Jun Dishes

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Confronting

Wishlist

Mama, that boy has girls’ shoes on.”

“No dear, that is a girl.”

“But she has no hair, like a boy.”

“Because she is also sick like you and she lost her hair. And you will lose yours too, like her one day, because that’s what will happen.”

“But Mama, I don’t want to lose all my hair.”

~

How is a mother to respond to such a plea?

And what of the angst, when this child pleas with her mother and father that she doesn’t want to feel the cold and relentless prick of a needle in her arm? That pain and discomfort, all too familiar now, as she endures such steps in this many years’ journey that has just begun. This little girl, so charming and so smart, as smart as a slap to the face of reality that so many lives have changed overnight. Because, that’s what really happens when cancer hits close to home. Maybe you have cancer now, or your spouse or child, or you had it or know someone who did, however close or far the relationship. Maybe I’m just late to writing about cancer, but as much of a challenge it is, it brings together people who truly care about people. People.

We lose people in the news headlines every day it seems, that it’s an everyday occurrence that social media is filled with loss every day. And then the countless lives lost that don’t even make it to the ugly pretty news. Lives that are never even mentioned but are lost all the same.

And somehow you forget or maybe overlook the little victories, about people who live and survive, like a beautiful little girl who is taking well to the chemotherapy and eating and enjoying all the things children are supposed to enjoy. She may look different on the outside but she is the same spritely and joyous soul in a little body. Davy and I got to spend some time last week with Noah’s friend, Farah. She is just short of two months into treatment for leukemia. I’ve written about her before, and her parents Houda and Daan and baby sister Lynah.

Last week was emotional but we had fun that night with Farah in our presence. It was so very special. We did not bring Noah with us. One day when it’s possible we will.

But Davy and I saw Farah and she was as sweet and girly as ever, her eyes twinkled as always. She was her coy self and talkative in spurts, when I sat with her. We had blankets beneath us. We laughed, trying to get a video up on the iPad, because she wanted to show me something in English because she knows it is a language I speak.

Farah’s spirit sparkles and she is still everything good and right with the world, though her little body has been through many changes from head to toe already. And I wished I could take away as many daily dilemnas and pains as I could for Farah, as a mother and as a friend to Houda.

I say Houda is one strong woman. No matter how weak Houda may think she’s being at times. But she should never think herself weak. Houda keeps it together and she lets go when she has to. There is no shame in that. You must cry and lose your shit, in life, because it keeps you balanced and human and honest. But it takes a strong person to keep that balance. And I think Houda is really cool. That’s a rarity these days, sadly. But it makes you cherish it when you find it.

Since we last saw Farah, Houda and Daan have had to make the tough decision to cut her hair very short, because she started losing it at an alarming rate.

~

Since we were all last together, there has been one word that’s been stuck in my head because Houda kept using it in conversation. Confronting.

Confronting, as it relates to seeing your child go through drastic and sometimes overnight changes, and to be able to handle that kind of change. How you handle it truly shows what you are made of as an adult, as a parent.

Confronting. It’s actually the perfect word, and maybe often not used enough. Because sometimes shocking isn’t the right word but we use it, because I feel like I can’t use confronting because what I feel is not the same as Houda’s. But we are both mothers so I know well where Houda is. And she’s so honest about it it’s something to truly respect.

It must be indeed confronting. And maybe lonely. Because how many parents do you know in your immediate and one degree of separation’s away radius, whose child was just diagnosed with cancer?

Confronting. Even though you may tell your child, during chemotherapy, that this will inevitably happen. Maybe that conversation happened just a week ago, and it’s a most difficult reality to swallow for everyone. But I truly appreciate Houda entrusting me with her family. I try to balance what is customary here with who I am as a person.

Since then I’ve been wearing half my clothes inside-out some days, because so much has happened while my brain is trying to catch up with it all. Davy has since the last blog basically changed “bosses” at the Port of Ghent, where he’s a heavy machinery dockworker. So there’s a whole new hierarchy of authority for me to get to know, as “a docker’s wife.”

