This is Part Five (final) of a series on our 2017 birth family visit.
Click to read Parts One, Two, Three, and Four.

I hope this is no one’s first visit to our blog, because they would most certainly be scared away by now. We are not negative people by any means, but we also recognize the danger in showing only the smiley, happy, rainbows-and-unicorns parts of reunion, because that is simply not how it works. We take the good and the bad, digest it, then do our best to somehow meaningfully convey our experiences to you, the reader. This series has probably felt uncomfortably negative, though, and we hope you will peruse the rest of our site to see that is not our typical modus operandi. This is something that has been mulling for well over a year and finally needed to be released out into the world.

As much for the purpose of sharing as for our own memory vault, it seems important to note the hilarious culture clashes we endured along the way, as much as the tough ones. While the ratio of four-to-one blog posts in this series is a bit skewed, it’s probably not too far off. That makes documenting the light moments as important as ever. You may have already seen a number of them on our feeds (if not, you can click our social media links below!) but here are a few others:

One night, we walked Broadway in Downtown Nashville and had dinner at the Hard Rock. We ordered our food and Omma was looking around taking it all in, music videos flashing everywhere, loud music blaring. All of a sudden she stopped and looked at me and asked, “Do you know the song Funkytown?” I said I did. “Well, where is Funkytown? Is this Funkytown? Is Nashville Funkytown?” I had no answer.


1CEB88B1-1E87-470C-8B70-820823665A77Maybe the second day they were here, we were out running around and Hyunbae casually mentioned that we needed to stop at the store before returning home to buy a shower curtain. I was confused. He said, “Mom had an accident this morning and ripped the shower curtain. You should see it, it looks like a zombie attack.” We were intrigued but still did not fully understand. We stopped at the store to buy a new one (we found out they were talking about the plastic liner, not the actual curtain) and once we got home, ran into the guest bathroom to see what they were talking about. “Oh my God, what happened?!,” I shouted, before dying of laughter. Lee and Hyunbae echoed my response. Omma came in to defend herself. She was shouting, “No, it wasn’t me! I didn’t do anything! This thing is so old, look, it just rips! Try! Lee, try! It just rips just by touching it!” Our house is not old and we’d only lived here for 3 years at that point, so we know this was not the case. But she still swears it was the curtain’s fault and she barely touched it before it tore itself to shreds.

19308DF6-EF9B-4A4C-B601-E446822C6F8AOne of Whitney’s all-time favorite (in any language) mindless decompression shows is Running Man. She watches all the time and loves all of the characters. When we had some downtime and turned on the TV, of course, Omma couldn’t understand whatever we were watching, so we turned on Running Man. She clapped her hands and belly-laughed like she had never seen Yoo Jae-Seok or Lee Kwang-Soo before. “Don’t you watch Running Man at home?,” I asked. “No, this is my first time, it’s soooo funnyyyyy!,” she bellowed.

60921720-A831-4A56-AC5E-7867EA14CDD4Nashville summers are oppressive and neither of us can handle heat so we committed to paying our outrageous energy bills each summer in order to keep our house ice cold. Koreans don’t quite follow this strategy, barely cracking the A/C for a couple of hours on the hottest of days. Omma was freezing the whole time at our house. She kept putting on more and more of my clothes to get warm. Her second morning here she said she was so cold, she couldn’t sleep at night. I rolled my eyes at her exaggeration. Night two, I forgot to ask her something and she was already in bed so I went in her room. Horrified, I asked, “Why are you not sleeping under the covers?!” I didn’t think to show her how to sleep in a bed. Yes, indeed, she had been freezing to death because she was sleeping on top of the sheet, two blankets, and comforter in just shorts and a t-shirt. I pulled her out of bed and pulled back each layer. “Ah-ha!,” she shouted. She got in and rolled around, delighted, and slept like a baby the rest of the time.

F117633E-D65D-48AF-AF38-460A15EDED0DEating out with omma was quite the thing to behold this trip. At first, we would get to a restaurant, and she’d magically pull some package of kimchi out of her bag. Of course, it stank up the whole place and we told her she could not do that. She resigned herself to smuggling in juice boxes of soju, instead, but she still missed that kimchi. Koreans love everything to be in balance, including food, and they always want that pungent kimchi to counter rich foods. One night we ate at a barbecue restaurant, not choosing that particular one for any special reason. We walked in and omma’s eyes lit up. “Oh thank God!,” she shouted, stacking her plate up high. It dawned on me then. That one location just happened to have a pickle bar. All-you-can-eat acidity, ripe for the taking. Jalapeños, dill, marinated onions. I swear it was the highlight of her trip. She popped jalapeños like candy.

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