The contractor of our house invited us to his birthday party this past Sunday. It was held at his cousin's
house estate in the kind of gated community you only see in movies. I don't think I was ever able to pick my jaw off the floor the entire time we were there. I'm not even going to try to describe the place as I know my literary skills would never do it justice. Just imagine living at an extremely lush and exotic country club and you'll get the idea.
Among the party guests was our contractor's girlfriend who works as a nutritionist for an organization that sends her to nearly every developing country on the planet. This apparently also means that she's spent extensive time in North Korea. When she heard that I was Korean American, she was nice enough to gift me with a little North Korean souvenir: ginseng candy!! It was like receiving an artifact from a lost civilization... a forbidden city... an alternate universe. It was fascinating to hear about her experiences and it brought to light how little I knew about our northern neighbors. I liken the feeling to how I might feel if I discovered that my mother was secretly a chain smoker my entire life. So familiar and yet, do you really know them???
Looking back on my Sunday, I think I can understand how Dorothy felt when she returned to Kansas. The country club estate and North Korean ginseng candy (which was tasty btw) it was a little like coming back from the haunted and fantasmical place that is Oz.