SEARCHING FOR SEOUL: CHOPSTICKS

On my blog: Searching for Seoul, I talk about being an orphan, an adopted child, and a woman, seeking her identity. Last week, I went to Korea for the first time since I was seven years-old to meet the woman responsible for helping me find my birth dad last summer. Here is a short intro. You can read the FULL STORY at HanaHawley.com

The night I met Sister Theresa for the first time, she took me and Josiah to eat a traditional Korean meal at her friend’s restaurant. I felt spoiled, and loved, and slightly sad. I let my imagination run away from me. A glimpse into what goes on in my head sometimes, in this post called “Chopsticks.”

“Her eyes seep sadness. They sting like old wounds reopened–wide and gaping. I imagine for a moment that she sees her own abandoned daughter–a hint of the child she once knew in the shape of my face.”jakub-kapusnak-296881.jpg

(photo by Jacob Kapusnak for unsplash)

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Searching for Seoul- Foreigner

 

Stepped onto Korean soil for the first time in thirty-years this week. The last time I was in Korea, I was just seven years-old.

Excerpt from my post:

I study the quiet and sleepy faces around me in the “foreigner” immigration line. We shuffle along as the “resident” line across the way from us empties. It feels a little strange to be in the line with foreigners because technically, I am coming home…Read the Full Story at http://www.hanahawley.com on Searching for Seoul. 

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Photo by Sean Kong

CH 11 VALIDATION (Hanako)

“The demand for your genre is down right now,” her literary agent had said kindly before her move to Tokyo. In her bleaker moments, Hanako reinterpreted that to mean, “no one gives a shit about what you’ve written right now.” READ THE STORY at http://www.hanahawley.com

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Photo by Igor Cancarevic on Unsplash

CH 5 A KOREAN IN JAPAN (Hanako)

Korean. I’m Korean. Did she speak Korean? Anyoung haseyo? A shake of the head. “I’m sorry. I don’t speak Korean, either.” 

Sometimes, she couldn’t help but say, “sad, I know. Pathetic, really,” depending on how insecure she felt about it at the moment. (READ the rest of the chapter at my website.

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photo by Thien Dang on Unsplash

Searching for Seoul Post 8

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photo by Thomas Chevalier

It’s tempting to unearth information about my childhood with the emotional density of a reporter while leaving the finer points in the dark– easy even, to look at the facts coolly, as though none of it pertains to me.

Every tidbit of information from Sister Theresa is like candy: it packs a sweet or sour punch in the beginning and gives me a rush, but when the initial feelings subside, I wonder if anything in me has changed.

I scrutinize the wounds I’ve worn around for more than two decades to see if any of them are growing faint in the light of my birth dad’s words of love and regret. So far, I don’t think any of the knowledge has made me feel less abandoned, more known, more rooted.  But maybe it’s too soon to tell.

 When you grow-up in the shadow of parents whose physical traits are not manifested in your own features, you dream about how eye-opening and how wonderful it would be if you only knew what your birth parents were like.  As a kid, it was really the only thing I cared about.  I guess I thought that if I knew who I resembled, I’d have a better sense of who I was, or where I was going.

I saw photos of my birth dad before Christmas.  Sister Theresa asked him to send one and he sent four—each of them taken at significant moments in his life.  I laughed when I read her short email because sometimes the English translation is so formal or the spacing is off.  “Wow, he looks really nice in the photos! Praise the Lord!”

I feel surprisingly triumphant when I recognize nothing of myself in his features.  I see my brother’s face, his frame, my sister’s frown, her nose.  I’ve waited so long to see this face, to study it for clues to my past and to my future but I see nothing there to point in any direction and I am glad.  I don’t understand it, but it fills me with relief that I can’t identify with the stranger in the photos.

 

 

 

 

Searching for Seoul Post 7

post 7 pic Taylor DavidsonIt’s weird to get life-altering information via email.

You read a message that says your birth father wants to meet you in January and you can’t quite believe it because this is the same manner in which you receive coupons to stores you no longer frequent and Twitter notifications for people you don’t know and bills for your water and gas and health insurance.

But there it is anyway.  The familiar Korean characters in your inbox signaling another email from Sister Theresa.

You don’t have time to weight the letter in your hands, give yourself a moment to collect your thoughts or squirrel the envelope away for a more private time or place to open. You were only trying to check a map on your phone but what you get slapped with is an email that says, “Dearest Hana, your birth father just called me a few minutes ago!  Merciful Lord heard our prayers!”

And the words slam into your eyes like a light that’s too bright.

The skeptic in me, the one who knows that nothing is ever wholly good, that even gifts come tainted, thinks, well, that was a quick turnaround! Didn’t I get an email earlier this week that implies my birth dad wants nothing to do with me? And now he’s calling Sister Theresa back? And he’s crying about how sorry he is for everything. What is this? Some sort of Hallmark special?

 I read my birth dad’s words embraced by quotation marks, no more real than the rest of it, lines from a script crafted for maximum emotional punch.  I turn them over and over again in my mind, wondering what sad stories must lie in wait behind these vague revelations, squeezing each sentence for more information.

“He said he loves you all.”  And the world as I know it crumbles.