Handle With Care

Modern-day dating, in my opinion, is very much like going to a buffet. First, you have to pay – most of the time, a lot of – money for this experience (“I hope this works out because I got my hair and nails done, and bought a new pair of shoes”). Sometimes, the pizza that has always been a solid for you everywhere else simply doesn’t taste very good (“He was my type, but there just wasn’t any chemistry”). Most of the time, you spoon a lot of items onto your plate but after one bite realize it’s much different than how it looked on display (“I really wanted it to work because he was cute, but he checked his phone throughout the date/talked only about himself/told me he is soul-searching AKA he is unemployed right now”).

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The pizza, burger, ice cream, and seafood have not worked out so far. Maybe better for the diet I am starting tomorrow.

There exists a rare breed in our population, however, who never have to experience this god awful process. These are the people who show up to the buffet, fall in love at the host stand, and skip into the sunset never having to consume misogynistic pasta, unfaithful salad, or crab legs that don’t know what they’re doing with their lives.

One of these people is my sister. For almost a quarter of a century, she showed no interest in the topic of significant others, until one day she showed up with a boyfriend who she reminds us often “is obsessed with her.” For the last two years of her three-year relationship with him, the pair has managed living an hour away from each other by spending the weekends together.

So when my sister was away at sea – they’re both in the Coast Guard – Papa Kim announced in our family chat that she had received a package at home, including a photo of said shipment. Zooming in, I noticed that the sender was her boyfriend so like any nosy sibling I asked, “Is it necessary to send things to each other when you guys see each other every four days?”

What does my mother say in response?

Mama Kim: “Are you jealous?”


My! Own! Mom! Said! That! To! Me!



Let’s Chat About Fat

“We’ve missed you!”
“How was your trip?”
“Glad to have you back!”

There’s nothing like returning home and being greeted by the hugs and faces of loved ones at the airport. After time away from your own bed, home cooked meals, and your slobbery dog, homecoming never felt so sweet.

For us Kims though, it doesn’t quite work the same way. The idea is there, but the dialogue is tweaked just a little bit.

My dad: “Hi, good flight?”
Me: “Oh, my God. Worst flight ever! There was horrible turbulence and I was stuck in the middle between a crying ba-”
My dad: “I think you got fatter. Welcome home. Your mom made dinner.”

“I love you” isn’t a phrase used often in our household, or really at all, but the feeling is given and taken just as frequently in homes where our counterparts do. It just comes in different forms. Think sizzling potstickers after school. Or boiling hot pot brimming with meats and vegetables in the winter. Or a hot bowl of congee to kick off the morning. We don’t say it, but we taste it.

My mom: “Jamie, maybe you should try to lose weight.”
My sister: “I’m in the military, I work out all the time. This is muscle.”
My mom: “I know, but maybe just a few pounds? It’s just a matter of cutting down carbs.”
My sister:  “UGHHH. Okay.”
My mom: “Are you hungry though? Here’s a bowl of rice.”

Food is love. Love is food.

Food is love. Love is food.

Since deploying on a tour abroad, communication with my sister is infrequent yet savored. Her schedule is spontaneous, so we FaceTime and Skype around her schedule when possible. After one particularly long period without having heard from her, my sister did the right thing by calling my mother first, who quipped some dear words of affection in conclusion of the conversation.

“Jamie! It doesn’t look like you got any fatter! Great!”

The struggle is real.

Ain’t Nobody Got Time For That

When my sister expressed an interest a few years ago in attending the U.S. Coast Guard Academy, the rest of us weren’t sure how to process this information. Not because we thought she was crazy, but because all we heard was, “Aakboir42onvbjfl cviornkb 309bkke.” It wasn’t until she returned home for the first time after enrolling that we really begin to see just how different a military school was from a “normal” university.

