Monday, July 30, 2012

Geographies of Kinship

I think one really awesome thing about the Korean adoption community is that we are a global community.  Though most Korean adoptees have come to the US, representation can be found in Australia, France, Norway, Japan and many more countries.  Collectively we are fluent in numerous languages and cultures.  To me, there is a sense of both beauty and power in that.  It makes me excited for what our community is doing now and for the potential we have to do great things in the future.

Deann Borshay Liem, a filmmaker and Korean adoptee, is truly honoring our global community through her upcoming documentary, Geographies of Kinship.  I am so very excited for this film as it follows the lives of five Korean adoptees around the world.  Watching just the preview for it already got me misty eyed over the weekend.  The film has been seeking financial support over the past month and its online fundraiser is about to end.  Although the funding goal has already been met, please at least take a look at the preview and consider offering your support!  I think this will be storytelling at its best and a beautiful tribute to the Korean adoption community.

Link here: Geographies of Kinship

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Opening the floor

It occurs to me that over the past few months, I have been two things that a good blogger should not be: lazy and self-absorbed.  My ideas are so slow to come and then I end up just blathering on about my own issues like this is some Diary of a Mad Asian Woman.  This is not what I want my blog to be.  Personal experience roots me to all of this, but I want to move beyond me into something more. 
So, in a move that may or may not be wise, I want to open the floor to anyone reading this for thoughts.  What questions do you have?  What topics are you interested in?  What would be helpful for you to read about on here?  I will be checking the comments of this post for responses, but emailing me would also work just as well!
I’m so thankful for the connections that I have made through this blog, particularly with other adoptees.  I started writing here two years ago in an attempt to feel less isolated myself and I have found so much community since that time.  It’s amazing what can happen to your life when you take a chance and open a new door.
And I want to keep this door open.  To keep learning, sharing and helping.  I don’t want this blog to go to waste because the adoption community means the world to me.  In the meantime, I will continue to gather thoughts for this blog, but please, please don’t be afraid to make a comment.  I promise you that I am listening. 

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Adoptee Deportation: It Matters!

Ever hear of Russell Green?  Joao Herbert?  Kairi Shepherd?  I hadn’t either until a few months ago and now, knowing their stories, it’s nothing short of shocking that their names are not more familiar.  These three people are only a few of a growing list of international adoptees who have been deported from the US back to their countries of birth or who risk deportation.  Joao Herbert was deported back to his birth country, Brazil, where he was murdered a few years later.  Kairi Shepherd and Russell Green continue to reside in the US, but their fate is unknown.  The scary reality is that many international adoptees may be in danger of being deported back to their countries of birth; countries they may have no clue how to survive in.  Imagine being told you had no choice but to go live someplace where you don’t know the language, culture or a single person to help you out.  Your entire life would be disrupted.  You would have to leave your home, your job, your family, everything.  Oh, and the cherry on top, you would be labeled as an ‘illegal immigrant’.  All because you did not become a US citizen.
Okay, so citizenship is not the only component to this situation.  More accurately, adoptees who lack US citizenship and who have committed a criminal offense risk deportation.  Mind you, the term ‘criminal offense’ can cover many a crime.  Kairi Shepherd committed fraud due to her struggle with drug addiction.  Jess Mustanich, who was deported to El Salvador, burglarized his father’s home at age 18.  Many of the crimes in question were committed by adoptees when they were in their late teens and appear to surround drug possession, fraud and burglary.  I realize the way I’m phrasing this sounds possibly biased and more sympathetic towards the adoptees, and that’s about right!  These crimes do not justify removal from one’s country.  To these adoptees, the US is home; the only place they’ve ever truly known and felt comfortable in.  The law is stripping them of what they trusted to be theirs.  And, oh heck, Blanca Catt?  As far as I know, she did not commit any sort of crime and yet she, too, came under fire for her lack of citizenship after being smuggled into the US as a toddler.
It might be easy to jump to the conclusion that the adoptive parents are to blame.  However, the lack of citizenship has not come at the fault of the adoptee or, in many cases, even their adoptive parents.  Jess Mustanich’s father tried numerous times over multiple years to secure citizenship for his son, only for agencies and resources to fumble around and never do anything about it.  Some adoptees ended up passed from place to place, living in child welfare limbo where no one secured citizenship for them.  That path to citizenship is not without barriers.  Those barriers became fewer when the Child Citizenship Act of 2000 was passed, essentially giving international adoptees automatic citizenship upon arrival in their receiving country.  While this is great for many adoptees, it does not protect those born prior to 1983.  What is in place to protect the rest?  Sadly, nothing that I know of.  Not yet, anyway.
I have to admit I was quite ignorant on this entire issue up until fairly recently and now it’s one of those disturbing things that I cannot possibly unlearn.  What disturbs me most, however, is how little attention this problem is getting.  Kairi Shepherd’s case seems to be the most prevalent in the media, but even her story barely has footing.  This is a human rights issue that has been glossed over for years.  If this is the first time you’re reading about adoptee deportation, know that it isn’t new news.  Joao Herbert was deported over a decade ago!  This is an ongoing problem and those at risk need a solution now.  Although this situation does not apply to me, these are fellow members of the adoption community hurting in a big way.  They need the support of their community, adoptees, APs, friends and all.
So, community, what can we do about this besides get mad about it?  (Getting mad is a good start, though!)  Get informed.  Google the names mentioned in this post.  Click this link to find a list of deportation cases.  Sign a petition to amend the Child Citizenship Act to help those at risk of deportation.  Spread the word about this social issue to whoever will listen to you. 
(Special thanks to Land of Gazillion Adoptees for challenging adoptee bloggers to write about this topic in the month of June.  Better late than never, right?) 

