Monthly Archives: March 2006

Mid-week musings

Can I just say what a breath of fresh air my readings for the Economics of Race & Inequality have been? Finally, I feel like I’m reading some things in graduate school that I would read of my own volition. Well, not to bash the many interesting case scenarios I’ve read . . . but I knew right away when I saw that the readings for this week include a piece from Ronald Takaki that this class would be right up my alley. Unfortunately, all of this extra stuff means that Tobias’ dissertation is sitting next to my bed, marked at the same 1/2-way point it was at on Sunday night.

The weather has been alternately gorgeous and typical Seattle. I think the weather here must be the way it is, because no one would get anything accomplished if Seattle was blessed with sunshine year-round. (This is shoddy reasoning, but I’m looking for any excuse to explain away the gray skies.) The one thing I miss about driving every day in Seattle is that back when I used to drive to my AmeriCorps job, I got to see glimpses of Mt. Rainier almost every day. (Now that I take the bus to cover the short distance between home and campus, my view is obstructed, save for the occasional glance at the Olympics.) Being the Kansas City-girl that I am, I would always gawk like a tourist on clear days. But I think my favorite images of Rainier are when it is one of those typical Seattle days, and yet you can still see the faint outlines of the mountain. The blurriness makes it seem dream-like, unreal . . . as if someone had painted it amongst the clouds.

Speaking of dreams, I went to visit a Korean professor at the School of Social Work yesterday afternoon. (That sentence doesn’t make sense, but just keep reading–I’ll explain.) I’d been referred to her by my Evans advisor (who readily admits to knowing nothing about Asian or APA communities). I went to speak with her about the merits of adding an MSW to my MPA. (**It’s funny how professors of one school will bash another school. Said my Evans (public affairs) advisor: Well, you know an MSW is a clinical degree…[he said “clinical” as though it were equivalent to moldy socks] Said this social work professor: I think the way the Evans School handles diversity issues is just infantile. Burn!) Anyway, this social work professor is very cool and has written such things as “From Ethnic- to Transcultural-Consciousness: Korean-American Identities.” Born and raised in Korea, she received her bachelor’s at Yonsei University in Seoul and then moved to the U.S. when she was 28. She’s in her sixties now, so she has spent over half of her life in the States. However, she described to me that when she returned to Korea last year during a 6-month sabbatical, it was as if her time in the U.S. had suddenly compressed. In over 30 years, she had never stayed longer in Korea than a 2-week visit, but now during her extended stay, it felt as though she had left Korea yesterday and returned today. For her, going to Korea is still going home, while returning to the U.S. requires extra adjustments and mental preparations.

We talked about how that situation is reversed for myself and other adoptees and 교포s. It’s not an exact reversal, however. I look at my sisters, my grandmother, and I see my face in theirs–and yet we are strangers. We must communicate through miming and dictionaries, the way I direct taxi drivers in Seoul to my next destination.

I told this professor that I miss Korean food, and like most Koreans do when I tell them this, she grinned broadly and seemed pleased. She added some interesting philosophizing–she said she’d heard other Korean adoptees make such statements, prompting her to wonder aloud if there is some sort of genetic imprint left upon our palates in spite of our environments, nurturing from adoptive parents, etc.

Some adoptees I know who were adopted later in life say that eating Korean food will sometimes trigger memories of life in Korea pre-adoption. I’ll admit that the first time I had kimchi, however, I curled up my nose in distaste. (I’ve since acquired a love for kimchi . . . although I prefer fresh kimchi over old kimchi any day. 맛있어.) During my first trip to Korea, however, I noticed how light my body felt at eating Korean food every day. It agreed with me . . . no lactose-induced emergencies, no feeling of having a rock in my stomach. I grew up eating in the long tradition of Midwestern families–casseroles, meat, casseroles, potatoes, canned vegetables, casseroles. Korean food was definitely an enlightenment.

I said last year that I felt like my heart was growing more Korean, while my soul was still American. I’m not sure I agree with that anymore . . . . H.–even though I disagreed with you when you said it, I think you’re right in that I’m caught between the U.S. and Korea. Although I’m almost 100% sure that I will never live-live in Korea again, I’m not quite sure where Korea fits into my life.

Living in Korea was sometimes difficult for me–dealing with Korean work culture, the language barrier, sexual politics, the lack of any dialogue about racism or diversity, crappy non-Korean food.

But yet returning to the States last fall was 10 times harder than moving to Korea the previous summer. I was yearning, keening for Korea so badly that spontaneous tears would erupt at the weirdest times (like shopping at Target).