We listened in horror as she relayed tales of what essentially translated to just a lot of marching and a whole lot more of yelling. We leaned in as she told us about having to turn corners in the hallways at 90 degree angles, eating meals while being able to look forward only, and memorizing the day’s meals for recitation to her superiors. I’m pretty sure we just call this “hazing” as civilians.

To top it all off, we also learned that failure to meet the academy’s expectations would result in, um, coaching opportunities that included staying on patrol duty longer or keeping doors to one’s dorm open later.

My sister: “I had a classmate who played a prank on one of the kids in my class.”
My dad: “Did anything happen to her?”
My sister: “Oh yeah. She was required to stay in uniform until 2200 for three weeks.”
Me, my dad, and my brother (in unison): “Ohhh.”

Only 2008

Timeless. We were literally TIMELESS.

My mom: “What do you mean, ‘until 2200’? But it’s only 2008 right now!”

White On Wednesdays

It blows my mind when I hear my friends tell me how unbearable and miserable the idea of living with their parents is.

Not a fan of free rent?
Dislike the idea of a stocked refrigerator?
Hate coming home to cleanliness?

Then YES, living parent-free is the way to be! For the rest of us in the most broke-as-joke time of our lives, it’s not the worst thing in the world if you have at minimum a tolerable relationship with the parentals.

After I opted to relocate to my parents’ humble abode last summer, it was just me and Papa Kim for a few months. As someone who worked from home, he started teaching himself how to tackle chores that my mother otherwise used to do around the house. He picked up cooking faster than I expected, and laundry even quicker than the cooking. In the process, he made the following observation:

“Hello, Sandy. We are not wearing enough white clothes for a full load, so please wear only dark colors from now on. Thank you.”

A few more loads of laundry later, I came home to a new policy and procedure.

“Hello, Sandy. Rather than not wearing white, we should wear ALL white every other week. So what we wear will be based on our laundry schedule. I am a genius. Thank you.”

Time to do the laundry. Literally, the time.

Time to do the laundry. Literally, the time.


Bicycle: A True Story

As a member of the United States Coast Guard on active duty, I’d say my sister spends significantly more time working out than the average American. She religiously wakes up at 4:30a during the workweek to exercise, won’t shut up to everyone and anyone she meets about how much she loves CrossFit, and has on multiple occasions brusquely ended phone calls with us to go to the gym. Which I guess makes sense. I mean, if you’re going to be part of a team offloading $19 million worth of cocaine, I suppose you’d need a muscle or two.

If there’s any form of physical activity my sister does not enjoy, it’d be running or anything like it and in fact shares these sentiments openly.

“I would lose a lot of weight running the hills in San Francisco if I lived here because I’d run faster since everyone is always looking at you. Oh, so do people in Charleston [South Carolina]! I like it there, it’s a beach town. But not like Newport Beach [California] where it costs $1 million just to take a shit.”

Not long after my sister moved for a new assignment, she announced her intentions to bike to her base from her home. Naturally at this point, my mother curiously interrogated her about this plan, therefore negating the need for any of the rest of us to ask any questions.

My mom: Wait. So you’re going to BIKE to work?
My sister: Yes.
My mom: How are you going to BIKE to work?
My sister: I’m going to ride to the rapid transit station by my house, take the rail to the closest station by my base, and then ride from there.
My mom: I see. How far is it if you BIKE to work?
My sister: Around 30 miles or so.
My mom: Do a lot of people on your ship BIKE to work?
My sister: Yeah, because parking on the base is really crowded.

Bike ho, bike ho, it's off to work she goes

Bike ho, bike ho, it’s off to work she goes

My dad: Do you even have a bike?
My sister: No, that is the only thing missing from this equation.

A Civilian’s Guide to Coast Guard Life

As she neared the end of a Coast Guard deployment, my sister informed me and my mother that friends and family would be allowed to join the crew for the last two days at sea as “tigers,” as civilians are monikered aboard. With two spots available to allocate for Team Kim, our matriarch was the obvious choice for the first slot, and I raised my hand for number two.

