Monthly Archives: May 2006

Reflections on the Mini-G and adoptee-ness in general

In some ways, the Seattle mini-gathering seems like it was ages ago, and in other ways, I feel like it’s still going on–at least in my head. The reverberations from the mini-gathering have been powerful, in a way that I hadn’t really expected. I guess I wasn’t expecting it, because the NYC mini-gathering last fall didn’t stir up much thought-processing (I suppose I was still reeling from returning from Korea). Given that this mini-g was poised between an eye-opening trip to Stockholm and my imminent internship with G.O.A.’L…..and also the fact that I have some distance from my ’04-’05 year in Korea…..I’m not clearly articulating what I want to say. What I mean is that I feel more strongly than ever that the adult adoptee community continues to grow in solidarity, and it’s an electrifying thing to experience.

Although the board members of AAAW were very busy during the whole weekend (which hampered our ability to talk more in-depth with many of the attendees–Ji-in! I suppose this just means that I’ll have to visit Hawaii soon), it was really gratifying to host what many have told us was a successful conference.

The mini-gathering seems to have lit a fire within people, in a variety of ways. Some have said that they want to be more involved with their local adult adoptee organizations. A lot of interest and excitement were generated over the upcoming IKAA Gathering in 2007. T.B. will be visiting Korea this August!! And I’ve been receiving e-mails from people that I met over the weekend–some want to know about living/teaching/studying in Korea, others want to know how they can go further in their search for birth family.

I had a great time having Soon-young, N., and K.S. stay with me. I wish you all lived here in Seattle!! Soon-young, you and I were talking about this, and I really believe it’s true–there doesn’t seem to be a physical location that corresponds to the kind of unspoken understanding and ease that occurs when you’re around other adoptees who get you. There’s so much diversity within the adoptee community that it’s not always guaranteed that you’ll click with someone just because they’re adopted. But when you do click–there is a sense of feeling at home. The adoptee community is so scattered… the ways that we are able to connect with one another is either through the internet or by flying long distances to gather together. This sense of home is so difficult to describe to those who haven’t experienced it. Soon-young, I was so grateful to be able to watch that documentary with you, because there was so much we didn’t have to explain to one another when we were discussing it.

I don’t mean this to be an indictment of adoptees who choose not to engage in the adoptee community . . . people are different–it’s cliché, but it’s true. But as I continue to see how important the adoptee community is to more and more of us, I believe more firmly that our community must be strong and provide an outlet for those who do seek us out. And I believe that we as adult adoptees have important views to share that need to be recognized and heard by those in the adoption industry–and beyond.

I think a lot of American adoptees believe that exploring their identity as Asian-Americans, as members of the APIA community, is sufficient. This is why the European Korean adoptees are so much more organized than American KADs–we can fall back on the APIA community here in the States, whereas there is no equivalent community in Europe. This is why at the Gathering in 2004, 45% of the attendees were European–a vast over-representation of the global KAD community, which is about 25-33% European.

Recently, I had dinner with a local Korean adopted woman who serves on various boards within the APA community here in Seattle. She is just beginning to scratch the surface of her adoptee-ness however, and I was surprised to hear just how little she knew of the adoptee community. I met another woman at the mini-gathering–in her mid-thirties–who shared a similar background, having grown up in APA-dense San Francisco. It’s possible to start exploring at any point in your life…..

I’ve been lurking on the message board at K@W (Korean Adoptees Worldwide, a Yahoo! Group), and something there struck a chord with me. A young American KAD that I met in Sweden was expressing how the AKF conference (her first time being around a large group of adoptees) had been so meaningful for her. It’s changed her–and yet nothing at home has changed, and the people there do not have the capacity to understand the meaning of her time in Europe.

When I read this–I realized that I’ve been feeling the same way this week. I was in a rather sour mood on Tuesday, and I thought it was due to adoptee withdrawal. In part, it was, but the bulk of it was due to the fact that I had to immediately dive back into school after the mini-gathering, and a lot of my classmates were only marginally interested (at best) in what had transpired for me over the weekend. I get the distinct impression that some of my classmates regard my involvement with the adoptee community as largely trivial–that it’s an excuse to flirt and get drunk. Well, sure–flirtation and inebriation occur in large quantities at adoptee events, but–there’s a bigger picture. Globalization. Cultural identity. Child welfare. Social inequities. Family. I have this urge to stand on top of the tables in the computer lab and tell everyone what we’re doing in the adoptee community, but everytime I bring the subject up, I can see people’s eyes glaze over, and I see them thinking, “Oh, there she goes again, talking about all this adoptee stuff. This girl has issues.”

Well, if they think I’m crazy, then so be it. I’ll continue to wear my Angry Little Asian Girl t-shirt, despite the eye-rolls it inspires.

Thank you to those of you I met over the weekend for the first time, those who I reunited with, and those who I’d previously met in the blog-o-sphere and finally saw in person. One of these days, I think we need to establish a U.S. network of Korean adoptee organizations, similar to what the European organizations have. To be continued…..

To everyone who continues to read this blog, thanks for your support. Know that you have mine!

