Thursday, October 28, 2010

Thinking about Korea

You know, the other night I dreamed about Korea.

It wasn't about the country, but somehow I had three friends (who I didn't recognize)
and I was telling someone that they were Korean
(like it was super cool)

I know. Kinda weird. 

So tonight I made a batch of jook
and ate it with one of my long stemmed Korean spoons

and decided to write out my thoughts on Korea.
(especially since that was my first time back since I left to be adopted)

First - I want to make it perfectly clear that what I write is purely my own opinion. To me, each Adoptee has their own point of view and I completely respect that. Life experiences shape your perspective, so I think it would be only natural for people to have differing feelings on the same subject. Anyway, that's all I really have to say about that, but just felt that it needed to be said. 

and now, back to Korea.

Before I left on my trip, I had quite a few people ask me how I felt about going back. This was, in fact, the first time I would be stepping foot on the soil of my birth country since I left back in 1976. To be honest, I didn't give it much thought. I mean, of course I realized it was kind of a big deal, but in actuality it didn't feel like one.

Let me start off by saying that where I grew up - there were hardly any Asians. For reals. So I grew up used to being 'the only one', or 'standing out' so to speak. I never found it to be a bad thing, and never really thought about it. But if I went to San Francisco, or an airport where a group of tourists just landed - I would feel very uncomfortable.

After college when I worked in sales, one of my clients was Korean. I actually credit her for 'teaching' me about Korean food and some cultural stuff. It was a slow progression, but over the years since then, I became more interested in being 'Korean'. Once we started thinking about adopting from Korea, (which was almost 3 years ago) I actually became a bit more pro-active in my 'interest'.

And so that kind of brings us to my trip to Korea. 

I have to say, I surprised myself as to how much I loved Seoul. In some ways it seems a bit premature to rave about a city that I only spent a few days in - and I never ventured farther than a 30 minute cab ride. There is still so much of that country to see. Which I will... in hopefully a couple of more years. 

But regardless, I truly did love what I saw. And strangely enough, I felt really comfortable being around the largest group of Koreans ever! It was kind of like I got to be part of a secret club... except I didn't have full access because I still had the language barrier. Never before had I wished that I spoke Korean as I did while I was there. I found that I just wanted to be able to communicate - really communicate, like in Korean. And I wished that I knew all the cultural nuances that they already know - like when to bow, am I handing my money to them properly, do I turn to the side before I take my first drink. 

And while I found myself falling in love with the motherland, there was something that became even more clear to me. 

I am so glad that I am an American.

It's kind of hard to explain, and that's probably another reason why it's taken me so long to write about it - because it's hard to find the right words. I guess the best way to describe it, would be if you found out that your ethnic heritage included being {insert whatever you want here} and so you traveled back to that country to visit it. You discover all these 'cool' things that they do and you appreciate, and you definitely want to come back and visit... again and again. But at the end of the day, you love coming back home

does that make sense?

Because I've learned so much about why women choose adoption in Korea, I have to say, it does contribute to my thankfulness that I was raised here, in the states. If I were to have stayed in Korea, I know that I would not have had the same opportunities that I have been given. Chance are, I could have been someone totally different from who I am today. And while I may never know the true story behind why I was abandoned at a train station, I have to say, I'm okay with it. 

My life is actually really good. Far better than what I deserve and I truly am grateful. I have a super fabulous husband, two incredible kiddos, and a wonderful family - filled with fantastic parents, siblings, cousins, aunts & uncles. I can't complain. 

But I do wish that I was able to tell my Birth Mom & my Foster Mom 'Thank You'. Thank you for giving me life and a great foundation to grow from. Thank you for making a decision that must have been hard, but ultimately was for my benefit. And whether it was on purpose or not, turned out to be a selfless act. 

So I plan on going back.

This time we'll go as a family - all of us. We're thinking it'll be in about two and half years. Claire will be about six, and Charlie will be three and a half. Charlie's Foster Mom is 68, so I really want to be able to bring him back so she can see how well he's doing and how much he's grown. So hopefully in these next two plus years, I'll be able to learn a bit of Korean and build up my stamina for all the walking we'll be doing. I'll also be able to schedule an 'appointment' to review my adoption file. From what I understand there is the possibility that some of the information can differ from what my parents originally received. So maybe that will turn into a fun adventure... who knows...

What I do know, is that I'm glad I'm an adoptee
and I'm glad that I'm Korean

because my life has brought me to them

and that's a really good thing.


Big House Creations said...

I don't know if I'm just super emotional, but I'm crying. It was so nice to hear your perspective and it totally makes sense. I kinda wish I was Korean, too! :) Seriously, thank you for your open and honest way on your blog. I wish nothing but the best for you and your beautiful family.

Kim said...

