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Archive for May, 2008

Aloha! Get ready to register for the Asian Adult Adoptee Gathering & Film Festival, presented by Korean Adoptees of Hawai’i this October 10-13 in Honolulu!

All transnational and domestic adult adoptees (age 18+) of Asian and mixed Asian heritage are invited to attend this international event – the first of its kind to be hosted in Hawai’i.

Full registration for the Asian Adult Adoptee Gathering will include meals, conference sessions, optional activities, and the inaugural Asian Adoptee Film Festival, showcasing the artistry and expression of Asian adoptee filmmakers.

Online registration for the Asian Adult Adoptee Gathering & Film Festival will begin this Saturday, May 31, at http://www.kahawaii.org/mini08/registration.html

Register early, from May 31 through June 15, to take advantage of the discounted registration fee of $75. General registration will be available from June 16 through August 10, for $90. Late registration, from August 11 to October 1, will be at an increased rate of $125.

Registration fees will cover your materials, the Aloha Dinner on Friday, film festival tickets and transportation between the Hawaii Prince Hotel and theater on Saturday, Sunday’s breakfast and conference sessions.

Optional add-ons include cultural and recreational tours and activities, souvenir T-shirt, and a Sunday evening gala luau (including food, drinks, entertainment and transportation).

Guests of adoptee attendees may also register for the entire event, or for the film festival only, plus optional cultural and recreational tours and activities.

Payment will be available by PayPal (credit card or bank transfer), or by mail (check or money order).

Visit http://www.KAHawaii.org/mini08/ for complete information about the Asian Adult Adoptee Gathering & Film Festival, and to register starting May 31.

OTHER ANNOUNCEMENTS:

* CONFERENCE SESSION PROPOSALS due June 1 (e-mail to info@KAHawaii.org)
Download the proposal form at:
http://www.kahawaii.org/files/AAAGFF%20Session%20Proposal%20Form.doc
Forms are also available at:
http://groups.google.com/group/AAAGFF-Update/files?hl=en

* DISCOUNTED HOTEL RATES at the Hawaii Prince Hotel Waikiki
The Hawaii Prince Hotel Waikiki, a luxury oceanfront hotel ideally situated at the gateway to Waikiki and diagonally across the boulevard from world-class shopping at Ala Moana Center, will serve as the official hotel for the Asian Adult Adoptee Gathering. Why stay at the Hawaii Prince Hotel? Registration, some meals, conference sessions, and transportation to/from the film festival and other activities will all be provided here. Transportation to/from other locations will not be provided.

A specially discounted rate of $155 USD (plus taxes) per room per night has been arranged for Asian Adult Adoptee Gathering participants. This rate – a generous reduction from the regular rack rate of $425 – is available for room check-ins starting Sunday, October 5, through the check-out date of Saturday, October 18. All guest rooms have ocean views, high-speed Internet access and many other amenities.

For reservation information and complete hotel details, including golf club discount, parking rates, spa/salon info, cancellation policy and more, please visit our website: http://www.kahawaii.org/mini08/hotel.html

* CAR RENTAL DISCOUNTS
Visit our website at http://www.kahawaii.org/mini08/travel.html to view an overview of the available discounted rates provided by Hertz.

————————–————————–—————–

We look forward to welcoming you to Hawai’i this October! Please view our website for complete details about the Asian Adult Adoptee Gathering & Film Festival: http://www.KAHawaii.org/mini08/

E-mail us at info@KAHawaii.org with your questions or comments.

Mahalo!

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Hi all,

G.O.A.’L has officially launched the Dual Citizenship Campaign.

