Sunday, November 25, 2012

Date at the Asian Table

Otherwise known as, the night Adam made a Filipino friend. Our friend and her daughter offered to babysit Willow on Saturday evening so that Adam and I could go out baby-free. We decided to try a new restaurant. We weren't sure what kind of food would be served, only that it was decorated with bird cages. Most of the dishes in the menu looked very unfamiliar. The atmosphere felt tropical. And the entertainment was unusual. They had a band of dancers that literally accosted restaurant-goers with songs and dances. They made shy people get up and cha-cha. They made others belt out songs in their native language (they sang pop songs in at least three languages). They sang Happy Birthday to the tune of "Baby, Baby" by Justin Beiber (e.g. "Happy, Happy, Birthday, Oh! Happy, Happy, Birthday Oh!")

The food ended up tasting great. Although it was very spicy, it was not a spice we were accustomed to. I think it must have been Filipino cuisine.

Here is a beef dish, sauteed with peppers, onions, and mangoes. We had fresh mango juice as well! Willow would have loved the mangoes. The spicy green beans were so hot!

This other dish was also spicy. The little sesame seed pitas were a good match for the spicy greens and beef.  We also ordered a yummy fried rice dish and a spicy beef and cabbage stir fry. My mouth was definitely burning!

Ok. So here are Adam's special friends. We first noticed them when we arrived at the restaurant. They were very friendly and seemed to speak English fluently. They were definitely not Chinese---they were not as formal as Chinese people, and EXTREMELY friendly. From across the room, the guy on Adam's right puckered-up and sent us some invisible kisses. This started a debate among Adam and myself. To whom were these kisses directed? We both thought it was pretty funny. We hoped fervently that they wouldn't come to our table and make us sing Lady Gaga or dance the cha-cha. Haha.

When we left, the whole band came up to us and we had a conversation for a few minutes. The ladies talked to me, initially. But when I turned around, I saw the guy (on Adam's right) with his arms around Adam saying, "I want him". Adam was like, "Whoa. You have to ask my wife". The Filipino guy looked at me, and asked, "Can I take him home? I want a hug" 

I was laughing. I guess the kissie-lips had been meant for Adam. I said that I would take a picture of them instead. The other guy (on the left) quickly joined the photo op. The women chimed in, "Tweeter! Tweeter!" Which I think meant, "Put the picture on twitter" 

Afterwards, I saw these desserts at a coffee shop.
Green tea cake and pork flavored bread.

November Cell Phone

So, my pink cell phone has a camera. Although it doesn't take great pictures, it is readily available. If I remember to, I like taking pictures of things that happen here or there. 
The pictures above are of my no-bake pumpkin cream cheese cake. So delicious! It's like a creamy pumpkin pie and I could seriously eat the entire thing by myself. 

We received a few boxes for Adam's birthday. He was in Chengdu at the time that they arrived. But, Willow already knows that these boxes contain lots of candy. You can see the boxes behind her...and you can sort of tell that she's throwing a tantrum. 

Whenever we go to IKEA, Willow always climbs up on this display chair. This chair isn't by the other displays, it's in the warehouse portion of the store--where all the boxed furniture is kept. I say 'always', because this happens every time we go to IKEA.

Oh yes. They were serving samples of Vodka to anyone who wanted some at IKEA. What the heck?

The first 'significant' snowfall of the season. It stuck around for quite a bit. It was definitely fun to wake up to a winter wonderland.

Willow was invited to a friend's 5th birthday party. Look at that beautiful candy land cake that his mom made! Willow enjoyed the cake, the oranges, the cookies, and her first sucker.

Saturday, November 24, 2012


It's True
by Sara Groves 

In your heart you know it's true
though you hold no expectation
in the deepest part of you
there's an open hesitation

but it's true
kingdoms and crowns
a God who came down to find you
it's true
Angels on high
sing through the night alleluia 

heard it told you think it's odd
the whole thing fraught with complication
the play begins with baby God
and all His blessed implications

but it's true
kingdoms and crowns
a God who came down to find you
it's true
Angels on high
sing through the night alleluia

alleluia, alleluia

Oh it's true
kingdoms and crowns
a God who came down to find you
it's true
Angels on high
sing through the night alleluia 

This is probably my favorite "Christmas" song. I love Sara Grove's music, but this song especially reminds me of the wonder of Christ's birth. 

