ViewPoints was made for DJI to lend its voice in the fast-moving, digital world. With the COVID-19 pandemic impacting all communities, we want to use this platform as a place of support in these difficult times. Now, more than ever, is a time for community. These series of posts will share how members of the DJI community are adapting to life while staying safe.
Monica Suk is the Senior Corporate Communication Manager at DJI in its Shenzhen headquarters in China. Born in the U.S. and raised in Korea, the self-acclaimed culturally confused Korean is now living a new chapter of her life in Hong Kong. She recently spent two weeks in self-quarantine at home and decided to make something special for her grandma during this period.
In March, I spent two weeks in a mandatory self-quarantine in Hong Kong wearing a tracking bracelet. I was back from Korea after spending a longer-than-expected Chinese New Year holiday.
Like everyone else around the world, living in times of isolation and uncertainty evoked an appreciation for what is around me.
As a PR person at a drone company, I am very used to telling people things like, “see things from above.” But, it was time to look around and remember the things that ground me. I decided to use this period as an opportunity and make a picture book for my dear grandma.
The word isolation is not exactly a positive word. It implies emotions such as fear and loneliness.
While noticing all the social voids in life, I remembered quickly who could give me the right advice in these difficult times. Even before the COVID-19 pandemic hit the world, my grandma – my mother’s mom – understood what isolation meant.
In 2001, she had a stroke soon after moving to Nevada with her husband. Like all tragedies in life, hers came without any warning and quickly transformed a seemingly carefree and affluent lifestyle into one riddled with hospital visits.
When my grandma was brought back to Korea for medical treatments, her doctor told us that the whole left side of her body was paralyzed and that she would have to live with the mental awareness of a six-year-old child. Even now, we don’t exactly know whether my grandma has retained her memories from before getting sick. When I share with her funny episodes I remember from my childhood, a gentle smile would cross her face or she would say, “Oh,” as if it’s the first time hearing of it.
Taking advantage of the quarantine period, I wanted to make a book that she can always use to remind herself of the memories I kept for her the past 19 years. The book is titled, “Memories with My Grandma that She Doesn’t Remember.”
Since I was young, I’ve had a creative side that hones in on trying to share what I feel or perceive from my relationships. Some feelings and memories are three-dimensional, so I like to explore different types of media, drawing styles, colors, and writing styles to bring them to life.
I asked my mom to send me some old photos of grandma to better understand what kind of woman she was. I knew that she was a Chinese calligraphy artist, but for some reason, I had seen her as a typical old-generation Korean wife figure whose daily routine revolved around her husband’s schedule.
In these photos, I saw more of myself in my grandmother than anyone else in my family. I saw a woman who cherished her life, always passionate and willing to learn more about what the world has to offer. I saw a woman who was strong and independent, yet soft and intuitive, with a great interest in fashion.
These photos were drawing a picture of my grandmother that I had never known before. Before I knew it, the mind was guiding more confident pencil strokes. “Memories from My Grandma…” was finally taking shape.
Memories are Sweet
Scientists say that scent is the sense most closely related to one’s memory.
For me, the smell of pizza always reminds me of my grandma when she first moved to Las Vegas. I was visiting her during spring break in 2000, and we had some leftover pizza in the fridge. Pizza was not the kind of food she grew up eating or enjoyed having when we were not there.
I asked her whether I could have the leftover pizza for dinner. She gladly said “Yes” and started boiling water in a pot. Next thing I knew, my pizza was swimming in water.
My grandma comes from a ruling-class family that was really something before the Korean War – or at least that’s what she always said, reciting all the rules she lived by, which confused me as a child.
“Yangban (the traditional ruling class during the Joseon Dynasty) should not eat mackerel.”
“Yangban should not sleep in the same room with siblings of a different sex after the age of seven.”
“Yangban should not eat rice with chopsticks.”
The concept of Yangban was already uncommon, so I was interested in watching her living by such traditional rules. Even after her stroke, I never saw her eating mackerel.
A Nice Dress
In 1997, my paternal grandfather passed away. At the time, my family was living in the city of Wonju, about a two-hour drive from Seoul.
I remember this day, because my grandma who lived in Seoul, suddenly showed up at my classroom and picked me up to go home early. I didn’t know what was going on, but was excited to be skipping class.
We got on a bus to Seoul, and then went to a department store to shop for a nice dress and suit for me and my brother. It was my first time visiting a department store, where clothes were displayed on fancy mannequins under nice lighting, rather than buying from a truck in the street.
The next day, I realized she had bought me a nice dress to wear to my grandpa’s funeral. It turns out that my parents had asked her to take care of us, as they were busy preparing the funeral in Seoul.
Before the funeral, I was having one of the happiest days of my life. I knew my mom would never buy me name brand clothing, or let me skip a class. My grandma was like the perfect mom I’d dreamed of.
Counting the Days
With an increasing number of demands from amateur writers looking for a smaller number of prints, there were many services online that met my needs. I found a website that provides a publishing service for independent writers at a reasonable price. My next step was to register the drawings and the final draft on their online software that’s made to publish “on the go.”
While the whole world is fighting the battle against COVID-19, I’m grateful that I am able to stay safe and positive through this experience. I hope our series of blog posts provides an opportunity to get a glimpse into how different people are discovering new ways to appreciate their lives at most unexpected times.