Here are all the links to the documents you can download:

Pressrelease in English:
http://www.goal.or.kr/docs/dual_citizenship_2008.pdf

Signsheet in English:
http://www.goal.or.kr/docs/dual_citizenship_signsheet.pdf

Info Package in English:
http://www.goal.or.kr/docs/ds2008_info_package.pdf

Please feel free to distribute these documents to all those who might be interested. Anyone can sign this petition, not only adoptees but also adoptive parents and everyone who is interested in this campaign. Please support our campaign!!! In case you have questions you can write to our email campaign@goal.or.kr

G.O.A.’L was also contacted by the Ministry of Justice. We will send a delegation next week to the Ministry in order to explain as to what the goals of our campaign is. We keep you posted. If you have any remarks, suggestions, proposals, please let us know. Thank you

Dae-won Wenger
Secretary General
http://www.goal.or.kr

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Timeline in Brief:

Dec 20, 2007
A New Family

Dec 26, 2007
Preparing and Waiting

Jan 3, 2008
Across the Miles

Jan 11, 2008
Aftermath of adoption: adjusting to the culture

Jan 13, 2008
Sent letter to the editor expressing our concerns about the series.

Jan 14, 2008
Kevin receives reply from Anh Do requesting further discussion.

Jan 15, 2008
Anh Do speaks with Kevin over the phone and mentions Jami Farkas will be in touch.

Jan 16, 2008
Response from Anh Do (Letter from the editor)

Mar 12, 2008
Jami initiates contact via email stating she’s “doing a follow-up story on our adoption series and would like to speak briefly” with each of us.

Two of us respond the same day. She tells Kevin she will call him the following evening.

Mar 17, 2008
I respond to Jami’s initial email asking her to elaborate.

Kevin sends follow-up email to Jami inquiring as to why she didn’t call. He also sends a follow-up to Anh Do.

Mar 18, 2008
Anh Do responds to Kevin’s email explaining that Jami had some serious health issues and was unable to contact us.

Mar 26, 2008
Jami sends explanation and apology. She asks if we would agree to answer a few interview questions. She tells Kevin and I that she will send her interview questions later that night.

That’s the last the three of us heard from her.

April 12, 2008
I send follow-up email.

No reply.

* * *

As Kevin previously mentioned, events did not go as we’d hoped. Though it began as a gesture of goodwill, Người Việt’s offer quickly turned into what felt more like a brush-off. I have worked with editors and journalists before, but none have ever dealt with me so unprofessionally and with such disregard.

The three of us had discussed blogging about the series but decided to first write a letter to the editor expressing our concerns. After Kevin received Anh Do’s email response requesting a follow-up discussion with him, we were optimistic and enthusiastic about continuing the discussion. Apparently, Anh Do shared our enthusiasm given her prompt responses. However, once she handed responsibility over to Jami Farkas, there was a marked change in interest on the part of Người Việt.

Jami did eventually get in touch with us – two months later. Yet her email was completely devoid of the kind of professionalism one would expect from “the premier English-language publication of the Nguoi Viet Daily News, the oldest and largest Vietnamese-language newspaper in the United States.”

Wed, Mar 12, 2008

Dear Kevin, Khai, Sume and Anh:

(Fellow adoptee) gave me your e-mail addresses. I am doing a follow-up story on our adoption series and would like to speak briefly with each of you. Would you mind sending your phone numbers so that I can call you?

Thanks!

Jami Farkas

First, we didn’t know who the “fellow adoptee” was as she mentioned him by his first name only. Second, we thought Anh Do had already given her our email addresses. Why was she getting them from another adoptee? We didn’t know Jami from Judas and weren’t entirely comfortable just handing over our phone numbers to her.

Despite our reservations, we continued to express our interest in contributing to Jami’s vaguely proposed “follow-up story.” Two of us sent in replies the same day which resulted in Jami making an appointment to speak with Kevin over the phone that following Friday the 14th. She sent no reply to Anh Dao.

After taking more time to consider, I sent in my reply on the 17th.

Mar 17, 2008

Hi Jamie,

Thank you for your interest. Can you please tell me a little more
about your follow-up story and our expected contribution to it?

Sincerely,
Sume

No response.