And Noah, he deserves all the love and attention he gets from those who love him, as he should.

The Little Shop

Noah takes very seriously his “little shop” where he parks his stroller outside and tends to business selling me croissants and cakes. He grows by leaps and bounds faster than my iPhone can capture, but I try. He is unabashedly wiser than his years but frolicking his childhood away. We have much to be thankful for every day, but especially cognizant of Thanksgiving coming up…

Memory

Noah also takes seriously indulging my mother in New York, when we all Skype after school. Lately we’ve been playing some of Noah’s simplest games and it gets pretty intense and very funny watching the whole thing unfold. There’s lots of love  not to be taken for granted at this pace of life we all fall into place in. We hope to, in the future, Skype with Farah, as both she and Noah both have already agreed happily to a date.

And…

Wishlist

This

This is a photo of love and support sent from many parts of the world to be donated to the children’s cancer ward of UZ Gent, the hospital where Farah is currently receiving her care and treatment. Cancer has far too many faces.

At first Davy and I were piling boxes into the dining room but then the boxes transformed into just outpouring of love. Even the always cynical Davy was touched by the immediate response from so many of you. It’s right there in our personal space, it can’t be missed.

Thank you to everyone who has given their words of wisdom and love and support, and those who were able to give through the Farah’s World wishlist and fund. Your cash donations will be matched and the wishlist fulfilled. I had no idea what to expect, and the boxes of love keep coming.

It’s not really done here. Fundraising and donations, mostly because civil and social functions in Belgium are well-funded. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t a need, even at basic humanitarian levels just to bring smiles to children’s faces. I struggle with riding the line between who I am and stopping myself because “it’s not really done here.” Because I don’t want to change too much while adjusting to life here. Since starting the wishlist of animal blankets, I have talked to parents and grandparents and friends and fans who have all been touched, in some way.

Thank you. For whatever your reason for being kind today, it has made a difference in someone’s day. That’s a good thing, still, that nobody can take away.

Always dishing,

Jun

 

 

Here I Come, From The United States

HomeFrontHall

Recorded in / Translated from Dutch: Libelle Magazine

(Nr. 45/3645 – November 5, 2015

Reporter: Karolien Joniaux. Photos: Ann De Wulf.)

~

Here I come from – The United States

pp 78-79

Libelle

 

Jun (40) swapped out the bustle of the big city for the peace and warmth of Flemish village life.

Jun lived from thrill to thrill. She had a rough time at first, with the slow pace here. Then she realized how much pleasure was to be had with a life like this.

Who is Jun Song?

JunLibelle

Jun Song was born in 1975 in South Korea, but starting at the age of four, grew up in New York where her parents owned a fruit and vegetable store. In her 20s, she climbed the ladder in the banking sector on Wall Street and even acquired some national fame being on Big Brother – eventually winning. Five years ago she met Flemish Davy, and it turned her world upside down as she traded in her busy single life in a cosmopolitan city for a rural storybook life in Evergem. Three years ago, their son Noah was born.

She has 25,000 followers on Twitter – a result of her time on Big Brother which gave her a glimpse of the American celebrity life. And yet lives Jun (pronounced ‘June’) in all peace and anonymity now. In our country. “What’s great about Belgium is that no one can cares that I was on some tv program. And so it should be. My time Big Brother encompasses but three months in my entire life. It is but one experience in so many.”

How did your ‘ordinary’ life in America look like?

“As a child I was given a strict Korean upbringing. My father embraced life in the US with open arms, but my mother still held on to her homeland. At home I was raised in the Korean language and Christian religion, and Korean rules had a prominent place. In my adolescence, I tried to rebel against my Korean roots and tried to even turn my back on it. When I moved out of my parents’ home when I was nineteen, it was considered a disgrace to the family. You just don’t do that, especially as a girl. But for me it felt like a statement. I wanted my parents understand that I did not fall under just one flag. I did not want to be seen as just Korean or American, but as an independent woman.”

You went to work on Wall Street, the symbol of capitalist America. Was that a part of your rebellion?

