Archive for February 5th, 2011


05 Feb

For me, I always had mixed feelings. I would feel deep love for Eomma and Appa, but at the same time I couldn’t quite bring myself to entirely forgive them. It took a long time to do. On the surface I’d forgiven them, but some part of the child me that was still Korean, that remembered and functioned in Korean culture couldn’t forgive them for what happened. She, too, forgave on the surface and loved, but she still felt hurt even if she pushed it back into her mind in respect for her elders.

I am the type of person to forgive many times, but if I am taken advantage of then I do not forgive easily. But the matter of forgiving became a matter of closure. I read many stories on adoption. And the people who succeeded in finding that balance between their various identities were ones who forgave their parents. Meeting them doesn’t close those wounds and sometimes people even find backlash.

Therefore, I knew I had to forgive them if I wanted to function and find other reasons why I wanted to meet them.

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Posted in Adoption Philosophy, Parents



05 Feb

2001: A Space Odyssey (on a movie screen), Wizard of Oz, Casablanca, Yojimbo, Seven Samurai, Everything You Want to Know about Sex, all of Mel Brooks, all of Monty Python, Life of Brian, Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Annie Hall, Sleepers, and many others were films my parents subjected my brother and me to as part of our “culturing.” It started with my parents saying something like, “You have to see this to understand American culture.” And then without question we’d watch it.

Some of the stuff we knew we were too young to watch and instead of my parents objecting, we’d object, “Why are you making us watch this? Isn’t this too old for us?” They’d laugh and say it was good for us. My brother would sigh in those moments.

Then we got to our teens, and my brother would get a look in his eyes like he didn’t want to watch it anymore. I’d sit there with a determined analytical face to watch the entire thing. Some of the films I didn’t understand, and I would sit them out anyway. My brother would sit there as long as he could stand and then slink away. He didn’t watch all of African Queen.

This was the pattern we’d take with bad movies. I’d sit them to the bitter end to try to learn something, and he’d slink away or fall asleep. One of the worst movies we watched and he wanted to see was when we were on a car trip. The plot was circular where the hero didn’t really have to do all the things that he did with a hovercraft driving over ice. My brother fell asleep before the gratuitous sex scene that I saw coming three miles away. He never remembered the movie after that, but it was so bad for me and since he made me pay for half, I made him remember it again. He still shakes his head silently.

My parents were so into culturing that they had us memorize all of Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. They played it on every car trip. The sound of the doors opening and sighing would be so expected for me I could cue it up. We started to remember lines they forgot.

During “Everything you need to Know about Sex,” they said things that I wanted to purge from my head. Things about marijuana and other things that I won’t go into detail about, not because of their embarrassment, but mine–which they would delight over with a joke. It may be mean, but I’m not giving them the satisfaction.

The culmination of this was every time I said I understood something in a film, my Dad would laugh and then say sternly, “Then the culturing worked.” My mom would always be delightfully happy every time I would say it as it was a purposeful process that we had to go through like sitting through a required class in college you hated. Somehow there was an uneasy comfort to this.

There were moments where I got my sweet revenge by saying that they had to watch this or read this to understand current events. And not everything I gave them they liked. There were also moments where I’d give them Korean culture bits. So all in all it was a fair exchange.

I say this because there are those moments in between that have nothing to do with adoption. Through the noise of asking about birth parents and adoption, and tying all three identities through adoption, there are moments where adoption isn’t on my mind. So past the drama that people ask for, “Where are your real parents?” “Do you want to go back?” “Do you want to find them?” “What do you think of X in the adoption process?” there are moments where that never really matters. It melts away. I wish people would ask more about that in relation to my adoption. “What were the good moments you had with your adoptive parents?” “What are the good things you remember about your birth parents?” “When did you not feel like you were adopted?” “When did it not matter that you were adopted?” Because those moments define me too. Those moments are part of me as well. And I’m sure they are also parts of other adoptees too. Being an adoptee is not all thunder lightening and tears. Sometimes it’s a bit of culturing too.

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Posted in Childhood, Parents


Asian Actors

05 Feb

Mr. Miyagi, played by Pat Morita, was the only Asian I knew in my childhood to actually play for an American audience his own nationality. In fact, up to about 2001 I could name all of the Asian actors in Hollywood and on TV with just my two hands.

Jackie Chan, Jet Li all played their own nationalities but often it was only martial arts movies devoid of any real culture about what it meant to be Chinese. I did not see them say “ge ge” or see them act or talk in a way that made me think, “This is Chinese culture, I just have to roll with it.”

It was especially sad to me that there were no identifiable Korean actors, let alone female ones. I felt a disconnect from my own culture. I had no choice, but to admire black or white actors. I lost touch with my physical identity at those times, and sometimes had a hard time accepting what I saw in myself.