Having not heard back from Jami, Kevin sent emails to both Jami and Anh Do the same day inquiring as to why we hadn’t heard back from Jami. She’d missed her appointment with Kevin and had failed to respond to either me or Anh Dao. In his emails to both Jami and Anh Do, Kevin conveyed our concerns about Jami’s lack of communication and professionalism. Anh Do sent a reply the next day explaining that Jami had some health problems and couldn’t get back with us. Feeling bad that we had jumped the gun, the three of us decided to just wait and see.

Jami did eventually get back with us on the March 26 explaining her situation and apologizing for not getting in touch with us. We expressed hopes that we had not been too harsh in questioning her lack of response along with well-wishes regarding her health. It seemed we could resolve the situation as a misunderstanding resulting from events beyond our control. In her email, Jami said she would send us some interview questions via email later on that night, but we never heard back from her. Kevin and I both sent yet another series of emails – mine being the last, dated April 12, 2008. We have not heard back from anyone at Người Việt since.

* * *

Confused? So were we.

Initially, we wondered if perhaps Jami had again experienced health problems and perhaps that might explain her failure to communicate with us. Despite our enthusiasm to get things underway, none of us wanted to jump to conclusions or be inconsiderate of any recovery time she might need.

Shortly after I sent my email on April 12th, we learned that protesters had gathered outside Người Việt’s office angry over a photo they’d published that allegedly “denigrated the old South Vietnamese flag.” Again, we decided under the current situation, it might be understandable that the entire staff at Người Việt might be pre-occupied with handling their sudden public relations crisis. So again, we waited.

It wasn’t until we entered May without a word from Jami or anyone from Người Việt that we began to wonder. Was she so incapacitated that she couldn’t send a brief update or acknowledgment that she’d received our emails? If so, then couldn’t she have asked another staff member to get back with us?

Thinking something might have happened to her, I went to Người Việt’s website to see if Jami had been updating. A quick search proved to be telling.

1. Doctors say stylish helmets less safe
(Thursday, May 22, 2008 12:12:12 AM – Compiled by Jami Farkas from news reports)

2. Teen births cost taxpayers $61 million in O.C. region
(Thursday, May 22, 2008 12:08:22 AM – Compiled by Jami Farkas from news reports)

3. Women wrestlers’ Olympic bid canceled
(Thursday, May 22, 2008 12:01:45 AM – Compiled by Jami Farkas from news reports)

4. UK continues annual grant of $100 million to Việt Nam
(Wednesday, May 21, 2008 11:56:07 PM – Compiled by Jami Farkas from news reports)

5. China quake rattles buildings in Việt Nam
(Friday, May 16, 2008 3:39:11 PM – Compiled by Jami Farkas)

6. Golf courses displacing agricultural land
(Friday, May 16, 2008 3:34:49 PM – Compiled by Jami Farkas)

7. First private plane in years now in Việt Nam skies
(Friday, May 16, 2008 3:25:18 PM – Compiled by Jami Farkas)

8. Car sales up in Việt Nam
(Friday, May 16, 2008 3:22:36 PM – Compiled by Jami Farkas)

9. 2 reporters nabbed for scandal coverage
(Friday, May 16, 2008 3:15:12 PM – Compiled by Jami Farkas)

10. Activist convicted, to be deported
(Friday, May 16, 2008 3:07:50 PM – Compiled by Jami Farkas)

11. Letter from the Editor
(Thursday, April 03, 2008 9:50:36 PM – By Jami Farkas)

12. Practicing what he preaches
(Wednesday, March 26, 2008 10:39:45 PM – By Jami Farkas)

13. Letter from the Editor
(Thursday, March 13, 2008 6:56:20 PM – By Jami Farkas)

14. This label is easy to make
(Thursday, February 28, 2008 7:32:00 PM – By Jami Farkas)
Kim-Oanh Nguyễn-Lâm is an educator, first and foremost.

