The Motherland

I promised myself that before I die I’d visit Korea. I haven’t been since I moved to the US when I was a child, but I ache to return. A lot of my memories revolve around the food there – I am not ashamed to express my infatuation of the most pungent Korean foods that are dear to my heart: fermented, red kimchi and savory, rich bean paste. I already know that when I go, I’ll no doubt gain a ton of weight but it won’t matter; I’ve missed it for so long.

I know that I’ll also be in for a culture shock when I’m there. Having grown up in the US, I’ve evidently become accustomed to the Western way of living. Here we tend to be open and direct, while in Korea there are conservative societal rules to live by, like showing a strict respect for the elderly and adhering to cultural traditions. Tattoos, for instance, are generally looked down upon and it’s natural for people in Korea to follow conventional gender roles. There’s a stronger tendency there to avoid openly speaking about things that are associated with anything that is out of the norm. As someone who breaks stereotypical expectations of what a disabled individual should be like – helpless, dependent and needy – I’ve thought about how my life would have turned out like had I continued to live in Korea. In America especially, there’s open-mindedness toward those with disabilities albeit there’s obviously still cases of discrimination that we don’t always hear about. But US laws mandate modern buses, streets and buildings to be accessible and although some people might glance at me when I’m out and about, they usually don’t see it as an unusual occurrence. In Korea though, I can only imagine being stared at everywhere I go. It’s not common to see a girl on a red scooter every day, but I’d assume that it’d be especially rare there. I can just imagine older women in street markets patting me on the back, asking me if I’m ok while I just laugh and assure them that I’m completely healthy. I’m not saying that everyone in Korea is ignorant and prejudiced; the country runs from a long tradition of adhering to conventions. Despite being probably treated differently, I wouldn’t care one bit because I don’t seek acceptance there; I simply want to physically revisit my memories that I’ve carried to this day and also see how much the country that I’ve loved all my life has changed. It’s what makes me regularly crave Korean food and what has enabled me to retain my fluency in Korean to this day. I can’t wait to gorge there – all out – and zoom around in my scooter.

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