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  • 08/16/2017 10:21 PM | Sarah O'Neill (Administrator)

    Here is a poem from Christina Kim she wrote to her father. 


    --


    Dear Dad,

    Thank you for what I have learned in your company.

    And in my own quest for meaning and wholeness.

    Thank this body for all the work it has done.

    All that it has been through.

    All that it holds up.

    Noticing this pain but do not dwell in it.

    The disappointment of its limitations, changing shape, changing abilities

    Respect that: resting with what is

    Loving oneself anyways

    Like child self – no choice

    The weight of time, responsibilities, goals, schedules to keep, racing mind

    Angry

    Keep up! Something more to do. Protect myself.

    Proving myself to myself.

    Good enough.

    Letting go:

    Another way


  • 05/24/2017 5:13 PM | Jenna Goodman

    “Colleen. Colleeenn. Colllllleeen!” Mr. Baker, a tall, older Caucasian man with an incredibly bushy mustache looks directly at me and yells once more, “Colleen!”

    He has, yet again, mistaken me with another Korean girl who is in one of his other classes. It is 2003, and I’m sitting in my World History class, one of many Asians in this high school. The fact is, yes, Colleen and I are both Korean, but we don’t look that much alike…


    This was not the first, nor the last time I have been mistaken for another girl who is Asian—often, who isn’t even Korean.  

    ...

    “You all look the same.” 
    "Where are you really from?"
    "Which Korea are you from-- North or South?"
    "You speak English really good."

    "Do you know Karate?"
    "Konnichiwa."


    The notion that all Asians look the same, along with the many stereotypes associated with Asians as a group, can be very frustrating to face. Something as simple as an introduction can turn into a drawn-out conversation about where I was born, or "what type of Asian" I am. People often like to guess, and jump to, Chinese, Japanese, Thai, or any other Asian ethnicity before they guess Korean. Better yet, sometimes they insist they know how to tell "us" apart. Or they want to know if I know Karate, or are surprised I speak English "good." I once went to a Red Sox game and was greeted by one of the ushers with "Konnichiwa," and was asked if I was excited about the Japanese pitcher. 


    There are some days where I am more patient and willing to engage in a dialogue with someone, but there are other times where I don't feel like sharing details about my background. And there are instances when I introduce myself and tell people that I'm adopted, which can lead to a much longer conversation because someone finds the topic fascinating. I am usually pretty open about sharing my story, but I’ve reached a point where I realize I’m not always comfortable speaking about such a sensitive subject. For instance, when talking about meeting my birth mother, whenever someone asks me how it felt meeting her or what it was like spending time with her, I realize that I automatically try to spin everything into a simple and positive answer. In reality, there’s a lot more layers to the story and the day after meeting her I had a bit of an emotional breakdown in public when my emotions hit me suddenly and unexpectedly. It’s not so simple and tidy, and it can be really hard to explain the complexities of an experience like that, especially to a stranger. I realize now that I don’t HAVE to share everything about myself or explain my background to someone. I think that sometimes I feel as though I either have to explain or justify being “American” and speaking English well, and showing that I belong in the U.S. by telling people I’m adopted.


    “Where are you from. No, I mean, where are you really from?”


    “I’m Korean, but I was adopted.”


    Translation:
    “What Asian ethnicity are you? Are you Chinese? Japanese? Korean?”


    “I’m Korean, but I’m adopted, so I speak English as well as you; I don’t know Karate or Tae Kwon Do, I’ve lived here my entire life and probably know as much about Korean culture as you do; I’m not that different from you, so please don’t ask me anything else, especially anything pertaining to any Asian stereotypes. I’m actually not so good at math, and I don’t think I’m that terrible of a driver…”


    Some days, it can be exhausting to walk around looking Asian. It can get tiring answering the same type of generic questions over and over. And it’s, well, annoying to be called another name and confused with other people of Asian descent, just because someone thinks all of “us” Asians are easily interchangeable.


    And that’s just dealing with the people who seem to mean well, but don’t know any better. I would say they are guilty of either ignorance or microaggressions. Then there’s the people who are blatantly racist and purposely make insensitive comments because they think it’s funny.


    While I used to shrug off most of these experiences or conversations, as I grow older, I’m starting to realize that I don’t have to answer everyone’s questions, and I don’t have to paint a completely happy picture about adoption to everyone. I can take each situation as it comes and handle it how I feel like handling it at that time.


    I’m still searching for the right response to the questions I face as a Korean-American Adoptee. I think this is something I’ll be thinking about for the rest of my life. While some conversations and experiences can be challenging, each interaction teaches me something new and adds to my story. And I’m happy to take what I’ve learned so far and embrace whatever comes next. 


  • 02/03/2017 7:45 PM | Anonymous



    Courtney Kim Grant

    Three Times (work in progress)

    Translation to Korean by Ahrim Won

    Giclée print, acetate, ink

    11" x 14"

    2016


    Translation:

    Three times

    I crossed the ocean

    What I found is

    the words 

    that I cannot find

    you. 


  • 11/20/2016 10:00 PM | Sarah O'Neill (Administrator)

    Blog post coordinated by Becky K. (thanks Becky!).  Post by Becky K., Oh Myo K., Kenny L. and Sarah O.  

     

    Where have we been this year? Everywhere, it seems! It's been a busy 2016 and BKA members are active in the community, attending many Korean and Adoptee related conferences and events. 


    International Korean Adoptee Associations (IKAA) Gathering 2016

    Dates/Location: August 2-7, 2016 in Seoul, South Korea

    Attended by over 25 people from Boston/Massachusetts, including 6 BKA Board members

     

    The IKAA Gathering, held every three years in Seoul, is the largest gathering of adult Korean-born adoptees in the world. This year’s Gathering did not disappoint, offering a vast array of activities from which to choose. It included workshops and tours of Seoul (including an extremely delicious food tour by fellow KAD Daniel Lee Gray and his company ifood Korea), a family program, a day-long film festival featuring films by and about adult adoptees, the Fourth International Symposium on Korean Adoption Studies, a leadership development program and a myriad of social and networking events (“Amazing Race” around Seoul! Poker Tournament! Baseball game! Restaurants, bars and karaoke!). 

     

    A big shout out to Oh Myo K. and Jason R., BKA-ers who presented their own original research at the Symposium and to everyone from Boston (and friends) who made the trek to Seoul! A great chance to meet new friends and reconnect with existing ones from all over the KAD community.  

     

     

     

     Korean American Adoptee/Adoptive Family Network (KAAN) Conference

    Date/Location: June 23-27, 2016 in Pittsburgh, PA

    Attended by Oh Myo K., who also presented on "Legacies of Korean Adoption in Global Child Welfare"

     

    Description: The annual KAAN conference brings together Korean adopted adults and children, their families, and professionals working with the Korean adoption community. There are over 30 panels on such topics as: identity development, race and privilege, birth family search and reunion, etc. There are also social activities, readings, performances, and film screenings. The theme this year was: Widening the Circle.

     


     

    Adopted Filipinos in the Diaspora: From the Motherland to Otherland

    The Filipino American National Historical Society 16th Biennial Conference

    Date/Location: June 23, 2016 in New York City, NY

    Attended by Kenny L., who also presented

     

    The Filipino Adoptees Network (F.A.N) is a global organization dedicated to supporting, educating and promoting cultural awareness on adoption issues and preserving Filipino heritage. FAN accomplishes this by creating a resource center for Filipino adoptees, offering adoption and cultural connections to related websites, and organizations. The organization also encourage adoptees to explore their heritage as Filipinos by providing a sensitive and nurturing setting and aim strengthen the network of Filipino adoptees and adoptive families by partnering with other adoptees and utilizing community resources.

