Thank you (and some updates)

Thank you to everyone who wrote such supportive comments here in regards to the ridiculous “stereotype party” debacle that happened at the end of March. It really lifted me up at a time when I was feeling attacked for speaking out. This whole experience has reminded me of why I’ve enjoyed blogging these past two years (has it really been that long???). And special thanks to everyone here in Seattle and online who have been so encouraging and have listened to me vent. 🙂

I have still not run into anyone who actually attended the party, nor have I seen any photos (although I did scour Facebook). Apparently, I share not one, but two classes this quarter with the party organizer! She has not come up to me, however, to discuss what happened, which is fine with me. However, I may be stuck in a group with her when my school hosts its annual series of “diversity discussion potlucks.” LOL. I can’t figure out if this is some sort of cruel punishment or an opportunity. Probably both. Maybe I can strip the veneer of politeness and disclaimers off at the potluck and say something more akin to what this blogger wrote over at Resist racism. Love it.

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My trip last month to Europe seemed to go by in the blink of an eye. It was really wonderful to spend time with some of my most favorite people in the world: Santoki, S-y, etc. The trip, however, was one of the roughest I’ve had in recent memory. It all started with me barely making it onto my international flight in SFO and my luggage not making it. Thus, I was in the Netherlands for a day without a change of clothes or any toiletries, resulting in massive sticker shock when I saw that deodorant and toothpaste were going to cost me 12 Euros. Also, during an official lunch in Paris with the Korean ambassador to France and other Important Types, I suddenly began to feel incredibly queasy–a feeling that did not subside the rest of the day during IKAA meetings. Basically, I had some sort of food poisoning, and later on at the hotel I got yet another reminder of why I could never be bulimic (I can’t stannnnnd vomiting). The next day, I came down with a massive head cold and spent the remainder of the week coughing and sneezing violently. We also had to deal with harsh weather the whole time—cold, rainy, windy. And nevermind that insufferable woman at the front desk of the La Louisiane Hotel! (S-y, I’m still laughing at K.H.’s reaction to my story.)

Luckily for me, though, I had wonderful friends and the most gracious hosts to take care of me. Amsterdam was smaller than I expected, and it reminded me of Boston–except with canals. It’s a very charming city, and I wish I’d had more time to explore. Arierang was kind enough to host a welcome dinner for myself and C. from New York on my first night in Amsterdam. I realized that I know many more Dutch Korean adoptees than I had thought!

The next day, we drove down to Paris and spent the rest of the weekend with the other members of the IKAA Gathering 2007 Planning Committee. Once the official business was over, I had a few days to do some extra sight-seeing, and during the interim when my stomach was recovered but my nose was still clear enough to taste food, I indulged in excellent baguette sandwiches and tried escargots for the first time. (And I finally made it inside the Musée d’Orsay!)

Before I knew it, I was back on the train to the Netherlands and spent the remainder of the week in Utrecht and Amsterdam. I don’t regret making the trip at all—however, I had to spend a week recovering from my “vacation” once I got back to Seattle, which wasn’t the greatest way to kick off my final quarter of school.

This quarter, I am taking four classes:

  • 2nd-year, nonheritage Korean (this is the 6th quarter of UW Korean I’ve taken!)
  • Program Evaluation (public affairs course)
  • Grantwriting (only meets four times total)
  • Public Service Clinic

The latter is where I will finally complete my degree project–an applied research project that is not a traditional thesis but is still a massive headache. Last quarter I was torturing myself with the question of whether I made the right decision to choose to do a public service clinic rather than my own topic (which would have been related to the Korean adoptee community, naturally). At the time that I chose to do a clinic, I was still thinking that I would get a 2nd masters degree in International Studies, and I figured that I could do something adoptee-related with that degree. After mulling this over endlessly, however, I’ve come to the conclusion that I do not want to put myself through the UW’s MA in International Studies program, given that it is still not quite what I want to do. Ever since I started my MPA program at the Evans School, I’ve been starving for academic work that would feed my soul, not just fill my brain with practical skills. I’ve come to believe that the MPA degree is good as a complement to something else. It teaches you about practical matters such as statistics, budgeting, policy, etc. I do feel that if I eventually make the steps to start a new nonprofit that I have a decent background to do so. However, I am really wanting to focus more on issues that are personally important to me, e.g. the development of the Korean adoptee community, Asian American media representation, etc. Perhaps I will be able to feel fulfilled once I am out of the MPA program, but if something still feels lacking later on, perhaps I will make my way down to UCLA for their MA in Asian American Studies…… (I wish the UW had an MA in Asian American Studies…..they are in the process of developing a certificate program, but there is no word on when that will launch. If it does, UCLA may be permanently out of the picture.)