Here are a few helpful tips I compiled during my 2.5 days aboard her ship for anyone planning on embarking on a vessel of the US military anytime in the near future. Do so and consider another box on your bucket list checked.

  1. There is no lido deck. Mama Kim had a bit of a rude awakening when we arrived at our our sleeping quarters.

    My mom: Sandy, you and I will be roommates!
    My sister: You’ll be bunking with six other people.
    My mom: Oh, I see. Wait…WHAT!? So we will have no privacy!?

    Yep, it turned out we were in a 4-bunk dorm on the 3rd level below the deck, which I believe 100 years ago was called “steerage.” Waking up to French toast and cinnamon buns in the mornings and then having kalua pig and pulled pork in the evenings, however, led us to come to the obvious conclusion of what my sister’s job entails: Eat. Sleep. Repeat. All the time. Mealtimes were always a perfect balance. You know, between assuring us relatives that these servicemen and women were being fed at all, but not pissing off us taxpayers with any culinary dog and pony show.

  2. It’s not like Hollywood makes it seem. On our first full day at sea, we saw a small sailboat in the horizon floating around that my sister had otherwise assumed was recreationally at sea, until they heard over the radio that the boat’s engine had gone kaput. After hours of staring into miles of blue, it looked like we tigers would finally get to see some Coast Guard action. Here’s what we thought would happen. That my sister would go out to the Johnny Doe, the damaged ship, in one of her ship’s speedboats and attempt a rescue of the stranded folks, returning to the ship with the couple while a James Horner song played in the background, then have them taken back to land via airlift from a Coast Guard helicopter that would have arrived on the ship’s helipad.
    All arms on deck! Time to rescue sailboats to prevent another Jack & Rose tragedy! Credits: www.nydailynews.com

    All arms on deck! Time to rescue sailboats to prevent another Jack & Rose tragedy! Credits: http://www.nydailynews.com

    Here’s what really happened. We listened to a whole bunch of radio communication while watching it from a distance, only for us to later tell the Doe, “Okay! So-and-so will be coming for a vessel assist in about two hours for ya, so have a great day!” End scene. Hashtag anticlimactic.

  3. It is exactly like Hollywood makes it seem. The thing about being a tiger though, is that as much as we love this new life experience on board the ship, we really have no idea what the hell is going on. We couldn’t wrap our heads around how and why it took so much rocket science precision to drive the ship when it appeared that the surrounding vessels were at least eight football fields away. During the start and the finish of the trip when the ship was departing and arriving at port, it seemed like it was all hands on deck with a whole lot of shouting. Remember when Sean Connery speaks Russian in “The Hunt for Red October”? SAME KIND OF CLUELESSNESS.
Exactly like this, except not at all  Credits: www.movpins.com

Exactly like this, except not at all
Credits: http://www.movpins.com

“Holler to Tango Tango, I have an 18-niner-niner and we are approaching at 18 knots. Over.”
“37 to 58 with a Golf-Hotel-Alpha-Alpha arrival, plus some YOLO on the starboard.”
“Roger, home fries. You’ll be seeing an LMAO from port shortly. Approach the Bravo-India with LOL, but be aware of the WTF.”

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is all you will need to get through a few days on a tiger cruise. Happy sailing!

Como Você Está Senhor Kim?

The first time I took a sibling-less vacation with my father, I was two and en route to Macau with him. As soon as we boarded, I clipped my seat belt together, looked out the window, and solemnly announced that it’d been a great trip, all before taking off.

Over twenty years would pass before this type of only-child-like vacation would take place again, this time with my dad to his homeland of South Korea. Since that last journey to Macau, both of us had done a bit of traveling; him for business, and I for pleasure.

