One with the Land of the Calm
It was with a jolt that we came back to reality of time, location, and purpose. My family and I traveled from Minneapolis anxiously awaiting our arrival in Seoul, Korea, a city halfway around the world. This was not a typical family vacation. We weren’t here to sing along to K-Pop or go to an amusement park, but to find answers to questions that all link back to a singular word: adoption. After we contemplated the why of our anxieties, we were ready to face the who. Would my brother and I feel one with the sea of black hair or feel inferior as we knew very few Korean customs, and even less of the Korean language. We also wondered how our parents would cope as outsiders, intruders even, to this world where there seemed to be a unity of color. Questions, questions, and the plaguing question regarding my sense of self.
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After a few days in Seoul, we made two visits that struck me as extremely different than anything in the United States. The first was a visit to an orphanage for disabled children, a dump for the unwanted who would inevitably stay in the orphanage for the rest of their lives. My family and I met with a mentally handicapped boy who continually drooled. Only one thing set him apart—his disability. In the United States such a disability would not be seen as utterly debilitating or a scar on one’s family as it is in Korea. I could have easily been one of those little children with no future, a very limited education, and nothing to look forward to. The second was a visit to a home for expecting mothers whose families did not know of their plight. In Korea women are looked down open, almost to the point of utter disgust, if they are pregnant and not married.
These two visits made me feel utterly gracious for my birthmother who dropped me off at an adoption agency, and not some hapless orphanage. These feelings of gratitude conflicted with feelings of betrayal because of her refusal to meet me. I wonder what she looks like. I wonder if she had other children. Do I have other brothers and sisters? I want answers. Answers that fill the void that she created 17 years ago. Upset as I was with her for that, I also understood why she could not meet me.
Visiting Korea makes it possible for me to connect with other people’s lives. I relate with others on a more personal level because I can understand their difficulties and empathize with their struggles. Because of this I have become a grateful, forgiving woman who devotes her time to serving others at Camp Sonshine and Encounter the Gospel of Life. I offer a sense of belonging since I have had to find my niche both in Korea and in the United States.