My story is unique, yet it is nothing new.
Born almost 26 years ago, in a small clinic outside the bustling city of Seoul, a young woman gave birth to me. Less than three pounds in weight, two months early (I suppose this was a good indication of how I’d be later in life - I’m so impatient!), I was certainly not an easy burden to bear. According to the file I’ve read time and time again, my biological mother was somewhere around 21-years-old, single, and unwed. She was 5’0” and 110 pounds. She met my biological father and, under the guise of having a future together, had a whirlwind romance that ended when he left her - and left her with me, growing inside of her. He was tall, and skinny, and spoke in a traditional Seoul dialect, so the paper says. I’ve never thought much about him.
She wore no sort of physical binding to conceal her pregnancy, and she suffered no morning sickness - something that always seemed like a glimmer of hope for me when I finally decide to have children. I always grew up with the understanding that my name, Chae-Won, was one she had given me, but I believe the adoption agency in South Korea gave me that name. I don’t know what she called me or if she called me anything at all.
I was put into foster care two months after being born, two months in which I can only assume my birth mother tried to take care of me and nurse me to health. My foster mother fed me, gave me things like tangerine juice, and saved me from succumbing to pneumonia. In the first picture my parents received of me, the hair at the top-rear of my head is sticking in every direction having been shaved to insert an IV due to the pneumonia.
My siblings and parents have often told me their versions of the story. My sister was nine, my brother was seven. Their accounts are somewhat different than my parents, but all of them recall the day they received my picture in the mail. I was tiny, my eyes almond-shaped and large with fright, placed on a tiny black-and-gold throne. At my feet, a placard read, “Kim, Chae-Won:” it was one of the only mementos of my Korean life I had with me when I finally arrived on January 15, 1988.
Growing up wasn’t necessarily easy when it came to being “different.” The only Asian child for most of my elementary school years meant a lot of unnecessary questions (the common “Who are your REAL parents?” amongst others), bullying (“The only reason you’re adopted is because your REAL parents didn’t love you!”), and general confusion at the fact that my parents were white. Maybe it’s only in retrospect, but I’ve always thought it is easier to spot an adopted child than it is an adopted adolescent or adult. I remember walking with my dad in the city once as a teenager, and I remember the amount of disgusted, horrified stares we got because people assumed this older, white gentleman was dating a young, teenage Asian girl. But when you’re a child, Asian, and with parents who are a different race, it seems generally understood that you’re adopted.
I’ve been met with a lot of insensitively curious people who come up to me out of the blue and ask me where I’m from. I usually respond with, “New York.” Then they retort with, “No, where are you REALLY from?” Never being one to lie, I will usually oblige with, “South Korea.” While I understand that we tend to have a natural curiosity about our fellow human beings, the question gets old very quickly. Why can’t you just accept that I may not be from another country, just because I look different than you? For other Asians who ask me where I’m from, I understand that they are trying to establish a connection, a rapport based on similar origins. But I am afraid I can’t offer much in that realm since I know only a handful of words in Korean, have no knowledge of Korean culture, and am really alienated from the country in which I was born.
For fellow adoptees, I would like to say that you may come to a point in your life where you question your entire existence. I know that this journey started for me when I was about sixteen years old. I finally began to wonder about my biological family, where I fit in, where I belonged. I have yet to find the answers to those questions, but I am beginning to understand and accept that maybe there aren’t answers. Maybe, for adopted children or bi-racial children, there is no ONE place for us to fit in. Maybe we’re an amalgamation of different cultures, different people, and maybe that’s completely okay. Maybe the rest of the world hasn’t caught up to the idea that we don’t have to fit into a neat, little box - that we can be a mosaic of cultures, and a beautiful one at that. Whenever this journey starts for you, I wish for you peace. I wish for you acceptance. I wish for you strength and happiness. The world will try to take those things away from you; please, don’t ever let them.
