새해 복 많이 받으세요: Happy New Year!

I thought the above was only used during 설날 (Sollal–Lunar New Year), but 김선생님 opened up the first day of class this quarter by writing it on the board, so I guess it’s appropriate now, too. I still remember trying to memorize this greeting in the car while J.P., J.N., and I were on our way to Mui Ne in Vietnam (so that I could tell 할머니 “Happy New Year!” in Korean once we were back in Seoul). Rolls off the tongue now . . . . er, not quite.

What happened to my blogging last fall? I could go into a laundry list of reasons and excuses, but none of them are compelling, so instead, think of this post as kind of a belated holiday card updating you on my last 1/3 of 2006. I think part of the reason I started avoiding my blog is that I started to worry about who my audience was. But now that I haven’t written a real post in, oh, three months (!), it’s probably safe to say that my readership has plummeted. Since I’m back, though, I hope the real comments start to outnumber the spam comments!


Let’s start where I left off: the conference in New York. Wow, that was in October. The conference was entitled: “Families Without Borders? Adoption Across Culture and Race.” I was probably one of five attendees who had a big blank spot on my nametag where “credentials” were supposed to go (not for long!! M.P.A. coming my way in a few months…..assuming I finish my degree project). There was a surprising number of adult adoptees there, although it felt like the audience was dominated by white social workers and Ph.D.s. Best parts of the conference: the workshop for adult adoptee researchers and professors that Harlow’s Monkey and KPN moderated; and Pauline Park’s presentation on LGBT issues in intercountry adoption. The latter was eye-opening for me since it covered a part of the adoptee community that I know little about. Plus, Ms. Park knows her shit. I hope she submitted a proposal for the Gathering (presenters for the research symposium component of the Gathering should be announced soon, I hope).

One of the other highlights of the weekend in New York was being allowed to tag along with Harlow’s Monkey when she met up with Carmen Van Kerckhove, the co-founder and president of New Demographic (she’s also responsible for the endlessly informative and entertaining Addicted to Race podcast, Racialicious blog, as well as too many things to list here). Meeting Carmen was really inspiring for me, because she’s been so entrepreneurial in her approach to tackling issues of racism, and she also seems to juggle an infinite amount of things (including regular blogging and graduate school, two things that I can’t seem to do simultaneously) with grace. Thanks for the chai lattes!

And of course, it was great spending time with HM and KPN (and J.E. who came all the way down from Boston). Nice to see A. Lee and J.N. again, too–a JEL mini-reunion of sorts. Great food during that trip–불고기, 소주, papaya hot dogs, NY-style pizza, real bagels & lox (I did not eat all of these at one sitting).

Hm, this is going to be a long update if I start recalling individual meals from the past three months.


I had another birthday in October, too.

Guess not much has changed, eh?




Also, just to clarify–I was Dorothy (tornado), not Alice (rabbit hole), for Halloween. Look at the shoes!!


Saw a great play (in November?)–Cowboy vs. Samurai by Michael Golamco. It was hilarious, particularly because the Asian adoptee was the “militant” Asian American.

Speaking of “militant” adoptees…….

I had a Bill-Clinton-blows-up-at-Chris-Wallace moment last fall when I went out to what I thought would be a non-eventful happy hour with a white classmate from my Korean class. All these months later, I can’t remember what the trigger point was, but I do remember literally yelling and pointing in the dude’s face (yes….pointing) while other people in the bar looked on, bewildered. I think it all started when he said something to the effect of, “You seem to have thought about international adoption a lot…….but the adoptees that I know, well, they’re just content with their lives.” Something like that. My face was already red from the beer, but it got even redder, and I think I said, “So are you insinuating that I’m not happy??”

It was downhill from there. We got into an argument over whether ignorance is the same thing as happiness, and somewhere along the way, he began to claim that he was a person of color because he’s 1/8 Mexican.

I’m still trying to figure out how to calmly and intelligently present my views on international adoption in a way that people can’t dismiss as being 1) angry, 2) too “passionate” (code for “angry”), 3) bitter (also code for “angry”), 4) ungrateful, 5) immature, and/or 6) pretentious. Sometimes I think provocative language is necessary, but how does one convey a strong message to a broad audience without turning people off? I think this is one of the biggest challenges facing “political” adoptees. Too often, we’re dismissed before people have the chance to listen to us, because they lump us into a stereotype of angry, bitter adoptees who hate America (and Korea??), our adoptive parents (and birth parents?), and the world in general. How can we sweeten the message without losing the passion and without selling out?