“I chose indeed the radical ‘American way’. In the 90s, when I first started working, the banking sector really was full of the stereotypes you saw on television. It was a really a man’s world where money, cigars and sexual harassment were the norm. I knew that I, as one of the few Asian women in the banking industry, was seen as sex symbol, but it didn’t bother me at that time. I was taking part in meetings with some of the best brains in the financial world, and meeting people who had more money than I could have ever imagined. I jumped from one adrenaline rush to the other. I really liked that world.”

And yet you finally chose a different road.

“As a result of the financial crisis of 2008, I lost my job. I decided to change my life’s direction: perhaps teaching English in Paris? Or perhaps enrolling in culinary school? I was up for anything. But then in my travels I met Davy, and this was something I had no planned at all. As soon as I saw him, I knew that he was the one.”

Did you settle immediately into a life in Belgium?

“To be honest, I knew nothing about Belgium. I only knew about ‘Belgian waffles’. I even had to look at a map to know exactly where it was (laughs). But as soon as I saw how small your country was, I got excited. This is what I wanted: To depart from New York – not because I hated the city, but because I had done everything I wanted, and I was ready for a new adventure.”

Your new life is the complete opposite of the old. Big city to small village.

“After living my whole life in apartment buildings, this was refreshing. As a child I had always fantasized: ‘When I grow up and get married, I’ll live in a house with a cute garden’. My own fairy tale. In the matter of one day everything just fell into place.”

~

pp 80-81

libelle - page 2

HOME IN KOREA, NEW YORK AND EVERGEM

Can the reality match the fantasy?

“I always remain realistic. Davy was no knight on the white horse (laughs). At the time I left New York behind me, I knew it would not be so simple to go from my single ‘Sex and the City’ -life to family life. And indeed, there were times when I had doubts: Can I be a good wife? Can I adjust to life here? And ultimately, can I live a Belgian lifestyle?

Does it differ so much from the American lifestyle?

“Yes of course. In particular, the slow pace of life here is what I had to get used to. I remember the first time at the bakery where everyone waited single file until it was their turn. I thought: What is this? What’s taking so long? In New York you just barge your way to the counter and whoever gets there first ‘wins’. If you go somewhere and have to wait too long, you call for the manager and demand an explanation. When I first got here, I thought constantly ‘Come on, let’s go!’ but then one day I realized: Why the hurry? I’m not actually in a rush? Nowadays, I enjoy taking the time to talk to the baker about how our weekends were, and how my son this year started kindergarten. I can do this.”

Do you get more done in a day in New York than you do in a day in Evergem?

“Actually less, and that it is surprising. It’s as if time itself slows. In other parts in the US it might be different, but if you live in the city that never sleeps, it is totally normal to get shopping done at eleven o’clock at night, or answer emails in the dead of the night. Day and night, in the week and weekend, running into people other a lot more. Of course here there are also people who work at night, but generally there is more structure in the days and it pays off. You get the most important things done. Although I have seen in the last five years changes that are happening: things like Panos or Starbucks give you the feeling that you must always be on the go, always busy and rushed. Little by little, Belgium is becoming more like the US.”

Is that a good thing or not?

“On the one hand, it is super easy to, at any time to find what you need. I remember when I was pregnant and at night I’d have a sudden craving for a milk shake. In New York all you’d have to do is run to the corner and buy what you want, or you order it online and within an hour it’s at your door. Not so here in Belgium. In the middle of the night I had to make my own milkshakes (laughs). But these things that I missed in the beginning, I now cherish: The fact that people have the opportunity to sleep at night, the quieter pace, the quality time available for friends and family. It’s as if the priorities are different. So. No, I do not want Belgium to be more like The U.S. There is really something special to this country.”

To what extent do you instill American tradition in your son?

Typical holidays like the 4th of July, Halloween and Thanksgiving have a permanent place in our life. Noah is now three and he understands the significance of Thanksgiving already. And he knows perfectly that he must find the wishbone in our stuffed turkey. I find it really important to pass on both American and Korean traditions too. And because we are the only ones who celebrate them around here, it feels like our own personal holidays.