For adoptive parents, I want to stress to you that you have know your children will face struggles. They will question their identities. And it doesn’t mean that they don’t love you, respect you, or want to be a part of your - THEIR - family. Please be supportive of them as they discover the meaning of who They are. And please acknowledge the fact that yes, they are different. They were born somewhere else, they are a different race, they will experience things you will never understand first-hand. Be there for them. Love them regardless. But don’t be color-blind. Don’t pretend like they are the same as you, because they aren’t. Acknowledge that they will deal with ignorant people (like the man who argued that my sister and I couldn’t be sisters because we didn’t look alike), but that they can still be a whole person. Support them on their journey, on their exploration of the world and the world according to them. Don’t be afraid when they want to know where they’ve come from or the woman who gave them away. Hug them when they cry about feeling abandoned. Love them all the same.
UC Berkeley’s ACE Program
So this is kinda my life story…or at least the beginning of it
Hey guys, I’m Ju, I’m 16 now and I was adopted from China when I was nine months old. Due to being so young then, I don’t have any memories of China which kind of saddens me because I have nothing to remind me of my homeland. However, then again it can be considered a good thing there’s nothing and no one to miss. My adoption was smooth, a clean break, unfortunately other people I know weren’t as lucky.
Anyway I guess this is pretty typical for us adoptees, but I was left on a busy street when I was very young (since then I’ve found out that the street was relatively near the airport) and was found by a policeman who took me to an orphanage in Hunan Province. There I stayed until my parents came for me.
Then I came to live in London with my parents. My Caucasian, English parents. They’re supportive of me and have allowed me to have a much better standard of life than when I was in China. Sure, they can be very annoying sometimes but hey, nobody’s perfect, I sure as hell am not. I’ve always received the, “no, not them, who are your real parents?” This always annoyed me, because the definitions of real are, ‘not illusory’, ‘actually existing as a thing or occurring in fact; not imagined or supposed’. All my life I’ve referred to my parents as real because they raised me, and here is the definition of ‘parenting’: ‘to be or act as a mother or father to (someone)’. I’ve highlighted ‘act as’ because it is the most important part of the definition. It does not matter to me who gave birth to you, to me, it matters who brought you up. To me that person will always be your parent, and therefore no less real than your biological one and for that I love them.
I go to an all girls school and the worst thing about it is parents evening. Parents evening is when your whole year group sees you and your parents together. Now it’s not everyone, my friends have gotten used to it and have met/seen them before which is great. However, I can feel the stares boring into my back as I hug my parents, I can literally feel the judgement as they wonder “Why the hell is Ju hugging some random white couple. Oh wait, white? why are they white?” So that’s always fun…
The upside though to having white parents is that I am, as some of my friends call me, a ‘Banana’. White on the inside, yellow on the outside Personally I think it’s pretty awesome that you can be bi-ethnic, it’s like bridging the gap between two cultures, you just adapt to your surroundings and I’m proud to say I’m Chinese, but also proud to be a Londoner.
I went back to China a couple of years ago, it was an amazing experience. The colour, the bustle, the intensity, oh and the food. I loved it. But I loved it as a foreigner would love it. It was my first time visiting the country, ever and because I did not have any proper memories of my homeland, it felt very new and very strange. This was partly to do with the fact that I don’t speak Mandarin or Cantonese at all and so I felt very awkward when people kept asking/yelling things at me and I was expected to reply. I still think it’s a wonderful country, full of life, energy, and years of culture and one day I hope to visit again. However I love my city, and most importantly the people in it, so although China was and always will be my homeland, London is my home.
Thank you if you’ve read this far, I know it’s pretty long but it really means a lot to me. If you have any questions, or need any advice, please ask and i’ll try my best to help :)
Pao’s Adoption Story (I): The Colonel
It was a dusty Fall morning in 2010 in the Philippines. The streets of Manila were already tightly packed with street vendors, impatient taxis, and jaywalking pedestrians. The retired Colonel, a reserved man, quietly observed his fellow countrymen with pride and a certain regard. The traffic light was red, and he patiently waited for it to turn green. He surveyed the tightly packed neighborhood. It was the same neighborhood he lived and raised two children in for the past two decades. Trash decorated the streets, the buildings needed repainting, and chicken darted in between cars. It wasn’t Tokyo, for certain, but it was his home. He took pride in it. He was a decorated Filipino Colonel. He was proud to be Filipino.