15. Letter from the Editor
(Wednesday, February 06, 2008 10:38:15 PM – By Jami Farkas)

Obviously she’s been quite active – so busy that she couldn’t take the whole of five minutes to get back with us. Did Người Việt think we would simply go away? In good faith, we’d postponed our response to Venus Lee‘s adoption series only to be stalled, dropped and eventually ignored without a word.

Personally speaking, I never doubted the sincerity of the previous editor, Anh Do. Her response time alone implies her interest. As Kevin states in his previous post:

To say the least, I was impressed with Anh Do’s act of reaching out to our aggrieved party and seeking to make amends by bringing balance to the discussion on adoption from Vietnam. Each of us were notified that Anh Do was going to contact us with prepared questions and conduct a brief interview with each of us.

However, I have to seriously question that of Jami Farkas – not only because of her poor response time, but because of the offhand way with which she approached us from the beginning. Obviously, both the paper and Jami had remained active despite any “health issues” or public relations problems. What Jami’s actions seem to indicate is simply a lack of interest and/or that she didn’t take us seriously.

* * *

As my co-blogger, Kevin Minh Allen, has already done such a commendable job, I will only throw in some supplemental thoughts of my own.

I’m fully aware that there will still be people out there thinking, “So what?” There may be others who question whether it’s even appropriate for us to be pointing out Người Việt’s lengthy yet sadly lacking series. Still there will be others who will dismiss our criticism of Jami Farkas and her paper as nothing more than whining. Whatever.

On a personal level, of course, being dropped is never fun, but I could get over that part. Even the cavalier, flaky way with which Jami treated us, while insulting, could be passed off as a problem with her more than us. However on a deeper level, as a Vietnamese adoptee, being given the proverbial finger by a Vietnamese American paper really bites.

I’m not talking about journalistic integrity or anything so impartial *cough, because this is personal. To try and wrap Người Việt’s actions into a supposedly more objective skin diverts attention away from an adult adoptee perspective. Isn’t that contradictory to the goal (for many of us) of getting our undiluted point of view out there? We can argue about journalistic integrity all we want, but I think that makes it too easy to ignore how events like this can affect an adoptee on a deeply personal level.

And why should we? Life as an adoptee is a profoundly human experience. For many, the effects of adoption are deeply felt and last a lifetime. Dismissing or completely ignoring how our lives as adoptees affect our perspective feels like trying to take the water from an ice cube. Of course, it’s always a matter of balance. Hopefully, I’ll be able to maintain some as I attempt to bring this back down to a personal, though hopefully not overly ranty level.

Người Việt published a series of articles that basically functioned as a sales brochure complete with savior theme whilst adoptions from Vietnam were under scrutiny for unethical practices and outright corruption. On top of that, they completely ignored how being adopted under false pretenses might affect an adoptee. Adult Vietnamese adoptees would have been able to offer more realistic though possibly less idealistic insights into life after identity-revision.

On top of that, the last post of the series – Aftermath of adoption: adjusting to the culture - is so short-sighted that it also ignores the long term “aftermath” of adoption. If any part of the series should have featured adult adoptee perspectives, it should have been that one. And to top it all off, Người Việt offers to interview us after we call them on it, but then quickly drops us without a word. That’s just rude.

But like I said, I can get past that. As an isolated incident, it doesn’t mean much other than Người Việt did a really inadequate job of covering adoptions from Vietnam. It’s when I look at the wider picture and how the Vietnamese American paper contributed to the compounding problem of non-critical, AP-catered adoption literature that it really matters.

In light of the imbalance, is Người Việt obligated to compensate for the disparity? We could debate that endlessly, but in the end it’s ultimately the editor’s privilege and responsibility to make that call. That’s just the reality of it and why many of us have turned to adoptee-run mediums like our blogs, programs like The Adoption Show, and groups/forums like AdopteeRights.net and AdultAdoptees.org. Note the stark contrast between The Adoption Show’s recent contribution and Người Việt’s four-part series.

