Como Você Está Senhor Kim?

The first time I took a sibling-less vacation with my father, I was two and en route to Macau with him. As soon as we boarded, I clipped my seat belt together, looked out the window, and solemnly announced that it’d been a great trip, all before taking off.

Over twenty years would pass before this type of only-child-like vacation would take place again, this time with my dad to his homeland of South Korea. Since that last journey to Macau, both of us had done a bit of traveling; him for business, and I for pleasure.

Hanging with my dad in Gwanghwanmun in Seoul, Korea

Hanging with my dad in Gwanghwanmun in Seoul, Korea

My dad: Now that you’ve visited a few places, what are some of your favorite cities?
Me: Madrid, Barcelona, Buenos Aires, Berlin. I like it here in Seoul too. What about you?
My dad: Seoul, Taipei, Beijing, Shanghai –
Me: I get it. You love Asia.
My dad: Is there anywhere else you want to go?
Me: Of course. I want to see more of Europe like London, Paris, and Rome and other parts of Asia. And Brazil.
My dad: You want to go to Rio de Niro, huh?
Me: …I want to visit Rio de Janeiro, the city. Not Robert de Niro, the actor.

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Vacation Vehiculating

While taking a vacation in Asia visiting family in Korea and Taiwan, I thought I would be relaxed and carefree – essentially eleven days of worry- and work-free bliss.

WRONG.

Everything was going dandy in Korea even amidst nuclear threats from our northern neighbors, and then I touched down in Taiwan. No longer relying on a public transportation system of buses and subways like I had in Korea, I was now dependent on my program manager and unofficial chauffeur, my aunt Kimberly, to zip around Taiwan. Suddenly my little quips about female Asian driving as discussed in this blog here and here escalated to a realization that genes don’t lie: I had high blood pressure. Not only was I sitting next to a female Asian driver, but we were also surrounded by them.

I watched as my aunt strategically (or luckily?) loomed in and out of the way of nimble motorcycle scooters, reversed at least 50 yards when she missed a freeway onramp that she later realized she did not need to take, and showed me how an authentic Taiwanese lane change was really more of a slow drift as if one were pretending to either be dozing or distracted.

One breezy afternoon, I held my breath as my aunt drove through an intersection with questionable illumination.

Me: Aunt Kimberly, did you just run a red light?
My aunt: No, I just ran a yellow light.

Getting ready to hit the road. Unless the road hits us.

Getting ready to hit the road. Unless the road hits us.

You know that moment you laugh to cover up your inner sense of fear, awkwardness, or both? It happened. Right about here –

My aunt: I actually did run a red light once though. Your uncle asked me about it just like you did now, but guess what I said? “You know, the light wasn’t THAT red.”

One and a Half Men

Growing up, my mom’s frequent trips to Taiwan usually meant a few things:

  1. Unsupervised TV for as long as my siblings and I wanted until our eyeballs fell out
  2. Contests with the aforementioned people to see who could go the longest without taking a shower before our dad noticed (I know, we were so gross)
  3. Candy with our packed dumpling lunches everyday because our father didn’t want our classmates to keel over from our ensuing garlic breath

In a recent return home to visit my dad and brother, I observed the details in the house that suggested they were trying to function as best and as normally as possible without our family matriarch present, as she was again visiting Taiwan, this time to celebrate our grandfather’s 80th birthday.

Peering over the kitchen table, I saw a series of back-and-forth handwritten messages between my dad and my brother as if the text message had never been invented.

My brother: Took the dog out for a walk. April 3
My dad: Fed the dog. April 3
My brother: Can I go to [our cousin] James’ house to play video games? I will be back by midnight. April 4
My dad: Yes. Don’t forget to walk the dog though. April 4
My brother: I walked the dog. See you later. April 4

On my first night back, my dad came to chat with me in my room, holding a wine bottle in his hand. Just as I was getting ready to tell myself how good it was to be home, I realized he’d only brought glassware for himself. Well all right then. While setting the bottle down, I saw that his drink ware of choice, however, was a mug.

Me: Why are you drinking wine out of a mug!?
My dad: Because then I don’t have to wash another glass. When your brother and I are home alone, we are very efficient.
Me: What are you talking about.
My dad: For example, we just keep using the same plate until it needs to be washed. And we feel very good about it.

As I listened to my father continue about the science of his eco-friendly approach to dishwashing, I used the opportunity to document his nightcap for posterity, and I think he sensed that this was likely to be blogged.

Mugs: for all of your tea, coffee, and wine needs

Mugs: for all of your tea, coffee, and wine needs

“Can I use another bottle of wine!? People know this bottle is only $1.99! Wait – just tell them it is $199!”