How odd it is that God would become man. How illogical that He would appear the way He did: born of a virgin, delivered in a stable, fugitive from the law, heralded by angels, worshiped by shepherds. How especially strange that He would become such a humble lowly man. How unbelievable that He would die for all sins, and offer His sacrifice to anyone who believe. This eternal gift, is free. It is not given to those who deserve it. It does not require a reimbursement. It cannot be earned or merited. 

As we decorate our homes, purchase gifts, and participate in Christmas time festivities---let the 'traditions' of the season remind us of who Jesus was. Why did He come? What did He do for us? 

As we anticipate the traditions of Christmas, let us learn to anticipate Jesus. He came once before, and He is coming again. Let us anticipate His coming like a child anticipates Christmas morning. 

And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them,Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.

Thursday, November 22, 2012


A Thankful Heart 
Madame Blueberry 
Veggie Tales 

I thank God for this day, for the sun in the sky,
For my mom and my dad, for my piece of apple pie! 
For our home on the ground, For his love that's all around,
That's why I say thanks everyday!

Because a thankful heart is a happy heart!
I'm glad for what i have, that's an easy way to start! 
For the love that He shares, cuz he listens to my prayers,
That's why I say thanks everyday! 

Wednesday, November 21, 2012


Bi-racial = 'belonging to two races' 

My parents and I at the Botanic Gardens, way back in the 80's. Sporting red sweaters. Dad, cool camera. That's some vintage for you---check out the strollers and eye wear. 
It was so surprising, that an entry which sprang out of nowhere received so much response. Thank you for the emails, comments, and messages. I hope that it was as cathartic for others as it was for me.
If you missed it, you can read about it here

Well, there were a few things that I forgot to mention. 

#1: Whenever an official form requests that you designate your ethnicity, I always have to fill in the blank provided by the option of "Other". Either that, or check of "Caucasian" and "Asian". Usually, there isn't a box for Korean anyway. Although there's often Chinese, Japanese, Pacific Islander, and the like. The "Other" box is like a slap in the face. I would like to have my own box, thank you very much. I do not want to be some left over sub-category that can't be defined because it just 'isn't done'. It just doesn't seem right that Caucasians that are a mix of many ethnic backgrounds (spread across Europe or whatnot) get their own box. If I were half Irish and half Norwegian, I could fill that box in. Okay, being a little dramatic because the little background checks annoy me. Deal with it. 

#2: I have such a great heritage! I might not be able to work at Williamsburg as a re-enactor (there just weren't any Korean or half-Koreans running around Colonial America), but I have some pretty neat stories in my own history. I'd probably ruin the stories if I tried to record them. But I'll still include a bit. 


My paternal grandparents were born, raised, and educated in Korea. Then there was a terrible war that devastated the peninsula. My grandmother was a refugee, and my grandfather fought as a soldier for the entire war. For a time, he was with the Communists, but escaped before it was too late. He fought with the South Koreans, wielding a flame thrower. It's a miracle that he even survived. He never talks about it, so we know very little about the horrors that must follow him still. I'm not sure how my grandparents met. That's something they don't talk about as well. In any case, they had three kids (my dad being the youngest). When my dad was very young, my grandfather traveled to America. He stayed 'illegally'. He worked many jobs and started at the very lowest of existences. He worked so hard--harder than I've ever worked--and saved as much as possible. He paid for his wife and children to join him in America one at a time. Every time someone left the country, the extended family would join the departing people at the airport for a goodbye picture. We have a few of those now, and it's sad. It's the kind of picture that says, "I might never see you again. Good luck." They're dressed up; in their nice clothes to meet America. 

My grandparents worked like slaves. They worked in factories and shops, and eventually became land owners. They started in apartments, but eventually were home owners. They fought in court to stay in the US legally. They put their kids through the Chicago public school system. They worked and worked, and became dry cleaners, gas station owners, and landlords. Koreans can work hard. And that's what they did. My dad's first job was in a restaurant. He was a little kid--working illegally, as it were. 

