17 in Korea: My Sister Came to Town


When I was 15 my dad and stepmom had a baby.  She was born in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, 1257 kms from where I lived with my mom and brother in Victoria, B.C.  ”You have a sister,” my dad said, calling me minutes after from the hospital.  ”Her name is Abby.” I was ecstatic.

Determined not to let geography prevent me from creating a bond with this new human,  I saved up a couple paycheques from my mall job at New York Fries and, two months later, bought a plane ticket to Saskatoon.

All three of them were waiting at the airport.  Abby’s hair was dark and her eyes were a grey-blue shade that my stepmom predicted would change to brown but never did.  I watched her little face look up at me in the backseat of the car, her hands balled into fists. A sister.  Fifteen years and two provinces between us.  We would see each other once or twice a year throughout her childhood, a week in the summer at Waskesiu Lake, and sometimes a week in Victoria in February.  At the lake we went for walks along the dirt trail behind the cabins, and ate fries at The Beach House across from the water, and when she was older we played tennis and took our cameras to the field behind the gravel road and did photo shoots starring ourselves.  The distance didn’t define our relationship, but rather created a framework that compelled us to spend every second together during the times we had a visit.  The first time I lived overseas she was four, and I’d call from Greece or Israel or England, and after my dad passed the phone over, would ask her what she did that day, hoping she’d remember my voice.  She always did.

Then last winter she sent me this picture of her and my dad…

And a facebook message with these words:

Enjoy. Classic Dad.

My new idea is come to Korea this summer and spend a couple weeks with you if possible.  Pretty out there idea but I’m gonna start saving up for my plane ticket anyways. 

Miss you

I was ecstatic.

On August 28th, after departing from Saskatoon and changing planes in Calgary, Vancouver, and Seoul, she arrived. She’s 17 now.  It had been a year and nine months since we said goodbye. The plan: weekend in Busan, three days in Seoul, two days on an island called Deokjeokdo, and back to Busan for the last hurrah.

I had one teaching day left before vacation started, so Abby’s visit began with a trip to my kindergarten class the next morning…

where she fell in love with Albert, the one in front with the polka-dot shorts.

On Saturday Joe and I took her to the Jagalchi Fish Market along Busan’s port…

and to the top of Busan Tower

but Abby’s favourite part was the metal heart in the park…

where people “lock their love” on the gate behind.

She sampled her first taste of Korean street food in Nampodong…pajeon.  My favourite!

It was a winner.

Then we met Jin and Johnathan…

and escaped the heat with a few other friends.

That night, Haeundae Beach was calling…

to a few thousand people.  Let the Saturday festivities begin…

with a gathering of our crew.

Then it was off to Kyung Sung

Don’t worry Dad!

She was in good hands.

I promise.

At Thursday Party, it was time for Haven to celebrate his birthday…

shooter style.


Followed up with a little bromance…

and a lot of dancing.

But for the full Korean night out experience, we had to end with…


Abby and Amanda bought down the house with…

none of us can remember.

But this smile I won’t forget!

Coming up next, Abby and I hit up Seoul and Deokjeokdo Island…