A Tribute to My Daughter

I have just returned from a 10-day family trip to South Korea. Seven of us, age seven to 71, made the pilgrimage back to the land of our daughter and son’s birth. Everything about the trip was extraordinary, beginning with Sally’s invitation to have us join her.

Sally left South Korea in 1984 at age 17-months to begin her life in the United States as our adoptive daughter. Her return 34 years later with her entire extended U.S. family: two children Jaden (13) and Sasha (7); her partner, Joe; her father, Dave; my partner, Christina; and me was a pilgrimage of immense proportion. It will take us a long time to fully understand the impact of that trip on each of us. I begin my integration here with some photos and narrative and a bow of respect to a beautiful country with a long, complex and proud history.

Korean travelers: Joe (Sally’s partner), Dave grandfather, Jaden (Sally’s son), Sally, Sasha (Sally’s daughter), Christina grandmother, Ann grandmother photo by Joe Villarreal

On one level the trip is a story of spring time superlatives: gorgeous light pink cherry blossoms, multi-colored traditional hanbok costumes, fragrant food carts, and open-air market stalls of many, many items made in Korea.

Sasha at the cherry blossom festival

Traditional hanbok dresses

 

 

Joe and Sasha buying some street food

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Carefully advertised pride in local products

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On another level it is a story of an American family discovering its roots. I knew very little about Korea when we adopted Sally and Brian. I am only slightly more educated now, but feel a new alignment and kinship with the country and its kind, thoughtful people. Despite the fact that we collectively only knew one word in Korean, gamsa-hamnida(thank you), we managed to figure out subway and bus routes, restaurant menus, and taxi directions using rudimentary communication and gesturing because people were so kind to us. In one case, a young man even came out of his shop to hail two taxi cabs to a nearby park whose name we pointed to on our map.

We spent several days in Seoul, which was still gleaming in all its post Olympic beauty. The mix of old and new and the sheer density of everything was immediately striking: spectacular skyscrapers next to the traditional south wall of the city; alleyways containing many, many small restaurants and shops.

Sasha and the guard at the traditional South Wall of the city—note skyscrapers extending beyond

 

Our family in a traditional Hanok village found a surprise

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The corgi dog we spotted in an alley way.

 

 

 

Sasha,Sally, and Jaden heading off to explore the first morning in Seoul

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The longest stop and heart of our trip was Busan, beautiful port city and birth-home to our son and daughter. Sally said, “Somehow I imagined coming from a small fishing village.”  With 3.5 million people, Busan is the country’s second largest city and the 9thlargest port in the world.

Busan, the bustling world class port

Busy night scene in Busan

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The city with cherry blossoms all over its hillsides

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We spent our first day enjoying a hike at Igidae Park which gave us expansive views of the skyline and the Gwangan Bridge. The walk itself took about two hours along a forested path just above the seashore. Though there were numerous Koreans out enjoying this coastal walk, our group of seven found a rocky seaside nook to share some stories about Brian’s life and then each of the seven of us took some time alone to scatter his ashes on the seashore of his birth city.

Looking at Busan from Igidae coastal park where we scattered some of Brian’s ashes

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In the spirit of honoring rituals, we journeyed the next day to the community of Jinhae where the annual Korean Cherry Blossom festival is held for 10 days. It is estimated that nearly 2 million people attend the 10-day festival. I would definitely believe there were 200,000 people there on our visiting day! Crowded, yes. Respectful, definitely. Beautiful, for sure.

Joe and Sally at the cherry blossom festival

 

Traditional male dancers at the Jinhae cherry blossom festival

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Grandmothers dressed up for Easter and the cherry blossom festival

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Riding back to Busan on our tour bus, we were amazed at the number of high-rise apartment buildings alongside the roadway. Two-thirds of South Korea consists of mountains and hills. Only 22% of the land is arable. Every inch is needed to grow food for its 51.25 million people.

Our final full day in Busan took us to the Jagalchi Fish Market where we marveled at row after row of fish, eel, octopus, clams, sea squirts, and seaweed. Our granddaughter, Sasha, became intrigued with one stall where dozens of live octopus kept trying to escape from a crowded plastic tub. She and Christina wrote and illustrated a book titled, “The Girl who Saved the Octopus.”

Jagalchi Fish market stalls

A fresh basket of mussels, clams, shrimp, and octopus

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Woman vendor selling octopus at fish market

Sasha and Christina writing their book, “The Girl Who Was An Octopus Saver”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

That final night we took a harbor cruise to see Sally’s city from the water. Busan is lit up like a world-class city—office buildings, bridges, etc. I said to Sally, “Wow, you really come from some where beautiful!” It was an emotional evening for all of us.

