62 Where I Belong Pt.1

    The first time Subin ever watched 'Peter Pan' was when she was six years old. After watching the film, Subin was convinced that the likes of fairies and pirates and mermaids were real. She had often believed that one day, Peter would visit her room at night and whisk her away to Neverland and she would soar high above London, past Big Ben, St. Paul's Cathedral and even, Buckingham Palace.

    Subin truly believed that Peter would teach her how to fly.

    So, when she flew on a plane for the first time, she was excited to think that she might somehow fly past Neverland in the process.

    "Yoongi, can you see Neverland?" she remembered her six-year-old-self ask.

    Yoongi scowled at her from the window seat. He had been napping before his little sister had shaken him awake just to ask a silly question. "No, of course not" he snapped. He was always cranky after waking up. "Neverland doesn't exist, stupid."

    "Yes, it does!" she insisted. "Peter says it's the second star to the right and-"

    "-Straight on till morning" Yoongi finished. "Yeah, yeah, I've seen the film, Subin. And Neverland isn't real. We're going to South Korea, not Neverland." He turned to face the window and refused to talk to her again throughout the whole flight.

    Subin was disappointed to hear Yoongi dismiss Neverland so easily. She knew they were going to South Korea, but she didn't really care. The only place she cared about was Neverland.

    And when Subin and her family finally arrived in South Korea, instead of feeling excited, she was shocked. South Korea was nothing at all like how she'd imagined.

    Raised in England, Subin had become accustomed to being surrounded by people of different ethnicities. In her class, she had made friends with children that were tall, short, dark-skinned, fair-skinned, skinny and chubby. She had friends who were originally from India, Hong Kong, Philippines, Poland and the Caribbean: almost every country you could think of, someone in her class was probably once from there.

    Subin had grown up in a diverse society and was proud to say that she was the representative for Korea in her class. It had made her feel important, irreplaceable, exotic. But when she visited South Korea for the first time, that sense of individuality suddenly evaporated into thin air. She wasn't unique anymore. She was just one amongst a million.

    "Are you excited, Subin-ah?" her dad had asked her as they climbed into a taxi. "You're going to meet your grandma for the first time."

    Subin, still recovering from seeing so many Koreans, was sceptical. She gaped up at her dad. "What if she doesn't like me?"

    "Why wouldn't she like you?" her dad questioned. "You're her granddaughter so of course, she'll like you!"

    "But, dad, I can't speak Korean" Subin fussed. She looked up at him doubtfully, "Will she be able to understand me? Can she speak English?"

    Her dad just gave her a reassuring smile. "Don't worry, Subin-ah. Everything will be okay."

    And her dad was right.

    When she finally met her grandma, she was surprised to discover how friendly she was.

    "Subin-ah, my dear" she would coo every time Subin appeared in front of her. "Are you hungry? Do you want to eat?" Her grandma would peer at her with honeyed eyes as she spoke endearingly in Korean. Thankfully, Yoongi was always there to translate.

    "She's asking if you want to eat" he would tell her. And Subin would either nod or shake her head.

    After a few days with her grandma, Subin had grown very attached to her. She was a kind, old lady who lived alone. Her grandpa had passed away before she was born, and her aunts and uncle had moved to other parts of South Korea. Subin learned that her mom was the only one of her siblings that left home completely. After marrying her dad, her mom had moved to the UK, where Subin was later born.

    On the last day of their holiday, her grandma had taken her to her private study, which was a library filled to the brim with books. Subin remembered thinking how Belle, from 'Beauty and the Beast', would have sung in glee if she had walked into the library with her.

    "I want to show you something important," her grandma said as she signalled for Subin to sit down on her lap. After two weeks of being immersed in Korean, Subin finally had a basic grasp of the language.

    Subin followed her grandma to a comfy chair and sat on her lap obediently. Once she was comfortable, her grandma pulled out a large book and carefully opened it.

    "This is my life's work" she explained in Korean. "Before I retired, I used to be a History teacher."

    "You were a teacher?" Subin repeated in English while gaping behind her.

    Her grandma nodded. "I love History a lot." She pointed to her book while she spoke, "Some people say that living in the past is counterproductive, but I believe that to move forward, sometimes we need to learn from mistakes made in the past."

    Subin peered at her grandma quizzically.

    Seeing her reaction, her grandma chuckled. "I guess that was a little complicated for you, huh?" She gestured at the book in her hands and told her, "Look, Subin-ah, this is what Korea was like a long, long time ago."

    Subin gazed down at the book and inspected the beautifully printed pictures of ladies adorned in colourful robes. The art style was ancient and unfamiliar but nonetheless captivating.

    "This is Kim Gyuri" her grandma pointed out. "She was a princess who allegedly brought down the House of Kim."

    "She's a princess?" Subin echoed dubiously. The woman in the picture didn't look like a princess at all-she was wearing neither a tiara nor a gigantic frock.

    "Yes," her grandma affirmed. "But you know what? Kim Gyuri may be our ancestor."

    "Our... ancestor?"

    Her grandma nodded. When she saw Subin's puzzled expression she elaborated, "That means she might be related to us."

    Subin looked down at the picture again and noticed the jade ring on her grandma's hand. It was a deep shade of green that contrasted with her milky skin. Noticing Subin's stare, her grandma brought her hand closer so that Subin had a better view.

    "It's pretty, isn't it?"

    Subin nodded in agreement.

    "This ring was passed down my family for many generations" her grandma explained. "But no one knows who owned it first and why it has been in our family for so long." She pulled it off her middle finger and gave it to Subin to hold. Subin inspected the ring closely and noticed that there was something written inside.

    "Did you know that only the rich could afford jade?" her grandma asked as Subin wore the ring. It hung loosely around her small, infantile forefinger. "One day," her grandma began, "I will pass this down to you."

    "You will?" Subin was surprised.

    Her grandma nodded. "You must never lose it, okay? This ring will bring you back to your roots. It will bring you back to where you belong."

    Subin stared at the jade ring in fascination.

    Where I belong...
Previous Index Next