     

    Kenny has been involved with FAN, BKA Colorado Heritage Camps, and the adoptee community on and off again since 2007.



     

     

    Harvard Asian Pacific Coalition: Breaking The Bamboo Ceiling Symposium

    Date/Location: April 16, 2016 in Cambridge, MA

    Coordinated Randy T. (coordinator), and attended by over 10 BKA members and friends

     

    This day-long symposium featured panel discussions and interactive workshops delivered by over 20 Asian and Asian-American leaders. Although Asians are 6% of the American population and growing, they hold 2.5% of law partnerships, 2.4% of Congressional seats, 0.3% of corporate CEO positions, and next to none of the leading roles in sports and media.

     

    The Harvard Students Asian Pacific Coalition (HSAPC) symposium seeks to illuminate the paradox of the bamboo ceiling and work towards professional leadership and change through critical conversations with pioneers in the fields of business, education, activism, medicine, politics, entertainment, and the arts. It was great to attend and see all the work of our very own Randy Tarnowski.
     

    Also-Known-As (AKA) NY Anniversary Celebration

    Dates/Location: April 23-24, 2016 in New York City

    Attended by 7 people from BKA

     

    Description: This milestone celebration brings together a diverse group of international adoptees from around the globe. The weekend included a musical presentation and panel, social gatherings and many great chances to catch up with friends, culminating in the Saturday night gala celebration.  The gala was a lovely night to celebrate the wonderful accomplishments of a fellow Adoptee group as well as see many friends.

     

     

     

     

    The 10th Annual New York City Asian American Student Conference (NYCAASC): Checkpoints at NYU

    Date/Location: April 23, 2016 in New York, New York

    Attended by over five people from Boston, three of whom moderated and/or presented

     

    This year’s theme, CHECKPOINTS: Communicating Consciousness, to characterize the collaborative, educational space we are working to build. Workshops discussed issues like state and police violence, A/P/A diaspora, transnational adoption, and know-your-rights training, featuring speakers like the artist Lee Jacob Hilado, activists from 18 Million Rising, scholars from right here at NYU, and many, many more. It was great to hear our very own Nate K., and Lillian and Nora H. on a panel discussing 'how transnational adoptees are making their place in the Asian American narrative.’

     

     

     

    7th Annual Conference of the Research Center for Korean Community (RCKC) at Queens College

    Date/Location: November 7, 2015 in New York, NY

    Attended by three BKA members

     

    This conference focused on the experiences of Korean adoptees who grew up in the United States. Eleven presenters from around the U.S. read from personal essays and shared intimate details of their lives with the audience, and approximately 100 people attended the all-day affair. This conference was a great opportunity to connect Korean Adoptee experiences in the narrative of Korean American history.

     

    The RCKC is doing a lot of work to document Korean American history and their eagerness to include KAD stories is exciting.

     

     

     

    Koreans and Camptowns: Mixed-Race Adoptees and Camptown Connections at University of California, Berkeley

    Conference co-hosted by Center for Korean Studies and Me & Korea

    Date/Location: September 26, 2015 in Berkeley, California

    Attended by Becky K.

     

    This conference was about the camptowns that developed alongside American military bases in Korea before and after the Korean War. It focused on the lives of people who lived in the camptowns and the historical context surrounding the overseas adoption of thousands of mixed-race children. I really enjoyed learning more about the history of the origins of Korea Adoption at this conference as well as seeing friends from my first homeland tour.

     

     

     


    Where will we go next year?  Want to join us? Please feel free to reach out if you have interest in attending.  Also... we're also always looking for suggestions for other events for the group to check out in the future.

     

  • 08/24/2016 11:49 AM | Tony ____ (Administrator)

    [note: originally written in the spring of 2016 so some references may seem a bit old ><]


    A Chromatic Progression (or: an essay on how Tony discovered KPOP and became comfortable with being Asian)

    It’s happened a few times this past year: it begins as a murmur, slowly drawing my attention away from the pouncing red pandas on my phone. A familiar melody, a foreign voice. Still skeptical, I reach for the remote and increase the volume. On TV, disembodied hands dance across a Microsoft Surface, circling and spinning through apps and word processors, while a narrator touts the tablet’s capabilities. Despite their acrobatics, my focus is on the subdued synthesizer licks and foreign lyrics in the background. The commercial’s narrator eventually pauses long enough for me to hear a female vocalist boldly proclaim  “내가 제일 잘 나가” ('naega jeil jal naga')(Korean for “I am the best”). Although it’s only a few seconds, I am still surprised and amazed to hear 2NE1, a Korean girl group, rapping in Korean, on a commercial created by a large American corporation for an English-speaking audience.

    Thanks to the internet and sites like YouTube, more and more Americans (especially young Americans) have started listening to Korean pop music or KPOP. The Surface commercial is just one of many examples of KPOP “popping up” in American mainstream media. KPOP performers have been featured on shows like Late Night with David Letterman, Today, and Conan. As a Korean adoptee (KAD) who grew up in a predominantly white Missouri suburb, KPOP’s recent American popularity is somewhat bittersweet. I found KPOP not through a viral video or an eight minute newsbyte but in my search for identity--a search that began where most major life affirming (or destroying) events do, high school.

    ----

    For some, high school was a time of adoration and praise; where good looks and athletic prowess netted you a seat on homecoming court, the cheers and envy of a student-packed gym and the leniency of school administrators. For others like myself, high school was just four more years of struggling to go unnoticed; where differences in appearance, mannerisms or achievements could lead to rumors and taunts from small-minded bullies. Social survival was less about building one’s own identity and more about acquiring or hiding behind fragments of others’.

    Like any other high schooler, I wanted nothing more than to “fit in.” My carefully crafted public image was a reflection of the various trends throughout the halls of my high school--a veritable kaleidoscope of Airwalks, Doc Martens, Eddie Bauer bookbags, shell chokers and Old Navy tech vests. I hung out with class clowns, honor rollers, band geeks and athletes. Yet, no matter how vigilant I was in my vestments or purposeful I was in my politicking, I felt like I was always holding my breath, waiting for one of those moments. Those moments that shake your personal foundation (or delusion) and remind you that no matter how well you think you are fitting in, you will never succeed in truly blending in.

    While I was certainly no stranger to being mocked by pulled eyelids and exaggerated accents, not every delusion-shattering moment was so malicious. Many were seemingly innocent and might, in most white circles, likely be written off as a harmless faux pas--like my friend’s grandfather who wished me “おはよう” ('ohayō') (Japanese for “Good Morning”) at their evening neighborhood BBQ, or like the woman who interrupted my dinner because she assumed I worked at the Chinese restaurant, despite my very casual attire. Even some of my friends have made the occasional ethnic joke assumedly in jest. To cope with it all, I did what hundreds of other teenage KADs have done (and continue to do) when entrenched in a predominantly white community: I downplayed (and purposely avoided) my “Asianness”, laughed off the stereotypes, and ignored the racial taunts. Still, whatever their nature or intent, deep down, these moments were blunt reminders that no matter how well I spoke English, what food I ate or what hobbies I enjoyed, I was still the Asian outsider in a white community.

    ----

    My love for KPOP was anything but sudden. Indeed, I wasn’t even a big fan of American pop music or hip hop at the time. The CD sleeve in my car was filled with the likes of Rush, Styx, REO Speedwagon, Guns N’ Roses, The Clash, Nirvana, Smashing Pumpkins, Incubus, Pearl Jam, etc. Although this may seem insignificant given today’s blurring of music genres and other social changes, “back in my day” (or at least at my high school) peer groups were practically built upon what you listened to. Marilyn Manson, White Zombie, Dave Matthews, Kiss, and Eminem each seemed to have their collective followings. Given how intertwined identity and musical tastes were then, it would take a series of steps for me to even discover KPOP.