Can Noah grasp all his different roots? Does he realize that there are more worlds out there than Belgium?

“We Skype in the evenings with my mother and Noah does know that she lives in another country. But next year he will really be aware more than the first time, what the US is, as we’re making a trip for my brother’s wedding. And the next step is a visit to Korea. At this moment we are raising Noah bilingually (Dutch and English), and people ask why we don’t include the Korean language. We will perhaps later, but for me that is not now a priority. I think it is important that he has an idea of his various roots, but above all I want for him to grow up as a Belgian. I would feel awful if he grew up feeling like he was an outsider or a misfit. He must be grounded in his Belgian roots and feel at home here. Later he can spread his wings and move about as he wants.”

And you? Do you feel like you’re an outsider?

“On some days sure. Belgians are very warm and friendly, but at the same time very reserved. They fall back into their small circles, of childhood and lifelong friends, and it is difficult to penetrate. Also, very often, I was seen as someone who was here temporarily. But I followed courses to learn Dutch, and I opened my own business, a Korean takeout restaurant, and try to prove that I’m serious about making a life here.

Your life story reads like a book with different characters: The girl with the strict Korean upbringing, the girl in her 20s with a wild American life and now the mother and her family in Evergem. Which of them is the real Jun?

“At this moment I am more ‘me’ than ever. I have for a long time searched for who I am and what is important to me. In New York I didn’t have enough room to find myself. But that does not mean that I regret anything I’ve done or decisions I have made. On the contrary. I am proud of my previous life. My career on Wall Street, my participation on Big Brother, the move to Belgium, the start-up of my own restaurant… Even though all these choices seem miles apart, there is a common thread: as soon as I see an opportunity, I go for it.”

That is very American, right?

“Absolutely. I’m referred to as the ‘Crazy American’ here (laughs). They say I’m crazy. Firstly, because I am American and Americans are by definition crazy. And then I’m the American who left New York to come and live in Belgium. You have to be pretty crazy (laughs).”

Do you imagine that in the future, you will again change gears completely, and take another big jump in your life?

“My ultimate dream is to be a writer. For years now I’ve been running my own blog, jundishes, and it brings me great joy. If I could just sit and write all day every day then that’s what I would do. Sitting at a desk in Evergem, this would be my ideal spot, I feel good here. I believe that the biggest change in my life is still yet to come, and not in where I am or who I am, but what I will do. And so when I see that opportunity one day, I will seize it.

~

5 QUICK QUESTIONS

 

What did you first notice upon arriving here?

“That people take the time to sit on a terrace for some relaxation and quiet cup of coffee. Everything In New York is ‘to go’.”

What American ways do you hold on to?

“I always make a hot breakfast like ‘bacon and eggs’. Bread smeared with Nutella you won’t see in my home in the mornings. Also, I still keep up with my favorite reality shows.”

What do you miss finding in the supermarket?

“Bagels! And maple syrup for my pancakes. So I just make syrup myself, as I do my own barbecue sauce.”

The most beautiful spot in Belgium?

“The Sint-Michels Bridge in Ghent. I saw the city from that bridge the first time I visited Ghent, and I still get goosebumps. It looks almost fake, kind of like something out of Disney World, with the trees, and the Graslei and the beautiful architecture of buildings behind.”

What is your favorite Dutch word?

“Wablieft – just because it sounds so ugly. And that for such a polite question (“Excuse Me?”)! They should have come up with something a little nicer really.”

~

Recorded in / Translated from Dutch: Libelle Magazine

(Nr. 45/3645 – November 5, 2015,

Reporter: Karolien Joniaux. Photos: Ann De Wulf.)

~

Thanks for reading everyone!

And Thank You Libelle!

Always dishing,

Jun

I’d Never Do That. I Couldn’t.

MomzMe

I’ve always been a risk-taker. Not for others, but for myself, a risk-taker.

Anyone who happens to come along for the ride gets to feel the effects good and bad.

Although she’ll deny it damn convincingly, my mother was also a risk-taker most of her life.