So even though my schedule seems deceptively open, the fact remains that I feel overwhelmed, mostly because I still have the majority of my degree project left to complete. I am locked into this topic, because the agency I’m doing the research for has agreed to pay the UW $1,000 for my troubles. No pressure! On top of this, my job at the Lindenberg Center has ramped up considerably this quarter, since we are having a 5th anniversary lecture series in May, and I also arranged to have Kim Park Nelson and Laura Briggs (both contributors to Outsiders Within) come to the UW on May 14 as part of a seminar on transnational adoption. And of course, there are my on-going commitments with AAAW, IKAA, etc.

Nevertheless, I think I have emerged from my “winter funk,” given that the weather has turned pleasant and I actually took the initiative to clean–both physical space (apartment) and e-space (email inboxes–what a mess!). I also started working out somewhat regularly again and have been eating better (much easier now that the 7-Eleven around the corner is closed). Now if I can just make it to graduation! My parents and some other extended family will be coming to Seattle for graduation festivities in June, and then my plan is to try to do some temp work for about a month. Then I will be helping with the KIDS Culture Camp during the week before I go to Korea in July. After summer traveling, I’ll come back to Seattle and attempt to find some kind of employment. In what? I don’t have anything specific in mind. Something that’s not soul-sucking but that still pays decently. I’ll have a better idea once September is here.

So I’ll be giving Seattle another chance. 3rd time’s the charm. I want to see what it’s like to live here as a regular, working person (my previous experience here has been limited to life as an AmeriCorps volunteer [no $$$] and a graduate student [no $$$ and also stressed out as all hell]). But before regular working life starts…….

Summer! And also pre-summer travel. Here’s the latest:

  • This weekend, April 13-15: Las Vegas for S.’s bachelorette party! (Weekend of firsts: my first trip to Vegas and my first bachelorette party where I think some sort of penis-like paraphernalia will be required when we go clubbing)
  • April 26-29: San Francisco for Korean adoptee mini-gathering
  • July 19-August 30: Korea
  • August 30-September 6: Hawaii!

Guess what I’m thinking about more: my degree project or the above?

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Filed under Community, Conferences, Korean Adoptees, Organizations, Pondering the Future, School Daze, Seattle, Traveling, Updates, Work Life

ALAG update

Here’s another oh-so-thoughtful email that we received from someone on the party invite list:

Hey Everyone,

I think the party is going to be fun and light-hearted which a theme party is suppose to do. Relaxing, LETTING GO, and being with friends is what makes weekends fun especially with friends and listening to random 80’s music, drinking cheap beer out of plastic red cups, and trying to figure “what the hell” is that person wearing. Letting go is FUN!!! I think my “Gangsta parties” that my friends and I planned never offended the local “gangstas” and our “pimps and hoes” event never offended the local “pimps and hoes.” BUT, I really dont know for sure and should probably ask a local “gangsta/pimp/hoe” about what he thinks cause I could be wrong. Seattle is a pretty liberal area and I don’t think anyone around here would dress like the drunk frat boys mentioned in your “Fort Worth, Texas” article. I have never been to Texas, nor to a small conservative college in the boondocks of Texas, but I would not be surprised if the students mentioned in the article also showed bigotry on non-costume parties…..hmmmmm……get real lady!

So Sarah, here is a website you should check:

http://www.3-steps-to-never-be-invited-to-a-party-again.com/how-to-be-a-bitch

SEE YOU ALL ON SATURDAY NIGHT!