My dad's parents: handsome Young Hee, and pretty Ji Soon, with my chubby father. Dad, your face has not changed in nearly 50 years. 
They assimilated as much as possible. My grandfather insisted on only purchasing American made cars. They learned English as best they could. But they have never been able to give up their food. They still eat a Korean menu every day. It is their last connection to 'home'---felt directly through the taste buds. It warms their bellies and comforts their minds. 
Photo Credit: Justin Oakman (my cousin's husband!)
Kimbop made at my grandmother's house 
My dad, as the second son and youngest child was given the opportunity to attend college. Much like primogeniture of old, the eldest son is expected to take over the family matters. My dad could pursue what he was interested in. The joining of creativity and mathematics is called architecture, and that's what my dad studied. Dad, I wish you would write about your experiences so that future generations can know what you went through. From my understanding, he wasn't a Christian, had had a difficult childhood and adolescence which lead to conversion while in college. He started attending a Baptist church, where he met my mom. 

My mom was in Chicago to continue her education. She wasn't looking for a husband, and was focused on her career. She stumbled upon a piece of scratch paper, literally blowing in the wind, that advertised the same Baptist church my dad was going to. They had mutual friends, and eventually my dad worked up the courage to as my mom out. She told him to ask the pastor for permission. lol. Eventually, my dad tricked her on a date. It wasn't too long before they were married. My dad was still finishing up school, and my mom was working to right social injustices. I guess it makes sense that she married an immigrant who had had a rough life. She made my dad become a citizen so that he could get a credit card. Today, my dad has many credit cards. haha. 

Ok, mom and dad. I slaughtered your story. And now it's on the web. Sorry.
I will say this, my birth certificate is cool. My father's birth place isn't some boring county in the US. It's South Korea. 
My mom graduated with her Master's in Social Work from the U of I.
My parents are looking particularly young in this picture. 
My grandparents were horrified.
How could their pure Korean son marry a white girl?
It was unheard of. Shameful. Infuriating.
The culture that they had worked so hard to maintain......
So, they said that they wouldn't attend the wedding.
Especially when they heard the best man was African American.
Well, it's a good thing my Aunt knows how to wield the best weapon against her culture. It's fatal indeed! Shame and potential guilt can push a Korean into any situation, whether they are willing or not. My parent's wedding went from having no Korean presence/involvement, to having many Korean guests, Korean garments, Korean traditional wedding ceremonies, Korean food, and even gifts of money....
I know it was hard for my mom at first. Becoming part of any family is difficult, but add the culture differences, and the effort required to make the relationships work is multiplied.
My mom, with her new Korean family 
The birth of me
I liked growing up with two cultures. It didn't seem weird to me at all. I understood that it was different, but with the faith of a child, I accepted it unconditionally. I used to think to myself, "I'm not bi-racial, I'm bi-cultural". I liked that both felt natural and both felt good. Not many people get to feel at home in two different cultures. Usually you belong to one, and are a foreigner in all others. What a privilege! 

As you can plainly see, traditional garments are extremely itchy. Especially when you have strict loyalties to 100% cotton textiles at such a young age. 
My mom, brother, and myself visiting with my great grandfather, who was German.
We knew him as, "Great Uncle Bauler". Obviously, we were confused. 

My brother and me--this was the year we learned to drive ATV's. Shhh.....don't tell the authorities. It was the 90's!
My Norwegian grandmother visiting us at my Korean grandparents' property in Wisconsin

My siblings and I:
1/2 Korean, 3/8 Norwegian, and 1/8 German

My brothers and dad at my grandfather's property in Wisconsin----oh, yes, my Grandfather is standing there too. 

Now I have my own little family. I wonder what Willow will think about her life. About my life. About her grandparents and great grandparents. I wonder what she will tell her children, and their children. I wonder if they'll be able to read this blog, or if the internet will be outdated at that point. 

She's a Third Culture Kid. She's American, but might identify more with how things are done in China. America will seem foreign to her. She is not Chinese. But she is. She is not American. But she is. She is not Korean. But she is. How confusing for a child!