MomzMe

 

She left Korea for America, to give me a better life, and together owned a fruit and vegetable store with my father. I left America for Belgium, for a new life and to start a family, and now own a Korean takeout place called Rice House. Not exactly the same, but lots of risk-taking all over the place between two generations.

Just because you own a business doesn’t mean you’re rich. In fact, it means that you’ve probably invested most of what you had in life savings plus maybe a loan from the bank, and you’re now poorer than you were before. But you own a business! It’s pretty much the coolest thing ever after winning Big Brother and marrying Davy and having Noah, and still having fans who throw me love and support every day in different ways.

The risk is great but I choose to believe in my Korean heart that more often than not, the reward will be greater.

But…and I never thought I’d say this, my American citizenship is proving burdensome. More specifically, the IRS. I don’t understand people who say it’s “so complicated tax-wise” being an American expat anywhere, regardless of the country you were born in, because it’s actually not that complicated. You’re basically fucked. Any income must be paid in your country of residence, and also kicked back to the IRS. Even when I obtain my Belgian citizenship, I’ll be required to send a check to the IRS, plus…

I’m not eligible for a loan. As an American citizen you can’t get a loan in Belgium (and other EU countries I presume but I’m NO tax expert). As a Belgian married to an American citizen, my husband Davy can no longer take out a loan in his own country of birth Belgium. Crazy right?

The thing is, Davy and I haven’t taken out any loans since we’ve been married so we never knew we were ineligible in the first place. Belgians by nature don’t live on credit, unlike most Americans, and so we’ve always lived within our means. When I did my research before moving to Belgium, I didn’t anticipate opening Rice House or taking out loans. Maybe I should have. But maybe I was too busy packing to move here and getting shit translated at the Korean Consulate, and oh well.

And…it turns out Noah, by his American citizenship, is required by law to pay taxes in both countries as well. As soon as he’s old enough to work, he’ll have to pay taxes to a country he’s never even lived in let alone worked in. I guess that’s the cost for admission? Like a grand scale American Buyers Club without the drugs?

I’ve read articles recently, stating alarming numbers of Americans renouncing their citizenships and choosing to live abroad paying taxes where they reside yet cutting ties with the IRS. I’d never do that. I couldn’t. Give up my American citizenship?!

But I can see why some Americans would…

Nevertheless, Davy and I move forward counting pennies to the euro and we’ve made it thus far without a loan from the bank. We’d applied for less than $10,000, small in the grand scheme of starting up a business, yet we were shut down because of my American citizenship. Belgium and America are the best of friends that way it seems. They shut us out like mean girls.

Our accountant recommended something called the Win-Win Loan or WinWinLening open only to Belgians. It’s a 2.5% tax credit for a friend or member of the family who’d would loan money to me and Davy. This all sounded great but Davy and I laughed because we don’t have friends or family in Belgium, with money to invest in Rice House. I can’t imagine asking anyone struggling anyway, to lend us money. But if you do know a Belgian who’s got extra disposable income, then please do tell them about Rice House.

For now, I’m just literally watching every penny going into our business without compromising quality. I figure this is all just stuff to laugh about later. Right?

Always dishing,

Jun

 

 

 

That Poem I Wrote About My Suitcase

Delsey

 

Screen Shot 2014-04-03 at 2.24.46 PM

Back in 2010, before I married my husband Davy and had my son Noah, I was finishing my English degree at Hunter College and long-distance-relationshiping at the same time. I had to juggle Davy in Belgium and graduating before our wedding. I’d be leaving The U.S. to live abroad.

