The Paradox of My Past: Foreign and Familiar

As I looked at the old building of Adoption Links World Wide, my past had never before seemed so real to me than at that moment. What I felt was at once alien and familiar. The hypotheticals and “what if’s” that had defined the research I had begun year ago were so authentic that they seemed to bring back memories that could not be grounded in any fact and yet filled me with an unjustifiable nostalgia nonetheless. After a year’s worth of research, after coming so far on a such a personal journey, I was unable to grab and turn a door handle a mere inch away from where I was standing. But with my tie straight, my hair combed, and my questions for the upcoming interview safely recorded in the notebook under my arm, I overcame my nerves and opened the door to the building. I would be walking into a session of Q and A that I would never, could never, forget.

If I’ve committed myself to anything in high school, it is finding out who exactly I am. The fact is I’m a former Vietnamese orphan adopted by a Western family after being left, sick, on the steps of an old abandoned church in Ho Chi Minh City. It was no big secret; my parents explained adoption to me as soon as I was old enough to comprehend it. But this simple fact was not satisfying and led me to the uneasy question of what being adopted actually meant in terms of my identity. Who am I?

In the search of identifying who I am, I first needed to realize who I could have been. So when a research project was assigned during class one day I saw an opportunity. I would do my project on Vietnam and adoption.
The most important step in the project’s completion was an interview I conducted about three years ago. The woman I had interviewed was Cheryl Murry, the same woman who had personally brought me back to the United States from Vietnam. She worked as director for Adoption Links World Wide- the organization my parents used to facilitate my own adoption- and was excited to answer some questions I had about my home country.

Cheryl described images of the country’s natural beauty; the deeply verdant flora contrasting so naturally with the hues of deepest blue in the surrounding rivers and streams, as well as the images of the poverty that continues to scar the nation; the skinny, determined man trudging to the local market to provide for his family.

The interview opened a door into a past that may forever remain a mystery. There are many unanswered questions, and many will remain unanswered, but, thanks to Cheryl, I have some pieces from which I can begin to construct a picture. That is what my project turned out to be; the attempt at a painting, a compilation of facts, figures, and unjustified nostalgia constructing a picture what could have been my life. By researching Vietnam as it existed in my past, I can put into perspective its role in my life today.

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