I don’t feel like this anymore, as I suppose I’ve fully-adjusted to being back. Last year, I wondered if once I was back in the States that maybe my year in Korea would seem like a dream–compressed like time was for this professor, blurry like the mountain in the clouds.

Sometimes I feel this way, sometimes I don’t. I think the real test will be returning to Seoul this summer. I will have to make adjustments, mental preparations before leaving . . . and coming back. Both ways.



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I had a nice break

There was definitely a theme to my spring break . . .


(A.H.’s party . . . before the madness ensued)


(. . . California)


(S.T. pinched me, because I wasn’t wearing green.)


(At Suede in S.F.)


(With Madam Cupcake, herself–nice eyebrows, ladies.)

Did you guess the theme? Fun with friends (and some drinking, too).
(Want to see more? Click on my Flickr link in the sidebar here.)

It was lovely to spend time with my fellow Evans-ers before heading off to the Bay Area. And it was even more lovely to see friends in Cali (much love to you–please visit me in Seattle after the summer). Save for one rainy day, the weather was sublime. Some highlights:

  • Bowling with S.T. & friends. I managed to place second to last, rather than dead last. Progress.
  • Dancing with A.B. & B.H. in the city. Only heard one lame pick-up line that night: “So what do you think of white guys who can’t dance?”
  • Eyebrow threading, eating, and watching Napoleon Dynamite (finally) with Mme. Cupcake.
  • Good conversations with all of the above.
  • Two screenings at the SFIAAFF (favorite short film: My Prince, My Angel). B.–did you end up going to see American Fusion?

I also saw Dave Chappelle’s Block Party last night. Highly recommend it–great music (I still prefer Jilly from Philly over Erykah Badu), hilarious, and inspiring. I’m listening to the soundtrack right now.

Also, I’m currently reading Tobias Hubinette’s dissertation: “Comforting an Orphaned Nation: Representations of International Adoption and Adopted Koreans in Korean Popular Culture.” It is rocking my world (thanks, H.). If only I could go to Sweden next month for the AKF Conference . . . Favorite quote thus far:
“I am also deeply sceptical towards Korea’s essentialist and nationalistic attempts at making claims at, and wanting to recover and re-Koreanise adoptees like myself, [Hello, Toby Dawson] while I am at the same time strongly critical towards European assimilationism, which strips the adoptees of everything Korean, as well as American multiculturalism with its ethnic chic and orientalist fetishism.”
Oh, snap!

Tomorrow, spring quarter technically starts, although I only have one class (Korean). I’m taking:
1. Public Management II
2. Quantitative Analysis II
3. Economics of Race and Inequality
4. Korean
5. Interpersonal Communication (just a one-credit workshop that meets twice)

I spoke with my new advisor about my insane plan to go to UCLA for Asian-American studies. He pointed out the opportunity cost associated with two (or three) more years of graduate school. 알았어. This was not exactly what I wanted to hear . . . . I was hoping he would say something more along the lines of what L.L. told me tonight: “The most important thing is to do what makes you happy. Everything else will work itself out.” Ultimately, that’s what I believe. So we shall see. L.L. and I also realized that it’s been over two years since we saw each other, and it’s been three years since I was in Omaha. Yeah, next month is going to be a trip.

I forced myself to stay away from blogs, e-mail, etc. over much of the break. And like a true junkie, I’ve been o.d.-ing now that I’m back. Well, haven’t gotten around to the e-mail part quite yet. Somehow the time slips away (at least I took the time to do the quarterly cleaning of my room).

Happy spring!


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And now–time for a break!

Spring is here!!! I am delighted/excited/relieved to be officially finished with winter quarter now! (Doing happy dance.) The end turned out to be more gratifying than I’d anticipated, because I wrote a paper on AAAW for my final project in Nonprofit Management, and it felt so good to be working on something that is meaningful and relevant to my current passions and interests. Plus, I think I made some good observations about ways we can improve. I also elected to switch advisors–for my new advisor, I chose my Nonprofit Management professor. He’s the quintessential prof–absent-minded, brilliant. My previous advisor . . . . well, she is white and she has a little girl from China. I decided to not go there, ifyaknowwhatimean.

Anyway, what with finishing the paper, spring weather making appearances, posting up the AAAW banner on the side here (thanks, A.! A., I wish you blogged more. Keep an online journal of your “cultural explorations,” heh.), and the fantastic news that K. & N. will be making a Seattle appearance–I am super-psyched for the upcoming Korean adoptee mini-gathering in May! Somehow, it seems far off in the distance, but it’ll be here before we know it.

