Tuesday, February 12, 2008

가족. Part 2. Bloodkin.

Part 2a and 2b. Two stories about my paternal family.

New Year's w/Daddy's Family
Okay, so like a good Korean I spent the Lunar New Year with my paternal family. That means my dad's mom, siblings, their spouses and kids and even one of his cousin's whole line. And there were parts that were nuts and parts that made me annoyed they were my family and other parts that made me ridiculously ashamed of being annoyed by them.

My dad is from JinDo, a little island off the coast of Mokpo (near Kwangju). So we congregate there for important holidays. My family is big on eating. You think I mean the way that Koreans are big on eating. No, I mean that is normal level. My family is insane-level big on eating. Like I gained 10 lbs at Chuseok (4 days). Like I gained 10 lbs in the summer (10 days). Like they actually caught/butchered a WHOLE PIG for both occasions. Like we wake up eating, eat all day, (sometimes there are 15 minute rests between "meal/snacks") and go to bed exhausted from eating. So, to all my friends in the US who have seen me at my finest eating (passed out on Ty's couch with Wint because we're in too much pain from overeating to walk to our own room) I come from a family of champion eaters.

This holiday was no different. But the delicious food was not the main highlight. As usual, it was only the backdrop for the craziness that is my bloodline. There were a million times last week where all I could think was, I CAN'T BELIEVE I FORGOT MY CAMERA. They should make a reality TV show about my family ...

episode 1: Following Korean tradition, we all pile into cars to make the san-soh rounds. A san-soh is a traditional Korean mini-hill bump grave of your ancestor. At traditional holiday times you go to all the important sansohs and make a food altar thing and do the ceremonial bowing (2 full floor bows and 1 half bow). We went to all my grandfather's brothers (my dad's uncles) and my greatgrandfather's and my grandfather's and one of my little aunt's graves. Here comes the good part, WE ALMOST STARTED A FOREST FIRE THAT WOULD'VE BURNED UP MY GREATGRANDFATHER'S SANSOH.

New Year's was bitterly cold and windy. So at our first stop, greatgrandfather's grave, as we are complaining about the fierce cold, my uncle takes the incense lighter and sets fire to 2 tufts of dried grass about 15 ft from the grave. One of his sons asks, why did you do that? and the uncle answers, you all said you were cold. we stand around the fires staring at them. and within SECONDS it starts spreading and of COURSE the dry winter grass and high wind are great fodder for the fire. The 2 fires merge into one 5 ft diameterish circle and my uncles start running to the edges of the grave clearing and breaking off leafy branches and stamping out the flames with them.

But this onslaught of air apparently brings more oxygen with it and the fire starts spreading even more quickly. I grab my baby girl cousin and take her away from the growing circle as two of my high school cousins start filming with their cell phones. My greataunt takes off her long coat to help capture the flames. And somehow as my uncles and aunts are all beating with branches, the fire goes out. The burnt circle at the end was about/at least 20 feet in diameter. The fire was partly stopped by the stone monument/altar things in front of the grave. Anyway, this was just another day in the Lim family.

(SERIOUSLY, i can't believe i didn't have my camera...)

next, at one point i was becoming seriously disillusioned with my family. even at the best of times i can barely believe we're related. we're just so/too different. but when i see how much they care about me and try to make me comfortable and are AWARE of just how different we are, it puts me to shame. i won't list the things they did, but to name a few: my aunt and uncle gave up the only bed in the place so I could sleep on it and all the other adults slept on the floor, my aunt kicked out half my cousins so i could sleep in the bed with only 1 other person comfortably, my aunt drove 30 minutes to town to buy me a baguette for breakfast, my uncle cut the pork rinds off each individual piece of meat that he picked up and put in front of me, etc etc etc.

karma story: so i totally believe in karma, which usually makes life easier to deal with. example: by thursday i was pretty fed up with my family. i was bored at the house since it was so cold out we had been indoors watching tv and i had been reading my books for a few days. all they did was eat and eat and i was bored of korean food. i wanted to go back to my own room in cheongju. i was sometimes superannoyed at how "korean" my family is/was (totally not their fault).

friday, my uncles decide i'm too bored and arrange a hiking trip. it was 2 sets of aunts and uncles, another uncle, his daughter, and me. the weather was amaaaaazing and so were the mountains. the scenery was breathtaking. the ocean was the exact same color as the mediterranean of the cote d'azur. that's the only thing i could keep thinking while gazing at the jindo ocean was "wow this is so the same color as the water in cannes". the mountains are beautiful. my cousin is delightful company. i had so much fun it was great!!! i even got to see tidepools and i LOVE LOVE LOOOOOVE tidepools!!!

friday night = deathsick. upon returning home and eating half a baguette i started to feel a bit crampy in my stomach. but i chalked that up to all the eating we'd been doing and just kept eating the regular meal with everyone else. my stomach pain increases. i take some antacid type stuff. i have plum tea (good for stomach/indigestion). a little after 9pm i vomit for the first of many times to come. i'll spare the details because they're gory and get gorier.

basically, i thought i was going to die. and my family stepped up. they all took different roles in helping me, (9pm to 12am) rubbing my back and stomach, acupunturing my fingers, massaging the pressure point in my hands, finally taking me to the hospital, sitting with me and talking to me for 2+ hours while i get IV-ed so i don't dehydrate (12am 3am), there was 1 hour when they went to sleep and i somehow crawled back to the bathroom for another hour of fun, rubbing my stomach and hands (5-6am), driving me to kwangju (6am-9am), staying with me in the hospital while i get IV-ed again (9am 11:30am), then i slept most of saturday at my aunt's house while they took turns making me porridge and trying to make me swallow.

during one of the early rounds of vomit, i realized this is what i get for not only taking my family for granted but also for disliking how unlike me they were. and yet when it came down to the wire, they didn't stop at any lengths to help me. the universe made me deathsick to make me grateful for family. and grateful i am. all saturday, sunday, monday various family members called me to check up on me and see how i was coming along.
my supposed deathsick's technical name: Gastroenteritis

(i could write a whole separate entry about this ordeal, but i'll leave that to my private written journal for me to learn from and everyone else not to stop reading my gross blog)

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