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 11

matt jones post 11

Photo by Samuel Sosina

Josiah and I are sitting in our rental car, A/C blasting to keep the moisture-packed Georgia heat at bay. It must be over one-hundred degrees outside. We’ve parked a few houses down from our intended destination so I can jot a few things down in my journal. I am grateful to my husband for understanding my need to write my feelings, assess the situation, before I leap.

We notice an older Korean gentleman saunter down his driveway with hands crossed behind his back, his face kind, expectant. And I know that he’s looking for us. I duck my head, stare at the mostly blank page, pen poised, emotions flying high in my stomach. I will the man to go back into his house so I can focus.

Last night, navigating what to do after finding out that my birth dad had missed his flight to Atlanta had felt like watching my grandpa do his breathing exercises from his bed at the nursing home; slow, painful.

Three hours after the initial call from Abby, I’d still not called my siblings to tell them the news that our birth dad might not come. I had needed something definitive, something that demonstrated the whole visa thing hadn’t been a willful act of negligence. And I got it late that night, confirmation from Abby that my dad had re-booked his flight for the first week in July. It was the earliest flight he could get.

Today, Josiah and I are to meet at Mr. and Mrs. Lee’s house as planned, even though my birth dad won’t be there and my siblings have delayed their trip. Mr. Lee wants us to meet his family, to know that we hadn’t traveled all this way for no reason, that we are very much wanted…that our dad’s intentions were good. We might be able to get my birth dad on Skype even, and this is what has me feeling like I’m about to embark on my very first job interview.

I try to visualize how this initial greeting would go down. Should I say, “hi, dad,”? Or, would it be more appropriate to say, “Annyeong-haseyo,”? Would I instinctively bow my head a little, or be stiff and “American” caught between my past and my present?

I set my pen down, close my journal. It’s time.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Searching for Seoul Post 10

samuel sosina post 10

Photo by Matt Jones

I don’t want her to feel worse than she already does, but the tears seep out of my voice despite my wishes. “Don’t cry, Mira,” Abby* says, and I can tell she’s taking responsibility, her voice, heavy with guilt.

My birth dad never got on the plane.

But I’m already in Atlanta! My brain screams. I’m already here.

Josiah and I arrived a couple of days early, and now, all of my preparation; the extra shifts I’d picked up last week, the new dresses I’d purchased, the family photo albums I’d spent hours making, the hotel and car reservations I’d made for everyone–all seem premature–acts of naivety–of ignorance.

He didn’t get on the plane. That’s all I can hear at first, and it feels to me as though this was a willful act, an act of cowardice or an act that would cause enough pain and disappointment to shut this whole thing down forever.

“He was supposed to meet my mom at the gate, but he never came.” Abby, is the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Lee, my birth dad’s friends who moved to the U.S. ten years ago. They’ve been friends for twenty years now and Mrs. Lee was to travel back to the U.S. with my dad.

Abby has been bridging the gap for all of us since late February, translating messages between my birth dad and me because no one else speaks English and I don’t speak Korean. The very first message I received from her back then was, “Hello, is your Korean name Mira, Park? I know your dad…”

“Your dad is in chaos, right now,” Abby says, and this refocuses my attention on the problem at hand, the reason my birth dad couldn’t get on the plane that would have brought him to Atlanta to meet me just sixteen hours later.

He didn’t have a visa to travel to the states. No one thought to ask him if he had one. And he didn’t think of it himself because he hasn’t traveled outside of Korea in years. He could have applied for it online, been approved within the hour, but by the time he was apprised of this, it was too late.

He was already on his way home, a four-hour drive from Incheon Airport in Seoul, by the time I was getting the news.

And then I want to call my birth dad’s travel agent, yell at her, ask her how she could let this happen in the first place? Wasn’t it her job? Her duty to get her clients from point a to point b with as little trouble to them as possible? And now, her oversight was ruining our lives. Words like, incompetent! Worthless! Gurgle up in my brain like poison.

How was I going to tell my brother and sister about this?

I realize I dread this task even more than not knowing if my birth dad would get the necessary documentation and re-book his flight. I know that in under eight hours my family plans to board a plane from Minneapolis to Atlanta, and I struggle with how to tell them not to come.

 

*not her real name

 

 

Searching for Seoul Post 9

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From left to right: my sister, me, my brother

I’m meeting my birth dad in June. Let me say that again–imagine uncoordinated little me jumping up and down and running spastically around when you read this–I’M MEETING MY BIRTH DAD IN JUNE! Guys! Guys!!! Can you believe this? Did anyone really think this day would come? Did I?

Because my birth dad’s name is difficult for my siblings and me to pronounce, and because my autocorrect changed “b dad” to “brad” while I was texting my siblings, and our family last name is Park, we’re calling our birth dad, Brad Pitt, for now (I know it’s a stretch, but so is this sentence).

It’s been just shy of 48 hours and the old, nearly abandoned and cracked road ahead is blooming with hundreds of bright, cheerful flowers. There is no cautionary sign amidst the buds. There is no gray sky. So pending death or incapacitating dismemberment, in what feels like an eternity from now, three orphans will be standing in the same room with a man they haven’t known since 1984.

Even after Sister Theresa located our birth dad, even after he said he’d meet us if we came to Korea, the idea of it was tenuous. Sister Theresa would email him for details and she’d get no response for weeks. I thought maybe he liked the idea of a reunion but didn’t want to face the cold, potentially gut-wrenching facts of it.

But yesterday, Brad booked a flight to the United States. And today, in a gesture that felt very much like a comforting pat on the back, an act of goodwill, of good intention, he sent a picture he has of the three of us–regaled in traditional Korean attire–and a picture of his office building where he works as an architect.

And I realize that I’m proud of this man I do not know for stepping into a story that holds so much pain.

 

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.

 

Searching for Seoul Post 6

post 6 Daria Nepriakhina

An open letter to my birth parents…

Dear Mom and Dad,

My name is Hana Mee Ra and I was adopted along with my younger sister *** and my brother *** in September of 1986.  We are so blessed to have been adopted together into the same American family.

As we grew-up, our feelings about trying to find you evolved.   When we were kids, our adoptive parents asked us how we felt about looking for you someday.  They said our answers were simultaneous and vehement.  I said “no,” *** said, “maybe,” and ***’s answer was a passionate, “yes.” Our response to the question about trying to find you is now singular.

My siblings and I love our family and have never wanted for anything physically but there is a deep longing in us to understand something about you and the lives of the three children who were at one time, yours.  Why did you think adoption was the only answer?  What does your life look like now? How would you describe your character and your skills?  Do we look like you?  Did we inherit any of your mannerisms? Do we have any other brothers and sisters? Do you think of us at all?

It’s strange to think that as I am writing this, I am just a few years older than you were when you gave us up for adoption.

You may not want to revive this period of your life and we would understand- but we hope that you feel differently. Please know that we hold no bitterness toward you as we begin this process and are trying to keep our expectations low, but it’s difficult not to be optimistic.

We have enclosed a few photos of ourselves.   One of them may be the way you remember us. We hope that this letter finds you.

-Hana

Read more at http://www.hanahawley.com