I’m currently sitting once again at San Francisco International Airport, about to fly to Chicago to celebrate my sister’s impending nuptials. And I’m reflecting on how fortunate I am in sisters. Gayoung and I had a conversation during my visit about the fact that our younger sisters have it so much more together than we do. I admit, I’ve always been envious at how easily Erica seems to navigate the “real world,” she, who launches elaborate company showcases and hosts international design conferences. Who also manages to find time to volunteer with multiple nonprofit organizations, run her own beauty consulting enterprise, and have more best friends and social lives that I could even conceive of. She easily faces the big boardroom bosses while I’m still worrying over whether my citations are in correct MLA style. She is an amazing woman, a force to be reckoned with, and from comparing notes with Gayoung, a perfect example of how much more grown up our little sisters are compared to their unnis.
Amul kids that Gayoung and I are exactly alike, which I love. But while I revel in the fact that my Korean sister’s and my interests and academic pursuits are so closely tied, Amul is tickled by the fact that we have the same wit and sense of humor, that we have the same mischievous streak that runs through our often serious-seeming demeanor.
Although this trip I was only able to meet with Omma once, we were lucky to be able to hang out with Gayoung a number of times. Following our return from Gyeongju, Amul, Drew, Gayoung, and I met for lunch. We had agreed to meet at the Dunkin Donuts at Seoul Station (this time very explicitly determined which of the three Dunkin Donuts in Seoul Station we meant) to meet for lunch over the weekend. She took us to Pizza Hut where we experience the Korean version of an American classic. Drew claims it’s the best pizza he’s ever had, and I have to admit, for someone who didn’t like pizza until just a few years ago, this pizza was indeed very good. Half BBQ chicken, half bacon and wedge-cut fries, the crust was the real coup d'état: breadsticks stuffed with cheese and sweet potato. After lunch, we actually met up with Alex, grabbed some coffee, caught up, and regaled stories about KSA, KAWAWA, and Korean camp.
Wandering around after meeting with Alex, I commented to Gayoung, “Amul’s really wanted to try Korean fried chicken and hof. Do you have any suggestions?” Gayoung’s eyes lit up—apparently going out for chicken and beer, contracted to “chi-mek” (mek-ju is Korean for beer), is one of Gayoung’s favorite social activities when just hanging out with friends. “Let’s go on Monday!” she exclaimed. “We’ll eat chicken, drink beer, and then do noraebang!” At this, both Amul’s and my eyes lit up. Amul, for the culinary and musical experience (all he talked about for the rest of the weekend was how excited he was for Monday night), and I, because it meant one more meet up with my sister.
We met in Bucheon, near Suwon—Gayoung’s “turf” since her Kyung Hee University days. She took us to “her” chi-mek place, which was incredible. And it was like hanging out with friends. Gayoung and I have certainly had our emotional bonding moments, but this evening was special in that we were together simply because we enjoyed each other’s company. At dinner, Gayoung pouted that we hadn’t called her when we went to the jjimjjilbang (public bath/sauna) the other day, and we made plans for all the activities we’d do together the next time we visited—we’d go to a baseball or soccer game, travel down to Busan together, stay at Gayoung’s once she gets her own place. My heart expanded with talk of these plans. It would be so easy for Gayoung to dismiss this half sister of hers. Do the obligatory meet for coffee, and then out of sight, out of mind. It thrills me that Gayoung wants to spend time with us, genuinely finds me a cool person who is enjoyable to hang out with.
Maybe it’s remnants from high school, but I still am always so conscious of my social ineptitude. Even among my sister Erica’s friends, whom I’ve known since they were in third grade, whom I’ll be spending the weekend drinking and bachelorette-ing (what does one do at these types of things anyway?), I always feel somewhat maladroit and awkward, the token tagalong sister. Maybe it’s because they’re all real-world successful little sisters who navigate with ease the grown-up social milieu that I still find unfathomable. Whatever the case, I am grateful for my amazing sisters (including Jiyoung, when we eventually meet), who have graciously led me through their worlds—be they the twentysomething Chicago professionals scene or the Korean collegetown—and who have also bravely walked with me hand-in-hand as I’ve come into my own and struggled to understand this world of my own.