The first time I visited Korea, at age 65, I dropped out of the sky,
a stranger in a strange land, catapulted from Honolulu to the place
where my father’s parents had been born and raised.
With the typical cultural ignorance of a clueless foreigner barging in,
and as a Korean who knew ashamedly little of his ancestral language,
I could barely converse with people I encountered, stupidly then,
almost solely dependent on our guide to facilitate most communication.
Every place we visited was new to me, of course,
but I have to say I felt a faint familiarity with everything I saw,
some curious natural connection like blood returning to the heart.
The second time I visited Korea, a few weeks ago, travel there allowed again,
I was still an American from Hawai‘i, but everything seemed different.
Magically, I could communicate a bit more easily with many people I met,
I have no explanation how, having learned little Korean in the interim –
although due to covid I’d watched innumerable Korean movies and TV shows –
and in our free time I traversed the territory much more confidently,
walked through areas I recognized, knew better for having been there before.
This second time I was curious to gauge my impressions as a return visitor.
The next time, soon, I’ll go back as someone who feels all the more at home.
That place seeps into me, transfuses secretly, becomes ever more a part of me,
and could I spend more time in Korea I would gladly do so.
There’s a growing comfort in knowing that I may be speaking
to someone who’s a relative, who may share my blood, my appearance, my name.
There’s also great comfort in recognizing surroundings, this intimacy imparting
an easing feeling of being in another place where I know I belong.