    It began sometime during my sophomore year in high school. Japanese anime was slowly finding its niche in the midwest, and as a someone who grew up with Voltron in the mid 80s, it was familiar enough that many of the shows didn’t seem all that foreign. Unfortunately, as a high schooler, the terrible voice acting was much more apparent. After tracking down subtitled works to replace some terrible dubs, I quickly noticed the stark contrast between the US and Japanese theme songs. Unlike the U.S. versions which were performed by studio musicians with English lyrics forcefully wedged into the music, the Japanese versions were often written and performed by established musical groups, like L’Arc~en~ciel and X-Japan. Despite my inability to understand a single lyric, Japanese rock, or JRock, felt strangely familiar. The chosen vocalists and electric guitar riffs were reminiscent of many big 70s and 80s rock groups and hinted at JRock’s early classic American and British rock influences. Although JRock was my first foray into modern Asian music, it was at least reassuringly relatable.

    Not too long afterward, broadband internet and certain music sharing software were made available to the masses. Almost anything could be found and downloaded in minutes. One day, after having searched for new L’Arc songs in vain, I tried searching for “Korean rock” hoping I would find something similar. As some readers may have guessed, this yielded few, if any, results. However, instead of ending my search there, I began researching modern Korean music. I quickly learned that I had been hunting in the wrong genre entirely. Popular modern Korean music was more hip hop and pop than rock. After adjusting my search, I found that groups like H.O.T., FinKl, G.O.D., 1TYM and S.E.S. were dominating the Korean airwaves.

    Perhaps it was just the result of frustration from failed searches or maybe it was simply curiosity, but up to that point, I would never have considered looking for Korean groups, let alone hip hop groups. I was very comfortable in the color blind identity my peer groups provided. We were all about classic rock (some going on to form a KISS cover band in later years) and alternative rock. I doubt any of my friends, at the time, would have had any interest in listening to some Korean boyband rap in a language they couldn’t understand. I wasn’t even sure why I was listening to it. For the longest time, I had wished for others to see that I was “just like them” in their interests and tastes and to ignore what I happened to look like. Still, there was something about the music that resonated with me. While I had always enjoyed JRock for its musical familiarity, KPOP offered something else entirely. I had taken Taekwondo as a kid but, if anything, that was just another Asian activity I wanted to avoid. KPOP was the first time I thought of Korea in a modern sense, and it filled me with a small sense of pride. Groups like 1TYM and G.O.D. helped me appreciate that despite what stereotypes I had been fed by the American media, Asians (and Asian males in particular) could be considered “cool” and could draw the adulation of thousands of fans. Whatsmore one of the members of H.O.T., the first Korean pop group to ever sell one million albums, happened to be named Tony. It wasn’t long before my growing collection of KPOP CDS became my go-to driving solo music, and while I wasn’t quite ready to wave the Asian or Korean banner just yet, I was becoming more comfortable with the fact that I was Asian/Korean.

    In the years that followed, I gradually discarded those fragments I once held so tightly for social survival. Instead of trying to blend in amongst the white student majority in college, I joined my school’s Asian-American group (albeit in my sophomore year). Instead of avoiding any and all Asian activities, I volunteered at the Asian Affairs center as a mentor for Korean national students and learned more about Korean culture.  And instead of trying to ignore or forget who I was or where I came from, I took a break from my pre-med summer curriculum to study abroad in Seoul. With each step, I became more comfortable with the fact that I was, and am, Korean. Steps that may not have been possible but for my introduction to KPOP. I didn’t have to hide behind assumed personalities and interests trying to be someone I wasn’t. It never worked and would never work anyway. Those moments--those reminders--that I’m a minority in a white majority are never far off. The difference today is that no worlds are shattered. No fragments need to be reexamined or pieced back together. I may not be who or what I longed to be when I was a young kid, but I am confident in who I am and what I have become. It’s as CL says, “내가 제일 잘 나가.”
  • 07/19/2016 4:30 PM | Sarah O'Neill (Administrator)

    We recently received this post from a blog reader, who wishes to remain anonymous in print.  


    In this post, the writer talks about their initial interactions with the adoptee world, contemplates their first trip back to Korea and what it means to go with other adoptees. 


    BKA is honored to share their thoughtful words here.


    -----


    Know Thyself - When the Journey Forward is a Journey Back


    Prologue

     

    I found BKA about half a year ago – I don’t even remember what I was searching for on The Internet, but it came up.  I clicked through the website, and it sounded mildly interesting…but I was fairly ambivalent.  In all honesty, I hadn’t really ever put much serious thought into this sort of thing.  Eventually, I decided to reach out on a whim.  On what turned out to be the coldest night in January, with subzero temperatures and bone-shattering wind chill, I went to a beginning-of-the-year get-together event at a restaurant near Fenway.

     

    You have to understand how much of a psychological leap of faith this was for me. I’m not good in large crowds – I get anxious and want to leave.  (I’m better in smaller groups when I can keep track of what’s going on.)  I’m terrible at sustaining small-talk – I get into the whole awkward silence thing when I realize I don’t have anything interesting to say, but it’s totally my turn to say something, and now I have no clean way of extricating myself from the situation, further exacerbating the abject panic that’s slowly creeping its way into my Flight Response.   And I’m generally reticent to surround myself with strangers – why would I meet new people (who I might not like), when there are other people who I know I like already?

     

    But I went anyway.  Everyone was generally very nice, I exchanged pleasantries, and I cordially met some people, as would otherwise be expected in a semi-informal networking function.  As with any situation where you’re inserting yourself into a pre-existing social group, it’s a massive influx of faces and names, and it’s essentially an exercise in futility to attempt to remember anyone’s name or face.  Under normal circumstances, I would have disengaged immediately.

     

    Yet, I was resolved to give this group a try.  (For some twisted reason that I can’t clearly articulate, I kind of felt that if I couldn’t fit in with this group, it was certain that I couldn’t fit in anywhere.)  I went to a few other smaller get-togethers over the weeks, and I met a few more people.  Everyone kept talking about this “Gathering”, which as far as I could understand, was just a trip back to Korea.  I’d thought about going at some point, but I’d never pulled the trigger – I was afraid it would be clear that I wasn’t really Korean…that I’d be an obvious imposter.

     

    One day, I went to an event where we watched a short film about two sisters who found their birth family, and traveled to Korea to meet them.  (BKA Chats event.)  It was heart-wrenching and fascinating at the same time.  But afterwards, we all had an informal discussion about it.  And in that discussion, something happened – I don’t think I really had much to contribute.  I became a passive observer as I listened to everyone talking about the kinds of things that I had never said out loud…the things that you push down deep and bury in a tiny box, never daring to dig it up and look by yourself, because it took so long to imprison them in the first place.

     

    So I decided to go to the IKAA conference with everyone else – I think I finally found some people who really are like me.  Since then, I’ve vacillated on making decisions and I’ve periodically been paralyzed into inaction between the deep-seated automatic response to not pursue this, and the sudden understanding that I probably should.

     

    The Three Fates

     

    So then what it is it like to finally meet someone like you?

     

    The ancient Greeks believed that the Three Fates strung each human's life into a long, winding thread.  It was the job of those Fates to weave us all together into the fabric of existence.