I wrote this poem for a required poetry course, about my suitcase:

~

O Delsey
(November 2010)

~

“Aye dios, it’s too heavy lady!” said the cab driver when he dropped me off at JFK. 
He was talking about you, Delsey.
But I already knew you would be too heavy this last time around.
One last trip to a new country I'd soon be calling home.
Six trips, from JFK to Brussels and back.
Two in July, and one each in August, September, October, 
and now in November.
Frequent flyer miles accrued and redeemed not yet, if ever.
The first time you were 52 pounds, and Delta didn’t make me pay extra.
One time you were at 57, and I had to take stuff out of you to carry on.
You’re never less than the maximum 50 pounds. 
I always push everything to the limit.
You nearly busted at the seams every time, 
yet only scratched the surface in moving my life. 
4,000 miles.
50 pounds at a time.
Each leg, I took parts of me, to leave there as I planned my life there.
Six times 50 equals 300 pounds of my life so far. 
There’s at least 500 more to go, maybe less maybe more.
How am I supposed to know?
The perfect leather skirt I found in an East Village consignment shop a decade ago, the rare Oscar de la Renta pumps that wrap my feet in red wine scalloped suede that Century 21 made mine, my Bobbi Brown eyelash curler and Shiseido concealer, my bottles of Escada and Chanel and all the Louis Vuitton I own. 
More.
I will leave some behind.
But I need it all.
But on the trips home when you come back with me, Brussels-to-JFK, 
you're all but emptied, freed of any weight Delsey.
But what about my other baggage? Do I leave it here? Take it with me there?
How am I supposed to know?
O Delsey, 
you hold so much, with me from the very start,
And although I have lost two zippers on you, you belong to me still.

~

Delsey

Delsey, today, still looking good

~

Longchamp

My Longchamp, which always served as one of my carry-ons.

~

Who cares? I care. I thought of O Delsey, and shared it today, because I was asked yesterday at a catering and restaurant expo if the Louis Vuitton Luco bag I was carrying was real. I’d answered yes, and felt almost guilty about it, just like I felt guilty a few weeks ago wearing fur to a pet store and being called out on it.

I realize that the average Belgian housewife in this mostly rural socialistic country does not own a wardrobe of high-end labels nor does she traipse around in leather and fur. The thing is, I’m not your average Belgian housewife.

When I packed my life up to move here, I managed to bring with me almost everything precious to me besides people I love. I couldn’t pack my momz or my brother or cousin or girlfriends or guy friends, or families I used to babysit for. So I packed everything that reminded me of them, by packing everything me. Me. Being myself is the best way I’m preserving and cherishing everything I miss back in the States.

This includes most of my handbags, though I have a few pieces still left in New York that I will retrieve the next time I’m there. Here’s some of what I brought with me though, not including clutches:

BaggageMy full Delsey collection, plus some Louis Vuitton, Prada, Burberry, Kate Spade, Kipling.

It’s not that I’m a brand-whore. But when you’re working in finance, in private sectors, you dress the part to play the part. Your salary affords you to dress the part accordingly, to varying scales. Incidentally, I have not bought one new purse or handbag since I’ve moved to Belgium because what was once a whim purchase is now unnecessary. Besides, my collection of accessories is vast enough. And timeless. There are outfits Davy have never even seen on me yet in the three years we’ve been married. I packed that much.

There are tailored suits I once wore in the halls of global banks, that I never get to wear anymore unless I’m role-playing for sex time with Davy. My point being…I’m glad I brought them all with me. Really.

When I moved to Belgium I was taking a huge risk, but so was Davy. I was dumping my belongings in his home one trip at a time and if our vacation romance didn’t work, I had no idea what I’d do with all my shit. Neither did Davy. But it worked out and here we are proud parents of Noah and owners of Rice House…

I didn’t want to take that poetry class because it was a required course and I hated requirements by default. I loved electives. I struggle with poetry. But I’ll always remember “that poem I wrote about my suitcase.”

Always dishing,

Jun

 

From Afar

globes

Since I moved to Belgium in 2011 there have been so many instances where news out of the U.S. rocked me and made me feel, as an American expat, so incredibly far away from U.S. soil. On an average day I don’t think about the fact that I’m thousands of miles from America, at all, because life gets so busy. But on days like today, or this past Monday, and every day this past week my reality is checked.

National news coverage here, and in most of Europe, is excellent but dry. “Dry” is not bad, it just means there’s more facts reporting and less sensationalism. I’ve said time and time again what a very moderately-tempered grounded people Belgians are, give or take a few football melees or union protests.

