Jun Dishes

verb/diSH/ : food or sex or gossip or fiction in real life

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What Rice House Means to Me


Not many people outside my immediate family know this, but…

When I won Big Brother in 2003 and returned to New York, I told my parents that I wanted to invest my winnings in opening a Korean takeout place on the Upper East Side in Manhattan. It’s where I was living at the time and I thought there was a hole in the market. My parents freaked out completely. Freaking out was my momz thing and never my dad’s, so it shocked me. He’d become fearful.

My dad was still in the Intensive Care Unit at Beth Israel Hospital at the time, and he almost cried, saying he didn’t want me to open a business. He said it was too risky and that I should invest in real estate instead. But I knew what he really meant.

My dad was dying and we all knew it. His kidneys were barely functioning and dialysis was making his sicker. He just wanted to see me stable and back to my old life, before Big Brother ever happened, before he died. My dad wanted me to go back to work at Citigroup or any group comprised of bankers, and have a “steady job” again so he could die in peace.

Except he never said it like that, at least not to me.

I felt like a monster that day for making him worry, when all he should have been doing was resting and recuperating and staying alive. So I didn’t invest in the takeout place. But I didn’t go back to work right away either. I spent as much time as I could with my dad and my family, and months later I did end up buying real estate with my Big Brother winnings and I returned to work in finance too (more on this).

My dad passed away shortly thereafter, in 2004, knowing I could take care of myself but probably never considering I’d do anything as crazy as illegal (more on this). I can’t believe it’s been 10 years. I’m a different person but I’m the same person.

And now I’m finally opening a Korean takeout place – in my little Belgian town in Ghent called Evergem (Everville), no less! Rice House is happening and my dad’s not around to see it. But I can picture him laughing from heaven because I’m getting everything I wanted in the end.

I am his daughter after all.

This is what I’m starting with:



Where now stands Take A Break is where Rice House will open its doors on May 1st!


Every time I embark on a new adventure I try not to dwell on bad shit that’s happened in my life, but I do acknowledge that it made me who I was and who I am today. You cannot forget where you came from because nobody else knows but you, in the end. You owe it to yourself to never lose who you are, and to not listen to people’s advice to sell sandwiches AND rice. Um, no.

And for me and my husband Davy, Noah priority #1, and Rice House #2. At some point Noah will be “helping” me at Rice House and things will fall into place. I can’t wait for that day.

I’m lucky to have a man in my life after my dad, who believes in me wholeheartedly.  I couldn’t do this without Davy.

Always dishing,




This Time Last Year


This time last year I was in New York visiting family and friends. It was the first time returning to the States after moving here to Belgium, and my husband Davy and I brought our little Noah with us. It was Davy’s second time with me in New York and Noah’s first.

Noah was 8 months old at the time.



He got his first stamp on his U.S. Passport wearing a velour tracksuit and looking so incredibly small compared to the little man he is now. We stayed at my mother’s on the Lower East Side in the very same apartment I grew up in half my life. My mother ate him up night and day. As child I never would have imagined that when I had a child of my own that my father would be missing from the picture. My mother’s strength faltered when my dad died so many years ago. Time has passed but the pain of his absence doesn’t diminish. It’s the strength in living that matters in passing time.

I believe now that my mother’s never been stronger since she lost my dad. Nothing compares to what is a grandmother’s love. Noah’s good for my momz soul.

On this day last year specifically, November 19, it was a cold day. Davy and I had underestimated what an enormous pain in the ass it was to travel with Noah’s monster stroller around Manhattan. All my days living in New York had been baby-less ones and I realized…living my single life in Manhattan I’d NEVER really thought about what it was like to live in the city with a baby. Babysitting for friends and colleagues doesn’t prepare you enough. It didn’t for me.

So this day last year our little family of three left my mother’s apartment, walked to the 6 train, and made our way north then west to the Intrepid on Pier 86. I wanted to show Davy the USS Intrepid and the submarine and all the war stuff that guys are into. I remember class trips to the Intrepid and how I always bought souvenirs to take home to give to my little brother Danny.

And then as an adult I remember fondly Fleet Week celebrations in May when all the sailors came in with their crisp uniforms and tight asses. Davy’s never watched Sex & the City so I explained to him the iconic festivity that is Fleet Week in New York.

We finally got to the Intrepid that day…


It was a ghost town. Closed. Hurricane Sandy damage was still fresh and we hadn’t confirmed the Intrepid was even open before venturing out. Fail. Hurricane Sandy changed a lot of our plans on this trip.

Davy and I were physically exhausted from lugging Noah’s stroller up and down subway station stairs, because there’s never an elevator when you need one, and then walking all the blocks from Times Square to Pier 86 with the bitter winds by the water. I’m actually glad I took this photo but if you zoom in you can probably see how disappointed Davy was. He and I both learned a lot about traveling with a baby like how fucking hard it is even with all the Google preparation in the world.

Months after returning home I learned Fleet Week was cancelled for this year and after my initial shock I thought it made sense. It wasn’t a reflection of anything but the economic times and millions of dollars the Navy could probably use somewhere else. It did make me think of that day last year at the day at the Intrepid that never happened.

