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My Father’s Grandfather

My Father’s Stories: Number Two – Grandfather and Grandmother [my great grandparents]

[My father writes “grand pa” and “grand mo” to refer to his grandparents.  I will leave the “mo” as is.]

Time (political): Last emperor, Gojeong of Lee Dynasty (500 years).

Part A:  Grandfather

(This story was told mostly (99%) by my grand mo. My mother did not want to talk about my grand pa and my father didn’t talk about these things – he was very authoritative.)

His name was Lee, Kyung Soo.

Date of birth: not known

Date of death: not known.

However, according to grand mo, he died after my elder sister’s birth in 1927 and before my birth in 1930. So, it means he died between 1927 and 1930. When I consider my grand mo’s various stories, he died close to my birth which probably means 1929. How old was he when he died? My grand mo died at the age of around 70 when I was around 17. Considering these numbers and if he was a few years older than grand mo he probably died at age of mid 50s. And by the same calculation, he was born in around 1874.

He was an only son of third generation.

You can hardly imagine what this meant at that time in Korean society. If there was no son in the family, they thought their family was finished, ruined, collapsed, and when they died, they could not possibly face their ancestors when they met them in heaven.

Therefore, even government policy, (I don’t know about now) for those who are only son of more than third generation were exempt from military duty when they reach 18 years of age.

Therefore, we don’t have distant relatives.

He was a good man.

He was tall and big.

And he was very, very handsome and good looking.

How do we know? We did not see him and this was his wife’s (my grand mo’s) view but it may be so because of the following reasons.

(1)   My father was handsome.

(2)   My mother displayed my father’s photo on the wall of living area wherever we moved, like the North Koreans displayed  Kim Il Sung’s photo. One day, when I was coming home together with a couple of friends from school (Junior High) my friends saw the picture of my father and every body said at the same time: “Wow! Who was he? Was he a movie star? Very handsome” etc. My grand mo heard that. After my friends left, my grand mo told me “your grandpa was much, much more handsome than your father and if you compare with your grandpa there is no comparison”.

Occupation: Merchant (modern term – Businessman).

He was very rich.  (Probably inherited considering his lifestyle.)

Grand mo told me thousands of times that he owned thousands (?) of acres of fertile rice fields and dry farm land. Koreans usually separate wet farm land for rice (more valuable) and dry farm land for barley, wheat, vegetables, etc.

He had two commercial buildings in West-Gate market. This was a famous only market in Daegu city at that time and they said that you can not find anything without finding in this market. (Is this English?)

Thinking of West-Gate market, when I was preschool age, my mom was going to that market. My mom asked me if I wanted to come with her. I said “OK mom, I’d love to” because I thought it might be very interesting to look around in the market. When we got there, I was fascinated by so many interesting things. I stopped by the live fish selling corner.  In a live fish tank (large wooden made half barrel sort of tank) they kept live Tilapia, Carp, Catfish, eels in water, and clams, crabs, etc. too. Fish were jumping and slapping the surface of the water with their tails and make water splash. I was somehow euphoric, and then mom pulled my arm and went to the food selling corner. Wow! It smelled good. In one corner, they sold green bean soup. In Korean food culture, they developed many kinds of soup as a meal. I was thinking back on how this was developed. Historically, the peasant class (the general population, other than the special royal class – the so called Yang-Ban) of Korea was so poor. Whenever spring came, their harvested food crops from the last autumn had run out. There was nothing much to eat. Girls and women had to go out to the mountain hills and dig newly grown edible herbs – like wild greens – in early spring. They put this plus a few crops in a lot of water and make various kinds of soup and eat them as a meal in order to fill their hungry stomachs. By the way, there was also some love story about these spring-wild-greens-digging-girls and cow boys on the hill of mountain. These cow boys were different from Texas cow boys who feed and lead hundreds of herds of cows. Korean cow boy means they feed only one cow or two of their (farmers) possession.

Now, coming back to green bean soup, we (my mom and I) sat on the wooden made simple bench (no back support) in front of the green bean soup cooking oven. My mom asked the old soup selling lady to give her a bowl of green bean soup. Mom got that steamy yummy looking green bean soup and passed it to me to eat. I was looking up to see mom’s face and asked “how about you.” Mom said she was not hungry and also her stomach was hurting a little and she told me to eat it before it got cold. I ate it. It was so good – really good. It was too bad that mom had a stomach problem. At that time I was barely 5 or 6 years old. Yet, I still remember that scene clearly. While I was growing up, when I looked back at my childhood days, we were so poor then that my mom could not even afford to buy another bowl of soup which was one of the cheapest food in that market. When I think back about my mom, I still feel the love that my mother gave me.