The light had yet to turn green. He patiently waited as traffic started to pile up. A motorcycle pulled up next to him. The two men sitting on the motorcycle seemed to acknowledge the Colonel. They waved to him. The Colonel waved back. The Colonel was known to value his privacy, so it would have been rather unlikely for him to wave back to complete strangers.
The friendly exchange would turn deadly for the Colonel. Within a matter of seconds, the two strangers on the motorcycle pulled out their guns and shot the Colonel.
They revved up their motorcycle and disappeared into coagulation of Manila’s infamous traffic.
The streets were left in panic and confusion. The Colonel was dead. That day is always going to haunt my family. The Colonel was my uncle. The mystery behind his murder has not been solved. However, in retrospect, through this tragedy lies a blessing.
It opened the door to my past: my adoption.
What’s in a name?
[Please note that most is my interpretation to my family events. I do not actually know the facts, but these words that I share is what I have pieced together from what I understand.]
My history is such that I was born to Vietnamese immigrants to the U.S. Having already been the States for a few years before my birth, my parents understood the importance of assimilation and so gave me the name of “Josie Angie Ngoc Nguyen” (although, it was supposed to be just “Josie Ngoc Nguyen” but I assume the nurse couldn’t understand my parents and so added the “Angie” to the birth certificate).
Because I was thirteen at the time of my adoption, I was given the opportunity to change my name. Wanting to keep the integrity of my name, I elected to become “Josephine Nguyen Corley.”
It wasn’t until about two years after I had an omnastics assignment that I really thought about the history behind my name—a history that would perhaps shape and describe who I would become.
“Josie,” after the woman who courageously helped my mom escape to Saint Louis from her first abusive boyfriend.
“Ngoc,” after my father’s name, which also means a good quality stone.
“Nguyen,” of a distant relation to the Nguyen dynasty.
“Josephine,” a name to reflect a mature version of “Josie,” one that also reflects the growth I’ve gone through and will continue to go through.
“Corley,” my current last name that I share with my adopted family, and also has Irish origins who’s roots ultimately mean “Thor-like.”
”Minh Tâm”, my given Vietnamese name that my biological father had given me, meaning “bright heart” and has signification in Buddhism, with which my parents religiously affiliated.
Though I know that I will never be culturally Vietnamese, and I often don’t pretend to be culturally Vietnamese, there is a certain sadness among adoptees like me due to a loss of cultural identity. What I can do, however, is learn about my heritage. For me, Minh Tâm is my foundation, and the reminder of who I really am.
Original post: Click here
I’m about to embark on a journey in 7 months that has taken nearly 30 years to realize - in May 2012, I’ll be traveling to South Korea, the place of my birth. From halfway around the world, I was adopted at three months old and lived for the first 25 years of my life in conservative Western New York. How I came out of that experience the way that I did - radical, feminist, proudly out and queer - is something that has been on my mind since… well, since I left cold and snowy Rochester in 2007.
What does it mean to return? And why return now? Or at all?
Adoptee Culture 101: The Airplane Day
One of the things that I thought was most badass about being adopted while I was growing up was that I got an Airplane Day. Because of course, in the mind of a 7 year old, any day that you get presents and cake for is pretty awesome, especially when you’re only one of ten people you know in the WHOLE WORLD that gets to celebrate being adopted.
So what is an “Airplane Day”?
From Shanghai to Cronulla Riots to K-pop Mania
I was abandoned in Shanghai just like many adopted Asians it seems. My (Aussie) parents adopted me 9 years before China allowed Aussies to adopt but because my parents were living in China this was irrelevant. My dad was a project manager for the world bank, so after staying in Shanghai for four months (four years my folks), we moved to INDIA =D for a year until we moved to a semi-rural town one hour south of Sydney. Up until the age of 14/15 this was amazing. I lived five minutes from the beach and never had a problem making friends (I WAS A PROUD ADOPTEE) & I never thought about being adopted, when I did, it was never an issue. As my folks HEAVILY PUSHED CHINESE CULTURE ON ME! But I pushed back. I was never ashamed of being Chinese, though I knew people could stereotype me, so I dressed like a quintessential surfer/skater as my way of combating any stereotyping.
