Photo Essay – Vienna, Then and Now

May 27, 2009

Exhibit 1: Then (2006)

Exhibit 1: Then (2006)

2006: Year of graduation, uncertainty, and death. Exactly three months after my grandfather had passed away in Korea, it was time to fly to Vienna for Dad’s business trip. I had longer hair, chubby face, and a still healthy/unhealthy obsession with the color green. Those are the obvious differences.

Walking around Vienna in the relative safety of my parents, I looked down on the sights that I saw. I say relative safety because my parents entrusted me with the map and I had no idea where we were going. I could judge the rest of the world in my naivety, in the certainty that I knew what was right and exactly what was wrong. I was right and you were wrong.

Things became even clearer atop the Gloriette hill at the Schonnbrunn Palace. The uphill climb was difficult, the big stones of white gravel rolled nervously under my feet, the calves in my legs strained to gain an easy balance. We went slowly, Mom the slowest one, and Dad, as usual, up ahead with his hands locked behind his back.

By the time we got up the hill, my legs wanted to totter out beneath me, which is why I am leaning so heavily on the ledge of the pavilion. My tummy pressed flat out against the cool concrete. I looked down at the world I was visiting, the glory of Europe providing a sparkle in the sun.

Everything was worthy of a photograph, there was no discrimination in subject, as we Koreans drew up our peace signs and pretense of luxury. A pretense of happiness. I admire my naivety and the pompousness in this picture. A graduate, without a care in the world.

Exhibit 2: Now (2009)

Exhibit 2: Now (2009)

2009: An escape from reality. I have come back from trips to Italy, Japan, Slovakia. The world does not seem so easy anymore, but my smiles come easier than they used to. And so do my tears. The passing of my maternal grandfather in 2006 was a preceding of my paternal grandfather’s death, my adopted grandfather’s death, my adopted grandmother’s death, an aunt, and a cousin-in-law. A teacher. A friend.

It is clearer, what I want to do in this world, what I want from this world, what needs to be done… but what is less clear is how I will go about doing them. I will attend another graduation next year, but will I look out with the same, shining, hopeful eyes as I did then? Certainly, one member of my family will be missing this time around. There will be no father taking pictures of every moment, starting from when I sit down amongst the other graduates to when I exit the stage, diploma in hand.

And yes, he is still very much a part of the rest of the world. Just not a part of mine anymore. The bankruptcy weighs down heavily in my mind at times, but I’m glad the worry does not show in this picture. The budgeting that I do means that I eat lavishly on some days and survive on cereal another.

The climb up. The same white gravel, rising dust, unbalanced feeling. At the top of the hill, I barely notice any muscle strain, due to my frenzied half-marathon training last year. Why was it so difficult, the last time around? There was no need to lean on the concrete, my white loafers were enough of a foundation on the steps.

It was time to take pictures. This time around, I would carefully piece together the parts of the city that I had grown to love in the last three months. I will be sad to leave. But this time around, I think I know what lessons to take and what mistakes to leave behind.

Exhibit 3: Panorama view from Gloriette Pavilion

Exhibit 3: Panoramic view from Gloriette Pavilion

Yupgi Girl.


2 Responses to “Photo Essay – Vienna, Then and Now”

  1. inigafalco Says:

    aww! that’s a beautiful post. 🙂

  2. Carolyn Jung Says:

    How pretty you look in your white summer dress.

    You are wise in your words, too. I think that’s the best thing about traveling to places far and wide. Sure, we love the sights and the food and the sounds. But wherever we go, what we really discover is a part of ourselves we didn’t know. Travel illuminates who we are. And that’s why we not only love it, but need it.

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