***P.S. Must endure two more weeks of school-hell. Next week is filled with group presentations. June 8th–my Korean final and the last bit of school-related responsibility before I can begin to pack up my things.
***P.P.S. Itinerary for Korea is set!! Leave Seattle: June 17th, Arrive Korea: June 18th. Leave Korea/Arrive Seattle: September 10th.
June 19-23 = IKAA Leadership Meetings (sponsored by OKF)
June 26-September 1 = G.O.A.’L internship
August 11-13 = G.O.A.’L Conference 2006
September 2-10 = hanging out
I’ll be staying in hotels during the IKAA meetings (and going to Jeju-do!), will next probably stay with my Korean family for a week and a half, and from July 5th and on will stay at KoRoot.

See you in Seoul. Or Seattle. Or here….



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Still Alive

It’s been forever since my last post . . . or at least it seems like it. Several of you who read this blog regularly have been living it up with me in Seattle the past few days. A proper post will follow soon, probably in a few days after I’m done arguing with my various project groups at school.

Anyway, the mini-gathering was GREAT. What more can I say: photos.

Soon-young–Even though you’re still here (you’re sleeping on my couch at the present moment), I already miss you! 😦 One more (1/2) day in Seattle….

Ji-in–I admit, I did feel like I was meeting a celebrity when I spied you across the room last Thursday night! Hawaii ’08–I expect to see all the KADs in attendance in coconut bras, including P.S.

K.S.–Not sure if you’re reading this, but I’m so glad you came up from Florida to spend the weekend with us. So sorry about the eyelashes debacle.

H.–I wish you could have been here this weekend!!! You’ll be in Seattle soon enough, though…

jgvt–Excited for your big weekend coming up? 😉

One of these days I’ll get caught up on everyone’s blogs, although it might not happen until after June 7th. But sometime this week I will post a real post about last weekend…..


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Busy, busy, busy

Sorry for the delay in updating. It’s not for lack of material…..on the contrary, everything seems to be happening at once now, which is why I’ve been distracted. I came back from Stockholm very energized about the near future, but then I had to face the cold reality of the work that must be accomplished in the next 3 1/2 weeks before the end of spring quarter at school. Auuggghhh!

But hey–

**Good and exciting news!!!! I wanted to post this immediately last week, but couldn’t find time. I found out on Wednesday that I’m receiving a fellowship from my school that will help fund my internship with G.O.A.’L this summer. Yay!!!!! I was so happy when I found out that I spontaneously hugged the unsuspecting souls who happened to be standing next to me at the time in the Evans student lounge. It feels so gratifying, because it’s like the school is recognizing that the work that I care so passionately about really means something, that it’s worthwhile.

In other news, I went to a concert on Friday night in order to see Blue Scholars and Mos Def, and in the process had to endure two agonizing sets from Carlos Mencia. I don’t feel like re-hashing what a f*cking moron this man is, but suffice it to say, it was utterly painful–especially since my two classmates that I went with found him enjoyable. Their defense was, “Well, he makes fun of everyone.” Well, I think he needs to find some new f*cking material other than the same tired, old shit: Asians are smart, Asian men have small dicks, Asians are bad drivers. We should racially profile people who “look” Muslim, because, well, America is like a fraternity/sorority, and this is their “hazing.” (Just like Japanese-Americans went through their “hazing” with internment.) What a crock of bullshit. The sad thing is that his rhetoric could basically be coming from a white dude at Fox News. And the sea of clueless undergrads at the UW was applauding enthusiastically. The only saving grace was that when Blue Scholars came on, they promptly dissed Mencia for being an idiot not once, but two times during their set. Ah, my love for them only continues to grow….

Looking forward to hosting Soon-young (a.k.a. “K.”) and N. this week! My other friend, K.S. will be arriving on Thursday, too, so it will be a full house. The mini-gathering is going to be a lot of work, but soooooo much fun and sooooo worth it.

Stockholm and the mini-g, combined with the good news about my fellowship, have given me a big-picture perspective that is helping me get through the stress that currently weighs on my shoulders. I find myself not as concerned about the minutiae of school, because I know that I’m working towards something bigger.

Consequently, though, it’s hard to focus now in school. I feel like I’m already emotionally finished with this quarter. Well, time just has a few weeks to catch up with me.

Any advice on how you would’ve handled the situation above with hating Mencia but being there with friends/classmates who love him??


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72 hours in Sweden–yeah, Sweden the country

Just had to clarify it was Sweden–one of my friends thought I said “Cleveland” when we were talking on the phone. Needless to say, she wasn’t too impressed. 😉

Anyway, go here to see pictures. I’m so glad/grateful that I had the opportunity to go–that’s got to be the understatement of the year.

Adopterade Koreaners Förening (AKF) is a Korean adult adoptee organization in Sweden. It was founded in 1986, so they held a conference last weekend to celebrate their 20th anniversary. Quite impressive–they are true pioneers in the adult adoptee community. AKF is the oldest group of its kind in the world!

Lately, I’ve been talking with other adoptees about why it is that the Korean adoptees who were adopted to European countries seem to be so much more organized than their American counterparts. From what I’ve heard, the European groups seem to have more solidarity with one another, more enthusiasm, more participation, etc.