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Get me to the (Korean) church on time!

Confession #489 on this blog: I’m not great at romantic relationships.  With the exception of a few relationships and a handful of casual dates, I tend to be that perpetually single person.  As I progress through my twenties, more and more of my peers are jumping into the engaged/married pool.  I would be lying if I said I’m not getting a little worried about when I’ll reach this next milestone..if ever.  Next year I will be in two weddings.  Always the bridesmaid, never the bride?  I’ve been proudly touting the title of Miss Independent for a while now and I’m finally getting to the point where I want that to change.
I know myself well enough to know that I definitely have my hang-ups regarding relationships.  Among them, I’ve realized that not being colorblind is creating this inner conflict.  For a while now, I’ve been tossing around the idea of attending a nearby Korean church.  A few of my relatives have encouraged this with the hope that I might actually meet my future husband there.  I guess I’m a little touched that they’ve thought of this.  I have voiced my sense of isolation growing up without an Asian community to be a part of, so it’s nice to see that someone is listening.  My mom has already said she would not mind at all if I married a Korean guy, adopted or not.  I’m pretty sure she just wants adorable Asian grandbabies (which is completely understandable because Asian babies are astoundingly cute).
The thing that really has me confused, though, is how much of that sense of Asian community do I need to feel fulfilled and accepted in life?  Is it enough to have Korean friends?  Do I need to have relationships with other Asians as family members?  I think I mull this over even more now, knowing my omoni’s response to my birth search.  Maybe that door has closed for good and I will never truly be a part of my biological family.  Marriage may be my only chance to experience anything even remotely close to that.  I have wondered over the months if I should only focus on trying to find a Korean or Asian boyfriend, which seems ridiculous.  A person’s ethnicity should not be my deciding factor in whether or not I should date them.  I’m just scared that I might be missing out on something if I am never to be part of a Korean family.  I don’t even know what that ‘something’ is! 
I look at other Korean adoptees I know and most of them have ended up with non-Asian significant others.  And they seem happy with their lives.  In the scheme of things, I’m sure that ultimately marrying a non-Asian guy would not be a negative thing.  I don’t want to focus so much on what I’ve missed that I actually miss out on someone standing right in front of me.  I don’t want to make the mistake of committing to a Korean guy just because he is Korean.  Relationships are built on many, many things.  It’s not necessarily one isolated piece of a person’s identity that makes it all click.  It comes down to more than common interests or common ethnicity.  I don’t want someone else to date me just because I’m Asian or just because we like the same music.  Maybe those are good starting points for sparking a connection, but those factors alone don’t build a foundation for a lasting relationship.  People are wonderfully complex and need to honored as such.  I just need to keep my heart and eyes open enough to see the big picture.      