I wonder how being a TCK has affected her life already. 

Eating Korean Barbecue in China with my bi-racial sister and my Third Culture Kid. 
Willow has been to the Great Wall of China twice in her short life.
Her experiences are so unique. 

The hardest thing about being in China is the family that we are so far from. They are part of our past, and undoubtedly part of our future. Thank goodness for the internet, which keeps us together in the present. 
Christmas 2011 in Momence, with Adam's family. Nearly opposite of my mom's experience.
Full assimilation = Packers attire. Thanks for the shirts! Haha! 
Christmas 2011 in Lake Villa.
I have cousins that are completely Korean. Others that are bi-racial, like myself. And still more that are various combinations of Caucasian. Kind of cool, huh. My mom's family will be getting together for Thanksgiving this week--I haven't been in 4 years! Not since this picture was taken. 

All the Bauler-Deer-Kang cousins in 2008 

It just occurred to me, if Willow marries someone that is 1/4 Korean, their kids will also be 1/4 Korean. 

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

On Being Bi-Racial

Looking at these pictures makes me miss warm weather. It wasn't too long ago--but now we already have had snow. These are the only pictures I've seen from that photo shoot so far--I hope the others show a more happy Willow. She looks pretty concerned in some of the pictures. 

One correction regarding my first post about Willow's little modeling adventure (which you can find here). I mentioned that bi-racial is termed as 'half-blood' in Mandarin (which makes me think of the half blood prince in Harry Potter). I've since learned that I was wrong and wanted to amend the error. The term is actually translated as 'mixed-blood'

I'm not sure how mixed blood, bi-racial, or half-blood rank in the hierarchy of political correctness. When I think about it, they all carry potential degrees of inherent offense--at least to me. Why I find them all offensive is that  Growing up as a mixed child, I quickly came to the belief that it doesn't matter if your parents look alike or not. Their outward appearance has nothing to do with their inward compatibility. 

I dislike thinking about the issue in terms of blood. Why are people convinced that those with different ethnic backgrounds have such 'different' blood? I mean, on the genetic level, of course there are minute differences. But really, we're all people, and the thought pattern that our blood is different based on culture or region has always seemed wrong to me. It's not like my dad was an apple and my mom was an orange. They're both apples. 

In America, people accepted my bi-racial background for the most part. In America, I'm an "American". I did not experience out right discrimination, and was blessed to have many bi-racial friends. To me, be an American is to be bi-racial. Or something like that's common to see different cultures joining in marriage and starting families. I think it's part of God's desire for the world too. To love others, not just those who look like you. 

In China, things are a little different for me. 

To our Korean students and friends here, I am note a pure breed. For the most part, I know they accept me, but it's hard not to feel judged. Because I know they do it. They have a scale by which they measure all Koreans: "How Korean Are You?" It's part of the culture--they've had to survive invasion after invasion; and maintaining their definition of true-Korean is the reason they have been able to keep their national identity so strong....and pure.....I don't blame them. 

To Chinese--I'm a novelty. Especially because my mom is white. Although, I was doing some fact checking, and apparently Korean men more often marry Caucasian women, compared to Caucasian men marrying Korean women. Still....they find it unusual here. They are also really appreciative towards mixed blood children. They think they are beautiful and intelligent--all because the blood is ethnically diverse.  

 Being bi-racial means that you will never completely fit in with any one people group, except other bi-racial individuals. You are neither this nor that. You are somewhere in between. 

Sometimes, I'm like, 'what the heck, everyone is mixed.' Most people I know don't even realize their complete heritage--but if they do it's like, "i'm 1/16 this, and 1/8 this, and I have lots of English, Irish, French, German in me too". And I've heard lots of, "Oh, I'm a mutt". 

It's crazy to think that until 1967, it was still illegal for Asians to marry Caucasians in many, many US states. 

It didn't take long to get tired of the frequent question. If my life were a website, I would definitely include a FAQ about my ethnic background. That would be so much nicer than having to reiterate the same answers over and over again. 

