The past and present of my hometown.

I think about my childhood when I am back in Guro, a district in Seoul, Korea. I remember the days that I lived from four years ago, and the days when I was just a little child. The smells ooze out with every rain droplet hitting the ground, smearing the oils of the market nearby. The brightly lit market showcases a mixture of traditional food and produce. The faces of the owners have changed, but their expressions have not. Time stops at this place for me and a collection of memories slowly push out of their dormant state.

I begin to remember the small details that make this place for me. I remember the countless days at the PC bangs. I remember walking past the yogurt lady and craving for their tiny packaged drinks. I remember the dduk-bok-ki lady that still probably remembers me.

This place has definitely changed with time. You can notice the vast upgrades to the place, as there used to be narrower road that were widened, effectively making my uncle’s place that much smaller. The market used to not have the rain cover. But I think it looks better with it now.

I think about the memories shared in the razed home. I remember my older cousin training me in soccer in the front yard. I remember the day when we were training to hold our breaths for longer and we would used to dunk our heads in little tubs and count to see how long we could stay without air. He is now happily married and has a beautiful daughter. His father, a stern man, smiles shyly while showing me her photos. There is new life within him.

No photos exist of our old home.

I remember how our grandmother used to live. Her legs failed her as I was growing up to be a small child, so I would often see her crawling on the floor and raising herself up when she wanted to make something for us. She always had a smile hidden away in her and she never raised her voice to me. I remember being excited for the allowance that she would give me. I remember her passing, as something that that withered slowly and painfully. My mother wept for her deeply, and cried till she couldn’t talk for weeks, to the point it did unrepairable damage to her voice. The following years would result in the passing of our grandfather, and then the family turmoils as the daughters and sons argue about the possessions of the dead.

I’m left with a bittersweet feeling. I know my family is here to stay in this little town. They carry the same memories as I do. But they continue to live with it in this place. I hope they continue to cherish and remember the things we shared, all the while breathing new life.

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Originally published at seandokko.com on August 31, 2016.

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