Family Relationships and Reunion with Old Friends (Seoul, Korea; Shanghai, China)

Week 5 of Post Grad Life.

When you keep going forward, sometimes you forget about the people you unintentionally leave behind. Friends and family become second tier priority while your career and motivation become the narrow focus of your life. This week I’ve realized how distant I have been with my family and that I can only blame it on my selfish ambitions. For years I’ve pushed away my parents and my sister and made important life decisions on my own without their consideration. It wasn’t my intention to be so distant, but I guess a lot of it had to do with me not being so open on communicating with them.


Korean Thanksgiving:

Monday morning this week was the day of Chussuk, a thanksgiving-like holiday in Korea. It’s a huge family gathering holiday and one of the most important celebration in the country. It is also celebrated in China as the mid-autumn festival. It is a day where families (mostly on your dad’s side) get together to praise ancestors and, of course, eat a lot more food than one can handle. You praise ancestors by having food presented in front of a panel with their names written in old Chinese and bow to them three times per generation. For us, our family line goes back as far as our grandfather’s great grandfather. So that was A LOT of bowing.

This is the table setting and back panel, which we face and then bow three times per generation of ancestors.
This is the table setting and back panel, which we face and then bow three times per generation of ancestors.

My dad left Peongtaek (where my grandparents live) shortly after the bowing ceremony in the morning. It was so nice to see almost all the family together like that. I think the last time we had this many of the immediate family together was back in 1999, right before my family moved to Canada. This was definitely a nice opportunity for me to bond with my dad. The night before, we were both so awake from jetlag that we just stayed up all night talking. I think that was the first time in a very long time that I had a heart-to-heart with my dad. It really got us a lot closer to each other in just over one night’s conversation.

It was actually really sad to see him go after the bowing ceremony because I wasn’t sure when or where the next time I was going to see him. He told me that if he can get a visa, then he’ll be coming to Shanghai. If not, then I wasn’t sure if I would see him again in Korea or if I had to wait until I got to Charlotte to see him and who know when that would be…

It's SO RARE for us to actually have a family photo like this. Even though I look like crap, I will treasure this picture forever.
It’s SO RARE for us to actually have a family photo like this. Even though I look like crap, I will treasure this picture forever.
Another really rare family photo. We have a pretty big family on my mom's side, but it's just my aunt's family, my sister and my grams here.
Another really rare family photo. We have a pretty big family on my mom’s side, but it’s just my aunt’s family, my sister, my grams and me here at gram’s place.

I was pretty bummed for the rest of that day. I was supposed to go up to our family mountain for the burial bowing ceremony with my uncles and cousins, but I fell asleep. No one had bothered to wake me up. I was so disappointed that I didn’t get to go. The other upsetting part was having to go with my sister to her friend’s dad’s funeral. My sister found out that morning that her friend’s dad had passed away that day. That is seriously the saddest thing ever. Chussuk is supposed to be a happy family gathering day, but for their family, it’ll always be a tragedy.

Apparently her dad had a rare form of cancer that none of the doctors knew what it was. It took over his entire brain and then when the cancer got to his lungs, he couldn’t breath and that’s how he died. I wanted to come back to Seoul and spend the rest of the evening with my aunt’s family and grams, but I knew that my sister would regret it if she didn’t go to the funeral. So, I went with her as support and it was honestly more emotional than I thought it would be.

I didn’t think someone that I didn’t know can emotionally affect me like that. As my sister’s friend was telling us the story, I kept choking back my own tears whenever I saw her tearing up. I guess I was crying because of how sorry I felt for her family that her dad passed away so suddenly, especially on the day of Chussuk. What’s worse is that my sister’s friend just had a baby. She got the baby out through C-section because she wanted to come to Korea early to see her dad before he died. As soon as she landed in Korea, she went straight to the hospital and that’s when he died, only a couple hours later. I’m still a little teary thinking about it, so I can’t imagine what she is going through.

