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Archive for the ‘Happenings’ Category

I don’t come out of my cave very often.  Life’s kept me running too fast to pause for very long.  However, when I heard that Miss Saigon was attempting to make a comeback, it infuriated me enough to come out of my shell.  I thought to write a long essay/rant listing  the many reasons why I hate this musical, but there are members of our community who are far more eloquent.    Instead, I opted to add my voice to the many who are speaking their own truths on Don’t Buy Miss Saigon: Our Truth Project.

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“A photo and story project to counter the racist, sexist, colonialist musical Miss Saigon, in our words and through our eyes.  More info on dontbuymiss-saigon.com.”

missedsaigon

18MillionRising is hosting a petition as well as more information about the campaign.

As a Vietnamese adoptee, an Asian woman and as a Vietnamese American,  Miss Saigon scrapes across my still healing identity.  Old memories leap into the present every time I see these tired, old stereotypes replayed.

“Me love you long time, little girl?”  I was in fifth grade when a high school student chanted this at me on the school bus.

“You probably don’t want to know the truth.  What if your mom was a prostitute?” said a family member.

While watching one of the many Vietnam War movies, cut to scene with prostitutes:  “Hey, Sume, your mom’s on tv!” says my ex-SO.

“You’re should be grateful your dad saved you,” said another, “If he hadn’t, you would probably have ended up as a prostitute or dead.”

I could go on and on right up to the present, because this stereotype is so ingrained in the heads of American society that the assumption is almost second nature.   The default excuse seems to be, “Well, there were prostitutes in Vietnam during the war.”  Lame.  That is a scenario that’s been played out in almost every country that’s had to deal with war.

As a young child, the stereotype was already being fed to me through movies, television and by my wonderful “white saviors” on a regular basis.  When they wanted to “educate” me about “my people,” the lessons always somehow involved how lucky I was not to be among them.  I slowly internalized the sense of shame and the indoctrination of self-hate/guilt/gratitude took root.  Some actually meant well, however, none of them were aware or understood that I viewed the world through TRA eyes.   Friends and family may have viewed “my people” as “the other,” but some part of me also saw myself as “other.”

My environment didn’t provide positive references to contradict all those negatives plus the ethnocentric, racist, stereotyped ideas were often packaged as cute, romanticized bundles which made them easier to digest.   As a result, I built my identity around the way my environment viewed me which contradicted the way I was told to view myself.  On one hand, I was “one of them” and expected to view myself as being the same as any other family member.   On the other, I was suppose to be aware of my “lucky” status in being rescued from Vietnam and a people that promised nothing but prostitution and death.

In 2006, I wrote a piece for Nha Magazine which explains in more detail:

Stored in the very darkest corners of my mind is the picture of an embassy. A deflated American flag is being withdrawn from atop a flagpole. Scores of frantic men, women and children are crushed against the gates desperate to get out before the Viet Cong claim control of Saigon. Mothers are crying, holding their children high in the air amid the smells of smoke and diesel fuel pleading for someone to take them to safety. I hear the thumping of a helicopter over the cries of despair. It’s the sound of angel-wings beating hope into the air, promising salvation if they could just get past the gates.

I left Vietnam five years before the end of the war but those images have become like memories.  Since early childhood, scenes similar to the chaotic evacuation sequence in Miss Saigon have been beaten into my brain by television, movies and photographs.  For most of my life, Vietnam was a war, Saigon an evacuation, Tet an offensive, and I had escaped it all.

Born in 1970, my caretakers at Hoi Duc Anh orphanage in Saigon referred to me as Le Thi Buu Tran before my father adopted me.  He had just completed his second tour as part of the American occupation.  When my adoption process was complete, I had a new American name.  Before I’d reached my first year, all traces of my Vietnamese heritage had been erased except for my adoption papers and my genetics.  As my father boarded a plane destined for the U.S., I’m sure he envisioned new lives for us free of the country and the conflict we’d left behind.  Years later, he would recall how I wailed the entire flight from Saigon to Honolulu.

My new home was a small town in East Texas where I would grow up the lone Asian for the next decade.  The population of little more than a thousand was mostly white with smaller African and Mexican American minorities.  A set of railroad tracks served as a loose dividing line between black and white while brown lived mostly on the rural outskirts of town.  Though I lived on the “white side” of town, I was at the bottom of the racial hierarchy as the only Asian, the only Vietnamese.

Like most children, my world in the beginning was very small and rarely breached the safe boundaries of family.  That would change when in 1975 which also marked the end of the war; I began my first year of school.  My first clue that I was different from other kids was finding my green card in my mother’s purse.  “Oh,” she replied matter of factly, “you’re adopted from Vietnam.”  It meant nothing to me at the time but would later become a source of shame and embarrassment as I learned about Vietnam and its people through the eyes of post-war America.

