SEARCHING FOR SEOUL: Sister Theresa

She is a girl playing dress-up in a nun’s habit. A rainbow-tailed unicorn, disguised as a workhorse.

She runs toward me with her arms outstretched and I am four, five, and six–my stubby legs propelling me forward until I am swathed in the dove-grey of her skirt, a child with her heart broken, a lost thing without a mom or dad. (Read the FULL STORY) at Hanahawley.com

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Photo by me, Daegu, South Korea at White Lily Baby Home

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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)

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 11

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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

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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