Life style of grand father: Womanizing and Gambling


Grand mo told me so many times that he was so popular with women and that he had so many mistresses everywhere – in every town. He bought houses for them and paid expenses for them. Amazingly, when my grand mo talked about this, she showed no sign of jealousy or hatred, rather she was kind of proud that her husband was so popular among women and had so many mistresses. In those days, one could legally have only one wife (this was very strict) but mistresses were widely accepted for those who could afford to have them.


He was a frequent big gambler and later he was addicted to it. Grand mo said when he went for gambling, he loaded a huge amount of threaded coins on the back of the horse and took his aid to pull the horse. (Regarding horses, Korean native horses are small and gentle and may be slightly bigger than donkeys in size.) About currency in those days, they used large metal (brass? nickel? I am not sure) coins with square or round holes in the center of the coin. When they carried or stored them, they threaded those coins with string – 10, 20, 50, 100, etc. together in a bundle.

Morphine addiction:

When he gambled, he lost more than he gained and gradually suffered more and more losses. Grand mo said he sold all those fertile farm lands one by one, got depressed, started using morphine, got addicted, expanding debt, sold businesses, sold the house (which may have been our original address) and finally moved in to a straw-thatched small house in the northern outskirts of a poor neighborhood where there was no sewer system.

Final days:

He was bed ridden, became uselessly ruined man, all his women and friends left him. Grand mo said when his morphine effect wore off, he started shouting loudly,” I am dying, I am dying, do some thing for me”. Grand mo answered back and said my dear husband you sold everything – we have nothing to sell any more. Grand pa shouted more loudly, more hysterically and continuously, “I am dying, I am dying, please do something for me” while crawling all over the bed room, and slapping the bed room floor with his palms. Grand mo was such an amazingly faithful wife that she was so sympathetic to her husband. She opened any chest or any drawer, even my mother’s, looking for something valuable, such as jewelry or clothes or even hair pins and took it to pawn places. My mother rarely talked about this but one day, when she came home, she saw her mother-in-law, who is my grand mo, opening my mother’s chest, and looking for any valuables. My mother could not say anything because she knew she could not stop it even if she argued for it.

After grand pa got morphine, he looked peaceful. While she was watching him, grand mo was tearful because once he was a big, tall and good looking proud man. Look at him now – emaciated, shrunken and miserable looking.

The final day approached slowly and gradually. One rainy day evening, under the influence of morphine, he stopped breathing, stopped shouting and fell asleep for good and forever. Exhausted family. No tears, no crying.  The whole house was quiet; the whole universe was quiet. What a way for a good man to end his life. This is how an irresponsible head of house hold could ruin the family he once loved. The rest of the family has to survive, but how?

The good part is that the worst is over and tomorrow morning, the sun might rise brighter than ever on the horizon and on the roofs of the straw-thatched, poor neighborhood.

Although many years passed, my mother did not want to talk about grand pa. (Generally, it is considered unethical for a married woman to talk about her husband’s family negatively, especially about her mother-in-law and father-in-law). But not only that, she really did not want to remember it. Even when I asked her about it, she tried to avoid it. Usually, she never avoided my questions. Whenever I asked any questions, she usually answered honestly and sometimes in detail. I can only imagine how much hardship she endured after grand pa ruined our family.

Later, I heard a piece of her memory. She said she could tolerate it for herself, but what she could not tolerate was the fact that because of grand pa, her (my mom’s) children faced so much hardship.

The Ever-So-Magical Quigly

The ever-so-magical Quigly

As Emma, a fellow volunteer, and I walk out of Pacific Spirit Park after our work session hauling holly, we notice a little birdie in a nest set on a moss covered tree stump near the trail head for Lily of the Vally trail.  The note under the nest reads:

this is the ever-so-magical Quigly. a beautiful bird born of prestige. Quigly enjoys afternoon teas and listening to Bach. he resides on the extended pinkies of sophisticated individuals. if you are one, please give Quigly a home.