Người Việt’s recent actions would seem to indicate not only a willingness to pander to adoptive parents, but also a reluctance to allow critical or questioning adoptees to represent themselves. The fact that it’s a Vietnamese American paper seems to suggest an attitude that it’s okay for Vietnamese Americans to speak for Vietnamese adoptees, but not okay for adoptees to speak for themselves – if they have something critical to say about their adoptions. Think I’m stretching it?

Venus Lee isn’t even Vietnamese. As pointed out in the article written by Jami Farkas, Venus is “Half Japanese, half Chinese” who’s fellowship project involved “A study of adoptions from Vietnam.” Great. Given the negative experiences that I and others have had while trying to “re-integrate” into the Vietnamese/Asian American community, this is just the icing to top the you’re-not-Vietnamese/Asian- enough-cake. Thank you very much, Người Việt.

If we zoom out the lens and view the greater landscape of adoptions in the media, very little of it involves adoptees speaking for themselves as they interpret themselves and their experiences. Great strides have been made, but the overall perspective is still a very narrow view, often sifted and re-interpreted by a non-adoptee. For Vietnamese adoptees, who have had their experiences and stories milked relentlessly by non-adoptees for money, self-praise and promotion, political fodder, humanitarian causes and career advancement, this is doubly so.

It’s not that I think only adoptees are capable of and should represent their own stories. That’s unrealistic anyway. I believe we can and should work closely with non-adoptees to get our voices out there. However, there is a fine line between representation and exploitation, contribution and substitution, working with and working for. If, as adoptees, we do not adamantly draw those lines, I believe we endanger the very voices we claim to support.

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NEXT SHOW

Sunday May 25, 2008

9:00 PM (EST)

www.theadoptionshow.com

ANGRATE ACTION ALERTS

with

KALI COULTAS

Kali talks with Kevin Minh Allen about current and past adoption practices in Vietnam. Few know or understand what’s going on in Vietnam, such as its 42 operating adoption agencies. What’s disturbing, but not surprising, is that no one is consulting the daughters and sons adopted out of this country: the true voice and perspective of international adoption.

About Kevin: Born Nguyên Ðúc Mînh in Gia Ðịnh district of Sài Gòn on December 5, 1973, Kevin Minh Allen was adopted at 9 months and flown to the U.S. in August 1974. He grew up in a suburb of Rochester, NY, until at 27 years of age, he moved to Seattle, where he is currently enjoying the view. He has written and published poetry, book reviews, news articles and information panels for a museum exhibit.  His work can be found online in Tiếng Magazine, Asian American Movement Magazine, The Fighting 44s and the Poetry Superhighway, and in print as well, such as The Northwest Asian Weekly, The International Examiner and HazMat Journal.
Check out the blog Misplaced Baggage: http://misplacedbaggage.wordpress.com/ run by Vietnamese adoptees: Kevin Minh Allen, Sumeia Williams and Anh Dao Kolbe

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혻혻 By Kim Young-gyo
SEOUL, May 14 (Yonhap) — Following recent allegations of irregularities in international adoptions from Vietnam, Korean adoptees said Wednesday South Korea’s adoption system has also had serious problems.

혻혻 “Earlier signals about trafficking from Vietnam … has significant comparisons with those of South Korea in earlier 1970s and 1980s,” said a Dutch activist, who was adopted from South Korea, in an interview with Yonhap News Agency.

혻혻 Hilbrand Westra has been actively involved in international adoption, working as a chairman of the Netherlands-based United Adoptees International, the first independent and international foundation by adoptees, since 2006 with a political and social aim to address problems involving adoption.

혻혻 “In the seventies and eighties, many children disappeared from streets in Seoul and Busan. Many older Koreans in these cities have been confirming that they knew or heard about this. Still, no one ever asked for a thorough investigation in South Korea,” Westra said.

혻혻 Last month, the U.S. embassy in Vietnam released a report, describing cases in which children had allegedly been sold and families pressured to give up their babies. The report also said adoption facilitators were engaging in fraudulent operations to conceal the identity of the birth parents.