I’m open to suggestions.


I did keep my cool, however, when a white substitute teacher in Korean class instructed one of my classmates to “FOB-it-up” when reading aloud from the text. When she said it, the class tittered nervously and then went on. After class was over, I pulled her aside and told her that although I knew she didn’t mean to be derogatory……well, she shouldn’t have said “FOB.” (DUH.) Later on, she apologized to the class, although she justified herself by saying that, gosh, her Korean friends in L.A. use “FOB” all the time, and maybe it was a regional thing, and she didn’t know it was offensive, blahblahblah. Which just showed that she still didn’t “get it.” That “FOB” is one of those words that white people can’t use. That the power differential between teacher and student especially means that she shouldn’t be using derogatory terms casually in a classroom setting. (The majority of our class is made up of students with some sort of Asian heritage.)

Gah, but don’t even get me started on Asian Americans (especially adoptees) who proudly refer to themselves as “twinkies” and “bananas.” Look at this, people:

This is “Oreo Fun Barbie” from 1997. It was pulled after strong protests from the black community. “Oreo” is not a term of endearment that the black community proudly endorses. Why do Asian Americans continually embrace degrading images and terms for ourselves?? (I realize that the title of my blog obliquely refers to a dichotomy of inside/outside…..but the “… and back again” means that this dichotomy is fluid and therefore unreal. The dichotomy is bogus–we’re not that simple!)


Ok, I promise to get off my “militant Asian American” soapbox. Back to my “holiday card” update. I went to Chicago for the Korean adoptee mini-gathering in November. Small turnout, but we had a great leadership meeting. Chicago is becoming one of those cities that I’m forgetting the number of trips I’ve made there. So much is going into planning the big Gathering this summer…..

Finished up autumn quarter at school despite massive procrastination. All-nighters were pulled, which is kind of disgraceful for a grad student, I think. Spent an uneventful but relaxing time in Kansas City for Christmas (K. and S. are about to pop out babies!! omg!). New Year’s in Seattle. (Blue Scholars show was better than last year!)

This quarter, I’m happy to report that I’m finally taking some courses on topics that are near and dear to me. However, most of them are undergraduate courses……further proving to me that the UW cannot satisfy me fully in my graduate studies. It’s frustrating, but thus far I’m enjoying classes (I’d forgotten that double-spacing is appropriate and even encouraged in undergrad!!). Here’s what I’m taking:

  • 2nd-year, non-heritage Korean (apparently we’re equivalent to level 4 at 서강대학교)
  • Asian American Social Diasporan Interaction
  • Social Change in East Asia
  • Public Service Clinic: Community Development

Part of what was really stressing me out and causing me to go into major procrastination mode last quarter was the dilemma I faced with what to do for my program-ending degree project. The DP is sort of like a thesis, but not quite. The tagline for DPs is that they’re “applied research.” Theoretically, you can do your DP on anything you want, but the Evans School offers a unique opportunity through the Public Service Clinics in that students are matched with public or nonprofit agencies in a consultant-client relationship. Thus, you get to produce a document that the agency will actually use. It’s good, practical, professional experience, which is something I need, given that eventually I’m going to have to get a job that will actually pay me in $$ (instead of just the satisfaction of a job well done, ha~).

I will be developing indicators to measure the presence of arts and cultural vitality in the 37 suburban cities in King County. Sounds fancy, right? I like the fact that the Public Service Clinics are highly structured (which is something my procrastinating-ass needs), and I also like how our 10-person clinic functions as a seminar that offers peer support.

I still want to do a significant project on the Korean adoptee community, but I think I will try to do this through a 2nd master’s degree…… namely an MAIS (Master of Arts in International Studies) through the Jackson School at the UW. Luckily, I’m already enrolled in this program, so I don’t need to apply to anything. I’ve considered all kinds of other options (including MSW, moving to California, etc.), but right now, this seems to make the most sense. Doing the MAIS also gives me more time to fully develop a real research question related to Korean adoptees. The Jackson School requires a “thesis-ish” research seminar paper in order to graduate. If I keep going straight through, I would finally be finished with graduate school in 2009 (and I’ll be 30-yrs-old [auugggghhhh!] and just beginning my “career”). (However, I’m hoping that next year I can get a “real” job while going to school only part-time.) Of course, I might end up procrastinating on all of this, too. Notice a theme here?