Well said Rachel. And adoptee to adoptee, I feel the exact same way and did while I was in Korea...I even have a post similar to this on my blog while I was there!! Maybe we will one day meet in real life...maybe even in Korea!!

Hope you're getting lot of cuddle time with those two adorable kiddos!

Leah said...

I can so relate to what you've said. I wasn't born in another country, but I have/had very similar revelations as you....adoptee to adoptee. I've always wondered where I fit in....and have been/felt lost some, BUT...I always loved the feeling of coming 'home'. Dorothy was right. There IS no place like home! I lived with my adopted parents for 26 years, in the same house. Once I was married, I wondered if my DH and I would have a 'home' I'd loving coming home to..? The answer - is YES. We moved 3 years ago to our second house. I've figured out, it's not the 'house' that makes it a's DH, DD, and me! Sorry so long. Just wanted to say, love your honesty and I can relate to so many things you mentioned. Congrats on 'coming home'! :)

KJ said...

i loved all your observations about korea and why you're still so proud to be an american...

speaking as a korean american, i know that there are many many wonderful things about being korean, but visiting korea is a whole other ballgame. it's a wonderful country and seoul is a beautiful city and has come a very long way since we left for the states in '78, but i know i am still very very happy to step on american soil when i return and many of the quirky korean cultural norms are something i wouldn't want to live with everyday--it's still a very sexist society in many ways and women are definitely very different. there are always good and not so good aspects to any society, but it is always nice to know that i'm coming home to the us.

i think it's fabulous that you loved seoul so much and i cannot wait for your family trip in a few yrs! imagine all the cool posts!

scatterbrainliz said...

As another Korean adoptee who is in the process of adopting from Korea, you've touched on aspects I've felt and I just want to thank you for sharing them with the world!

scatterbrainliz said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
JimandJackie said...

Beautiful post, I am so glad you were able to visit Korea. There were so many days I struggled with taking my baby home from all he knew and his culture. But based on what I know he would not get half of the oppotunities we and the US will give him.Going back as a family sounds wonderful!

lifeintheparentlane said...

I think you described what you meant to say very well. I understood. My side of the family's background is so diluted from so many countries and cultures, that I end up having really nothing to feel like my own. Sometimes, I wonder if that's why I latched onto my children's Korean heritage so much. I completely fell in love with Seoul and am watching the calendar for the day we can return as an entire family of 7. It will be our girls' 2nd trip back since adoption. I too want to see so much more. I pray we can see Gwangju and Cheju where the 3 of them were born. Just to experience a little bit more. Thank you for sharing Rachel.

Jenny said...

this is a great post rachel. i'm so glad you had such a wonderful experience in korea, but like you said, nothing beats coming back home. :)

innotof said...

Wow, Rachel. I love this post! I think your story and the way you choose to view your adoption is a great example of what we all hope for our children. Thanks for sharing!

CJ said...

Rachel, such a wonderful post. Thank you for always being so real and raw with your feelings. I wish more people were like you. Your children are so blessed to have you for a momma.

ksmiles11 said... you...
Have to mention that you have amazing American parents. Love them too :)

Stephanie Williams said...

Thanks for your post Rachel. As a mommy of two adopted kids, worried that I am doing "all the right things", it's nice to know that adult adoptees can appreciate all aspects of their story - and see that it makes them who they are and leads them where they are meant to be.

Jessica said...

Oh Rach,
I'm not sure how to comment. As one of the massive (Well, as massive as it could be in our home town) majority, I have to admit it never occurred to me to wonder what life was like as an only. I do know that I always valued your smile and positive attitude. I'm so very happy you had a good experience in Seoul. We're taking our kids back to Korea in a few years. Kevin's sabbatical means that we'll have a few weeks to spend....And, I cannot wait to see his motherland through his young eyes.

Kimberly and Ed said...

Thank you for sharing and be so open and honest. I am so glad that you enjoyed your trip to Korea and wish to return with your whole family.

Jason, Kelly, and Luke said...

Oh my goodness...thank you AGAIN for sharing. You are a true rock star and EVERYONE benefits from what you are sharing for us. You are an amazing mom and woman!

Paula Sloan said...

Okay, Rachel, you've got me crying over here! Congrats on coming to this place in your life and for sharing your true feelings. I'm glad you had such a great time in Seoul and that you plan on taking a family trip in a couple of years. Your life has brought you to a beautiful place with 2 adorable kiddos!!! ((HUGS)) to you, mama!

Jaci Monaghan said...

I love this post. PLUS... it introduced me to juk. I'd never heard of it. This weekend, I tried to make some that looks like yours. It was easy and a BIG hit with my family. Thank you!!

Susan said...

Beautifully said Rachel! May all of our babies grow up to have such a wonderful appreciation of their birth country, their birth parents and the life we have been blessed to share with them. You have an amazing realness about you Rachel - thank you for sharing your heart with us!

Simply Yours Designs Cute Blogger Templates