Well, in Sweden, for example, 90% of the ethnic Korean population is made up of Korean adoptees. Only 10% of the Koreans in Sweden are immigrants in the traditional sense. This is the exact opposite of the figures in the U.S. (1 out of every 10 Korean-Americans in the States is an adoptee). Although Asian-Americans make up about only 4% of the overall U.S. population, the number of Asian-Europeans (I’m not sure anyone even uses this term) pales in comparison. Thus, Korean adoptees in Europe seem to be even more isolated than they are in the States, given that there aren’t many other groups of Asian ethnicities.

I’d met European Korean adoptees before when I was living in Korea (’04-’05), but this was the first time when I spent a significant amount of time as the clear minority–I was one of only seven American Korean adoptees at the conference (there were 200-250 conference attendees). I’m beginning to see that the casual arrogance and privilege that accompanies U.S. citizenship is somewhat analagous to white privilege. Anyone who is not of U.S. nationality is pretty much forced to know something about the States anyway, due to America’s saturation of global media, economics, politics, etc. And how many Americans know the difference between the Dutch and the Danish? Which one describes people in Denmark and people in the Netherlands? (I’ll guiltily admit to getting those confused all the frikkin’ time.) In some ways this weekend, I felt like the quintessential dumb American, as a flurry of languages circulated around me while I stood there, mute.

The graciousness of our Swedish hosts was limitless. Every member of the AKF board made a special effort to introduce themselves to us and offer their assistance. Taxis to/from the airport were unneccessary–they picked us up and dropped us off themselves (thanks to three cars provided by Kia, one of the conference sponsors). M.T. (the first chairperson of AKF) even let me use the computer in his office on Friday afternoon so that I could register for my autumn quarter Evans classes (all while we were in the midst of our day-long meeting…..more on this later).

T.H. and I flew out from Seattle on Wednesday night on SAS (building up my Star Alliance miles… ticket to Korea, here I come). I was a bit stressed out, since I’d spent the previous two days doing everything in my power to cover my ass for Wed-Fri. at school, which was harder than I’d anticipated, because everything seemed to happen at once. I gave an interview for a TA position over the phone as I finished packing on Wednesday afternoon. Also had to finish up an assignment on the plane and then e-mail it from the hotel on Thursday. I’m currently swimming/drowning in things I need to address in the next few weeks…, but I don’t want to think about that now. Gotta finish processing this weekend–the good stuff!

There were many, many highlights to the weekend, and one of them was most definitely being able to participate in the IKAA leadership meeting on Friday. This was my first time attending one of these, and it was exhilarating to be in a room with 10 different adoptee organizations represented (6 European, 3 American, 1 Korean). Several of the people were adoptees that I’d heard of but had not yet met in person until that day. We discussed a variety of things, especially the upcoming Gathering in 2007. Each of the IKAA organizations will be sending representatives (many of them the same people who were at the meeting last Friday) to Korea this June (only a month away!!!) to further plan for ’07 and also hold a press conference in Seoul to make an official announcement. I will be attending these meetings in June as one of the AAAW representatives. What a way to kick off my summer in Korea (my internship with G.O.A.’L will commence immediately after the week of IKAA planning).

I cannot overstate the importance of IKAA’s formation to the adult adoptee community. We are making a difference (having sent an official delegation to the Hague Convention last fall, for example). We are making our community stronger by networking with one another.

Saturday was also a highlight, because I got to hear presentations from Kim Park Nelson, Tobias Hubinette, and Eleana Kim. All three are doing cutting-edge research about Korean adoptees (Kim and Tobias are both adoptees themselves), and I admit to feeling a bit giddy at being able to talk with them. K.P.N. was fabulous–excellent presentation, fun conversation afterwards.

On Saturday night, there was a lavish gala dinner. Assigned table seating–which meant that I was the only American at my table, and I sat next to a Korean man who worked in the Korean embassy in Stockholm (and his wife). The dinner passed quickly, and then a DJ took the stage, the older “special guests” went home and those of us left procceeded to tie one on. The first few songs were Abba, which resulted in the Swedes taking to the dance floor with enthusiasm while the handful of Americans made a bee-line for the bar.

We stayed up until 5:30 a.m., which probably ended up being a good thing, because I don’t feel all that jet-lagged now. Nothing too, too scandalous to report. Although there are some good off-blog stories I might tell you sometime. (One involves surprising Santoki in the room—oh, it was priceless!!!)

Overall, I came away from the weekend feeling excited about our emerging community.

I’m juiced up for the mini-gathering.


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Adopterade Koreaners Förening

It appears that I am going to Stockholm, Sweden . . . .

Why? Click here.

It was a fortuitous chain of events that is allowing me to go. I just discovered on Saturday that it might be a possibility. Double-checked with professors today and with myself.

Ticket is in hand. Will leave Wednesday night, arrive in Sweden Thursday afternoon, return to Seattle on Sunday.

Where the #@$! is my passport??

Ahhhhh!!! 🙂 [grinning from ear-to-ear while simultaneously trying to cover my ass where school is concerned]


Filed under Updates