Hanging with my dad in Gwanghwanmun in Seoul, Korea

Hanging with my dad in Gwanghwanmun in Seoul, Korea

My dad: Now that you’ve visited a few places, what are some of your favorite cities?
Me: Madrid, Barcelona, Buenos Aires, Berlin. I like it here in Seoul too. What about you?
My dad: Seoul, Taipei, Beijing, Shanghai –
Me: I get it. You love Asia.
My dad: Is there anywhere else you want to go?
Me: Of course. I want to see more of Europe like London, Paris, and Rome and other parts of Asia. And Brazil.
My dad: You want to go to Rio de Niro, huh?
Me: …I want to visit Rio de Janeiro, the city. Not Robert de Niro, the actor.

A Coaching In Cappuccino

In my mother’s most recent visit to Las Vegas, she and I trekked out to Sambalatte, the city’s boutique coffeehouse where aged German gentlemen philosophize about the meaning of life, Asian graduate students have blind dates masked as study sessions over textbooks, and hipster high schoolers spend more time Instagram-ing their latte art than they do drinking it.

Guilty as charged - I Instagrammed ours too

Guilty as charged – I Instagrammed ours too

As we approached the cashier, my mother’s decade of employment with Starbucks kicked in as she perused the menu with fervor.

Me: A Nutella cappuccino for myself, please.
My mom: Yes, what is the difference between your “mocha cappuccino” and your “cafe mocha”?

The barista behind the counter launched into a brief tutorial regarding the difference between the two items that I did not bother to pay attention to because quite frankly, I did not realize that this would evolve into a blog-worthy encounter. My mother asked him to repeat himself as she tried to process what he was saying about the ingredients in each drink. She paused, as she debated what to order.

My mom: Okay. I’ll have a cafe latte.

Breakfast of Champions

My parents occasionally make sporadic visits to Las Vegas to visit, which usually mean at least one of several things.

  1. Having more dinner options than just turkey vs. PB & J sandwiches for dinner on account of my being too exhausted to cook a substantial meal.
  2. Free delivery of Costco products for everything I need in bulk so that I don’t need to buy toilet paper or Q-tips for another 3 years.
  3. Reminders to consume more vitamin C, apply eye cream, and wear my retainer because paying for orthodontics wasn’t just about flushing several grand down my throat.

A practically naked pantry and refrigerator whose only truly full shelf contains beer, wine, and soju means that as long as I’m at work, my parentals are relatively limited in their culinary selections in my home, which I share with my 6’4″ (or 6’5″? Not sure – once I have to crane my neck, it’s pretty much all the same) roommate Cam.

One morning when I had the luxury of sleeping in, I slipped downstairs to eat breakfast while my dad kept busy on a conference call. I suddenly tore myself away from the kitchen table and ran upstairs in a sheer panic as I realized I wasn’t even aware as to whether or not my dad had eaten as a result of my pitiful excuse of a kitchen.

Me: Dad! Did you eat yet? Sorry, I already started eating downstairs!
My dad: Yes, I ate a while ago before my call.
Me: Oh! Well what did you eat?
My dad: Your pink Mini Wheats cereal. I was actually going to eat the Oatmeal Squares cereal I saw in your pantry, but it was on the very top shelf, so I knew it was your roommate’s and not yours because you’d be too short to get it.

I COULD reach it. I just choose not to.

I COULD reach it. I just choose not to.

Please Pass the Pepper

As a protector of domestic borders and coastlines, my sister Jamie in the Coast Guard likes to remind us lowly civilians often of how her lifestyle is different from ours. While the rest of us carry on with our lives by going the gym and the grocery store, Jamie keeps herself otherwise occupied in a way we can only pretend to understand.

Where my Mom thinks my sister works

Where my Mom thinks my sister works

My mom: Jamie, do you have a pool on your ship?
Me: She’s in the Coast Guard, Mom. Not on a cruise.

Where my sister really works

Where my sister really works

The rest of us in society cannot even begin to relate to her on even one of her “normal” days.

My sister: I got pepper sprayed for training today!
My mom: Pepper steak!? Was it good?