January 10, 2009

Into the Woods... 2009

There’s a saying of sorts in conventional blogging wisdom that every blogger has one good year’s worth of writing in them and this has been on mind in the last days of 2008. I often think about the nature of blogging, what it’s become and how it plays a role artistically. I think people know now that blogs are a ‘new’ form of writing, a digital medium in the way the typewriter ushered in well, typing, though the digital medium also seems to have some comment on form. An early commenter on my blog lectured that my entries were much too long for my blog to become ‘successful,’ by which he was referring to the phenomena of blogs becoming people’s professions. Basically, successful blogs have readerships big enough to attract paying advertisers.

This was never my goal, thankfully, and for this tiny niche of blogs about Korean related things I think all three advertisers for this audience have found places on sites like Kimchi Mamas. For me the blog was a way to explore some ideas and questions, and to share hopefully things I loved about Korean culture. It was also a freeing writing exercise (I gave myself limits as in only allowing one edit, and creating a post in one or two sittings versus the indefinitely long periods of time it can take to write a short story etc.) and at times a daunting one. The anonymity of blogging I think is attractive to artists because you can shape how much or how little you are revealed. Blogging to me is mainly nonfiction and there is always a struggle in nonfiction between the real you and the narrator you...

Which brings me finally to my point. I’ve reached a turning point with this blog, one that points in a direction more dense with some of my queries, and more revelatory. I find myself at a point in this writing discovery where I have some harder questions about myself, Korean-American culture, my family and my friends. Hard to do this when those same friends and family read this blog or can easily find this information on the Internet which is after all a public forum. Not to mention that slippery boundary between respecting other people’s privacy and at the same time being able to tell your own story that inevitably involves those you love.

But I will try. And hopefully people will continue to share their thoughts because the one great thing about this blog has been when others have responded with their own stories, however sympathetic or different they might be.

September 24, 2008

Corner Masala


The Bangladeshi family who owns this place run a UHaul rental center from the back door, an Indian buffet from the side door, and a grocery from the front.

We recently hauled a truck of boxes down to my mother's for storage and had occasion to talk to the sixteen year old behind the counter. They'd moved there from Park Slope, Brooklyn and though she said they were lonely at first they'd taken to driving to New York regularly enough that they felt at home now. When asked about the two young boys industriously sweeping the parking lot she told us she was having her sweet sixteen that evening with six hundred guests. And oh, we should drop by if we can.

This I love. It reminds me of how my mother also sees possibility in everything, how Koreans have no problem tackling one vocation, then another even if they've had no experience or training whatsoever. There's a kind of sheer exuberance and willingness to work hard, a world view that all was possible that to me is so attractive about our culture.

Now on the flip side, Koreans have a harder time with reality, like um, laws which can get in the way (ever look up how many infractions with the law the Rhee Brothers have gotten into? This is just one) and don't even mention taxes, but there are plenty of success stories as well.

I wonder if my boys will also internalize a sense of this because their lives are so much more ordered than mine. This fluidity, this total sense of opportunity.

September 16, 2008

Welcome, Apples!


(Stone Ridge Orchards minus one bushel, two pecks, seventeen apples and one pint of the last raspberries of the season.)

July 22, 2008

The First Time I was Slain in the Spirit

Mom took me to a boo-hoong-eh (special night time worship service) where the famous visiting pastor was slaying folks by the hundreds on an auditorium stage. it's the early 80's, in Philadelphia, and these are all the rage. In line I can see and hear everything but the thing that terrifies me is the pastor shouting how our faith would allow the spirit to take us, meaning if we were real Christians then we'd be slain in the spirit but if not then our disbelief would be revealed. At that time and still now to my mother and most of her generation, I think to not be a real Christian is the most devastating thing that could happen, only a notch above being gay which in itself for them is the same as not being Christian.

I am so nervous because though I thought I was Christian I could never really know for sure and even up to the moment when the pastor grips my forehead while shouting in tongues and prayer I was pretty sure you could just see all the disbelief blinking loudly in my face. My mother goes down quickly, no surprise there, she just falls backward, limp as can be on the ground, a fitting reward for her tremendous faith and before I know it the pastor has gripped my forehead tightly with his fingers shouting in tongue above my head and with a mighty thrust he shoves me backward into the arms of his assistant who I didn't realize was behind me. The assistant catches me gracefully, laying me down in the same beat, moving onto the next person, before I even knew it.

I laid there, eyes closed, waiting for something to happen. When nothing did, I realized I had fooled them. It was such a relief. I was not going to be humiliated and exposed in front of hundreds of people much less my mother. I was going to get to keep my rock tapes. And my cigarettes.

I'm feeling so relieved and out of the spotlight I turn my head ever so slightly to check in on my mother and see what a real slaying looks like (where does the Holy Spirit take you? how long are you unconscious?). I open my eyes infinitesimally and then a little more because... my mother is peering right back at me.

Our eyes fly open and despite her desperate blinking at me to close my eyes again we can't stop the convulsions of laughter ripping through our bodies.

June 2, 2008

Korean Korean

Recently, a Korean-American friend of my husband’s found my blog and declared she hadn’t realized how Korean I was. The comment gave me pause for a number of reasons but first of all because it was ironic – I’d started this blog as a place to wool gather about things I love about Korean culture but really it was also a way to define things as well. Anyone who knows me would answer in kind, “She’s not Korean Korean, she married white-latino and doesn’t hang out with Koreans.” Because, you know, Korean Koreans pretty much only hang out with other Koreans especially if they are a part of a church and while they might socialize with their work or school buddies they don’t date or have intimate relationships with non-Koreans.”

It’s an odd divide when I think about it, and kind of huge really. Because for some reason, there are very few who mix as easily in both cultures and two of those few are my sister and brother. I used to think it was a generational thing, that 1.5’ers being the first to truly assimilate either became Americanized or they clung together and formed their own identity, which we now call Korean-American. And even within those who clung together there were degrees, mostly determined by how fresh off the boat they were. Literally. And all of this came about because the seventies and eighties were not so much kind to the minority folk, it was not cool to be ethnic even if affirmative action was big. It really took the late nineties for people to internalize the great multi-cult message and I remember my amazement still at watching my brother and sister date across the ethnic lines at the very same high school where a popular boy told me that I wasn’t really Korean but very pretty. To my own shame I took this as the compliment it was meant to be – at that time I was the second Korean/ethnic girl ever to be popular, a path trail blazed by the wondrous junior Juyoung (she used her Korean name even!) who dated the most popular senior in high school, well on my way to finding out that the path to cool was even more treacherous than korean.

So what is this invisible wall exactly? Why can’t Korean Koreans mix as intimately with non-Koreans and why don’t KA girls like me feel as comfortable in the KA world?

May 8, 2008

Everyone can see


(A sticky note on a piece of junk mail mom forwarded to me about an outfit I wore months prior)

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