Searching for Grandmother

Mother likes to watch TV programs that make her cry.

My first day here, we watched a program (Love in Asia) about foreign wives, specifically Southeast Asian wives. A Filipina woman was visiting her family with Korean husband. The husband bought a younger sibling a laptop for school. Mother cried. I asked if she would have let Good Man marry a Southeast Asian woman, she said no way and then cried some more at the program.

Weekday mornings, there’s a program that follows one person, or a family, for the week. Last week’s program followed a 91-year old woman in Ulleungdo who dives for fish and seafood as a living. (These women are rapidly dying off and it’s pretty incredible what they can do.) As is typical in Korea, the woman was referred to as “Grandmother” throughout the entire program.

Mother and I watched the program together. Mother cried at times. I cried at times. And Saturday we headed off to Ulleungdo…

Ulleungdo Fishmarket

The first day of the tour, on the tour bus, Mother looked out the window and said, “This was the view from the program. Mother’s house is somewhere up here…

The first night, at dinner, Mother chatted with the waitress about Grandmother and her son (also in the program). The island population is small, so of course our waitress knew who she was.

The next day, before dinner, Mother left. I had been listening to her conversation with Sister, but I was sure I had misheard her. I looked at Sister, “Where’d she go?”


“To find Grandmother’s house?”


I laughed. “Really?”

When Mother returned before dinner, she proudly announced she had found the house.

We actually had two dinners that night. First we stopped for some gimbap for me. Mother chatted with ajumma at the restaurant about…Grandmother. Of course.

Raw, Moving Squid

Then we headed to the fish market so Sister and Mother could eat some raw seafood. While Mother was choosing the stall to eat at, I dipped my head down. “Mother, look behind you.”

Mother swiveled her head, “Is that her?” She turned to the fishmonger. “Is that Grandmother?”


“아이고, 세상애…” Oh my goodness, oh my God…


Mother went and introduced herself to Grandmother and all was good in the world. Unfortunately, Grandmother was not down with photos, so I have no proof that Mother really met Grandmother, but this happy look on Mother’s face says it all.

“아이고, 세상애…”