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…..so 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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9 Comments

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9 responses to “Reflections on the Mini-G and adoptee-ness in general

  1. Sarah, so many thoughts have been bouncing around my brain from the time I landed in Seattle, throughout the mini, and are still zooming around, unchecked. The mini was very energizing for me, too. Even though you & I didn’t get a good chance to sit down (or stand still, for that matter) and connect for any length of time, I still feel, nonetheless, that our thoughts and hopes for that big adoptee community picture overlap a great deal. I’m so excited for you & your summer in Korea!

    A big THANKS to you and your AAAW comrades for putting on a fabulous gathering in a great city! Hawaii awaits you!

  2. Wow, Sarah. I was just working on a post about the diversity within the kad community.

    You really nailed it in terms of expressing how one feels the letdown after such a great conference/mini/gathering/visit to Korea. It’s so difficult to come back when you’ve changed but nothing else around you has. The Swedish adoptees said it so well.

    the letdown inevitably happens to me each time too.

  3. Agreed, agreed. I’m still “coming off my high” as I have phrased it. People at work ask me, “Where did you go?” And I say, “on vacation.” Then I pause, wondering if I should even bother to indulge them with more information and if I sense they can grasp it at all, I tell them a bit more about the KAD gathering and how much it meant to me. Although there is some definite thinking required at the gathering in the discussion groups, overall, yes…it was a vacation. To be with other KADs and to meet people who get you, to let down your guard for a rare moment in life, then yes, that’s what I call a vacation!

  4. Meeyoung

    Sarah, it was so great seeing you at the minigathering. You and AAAW board did a wonderful job. The dinner cruise was so much fun! Have a great time in Korea and dance all night long for me 🙂

  5. Wow, that’s quite a schedule. Enjoy your trip!

  6. The least you could have done was put some of the Korean leftovers into a tupperware container and mailed it to me. Come on now.

    (ps: if you blog from Asia, I will too…)

  7. Sarah!

    Do what you feel is right~ even if it means standing on the tables of the computer labs with your Angry Little Asian t-shirt. hehe I would get up with you! (Hey, I want one of those t-shirts)~ Who cares if they think you are crazy? What’s important is what you believe in…it takes courage to stand up for what you believe in. I don’t think it’s crazy talking about issues like Globalization. Cultural identity. Child welfare. Social inequities. Family-those are serious, important issues that need to be addressed- people whether they are adopted or not need to care more.

    I didn’t imagine you could be in a sour mood- hopefully you bounced back.

    Send me an email when you’re in Korea~ would be great to hang out with you over the summer.

    ps. there’s nothing wrong with a bit of flirtation and inebriation, but belonging to the adoptee community and going to social gatherings is much more than just that~ it’s a feeling of solitary among adoptees.

    Keep your spirits up~ girlfriend! Kelli

  8. What did I do to deserve such an awesome group of people to hang out with? That week was indeed a blast. While I have a birds-eye-view of what soon-young had mentioned regarding the mini, I can only imagine how wonderful it must have been there for her and others and then how potentially frustrating the ending of it all could be as well. We’ll just have to wait for the next gathering of sorts…

  9. JinSook.Seo@gmail.com

    Hi there,

    I was directed to your blog via another adoptee blog and started reading. What you’ve written really resonates with me. I’m an adoptee, been living in Korea since 2004, and am friends with half a dozen other adoptees living here. A couple of us are going to the KAAN Conference at the end of the month. If you want to meet a bunch of us this summer, drop me a line!

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