I feel like I’m leaving stuff out. A-ha! Yes, I’m SO excited about my spring break plans!!!

Going to Amsterdam and Paris! (IKAA meetings in Paris, carousing and relaxing as well)

Tentative Travel Plans for 2007:

  • Europe: Amsterdam, Paris, ??? (March)
  • Las Vegas (April)
  • San Francisco (April)
  • Korea (July-August)
  • Hawaii (September)

Thank god for frequent flyer miles. And getting bumped from overbooked holiday flights (and the travel vouchers that ensue).


I’ve missed blogging. Here’s to getting back on track~



Filed under Updates

13 responses to “새해 복 많이 받으세요: Happy New Year!

  1. Eun-jung Kil

    I am so happy to see you back to blogging again (even though I just met you from the AKF Conference in Stockholm so I didn’t even know you had a blog!). But I think blogging is an awesome way for people to keep in touch and know what the other is getting into. I think I should start blogging again too. I used to, a long time ago. I wish I could go with you to Paris in the spring, but I have so much work to do. Work has been kicking my butt.

    Sarah, I think you’re an amazing person. I think that you have so much potential and so much strength and intelligence that it shines through you as soon as you meet someone. I am so happy that I met you and I hope that we can remain friends for a long time. 🙂

  2. Jae Ran

    It was a long break, but your follow up was worth it, busy lady! How you manage grad school (those classes look intense) and all your other committees and committments is beyond me. Whew! Good luck with the last few months left and WooHoo! You’ll be graduating soon!!!!!!!

    Plus, we’ll get to see each other in Korea this summer . . . can’t wait!

  3. Lee in Busan

    Interesting reading…

    That’s a pretty exciting travel plan you’ve got lined up for this year. Good luck with your studies.

  4. gar

    WB. Quite a large update.

    “Asian American Social Diasporan Interaction” eh? Sounds pretty interesting…

  5. Beth

    Any specific reason for the SF trip? Let me know when you’ll be in town! Also, my trip to Seattle is on hold until I don’t know when… I’ll make it there eventually though.

  6. Nice to see you back in action. 🙂 I hope I can swing the trip to SF as well. A bit more time will tell.

    I didn’t know until recently that “새해 복 많이 받으새요” was something that’s said on solar New Year, too, not just lunar. I also noticed Korean Koreans and KAs talking about eating 떡국 on New Year’s Day, which I was thinking was just for lunar, not solar. Always learning new things, huh?

    Who thought you were Alice? That’s funny. I got the Dorothy from Kansas thing right away. 🙂

    I think we talked about the “twinkie” and “banana” thing before. That rubs me the wrong way, too, although I haven’t ever taken the time to really break it down too much. Hmm. Maybe a blog post is in order.

    Looking forward to your next blog update, soon! Right? 😉

  7. Whoa that was a mouthful! Or a blog full. Or…yeah im gonna stop with the “punny” comments…hehe

    i’m glad youre back in the blogging world, we all missed ya!

    i dunno about that one dude you got in a fight with about intl adoption–i had a similar experience, where dumb white guy said “for all your complaining, arent you glad that you didn’t end up in an orphanage?” and i looked him dead in the eye and said calmly…”you no longer get to have an opinion on the subject”. im THAT pissed about stupid people like that! goddamn! And:

    “he began to claim that he was a person of color because he’s 1/8 Mexican”

    yeah, that’s the same as being a minority. gimme a f*cking break…

  8. Oh snap, guess who’s back?

    White dude uses the word “FOB” in front of me, he gon get smacked. (Hooray for productive dialogue.) Ps, nice frikkin’ travel plans for the year. Yeesh!

    Missed ya, Sarahkim

  9. Welcome, back! Though my blog has been short on anything in depth, so this post motivated me to get back on the blog bandwagon. Sometime. Soon. I think.

    This is going to be a fantastic year. I’m sure it will go fast for you with all of your traveling adventures that await you! (Totally jealous by the way!)

    But one thing’s for sure: I WILL SEE YOU IN SEOUL.

  10. P.S. The photos of you then and now are great!

  11. Hey Sarah, I’m so glad I was able to meet you when you were in town! 🙂 I had so much fun dishing with you and Jae Ran. Let me know if/when you come through again!

  12. Hi Sarah,

    Nice to read you again. I’ve enjoyed reading here. Cool pictures of the cake and you.

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