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My Mother’s Land

Korea for the first time…and why it felt like home

November 5, 2012

When I was little, I wanted to look like my white friends at school. I envied their hair that glittered gold in the sun and wide eyes filled with hope. I never felt fully accepted anywhere I went, including my childhood home in Los Angeles. My father raised us to be conscious and accepting of all people in the world, yet I remember him telling me when I had an eye infection it was because I had my mother’s eyes. I didn’t learn to speak Korean fluently, and I still don’t speak more than a word of Farsi. I remember feeling uncomfortable in my skin at holiday gatherings. We would go to my mother’s side and I couldn’t have a conversation with some of my relatives because they only spoke Korean. I felt strange with my father’s side because I thought I was different. In adulthood it continued as people at work, cocktail parties, at the mall, and basically everywhere asked me, “What are you?” I used to get offended and snap curtly, “I am a girl.” I disliked looking interesting to people and spent some years with a sick to my stomach, desperate yearning to be invisible. When I did try and stand out it was with a fraudulent confidence, a persona I custom built by watching women I admired. But it became exhausting and I grew weary of wearing masks. I took myself head on by studying spiritual, religious, and personal awareness. In the wake of my own eat, pray, love I realized how important my heritage is to me. And a longing to understand and have harmony with where I come from began to grow. Now that I am a big girl, I can take responsibility for how I am in my life and how I want to be. Part of embracing the fact that I get to live is that it’s my choice to get what I want in life. I got a great job…check. I bought a car….check. I learned a foreign language….check. I fell in love, tattooed it on my arm….check. I left that love….painfully but check. [Insert Google search for tattoo laser removal] check! I went to a spiritual center today and the founder said that when we accomplish what we generally consider as success, the ego celebrates and says, “Yes! I’ve made it!” Whereas our soul is laughing, “Nice start…” So I have called myself forth, to foster the Mina I was born to be and I am going to Korea. My mom was like, “why didn’t you tell me?! I could have come with you!” Lol. But it’s something I want to do alone. A readiness to learn and be prideful of who I am sets the itinerary. But, being the controller I am, I do have some general plans! I will spend four days in Seoul eating lots of Korean food, spa-ing, visiting the old palace and the border between North and South Korea. I’m spending three days in a traditional Korean Buddhist temple where I will work, garden, clean, make tea, meditate with monks, tame the ego and get centered. I’m looking forward to my quest, mindful to have only one expectation: don’t have any expectations! So is life, right? I leave tomorrow on the world’s biggest airplane with a bucket list in my heart and a vision to learn as my carry on.

NOTE: I wrote this on my Facebook page 8 years ago and stumbled upon it recently. The current me is cringing to adjust my younger self’s writing and perspective. But this was where I was and reading it again got me feeling elated that I have come so far in my journey of self acceptance. I hope anyone who identifies with this has the self love and compassion I gave myself. Maybe self awareness is like making kimchi. There are many stages to the process, and it takes time.

-Mina Cucina


First stop- Korean BBQ


Making kimchi

Huge buckets of cabbage to make kimchi

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