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?
I find it rather poetic that the far flung children of Korea could have a positive impact on Korean society.
It takes a little while for us APs to see this for what it really is, but this cause has my support as well.
Such a powerful post on so many different levels, Jae Ran. Thank you for your voice.
Thanks for your thoughtful post. I really enjoy reading your blog. I learn so much. It is as though I can jump ahead in time and imagine the future. I am an AP of two children from China, and as I was reading I was wondering if my own children will be making such journeys with their children in 30 years. I hope so.
A recent book by another China AP called _China Ghosts_ also imagines our children in the future working for greater freedom in China. It would be the best kind of historical irony if they could and if China somehow had to listen b/c our children have more power as citizens of the West than they could have in China. For ex., what if in the future, American trade policy was headed by a Chinese American adoptee?
My best hope is that by adopting our children (who were unwanted and marginalized by their birth culture) that we can demonstrate how much potential every child has, how no child ever should be abandoned or institutionalized. This would help offset the losses that our children have suffered, losses that I cannot replace or ameliorate.
Best wishes for you as you begin your own research!
Lump in throat viewing the poignant picture and hearing a little about your visit.
Thank you for the post. Please post more about your trip! I’ve been hitting up other KADs’ blogs who were at the gathering and hvae been thinking of you all a lot lately. I can’t help but wonder if my own birth mother noticed the influx of KAD faces in seoul and thought about me. Hmmm…i smell a blog post about this….
Welcome back, and thank you for sharing your thoughts about your trip and the conference, and especially about Mindeulae. Watching Korean women empower themselves and find their voice is deeply moving, but most of all humbling. Very humbling.