     

    When I think of this metaphor in the context of other adoptees, who come from the same country at roughly the same time, it is dizzying to imagine the potential paths I easily could have walked, had the set of initial circumstances been slightly changed.

     

    If each person's life is a cosmic thread that I could have experienced, then it seems almost tragic that the fickle whims of an unseen hand could launch us in any arbitrary direction.  Our threads, cast of a different cloth and emblazoned with an exotic array of dissident colors, were forced to form a weave with the other people in our new lands.  And that shock of difference is all too apparent...it can be neither unseen nor undone, and it draws the passive observer's eye to the obvious mismatch.  And while the color of your thread in the tapestry of life is apparent to all, it is mostly apparent to you.  The best you can do is understand this difference and carry on.  

     

    But imagine, for once, what if all these strands come back together?  Inexplicably, you find yourself entwined in a rope that was spun from the same bolt.  These lines of experience, unraveled at birth, finally come together again.           

     

    Strangers in a Strange Land

     

    For someone who has not experienced this, it is impossible to comprehend.  It seems odd that a person would have such a strong affinity for strangers who have never known each other, who have no shared experience, and who come from radically different upbringings.  But I would argue the following – is it so strange to understand that a person has a natural kinship with others who share a similar circumstance of birth?  Is that not the fundamental basis of family and community and nation?  A common affinity to those who are born like you?  It is the singular, arbitrary event over which no person has control, but which binds us together nonetheless.

     

    Now imagine that you had been missing that.  Imagine that, in your life, a core part of your identity is an uneasy feeling of dissimilitude; of not truly belonging; as if you are a visitor temporarily granted free passage in an alien land.

     

    Imagine something absurd … everyone else has a third eye, but you do not.  You only have 2 eyes.  It is clear to anyone that you don't have a third eye, so everyone asks you what it's like.  "I don't know", you reply, and you wish people would stop asking you.  Does it hurt?  What is it like in the 2-eyed land?  Some people feel sorry for you, and some people treat you like The Other.  None of the advertisements have faces that look like yours, and society is subtly constructed without your interests in mind.  But it is deeper than that.  You cannot see with a third eye – you cannot see the iridescent shimmering of the pre-morning dawn through the lens of a third eye.  You cannot see the dazzling hues that contrast the translucency of the noon-day grass with the foreboding obsidian of the concrete walkway.  You cannot experience the pulsing radiance cast off by a burning fire in the same way as everyone else with their third eye.  But you can fake it.  You can understand the differences and learn the metaphors and become assimilated into this culture through action and deed and speech.  

     

    One day, something strange happens: you meet some ambassadors from the 2-eyed land.  They do not talk like you.  They are confused that you don’t understand their metaphors or customs.  Now you feel a pang that pulls you in a new direction.  Do you learn about them?  Do you join them?  Will you forsake an entire lifetime of trying to fit in with the 3-eyed world, just to attempt to return to a people who didn't want you in the first place?  How do you straddle these worlds, when your very identity teeters on a balance beam?  You don't really belong anywhere, do you?

     

    All of this weighs on you.  Forever.  It becomes so ingrained in the core of your being that it never occurs to you that it's abnormal.  So you navigate the length of this razor-thin wire, strung over a chasm of inexplicable darkness… you are a tight-rope walker across the unending maw of existential void.  All you can do is hold your head up, and never look down.

     

    Black Holes

     

    So where am I through all of this?  I am orbiting a black hole. 

     

    A black hole’s gravity is so strong, nothing can escape – not even light; not even information.  That means that anything that falls into a black hole can never return…and anyone on the outside can never know what has happened to it.  At the same time, an object falling into a black hole will be torn to pieces by the gravity – stretched and violently pulled apart.  As long as you can orbit around it at a safe distance, you won’t fall in.  You won’t know what happens on the other side, but you’re safe where you are.

     

    And that’s where my mind is.  My psychological conception of identity slowly circles the black hole – never entering, but well-aware of its presence.  I know that if I tip my way towards it, I could fall in.  What would I find down there?  Would it be a better place than out here?  Or would it be terrible?  I won’t know unless I make the plunge, but I’m safe here right now.  Do I risk forever upsetting the familiar?  If I decide to drop down into the unknown abyss, I risk having my mind be rent asunder by the mental gravity.  I risk having my psyche be devoured; gobbled up by a voracious inner demon and strewn about in a thousand different directions, to be lost forever in an inky and unforgiving subconscious.  I risk losing the stable orbit I’ve painstakingly managed to establish, and I will never be able to claw my way back to where I am now.

     

    So what will it be?

     

    I think that’s the ultimate question, with all the fears and apprehensions that such a simple question brings.  I think it’s why I’m going on this trip, and why I found this group.  I don’t know the answers, but I’m willing to try to find out.

     

    Epilogue

     

    On a closing note, a random person might wonder what the big fuss is about…why spend so much time and energy doing this and thinking about this?

     

    It’s not just an adoption thing – it has something to do with mankind’s unquenchable desire to understand.  Today, scientists try as hard as they can to understand the precious few seconds leading up to the Big Bang…because no one knows what happened before it.  The first moments of the birth of the entire universe is shrouded in mystery.  We are driven by a desire to understand these moments, because an answer can provide context for why and how we exist.  We are driven to understand the nature of life itself.  We are driven to ask the ancient questions:  Why are we here?  Why us instead of something else?  It is embedded in the very spirit of humanity – to wonder, to explore, to dream, and to fear.  It compels us to search and to discover, with interminable will and inexhaustible determination.

     

    Perhaps this is just how it expresses itself in people like us.


    -Anonymous


  • 06/21/2016 8:41 PM | Sarah O'Neill (Administrator)

    In advance of BKAChats this week, here are a few things to possibly think about:


    1.  Think back on a time you attended a KAD or adoptee gathering that made an impression on you, whether it be a Gathering, conference, research symposium, dinner or outing, or something else.  How did you feel before you went? When you decided to go?  When you arrived?  During and after the event?  Why was it meaningful to you (in either a good or bad way).


    2.  If you're going to to the Gathering in August, why did you decide to go?  What do you hope to get out of it?  How do you feel?


    3.  If you're not going to the Gathering in August, why did you decide against it?  What do you think?  How do you feel?


    4.  For those looking to travel to Korea in the next year or so (regardless of when), what do you expect? Do you feel ready?  What questions do you have?  Travel with others or by yourself? What will you see/buy/experience/eat/learn?


    5.  Think about how someone looking to travel to the country of their birth: how do they feel? How do they prepare?


    6.  Logistics of traveling in general - daunting or 'I got this'?


    7.  What other questions would you ask?  What other concerns do you have?


    See you on Thursday?

  • 05/07/2016 4:34 PM | Danielle Godon-Decoteau (Administrator)

    When KADs Become Parents


    For most people, it is probably safe to say that having a child is a big deal. It is one of those life-changing, flip-your-world-upside-down, type of things that is filled with a host of different emotions. In addition to the many normal and natural experiences a person might have when they realize that they will be responsible for raising a human (e.g., joy, excitement, shock, disbelief, and perhaps even a little bit of dread), becoming a parent may also bring up some unique feelings and thoughts for Korean adoptees (KADs). For many of us, our child may be our first biological connection in this world. On top of that, he or she might also be our first felt connection to Korea and the first time we see ourselves physically reflected in another human being. Having a child might also make us think about our own birth families and prompt reflection on what it was like to grow up with our adoptive families.


    So yes, while becoming a parent is a big deal for just about anyone, we would like to celebrate this Mother’s Day by focusing on the special experience of becoming a parent for KADs. In this blog, we share the perspectives of a father of a four-year old daughter (Steve Kalb) and a mother-to-be (Danielle Godon-Decoteau).



