Last Tuesday, I went to an InterNations social meeting. After spending a busy evening there with some great people, I went out for a dinner with one of my team colleague. We both were hungry and looking for a restaurant where we could enjoy a delicious meal with a brief discussion about our projects. But we weren’t fortunate enough, the first restaurant we found was very noisy, and the other one we rushed to catch was already closed, though it was only 9.30 pm.
So, we decided to try out the Korean restaurant across the road- after all, we’re hungry, and there was no other option left. We had to step into that Korean restaurant, and we found that only four people were sharing a table. We asked gently if we could have a meal, and what a relief, the waiter replied “a la cart only.”We ordered for Korean BBQ, and within a couple of minutes we’re served a delicious BBQ along with two hot teas.
Then we started enjoying our meals, and talking about our Immigrant Business Networking project. Pretty soon, the other customers left and we were the only two persons along with the owner of this Korean restaurant.
At some point, the owner, she was really generous, came to our table to know if everything was okay and we took the opportunity to thank her for letting us get in for a meal. She smiled in reply of our thank, and suddenly a thought popped up on my mind “she seems quite friendly, why not m asking her about her immigration journey?
After all, my curiosity revolves around immigrant’s movements, and their settlements, right?” So out of curiosity, I asked her if she would be interested in sharing what brought her to Australia. She began saying that her husband first came here from Korea, and then he brought her with their little children. She remembered, she came here with almost no English, and she had to work as a kitchen hand in a famous Italian restaurant, and her pay was only $3 for per hour.We were completely shocked and whispered “what!! $3 dollars an hour”? She nodded her head yes, and said that in that time, 3-dollar was a good amount.
She continued her story – “I worked in that restaurant for the first six months, and then I decided to move to the weekend market where I finally made some decent amount of money. I used to buy a packet of 10 novelty rubbers for $3, and sell each of them for $0.90.”And she continued “I remember the day when I was walking in Northbridge and came across a “For Sale” sign in front of a building. I remember when I saw that sign, I went off getting money from here and there to purchase that on-sale restaurant. And I was able to collect $30,000 and start this restaurant” and what today is known as the Seoul Buffet Korean BBQ & Steamboat.
She has been running her restaurant business for almost 28 years with passion, dedication, and appreciation. And in the last seven years, she has also bought two other restaurants in the city, which are now successfully run by her kids.At this point of our conversation, I took the audacity to ask her age; she laughed in reply and said, “I’m 65- year old”. What?? you’re at your 65!! We were perplexed, and asked her again.
Well, our jaws were already open while listening to her story and they got even wider, nearly to the floor, when we heard about her age. She not even looks like 60 years old! Her skin is beautiful, only few wrinkles…and she added "my skin is moisturized by the kitchen oil," and she laughed!
Then finally, we left the restaurant thanking her so many times for her kindness, care, attention. And the experience I’ve had that night left me wondering how life can be so deeply appreciated when we are resilient, knowing what we truly want, and love what we do. Keep Moving Forward!