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>Travel Notes: The Kimbap Gift

March 31, 2011


This kimbap has a story. 

In October 2010, on our first return visit to Korea as a family, we met our first person who was hostile to the idea of International Adoption. Our adoption agency had warned us that this might happen. But in five trips it never had. We got on an elevator in the subway station, pushing Joy in her chair. An older Korean man who was dressed as a war veteran, sized us up, then grumbled in English, “Why did you bring them back? You should not have come,” before turning his back to us, his face to the wall.

I share that because by far, the overwhelming response from Koreans toward our family has been kindness. One of them was a kindergarten teacher who shared her  kimbap.

It was lunch time. We were at the Korean Folk Village  and as we wandered toward the Market for lunch, we passed dozens of groups of school children gathered with their teachers on picnic blankets. The elementary groups were especially charming with matching everything: even their lunch boxes and coats and umbrellas matched their school uniforms. It would have been almost impossible to lose a child because anyone could match him up with the right class. The uniforms made it very clear that every child belonged.

We stood out like the proverbial sore thumbs: two American parents and an American grandmother; one tall Americal child, one Korean child in a stroller, and two Korean children who would have fit perfectly into one of these classes. Except their apparel said Mercy and Hope belonged to none of them.

We paused near a school group while we waited for my husband. I noticed the children looking at Mercy and Hope and me with great curiosity. They very politely said nothing but continued to eat their lunch. Thier teacher struck up a conversation with me in English. After asking about our trip, with great compassion in her eyes she asked me if Mercy and Hope were my adopted daughters. I said that they were, how blessed we felt to be able to be their parents, how well they were doing in school.

She sighed and I was surprised to see tears in her eyes. She said, “If they were still here, they would be in my class,” meaning my girls were the same age as her students. She reached down into her bag and presented me with two objects wrapped in aluminum foil. “I made this last night myself. It is kimbap. I was a special treat for my students. But I would like you to share it with your family instead.”

We did. It was wonderful.

Since that day, I have wished so many things. That I asked to take a picture of her with her students. That I understood what brought tears to her eyes. (I am not egostistical enough to think it was gratitude. It was something more personal for her.) I wish I had sought her out later and thanked her again once the enormity of her simple act sunk in.

Edited to add: Look what I just found among the pictures Grandma took that day :).
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