I’ve been accused of being “obsessed with race.” Some people shun topics that make them feel uncomfortable or uninformed. Some ask very open questions about topics like race and identity, and real life in general. Believe it or not I don’t think about race all the time, because I’m just being me all day and “me” has no real race.
You’re born a certain race, but your identity is in your hands.
My family is more culturally diverse now than it was three years ago, as I write from my home in Belgium.
I hope for Noah, just shy of being a year-and-a-half, to always retain each part of his strong heritage.
I speak only in English every day during the day with Noah. Davy speaks only Dutch to Noah. Davy and I speak both English and Dutch to each other, as do most of his family when I’m around them.
With my mother, on Skype. I speak only Korean because it’s a special time Noah connects with my mother and family in America. Korean is most comfortable for my family still, after all these years living in New York. Noah seems comfortable with Korean too, as he responds to my mother’s requests for him to clap his hands or blow her a kiss, and understands all her words of praise. Noah understands three languages and he’ll use select words in English and Korean, but he speaks mostly Dutch words.
Language and nuances aside, there are adjustments I’ve made as an American expat living in Belgium. Religion or gay rights is not a “big” thing here in Belgium like it is in the states, or in Korea. Gay people have the same exact rights as straight people in Belgium. This isn’t the case in America, and in Korea being gay is ‘legal” but rights are not equal. I grew up in the church and taught Sunday School, and if Noah’s interested I hope to pass on some parables and songs of praise. I haven’t been religious in a very long time, but I’m open to teaching Noah a little bit of everything about everything…religious or gay or not.
Also, generally speaking, Belgians dine on one hot meal per day and two cold ones, as opposed to Americans who tend to love hot meals. I think Belgian diets are healthier on average, than an average American’s diet. Koreans eat the most rice by far, of the three countries, and I’m happy to be Korean.
I love rice so Noah loves rice, as does my husband Davy. Noah eats a little bit of everything because he loves his food. In addition to a Korean and Belgian and American palate I wish for him a life even fuller than mine and good food all the way.
When my mother was here, we celebrated Noah’s First Birthday in Korean Dol fashion
In my spare time I write down stories I was told by elders in my family, and details of events I remember from growing up in our highly functional dysfunctional Korean family. Having been born in Korea I’m only recently piecing together many pieces of my family’s simultaneously moving parts, while living apart in two separate countries in the 1970s.
I had my first real Christmas the year I joined my parents in New York.
I learned to love America quickly, and I loved speaking English. As I got older my “American-ness” had to be squashed at times convenient for my parents, and their Korean rules. I was expected to uphold old Korean traditions and tediously repeat Korean vocabulary exercises. I didn’t want to learn Korean then, but I’m thankful now that my parents made me attend every Sunday for two hours Korean language instruction.
I grew up well-traveled but over-sheltered in a Korean household. I wish to give my Noah room as he grows and develops his personality, and his own wings. I believe he’ll need space as he envelops traits from three very real and present life cultures. I never want him to feel squashed.
Noah has roots in Belgium and Korea, and family in America. As much as my life is Korean and American and Belgian…Noah’s life is too and more than my husband Davy’s. I wrote a little bit about my identity growing up, and now as a Korean-American adult leaving her 30s soon, I’ve adopted Belgian culture into my life.
Belgium is home, and I’m not going anywhere anytime soon.