I just couldn’t stop thinking about my own dad and the rest of my family this entire week. It really made me realize that I want and need to be closer to them. I suck at communicating and actually spending quality time with them. I really do take their love and support for granted and for that, I have been a horrible daughter. I think this trip to Korea has been, by far, one of the best because of my self-realization and actually making the effort to be closer to my family. I love my family and I can’t ever imagine having to say goodbye to them on a deathbed without really having to know them truly.


The Weekend and Packing Again:

The rest of the weekday was pretty chill. I went to Yonsei University to play volleyball, went on a huge shopping spree and went to one too many cafe to continue writing my book. It’s a little frustrating because every time I feel like I have a theme and idea of how to compile it, I re-read what I have written and end up absolutely hating it. I’ll have to post some samples on here so that y’all can send me some feedback because right now, the book is going nowhere and it’s super frustrating. I thought that by the end of my GEP program, I would have a solid outline of my book. I do, but then the problem is that I have TOO MUCH to write about and trying to cut out what I actually need and don’t need is the hard part.

My dad also came back up to Seoul after his work was done in Daegu, so I got to see him again, which was awesome. Unfortunately, it was time for me to pack up and leave again. This time, I was going back to Shanghai. I was frankly not all that excited. I hated saying goodbye to my grams. She’s like the world’s loneliest person because no one really takes care of her, unless it’s me or my mom. I also thought I didn’t want to go back to China because… well, it’s China. It’s the land of nonstop spitting, the horrible smells, people bumping into you and yelling everywhere.

Packing again... total Instagram photo
Packing again… total Instagram photo
Another Instagram photo... #passport
Another Instagram photo… #passport


Back to Shanghai, China:

Surprisingly though, I had a really fun weekend that made me realize why I wanted to come back to China in the first place. Friday, I went out with my old friends that I went to EMLYON with in France. Crazy how we meet up again on the opposite side of the world.

Saturday morning, I had the worse hangover ever. It made me realize that I am no longer 18 anymore. Crazy… I’m only 22 and even though this should be my peak partying and drinking age, I feel like one crazy night like that was enough to last me for the rest of the year. Literally, the only thing that got me up and out of my bed was that my friend Grace was coming over.

[Grace and I have the craziest story of how we met… The first time we met was back in Korea at Yonsei University. We both played volleyball together, but I only saw her maybe 2 or 3 times at most. Then, a couple months ago in Hangzhou at the lobby of my dormitory, I came back from class and decided to go on the scale that was just around. I sighed deeply and she commented on how I shouldn’t get on that. We started to talk and I found out that she was Korean. I asked her for her number and she input “Grace McLane,” which was super surprising because I only knew of one other person with that name and she had white adoptive parents. I kept staring at her name until it clicked to me that she was the same Grace McLane that I had met back in Korea. Neither of us had recognized each other because it was two years ago and we weren’t that close back then. It was just insane that we ended up meeting again in the lobby of our dormitory in Hangzhou, China of all places!]

Anyways, she was coming over for a job fair, which ended up being such a joke. We literally went shopping all over to get her a new professional dress to wear for this job fair. I think it took us like 3 hours to actually get to this place (we got lost several times), but only stayed for less than 20 min. I didn’t even talk to any booths because majority of the companies there were health insurance or real estate. It sucked.

The rest of the weekend was just doing super touristy stuff with Grace’s old elementary school friend that she hasn’t seen in like 7 years. That is crazy. Anyways, that was actually really nice having the chance to see Shanghai as a tourist, since I haven’t really done that in a long time.

Look at those perfectly shaped eyebrows ;)
Look at those perfectly shaped eyebrows ;)
Getting some green tea in Shanghai, China
Getting some green tea in Shanghai, China

I know this was a super long post, but I felt that it was really needed to get all of that out of my system, especially about the family. It was a long week of reunions and really getting to know my friends and family better. I miss everyone back home and I hope to come back really sooner than later!

xoxo from Shanghai,