I remember that day in 2011 when Osama Bin Laden was killed I’d felt for one of the first times, so far away from America. I’d caught the news via Twitter and then hurried out of the house that morning to get to school, where I was taking my first level of Dutch. I’d rushed into the cafeteria when I got there and found the only other American expat in the school. He was black and gay, and my silver lining around the cloud of Dutch vocabulary lists in class every day. I’d blurted out the news to him with a few omgs scattered about and wanting to, well, celebrate. I was hushed immediately.

I’d blinked, mouth hanging open, because being hushed is not something that happens to me. But in that blink I realized that there was no usual “buzz” in the cafeteria. A hush had fallen over the room.

Most of the students enrolled with me in the language school were not happy that Osama was dead. The school was government-funded and free for “legal” immigrants. So? Belgium, like other EU countries, provides open asylum for those who have left their respective countries to avoid “serious harm.” Translation? I was outnumbered by thousands of more immigrants, here, who did not celebrate Osama’s death. Nor would they have celebrated it if they were back in their homelands.

I remember having felt like the oddest man out, and how quiet I’d been all through Dutch lessons that day. I’d come face-to-face with my naivety. It had felt surreal being in a building with people who mourned on a day I wanted to rejoice.

I know I am lucky I did not lose my life or the life of anyone close to me on September 11th. When 1 World Trade Center was hit I was underground riding what was the last running 6 train for that day, and I was ignorant to the fact that above ground was terrifying chaos. So for me, nearly ten years after 9/11, Osama’s death was something I felt I had the right to celebrate along with others.

I went home and threw a good old American barbecue with my husband Davy. We celebrated together privately (and on Twitter). We ate burgers and potato salad and watched CNN. Sometimes, sensationalism is comic relief enough to be relevant.

In the time I’ve been living here, just over two years, I’ve watched from afar the havoc Superstorm Sandy wreaked and learned of all the lives lost in Colorado and Sandy Hook. Good news and bad news alike from parts of America I’ve followed. I don’t know that I’d be doing anything differently if I was in America right this minute, but I know that from here I’m still watching and feeling so many same things everyone else is during certain moments of the day.

Always dishing,

Jun

Moving Far Away

Unknown-3

MovingFarAway

Moving far away, really moving to another country and becoming an expat, what are the costs? There’s monetary cost and then there’s the “priceless” stuff that Mastercard built a killer ad campaign on. Moving across town costs enough for most of us to avoid it, if possible. Moving across an ocean can cost thousands of dollars. Unless you are banking on the perks of new employment overseas, or you’re a mail-order bride slash hooker on permanent-hire, moving to another country is an arduous process.

So let’s say, for blog’s sake you’re an average law-abiding citizen (because a criminal record may prohibit you from moving to certain countries) who, with wings spread open, wishes to move far away:

$$$: >$100

$$$$: >$1,000

$$$$$: >$10,000

– Do your research. Online, and at the local embassy of the country you want to move to. A simple “Moving to _____” in Google will yield you pages of results you can filter through to find legitimate sources.  Be prepared to be frustrated, sometimes information is hard to find on the local level of where you’re moving to. You may have to make telephone calls abroad ($$$). Once you’ve done your research you will know if it’s even possible to move to your chosen country (not all countries want “foreigners”, or only certain ones).

Know “Why”. You must know why you want to move to that specific country. Just being sure about wanting to move is not enough, you should be sure in why, because once you start hitting bureaucratic dead-ends and cold walls of paperwork you will need to reassure yourself as to why you are jumping through circles to move abroad.

Plan ahead. Besides tons of paperwork, some of which may need translating, all will need official raised seals and respective governmental authorizations ($$$), you will need to consider housing ($$$$), and schooling if you have children, and employment. You may need to learn a new language, exchange your driver’s license, etc. Depending on immigration and residency laws, you may have to have a job lined up or be enrolled in university or have a love interest in place. Or enough money in your bank account ($$$$$) as to not become a “financial burden” on the country you want to move to. Choose a path, and begin your plan of action.