    “Reunion by proxy” 

     ~ Written by Steve Kalb, BKA's friend on the west coast




    On February 16th, 2012 at 12:25 pm PST, my daughter, Tae, is born. She’s my only biological connection in this world. As I sit in the hospital room mesmerized at the sight of my wife and daughter, my mind begins to wander. It was supposed to be an old Korean woman embracing me amidst a bustling airport, or the pungent smells of kimchi in a small apartment as a young man grips my hand and pulls me in for a hug. The maternity wing of a hospital in Oregon is not how I imagined this moment. As I struggle to reconcile the conflict, Tae’s whimpers and coos pull me back to the present. I look at her. A sense of security drapes over me like a warm blanket that calms my nerves and slows my racing mind. A tiny reflection of myself, asleep in her mother’s arms, brings me peace, for now.


    Since then, Tae’s smiles, giggles, and frowns, flash familiar images that comfort my soul before vanishing into the ether. I see her mom when she grins, my sister-in-law in her sly smile, old photos of my childhood in her somber moods, my wife’s grandma when she purses her lips. Over time, these familiar images reveal the truth behind the sense of security I felt that afternoon in the hospital. It’s not just my wife and me I see when I look at her; it’s Korea. Perhaps my birth mother in her furrowed brow, my birth father in an expression of shock; aunts, uncles, siblings, grandparents - everyone. Tae brought peace, to an unrest I didn’t realize I had, by literally and figuratively bringing birth family into my life.



    "All My Mothers and Me" 

    ~ Written by Danielle Godon-Decoteau, BKA Treasurer




    When I was a child, I vowed that I would never be a mother. I was probably more surprised than anyone when, around the age of 25, my maternal instincts suddenly burgeoned. Perhaps that was when my “biological clock” kicked in, but this newfound desire for children also coincided with when I began exploring my Korean adoptee identity, reflecting on my life growing up, and feeling more comfortable in my own skin.


    I lost my Korean mother to adoption and then I lost my adoptive mother to cancer. I did not realize it then, but losing two mothers before the age of 10 made me feel ambivalent about motherhood. By the time my step-mother came into my life, I remember thinking that I was bad luck and that, “I can't keep a mother.” Now that I find myself in this transformational period of pregnancy, I am finally starting to understand and accept the complexities of motherhood. As I feel my son kick, I imagine the mixed emotions my Korean mother must have had when she felt me move inside her stomach. I think about how I love him so much already and how the thought of losing him is unbearable. When I picture my son’s early childhood, I am finally able to appreciate how much love my adoptive mother had for me. I feel her presence very strongly now and, at the same time, I am more saddened by her absence than ever before. As I prepare for motherhood, I ask my step-mother so many questions and realize that I have grown to rely on her because she has always been a solid rock, providing support and guidance throughout my teenage years and adult life. Being pregnant is starting to give me a sense of peace through my deepening connections with my son and these three amazing women, all of my mothers.


    I also am beginning to feel more connected with myself. Like many KADs, I grew up in a White family and in a White community. I hated my reflection in the mirror and I wanted nothing to do with Korean culture. However, when I envision my son, I adore the Korean features he will have and I hope that he is able to feel proud of his Korean heritage. I am beginning to embrace the parts of me that I once loathed and I am enjoying learning more about Korean culture so my partner and I can teach our son.


    Call for more KAD parenting stories!


    If readers are interested in this topic, we hope to share more stories related to KAD parenting in future blogs. Please feel free to email Danielle (Danielle@bkadoptee.org) if you would like to make a blog contribution about parenting. All perspectives are welcome – KADs who have children, KADs who want to be parents someday, KADs who have adopted children, KADs who do not want kids, KADs who are grandparents, etc. We want to hear from you! Happy Mother’s Day from your friends at BKA :)


  • 03/14/2016 8:33 PM | Jennifer Lee (Administrator)

    BKA-over-Flowers-Blog-1.png


    When someone new joins Boston Korean Adoptees one of the first questions people ask is, “How did you find out about BKA?”. It’s an interesting question because no one has really found a great way of advertising our existence. So what brings me here? Strangely, the answer for me is K-dramas.


    If you’ve ever watched a K-drama (and if you haven’t, I have suggestions!), then you’re probably familiar with the theme of destiny or “fated love”. While I’ve never been a believer in such things, perhaps I need to rethink my stance.


    Growing up, I didn’t know much about Korea, but the place I envisioned was constructed from a few grainy snapshots of Seoul that the adoption agency had provided. In my mind, Korea was permanently frozen circa 1986: a room with rows of cribs, an empty playground, a city block displaying signs in a foreign alphabet. So, when a friend introduced me to K-dramas, I was fascinated by a modern Korea that bared little similarity to my mental image. I also found the crazy plot twists, cliffhangers, and fairy-tale endings to be the perfect antidote to the stress of graduate school. In short, I quickly became addicted.


    K-dramas made me want to learn more about Korea, but, at the time it seemed unrelated to being an adoptee. Looking back, I notice that many of the K-dramas I watched featured plot lines somehow related to adoption. For example, “My Princess” is about an adoptee in Korea learning that she is actually the secret heir of Korean royalty. (I’m not the only one that imagined this scenario as a kid, right?) However, I remained oblivious to these connections.


    Eventually, fate must have grown tired of subtle hints, because dramafever.com began suggesting that I watch a documentary about a Korean adoptee, “AKADan”. This was my first experience seeing an adult adoptee telling their story. I was shocked to hear my own thoughts said out loud, by a complete stranger, whose life was in so many ways different than my own. Even more shocking was that adult adoptees gathered by the hundreds and held conferences together!


    Coincidentally, at that time a work conference sent me to Japan, and I seized the opportunity to visit Korea for the first time since leaving as a baby. After returning to Boston, I found myself wishing I knew more. I googled “boston Korea” and found Boston Korean Adoptees, Inc. at the top of the list. It hadn’t occurred to me that other Korean adoptees would be meeting here, the place I’d lived for six years already. I looked to see when the next event was being held, and was shocked to find that there was a group meeting that very evening to discuss “AKADan” of all things!


    While normally an introvert, and pretty hesitant about meeting a bunch of strangers, I figured I should give it a try. After all, what were the odds that I had already happened to see the film they were discussing? It was clearly meant to be. To my surprise, meeting other Korean adoptees wasn’t intimidating or awkward. Instead, it reminded me of traveling to a foreign country and meeting a fellow traveler. Although we had only just met, we spoke the same language and had traveled similar journeys, making it feel as though we were long lost friends finally reconnecting.


    My fate was ultimately sealed when I learned at the meeting that BKA was holding its own conference the following week. In less than 24 hours I had discovered BKA, attended a book club, and signed up for the conference, and a few short months later I found myself running for the BKA board. It was whirlwind romance worthy of a K-drama. While I’ve always been a skeptic, I’m thankful that K-dramas and destiny have brought me here today.



    P.S. I’m still hooked on K-dramas, so… does anyone want to watch one together?

  • 02/10/2016 3:51 PM | Anonymous

    It is 2016, ten years exactly from my first and only trip back to South Korea since my birth there in 1987. I wrote the story of my trip and the information I found out from my birth mother in 2006, but now with a trip planned for this summer I know that was only Part One. Part Two I will write when I return after my trip from July 26-Aug 16, 2016 this summer when I will try to meet my birth mother (and hopefully my birth brothers and birth father who are all still a family- none of whom know about me except her). Part Two will tie up a lot of loose ends. If it doesn't end up happening I am just happy to go to the IKAA Gathering and be in my home country and volunteer at orphanages, and meet others in the adoptee community. If anyone knows how to help me recontact my birth mother which was originally done thru ESWS and the Korean Ties trip, feel free to email me because I find it to be a daunting task even though it probably is not. 