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Filed under Politics, School Daze

ALAG

I uploaded my Europe pics last night…… feel free to peruse! I promise to write a little about the trip soon, but first I must vent about something that I simultaneously couldn’t believe and yet expected from people at my school……..

I received the following invitation to a party this week (came from someone in my graduate program):

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Hello All!

What better way ring in the new quarter than a good old fashioned theme party!?!

This Saturday, March 31st, join me at my place for the theme party of the year! The theme for the evening will be Stereotype. That’s right, throw away the urge to be politically correct, culturally competent, and sensitive to diversity and let the urge to judge and categorize shine through! Come as your favorite stereotype!!!

When: The evening of Saturday March 31st. 8:00 pm

Who: You and whoever you want to bring. The more the merrier!

What to Bring: A kick ass costume and the beverage of your choice!

Hope to see you all this Saturday!!

Your theme party lovin’ friend,

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Naturally, I was disturbed by the idea of this party……it came from someone I didn’t personally know, but I knew a good number of the other invitees on the email list. Immediately, I thought of the trend of “stereotype” and “politically incorrect” parties that have sprung up at college campuses across the U.S. I conferred with Carmen, and she was kind enough to arm me with an array of Racialicious links documenting these parties from the past year.

So here is the email that I sent out to all the party people:

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Hey, all—I understand that the whole point of this party is to not be politically correct, and in no way am I trying to say what people should or shouldn’t do, but I wanted to point out a trend that has been happening on college campuses that are similar to this party’s theme….. (I’m also not accusing anyone here of any malicious intent.)

I’m sorry to be a wet blanket, but honestly the first thing I thought of when I saw the theme for this party was the “Stereotype Party” that was thrown by students at Tarleton State University (in Texas outside Fort Worth) this year on MLK, Jr. Day. Here’s an article: http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,246884,00.html

Also, a “politically incorrect” party at Macalaster had the following costume: “A particular costume choice by two students caught the attention of Paul Maitland-McKinley ’09, president of the student organization Black Liberation Affairs Committee (BLAC). Maitland-McKinley learned of the party last Friday, Jan. 26, from an anonymous student who was present at the party. The costume involved one student dressing as a Ku Klux Klan member, with a second student wearing face paint to appear dark skinned. The costume also included a simulated noose, one end in the hand of the Klan-costumed member, the other end around the student with the blackface’s neck.” (From The Mac Weekly, the student newspaper)

And here are more links about similar parties (with photos) at other universities (Clemson, Texas A&M, UConn, Arizona, William Jewell, Macalaster, Santa Clara, etc.):
http://www.racialicious.com/2007/01/30/clemson-university-students-also-throw-gangsta-party-on-mlk-day/

http://www.racialicious.com/2006/11/14/blackface-at-texas-am-dialogue-not-condemnation-is-needed/

http://www.racialicious.com/2007/02/12/university-of-arizona-students-celebrate-mlk-day-with-blackface-party/

http://www.racialicious.com/2007/01/26/tarleton-state-and-u-conn-law-celebrate-mlk-with-ghetto-and-gangster-parties/

http://www.racialicious.com/2007/02/08/blackface-at-william-jewell-college-and-kkk-costume-at-macalester-college/

http://www.racialicious.com/2007/02/22/santa-clara-university-students-mock-latinos-with-south-of-the-border-party/

I apologize if I’m coming off as an over-sensitive, uptight bee-yotch with no sense of fun, but I felt like I had to say something here. I know that we at the Evans School generally strive to be “politically correct, culturally competent, and sensitive to diversity” in our day-to-day lives……is being so such a burden?

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I decided to email everyone, because it was Thursday night, the party was on Saturday, and basically my point was not to say, “Don’t have the party, you ignorant racists.” My point was to raise some awareness about these parties that have been going on. Did I think that Evans people were going to show up tomorrow night in blackface? No. Did I think that the party organizer had bad intentions in throwing the party? No. (You know what they say about good intentions, though.) However, having a party where the invitation urges people to “throw away the urge to be politically correct, culturally competent, and sensitive to diversity and let the urge to judge and categorize shine through” opens the door for all kinds of horribleness. I think a lot of people at our school think that somehow we’re exempt from being in the wrong in these kinds of things, simply because most of us identify as “liberal.” Lighten up! We’re not perpetuating negative stereotypes…..we’re just having fun!

