Ok. Finally posting. Where to begin, where to begin?? It seems as though things in Korea move at two or three times the rate as events elsewhere. I’ve only been here for two weeks, and already in some ways it’s as though I never left last September.
I’m sitting here in the KoRoot basement, waiting for my photos to upload onto Flickr. Having gone through the pictures, it seems like the IKAA leadership week was an age ago! There’s been a lot swimming around in my head these past two weeks, some of which may not make it onto this blog. I think some of my reticence in posting lately has not only been due to the lack of time, but also due to the same reasons that it took me so long to start my blog last year in the first place. Being in Korea stirs up some very powerful, complicated, confusing emotions for me (as it does for so many adoptees), and it’s difficult for me to process–although it seems to be getting better. Bear with me, as I can tell this is going to be a long post.
So I arrived on Sunday, June 18th. We went straight to the Imperial Palace Hotel (formerly the Amiga Hotel), where I crashed into bed after a looooong day of traveling. I’m glad that I went to sleep early, because the ensuing week of IKAA leadership meetings was, in a word, intense. Intense conversations, an intense schedule, intense fun. We were fortunate to spend two of those days on Jeju Island, the “Hawaii” of Korea. 😉 We stayed at an amazing resort, but most of the time there was spent inside in meetings (although we did venture out to visit the Seogwipo City Hall and a waterfall).
What’s incredible about the IKAA 2007 Gathering planning committee is that we are all such different people–different personalities, different languages, different cultures–but we are bound together by a common passion for connecting with and helping other Korean adoptees. It takes a particular kind of devotion to be able to sit inside a room, talking about liability and conference fees–at 11 o’clock at night. I had some great conversations outside of meetings–the most memorable one being with the president of Racines Coréennes, the Korean adoptee group en France. She was pretty quiet for many of the meetings, because her best languages are French and German, and all of our discussions were in English. But with the aid of some soju over a kalbi dinner, she and I had a great talk, partly because the soju made me brave enough to resurrect my long-dead, high-school-level French. We compared race relations within Korea, the U.S., and France. We mixed French, Korean, and English while speaking. We giggled and stumbled our way to the Korean-style toilet next to the restaurant.
We covered a large amount of material during the first part of the week, all in preparation for the 2007 Gathering. There was some heated discussion at some points. For one meeting in particular, I was nervous. But from my perspective, it seemed to go well, despite the political differences of people in the room.
The latter half of the week was spent running around Seoul, attending various official meetings (National Assembly, Ministry of Health & Welfare [which only some of our group attended–not me!], potential sponsors). This meant: wearing a suit in sweaty, sticky, summer Seoul weather. The week culminated in a press conference at the Sofitel Ambassador Hotel (the hotel for the ’04 and also the upcoming ’07 Gatherings).
After the “official” part of the leadership meetings was over, the 17 of us (plus a few more) stayed up until 4 a.m. to watch the Korea vs. Switzerland World Cup soccer match. We went to City Hall, where thousands and thousands of Koreans, all swathed in red t-shirts, cheered with excited decorum in unison. It was incredible, although I’m sure it was nothing compared to the madness of 2002. Although we participated for several hours of pre-game frenzy, we ended up going back to the hotel to watch the game. Good thing we did, since Korea lost, 2-0. 😦
The soccer game and then the following evening’s festivities ensured that I was extremely tired when my sister picked me up last Sunday . . . I was dozing off in the hotel lobby, when I opened my eyes and suddenly saw my sister walking towards me. I felt like I was in a dream, because I wasn’t sure it was her (I was wearing my glasses and going on 2 hours of drunken sleep) until I recognized the t-shirt she was wearing as a gift I’d sent her for Christmas last year.
I’ve spent the past week living with my aunt and various relatives coming and going (cousins, sisters, grandmother), and we’ve gone down to Suji twice to see my uncle and his family. I notice that I don’t feel quite as isolated as I did last year when I would visit them, because my Korean is better, however lackluster it may still be.
Best thing about staying with my family last week: having my family show me photos of my mother and point out the things similar between her and my sisters and me.
Worst thing about staying with my family last week: when my cousin asked if I was a “twinkie.”
So this morning I moved my things to KoRoot, where I will stay for the rest of my stay this summer. It’s all been a whirlwind, but that’s to be expected. I will blog more later this week about my internship at G.O.A.’L (I’m already tossing around phrases like “institutional memory” and “performance measurement” in the office—wooo-hooo!).
Oh yeah—go here for pictures.