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  • 05/07/2016 4:34 PM | Anonymous

    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 | Jacquelyn Wells

    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.

  • 01/12/2016 9:39 PM | Sarah O'Neill (Administrator)

    First of all, Happy New Year from everyone here at BKA!  The entire Board – Tony, myself, Laura, Danielle, Becky, Jenny and Breanne (in no particular order) – thank you for a great 2015 and look forward to another one in 2016, here at BKA and beyond.  Thanks for all of your support, feedback, event attendance and everything else this year.


    I remember back in 2014, as the #BKA14 conference “army” was putting the final touches on the event (and then enjoying the conference itself unfold), thinking about how it really was a landmark moment in BKA’s history – marking the end of the first 10 years as a nonprofit organization and all that entailed... and starting a new chapter in BKA’s history.


    And 2015 didn’t disappoint.  Many of you have turned out for our many events in the past year (including KADtalk’s 2 year anniversary, quarterly events, volunteering, film screenings, happy hours, among other things), gotten involved in the discussions on social media and the list-serve, and otherwise contributed your talents, thoughts and feedback to BKA (and we always appreciate it).


    Last year BKA also said good-bye and thank you to several long-standing board members as they moved on to other things:  Nate, who valiantly led the organization as our President… Chris, who held the ship steady for years as our Treasurer…. Mark, our Events Coordinator and Conference Social Media guru, who moved to Korea… and Board Members Oh-Mee and Alice, who brought their enthusiasm to membership and outreach.  Thank you, guys, for everything you’ve done for the organization over the years.


    The current Board has a couple cool programs and events up its sleeve for 2016 and we hope to see everyone then!  It was great to see many of you at skating/dinner this past Saturday.  We’re now looking towards the annual Lunar New Year celebration (details to be announced).  And there’s more to come…


    Also, if you’re one of our out-of-town friends… if you’re heading to MA, let us know via social media or email… we love catching up with you guys.


    Happy 2016 again!  Until next time…


  • 12/11/2015 8:09 PM | Sarah O'Neill (Administrator)
    Here is a post from Laura K. about cooking Kimchi Chigae in her own kitchen.  I was honored to have a (very small) part in this and enjoyed trying the food... yum!


    ~sarah


    * * * * *


    When you go to a Korean restaurant, do you ever wonder, “How can I make this at home?” On Wednesday, November 4, 2015, Sarah O. and I cooked a classic Korean dish called kimchi jjigae (the full recipe is on Maangchi’s blog: http://www.maangchi.com/recipe/kimchi-jjigae). 


    Jjigae is a type of stew that can be made with meat, seafood, or vegetables. It is a super tasty dish that can be tailored to your preferences. We made ours using a different stock based off of what was in the fridge: We boiled ½ of a small sliced onion and 2 sliced shitake mushrooms with 2 cups of vegetable broth and 2 cups of water. Feel free to adjust the recipe based off of what you have available and prefer. Instead of pork, we used extra tofu. Since we love mushrooms, we added a lot of sliced white mushrooms. We also added an egg at the end!


    Tip: create space for the egg by pushing the vegetables to the side. Then poach the egg by using a spoon to pour the boiling broth on top until the egg is semi-cooked. The egg cooks best while the soup is boiling. Serve with a bowl of rice.


    Have you been craving Korean food lately? Cooked anything good at home? Please share your recipes or any tips!


                                                                                                                   -LK


  • 10/30/2015 12:34 PM | Anonymous

    Growing up my mother used to say, “eating is an adventure” to try to convince me to eat different food. However it is ironic that after I was adopted from South Korea to the United States, our adventures included Korean food only once—when we tried to make kimbap for an elementary school family cultural heritage project.  It was both confusing and unusual.

     

    I had my first bite of kimchi last year as part of my self-discovery of my Korean identity.  The first bite did not appeal to me in a “what the heck am I eating” sort of way.  It wasn’t until my aunt and uncle invited me over, one night, to learn how to make kimchi and bulgogi with their Korean friend that it found a place in my heart. Now I put that stuff on everything!   


    It’s hard for me to fully describe my reasons for wanting to go back to my birth country without first stating the reasons I began searching and exploring my Korean identity.  So, I should go back to the beginning.  I began my search a year ago when it seemed like so many things in my life were culminating: relatives deciding to adopt a child they were fostering and friends adopting and voicing their opinion openly on closed versus open adoption.  As they vocally processed their adoption decisions, I found myself feeling defensive for the adoptees that had no voice in these planning conversations.  I wanted to bring up the concerns and struggles that I hoped others could avoid, but I didn’t feel well informed enough to say anything. I hadn’t been back to my birth country since I was two years old.  Feeling powerless fueled my curiosity to learn more and, with the loving support of my friends and family, eventually led to my first journey back to Korea this past summer.    