This spring will be a whirlwind before I go to Korea in June. . . just the way I like it. 😉 There’s the mini in May, and then in April I’m going back to Omaha for a long weekend to be in P.’s wedding. Despite my hesitations regarding the bridesmaid dress, and the fact that when I tell people here that I’m going Omaha they stutter, “Where??”, I am stoked to be going back to the big O. It’s going to be one big reunion, with CCSJ peeps, B. & L., even my parents.

And speaking of reunions–San Francisco will be good for that as well. Yup, I’m going down south for a few days (March 17-22). Thus, I will not be blogging for a while . . . . I get to see 3 groups of people AND I’m attending SFIAAFF on Sat. and Tues. I get to see:
1. My lovely AmeriCorps homie, S.T. (will spend Friday w/ her and some of her SF friends…..S.T. still lives in L.A.–although not for long?).
2. The twins. Will be some good times–drinking & watching NCAA basketball. I think they’re excited to show me the “azn” scene in SF. Hope B.H. knows that a repeat of NYC is not going to happen.
3. B. & A. in Mountain View. I’m excited to spend time with you guys, especially since I missed the Outer Banks wedding last year. I hope your cat doesn’t sit on my face and suffocate me in my sleep.
**I also recently found out that gyopo R., my favorite “African pants”-wearing drunk will be making an appearance in SF at the same time as me. Not sure what the likelihood of seeing R. will be this weekend, but it will be interesting & amusing to see R. in an environment other than Seoul. Think he’ll be just as sweaty, H.?

Can I just say how elated I am that by some divine happenstance, two weekends of the NCAA tournament fall during my spring break? I joined a pool that someone at my school started. I haven’t been following at all this season, so I based all of my picks off of watching Kansas beat Texas on Sunday and an hour of ESPN. Somehow, when I filled out my bracket, I have Texas winning it all. I’m sure S.C.H. is groaning right now (provided she’s even reading this–I need to call her).

By the way, Lee–I’m bummed that you can’t make it up to SF! I bought tickets for two showcases for film shorts (“The Life Quixotic” and “Lost and Bound”). I really wanted to see “Eve & the Fire Horse,” (per Angry’s rec) but it didn’t work out. Have you thought about Seattle for the mini?

Also–a shout-out to j. gabriel: congratulations on getting the fellowship! Well-deserved (applause). It’s all due to the hair, right? 😉

Also, to new commenters on my blog–thanks for reading! I’m not very good w/ responding to comments on my own blog. But I appreciate it when anyone weighs in with their two cents.

Sorry this post is so meandering. I’m trying to hurry before heading out the door. Tonight, we’re having a birthday party/going-away party for A.H. Yes, he has to go back to Korea to join the military…..

I would like to get inebriated tonight, although last night was a bit much for me. Actually, we started the day at 11am–margaritas. I took a break to go to work (last day of work was today! woo hoo!). Then, beer at a brewery . . . . and then $4 martini happy hour at The Chapel. I was not a very exciting drunk last night. While N. was pole-dancing, I felt inclined to take a 20-minute nap on the couches. But then I recovered, and ended up at an Ethiopian restaurant, where I proceeded to insult A.H.’s boss inadvertantly. We had a grand time anyway, however. There is some damning photographic evidence of last night, which I may post later in the week.

Time to make some ramyun before I head out . . . .

Oh, jeez–the birthday/going-away party was a trip. Let’s just say that some property damage was involved, someone other than myself had to ferry us all home in my car (got my car back this morning), and I will be eating Campbell’s chicken soup (bland, bland) and white bread as I watch opening round games today.


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Fetishism, Invisibility, and the points in between

Like many of you, I’ve been following the lengthy, intense, simultaneously disheartening and encouraging thread at Ji-in’s blog regarding a topic that’s been a bit taboo on my blog: white men and Asian women. Together.

**Let me put a disclaimer here in the beginning: like Ji-in, I’m commenting here on the social phenomenon of white men and Asian/APA (Asian/Pacific-American) women dating. I’m not trying to attack individuals or say that every white-man/Asian-woman relationship is a certain way. I don’t want my many APA female friends who love/date/are married to white men feel like they have to defend their relationships to me . . . I’m not trying to question legitimate love and happiness.

I’m not going to get into actual statistics here, but let’s face it: the white-man/Asian-woman thing is a common social phenomenon. Globally!! I grew up assuming I would marry a white man. My first “real” boyfriend in college was white . . . and I discovered shortly into our relationship that I was the fifth Asian girl he’d dated. And we were living in Nebraska. Now, considering that APAs only make up about 4% of the American population, how is it that there are so many white guys out there with similar track records?

