday we were headed for Busan, South Korea. A good 1 hour drive away from Ulsan. But first, Daniel and I ate a very delicious breakfast that my birth mom made. Although, there was one dish that I did not care for at all. It smelled like wet dog. And no it wasn’t really dog. The kimchi was awesome and we found out that all the spicy sauces we really enjoyed were started from cayenne peppers. Nyam nyam nyam (the Korean equivalent of “nom nom nom” confirmed by EatYourKimchi ). Daniel actually ate CUCUMBERS. But only because he didn’t know it was cucumbers, but then he fell in love because they were kimchi-style cucumbers. We had a lot of octopus, fish jerky (don’t hate it was delicious), anchovies, and rice. Don’t worry, the only reason we loved this stuff is because it was covered in this delicious hot pepper paste, gochujang. Nyam nyam nyam.

Mee Jin, Min Shik, their son, and Mee Eun and her daughters came over around 10:00 AM UTC to get our trip to Busan started. Hye Jin wasn’t going to go at first. She wasn’t feeling very well and wanted to save up all her energy for the big family trip the next day. But she loves shopping and decided she couldn’t miss out. Plus I think my birth mom and sisters were giving her a hard time about it. She ended up skipping out on the Temple and taking a nap in the car. But the first stop of our trip was at a gas station so that she could buy us a McDonald’s coffee. And guess what. It wasn’t any better there. They did have delivery though. Mee Jin told us that almost all restaurants had quick delivery available. It was just really funny to see a fast food place have delivery motor bicycles…

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The photo I sent them three years ago.

Three years ago, Ashley and I went to Haedong Yonggungsa Temple, in Busan. When Esther found my birth family and asked me to send some recent pictures to show them, I sent them one of me standing on the edge of a cliff with the Temple in the background. My birth mother had responded that this Temple in the picture was very close to where she lived. But little did I know, that my birth family only lived 1 hour away and had been there many times before. We got there first and walked around the entrance to the main Temple grounds. Twelve Chinese year zodiac statues line the way to entrance. So they of course wanted to take a picture of us in front of ours, Year of the Tiger. While we were taking pictures here, we noticed that a lot of people had selfie-poles. Look it up. You’ll get a good laugh.

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The anticipation grows as you walk down many stairs. (Side note: I bet this place would look so awesome around Buddha’s birthday. Look up pictures if you have a second.) And then you finally arrive at a bridge where you have a great view of the famous cliff side Temple. There is an area next to the bridge here lucky statues have been placed. It’s called the Lucky Coin Division. There are two statues that you can try to toss a coin into. Min Shik gave Daniel and I each a coin. Min Shik tried and then Daniel with neither of them making one in. Then it was my turn and my coin banked off the wall and plopped right into the lucky turtle! “It was such a big deal that other people were turning around to see who got it in”, says Daniel. Lucky me!

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The rest of the family caught up with us at the main temple. Daniel and I were looking through a window to see the beautiful artwork that made the inside of the Temple. My birth mother went inside and prayed for Daniel and I. Mee Jin said she was praying for our safe arrival, for our visit, and for our reunion. Then she gave us money to make a prayer to the big golden Buddha. We had to wait our turn and it was like we were little kids again.

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We eventually ventured our way to view the Temple from the cliff where I had taken that photo three years ago. We got a group shot and they bought us a Korean pancake (hotteok) that was filled with sesame seeds and brown sugar. One of my favorite Korean street foods. They also got us some kind of fish on a stick that had the consistency of a hot dog. We were definitely not fans of that at all. As we left the Temple, my birth mom bought Daniel and I prayer wish beads and Mee Eun bought her daughter a bag of rice cakes. Which Mee Eun’s daughter later took that same bag of rice cakes and slinged them at her mom, my birth mom, and then went and sat in a chair and giggled about it. It was pretty funny. Have you noticed the amount of snacks and eating in general. I really don’t know how they are so skinny.

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We drove into Busan on an ocean-view road. We saw a ton of people surfing. We went to a -you guessed it- coffee shop. We went to an Angel-in-us coffee shop which I only note because Daniel just loved that a coffee shop had that name. Hye Jin met us at the coffee shop. It looked like she had driven there and taken a nap.