Asian actors would play all different ethnicities, with the scripts making no differentiation. It was as if to say that all Asians are alike. There is no difference. Make them talk slow, fight martial arts, make tea and laugh behind a sleeve with slurred r’s and where’s the difference?

I admit how much this has changed. LOST featured two Koreans speaking Korean who actually were Korean, and it managed to show the culture. Bobby Lee often makes fun of his Korean heritage in sketches like Average Asian and Attitudes and Feelings, Both Desirably and Sometimes Secretive.

An Japanese play Japanese though often eclipsed by people like Tom Cruise’s character who can save all of Japan despite being a Caucasian in what would have been a hostile-to-whites environment.

Despite all of this ethnic shuffling and reassigning, I didn’t set out to define myself by the actors I see on TV. I don’t want to confine myself by what others are or how they think. That doesn’t tell who I am, but I still can see the advocates of Asian actors’ side. It’s not for us to look up to those who act and have role models insomuch as it is for those who are not Asian, to not harbor the stereotypes shown on TV.

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Posted in Racism


“Rescuing” Children

05 Feb

I’ve read my own adoption papers many times–not just the papers the orphanage gave, but the papers that my parents have of their evaluation. I know it in detail, have read on the adoption process and tried my best to educate myself beyond that of the adoptee, but of adoption too. I know that some adoptees do and others don’t. But looking and facing adoption, the process, was also a way of looking at myself.

My brother’s and my papers stamp us with a serial number, a guardian and talk about why we were relinquished by appa, time frames, and all of the things we did. Such as eating habits, how capable we were of going to the bathroom, what we wanted most, our personalities, and ironically how well we functioned as Koreans in a Korean society. The serial number I think stands out the most. That case number is the same number I’ve seen on holocaust victims’ wrists.

The papers talk about how miserable we were. In the photo of myself I look so brave holding my younger brother’s hand. I would not cry. I will put on a brave face. I will be there for him. He’s the only lifeline I have left. When he’s not there I look so lost and miserable. But he’s the only thing I have and in that moment my mask is gone.

My brother was featured in a calendar too, about to cry–though this is contradictory to what the papers say. They say I protected him. I always cried. I was the one that held things in. I took care of him. I took care of him–not because no one else could, but it was my duty as an older sister. He was my mask.

The papers from my parents emphasize how happy the children will be to live in this luxury. Tabulating cars, financial report, how many classes they took, dates, signatures, times, consent forms, psychological reports, how the psychological reports went. The three cars really stuck out to me. Two people, three cars. My mom said they sold the third car before we arrived. These papers say to me that the case workers were looking for a place of luxury with stable parents–in another words a paradise of sorts. The numbers don’t stick out, just how long it took. My mom talked of the classes, but I know from that look on her face that they were not enough. Perhaps they weren’t truthful. She says they taught basics of Korean culture and some basic language skills. “Wash your hands.”

We were being rescued the papers say. We were miserable weren’t we?

On Jane Jeong Trenka’s blog she posted two videos. The advertisement from Holt which doesn’t look much different from sponsor a child and one from a passing student that filmed what he could. They are so starkly contrasting that I do wonder which is truth. How many of these children get to speak?

I often thought that I was being rescued, because that’s what reading all of that cold information without input from the child will do. The papers talk about me, around me and have words from Appa. However I recently realized that they are about me, but not from me. I wonder what that girl would say if she could say anything. Sometimes I can’t even remember enough to guess.

I don’t think I am ungrateful for being adopted. I was given something that not all the words in the world can describe. But I think the reason people adopt is fundamentally deeper than rescuing a child. There is something that moves them. Even if the initial reason is to “rescue” them there is something that they don’t have in words that they want to do for the child they are adopting–it doesn’t matter if it’s international or not. Adoptees also adopt as well, and I doubt they have such notions that they are rescuing a child from a cruel world and intentions.

But that reason has to be individual, even if it’s spoon fed. I think the reason comes down to the same reason. Why did they want to become a parent at all? Perhaps the reason is there.

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Posted in Adoption Philosophy


Pick Me Up Please

05 Feb

My Mom works late. I wondered as a child if that was because she wanted to avoid us. It didn’t matter though, because she would work at home. By the time I was eight, I was lucky to get an hour with her at all.

My Dad works at home. He is a computer programmer. He was the one I saw when I got home. He was the one I ran to for comfort.

Both of them were guilty of doing things that never made sense to me. For example, when I was in fifth grade, they had me take the metro bus home because my Dad was away and my Mom didn’t want to pick me up. I had an after school program. The way she acted, she hated picking us up or even dealing with us. She refused to pick me up and since school was far, she had me take the bus.

