Entry #1 – February 8, 1997 / Saturday 

“Mom, where is my book?”

“I am busy, can you ask dad? Where is your sister?”

Mom seemed busy indeed, washing a huge pile of green leafy vegetables. She was working in the kitchen with my grandma, who was chopping radishes on the other side. I knew they were preparing for the big family dinner tonight. In some previous holidays, my two aunts would be working with them as well, but today the big aunt was working at her restaurant and the small uncle’s family was arriving only sometime before the dinner.

“Jane is watching TV in the small room with the cousins.”

Unlike our house, where there is only one TV in the living room, our grandparents’ place has two TVs, one in the living room, and another in the small room. In holidays like today, adults  – mostly men – would gather around the living room and we kids would hang out in the small room. On TV in the small room was a comedy movie that was popular a few years ago. My cousins were already watching it, when Jane and I joined the small room as usual. I figured the movie was about some gangs, and it was boring. You see why I need to carry a book on my own.

My book I brought here had fascinating folktales from various cultures. The story I was at had a prince who fell in love with a beautiful woman he ran into on a market street. The prince confessed his love to this girl, and she asked him to bring her the famous necklace from the other side of the world as a proof of his love. The prince soon set out the voyage, and the girl secretly disguised to be a crew member and joined the prince’s ship.   

Dad was with the grandpa and the big uncle in the living room, talking about politics. My grandpa, who studied law in one of the top universities in the country, had personal interactions with some people who have become major politicians. He never actually kept in touch with any of them, but he followed politics with great interest. As I approached, dad looked at me and gave me the look that he was listening to me.

“Have you seen the book I brought from home?”

“Which book are you looking for?”

My uncle asked. Big uncle, my dad’s older brother, was also a physically big guy. His face was somewhat red and his voice was loud. I much preferred my dad’s gentle voice.

“Oh, I found it!”

As I was about to explain the book, I saw it under my dad’s jacket in the corner of the couch.

“You are going to read a book on a holiday? Why don’t we play baduk, instead? You are learning baduk, right?”

I didn’t know big uncle played baduk too. Right now, I just wanted to read my book. I looked at my dad, not knowing what to do.

“Great idea! I’ll bring the board.”

Dad got up to bring a baduk set from the dusty storage. I never saw my grandparents play baduk, but for some reason they had this old set in their storage. Maybe the set was my dad’s. As my dad was setting up the set, I knew there was no way out now. I just kept my book around my arms and thought I will have time after a game.

“How many handicaps?”

Big uncle asked dad. I didn’t say anything, but I was surprised already when my uncle took white.

“Hm.. I don’t think she actually needs any.”

“Really? You must underestimate me. I know you are stronger than me, but I play with my friends sometime, you know.”

“I am serious. Hajin’s quite good too. She’s been playing since she was five.”

“How old is she now? Eight? How about two, then?”

“You can try.”

Seeing my dad agree, I placed two stones on the board.

“If you win, I will give you 5,000 won.”

I nodded, and thought about all the things I could do with 5,000 won. The chocolate cookie I loved to share with Jane was 300 won. If I had one per day, every weekday, the money would last a bit longer than three weeks. I wanted to win, and I felt confident.