Many of my earliest memories involve conversations about my race. When I moved to China, I thought, "good, now the questions will end". I can blend in with other Asians and actually fit in for once." Sorry! Wrong again. The questions have only intensified. I have to talk about my heritage everyday in China.  After living in an area that was mostly-Caucasian demographically, I thought the reason people asked all the time was because I didn't look Caucasian. After living in Asia for 4 years, I've learned that I don't look Asian either.  

American [polite] Version of Ethnic Background Check
"If you don't mind me asking, what are you?" 
"Excuse me?"
"Where are your parents from?" 
"No, I mean, really where are they from?"
"My mom is from Minnesota and my dad grew up in Chicago"
"No, I mean, you look so interesting, what is your culture?" 
"Um....probably would call it mid-western American"
"Ok, I"m not trying to be rude, but I'm just curious. What is your ethnic heritage?" 
"Oh...that...I'm half-Norwegian, basically".
"No, I'm talking about the other half" 
"Oh, you mean the Korean half" 
"Korean! That makes sense. I would never have guessed that." 
"I know" 

 Chinese Version of Ethnic Background Check
[strange look, usually involved double or triple takes] "You are not Chinese" 
"Where are you from?"
"No....where are you from?" 
"My mom is American and my dad is Korean"
"Oh, your mom is American and your dad is Korean?! That is unusual" 
"I know" 

[by the way, this conversation happens all the time. It's one of the first things I asked my tutor to teach me how to communicate. With taxi drivers, water delivery guys, street sweepers....everyone asks]
I am proud of who I am. I'm proud of my parents too (just so you two don't feel like I'm mad at you) for being counter-cultural (especially within the Korean culture). But it is exhausting to constantly be reminded of it. I would like to live my life not obsessed with how my face is not fully Asian yet Korean at the same time. I want to think of myself in other terms. Not half-this-half-that combinations. To my siblings: do you feel the same way? I never asked you before.....

I've been asked every possible way. Some people are timid. Many are bold. Others are rude. But mostly people are just curious. My least favorite is when complete strangers (or those I have just met), come up to me and ask, "So, what are you?" I want to replay, "A person". Not a thing. Not a novelty. Not an abomination. There are definitely more polite ways to approach a person about their ethnic background.  Can you blame me for being exhausted of the same conversation?  I would never approach a complete stranger to ask them 'what' they are--but maybe that's because it's happens to me a lot. 

I do not feel like a white American. But I can't identify completely with Koreans or Chinese because of culture, language, and even prejudice. I neither look Caucasian nor enjoy tofu. It has only served to remind me that I was not made for this world. We were not created to find superficial fulfillment in fitting in. We were meant for something far greater; a home where acceptance is unconditional and not based on human notions of blood or the alleged 'mixing' of it. Right now, I'm a half-Korean, living in China, and am not fully plugged in with America...... 

It can be confusing---but I like it that way. 

It helps me to remember that although I've yet to arrive, heaven is my true home. 

Ok, this half-baked post has not gone the direction that I wanted to go. I had planned on talking about the weather. I know. So exciting.

Obviously, there's no scientific research here. 

I'm just spewing out a lifetime of opinions. 

Sometimes I wonder how Willow will be different from me. She has a different story. She's a lot of European and a little Korean. But she doesn't look European. And she doesn't look Korean. People already ask the questions about her. Instead of just explaining about Adam and I, people also want to know about her grandparents. She will have a lot more questions to answer in the future. 

 Willow's China Version
"That girl is cute. Is she your daughter?" 
"Really?! She doesn't look like you. What nationality is her father?"
"An American"
"And what are you?"
"No you aren't" 
"Yes, I'm American. But my dad is Korean"
"Oh....Korean! So, she is 1/4 Korean." 
"Yes, she's American"

It wont be long before she starts to realize what we're talking about. I'm sure she'll be tired of the topic by the time she's five years old. I know I was. I hope she learns a lot from her heritage and all her inspiring grandparents, great grandparents, and so forth. 

I hope she is not embittered or hindered because of it. 
I hope she learns to appreciate the questions, just as much as the answer---just as I am learning to.