A Chapter from my new book Searching for Seoul- CHAPTER: IOWA

Welcome to the neighborhood, Hana, Sara, and David! Congratulations, Floyd and Mary! In the picture, three neighbor kids, freckled, blond and Velcro-sneakered, stand beneath the sign they’ve taped to our new mom and dad’s garage door.

Beneath this photo, is one of the three of us; transplants with similar blunt haircuts and coordinating seersucker outfits, sitting in the back of a brown Crown Victoria Station Wagon (later we dubbed her, Miss Vicky). The back seat has been turned down to create a kind of playpen in the rear of the car so that the three of us can sit together. There are toys everywhere. In the photo, I’m pressing a plastic phone the size of my head to my ear, my little brother looks caught, in the lens of the camera and my sister sits, holding a doll in her lap.

Looking at the photo now, I think we look a little stunned, as though we’re suspending our belief, terrified that we could wake-up at any moment to discover that all this–the toys, the smiling, teary adults–are a figment of our imaginations. But when we awake the next morning, the three of us stretched-out on mom and dad’s king-sized bed, it is all still true. (READ the rest of the chapter on my website hanahawley.com

 

kelcy-gatson-511629-unsplash.jpg

photo by Kelcy Gatson on Unsplash

 

 

Advertisements

Sister Theresa (Part III): Last Place

In Korea, I discovered the root of the insecurities that have dogged my steps far too often, thwarting my attempts to step confidently into who I am. I talk about this in part III of my Searching for Seoul Blog. “Sister Theresa (Part III): Last Place”.

Excerpt: A tiny seed of resentment sprouts. I see my awkward grade-school self, my insecure teenage self; nothing I did ever good enough, done fast enough. http://www.hanahawley.com

 

image_6483441

Photo by Samuel Zeller via Unsplash

 

 

Searching for Seoul: Sister Theresa part II

I talk more about my travel to South Korea and my visit to the baby home where I was an orphan, in part two of my story on Sister Theresa on my web (www.hanahawley.com). Read an excerpt below:

Everything I see makes sense, but it feels unreal and intangible. I breathe deeper, open my eyes wider. If I could dig my bare toes into the ground, scrunch the earth between my toes and somehow immerse myself in my surroundings I would. If it wouldn’t be rude, or be weird, I would walk off by myself for an hour or two, sit in the middle of the lawn somewhere, let the past find me.

etienne-boulanger-406364

Photo by Etienne Boulanger

Searching for Seoul- Foreigner

 

Stepped onto Korean soil for the first time in thirty-years this week. The last time I was in Korea, I was just seven years-old.

Excerpt from my post:

I study the quiet and sleepy faces around me in the “foreigner” immigration line. We shuffle along as the “resident” line across the way from us empties. It feels a little strange to be in the line with foreigners because technically, I am coming home…Read the Full Story at http://www.hanahawley.com on Searching for Seoul. 

sean-kong-291651

Photo by Sean Kong

Searching for Seoul Post 11

matt jones post 11

Photo by Samuel Sosina

Josiah and I are sitting in our rental car, A/C blasting to keep the moisture-packed Georgia heat at bay. It must be over one-hundred degrees outside. We’ve parked a few houses down from our intended destination so I can jot a few things down in my journal. I am grateful to my husband for understanding my need to write my feelings, assess the situation, before I leap.

We notice an older Korean gentleman saunter down his driveway with hands crossed behind his back, his face kind, expectant. And I know that he’s looking for us. I duck my head, stare at the mostly blank page, pen poised, emotions flying high in my stomach. I will the man to go back into his house so I can focus.

Last night, navigating what to do after finding out that my birth dad had missed his flight to Atlanta had felt like watching my grandpa do his breathing exercises from his bed at the nursing home; slow, painful.

Three hours after the initial call from Abby, I’d still not called my siblings to tell them the news that our birth dad might not come. I had needed something definitive, something that demonstrated the whole visa thing hadn’t been a willful act of negligence. And I got it late that night, confirmation from Abby that my dad had re-booked his flight for the first week in July. It was the earliest flight he could get.

Today, Josiah and I are to meet at Mr. and Mrs. Lee’s house as planned, even though my birth dad won’t be there and my siblings have delayed their trip. Mr. Lee wants us to meet his family, to know that we hadn’t traveled all this way for no reason, that we are very much wanted…that our dad’s intentions were good. We might be able to get my birth dad on Skype even, and this is what has me feeling like I’m about to embark on my very first job interview.

I try to visualize how this initial greeting would go down. Should I say, “hi, dad,”? Or, would it be more appropriate to say, “Annyeong-haseyo,”? Would I instinctively bow my head a little, or be stiff and “American” caught between my past and my present?

I set my pen down, close my journal. It’s time.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Searching for Seoul Post 10

samuel sosina post 10

Photo by Matt Jones

I don’t want her to feel worse than she already does, but the tears seep out of my voice despite my wishes. “Don’t cry, Mira,” Abby* says, and I can tell she’s taking responsibility, her voice, heavy with guilt.

My birth dad never got on the plane.

But I’m already in Atlanta! My brain screams. I’m already here.

Josiah and I arrived a couple of days early, and now, all of my preparation; the extra shifts I’d picked up last week, the new dresses I’d purchased, the family photo albums I’d spent hours making, the hotel and car reservations I’d made for everyone–all seem premature–acts of naivety–of ignorance.

He didn’t get on the plane. That’s all I can hear at first, and it feels to me as though this was a willful act, an act of cowardice or an act that would cause enough pain and disappointment to shut this whole thing down forever.

“He was supposed to meet my mom at the gate, but he never came.” Abby, is the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Lee, my birth dad’s friends who moved to the U.S. ten years ago. They’ve been friends for twenty years now and Mrs. Lee was to travel back to the U.S. with my dad.

Abby has been bridging the gap for all of us since late February, translating messages between my birth dad and me because no one else speaks English and I don’t speak Korean. The very first message I received from her back then was, “Hello, is your Korean name Mira, Park? I know your dad…”

“Your dad is in chaos, right now,” Abby says, and this refocuses my attention on the problem at hand, the reason my birth dad couldn’t get on the plane that would have brought him to Atlanta to meet me just sixteen hours later.

He didn’t have a visa to travel to the states. No one thought to ask him if he had one. And he didn’t think of it himself because he hasn’t traveled outside of Korea in years. He could have applied for it online, been approved within the hour, but by the time he was apprised of this, it was too late.

He was already on his way home, a four-hour drive from Incheon Airport in Seoul, by the time I was getting the news.

And then I want to call my birth dad’s travel agent, yell at her, ask her how she could let this happen in the first place? Wasn’t it her job? Her duty to get her clients from point a to point b with as little trouble to them as possible? And now, her oversight was ruining our lives. Words like, incompetent! Worthless! Gurgle up in my brain like poison.

How was I going to tell my brother and sister about this?

I realize I dread this task even more than not knowing if my birth dad would get the necessary documentation and re-book his flight. I know that in under eight hours my family plans to board a plane from Minneapolis to Atlanta, and I struggle with how to tell them not to come.

 

*not her real name