Tuesday, June 22, 2010


Mother called this morning to ask where I'm living this summer. When I replied that I'm a bit west of Gwanghwamun, in Naeja-dong, she replied, "That's near where I grew up! That's where I attended elementary school—Maedong Elementary School (매동초등학교)." A quick Google Maps search revealed that the school was, indeed, just two blocks away from my apartment. This afternoon, armed with my digital camera, I headed directly to Maedong Elementary School after work.

This impromptu excursion was particularly interesting for me, in part because I know so little about my mother's childhood. It's not that she's secretive about it—ask me about her competitive patbingsu-eating days—but, as I was growing up, it was difficult to picture her and her friends exploring neighborhoods whose names I found foreign and difficult to pronounce. Being born to immigrant parents also means that I've grown up with a different set of cultural values, making it more difficult, perhaps, to relate to my parents' childhoods.

Visiting my mother's elementary school was, thus, an opportunity to glimpse a small but meaningful slice of her past. I tried to imagine her walking across the schoolyard in her navy blue uniform—immaculately ironed, no doubt—or staring out the fourth-story windows during English (her least favorite class).

Before I spout any more sentimental nonsense, here are some pictures:

A boy was playing baseball with his father in the yard.