Transitory Tales: A Four Continent Voyage

Welcome to Yaoundé, Cameroon

I began to travel at a very young age.  My parents separated when I was six and it was precisely that – 5956 miles of separation.  My mother returned to her native Korea and I stayed in Los Angeles with my father and older sister.  So, as a result, I was only six when I took my first solo airplane ride to visit my mother.  The finer details of that first flight are understandably a bit blurry but one thing sticks out quite vividly: meal time.  The flight attendant graciously offered me the kids menu.  But the tray overflowed with useless toys I had no interest in. I politely declined but indicated that I wanted the regular meal, bulgogi please, meat dish.  Ever since, you can bet that every summer of my childhood involved partaking in an adult meal while flying over the Pacific Ocean.

My transatlantic itinerary never changed until my early 20s. Now, at 27 I’m proud to say that I’ve trekked through more than 20 countries and lived in 4 different continents all in the span of 5 years (US, Cameroon, South Korea, Spain).  A deep curiosity of the world and its inhabitants and my peculiar ability to adapt easily into any new environment makes up the basis to this endless globetrotting.  They do not exist exclusively but two traits that intertwined and led me to where I stand today.

You can assume from the opening anecdote even at the age of six I enjoyed eating.  Strangely enough, this characteristic is one of the main reasons I’ve been able to live abroad for the past 5 years.  It has been no easy task but my appreciation for food is something I can apply to wherever I go.  Keeping myself eager and willing to taste new things has been the surest way into the heart of any culture and its people.

Currently, I live in Barcelona.  It’ll be two years this summer and I’m studying to become a pastry chef.  I came with intensions to become a savory chef in hopes to work in a professional kitchen but my heart took me to the sweeter side of the industry.  Now, what led me to Barcelona? My first contact with the city was during my third year in university when I came as an exchange student in 2005.  It was the most memorable six months of my life and I wanted to return to Europe.

A year and a half later I graduated with a degree in history and Spanish and with no promising prospects in the States I ventured to Cameroon, West Africa.  I taught and volunteered for one year at a missionary school in the capital city of Yaoundé. It was a beautiful and irreplaceable experience.  I celebrated my first Women’s Day there, one of the biggest festivals celebrated in Cameroon (pictured below).  I also must admit that I now have difficulties eating tropical fruits because nothing ever comes close to the incredible sweetness of freshly picked mangos, bananas, guavas and pineapples I used to eat there.  The spectacular colors and textures of Cameroon and my time in Africa ignited my senses and I never saw, smelled and tasted the same again.

Women's Day, March 8 is one of the biggest festivals held in Cameroon. The first lady chooses a special fabric and all the women get special dresses custom made and parade throughout the city center.

I went to a friend’s village and as a gift, his mother sent us back to the city with a live chicken a branch of plantains.

Baton de manioc and palm oil fried plantain with extremely spicy dipping salt. Manioc is one of the main staples to some African countries. It's made of mashed manioc that are wrapped in leaves then steamed. I really miss this stuff.

Cacao tree: the beans from the fruit are used to make chocolate.

In hopes to reawaken my Korean roots, I then head to Seoul, South Korea.  I always spoke Korean fairly well for a Korean American but I soon became completely fluent, a level I could have never achieved in the States.  I supported myself by working as a teacher and translator. And in Korea, I found my opportunity to return to Spain.  Two months into my move I met the love of my life and my current boyfriend, Dani, a Barcelona native that had come to Seoul to study architecture.  Two years later, I said good-bye to overly pickled kimchi and boiling soups in stone pots and moved here two years later.

You could never have too many vegetables and banchan (side dishes) on your Korean table.

Spring in Seoul

I am extremely thankful for the unique journey that took me back to Barcelona.  This is also the first time I do not have a return ticket and I don’t know when this chapter will end or even if it will.  But, that’s an uncertainty I’ll gladly keep.

Life in Barcelona

3 comments

  1. Isabelle says:

    I love the theme on food. The gift of the bananas and live chicken is awesome. The photo next to the Cacao tree is great, too! I wish you the best on your pastry career. Hope to see you in Paris, or wherever your food journey takes you! :)

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