Cruise ship at night in Busan

 

 

Our cruise ship going under the Gwangan Bridge in Busan

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Returning to Seoul for several of days of integration, we found comfort in our new familiarity with outdoor markets, local food, and subways.

Sally’s father and Christina eating at a Korean barbecue in Seoul which furnishes gloves to keep your hands clean

 

Lantern lights for the celebration of Buddha’s birthday in Jogyesa Temple, Seoul

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jaden, Sally, Christina, and Sasha at Seoul’s Namdaemum Market

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Home now, I offer a deep bow of respect to the incredible adjustment my daughter has made these many decades to creating a beautiful life in the U.S. And a bow of gratitude that we were able to bring some of Brian’s ashes to the shore where he was born.

Now we walk with curiosity into the meaning-making story this trip will have in the generations of our family.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

26 replies
    • Ann Linnea
      Ann Linnea says:

      Dear Friend, What a joy to be sent off on the eve of that trip with a Korean spoken blessing from you! It is an extraordinary country. Love, Ann

      Reply
  1. Jean Ure
    Jean Ure says:

    Oh Ann, such a heart warming sharing. Beautiful. The scattering of ashes … profound. And Christina helping granddaughter write a story!
    Blessings to you all.
    Jean

    Reply
  2. Bonnie Marsh
    Bonnie Marsh says:

    Ann, I’m reminded that we’ve never been to Korea, despite having adopted two children from there in 1972. I tearfully read your descriptions of the beautiful land and people and now clearly want to go. Bless all of you and bless our beautiful children.

    Reply
  3. Julie Glover
    Julie Glover says:

    Thanks so much for sharing this. This is what I’ve been wanting — to hear of your saga — and the pictures really help to experience it with you. You were blessed to have such a wonderful trip together — yay for all of you!

    Reply
  4. Sara Harris
    Sara Harris says:

    A Mythic Journey, to be sure. I love reading about it.So rich for all, each in their own way, I’m sure. Thanks for sharing it with us.
    Sara

    Reply
  5. Sheila Kiscaden
    Sheila Kiscaden says:

    A beautiful journey of many levels of love, family, connection, remembrance, and heritage….it will have a lasting legacy for you all. Wonderful.

    Reply
  6. Katharine Weinmann
    Katharine Weinmann says:

    Beautiful, touching. My heart is full as I read and see the photos, and sense underneath the significance of your pilgrimage…now and to come.

    Reply
  7. Marina
    Marina says:

    Such a blessing reading about and seeing this journey…all together, with Brian’s spirit holding your hand. A dream of many years came to fruition. From these tiny infants to decades of life. bless you and Dave in the journey you began. What a privilege…

    Reply
    • Margaret Brown
      Margaret Brown says:

      Thank you, Ann, for these beautiful photos that help us get such a sense for your trip. I have many questions (why are they wearing gloves when they eat?) but look forward to more blogs on Korea. it reminds me that most Americans come from someplace else and these roots run deep in us in ways that we do not understand. I always assumed I was from a fishing village, too, but I don’t know!

      Reply
  8. Roswitha
    Roswitha says:

    Dearest friends, what a beautiful story. Learning a little bit about your own roots and sharing it with your parents and your children. Taking with you the ashes of your brother. How wonderful for Sally and your whole tribe. A contribution to inner and outer peace. Thank you for sharing.

    Reply
  9. Jennifer Getsinger
    Jennifer Getsinger says:

    Dear Ann,
    Thank you so much for a heartfelt story of returning to roots and celebrating all our relations in circle.

    Reply
  10. Jeanne Petrick
    Jeanne Petrick says:

    Ann, beautiful story that I couldn’t wait to read about! Thanks for sharing so meaningfully. Enjoy your “walk with curiosity into the meaning making story this trip will have in the generations of our family” as perhaps this adventure was just as profound for you as it was for Sally. What a gift from EF – what deep human care expressed – giving hope during these times. May you take all the time you need to process and deepen your understanding of this experience. Hugs.

    Reply
  11. Cynthia Trenshaw
    Cynthia Trenshaw says:

    Joyful tears of recognizing the depths you facilitated for your family’s experiences. Yes, it will take a very long time to reverberate, to process, and to bring back into the light to share in new and creative ways wherever each of your family will journey. Thanks, Ann – this is a gift for all.

    Reply
  12. Helga
    Helga says:

    Beautiful story. Sharing in the heartbeat of those who walked there before us, seeing with our eyes perhaps 2hat 5hey saw.

    Reply
  13. Marie Dumais
    Marie Dumais says:

    Such a beautiful,heartfelt story of the huge pilgrimage your family has made and honoring Brian in such a poignant way. Bravo to you all.
    Marie

    Reply

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