– Have money. Paperwork and fees for this and that will add up. Airfare to your destination could cost a pretty penny ($$$$). If you choose to ship your belongings internationally, you will spend a few thousand dollars ($$$$). But you can find cheap airfare, and you can forego shipping every little thing and just leave with just your essentials and maybe take extra suitcases at an airline fee. I can’t put a dollar amount on your belongings.

And then there are the costs involved in leaving behind your friends and family and other immeasurable treasures. It’s different for everyone, some with more to leave behind than others. But if you’re set on moving to another country, you probably have what it takes to deal with missing loved ones.

If those you’re leaving behind people care about you as much as you do them, they will support your decision and make it just a little easier for everyone. If you’re leaving behind people you want to forget, it’s win-win for everyone. With so many ways available now, to communicate, it’s up to all the different parties to make it happen. Once you have settled in, you can get into some sort of rhythm with everyone “back home” you want to keep in touch with. Good luck, and do share some of your experiences in the comments section!

Always dishing,

Jun

Migrate Immigrate Emigrate

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Migrate.  I started the process of migrating my wordpress.com site, to a wordpress.org one, weeks ago. And though I had Googled the WordPress out of the world wide web, even the “Dummy” versions of instructions proved too complicated as they required knowledge of basic code and database management. I am so very good at so many things, but I thrive on working with the alphabet more so than with numbers and signs and symbols.  And so I invested $129 and purchased the official WordPress Guided Transfer so that the ” WordPress Happiness Engineers” did all the work, on both the front and back ends, for me.  So my site’s been migrated “successfully” now for two weeks.  What does this mean?  Well, from your end nothing much yet, it was a seamless migration so everything should still “look and feel” the same to you.  But from my end, it’s both encouraging and disheartening. Installations and plugins and glitches in codes is making this learning process more than frustrating.  Besides “look and feel” options, I have the capabilities to do so much more now in the way of  interacting with followers of the site.  You.

Please be patient.

Immigrate.  I was born in Korea and raised in New York City.  I’m a NYer through and through.  I’m American, but my blood is Korean.  My immigration from Korea to America happened when I was just three.   I remember nothing about that day, save for the greeting I received arriving at the gate at JFK, of how I cried and threw dirty Korean profanities at my parents and aunts, uncles, grandparents and more of the Korean and insane.  Having been raised by my paternal grandmother from birth in Korea, while my parents made a home and started a business on the lower east side of Manhattan, I have always been grateful that my parents put down roots for me on the lower east side.  The roots are deep and much of my family is, as of right now, sitting with no power in two different buildings right by the East River unaware of the magnitude of what just happened.  New York has seen worse and better days.  And so my parents bore the brunt of my immigration, sparing me of things harder than adjusting to a mere time difference between Seoul and Manhattan.  My immigration to the United States was seamless, and my parents were my “Happiness Engineers”.

Emigrate.  In January 4, 2011 I left the United States behind.  I believed, then, that I had the best reason ever for doing so.  I still believe this, and I am now almost at the two-year mark as an expat living in Belgium.  I still come across people here who ask incredulously,”Why would you leave New York to live here?!” and though I’m always taken aback by their lack of tact, I always smile and respond the same way.  “For love, and to start a family.”   I have never felt so whole in my life as I do now as a wife and mother and still, myself. I’m not the first to do such a thing and I certainly know I won’t be the last. But emigrating from the U.S. was not so seamless.  Having been born in Korea, and also a citizen of the U.S., I had endless documents to be translated and multiple embassy visits to be made and questions and answers for months.  But now here I am, thousands of miles from the U.S., and now especially as I struggle to reach family members who have been affected by Sandy I am reminded that my home is here in Belgium but my heart away from home will always be New York.

Incidentally, migrate/immigrate/emigrate are all verbs.  But they differ in context and meaning.  Do you know the subtleties around them?

Migrate: Moving to another area, be it animal or human or a WordPress site.

Immigrate: Entering a country in order to live there permanently.

Emigrate: Leaving one’s country in order to go live in another country.

In essence, immigration is about entrance and emigration is about exit.  But it’s still migration.  It’s still boils down to movement.  Never stop moving.

Always Dishing,

Jun