When I asked my college-boyfriend why he’d dated so many Asian women, he couldn’t come up with a good answer. I find that guys like that get immediately defensive, like I’m about to call them what they don’t want to be labeled . . . a fetishist. “Yellow fever,” what have you. I’m not here to slap labels on anybody. But I think it’s constructive for people to ask themselves–what is it about the “idea” of an Asian woman that is so appealing, beyond just the physical?

I’m not going to get into a laundry list of the ways Asian women have been fetishized, exoticized, infantilized, etc. etc. in the media, literature, and so on. But it’s the reason why I got messages on that said things like, “I looooooove Asian women!” It’s why I get “friend requests” on My Space from guys who have 500 “friends” already–all Asian women. (It’s almost like I’m a trading card or something, and these guys are collectors.) It’s why while in Vietnam, the following took place: we were at a beach resort, and there was a couple staying next door to us–a fat, sunburned, Speedo-ed, middle-aged, white Australian man with his very young, very beautiful Vietnamese wife (a rare couple combo in SE Asia–NOT). I mentioned that I always saw her in the dining area, sitting alone, looking sad. My white male friend/traveling companion said, “Oh, I just thought she was cute.”

Please believe me when I say that I don’t think any of these guys are evil or bad people. I’m not attacking people here . . . I’m attacking the -ism–Fetishism. There are so many subliminal messages in society that can affect us in ways that we don’t know, to varying degrees.

Fetishism. Fuck fetishism. As Anida and Emily from 2Tongues said, “Stop masturbating in your own glory. Stop masturbating in my culture.”


Asian guys aren’t attractive. They’re also mostly quiet, boring, and short. So, its not so much that asian women are the trendy arm-candy (tho its true!) as much as it is simple Darwinian laws applied to the social scene. . . . Not to hide behind my wife, but my words were actually hers, and she (Korean) dated asian through college, but then stopped. Nothing against them personally, but she said it felt like she was dating her brother. She told me a lot of asian women actually feel the same way, and this is leading to what she describes as the social evolution of the dating and marriage scene in America, and thus the interracial imbalance.
–“Rolf,” commenting on
Twice the Rice

A lot has been said about the ignorance and idiocy of Rolf, so I’m not going to address that here. What I am going to address is what saddens me even more–the fact that the views expressed by his wife have been voiced to me by other APA women and men. How have we become invisible to each other? To paraphrase Ralph Ellison, we “not-see ourselves, as others see-us-not.”

I’m not saying that everything needs to match; I’m not saying that Asians must date other Asians, white with white, etc. And I’m not saying that every Asian woman with a white man feels the aforementioned revulsion for Asian men. But what strikes me is that there are people who feel this way.

Last year, I met a fellow Korean adoptee, who proudly told me that he wanted to eventually become a professor of African-American studies. I had no problem with this proclamation–props to him for that. What bothered me was his reasoning: “‘Cause you know, Asian-American studies is just boring. It’s like, Chinese workers on the railroad–‘Who cares?'” To him, the history of the APA community simply was not as “sexy.” Well, there you go–mainstream America’s perspective on APA history in a nutshell.

So what did I find encouraging from the thread at Twice the Rice? The fact that there are witty, articulate, smart APAs to put ignorance in its place. It gives me hope that there will be less self-hate voiced within the Asian-American community. That we can see each other. Instead of not-seeing ourselves, as others see-us-not.


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I miss seeing kids!!

Kindy May Field Trip
Originally uploaded by sarahhyunah.

Being in grad school, I tend to forget that people outside the 21-30 age bracket exist in the world. This was taken last spring when we took the JEL kindergarten students to a local park in Sanbon. These are kids from Rose class, the angelic class. And also the boring class, in my opinion. Although Lily class could be infuriating (still chewing on everything in sight–notebooks, erasers, me, you name it), they had way more personality. I know there are other JEL-ers out there who will disagree with me. But how can you not love Duke (Lily class outsize personality, see below)?

Kindy May Field Trip


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I guess it’s pretty accurate, although I wouldn’t describe myself as difficult to get to know or having a quiet nature . . . .

You Are a Seeker Soul

You Are a Seeker Soul
You are on a quest for knowledge and life challenges.You love to be curious and ask a ton of questions.Since you know so much, you make for an interesting conversationalist.Mentally alert, you can outwit almost anyone (and have fun doing it!).
Very introspective, you can be silently critical of others.And your quiet nature makes it difficult for people to get to know you.You see yourself as a philosopher, and you take everything philosophically.Your main talent is expressing and communicating ideas.
Souls you are most compatible with: Hunter Soul and Visionary Soul


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Truly horrifying

My parents have been to this establishment. The article made me laugh, but it also makes me fear for my future.


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