    Here is Part One, which was written (and edited) from 2006 and on. Reading back on it now I feel a sense of guilt for posting her picture and story which were deeply personal to her, all without her knowing. I think when I originally posted these photos I was extremely disconnected, and very young. But even still, I feel very detached from her as a human being, especially since we have not met (her decision) and I always assumed she'd never see this. I am the kind of person who is an open book and am not private, but over the past few years I have thought in depth about how much I respect others who are more private about their story and thought maybe I should do the same. However, aside from these dismantled thoughts, I believe this is a great forum and group to share this with, and at least for now and I am trying not to feel guilt about it. I hope some people will read this and be able to relate, I know we all have our own unique stories. This is just one. Feel free to share your own stories and thoughts about your journey, as I always love connecting with others.

     


    Me photographed with Also Known As Inc. founder Hollee McGinnis 2006


    Part One (2006)


    I came to the U.S. in 1987 when I was 4 months old. In 2006, I tried digging into my past for the first time. I was 19. Through a series of phone calls, detective work, and a trip across the world, I came to find out some of the most interesting information I would ever hear, well, thus far into my life. A social worker in Korea who worked with the agency I was adopted from, Love the Children (ESWS) and with the program, Korean Ties, somehow managed to contact my birth mother who shared the story that no one could have ever made up: the truth about how I came to be.



    In all of those 19 years, I never knew a single thing about my birth parents. Not their names, not what they looked like, not a single fact or story. I never really thought about it, either. Many stories I had heard from other adoptees who had tried to contact their biological parents were depressing and I figured I had all I needed right here, right now, and I did not want to delve deeper. But... at the urge of my
     real parents (Gayle and John) and several others, I decided to take a step towards finding out where I came from....


    With the help of the social workers at Korean Ties program, I wrote a letter to my adoption agency to give to my birth mother (whoever she was) and included a small photo book of my family and I. They said they would try to find out her whereabouts (extremely private information) and translate and forward the letter I had written to her w/ the pictures. I thought I'd never hear back, but to my surprise, I did. They found her.....and what she said was amazing.


    the letter she wrote to me was translated....by the dry-cleaners…it's actually in need of being re-translated. any takers?


    We found out:
    She can't speak English. She doesn't want to come into contact with me. And that she is in shock to hear of my existence, but relieved to hear that I am alive and well. But wait, there's more....
    She said things that I could only dream of. She wrote that she was filled with pain, guilt, and worry about me. That she had a "heavy heart" filled with sadness the day she said goodbye to me. She wrote that she still thinks of me every single day. She wrote that she wishes she could see me, that she wishes everything for me, the world, love, and happiness.
     

    She sent pictures. And I have no words.....


    She wrote that her name is Eun Sook. She and my birth father were childhood sweethearts- very much in love. In Korea all males had to serve in the army for two years. He went off into the military and they broke up around the age of 18-19. She thought she'd never see him or talk to him again. After he was gone, my birth mother realized that she was pregnant. Anyways, at first what seemed like a typical story, (she was 19, etc), turned out to be slightly more interesting. Yes, she gave me up for adoption, but no.....
     she never told my birth father or anyone and when he got back from the army, they got back together.....and then got married (very unusual case in adoption)......and then had two more children.......and they are all still together, a happy family in Korea.....
    but she
     still hasn't told him about my existence, or told my 2 apparent brothers, or anyone for that matter.
    She might never end up telling them.
     
    Apparently it's her deepest darkest secret. In Korea, especially 20 yrs ago, those who have babies out of wedlock are ostracized and treated like second hand citizens, things that still need to change. Also, men are dominant for the most part in their culture, and they get what they want in most divorce cases. She mentioned to the social worker that she was very much afraid to tell my birthfather (her husband) that she gave away his baby without his permission, and even more scared to tell him she had been hiding this secret for 20 years! I think she was afraid he would divorce her and then proceed to take her children away from her. And after all these years……

    Airplane Day: Shown with my dad at 4months old


    {side note: I think one of the reasons I have always felt slightly unaffected by my adoption and was uninterested in exploring it is not because I was afraid, but because I have such a close relationship with the family who raised me, the family who knows me, the family who loves me. My mom is probably the most loving, accepting, and open person I will ever meet. Every day I feel lucky to have been brought to them. I am not sure why I was chosen to be so lucky (or some would say unlucky), and given such an amazing opportunity at a life I never would have had if I hadn't been given up for adoption. Some say that it's sad that I was abandoned or unwanted by my "real" mother, but I know that's not true because my real mother is right here with me every day, always. She probably is leaving me a voicemail right now checking in on me or asking me how to fix her computer. It's a strange concept and every year I feel differently about it. I have never felt unwanted, though. My brother is my best friend. My dad is my rock and such an amazingly wise person. I do want to meet my birth family, and am currently looking into it, but I don't want to disrupt her life. I make this joke all the time saying "I could be in a rice field right now!" instead of wherever I am. It's a joke, but it is something that crosses my mind more often than not. I may not have been in an actual rice field, but I can assure you that if I was still in Korea, I would not be the open-minded and accomplished or independent person I am today. Many struggles that I have faced in many areas would not have been addressed or solved had I grown up with my Korean family. Granted the adoption itself may have caused me the emotional problems I had, and having that issue of always feeling out of place or not being enough, but I'd take that any day over the alternative of probably not having the resources I needed to remain healthy and happy like I am now. And trust me it was a long struggle, and without my mom Gayle, and dad/friends I don't know what I would have done. I was blessed to have been given everything, but I will never take it for granted. }




    Back to the story: 

    I visited the town My birth mother had me in and still lives in. Everywhere I turned I thought I might see her or my brothers. In that city, I visited the hospital and orphanages where I was born and stayed the first four months of my life. It was the most sad to leave the children at the orphanages after playing with them all day. They started crying when we had to leave. So did everyone we were with, very emotional! The attention my "story" got from middle aged Korean women was absolutely hilarious though. They all wanted to hug and kiss me quite close to my actual lips. They also really liked my dad for some reason....Actually, now that I think of it, my dad and brother got so much attention from the Korean women/girls during those two weeks....(they thought my brother was a movie star, oh white male privilege (jk))…


    Quote from Johnny: "Wouldn't it be awesome if me and your brothers just killed it together!?" made me laugh out loud. they definitely would. 


    My 100% blood brothers happen to look exactly like me (2006)........

    It's so weird, they are actually around Johnny's age (my brother, 23). I wonder what they are doing now...


    To have these pictures, after 20 years of knowing absolutely nothing.....well...I can't really describe it. It's incredible, crazy, and just strange for me. All of my friends whom I've known since childhood also were  mind-blown, not to mention my family members, laughing, in disbelief...crying.... None of us ever knew or thought we'd ever see these photos.
    I didn't cry. At first I was definitely speechless and reverted back to my 6th grade behavior and became embarrassed about the whole thing, and thought it was shameful or awkward to talk about. I really haven't shown many people these photos until I was about 24. Now I'm 28 and have a whole new outlook on adoption, and the beautiful thing it is, as well as a whole new understanding of what I and others like me been through.

    So, yes I am disappointed that I couldn't meet her, but I still believe that I will maybe someday when she's ready. I would love to meet my biological brothers, too. She described them as funny, and full of life. The one on the left is into musical instruments and the arts. The one on the right she said was very athletic in sports. This made me smile. Even though I can't meet her now, the hope that one day I will along with the letter and pictures she sent are enough for me right now.