We went up to the rooftop that overlooked the Busan’s Haeundae beach. At the top Mee Eun said, “MeeRee. Booked for you!” because no one was up there. Of course she was kidding, but at the rate they were going I wasn’t sure! We took some pictures, sat around, drank ice coffee, and “talked” . Now, when I say talked. We really did talk, but it was super broken English and Korean. Although it was a bit more English than Korean. We showed them pictures of us and our families. Then talked about how each married couple met and how long they dated before they married. Mee Jin and Min Shik dated ten years before they married and they’ve been married for six years. She waited for him while he was in the Korean Army. Mee Eun and Ju Hwan have been married for four years and they dated for six years. Daniel said that he thinks Mee Eun had been married before, but I missed that somewhere in all the discussions.

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Mee Jin had a comic book for her son that was on the history of America. It had a map of the States in it so we were able to use it to show them where we and all our family members lived – ok maybe not all of Daniel’s extended family but his immediate family. I think after we showed them that and told them how long it took to fly or drive to visit Colorado or California they realized how big it was over here. Eventually we will get some of them over here…

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After coffee, we went to lunch before shopping in Dongdae around Busan National University. We went to this place that made something very similar to Japanese udon. We waited outside for a few minutes because one of my birth mom’s sisters (she has seven siblings, this might be including her I’m not positive) was driving from two hours away to eat and shop with us. While we waited, Daniel taught Mee Jin’s son how to make a paper airplane and how to play drums on his legs (he’ll be a great Dad in the far future). Once she arrived there was a lot of Korean talking. She said I looked a lot like my birth dad and we ate lots and lots of food. We had mandu – my favorite! While they all talked about us, Daniel and I showed Mee Jin’s son some video games that were on our phones and my mini iPad.

At this restaurant, I also found out that Mee Eun found out about me when she turned 25 (I think she is now 33/34). But she was told to keep it a secret from the other two sisters. So Mee Jin and Hye Jin did not know about me until Esther found them. And apparently they cried a lot when they heard “MeeRee’s story”.

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After lunch we headed for the shops. Here is where the sweating began. And I literally mean sweating for Daniel and me. But before we headed to the alley/side street boutiques some more street food was bought to eat while we walked around. It was some kind of dried fish jerky snack. It was pretty good. Anyway. The shops there are a lot different than here. There aren’t a ton of department stores, at least not where we were. It was multiple streets of boutiques lining them up and down. Hye Jin told us the quality of the women’s clothing was a lot better in these boutiques and the men’s quality was better in department stores. Daniel saw a pair of shoes he liked out in the alley boutiques but they didn’t have his size. Hye Jin said, “Daniel style no. Department store. Daniel style.” So we headed to the department store that was nearby to shop for Daniel.

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We tried to tell them they didn’t need to buy us anything that we had brought money to buy things. But we could tell they were starting to take offense to us not picking out anything. They said that if we did not pick anything then they would be sad, “It is the Korean way! Korean tradition!”. We went through the shoe department and looked at what seemed a ton of shoes. It was a flustering event. They picked out some shoes and while Daniel was trying them on Mee Eun could tell I was getting kind of upset. She asked what was wrong and I said that it was too expensive and that they did not need to purchase such an expensive item. She told me not to worry and said, “Auntie’s money. Pay for Daniel’s shoes.” Side note: When you haven’t seen family in a while the custom is to give the kids money. So when my birth mom’s sister left to go back home, she gave money to buy us clothes. While we were in the department store, they also made Daniel pick out some shirts. My birth mom wanted to buy him some pants, but Daniel grabbed his thighs with his hands and said, “Daniel thigh big.” And then went up to a mannequin and put his hand around the thigh, “Korean style. Tight. No fit Daniel.” It was really funny.

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Then all the eyes were on me and buying clothes for MeeRee. I really didn’t want to offend them. I think we are all the same though in our humbleness. They bought me a dress, a jacket, a trench coat, two tops, and a pair of shoes. Daniel and I probably would have bought more, but we felt like anything we pointed at they would buy. So we just did some window shopping. Oh, they did buy us fun Korean socks too! “Hye Jin’s style” became something we’d say a lot on the rest of the trip. She is the shopping Queen. She’s really into fashion and she did not like some of the things I picked out. But I’m probably more along the lines of Mee Jin and Mee Eun on the fashion style. Hye Jin would also get really frustrated with my birth mom because she would barter too much and embarrass Hye Jin. It was really funny because my birth mom would cackle at Hye Jin and make faces. I told Hye Jin my Mom would barter too because she likes to find deals.