Monday, May 21, 2012

Six months

I feel as though I need to start this entry with an apology to anyone who reads here regularly. I have clearly been inconsistent as a blogger for a while now and I realize how unfair that is to readers. But, as all of you probably well know, life gets crazy sometimes and before you know it, a few months have passed. So, I apologize. I thought about discontinuing this blog, but a little bit of my old fire is slowly warming up again and I don’t think it’s quite yet time for me to leave this. One day. Today, however, is not that day.

Last time I wrote here, I was feeling down and hurt about my birth mother. Today? Well, today I’m not sure that much has changed on that front. I’ve been battling all manner of issues recently, leaving me to again put my (what I perceive to be) failed birth search on the back burner. And then yesterday, out of absolutely nowhere, I ended up bawling about it on the phone to my mom. I can still say with complete conviction that I do not regret initiating the search. I am bound and determined to reach the other side of this hurt to find a wiser, stronger me. It just hasn’t happened yet. I’m still caught up in the hurt and grieving. How long will I be in this place? It feels so frustrating. So unproductive. I was hoping that half a year later I’d be farther along than I am and I really need to work on being kinder to myself about that. It’s okay to not feel okay. It doesn’t make me a weak person or an inferior person. It makes me human. Just have to keep reminding myself of that.

I just realized that I used the term ‘grieving’ in that last paragraph which I had never articulated before. This is grieving. My omoni’s refusal to have contact with me feels like losing her again. It is an ambiguous loss, to feel hurt and rejected by someone I don’t even know. The social worker me understands how so many factors could have contributed to my omoni’s decision. Factors that do not necessarily have anything to do with my own inadequacy, but with the greater society’s view of a woman having a child out of wedlock. My omoni is married with a child. Her reaching out to me could disrupt that life. If her husband does not know about me, his finding out might hurt their relationship. For her to reach out to me could potentially come at a great cost to her family and her reputation. I don’t want to cause her hurt in any of this.

And yet, a selfish part of me wants her to make the leap and take that risk. To be the rebel. To flip the bird to society and shout out loud that I am hers. I’m asking a lot. Maybe too much. I’m asking her to make the harder choice to choose me. She gave birth to me. I am and always will be her daughter, whether or not she acknowledges it. If she made contact with me, even just once, it would show me that she somehow determined rebelling was worth it. That I was worth it. I may never receive that affirmation from her and I really need to figure out how the heck to live with that.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Four months

It’s hard to believe that it’s been four months since I found out that my birth mother was located and declined to have contact with me. Where does the time go? Somehow I have acclimated to this information. I have been able to file these pieces of knowledge somewhere in my mind and know at the drop of a hat that my omoni still lives in my birthplace. That she’s married. That she has a child—my half sibling. But the truth is that I don’t take these pieces out and look at them all that often. At first, I did. I couldn’t help it. I had to keep telling myself that this was real. My whole life, any knowledge of my omoni was shrouded in the past. To know what her life is like in present day has been an almost disconcerting thing to digest. She’s a real, breathing, tangible person out there living her life. And, for the past four months now, living her life with the knowledge that I tried to reach out to her.