    So the story's almost over, except that it goes
     full circle. On the last day of my 2 week long trip around South Korea, people from an adoption agency asked me, personally, if I would take one of their babies home on the 24hr plane ride....to its new family in the United States. ?!!??!?!? Of course I said yes. This was an honor. Everyone was making a huge deal of it....crying, hugging me (again)-- agency people, my parents, friends I made on the trip, people I didn't know.... it was outrageous. A couple more people from the Korean Ties Program also got to bring babies to America to meet their new families. I'm not just saying this, but I DEFINITELY got the cutest one. Hands down. (not that it should matter but at that time I was quite pleased). I didn't get to pick either-- she was assigned to me. She was so small and her hair was in a tight ponytail that was sticking straight up in the air. Sound familiar? (some call me bam bam). Oh my goodness, I loved her so much. She was four months old. Just like I was.

    I took her home on the plane. My mom somehow also appeared with a baby, too- a little boy. Both babies slept and cried the whole time. I fed her formula in a bottle and walked her around the aisles for what seemed like years. The poor thing had serious ear problems from the plane ride, which also had happened to me when I was being flown over at 4months old too.

    When we finally got off the plane with our babies, we were met by the new, excited, and nervous awaiting families. I had creepily decided in my delirious state that I was going to keep her, and that I wasn't giving her to the family anymore....that I was taking her with me, and was going to make a run for it.
     
    ...Didn't go over too well, but I definitely couldn't stop crying (first time I cried on the trip) because I was so mad that I had to give her away. I can't even imagine what our mothers felt like when they had to give us up for adoption. 


    I still love her because she symbolized something to me. Something beyond just the usual innocence and purity babies symbolize. She was a symbol of who I used to be, who I was- just a helpless infant on a 24hr flight across the world not knowing a damn thing of what my life would be. They named her Pearl, btw. What a beauty.


    Long story short, it's been ten years since I contacted Eun Sook. Maybe there is a letter at the agency waiting for me saying she wants to meet. Maybe there isn't. Maybe my birth brothers are well over 21 and speak English- maybe they even go to college in the USA. Maybe they don't. Maybe she has told them about me, maybe she hasn't. These are things I will find out this summer and these are things I would like to know, even if they cause more dismantled thoughts. Even if she doesn't want the things I'd love to have happen, then that is okay I would not be mad or feel upset. I would feel very badly for her though. That she had to hide these things because of the way the culture is over there. I probably won't be able to help but be disappointed, however, if I can not meet my birth brothers now that they're all grown up. I know we would "kill it" together! 

    We shall see.


    Thank you for taking the time to read my story.

    I look forward to talking with others and continuing to grow with this amazing organization The Boston Korean Adoptees who helped me to post this story.

    Please don't hesitate to contact me or reach out via facebook or email. I am currently working with www.womencrossdmz.org to try to bring peace between North and South Korea. Also some of my music is on Spotify or iTunes or bandcamp under my name Jacquelyn Wells and my jewelry line is available in stores around New England and online at www.oohjacquelina.com Feel free to reach out to me in any way, I'd love to hear your story.


    As for now, this Story is To Be Continued....



    P.S. there is a documentary called "Somewhere Between"  on Netflix about Female Asian Adoptees that went thru a similar experience as myself. It's amazing. A quote I liked from it was " if you're always being seen and you're never just blending in, of course you want to appear like you have everything under control and everything is perfect all the time." Which I found to be a very interesting statement.


    It is 2016, ten years exactly from my first and only trip back to South Korea since my birth there in 1987. I wrote the story of my trip and the information I found out from my birth mother in 2006, but now with a trip planned for this summer I know that was only Part One. Part Two I will write when I return after my trip from July 26-Aug 16, 2016 this summer when I will try to meet my birth mother (and hopefully my birth brothers and birth father who are all still a family- none of whom know about me except her). Part Two will tie up a lot of loose ends. If it doesn't end up happening I am just happy to go to the IKAA Gathering and be in my home country and volunteer at orphanages, and meet others in the adoptee community. If anyone knows how to help me recontact my birth mother which was originally done thru ESWS and the Korean Ties trip, feel free to email me because I find it to be a daunting task even though it probably is not. 

    Here is Part One, which was written (and edited) from 2006 and on. Reading back on it now I feel a sense of guilt for posting her picture and story which were deeply personal to her, all without her knowing. I think when I originally posted these photos I was extremely disconnected, and very young. But even still, I feel very detached from her as a human being, especially since we have not met (her decision) and I always assumed she'd never see this. I am the kind of person who is an open book and am not private, but over the past few years I have thought in depth about how much I respect others who are more private about their story and thought maybe I should do the same. However, aside from these dismantled thoughts, I believe this is a great forum and group to share this with, and at least for now and I am trying not to feel guilt about it. I hope some people will read this and be able to relate, I know we all have our own unique stories. This is just one. Feel free to share your own stories and thoughts about your journey, as I always love connecting with others.

     


    Me photographed with Also Known As Inc. founder Hollee McGinnis 2006


    Part One (2006)


    I came to the U.S. in 1987 when I was 4 months old. In 2006, I tried digging into my past for the first time. I was 19. Through a series of phone calls, detective work, and a trip across the world, I came to find out some of the most interesting information I would ever hear, well, thus far into my life. A social worker in Korea who worked with the agency I was adopted from, Love the Children (ESWS) and with the program, Korean Ties, somehow managed to contact my birth mother who shared the story that no one could have ever made up: the truth about how I came to be.



    In all of those 19 years, I never knew a single thing about my birth parents. Not their names, not what they looked like, not a single fact or story. I never really thought about it, either. Many stories I had heard from other adoptees who had tried to contact their biological parents were depressing and I figured I had all I needed right here, right now, and I did not want to delve deeper. But... at the urge of my
     real parents (Gayle and John) and several others, I decided to take a step towards finding out where I came from....


    With the help of the social workers at Korean Ties program, I wrote a letter to my adoption agency to give to my birth mother (whoever she was) and included a small photo book of my family and I. They said they would try to find out her whereabouts (extremely private information) and translate and forward the letter I had written to her w/ the pictures. I thought I'd never hear back, but to my surprise, I did. They found her.....and what she said was amazing.


    the letter she wrote to me was translated....by the dry-cleaners…it's actually in need of being re-translated. any takers?


    We found out:
    She can't speak English. She doesn't want to come into contact with me. And that she is in shock to hear of my existence, but relieved to hear that I am alive and well. But wait, there's more....
    She said things that I could only dream of. She wrote that she was filled with pain, guilt, and worry about me. That she had a "heavy heart" filled with sadness the day she said goodbye to me. She wrote that she still thinks of me every single day. She wrote that she wishes she could see me, that she wishes everything for me, the world, love, and happiness.
     

    She sent pictures. And I have no words.....


    She wrote that her name is Eun Sook. She and my birth father were childhood sweethearts- very much in love. In Korea all males had to serve in the army for two years. He went off into the military and they broke up around the age of 18-19. She thought she'd never see him or talk to him again. After he was gone, my birth mother realized that she was pregnant. Anyways, at first what seemed like a typical story, (she was 19, etc), turned out to be slightly more interesting. Yes, she gave me up for adoption, but no.....
     she never told my birth father or anyone and when he got back from the army, they got back together.....and then got married (very unusual case in adoption)......and then had two more children.......and they are all still together, a happy family in Korea.....
    but she
     still hasn't told him about my existence, or told my 2 apparent brothers, or anyone for that matter.
    She might never end up telling them.
     