I was encouraged to receive some supportive messages from other Evans students, saying that they hadn’t been aware of the extent of these other parties. But then I received this gem from a person (not an Evans student, but a student at UCLA) who is a friend of the party organizer (emphasis mine):

Sarah,
I believe you are out of line. Not only is your email, sent out in mass to all of [name removed]’s friends, presumptuous and accusatory, it also paints ignorance onto a group of people who are not, in fact, ignorant. I find it ironic that the concerns you raise are connected to remaining sensitive and socially conscious, and yet you have displayed no tact or sensitivity in so proudly reminding others of how they should behave. Parody is often a form of humor that expresses, not acceptance of, or insensitivity to, but resistance to commonly held misperceptions. I also believe that passive aggressive, self-righteous behavior, such as you have displayed, needs to be eliminated more than politically incorrect behavior. I think that emailing [name removed] herself about your concerns would have been an appropriate, and yes less bee-yotchy, way of dealing with the situation. Please consider a less judgmental, more kind way of dealing with your classmates in the future. Calling yourself a wet blanket does not shield readers from realizing you have passed judgment and dampened a social event planned by one of the most sensitive, caring persons I’ve ever met. However, I don’t believe you know that, not being a friends of [name removed]. I am a friend of [name removed] visiting for the weekend. I received your email and found it more offensive than the links you included. If you’d like to come and discuss your views, I would certainly accommodate that.
Cheers,

Nice, right? I’m not sure how expressing my opinion as tactfully as I knew how translates as being passive-aggressive.  What would have been really passive-aggressive would be if I had gone to the party and surreptitiously taken photos and posted them on the internet.  (Not going to do that, though–I do not want to be anywhere near this party on Saturday night!)  I decided against emailing the party organizer alone, because I thought it would be helpful to have everyone who had been invited know about these other parties.  If this makes people think twice about their costume for the party, then I think that’s a good thing.  But I guess I’m getting painted as a bitch in the process.

Ultimately, this has served as a reminder of how disappointed I’ve been in my graduate school experience overall. (More on that later.) I also continue to wonder if Seattle is really a place that I can call “home”…..

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Filed under Politics, Ranting, School Daze

Brief Update

Very brief update here…….

Leaving for Europe tomorrow morning (Shuttle Express will allegedly pick me up at 8:40 a.m.). Still have yet to crack open a suitcase. Trying to take care of email correspondence (both personal and “business” that I should have done two months ago).

Arrive in Amsterdam on Thursday morning, 10:30 a.m. Tylenol PM? Check. Spend Thursday night in the Netherlands, then road-tripping to Paris (dinner stop in Belgium?) on Friday.

IKAA meetings on Saturday & Sunday in Paris, followed by fun & sightseeing on Monday & Tuesday. Then back to Utrecht for Wednesday until I go back to Seattle on Friday. So excited to see everyone—Santoki, Thomas, Soon-young, etc. And excited to see one of the few cities that lives up to the hype. My last foray into Paris was 12 years ago when I was young & stupid. (We spent an hour in the Musée d’Orsay in the gift shop without ever actually going to see the real artwork. We bought Monet posters that we could’ve gotten in Kansas City!!) This will also be my first time to the Netherlands. If only I smoked pot, it would be so much more exciting, non? KMio–I’ll bring Stefanie a little present for her bachelorette party!

Spent most of February having sleepless nights tossing & turning, beating myself up for my topic choice for my Degree Project (non-thesis thesis-like pain in my ass). Will whine and pontificate on that at a later date.

Sam–So good to see you a few weeks ago. Good times. And that damn binder for bills—oh lord. Where have those days gone?? 🙂

I need to go pack.

P.S. Congratulations again to all my friends with babies!!!! So cute!

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Colors Northwest Article

Check out this article…..