혻혻 Dismissing the accusations, the Vietnamese government said it would end an adoption agreement with the United States after July 1.
“Since adoption exists, child trafficking is a booming mechanism behind it. But since child trafficking is not called abduction and is used for adoption it is internationally not forbidden. In other words, stealing children for adoption is allowed as long as you keep the child safe and healthy afterwards,” Westra said.

혻혻 He argued that South Korea has not ratified international agreements on adoption, leaving possible corruption in the adoption system uncontrolled.

continued..

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Couple Upset Adoption Halted By Vietnam

POSTED: 7:56 pm CDT May 7, 2008
UPDATED: 8:10 pm CDT May 7, 2008

OLATHE, Kan. — A disagreement between the United States and Vietnam could devastate a local couple’s adoption plan.

Heidi Fenton has a closet full of baby girl clothes.

She and her husband have been trying to adopt an infant from Vietnam.

However, Vietnam stopped taking adoption applications from Americans on Sept. 1 following a U.S. Embassy report of infants being sold and mothers being pressured to give up their babies.

The Fentons have been working with an adoption agency for 18 months and they have spent $10,000 on the adoption so far. Heidi Fenton estimates it will cost a total of $30,000.

“I wish the two governments could work it out so that those of us that have been in the process this long could get our babies,” she told KMBC’s Maria Antonia.

Figures indicate more Americans are trying to adopt babies from Vietnam because it has fewer restrictions than China.

According to one estimate, in 2007 the number of Vietnamese children adopted by American families increased 400 percent from the previous year.

Am I crazy or does “fewer restrictions”, the increase in adoptions from Vietnam and corruption not point to something more significant than simply a “disagreement between the United States and Vietnam?”

It’s getting to the point where I just don’t know what to say anymore. Not only does this article make it all about the adoptive parent, it reduces the situation down to a “disagreement between the United States and Vietnam.” I’m aware that there are people out there who don’t understand why I keep on the media about their narrow, biased articles on adoption.

For those of you who don’t or who would reduce it to just wanting to complain, I’ll tell you. The amount of naive assumptions and ignorant opinions I run into related to adoption is probably one of the biggest reasons.

Articles like these the need for alternative opinions from more critical members of the adoption community. I just love how it reduces things down to “a disagreement” between governments and makes it all about the adoptive parent.

I’ve heard other opinions that paint concerns over corruption in adoption as little more than a matter of politics. Others have told me that they don’t think a lot of things they read in the media translate into real life. I don’t fully disagree or agree with any of those statements. Truth, as I’ve come to discover, is usually “a little of column A, a little of column B,” as one of my friends would phrase it.

This whole thing with adoptions from Viet Nam has left me sickened and disgusted, so much so that I had to take several steps back in order to keep my perspective in check. Without the support and understanding of several of my adoptee friends, I would have thrown my hands up and walked away a long time ago.

When I first began blogging, I scoured the internet looking for the critical voices of fellow Vietnamese adoptees. I always came back empty-handed and disheartened. If not for a small number of adoptees, non-adoptee friends and even a few adoptive parents, I would have given myself up for being crazy.

Finally, after close to two years of blogging about adoption, a few distinctive voices began to emerge. For me, it was as if my work had finally come to fruition. I could relax, step back and watch as they ignited to shed more light on the Vietnamese adoptee perspective and experience. They’ve become rare gems in the sky, beacons of hope and support. I can’t imagine life without them.

That made it all the more infuriating when I read a four-part series featured on Nguoi Viet, a Vietnamese American newspaper, which was little more than a shopping brochure. Not only that, it was completely devoid of adult Vietamese adoptee voices and made only a cursory, dismissive mention of the corruption. Shame! Shame!

There will be more on this later, because there’s a story behind this that needs to be told. Given what’s occurred in Vietnamese adoptions over the last several months, it makes the publishing of this series significant for several reasons. But like I said, more to come at a later date…

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