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…”

One thought on “Searching for Grandmother

  1. Comment from: Jason [Visitor] ·
    Great shots of the food and mother! Sounds like you are having a great trip. We leave on Tuesday for a couple of weeks in Korea as well. After looking at your photos, I remembered to add 산낙지 to the list of must eat foods while we are in Korea.
    07/29/11 @ 11:56

    Comment from: david [Visitor]
    I also watch that show, screening humanity, last week. that grandmother at 91 is truly remarkable. btw you can watch that show and others in the usa for free on
    07/30/11 @ 03:15

    Comment from: Lu [Visitor]
    Hi, Amanda. I haven’t read your blog in a while and I’ve just caught up. :) Your entries about Korea have been really good! Mother is so pretty. She reminds me of my late aunt. (Italian, not Korean.) Though I’d be scarred by the comments about my weight. You are very forbearing. :)
    07/31/11 @ 08:45

    Comment from: admin [Member]
    Jason, I’ve been keeping up with your blog. Too bad we’ll be on opposite ends of the country!

    David, thanks for the name and the site. Does it have English subtitles there? I hope not. Because they deal with the same family for a week, because it’s nonfiction, and because they so often subtitle in Korean (due to the accents), I can follow it fairly easily. It would be good for my Korean to watch it.

    Lu, the weight comments have actually MOSTLY stopped. Last week I finally said, “Mother, are we going to talk about my weight every day? Because this is really boring.”
    07/31/11 @ 22:47

    Comment from: david [Visitor]
    No subtitles. you do have to register with the site and have to pay if you want to watch premium programs but the culture programs are free. all the programs are only few hours old from actual aired programs. so you are almost watching it live.
    08/01/11 @ 00:08

    Comment from: admin [Member]
    Awesome! Thanks! I’ll look into it when I return!
    08/01/11 @ 00:25

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