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Winter Funk

I don’t mean “funk” in the musical or odorous sense–I mean it in the February-blah-are-the-skies-still-grey sense. Add to the fact that I need to do all of my data collection for my degree project (final draft due on May 21st) this month, and you can see why lately I’ve just been wanting to run away to a beach somewhere and hide out underneath palm trees while sipping fruity drinks, like a deposed dictator or reclusive author.

Ok, maybe not quite like that, but I can’t seem to shake myself of this heavy avoidance mode I’ve been in since the holidays. Grad school has been wearing me down. I don’t know how people are able to do this while maintaining careers and families w/ kids to boot. And I’m not even in a “demanding” school, such as law/medicine, etc.! Ok, I shouldn’t put down the rigors of my program. Seriously, though, going back to graduate school has changed a lot of things for me. It’s caused me to relapse into the barely contained chaos that comes naturally to me. Somewhere in my early twenties, I learned to keep things fairly neat and organized, such as my living spaces, bank accounts, credit cards, bills, etc. I also became disciplined at eating well and exercising consistently all in the name of feeling good and being healthy and all that crap. It was a huge turnaround for me, and it all coincided with “finding myself,” dropping out of medical school, and writing in my journal a lot. I read a lot of “spiritual” books full of philosophical maxims such as, “If you want a royal road to mysticism, sit down quietly and listen to all the sounds around you.” I tried to become outdoorsy and went on hikes and tried snowboarding. I cut out recipes from Real Simple magazine and attempted to make them before neatly storing them in a small binder with plastic sleeves. I was the clean roommate!

I have no clue where said binder is now; it’s probably shoved under my bed in my parents’ house, collecting dust. I can’t remember the last time I made a meal at home that required more than two ingredients that wasn’t a sandwich. I’ve become one of those people that prefers not to look at her bank or credit card statements, because it’s too painful (ignorance is bliss?). The carpets in my apartment haven’t been vacuumed since September, I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve been to the gym in the past four months, and my studying strategy has become “do it when it becomes an emergency.” Also, the closest I’ve gotten to the mountains the past two years has been glancing at them from the bus window on my morning commute (on the rare day that they’re visible).

I’ve been talking to some friends lately (great post, Amy) about the quarter-life crisis, and I chuckle when I remember that I actually once bought a book on the subject (again, this was back in my “spiritual”-book-reading phase). I guess technically I’m done with the quarter-life crisis, b/c I’m past the age of 25 now and I’ve chosen a field of graduate study? I have identifiable “passions” in my life. Hmm, well, Wikipedia identifies ages 21-29 as the quarter-life crisis period. So I have one more year to get it together. Ha. For me, one of the most interesting parts of blogging and reading other people’s blogs has been realizing that problems/fears/self-doubt/ennui don’t go away with age, marital status, etc. Also, I realize that the wealth of life experience does provide a sort of emotional padding that allows one to bounce back more quickly. So based on my own past experience of being a balanced, healthy person, I know that this is achievable for me. Although I think I’ll wisely forego trying to makeover myself into an Outward Bound-ish, Seattle-crunchy nature-enthusiast.

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Let’s see….. 2007 seems to be the year that my friends visit Seattle! It was really great to see M.C. a few weeks ago (hope I can visit her in Boston soon and revisit old haunts), and this past weekend I got to see B. (delicious one) who I’m also hoping to see again in April when I go to the Bay Area. And I’m still looking forward to visits from L.L., K.S., and my parents (graduation!).

I spent some quality time at the Northwest Asian American Film Festival at the end of last month. Went to the kickoff party and saw the first episode of Eric Byler’s new PBS series, My Life…Disoriented. I thought the acting was fairly good, but the plot seemd like a re-hash of countless teen comedy cliches. I also attended the festival on Friday and saw Red Doors (directed by Georgia Lee) and a documentary about the 18 Mighty Mountain Warriors of Comedy (an Asian American comedy troupe from San Francisco). I’d vaguely heard about the former through Angry Asian Man, but then I saw this post from a local blogger — scroll down to read about the film — but only after our tickets had been purchased. Yes, it’s true that most of the daughters’ love interests in Red Doors are white men, but what bothered me even more was that the themes of the film seemed recycled from far superior Asian American films (e.g. The Joy Luck Club [yes, I like that movie! Don’t hate me.], Saving Face, etc.). The documentary about the 18MMW, however, was hilarious and a nice reprieve from the typical festival fare. (I reeeeallly wish I could have seen Journey From the Fall, though. I’ve heard it’s amazing. ImaginAsian is distributing the film, so hopefully it will be coming to a theater near you soon….)

