Adoption is not always something that people talk about often or openly, so I'm glad my journey and this blog have opened up the conversation and made it so organic. I am still surprised and humbled every time someone comes up to me - a friend of a friend, a distant relative, a long ago acquaintance - and tells me how my story affected them, or their thoughts on adoption, or that they even read my blog. I have been so happy that it has touched so many people. Thank you again.
There were a few things I had wanted to write about a year or so ago and never got around to writing, that I will try to remember and piece together now. But in the meantime, I will answer the age old question that is still everyone's first curiousity, "Are you still in touch with them?!"
The answer is yes. Kind of. In as much capability as you can be with two people half a world away, who don't speak your language, are not in a relationship anymore, and haven't shared your life's existence with anyone in their own families. So, does that count? I don't know. My father and I still send each other messages via KakaoTalk, but mine mainly consist of photos of the children, and his consist of words that I try to piece together (unsuccessfully) on Google Translate and a bunch of emoticon hearts. They were frequent and daily in the beginning, but these days I have to remember to send a few pictures every few weeks. He always writes back.
My mother and I have not spoken since I left, but I did send her a letter via my translator and a care package a month or two ago. I'm pretty sure she received them but I have not heard from her. I have however called her sister who, as it turns out, lives in Belgium (not France). Today! Of all days. No reason for today except that Tom kept prodding me to call her and finally bought some Skype credit last night and gave me an hour of time to make the call today so I did it. I think she was pretty surprised, although she did know the whole story and told me that my mother had called her to tell her everything and they had looked at my Facebook page together. She said that my mother was doing fine, although after we met she was "very unhappy and cried a lot." She told me that I should not think she is a bad person- and I told her I definitely did not. It is sad that that is what they are still so concerned about and want you to immediately understand; it's still about saving face in Korea.
Which leads me to some of the things I had wanted to say last year and am still processing now. My views on (Korean) adoption have definitely changed since I visited. I was raised to believe that if I had stayed in Korea, I would have lived a very poor and destitute life. I'm not blaming this perspective on my parents, but I do think that was what they were told and probably still believe (my mother still thinks Korea is a third world country. Mom, if you're reading this, it's not. It's really not.). Everyone believed that. It's an American perspective- that through adoption we are "saving" poor children (especially back in the 80s when Korean adoption was so common). That these children had no future and no families and no chance at life. I'm not saying that that story is not true for many unfortunate children but what I have learned since visiting Korea is that there is much, much more to it than that. Every child's story is different, and every adoptee has a different experience. For me, my parents were simply not married and it would not have been socially acceptable for them to keep me. They have both since separately raised two children of their own who seemingly have completely normal lives. Their children work in hospitals, schools, are married, have children. They are not poor. They are not beggars. But they were born to parents who were married (at least at the time). That's our only difference, and what decided my fate from theirs. I think that's my biggest takeaway from all of this. Yes, my life would have been drastically different than it has turned out to be (and I wouldn't change it for the world) but it would not have been a life in the slums. When it comes to Korean adoption, I believe that there should be more support and focus on the single mother and Korea's issues with stigmas and saving face, and NOT just "saving the children."
When I returned last year, I wanted to write about where I envisioned my place with my birth parents today, my feelings toward the other participants, my sister, and the GOAL staff. Since I never got around to writing that post I can only briefly comment today about where we all are now, and how I am still so grateful for this journey I was able to make, thanks mainly to all of the hard work of the people from GOAL. A few of the adoptees have already returned for a "second trip home." A few have decided to move to Korea and teach English. A few have put the trip behind them. Most I have not kept in touch with, unfortunately. I have been too involved with my busy boys and sweet baby girl to think of much else. But I would love to go back sometime in the next five years with my family- hopefully to meet more family, and also to really enjoy the country and its food and customs and scenery.
When I first returned home, I wrote down a few words describing how I felt then: tired, curious, disoriented, frustrated, annoyed, grateful. Luckily, all of the negative feelings have subsided (although I will say I am still pretty tired these days, with three little children!). I was also determined to learn Korean in some way or another- through classes, a private tutor, Rosetta Stone. I was never able to begin that; I couldn't find any local classes or a tutor, I knew I would never have the time or motivation to use Rosetta Stone even if I bought it, so that intention has diminished. But recently I've made contact with a local Korean church and have been renewing my interest in participating in their language and culture classes with my oldest son Tommy, who will be 5 next month. I think it would be really special to do that together. We will see.
I hope to keep this blog alive, in some way, albeit sporadically. In the future, I plan to update whenever I see fit. Maybe I will have some familial breakthrough, maybe I will go back to Korea, or maybe something else will happen. Who knows. I know I want to give back in some way, and my husband and I have been brainstorming a few different ideas, so keep an ear out for that. These days I'm taking each day on its own. I am loving my life with Lila and my boys. I am so grateful for this life I have and will be forever grateful that I had the opportunity to go back and discover the truths to my past. Now I have the end to my story that began once upon a time in spring. I may not be a princess or have a glamorous past, but at least I know my true beginnings.
If you have enjoyed reading my blog, please consider donating to GOAL so they can continue to help others pursue their own journey. First Trip Home 2014 begins at the end of this month, and GOAL volunteers are paid solely from member dues and donor contributions.