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Monday, July 8, 2013

A Korean Adoptee's Journey: One Year Later

Hello Chinese Adoptee Community! It has been a very long time, nearly a full year, since I've written in this space, and I am grateful for the opportunity to do it again. I was just recalling my first guest blog post (http://www.chineseadoptee.com/2012_08_01_archive.html) last August 13, 2012, where I wrote about what it was like for me to attend the International Korean Adoptee Association's Paris Gathering in July‒a triannual global conference of Korean adoptees every summer which rotates between European, American and Korean continents. I was just in the process of completing my research at the time for my final Master's dissertation, and was blown away by my new immersion into the previously unbeknownst global Korean adoptee community in Europe. Looking back, I have to say it has been still quite a ride, finding my legs within the strange and exclusive world of Korean adoptees (KADs, as they're called for short), though it has oddly enough remained the only consistent thing in my life since traveling back home and readjusting to life in America after my whirlwind last year abroad.

After I returned home I leisurely took my time and applied to several jobs without the slightest fear of not landing a great one, which turned out to be a false confidence as the universe laughed and I struggled to find work for quite some time. I also, in that frenzied first few months back, on a whim applied to the next upcoming IKAA Gathering to be held in Seoul in July and August of 2013, as their Call For Papers was before the first of the year. I used my just completed Master's dissertation research as my proposal for a conference presentation at what is looking to be their largest and most influential one to date. I figured it was a long shot and that it would be a back burner issue to figure out later around the amazing new job I was destined to land instantly in the incredible new city I would move to with all the new fabulous friends I was of course going to make. The conference thing would be simply the cherry to top off my already great life, an afterthought that I could explain to people as this cool thing I got to do last year abroad that didn't really affect my everyday life. This also turned out to be a completely incorrect foresight.

I found out in the spring that I was in fact accepted to present at the conference in Seoul this summer, and had already slowly started to reach out to my local Portland, Oregon and Seattle, Washington KAD communities since I'd gotten back to try for the first time to connect with other Korean American adoptees, as up until this point my only exposure to them had been in Europe (who are a right friendly bunch, for the record). These were KADs living and building communities literally from where I was from and had grown up my whole life, and who I just until this last year had no idea were in existence whatsoever, even though they'd been active and a force to be reckoned with in their own right within the Pacific Northwest region for years. I had also been able to make it down to an adoption conference in Malibu, California in February to see my mentor Dr. Peter Selman from England speak on the topic of which has become essentially his life's work, and for which he is widely acclaimed for in the field of adoption scholarship and research‒his unequivocal tracking and studies of adoption demographics throughout the world. 

While there I was fortunate enough to sit in on several panel presentations about citizenship, adoption and identity, all my specific areas of interest and research. I also connected with several other KADs there, as well as One Worlder herself Jenna Cook, an incredibly confident and self-possessed young lady, particularly for such a young age, who did a fabulous and courageous presentation on growing up with her two lesbian mothers as a Chinese American adoptee. Since the umbrella banner of the conference was on purely transnational adoption, it was not exclusive to just Korean adoptees, which I appreciated and felt like was a warm up to the bigger and more intimidating Korean adoptee conference coming up this summer.

Then, as this strange and wonderful tear at the piece of cloth that was my own adoption experience started to unravel further, I decided to work with my new local and far flung Korean adoptee friends to help personally fundraise for my dissertation research presentation at the upcoming conference this summer. Some of the groups were worlds away in Europe from my last year abroad, but happy to help in any way they could, as well as others even in Korea itself that I'd met from doing my research last year with adoptees all over the world. I was even fortunate enough to have my recent alma mater, Newcastle University, write up an article (http://bit.ly/18XxHnD) for my school's website and tweet my story via their networks. Their connections posted it in their subsequent local association's pages, who then shared it with their friends' pages, who shared it with their own networks. And thus, the beauty that is social media proved itself yet again.

Work has also slowly come about, steady and flexible, and what I'd originally thought would be a life centered around work, with the Korean adoption part being a tiny slice of it has turned out to be just the opposite, with the adoption portion of me getting thrust into the forefront and essentially becoming THE focus, and everything else somehow falling into place neatly around it. It is funny, what we think of when we envision how our lives are supposed to play out, and go through a loss and heartbreak when it doesn't‒but like the old adage goes, sometimes life just works out better and more colorfully the weirder and more wrong it seems at the time. I always think that there MUST be a reason why throughout this I've not only reconnected with those Korean adoptees who helped me so much last year with my research, but have also expanded my networks and met so many more who are eager and beyond willing to share and spread my cause for my upcoming presentation in Korea. It is a connection that you all being Chinese adoptees will fully understand‒and that while we may come from different countries, per say, we still all without a doubt identify with the feeling of somehow needing and then finding a community that gets how odd it is that our parents don't look like us and that our birth families are most likely still somehow out there, living and breathing and existing every day in another place completely foreign to how we grew up and what we know. It's those people, those other adoptees who provide the backbone for adoptive communities, for parents and families of adoptive children, and even for those with a mild interest in adoption overseas for whatever reason to continue to open the dialogue and keep pushing for more awareness, understanding, and support for younger, more impressionable and more multicultural generations to hopefully try and get it right. My only wish is that I'd had more knowledge and awareness that communities like this existed when I was growing up, and if I ever do have children I fully hope to integrate the Korean adoption side of who they are into their life at a young age.

I know this post is long and not entirely about what my upcoming dissertation presentation will be on (dual citizenship, which may also be of growing interest to the Chinese adoptee community in years to come). If you care to learn more about it please feel free to visit my fundraising page, http://www.gofundme.com/dissertationkorea, where I go into more specific detail. But I wanted in this post instead to address my own adoption journey since I'd last written and kind of chronicle how it's unfolded so far in the last year, and how it's continuing to still unfold now. The irony of how I had to go all the way to Europe to find myself and my Korean origins is hilarious, and now I at least get to tack off another thing that studying abroad in the UK has done for me besides given me the craziest and most transformative year thus far in my life‒it's also allowed me the once-in-a-lifetime chance to present my original, creative and incredibly personal research back in the one place it matters most, and allowed me to continue to meet some pretty incredible people in the process. 

Thanks for listening, and thanks for caring.

1 comment:

Jennifer Bao Yu "Precious Jade" Jue-Steuck said...

Kara, this is a beautiful post. Thank you so much for sharing! Good luck on your presentation in Korea. Looking forward to hearing about it!!
Hugs, Jennifer