The sun is passing between clouds and lighting up the field in late
afternoon. On the way to Budapest, the running train splits green forest
and golden wheat fields. The long shadows cast by the low-rising sun in
the western sky summoned up vague memories.
Here I am after
the blinded running of my life -- in this place where the words are
unfamiliar and the eyes are blue. An emptiness inside pulls me. Every
day is a blessing and I have so many things for which to be thankful.
From the time I wake up until the time I sleep, I have no space to feel
hollow or feel what is missing from the life I have in this beautiful
Despite that, sometimes … sometimes a yearning that is
vague and uncertain suddenly surfaces. Maybe I miss the things to which
I can't return. The orange-colored sun, like a tarnished picture, has a
talent to evoke the feelings of old days from everything what I see
through the window. Light scatters through the trees, calling the
figures of my vanished hometown. The town that I can draw even with my
Comes the chestnut-tree house, after I pass
the apricot-tree house. When I climb the twisted road where the chestnut
trees skirt the mountain, I see my grandmother's thatched house. When
late afternoon comes, chimneys are getting busy for dinner time. A boy
climbs onto the porch after he passes the fence of juniper trees along
the smoke-filled road. The naive and young heart that holds a vain hope
for a nice meal, even though he knows what he will have to fill his
hunger -- poor vegetables reborn with his grandmother's amazing skill.
He misses it a lot more than the fancy meals he has today.
Because grandmother can't come back, because of the food I can't have
again, my heart is aching with nostalgia for my grandmother as the train
passes through the late-afternoon forest. The steamed rice from an
enormous, cast-iron kettle and soy-bean soup and a bowl of kimchi tempt
me more than a good beef steak. Whenever I return to Korea, the many
friends who welcome me are always taking me to restaurants for grilled
meat. Delicious meat, the meat that I always hoped to have. When
next-door at Seong-sil's house, there were meat dishes. When
Neung-gwon's house had roasted fish, I despised my own poor dinner. But
why do I miss her dinners so much now! I never thought I would long for
Everything is lost. I miss her dinner so much. Because I
cannot get it back, no matter how hard I try. The memories of when she
had cancer and I brought a bowl of seaweed soup. She stirred it with her
spoon, searching for some meat. I had to tell her we had only beef
broth, no meat. That memory hurts me so much. I can make real beef
seaweed soup now more than a hundred times. I can run over to a
supermarket and buy lots of meat and make it for her as much as she
Suddenly Europe, which has preserved its old things so
well makes me sad. Because my old things disappeared even before their
own colors had faded. My grandmother in 1985. My hometown, swept away
for "development," in 1991. That's why I want to run again on the bumpy
road to her house. On the way, even though I must bow to all the
townspeople, I will run. Past Jae-jun's house, Hae-jin's house,
Seung-min's house. Avoiding the big dog at Mr. Chu's house, past the
apricot-tree Seong-woo's house and the chestnut-tree Jeong-nan's house.
Keep running towards the chimney that smokes for my humble dinner. I
just want to run to a young me and my grandmother, with her few teeth
and the soybean soup and the green peppers from the back yard.
Now because I live abroad, I eat kimchi only once a month or twice. That's why? This nostalgia? I need to make jimchi (as she pronounced it
in our local dialect, with a "j" instead of a "k")when I get back to
Prague. Even though I can't replicate her taste, I should eat
well-pickled kimchi more often. Maybe then there will be no sudden
attacks from this long nostalgia.
"Grandma! Why is it so
delicious even though I know there is nothing much in the kitchen
cabinet? I promise I won't complain. Make more. I miss you……" The sun
hidden behind the clouds is wet red.