In April of 2004, I was enormously pregnant. San Francsico was in the middle of a rare heat wave, and we were buying the last of our baby gear in preparation for my daughter's birth in May. We had spent the day shopping for a glider, and my husband dragged it up three flights of steps to our Richmond District apartment and put it together. I plunked myself down in it, trying to imagine how it would feel to sit in it with my baby in my arms. The phone rang. A lot of Korean, with enough English mixed in for me to figure out that something was very wrong.
My father-in-law had cancer.
Three months later, we packed all our belongings in a U-Haul and moved to Long Beach, California to be near my in-laws.
My husband had been semi-estranged from his parents since college. When we lived in the Bay Area we saw them a couple of times a year, at most. The "Korean" part of our lives consisted of those visits, meals at Brothers Kalbi in San Francisco, and shopping at the Korean markets in Oakland or Daly City. Sometimes we hung out with my brother-in-law and his (Korean-American) wife, but for the most part Korean culture was not at the center of our lives.
All of that changed when we moved. For a long time the only people I knew in Southern California were my husband's parents, his little brother, and his extended family. We hung out at the K-Town Galleria. We went to barbecues with his cousins. And I felt the weight of his parents' expectations, more than I ever had before. Their needs came first, before mine or my husband's or even our child's. My husband was expected to drop everything (including his job, our only income at the time) to care for his father. Some days he was with them from morning until night, while I struggled alone with my colicky infant. It was terrible and heart-wrenching to see my father-in-law in so much pain, and his family suffering along with him. But at the same time (and I'm not proud of this), I was resentful of my husband's absences, and the sacrifices both of us were making. I started writing my blog Weigook Saram as a way of containing my pain on the page, not so much to vent, but just to make sense of everything, including my father-in-law's battle with cancer and his death three months after our move. I also blogged as a way of figuring out how I could help my daughter negotiate her Korean identity.
I did not have any readers for a long time, but I suppose in the back of my mind I expected my blog might be read by other women like me, white women married to Korean men, bewildered by the many unspoken rules of Korean culture. But the blog friends I found first were mostly Korean-American mothers. (I did, eventually, connect with other women in marriages like mine.)
A little later some of those women started Kimchi Mamas. I was excited about reading and supporting Kimchi Mamas, because at that time there were very few parenting blogs by people of color, and definitely no other Korean-culture-and-parenting blogs. I agreed, with some reluctance, to join them. Honestly, I still question whether I really belong here, but I feel honored to be a part of this amazing group of women.
I think bloggers have the power to bear witness to the full range of human experience, to speak the truths that aren't portrayed anywhere else. I think this is especially true for people of color and others who have been marginalized/ stereotyped/ silenced. Sometimes I just want to step back and listen.