I remember trying to figure out how the bus worked. I didn’t know how to make the bus stop. They never rode the bus with me. I had dreams for years after about not being able to get off the bus or overshooting my stop and not being able to get back. I was scared, but as usual, I was trying to feel stronger than I was. When I asked they said, “You’ll figure it out.”

My Dad always picked me up from the after school activity. He always went to the events with me. He supported me and gave me verbal support. He helped me with the design of the car I had to do for the after school project. My Mom was never there. The thing I remember her doing the most was sitting at her desk and reading. And then when she wasn’t doing that she was playing Tetris. I admit I still have bitterness at this.

My Mom outright refused to pick me up. She did the same to my brother. It took five minutes to pick us up and then take us home if we wanted it, but she always refused, pushing the responsibility on my Dad. I remember having to go to the bathroom really badly because the school bathrooms were locked and closed after school, when I was in Fifth grade in the dark, and riding on the metro bus, scared. By then, I knew I couldn’t ask her for favors in the back of my mind, but I sill couldn’t accept it.

Seventh grade, I did soccer–I admittedly sucked at it. I wasn’t that good. I liked it despite being horrible at it. I would over think the direction that the ball had to go. When one plays sports, one is supposed to have an empty mind. However, I didn’t.

My Mom later said she never went to the practices because I was terrible at soccer. My Dad went to a few games that were local and even went to pick me up from games. He picked me up from practice. Even if he was late, he was there.

I didn’t notice in Seventh grade or Eighth grade that my mom was never there for me. She always said work was more important. That’s where she put her responsibility.

It was in High School when my Dad had to work and travel that I began to notice how bad it was. My Dad was chronically late to pick me up. The coach would apologize and say he had to leave because my Dad was so leave. I had to swallow my embarrassment and tell the coach it was OK. In the car I would complain and say shouldn’t you be on time?

My Dad got better about it. My Mom was much worse. I remember once having a paper due the next day and her picking me up at 10:00 pm when it was dark, no one was at the school and I was sitting alone, in the dark and cold. Fall was coming. I could hear crickets. It was so bad sometimes people would see me and ask if I was OK.

I swallowed my embarrassment even more at having a parent not pick me up when I requested it. It was less than five minutes from my school to her work. She would complain to me.

She would say, “Why can’t you take the bus?”
I would say, “The buses stop running after that late. Can’t you just pick me up? It ends the same day, the schedule is on the calendar. You can see when the games are and when the practices are.”
“Why can’t you walk home?”
It was dark in the fall. I was 16 years old. Walking in the dark was not safe.

She would admonish me for not being willing to do it when my brother did. The difference between me and my brother though was that he gave up on her when he was little. He was five when he gave up on my mother saying, “I don’t like her.”
He decided to become independent and not rely on them. But I fruitlessly hoped that they would turn around. I wanted to be proven right for once.

I fought with her. She buried herself in her work while we fought, ignoring me. She never understood. She did it once or twice just because I fought with her. But I always felt hurt by her lack of understanding.

I stopped going to the orthodontist because of a similar incident where she refused to drop me off and show me where the office was. She left my dad to do it and said it was in “walking distance” which was 2 miles in the dark. I got there after they closed. I told her about it, and she ignored my complaint saying I should make another appointment. My Dad wasn’t around. I stopped going.

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Posted in Childhood, Parents


“Marriage” Counselor

05 Feb

My Mom was worried that my dad being away would effect the family. So she had her marriage counselor see the entire family. She forced my brother and me to go. She had always complained about people in the psychology business.

I really didn’t like that guy. He was fake. He just smiled and didn’t deal with the issues I raised. I was the one that talked while my Mom smiled and defended, my brother retracted and My dad had that, I am not going to cross my wife look in his eyes.

I later learned that my Mom approved of him because he smoked pot. After two sessions he declared the family “Healthy” and that everything was “alright.” But this was not true. Because I said as such.

That’s not therapy.

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Posted in Uncategorized


I’m beaten up to happiness

05 Feb

I’m beaten up to happiness
What are you going to do because
I don’t smile at you
I won’t, I should
I could, but I don’t
Do I even have the right
to dislike you even a little
Or are you going to make it all go away
with a quick solution
swallow a pill and make it all OK
The drugs will take it all away
But without the faith
in the madness
I find peace in chaos and the sadness
feed the children the drugs
even if you say it’s wrong
After all what is one more
year, month, week, day, hour, minute, second
when you can quickly make it all go away
spend no time with them at all
make excuses of work and taxes
and make them fall in love with a lighted box
typing, watching
like little drones that don’t know better
and to cure that
for surely that’s not healthy
feed them something more, like a quick fix
to make them smile as they once did,
when time really mattered

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Posted in Childhood, Parenting, Poetry

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