Fleet Week may or may not return to New York next year but I know I’ll definitely be making it back to New York with Davy and Noah at some point. I can’t wait to share the Intrepid with them both. For now I still have memories and the odd but beautiful photo of Davy plus Noah sleeping in his stroller in front of the USS Intrepid, from this time last year…

Always dishing,




Manhattan Rent


This morning I came across a Craigslist apartment listing in Manhattan.

I haven’t lived in Manhattan since 2011, when I moved here to Belgium, and so it’s not like I’m in search of 1-bedroom apartment in the sky. No, I saw the link pop on my Facebook timeline. A friend for a friend was sharing the link for the rental…




This Craigslist ad will die and expire into cyberspace eventually and so I took a screenshot of the ad as well.

$3,050.00 is the monthly rent for 700 square feet (that’s about 65 square meters for the rest of you).

Here’s the floor plan to the space, which I faithfully downloaded as if I’d do if I was actually interested in the place.



I know this is a Manhattan rental because I lived in New York for 30 years of my life. Granted I lived paying rent myself for only 10 of those years before buying a condo with my Big Brother winnings and even then you pay for costs and maintenance to the common areas of your building. Who knows they probably charge you a few cents every year for breathing the air in the building. I kid. This isn’t a rant blog.

I believe $3,050.00 is a fair price for said apartment. I’ve lived in expensive Manhattan 1 bedrooms the size of decent McDonalds’ bathrooms. I’m not going to play real estate agent, but I’d say that Craigslist Upper West Side listing isn’t ridiculous by any means…to New Yorkers. Whether or not one gets approved through the application process for rental is another story.

It’s money you’ll never see again because it’s rent and not an investment, but all’s fair in the context of living in Manhattan. Whether you’re trying to keep up with a Sex & the City lifestyle or you’re making hundreds of thousands of dollars in yearly bonuses on the job it doesn’t matter because you’re living in Manhattan. It’s not glamorous for everyone but if you have a Manhattan address then you’re a statistic many people all over the world would trade places with, given the opportunity. Let’s be real…

Admittedly, I was sheltered growing up. My parents and brother and I lived in an apartment complex in Lower Manhattan. My parents had snagged our low-income housing apartment in 1976, when they first moved to New York without me. I joined them in 1979 and my neighbors were immigrants of every color and flavor. When I moved out on my own, in dramatic fashion, I didn’t move into Manhattan. I didn’t even know to open a ConEd account for electricity! My parents had always done everything for me and I sucked at reality. It was either moving into a basement apartment in Queens or going back home, and so basement it was. I had two more apartments in Queens before moving into Manhattan in 1999.

Making enough money to pay your rent and the rest of your bills in Manhattan, and not starve, is not easy. Some years I did better than others working in banking, and other things, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world because there’s nothing like it in the world. If you can do it, then all the more power to you. Not everyone can. Is it possible for honest hard-working people to live in Manhattan? Sure. A lot of things are possible including getting help from family or working little jobs on the side that you don’t report as income…

Now nearly 3 years and so many thousands of miles away from Manhattan I’m sitting here married and a mommy in a small farming town called Evergem, in Ghent. In contrast to the UWS apartment rental on Craigslist above…

My rent now is 25% of the price and 400% the value in square footage and outdoor space and amenities. Salaries here are limp leaves lettuce compared to the steak salads at Smith & Wollensky’s that I miss in Manhattan, but transitioning to life here has been an extraordinarily grounding experience for me. I can sit here and see links my friends share on Facebook, for 700 square feet living for thousands of dollars a month, and think yeah that sounds about right. Manhattan rent.

I don’t miss “it” but I miss parts of it. I get asked all the time if I’ll “ever” move back to New York. My answer is always maybe.

Always dishing,



The Dating Game in Belgium


I can’t speak for all of Belgium, but as a general rule outside of maybe Brussels, I can tell you…

There’s no dating game in Belgium. Of course there’s the usual dating motions to go through and all the getting to know each other on the first date like there is in America, but here there are just less games. No games. Let that sink in, because it’s still sinking in for me even though I’ve been living here almost three years.

Being from New York City myself, I know the dating game in the city can be sadistic. I was Ms. Sadomasochist and the City herself. New York’s a city like no other and therefore the games played in dating must be like no other.

In a smaller country like Belgium and smaller city like Ghent, it’s logically milder the dating game. In fact, in many cases by the second date a couple is already “boyfriend” and “girlfriend” here. Like, Belgians say those words out loud to each other and about each other after just a few dates with someone. Can you imagine?

In New York it can take a structure of months of once-a-week dates before “the talk” ever happens. You know…the talk where the two dating people in question talk about monogamy and possibly the boyfriend or girlfriend word rears its epic head. I can count on one hand the number of boyfriends I’ve had. I need to count hairs on my head for the number of guys I’ve dated or slept with or had otherwise sexual relations with. Does that make the word boyfriend more sacred? No. It just means it’s easier to find sex than it is a boyfriend in New York. New York City, in fact, which is full of underground sex for sale.

