Hopi in a Tewa World

19 Feb

There was the story of the Hopi and the Tewa where Hopi are cursed to never learn the language. They will marry each other, but no Hopi will speak Tewa. The Tewa every time the Hopi child speaks Tewa tells them that they are wrong. The child never learns Tewa because they constantly think speaking Tewa the way they do is wrong. No matter what they do they can’t be Tewa and become Hopi. They are pushed toward being Hopi and learning Hopi ways.

Appa, my mom, my dad, all recognize me for who I am in some part. They know pieces of my identity like a broken jigsaw puzzle that I don’t have all the pieces to. I don’t know if I ever will be able to complete the puzzle. They often affirm my identity, my memories and emotions. I know I have some pieces in that stack of unfitted pieces that I just haven’t found yet. I feel content, the dharma of it washing over me as I put it together.

But outside of this family that I hold dear, everyone else is Tewa. They treat me as Hopi.

“You are not Korean,” that glare seems to tell me.

“We don’t recognize you as Jewish because you look Asian,” their actions tell me.

“You have to have initiation to be Jewish.”

They hide their shock to find that both my parents are white. Sometimes it doesn’t sink in for them until they see the picture and don’t even see my muted pride to have parents like them.

“I am trying to understand your culture,” a Jew once said to me, not knowing what they were saying.

Pity, sadness regret and telling me that I am not Korean, Jewish, American, adopted enough. I feel the sting of these much more than anyone else. I am constantly rejected by the cultures that claim me–that I feel it’s my right to be a part of.

I feel no anger over this. I should, I could, and I know there are people out there that tell me I must. But I have a unique view of the world. I am not rooted to my cultures. I am released from the constant worry if I am Korean enough, if I am Jewish enough. Even if the magnet pulls me back and I overcompensate, I often break free. There are things about me that are Korean, Jewish, American, adopted, from an interracial family, but escaping those, I see strength, not fear.

Unrooted from cultures I am rarely shocked by culture shock. I have enough culture shock of different kinds that even I still don’t recognize. I discovered that my culture shock was as long as thirteen years long. There are still things I experience as culture shock and then when I think I’ve settled I am shocked back into my Korean culture, scolding myself for not realizing the socialization that my parents gave is *wrong* for Korean culture. I find things I do are still Korean and have to remind myself that’s not American. I spend time in constant culture shock.

Tell me anything. People eat their dead. People drive on the opposite side of the road. Not everyone uses roman letters. Houses don’t always face the road. There are slaves sponsored and owned by American companies. (The United Fruit Company in Guatemala toppled the democratically elected president with the help of the US so they could keep shares. They closed in 2000, however later became Chiquita. Link is at the end.)

I cease to be surprised. I cease to say elew. I am Hopi in a Tewa world.

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Posted in Adoption Philosophy, General Adoption


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