Finally, we thought we were done shopping. But. While sitting in the main entrance to the department store (which did not seem odd to anyone walking in and out nor did the fact that little children were walking back and forth or just plopping down in the middle of the floor), Mee Eun and Mee Jin said that they and my birth mom wanted to buy something for my Mom and Daniel’s Mom. Again, we tried to say no that we would buy it but they insisted. So we went back in and picked out some really pretty scarves that fit both of their styles.

After picking out scarves and shopping until we dropped, we went to eat. We ate at the department store food court. Which was a great thing because Daniel and I were able to just share something. We had kimbap (Korean sushi) and tteokbokki/ddeokbokki. And I love both of those too! Before we leaving Mee Jin, one of Mee Eun’s daughters (who kept holding my hand that day), Min Shik, his son, Daniel, and I headed for the restrooms. The women’s restroom had VOMIT everywhere. Like you couldn’t even step over it. So the ladies headed upstairs and told someone about the mess. Daniel said that when the guys walked out and by the women’s restroom entrance Mee Jin’s son goes, “Oooooooooh MY GAAAAAH!” which was beginning to be absolutely hilarious with us because they said it so much.

After this adventure, bubble tea was purchased and we headed back to Ulsan.  On the way back, Jeong Hun was calling and telling everyone to hurry and get back. He also was apparently drinking. A lot. Then when we were within 5 minutes, my peanut-sized bladder couldn’t hold it anymore and Min Shik had to go to a park that was really close so that I could use the restroom. Mee Jin went too and when we got back the joke was to call anyone that had to go to the restroom during a drive, peanut bladder.

On our drive back, Jeong Hun was sending me chats on KakaoTalk. He was using some translator that was translating older sister as “Lisa.” So I was really confused and thought he was under the impression that my name was Lisa. Thankfully Mee Jin was around and was about to translate his texts. And also mention that Hun Na (nick name from an older person to a young person) was at home drinking by himself and getting drunk. Mee Jin said when Hun Na drinks he gets more talkative. Hun Na called again and was crying (we could hear through the car radio) but we weren’t sure why.

When we got back to the house, we all sat down to talk. Jeong Hun kind of hid around a corner, you could tell he had been crying, when we first got there. He had been home writing me letters (trying to at least) in English and my sisters were making fun of him. I felt bad for him cause something was obviously sitting very heavily on his mind. My sisters told me that he feels bad because I was given up for adoption and then he was born. I tried to tell him to not be upset because I understood the culture. I couldn’t figure out how to get this translated though and I started to cry. And if you know me, it is pretty rare to see me cry. I was getting upset because I couldn’t convey my feelings about this topic and I really wanted him to know that I understood. Then Daniel started crying and that made me cry. Seeing men cry makes me get teary eyed and maybe eventually cry.

Daniel came to the rescue and was able to get AhYoung to translate a text for us that conveyed my feelings. And then everything was a-okay! Then laughter started to occur when they realized it wasn’t tears of sadness or tears of being upset. It was tears of happiness to even be having that moment. We later found out that Jeong Hun had wrapped his necklace around his wrist while he was drinking. He somehow misplaced it and thought he had lost it. So that attributed to his crying. It was actually funny and we told them that we had done the same thing at home. “MeeRee many drink. Daniel take necklace off. Daniel put where MeeRee might see. MeeRee next day say, ‘Where Necklace?’. Daniel no remember. MeeRee no remember. MeeRee get sad. Later Daniel remember. MeeRee happy.”

Yep, that’s how a lot of our conversations went. Daniel had a great time, but boy was he glad to be back home and speaking non-broken English.

One thought on “I Am a Product of Two Great Families – Part III

  1. I can’t even tell you how much I’ve enjoyed keeping up with your stories about your visit! So glad you got to experience all of this and you’ve only posted part 3! Can’t wait to read more!!!

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