My thoughts on Hurricane Katrina will have to wait for another day. I’m just too tired tonight to write a coherent dialogue about the tragedy in New Orleans and the Gulf Coast. I hope that all affected by this disaster will be able to recover as soon as possible despite such devastation. My thoughts also go out to the many families in Iraq who lost loved ones during the recent stampede in Baghdad.
Today my sister-in-law arrived from Shanghai with her three-year-old son. Unfortunately, my brother-in-law could not join her on this trip because he’s too busy holding down two jobs (he works at a hospital and also runs his own medical supplies business). My sister-in-law and her son were fortunate to qualify for a Korean visa. We’ve wanted them to come visit us for a long time, but they could never qualify for a U.S. tourist visa. It wasn’t until we came to Korea that they qualified for a visa. They just haven’t been able to overcome the suspicion that they intend to immigrate to the U.S. from China, in spite of the fact that I know they have no plans to do so. I’m hoping that once they’ve traveled outside China and returned home, they will be in better shape to qualify for a U.S. visa in the future.
My wife’s family will be here for two weeks staying with us. They are our first family guests. We may not have more until next year, when my family plans to make a trip to see us in Korea. It’s great to see them. I have not seen my sister in law since 2002 when I visited Shanghai. Much has happened since then. Our son was not yet born, and her son was less than one year old. Today was the first time either of them had ridden on an airplane or traveled outside of China. When I asked my sister-in-law what she initially thought of Korea, she responded, "It looks a lot like China." Yes, I can see that. She has not yet seen much of this place, though. Korea is similar to China in some respects, but I think it is very different in subtle ways. Although her son is learning English at a tender age, neither my nephew nor my sister-in-law speak much English. For me, that’s a good thing because it gives me a chance to practice my Chinese. My Chinese really isn’t too bad, although I make many grammatical and tonal mistakes. My Chinese is definitely much better than my Korean, although my test scores say that my skill in both languages is comparable. I know better. I can practice Chinese now to my heart’s content. I feel that I know it well enough to care on a good conversation about substantial topics such as the Taiwan issue with my sister-in-law. They need exposure to English too, but for now I don’t mind speaking Chinese at all.
During her two weeks in Korea, we will remain Seoul for much of the time. Next Saturday, we will travel to Seorak-san National Park to see one of the most beautiful places in Korea. We will also visit Sokcho and the East Coast. The following weekend, we will make a pilgrimage to Yongpyong Ski Resort, the future centerpiece of the 2014 Olympics (my prediction), and the primary setting for the blockbuster Korean drama, "Winter Sonata." My sister-in-law, like my wife, is a Korean drama fan and a "Winter Sonata" fanatic. I guess it does run in the family!