In Korea, I've known people who dated secretly for several years with the parents never knowing the boy/girlfriend even exists. Men, especially, don't introduce girls (or even mention her) to their folks unless they are planning to marry that girl. Therefore, meeting the parents is not exactly the same as getting engaged, but in traditional Korea, assuming the man's parents approve of the girl, it is in effect the same thing. Many young ladies I've known who were the "secret" girlfriend for years were all planning weddings the day after meeting their man's mom (or dumped following disapproval).
A few months ago, Min Gi told me he'd told his mom about me. She had noticed that he talked on the phone in English a lot, and told him that the girl he was talking to (me) must like him (I do!). He then told her about our relationship. She decided she wanted to meet me (or was willing to meet me and Min Gi wanted us to meet--I still don't know which because he'd paint the rosiest picture of the situation; I do love that about him).
Since I understood the cultural context associated with such a meeting, I asked Min Gi if we could wait until after my Vietnam trip because I didn't want to worry about too many things at once.
However, his brother and sister-in-law didn't want to wait. We met them just after New Year's, and while I'd been a little nervous leading up to the meeting, we all had a great time together. Min Gi's younger brother, Min Soo, is an architect and rarely interacts with foreigners or children, so he spoke Korean in these long, complex, nuanced sentences that made it difficult for me to follow. His wife is a computer teacher in elementary school. So when Min Gi ran off to the bathroom, we had to discover a new way of communicating with each other. He would speak something and then his wife would "translate" into baby Korean. It was kind of hilarious. I wanted to blog about it at the time, but that week I was still recovering from icky stomach issues.
Then at the end of February, Min Soo got a job in Daegu (he'd been working in Gangwondo and visiting his wife only on the weekends--sadly this is an all-too-common marital arrangement in Korea). He was happy to move back to the city. The couple just got a new apartment in Daegok, so Sunday I was invited to a family housewarming lunch where I'd meet the mom for the first time.
Lunch was lovely, prepared by Min Gi's sister-in-law. Min Gi's mom was quiet, but warm. She only tried to speak to me when no one else was around, almost like she was shy to try in front of her children.
After eating, the five of us took a trip to the nearby Daegu arboretum. It was pretty, but cold. I didn't bring my camera to this meeting because I was too nervous about it. However, Min Gi couldn't stop taking pictures with his handphone. He even stole his mom's phone at one point and changed her background picture from one of Min Soo and his wife to one of us.
It all went well. Min Gi said his mom liked me. Again, even if she was less enthusiastic than his implication, I'll choose to believe his rosy picture of the world. Because it's his family, and he knows them best. Because his opinion is the one that matters most to me, in the end. Because I love him.