Travel, especially international travel, has always been an interest of mine, ever since my first international voyage at the age of 15 on a mission trip to Tijuana, Mexico. Since then I have returned to Mexico (the Mexican Riviera, 2010) and Granada, Nicaragua (2010). As the places I have traveled to have mainly been poverty stricken, I have been impressed with the overwhelming need and a personal desire to contribute service which could better the lives of those citizens.
However, this summer I am taking a departure from my so far exclusively Spanish-speaking adventures and visiting an entirely new and distinct place: Seoul, South Korea. This may seem like a random digression of my career and personal interests, but there is a back story:
For those who don't know me very well, my childhood was stereotypically American: quiet Midwestern suburbia, Catholic high school, yearly family vacations, frequent outings with friends, and a diverse array of sports. However, my close friends and family could see the tether that ran through so many areas of my life, drawing myself and my family culture back to the Korean peninsula. My veracious appetite for reading as a young girl, my parent's stress on family, respect and (above all) education, and mandatory piano lessons for my brothers and me all stem back to my mom's mother, Hi-Yung Lee, and the force she exuded over those in her life.
While I didn't understand the root of these Asian cliches growing up, I do now. The climate and events of Korea in the 20th century left after-affects so strong that they still influence my life now, two generations later and a whole continent away. I want to understand my grandmother's strong beliefs, be they prejudices or virtues. I plan to accomplish this through an extensive research in to the history, culture, customs, and language of South Korea in the modern era: from the Japanese occupation in the early 1900s and onward through World War II and the Korean War. This will culminate in a 10 day study tour with my mother and grandmother in Seoul: three generations of mothers and daughters visiting the place where this very significant portion of our family narrative began.
I will chronicle my research and my narrative of the trip here, along with citations of the literature I utilize as well as pictures of the trip.