Saturday, June 26, 2010

Joining the Kimchi Mamas

Hello!  I've been reading the Kimchi Mamas blog for over a year now, and submitted a guest post last year about My first Christmas Memory.  I was delighted to be invited to join as a regular contributor.  Below is an excerpt from my introduction to this new audience. If you would like to read the complete post, click here.

I never heard the term "banana" or "twinkie" until I was in college, but instantly related to the term.  Having been raised by white parents in 99% white communities, it was a real project for me to learn what it meant to be Korean.  I was fortunate to have met a good Korean friend in college, and then spend a year at Yonsei Hanguk Uh-Hakdang, learning to speak, read, and write Korean.  By the end of the year, I was able to defend myself from taxicab drivers who criticized my lack of fluency in the mother tongue.  Phew!

Growing up in an all white community, facing the inevitable ching-chang-chong and slanted eye harassment of classmates and strangers, I always shrugged off the question, "Do you speak Chinese?", asked by stupid white people who didn't know the difference between the many Asian groups.

I was greatly chagrined, after moving to California, to find that Koreans are always surprised when I try out my limited Korean vocabulary with them.  Also, waiters in Chinese restaurants invariably hand me the Chinese menu, while giving my husband the English one.  When I ask for the English menu too, they look at me in surprise, and say the same thing all the Koreans do, "Sorry!  I thought you were Chinese?"  After all these years of denigrating East Coast and Midwest racists, I have learned that apparently, I really do "look Chinese."  Sigh.


  1. Adopted (male) Korean as well who always gets mistaken for Chinese or Japanese. I had my Korean friends from church "it's my eyes, I don't have Korean-eyes." I married a Korean girl (from SoCal, so I'm sure you've met someone she knows by now) and we have a 1-month old. Everyone says she looks like me (poor girl) but I'm hoping she got her Umma's eyes:)

  2. How nice that you reconnected to Korea that way.


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