In high school though I was popular & never received racism, memories of the Cronulla Riots and racism on “AUSTRALIA” day (occurred 15 minutes from my school) still hit me hard. In year 8 I had depression from lots of things and began to feel that my birth parents would treat me better even though my current mum was amazingly good to me.
It wasn’t until 29 July 2010 (yes i remember:) that I met some Aussie born Chinese, Korean and Vietnamese guys who came from another church to visit mine. At first I looked down on them despite identifying with them as Asian. But after two minutes of meeting them they began cracking “Asian jokes” I was so surprised that they could be racist (i always thought Asians were thick because of language barrier). I became really close to one guy & decided that this is what my life was missing, Asians; a sense of belonging (this was due to timing though, if it had happened any earlier I’m not sure I’d have realised this).
So after a year of struggles with that & my parents on & off divorce WE MOVED TO SYDNEY!!!!:D (1 month ago) MY NEW SCHOOL IS 96% ASIAN (Indians, Koreans, Chinese domestic students and international. All girls school). I got to a CHINESE CHURCH:D with my adoptive mum and have been embraced so warmly. I no longer feel like I don’t belong in either ethnic group, I belong in the Asian one with my Asian friends,their folks & fellow Asians all over Sydney (because it’s heaps of Asians). Don’t get me wrong I still identify with “white” culture and see my white friends. But it’s more of my subculture something I know of but I don’t live in.
I REALLY HOPE THIS INSPIRES PEOPLE LIKE ME! As I never had any way of associating with adoptees because i was adopted so early. I really encourage anyone who has felt strongly also about making a move like this to do it/talk with your folks. Even if it takes you a year like me it is possible, at the right TIME. As its help relieve me of feelings of not belonging & anxiety. You don’t have to get into K-pop, varieties, K-dramas, Taiwan/HK dramas, karaoke & the food but I’ll tell you that’s what got me through until I moved. And now I can enjoy these things with other people here who like it. :)
Hyunh thi Cam Tu was a 5 month old baby when she left Vietnam at the end of the war in 1975. She was part of Operation Babylift, a joint US and Australian government project to find new homes for Vietnamese orphans. Cam Tu was adopted by a family in Sydney, became Catherine Turner and a true blue Aussie.
But the questions surrounding her Vietnamese heritage and family were impossible to ignore. So, 30 years later, Cath returned to her homeland to look for answers.
Here are some perspectives from Stephanie, a Korean adoptee.
It’s April 1975. As the Khmer Rouge takes control of Cambodia, a small orphaned girl, Li-Da Men, is flown out of the country. Eventually, she ends up as the adopted daughter of an affluent British couple and has a privileged upbringing whilst the country of her birth is returned to Year Zero. Now, twenty six years later, Li-Da returns to Cambodia in search of the truth: the truth about her past, the truth about her country’s past and the truth about what is going on in that country today. It is a journey which forces Li-Da to re-examine not just her past and her opinions, but also challenges the way in which the West regards Cambodia. Many people come forward believing they may be related to Li-Da, often travelling long distances at their own expense: none searching for a rich Western relative, all searching for personal peace, having lost children and sisters during Cambodia’s bloody war and its aftermath. This powerful film is the story of that search.
I adopted my uncle
I never really lived with my father.
Always kinda grew up smiling how you would be happy if you saw me win an award at school, imagining how it’d feel like if you came and give me a hug, how it’d feel to have you next to me in my picture album, how it feels if you taught me to grow up.
And then you sent me away, for bad behavior.
Where I stayed with my German/Irish uncle. He taught me to tie a tie, how to drive a tractor, he helped me raise my own chicken farm, he bought me ducks, he taught me to drive, he taught me to make coffee, he fostered, took care of me and told me that no matter what, people will always love me.
I adopted my uncle as my father.