“Gook!  Go back to Vietnam!”  I was still in elementary school when classmates first screamed those words.  They held little meaning for me other than the obvious insult intended.  Their true meaning was beyond my understanding.  The majority of my access to Vietnam or anything “Asian” came through movies, television, history lessons in school, war documentaries and “war stories” told by those around me.  Aside from stereotypical portrayals of Asians in the media, movies like Uncommon Valor and Full Metal Jacket only deepened my negative perception of myself.  Unconsciously, I would harbor a sense of shame until my early thirties for my nationality as well as my race.

Unlike today, there were no culture camps or adoptee support groups to lift me from my isolation and instill knowledge of and pride in my birth country.  Adoptees were considered as “blank slates” upon their adoptions and little if any importance was given to national, ethnic or familial origins.  Given the environment in which I’d grown, I probably would have turned away from such opportunities even if they had been available.  My need to blend into my surroundings took precedence over my longing to know.  Such pursuits would have only reminded me that I was an ethnic chimera belonging nowhere.

Around the time I turned ten, another family adopted an older boy from Vietnam.  I’d heard the news through the grapevine of my little town and wondered what he’d be like.  It seemed fate might not be so cruel after all.  I would no longer be the only one and perhaps he would be at the very least a friend, a doorway to my lost heritage at most.  When he finally arrived, I could only stare at him fascinated from afar.  Maybe I’d just grown too use to suppressing my loneliness, to closeting my curiosity or had been too concentrated on trying to assimilate and forget.  The result was that we didn’t talk about either Vietnam, adoption or our experiences with racism and prejudice until almost twenty-seven years later.  Our painful experiences closely paralleled yet we had suffered alone.

I eventually moved away to Bellevue, Nebraska which was a far cry from the tiny community in which I’d grown.  It would be my first real interaction with people from the Asian community but I still found it difficult to relate.  Being neither white nor feeling fully Asian, I felt no true sense of belonging even in such a diverse community.  Shortly before my high school graduation, my family moved back to Texas where I would graduate and begin attending college.  Having matured and feeling released from the social shallowness of high school, I began to seriously consider trying to make contact with other Vietnamese.

I was thrilled when approached by the representative of a Vietnamese student’s organization.  “Are you Vietnamese?” he asked.  “Yes,” I replied.  “Do you speak Vietnamese?” was his next question to which I answered, “No, I was adopted.”  He stared for a moment then smiled and said, “Thank you,” as he made a quick exit.  I could do nothing but stare feeling as if I’d just been summarily rejected without reason.  That moment would put an end to any thoughts of trying to reconnect to “my roots” for over a decade.

With the birth of each of my four children, the need to know grew until I could no longer ignore it.  My childhood longing grew from a need to fill an emptiness left by my lost heritage and birth family.  After my own children were born, filling in that vacuum became even more important in order to have something to pass onto my children.  They had a right to know about Vietnam, its rich history and culture and to feel proud of that part of their heritage.  Being such a later bloomer and already in my thirties added a sense of urgency.

I began researching through the library, newspapers and the internet looking for other adoptees and adoptee resources.  At the same time, I started writing about my story and reaching out to others with similar experiences.  It was surprising how much was actually out there.  My desk became cluttered with books as I submerged myself in Vietnam’s history, vibrant culture and deep traditions.  I revisited the war from other perspectives and learned about Vietnam through the eyes of its people.  It was an overwhelming and sometimes painful experience.  I felt like an amnesiac trying to reconnect to a family through old letters, photo albums and home movies.  My journey back has only begun but by moving backwards, I’m also moving forward.

Saigon is no longer the abandoned city of my childhood.  I am proud to claim it as my birthplace.   Reaching beyond the narrow perspective that imprisoned me, Vietnam now is more than a war.  Tet has become a special time to share what I’ve learned about Vietnamese food, culture and history with my children.  Beyond that, I hope to pass down a deep commitment to family and pride in knowing who they are.  I will probably never be able to fill in all the gaps or fully reconnect with the Vietnam of my past.  That is gone, but I’ve come to realize that just as Vietnam begins to heal and move forward, so must I.  The past is only part of the picture as I also come to terms with what it means to be a first-generation Vietnamese American.

So much for not writing a long essay/rant…

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via Fightforthefuture.org

PROTECT-IP is a bill that has been introduced in the Senate and the House and is moving quickly through Congress. It gives the government and corporations the ability to censor the net, in the name of protecting “creativity”. The law would let the government or corporations censor entire sites– they just have to convince a judge that the site is “dedicated to copyright infringement.”

The government has already wrongly shut down sites without any recourse to the site owner. Under this bill, sharing a video with anything copyrighted in it, or what sites like Youtube and Twitter do, would be considered illegal behavior according to this bill.

