It’s early morning in Gimpo. I’m first struck by how amazingly quiet it is. I’m equally struck by how noisy our old place was. True, we now have the occasional jet flying overhead. Someone in another building, maybe another apartment complex, is practicing violin–and practicing it well. Other than that, it’s just the rhythmic pulses of crickets and birds.
As predicted, I got a little teary the last time we saw the old place. EJ did too. But after everything was moved out, I was blown back by how small our place really was. And dirty. What got me wistful was looking out my veranda one last time. I had seen so many seasons pass from that vantage point. Seen buildings be razed and built.
I was impressed by the efficiency of the movers. Things started a bit before eight, when a man came by to check the utilities, so we could pay the last bill. The movers consisted of four men and a woman. They immediately started taking out plates and wrapping them. EJ, Jian, and I had to go around and get paperwork done. We went to the management office to pay the bills, the grocery store to get stickers to throw away some big items, the real estate agency twice. The movers had finished in three hours. I was continually explaining the process to Jian. I remember from child psychology courses that I needed to prepare her for big changes. She seemed uninterested. You know what, my family moved when I was her age, and even though I remember that house, I didn’t miss it. It was the one that we moved into that I missed badly and still do to some extent. I remember lying in my bed our last night in that house in 1987. We had lived there for ten years, and I had just turned thirteen. I had made a solemn vow to one day buy back that house and live there. Count that as another vow broken. I wouldn’t want to go back now. That house is frozen in the ’80s. The other one frozen in the late ’70s. The apartment we just left will be frozen in time as well. If anything, I was surprised by how unemotional I was. I think we were all happy to leave. Or rather, once we started moving into this new place, our last feelings of the old place evaporated.
Poor EJ was getting highly stressed. She was becoming more like me. I’m always juggling a lot of things at once. As a result, I forget things and get temperamental. She was getting a taste of how I am all during the week. While the movers were loading us in, I felt it was best to see if EJ needed anything. She didn’t. So I took Jian outside to the playground.
At the playground, I met a couple similar to us. The husband was Korean, and the wife was Canadian. They had a son, who was zooming all over the playground. He and Jian quickly became friends. It’s rare that she meets a child like her. Back in Anyang, we knew a lot of international families, but they all moved back. This couple told me that there are other foreign and international families in this complex and close by. Jian already has a Korean friend here, so I felt energized that she could make friends with international kids as well. She’s a very Korean little girl in the best way possible. We also want her to have a base of friends, a support system if you will, of children who have similar backgrounds and challenges–other fusion babies living in “racially pure” Korea.
I saw our moving truck leave. Jian and I returned. EJ looked a little better, like a cook who had just gone through her first lunch rush. Her OCD was in hyperdrive. She was obsessing over matching the coffee cups that we never use and moving plates around. The woman with the moving company had put away our stuff, but the way she did wasn’t always logical. So we’re going through all our stuff and organizing it. Yet it was getting late, and we hadn’t eaten dinner. It was past eight, but EJ couldn’t tear herself away from the coffee cups. I told her that we needed to go out now to eat, or I need to go to the store to get something. But it had to be now. She said she was in the mood for meat–for Korean barbecue. It’s rare that she’s in one of those moods, but I could tell she needed some protein replenishment.
I found a charcoal grill galbi place on Google Maps and programmed it into the navigator. We got into the car and drove. Soon after we left the complex, EJ pointed out a Mapo Galmaegi place right across from us. This is a cut of pork best described as the skirt steak of the pig. And it’s done Mapo style, which means that a ring of egg is poured in the pan around the meat. This is the type of place I take people to on my barbecue tour. Yet EJ has never had this cut of meat or this style of barbecue before. I made a couple of U-turns to get there. We ordered two orders of plain galmaegi and two of spicy. Ordered some rice for Jian and a beer for us. EJ loved the meat. Even more surprising, she drank all of her beer. She usually only takes two sips. Jian spent the whole meal dancing and singing for the restaurant in between bites Mommy constructed on her spoon. I manned the grill. This honestly was one of the best Korean barbecue places I’ve ever been to. In the top ten easily. That’s another thing we’ve noticed about Gimpo–the food is SO much better here. I really want friends and family to visit now.
The area we’re in now is much smaller. More rural. We only have one big box supermarket, Home Plus. Yet we do have a lot of grocery stores and smaller supermarkets. We have an E-Mart Everyday within walking distance, which is a smaller version of the big box chain. I ventured in there, expecting to find the average smelly local grocery store. Yet it really was a miniature version of E-Mart. It stocked some rare items that aren’t normally in neighborhood groceries, like imported beer, tortillas, coffee filters, and a multitude of “foreign” items. The prices are the same as E-Mart, which means that the veggies are a bit steep, but there’s a mom-and-pop across the street with cheap vegetables–and we noticed that the veggies in Gimpo are much cheaper.
It feels like we’re on vacation. It feels like we’re living out of suitcases. We knew that our furniture would hardly fill out this place. I was unprepared for how dingy our furniture would look inside it. I remember getting the white beach condo style hutch and how it brightened our old bedroom. Now it looks like some sad yellowed piece of junk. Our brown couch sadly sits alone in the shiny living room. Our table, which we were planning to get rid of anyway, has revealed marks and stains that we hadn’t noticed before. Jian’s room, in contrast, looks great. She’s been playing in it the whole time. Our stuff is scattered all over the place. Some food pantry items are in the computer room. I have to go to our bathroom closet, the computer room, and Jian’s room to assemble a wardrobe for the day.
Today my challenge is figuring out how to get to work efficiently. When that’s done, I’m going to figure out a workout routine. We have the fitness center here. The complex is perfect for jogging. And I was told yesterday that there’s a swimming pool at the rec center just outside the complex.
EJ has just woken up.