Not here. Sex is for sale legally here, like much of the EU, so there’s less allure around it and less hype. Here, you can break up with a boyfriend or girlfriend and move out and have a new boyfriend or girlfriend within a week or two, or even days. I see people moving in together after just a month of dating. Egads. I’ve had discussions with Belgians my age and younger and older and it doesn’t matter. They think all the rules of dating in America is headache-inducing. I agree of course, even if I participated in it for years.

It’s not because the term boyfriend/girlfriend is less sacred in Belgium, but because here the rhythm of life is slower and less dramatic by default. Priorities are different. Breaking up and settling into a new relationship is like going from one end of a metal slinky to another, and letting yourself spill out into a new relationship at the end and that’s it.

It’s not to say there are no sluts or man-whores or psycho exes in Belgium. There are. I assure you. There are just less in proportion, and in concentration, than there are in the States. There aren’t “rules” here preventing you from calling somebody you like if you want to, instead of waiting a certain number of days or giving mixed signals and mind-fucking people. It confused me at first because my natural state of cynicism.

I’d never seen people who just started dating attending weddings and family gatherings right away. Shit, I think there are boyfriends’ parents I never even met, but here you meet everyone over a beer and you’re family asap. Woah.

I’m married so it’s not like I was a part of the dating game here in Belgium at all, but the mentality is something I’ve had to adopt socially. Even when I met my husband Davy randomly on vacation I knew it didn’t feel like a casual vaca-fling, but how could I be sure? What were Belgian dudes like? Why couldn’t Google tell me?!

We looked great in our vacation photos, but was it a sure thing?


I chose to be sure, and I chose to fuck all my usual game-playing and to believe that Davy was sincere. Of course he had to do the same, knowing I was a New York brat who happened to also have won “Big Brother in America.”

Davy had to be sure too that I wasn’t playing him, and that our chance meeting in the tropics could lead to marriage. Would I really move to Belgium for him? Would he even see me ever again once we parted ways and went back to our lives after some time in the sun? His Belgian mentality ultimately took over, and nothing else mattered. I was his girlfriend. Just like that…there was that word!

I went with it. We did it. I’m not saying you should grab the next Belgian guy or girl you meet on vacation somewhere and say hallelujah hello marry me. Davy’s decision wasn’t merely a “Belgian” one, because meeting the right person knows no bounds. It’s not that simple, but I can tell you that the dating game here in Belgium is much simpler. You’re just with someone or you’re not. Oh, and a marriage certificate here is not required to live as a married couple under one roof. If you “co-habitate” then you have the same rights and titles as a married couple. Which is why I’m glad Davy and I married after all.

In case you were wondering…

Always dishing,


People Stare


People stare. This is nothing new to anyone.

This morning I stood at yet another check-out line with my husband and my baby, waiting to pay for a few groceries in our cart plus a fresh warm baguette I was holding in my hands. And there was an old man, staring down at my little Noah in his stroller. Just staring first at Noah then at me and Davy, and back and forth between my family of three, for far too long for it not to be rude.

When I lived in New York, I assumed people stared at me because I was devastatingly beautiful (sarcasm alert). Or because they were wondering where my pants were. I abhor pants and often wear dresses meant to be shirts because pants and I just don’t get along. This especially applies when I’m on vacation somewhere.

Now that I’m living as an expat in Ghent, I assume people are staring at me because I’M NOT WHITE. Sure I am convinced that it’s also my fashionable devastating beauty, and the whole pants-less thing. But with a population not much bigger than that of New York, Belgium is 23% non-Belgian and that’s not based on skin color. Most of that 23% reside in the capital of Brussels, where 70% of the population is tagged “foreign”.


But I don’t live in Brussels, I live in Ghent (spelled “Gent” in Dutch). Specifically in Evergem, that is mostly once farmland, where I can easily go days and sometimes weeks without seeing skin that is anything but white. I married a white man and into his family of white people. I love white people. But I love all people. But that doesn’t matter when I’m standing on line at the supermarket or getting cough syrup at the “apotheek” (pharmacy) or chewing on chicken at some restaurant here. I just get stared at.

And I don’t know if I’m noticing it more now because I have a baby of mixed Belgian and Korean-American love, or if people are just staring more now that I’m prancing around with a little mixed baby. It’s ignorance and lack of tact that causes my discomfort and feelings of offense. I’m sometimes tempted to carry a few family photos around so I can hand them out to those who stare too long. And charge them a euro or two for it.

I don’t mind so much being stared at, as long as when I meet a stare there is a softness in their eyes telling me they mean no harm and merely lack social skills. Sometimes we can exchange smiles and there’s even small talk. But if and when I am eye to eye and confronted with cold cobwebs of muted racism, I will still smile and nod while cursing them under my breath and carry on with my day.  I’ve never lived anywhere where Asians were the majority in number, but I know I’m not going anywhere and so I’d better get better at dealing with the stares.

But I do believe every once in a while, before I can even help it, I’ll be guilty of beating someone over the head with a perfectly lovely baguette I was waiting to pay for. Because I do love living here.

Always dishing,




Migrate Immigrate Emigrate


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,