Quigly's note

As I’m trying to decide whether I should come back later to take a photo of this joyful gesture, I see a man walking towards us with a camera hanging from his neck.  Filthy, and with an armful of ivy (another invasive species that is handled separately from the holly), I accost this poor man:  “Where are you walking?”  “I don’t know” he stammers.  “Would you take a picture for me and email it to me?” I ask, too directly.  “Sure” he quickly agrees, afraid to say “no.”  I rush him down the path, turn into Lily of the Valley trail and point out the little toy birdie in its nest.  He takes a picture and shows me the image in the camera’s display.  I’m not satisfied.  “Can you take a closeup?” “I have to change lenses” he says.  And he proceeds to take off his very clean, new-looking backpack, which is specifically made to carry a camera and lenses, and sets it on the dirt trail.  He’s got two other lenses in the backpack.  He looks at both, chooses one, then proceeds to switch lenses. I make small noises about being sorry for being so much trouble. He takes a few more photographs, makes sure I’m satisfied, before closing up his backpack.  .

At this point, I’m anxious to get back to the work shed and the Holly Hauling volunteer leaders, since I don’t know what to do with the armload of ivy I’m still carrying.  One thing left – to give this man my email address.  He initiates it by taking out his iPhone.  First he wants my name.  He shows me his screen.  First name:  I start spelling out y-o-o and he writes w-e-e… “No”, I say, “it’s y-o-o” and he backspaces and writes w-o-o… “No, ‘y’ not ‘w'” He finally gets the first name down.  The last name is easy.  Then the email address.  I start rattling it off, since it is just my name, but he says:  “I need my glasses for this.” By now, I’ve assumed that all the other volunteers, including the leaders, have already left.  Still, after he’s got my email address saved, I thank him and start to run.  Five steps later, I turn and ask:  “What is your name?”  “Adilson.”  (I’m guessing Spanish is his first language.)  “Would you like some of my other pictures?” he asks.  “I had the telephoto lens on to shoot eagles.”  “Sure, I’d love them” I respond, and resume my run down the path.  I make it to the shed just as the volunteer leaders are about to lock the gate, and am able to dump the ivy.

Bald Eagle

Bald Eagle

Thank you to the former Quigly owner for the pleasant find. And a huge thank you to Adilson for engaging in the photography project so unequivocally.

I hope Quigly gets a nice home.

Join Earth Hour 2009 – Saturday, 28 March, from 8:30 to 9:30pm

Switch off your lights for one hour, and join the world for Earth Hour on Saturday, March 28, 8:30-9:30pm.


This year, Earth Hour has been transformed into the world’s first global election, between Earth and global warming.

For the first time in history, people of all ages, nationalities, race and background have the opportunity to use their light switch as their vote – Switching off your lights is a vote for Earth, or leaving them on is a vote for global warming. WWF are urging the world to VOTE EARTH and reach the target of 1 billion votes, which will be presented to world leaders at the Global Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen 2009.

Continue reading ‘Join Earth Hour 2009 – Saturday, 28 March, from 8:30 to 9:30pm’

San Francisco Rally for Tibetan Freedom

8 April 2008

Rally and Vigil at UN Plaza in Downtown San Francisco

Handmade “Free Tibet” Poster

“No Torch in Tibet”

Equating Beijing 2008 with Berlin 1936

“Free Burma”

“Where are the monks?

“Freedom in Tibet; Understanding in China”

“Compassion for All”

Urging dialogue between the Chinese Government and the Dalai Lama

Desmond Tutu urging world leaders not to go to the Opening Ceremonies

Richard Gere joining an impromptu prayer


Public Transportation in the Bay Area – Who Can Afford It?

The devil on my right shoulder always manages to sneak in the temptation to drive to San Francisco from Oakland.  (On which shoulder do devils usually sit?) “It would be so easy.  And take less than half the time” says the devil.  And for a second, I think about the two cars at my disposal, parked just outside the front door.  (I don’t even have to open the garage door to get to one of them.)

But at the last minute, I type in a browser tab, enter my starting address and ending address and <click>.

Last November, Kaki and Tib gave me an incredibly generous gift certificate at Kabuki Springs & Spa so I booked a deluxe (80 minutes) massage for today, at 11am.  Mark is in Salt Lake City, testing his snow-boarding legs, and Betsy and Zing are painting New York City some outrageous color.  So, I’m on my own – no possibilities of a ride share, which might justify (a little) driving.

