It starts with one step at a time . . .
I’m still trying to lift the fog off my brain and adjust to the "real world" again. Yesterday I met a friend for lunch and as I sat in my car, I thought, "can I drive?" I’d adjusted in that short of time to walking or taking public transportation everywhere, a decidedly unfamiliar process in Minnesota where everyone seems to drive, even if it’s just three blocks!
In a very real way, this trip with my family was an experiment to see whether or not living in Korea would ever be a possibility. Right now it’s not in our short term plans – that is, the next few years. But there IS a possibility that it might figure into our 5 to 10-year plan. What I’d hoped would happen did – my kids feel a much stronger Korean identity.
While the time with my family was important and special, the time at the IKAA conference fed my hunger for knowledge. I was able to meet with a great many folks who are researching in a newly emerging field of Korean Adoption studies, both in South Korea and around the world. I’m looking forward to putting together some of the more interesting thoughts on the blog.
My family and I were privileged to be able to meet the women of Mindeulae. Mindeulae is a group of Korean birth parents, all of whom have reunited with their children who were sent for international adoption. This group calls itself "Mindeulae" or, "Dandelion" because like a dandelion they are resilient, can’t be contained, and their "seeds" are scattered across the wind.
The parents of Mindeulae say, "My baby, my hands," meaning that they wanted to raise their own children with their own hands, but had no choice except international adoption. On August 4, 2007, Mindeulae and adoptees and allies joined together to kick off their campaign to gather 1 million signatures to promote services and resources for single parenting and to end international adoption and promote domestic adoption.
The peaceful demonstration went off without any complications other than some rain, and was an emotional and powerful moment in history. While all the conference attendees were invited, probably only about 10% participated in the actual demonstration (there were other conference activities going on at the same time) but I know several supported the demonstration and felt they could not/did not want to take such a public action.
One of the other highlights of the trip was taking my kids to the place where I was found over 37 years ago, the steps of Daegu/Taegu City Hall. There is a new building attached to the older building, and the newer building did not have steps so we walked around to the other side, and voila! There were steps.
My daughter told me that it was hard to believe that someone left me there as a 1-year old and in February too! Do you see the man in the blue shirt in the background? He was curious about why we were taking a photo on the steps and when we explained why we were there, he apologized for not being able to give us a tour of the building (we got there just after the building closed for business). He also acknowledged that we were at the older part of the building.
We also went to White Lily and spoke to one of the sisters there. She is in the process of putting together photo albums of all the children who had been at White Lily since the early 1900’s (it closed in 1994). She had a photo album of the 1970s but was unable to find it, however she did show me two photos of babies and toddlers from about 1971 and just seeing those pictures gave me a better sense of my presence there.
On both the micro (family) level and macro (IKAA) level, this trip was informative and emotional. I also feel more sure than ever that I will be pursuing research through a PhD. I wish I could have spent another week getting to know the other conference attendees. One thing that struck me, while I sat at the opening ceremony on Wednesday morning, was this:
Twenty years from now
and New Delhi
and Addis Ababa
and Guatemala City
among many others . . .
. . . hundreds of adults adoptees will be gathering, forming their own organizations and research symposiums in their birth countries, staging protests, authoring books, and asking the hard questions.
and the others have answers for them?
Will they, like South Korea, apologize?