    Apparently it's her deepest darkest secret. In Korea, especially 20 yrs ago, those who have babies out of wedlock are ostracized and treated like second hand citizens, things that still need to change. Also, men are dominant for the most part in their culture, and they get what they want in most divorce cases. She mentioned to the social worker that she was very much afraid to tell my birthfather (her husband) that she gave away his baby without his permission, and even more scared to tell him she had been hiding this secret for 20 years! I think she was afraid he would divorce her and then proceed to take her children away from her. And after all these years……

    Airplane Day: Shown with my dad at 4months old


    {side note: I think one of the reasons I have always felt slightly unaffected by my adoption and was uninterested in exploring it is not because I was afraid, but because I have such a close relationship with the family who raised me, the family who knows me, the family who loves me. My mom is probably the most loving, accepting, and open person I will ever meet. Every day I feel lucky to have been brought to them. I am not sure why I was chosen to be so lucky (or some would say unlucky), and given such an amazing opportunity at a life I never would have had if I hadn't been given up for adoption. Some say that it's sad that I was abandoned or unwanted by my "real" mother, but I know that's not true because my real mother is right here with me every day, always. She probably is leaving me a voicemail right now checking in on me or asking me how to fix her computer. It's a strange concept and every year I feel differently about it. I have never felt unwanted, though. My brother is my best friend. My dad is my rock and such an amazingly wise person. I do want to meet my birth family, and am currently looking into it, but I don't want to disrupt her life. I make this joke all the time saying "I could be in a rice field right now!" instead of wherever I am. It's a joke, but it is something that crosses my mind more often than not. I may not have been in an actual rice field, but I can assure you that if I was still in Korea, I would not be the open-minded and accomplished or independent person I am today. Many struggles that I have faced in many areas would not have been addressed or solved had I grown up with my Korean family. Granted the adoption itself may have caused me the emotional problems I had, and having that issue of always feeling out of place or not being enough, but I'd take that any day over the alternative of probably not having the resources I needed to remain healthy and happy like I am now. And trust me it was a long struggle, and without my mom Gayle, and dad/friends I don't know what I would have done. I was blessed to have been given everything, but I will never take it for granted. }




    Back to the story: 

    I visited the town My birth mother had me in and still lives in. Everywhere I turned I thought I might see her or my brothers. In that city, I visited the hospital and orphanages where I was born and stayed the first four months of my life. It was the most sad to leave the children at the orphanages after playing with them all day. They started crying when we had to leave. So did everyone we were with, very emotional! The attention my "story" got from middle aged Korean women was absolutely hilarious though. They all wanted to hug and kiss me quite close to my actual lips. They also really liked my dad for some reason....Actually, now that I think of it, my dad and brother got so much attention from the Korean women/girls during those two weeks....(they thought my brother was a movie star, oh white male privilege (jk))…


    Quote from Johnny: "Wouldn't it be awesome if me and your brothers just killed it together!?" made me laugh out loud. they definitely would. 


    My 100% blood brothers happen to look exactly like me (2006)........

    It's so weird, they are actually around Johnny's age (my brother, 23). I wonder what they are doing now...


    To have these pictures, after 20 years of knowing absolutely nothing.....well...I can't really describe it. It's incredible, crazy, and just strange for me. All of my friends whom I've known since childhood also were  mind-blown, not to mention my family members, laughing, in disbelief...crying.... None of us ever knew or thought we'd ever see these photos.
    I didn't cry. At first I was definitely speechless and reverted back to my 6th grade behavior and became embarrassed about the whole thing, and thought it was shameful or awkward to talk about. I really haven't shown many people these photos until I was about 24. Now I'm 28 and have a whole new outlook on adoption, and the beautiful thing it is, as well as a whole new understanding of what I and others like me been through.

    So, yes I am disappointed that I couldn't meet her, but I still believe that I will maybe someday when she's ready. I would love to meet my biological brothers, too. She described them as funny, and full of life. The one on the left is into musical instruments and the arts. The one on the right she said was very athletic in sports. This made me smile. Even though I can't meet her now, the hope that one day I will along with the letter and pictures she sent are enough for me right now.


    So the story's almost over, except that it goes
     full circle. On the last day of my 2 week long trip around South Korea, people from an adoption agency asked me, personally, if I would take one of their babies home on the 24hr plane ride....to its new family in the United States. ?!!??!?!? Of course I said yes. This was an honor. Everyone was making a huge deal of it....crying, hugging me (again)-- agency people, my parents, friends I made on the trip, people I didn't know.... it was outrageous. A couple more people from the Korean Ties Program also got to bring babies to America to meet their new families. I'm not just saying this, but I DEFINITELY got the cutest one. Hands down. (not that it should matter but at that time I was quite pleased). I didn't get to pick either-- she was assigned to me. She was so small and her hair was in a tight ponytail that was sticking straight up in the air. Sound familiar? (some call me bam bam). Oh my goodness, I loved her so much. She was four months old. Just like I was.

    I took her home on the plane. My mom somehow also appeared with a baby, too- a little boy. Both babies slept and cried the whole time. I fed her formula in a bottle and walked her around the aisles for what seemed like years. The poor thing had serious ear problems from the plane ride, which also had happened to me when I was being flown over at 4months old too.

    When we finally got off the plane with our babies, we were met by the new, excited, and nervous awaiting families. I had creepily decided in my delirious state that I was going to keep her, and that I wasn't giving her to the family anymore....that I was taking her with me, and was going to make a run for it.
     
    ...Didn't go over too well, but I definitely couldn't stop crying (first time I cried on the trip) because I was so mad that I had to give her away. I can't even imagine what our mothers felt like when they had to give us up for adoption. 


    I still love her because she symbolized something to me. Something beyond just the usual innocence and purity babies symbolize. She was a symbol of who I used to be, who I was- just a helpless infant on a 24hr flight across the world not knowing a damn thing of what my life would be. They named her Pearl, btw. What a beauty.


    Long story short, it's been ten years since I contacted Eun Sook. Maybe there is a letter at the agency waiting for me saying she wants to meet. Maybe there isn't. Maybe my birth brothers are well over 21 and speak English- maybe they even go to college in the USA. Maybe they don't. Maybe she has told them about me, maybe she hasn't. These are things I will find out this summer and these are things I would like to know, even if they cause more dismantled thoughts. Even if she doesn't want the things I'd love to have happen, then that is okay I would not be mad or feel upset. I would feel very badly for her though. That she had to hide these things because of the way the culture is over there. I probably won't be able to help but be disappointed, however, if I can not meet my birth brothers now that they're all grown up. I know we would "kill it" together! 

    We shall see.


    Thank you for taking the time to read my story.

    I look forward to talking with others and continuing to grow with this amazing organization The Boston Korean Adoptees who helped me to post this story.

    Please don't hesitate to contact me or reach out via facebook or email. I am currently working with www.womencrossdmz.org to try to bring peace between North and South Korea. Also some of my music is on Spotify or iTunes or bandcamp under my name Jacquelyn Wells and my jewelry line is available in stores around New England and online at www.oohjacquelina.com Feel free to reach out to me in any way, I'd love to hear your story.


    As for now, this Story is To Be Continued....



    P.S. there is a documentary called "Somewhere Between"  on Netflix about Female Asian Adoptees that went thru a similar experience as myself. It's amazing. A quote I liked from it was " if you're always being seen and you're never just blending in, of course you want to appear like you have everything under control and everything is perfect all the time." Which I found to be a very interesting statement.

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