According to the Congressional Budget Office, this bill would cost us $47 million tax dollars a year — that’s for a fix that won’t work, disrupts the internet, stifles innovation, shuts out diverse voices, and censors the internet. This bill is bad for creativity and does not protect your rights.

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via The Declassified Adoptee

November is National Adoption Awareness Month. The basic history of the month is that it started as a state-based initiative to raise awareness about the issues surrounding children waiting in foster care. It was given its own official month by President Clinton and since then has become everything from an all out celebration of adoption to an opportunity for all things adoption to be advertised and promoted.

If you remember from last year, I have a problem with this. Read my blog throughout this November and you’ll hear more about why.

Not that we shouldn’t make our voices heard the other 11 months out of the year, but I feel especially motivated for the reasons our Declassified Adoptee mentions in her post.  I’ve been a terrible blogger this year, but will try to pick it up again for the month of November.

 

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Jane speaks with Kevin via skype.

Topics covered: Language of Blood, Truth and Reconciliation for the Adoption Community of Korea (TRACK), Adoptee Solidarity Korea (ASK), Convention On the Rights of the Child (UNCRC), Hague Adoption Convention, Korea Central Adoption Resources (KCARE), Eastern Social Welfare Society (ESWS), Social Welfare Society, Inc. (SWS), Holt International, Dillon International, Korean family search, unwarranted post adoption fees charged by Korean and US adoption agencies, new adoption and single parent support legislation in Korea, First Worldwide Adoptee Online Auction.

Listen to the podcast on their website.

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via Land of a Gazillion Adoptees

Some Facts About Unwed Mothers in Korea

  • Contrary to public perception, 3 in 4 unwed mothers are aged 25 and over and have completed high school or spent some time in college. Their children comprise a mere 1-2 percent of South Korea’s annual live births.
  • Maternity facilities operated by adoption agencies have a 37% child-rearing rate compared to 82% for non-agency run facilities. Because most maternity facilities receive government subsidies and are therefore semi-private, they have the authority to refuse or to discontinue services to mothers who are deemed “too troublesome.”
  • Although 89% of Korea’s children who are placed for adoption come from unwed mothers, more and more unwed mothers are choosing to rear their children according to recent studies.

The mothers and volunteers of the Korean Unwed Mothers Support Network (KUMFA) need your support to raise $7,000 to keep HEATER open. Please consider sending a monetary gift at the $25, $50, $100, $250, $500, or $1,000 level.

The mothers, volunteers, and friends involved with KUMFA, the efforts of which was featured in the New York Times a few years ago, advocate for the rights of unwed pregnant women, unwed mothers and their children in Korea. KUMFA’s goal is to enable Korean women to have sufficient resources and support to keep their babies if they choose, and thrive in Korean society, rather than feel compelled to place their children for adoption.

As a part of its efforts, KUMFA opened HEATER, a facility that provides care for mothers who keep their children. Each year the facility houses and feeds 24 mothers and their children. Two mothers and their children stay at HEATER for two months at a time. It is a unique place in that, unlike other facilities in Korea, HEATER accepts mothers who are older and/or have children. Some of the children need medical attention.

The mothers, volunteers, and friends of KUMFA need your support to keep HEATER open in 2012. The operating costs for HEATER is $7,000, which covers rent, utilities, food and supplies. KUMFA currently doesn’t have $7,000 in its 2012 budget and so HEATER may have to close its doors if the mothers, volunteers, and friends of the organization are not able to raise the money.

Please consider offering your support to keep HEATER open by donating at the $25, $50, $100, $250, $500, or $1,000 level. Giving is easy. You can PayPal your gift to KUMFA’s e-mail (kumfa.volunteer@gmail.com) or PayPal your gift to KUMFA/HEATER volunteer Shannon Heit’s e-mail (shannon.heit@gmail.com).

The mothers, volunteers, and friends of KUMFA are very thankful for your consideration, and hope that you’ll join them as partners in their efforts to sustain and improve HEATER so that they can best serve Korean mothers and children.

Questions? Please contact the following individuals:

Shannon Heit, KUMFA Volunteer, shannon.heit@gmail.com
Dr. Jennifer Kwon Dobbs, jkwondobbs@gmail.com
Kevin Ost-Vollmers/Land of Gazillion Adoptees, kostvollmers@gmail.com

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Please participate and help spread the word about AdopSource’s MN International Adoptee Needs Assessment online survey. The survey is open to all International Adoptees and Adoptive Parents of International Adoptees residing in Minnesota. Everyone who submits a completed survey can enter to win a free iPad!

•Adult International Adoptees (ages 18 and over)

https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/AdultAdopteeSurvey

•Teen International Adoptees (ages 13-17)

https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/TeenAdopteeSurvey

•Adoptive Parents/Guardians of International Adoptees

https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/AdoptiveParentSurvey

 

This one is just for Minnesota residents.  If you live in MN, please participate!

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