On the 24th, I had a packed day. In the morning, I attended the ACLF/LEAP Leadership Conference and had a brief chance to network with other Seattle-based Asian Americans. I’m really trying to make more of an effort to be more active with the overall Asian American community–not just the Asian adoptee community–here in town. (Many thanks to J.B. for graciously introducing me to countless people this year!) Later on, I went up to Bothell for the KIDS Lunar New Year celebration. For those of you who don’t know, KIDS is an adoptive family group (which basically means it was founded and is primarily run by adoptive parents). This year’s event was interesting, because I brought along two of my classmates from my Asian American Diasporan Social Interaction class. We’re doing a project on AAAW, and I agreed to choose AAAW as our topic, mainly because there are some undercover adoptees in the class that I want to indirectly educate about the group. One of my classmates, a Taiwanese-born-&-raised graduate student of Korean Studies, was so overcome (for some reason) when she walked into the KIDS celebration that she turned to me and said, “I feel like crying!” I simultaneously wanted to laugh and roll my eyes but succeeded in doing neither and instead patted her on the shoulder. I think her only previous experience with Korean adoptees has been through watching K-dramas, so her reaction seemed to be based on that particular mental model.

Last week, I also met with an adoptive mom who has started running an informal group of Chinese adopted teenage girls. She had contacted AAAW with the interest in joining forces with us to have some teen-related events. Our teen program is in dire need of revitalization, so this seemed like a good opportunity to inject some life into it. I went to her house–a rambling, bohemian manse atop Queen Anne Hill–to meet her and some of the girls on one of their group nights. It had been a while since I’d been around anyone younger than 21, so I had to laugh when the girls suspiciously asked me, “How old are you?” and “Are there any boys in your teen group?” (Due to the dearth of male Chinese adoptees, the group has high hopes for our mixed teen group.) The a-mom in charge seemed fairly with-it and rightfully disillusioned with the local FCC chapter. Some of the things I said to her, though, seemed to be new concepts, but it could definitely have been worse. We didn’t get into anything nitty-gritty, anyway, since I had to run out the door to the NWAAFF screenings. I hope that we’ll be able to open up the summer KIDS culture camp to adoptees of all Asian ethnicities. Using that as a springboard, I’m also hoping we can create a more active adoptee teen group that can carry on throughout the year.

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Sometimes I wonder if there’s any point to my blogging (especially when sometimes it seems like I have to nag people to read it), but a very cool thing happened the other week that was heartening.  Apparently, another Korean adoptee had recently started a search for her birth family, and she realized that she was left at the Mapo Reception Center, adjacent to Holt Korea in Seoul.  This was a new discovery for her, and she had no idea what the Center was (she’d always been told she was found at the Mapo police station).  So she Google’d “Mapo Reception Center” and came to my blog, which led her to my MySpace profile, and she was able to message me and ask me about it.  Subsequently, she’s found out that her situation was very similar to mine—she’d grown up with the story that she was abandoned as a baby, but the reality is that her parents took her to the Center and signed the relinquishment papers themselves.  She’s currently going through the tug-of-war for information with Holt, and I wish her the best of luck…..

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I can see the light at the end of the tunnel…… I think if I can make it through February, my mood and motivation will improve considerably. As S-y would say, I’m such a 7! I seem to do things as either all-or-nothing. Just pointing out the obvious, in case you didn’t know that already. 😉

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Filed under APIA Community, Korean Adoptees, Media/Arts/Pop Culture, Musings, Organizations, Ranting, Updates

New website for Resilience

The documentary film, Resilience, has a new website up, www.resiliencefilm.com. Go check it out!

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Filed under Korean Adoptees, Media/Arts/Pop Culture