An excerpt from my chapter "Scattered Seeds: The Christian Influence on the Korean Adoption Phenomenon"
The statue of Mary rises from the ground, her arms
stretched out, palms upward in prayer. The deep folds of her long gray
robes melt into the foliage of a half-dead winter garden. It is nearly
the end of March and still jacket chilly. The whole landscape before me
seems washed in sepia; the sky and Mary are cold and gray; the brittle
fallen leaves from last autumn gather at Mary’s feet and parched brown
grass licks up to the garden’s stone border.
The church buildings surround me in a half circle. Directly behind Mary is the daycare that used to be Paek Hap, White Lily.
Once it was an orphanage, my orphanage. Under the blank gaze of Mary I
arrived as a 14-month old infant, one of six kids found abandoned that
day, passed from a city official at Daegu City Hall to the waiting arms
of a nun. Once I was Catholic, and like all of the babies and children
of Daegu who came through the doors of White Lily, we baptized
ourselves with holy tears and became one of God’s and an American
family’s sacrificial lambs.
Daegu is a large urban center in the middle of the country bereft
of the southern coastal charm of Pusan or the cosmopolitan energy of
Seoul. This third largest city in South Korea spreads into suburbs. The
night before, we traveled through the city over hills, and I saw the
mountains past the horizon line of modern office buildings and
apartments. Still, to me, Daegu seems flat and industrial.
I have come to this garden and this statue to exhale. I have just
asked a nun for my file. She looks me up in her computer and prints out
a document. It is the same one I already possess, nearly blank. Sorry, there is no more information, she tells me. Nothing else I can do.
We pass by the rows of little red sneakers and black Mary Janes;
walk past the drawings on the wall. I picture the garden in bloom and
wonder if white lilies are among those flowers that ornament Mary’s
robes throughout the spring and summer.
Want to read more? Pre-order Outsiders Within: Racial Crossings and Adoption Politics, edited by Jane Jeong Trenka, Sun Yung Shin and Chineyre Oparah in bookstores mid-September, 2006.