I leave the house at 9:20am, a little earlier than necessary (definitely don’t want to be late for a massage!) and walk to the Rockridge BART station.  It costs $3.45 one way to 16th and Mission, where I am to catch the #22 Union Street Muni bus.  The train comes within 2 minutes of my reaching the platform – around 9:35am.  I get out of the 16th and Mission BART station at 10:04am.  I just miss a #22 bus, so I stand at the stop until I see a bus on the other side of the street going in the direction I want.  I realize I’ve been standing on the wrong side of the street in a flashback to India.  I cross the street and wait for the next bus, which, according to the flashing LED screen at the stop, is 2 minutes away.  I pay $1.25 (a $0.25 discount with my “BART to Bus” transfer that I picked up on leaving the BART station).  I get a transfer, which I won’t be able to use, since I will not be getting on the bus within an hour and a half.  I reach my destination – Fillmore and Geary – around 10:40am – an hour and a half after I left home.  OK – if I hadn’t spaced, it would have taken me about an hour and 15 minutes.

My return bus fare costs me $1.50; return BART $3.45.  A total of $9.65.  Almost $10 for a round trip on public transportation from Oakland to San Francisco!

If I had driven, it would have taken me less than half an hour, one way.  Toll on the Bay Bridge:  $4.  Gas?  Let’s say $5, given the distance of about 29 miles (assuming 20 miles/gallon and gas at $3.50/gallon).  A total round trip cost of $9 (assuming no cost for parking and no parking ticket!).

Yes, there is the tailpipe emissions from driving, but I’m told that it is way less than the gases released from a single burp of a grain-fed cow.

The Situation in Burma – What Can We Do?

Those of you following the situation in Burma know that the military junta has cut off access to the Internet; is confiscating video and cell phone cameras; and is now in the process of hunting down and jailing individual protesters based on photographs.  No one knows the status of thousands of monks who were rounded up and taken from their monasteries.  Human rights organizations fear that the death toll is far higher than the 10 officially listed by the military junta.

What can we do?

  • Add your signature to a petition on calling on China and the U.N. security council to oppose the violent crackdown on the demonstrators and to support reconciliation and democracy.
  • Post a message of support to the brave people of Burma on the Ethical Traveler site.
  • Join prayer vigils, peace marches, and protests in a location near you.  For those in the San Francisco Bay Area, join the Burmese American Democratic Alliance this Friday, 5 October, for a rally at the Chinese Consulate from 2-5pm, a peace march from the Chinese Consulate to UN Plaza from 5-6pm, and a prayer vigil at UN Plaza from 6-8pm. For others, 6 October is a Global Day of Action. has a full list of calls to action around the world.
  • Donate to a group of young people living in Thailand who can get funds to the protesters in Burma.  For tax deductible donations, visit the Youth Solidarity of Burma site set up by Mad Nomad (our good friend Gregg Butensky).  If you don’t care about tax deductions, you can PayPal or wire the money through Give To Burma.
  • Stay informed.  News portals: The Irrawaddy and Mizzima News.  Human Rights Watch, Burma. Facebook: Voices of Burma, and many others…

Street Businesses, Pune

Non-food businesses along a half-block pathway (sidewalk) near the Pune Junction railway station.

Cut and Shave
Haircut and shave 

Shoe Shine
Shoe shine

Tire Repair
Bicycle tube repair

Shoe Repair
Shoe repair

Weigh Scale
Weigh scale

Ice Delivery
Ice delivery

2006 Brower Youth Awards

“Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it.” Goethe

These words capture one of David Brower‘s guiding principles and are embodied by the 6 winners of the Earth Island Institute‘s Seventh Annual Brower Youth Awards.

Earth Island Institute established the Brower Youth Awards in 2000 to honor David Brower and to call forth a new generation of leaders. This annual national award recognizes six young people for their outstanding activism and achievements in the fields of environmental and social justice advocacy. Each winner is awarded $3000 in cash and flown to San Francisco for the award week and a backcountry camping trip. The Awards not only promote the accomplishments of these new leaders but also invest in their continued success by providing ongoing access to resources, mentors, and opportunities to develop their leadership skills through Earth Island Institute’s New Leaders Initiative.

The Awards ceremony, held at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts on 27 October, 2006, featured Adrienne Maree Brown, of the Ruckus Society, as MC, a performance by GRRRL Brigade on taiko drums in a tribute to Wangari Maathai, winner of the 2004 Nobel Peace Prize for her work with the Green Belt Movement, a short film about David Brower, video presentations of the 6 award winners, and a short speech by each winner. (The videos were produced by Max Harper, 2002 Brower Youth Award recipient and will be posted on YouTube shortly.)

The winners, ranging in age from 16 to 22 are working on safe cosmetics, clean cars, habitat restoration, saving a sacred peak, climate change, and youth leadership training:


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