    The 12 day journey began with a mini reunion with Boston Korean Adoptee friends, in Seoul, a day before my organized tour.  It was good to see familiar faces in a foreign place. Still, despite being in a foreign land, things seemed to feel just right. Getting lost in a sea of faces that looked just like mine, finding glasses made for low profile nose bridges, trying arrays of makeup that complimented my skin tone, and purchasing clothes that fit right off the rack without having to get alterations were all new but comforting experiences for me.

    Overall, the first trip back for me was both difficult and easy.  Being surrounded by a tour group full of Korean adoptees was reassuring; they all got it. Receiving the overwhelming love from the Korean people we met, on the other hand, was a bit disorienting.  It was difficult for me to comprehend how I missed out on knowing so many amazing people.  The people we met opened their homes and hearts to us.  They affectionately called us Oppa (brother) and Unni (sister), they fed us as if we were starving children, and they chided us to “eat more” and take full bites. It filled me with emptiness for the people and things in Korea that were absent from my past.



    The tour flew by with days packed full of activities and new experiences.  The landscapes and sights were vast and varying.  We spent the bulk of our time in Seoul, which is amazingly clean and efficient considering it is one of the most densely populated cities in the world.  Gyeongju, the capital of the ancient Silla kingdom, was lovely and had so much history.  We escaped the hustle and bustle of the city at the beach in Pohang.  Unfortunately, I didn’t get a chance to see Jeju Island, and there is still so much more that I hope to go back to explore.  One of the highlights of the tour was the Baebijangjeon, traditional Korean performance.  I felt pride that I didn't know I had ever been missing.        

    I extended my trip two additional days to accompany my friend to meet his Omma (Korean mom).  Unlike so many who have hopes of reuniting with family, Brian mainly went on the tour to try the food and to get a sense of if he would enjoy bringing his wife and kids to Korea.  His adoption file from the adoption agency was one page long with no identifying information, but when we went to the orphanage, all the necessary information was there.  His Omma had been waiting 40 years for him to find her.  Most people cannot fathom the substantial loss or injustice of missing personal items (clothes, mementos, etc.) from childhood, the loss of vital information to reunite with family, the loss of time with family across the world, and the loss of history and identity.



    Now that I am back to my cozy home in Boston and happily back to the rhythm of my routine at work, I find it strange when people tell me I am “processing” as if I am some antiquated fax machine.  Who isn’t processing their lives?  This journey has made me want more of the things I lost many years ago back in my life again.  I have an insatiable hunger for Korean food.  When I eat kimchi now, it’s more than just a taste, it’s a hunger: the spice that I crave beckons me for more, the bitter taste mellows its way through me, the carefully preserved nature of it carries me through difficult times and I slowly digest how to connect these two parts of my whole.


    *Special thanks to my friend Brian for allowing me to include his incredible story.  

  • 10/16/2015 9:44 AM | Anonymous

    It’s been just over a year since we invited adoptees from around the world to join us in celebrating BKA’s anniversary. Since then, we’ve enjoyed getting to know all of you better through dinners, happy hours, bowling, bbq, film screenings and game nights (and we look forward to many more!). One of the many questions we often receive is: “so what’s next for BKA?” Typically, we talk about upcoming events, but there’s so much more that the Board is working on that we’re hoping to implement.

    One of our goals is to engage and communicate with more BKA members, the Boston community and the KAD population at large. Boston is often referred to as the “Hub,” and we’d love to see BKA be a Hub for adoptee discussions, research and networking. This blog will serve, in part, to fulfill that purpose.

    We hope to share everything from adoptee/Korean news and thoughts, including article and book reviews, to BKA event highlights and recipes. However, before we jaunt down this merry path of blogging, a few points to discuss:

    1) This is a public blog, which means any person on the internet can read, comment and share its content. Feel free to share, link out, etc.

    2) We are allowing comments for now, because we believe there’s a lot of benefit in creating a dialogue. That said, we ask that you be civil and respectful of one another. We will delete posts that we find offensive or derogatory. You may not think your post offensive (and who knows, perhaps it isn’t and we’re just overly sensitive), but if we find it so, it’s gone.

    At the end of the day, we want this to blog to be an engaging and informative space for BKA, the adoptee community, and anyone else interested in Korean and/or adoptee topics.

    We hope that you will join us in this effort!

    On behalf of the BKA Board,
    Tony

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