The truth is I haven’t thought about her all that much in quite a while. I became consumed by my new job. For a while, that was a very legitimate excuse. I was also driving back to the hometown frequently as my grandma’s condition declined. It’s been four months, though, and my excuses are slowly fading away. Despite the chaos, the ups and downs of life, I could be making more time to think about my omoni. I’ve had plenty of time to sit down and finally start drafting that letter to her to leave with the adoption agency. It’s not a matter of being too busy; I’ve been flat-out avoiding this aspect of my life. It’s also reflected in my lack of writing here. I used to have more of a fire behind me when it came to all this adoption stuff. The flame isn’t gone, but it has lost strength. I have felt hurt and rejected. I have read reunion stories and felt deeply envious, though mostly sad. And then I just stopped reading adoption blogs, books and articles altogether. It got too personal for me. The emotional current ran too deep.

As I write this, I realize that there is much healing I have not yet allowed myself to do. I don’t want to walk around carrying this hurt in my heart. I don’t want to keep expending energy feeling angry at my omoni when I barely know why she said no. Mentally, I walked away from her because I couldn’t bear the thought of continuing to stand at some door waiting, wondering if she’d ever open it for me. She might still. This division is not necessarily permanent. She may change her mind months from now. Years from now? But for now, at her word, this search has come to an impasse. I will not continue to pursue someone who does not want to be pursued. There is nothing else I feel I can do. It’s this feeling of helplessness that maybe is most discouraging of all, knowing I have no control over the situation.

There is a lesson in here somewhere. I firmly believe this and have always sought what I can take away from a painful experience. Right now, I’ve got nothing. But it’s only been four months. Healing doesn’t have a deadline. I somehow suspect that part of this healing needs to involve forgiving my omoni. That letter I write to her might be the final word in all of this. I want to get to a place where I can make that word one of love in case it truly is the last one.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

For Dorothy

It’s times like these that I just have to take a step back from any critical thinking regarding adoption and let myself feel. My lovely grandma passed away this week. She was 96 years old. The last time I saw her was about two weeks ago. So much of her mind had grown dark from Alzheimer’s. She could not articulate names or how we were connected, but there was still the dimmest light of recognition. I knew this because when I leaned in close to talk to her, she said, “Hello darling”. She has always reserved the word ‘darling’ for me, her only granddaughter. Her passing did not come as a shock because her decline was so rapid over the last month. In a situation that would be stressful for anyone, our family has handled everything with incredible grace. As much as it saddens us to not have her here with us anymore, we knew we couldn’t hold on forever. Her condition worsened so that eating and breathing would no longer come easily. The most loving thing we could do was let her go and be at peace.

In this moment, I can only think about my love for her and the tremendous relationship we shared. At 25, I know there are many out there who did not get to keep their grandmas as long or who never had them in their lives in the first place. It is for those reasons that I am grateful. When my parents first shared that they would be adopting a Korean baby, my grandma was not thrilled. Or, at the very least, a little confused. But if you ever saw us together, you would never know that. I have felt nothing but pure love and affection from her for as long as I can remember. In retrospect, one thing that touches me most is how she used to sleep over every Christmas Eve at my house with my mom and I. She could have stayed with her daughter, but she always stayed with us, her son’s wife and child. Somehow, as all grandmas know, she knew we needed her. She was a mother to my mom and the ultimate grandparent to me as all the others had passed long before. She could share in the loss of my father in a way that no one else could truly share. She was our protector who kept us close to her heart always.

Sometimes people like to ask if I “regret” being adopted. Well, regret might just be the wrong sentiment. I am sad that I’ve never had a relationship with my Korean family. I am sad that my connections to my Korean heritage have been tenuous most of my life. I am sad for the missed opportunities. But I am not sad to be a part of my American family. They are my world and they have brought me so much joy and love. I’ve realized how much I despise the notion of birth and adoptive families somehow being pitted against one another. I do not wish for one over the other. Even though I don’t know my birth family, at the end of the day, I cannot hate them. I cannot call them inferior. Who am I to even make those judgments? If I were to have any regret at all, it would be over the fact that I have been unable to have both families in my life. If I had the power to choose, I would choose both.

Adoptees haven’t had the power to choose in many ways and I lament that. But, right now, I can also say that having the privilege of being my grandma’s darling was one of the greatest choices I never got to make.