Archive for January, 2009


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The Universe doesn’t play with dice.
It tosses coins.

One went east.  The other went west.  One needed shelter.  One needed a storm.  One could only see what should be, while the other could not escape the past.

The mechanics of change forced us forward together, the fine line
between here and there firmly fixed in the center of our sight.

Peripheral consequences drifted in like grains of sand to settle between
our lashes. Half blind, we blinked them clean, eyes watering to focus.

We secreted away the promises that I couldn’t say and the warnings
you refused to hear knowing all we really had was a chance.

Chance is everything.

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pic by sume

If we’ve timed everything correctly and not run into any problems on the road, we will have reached our destination by now.

Driving halfway across the country wasn’t something I planned to do this year.  From the moment I accepted the inevitability of going back, I knew it would be better not to think about it too much.  I kept telling myself to just do what needed to be done and not think about what it would all mean.  Hah. Who was I kidding?

I’ve never driven so far before, much less with kids in tow.  I was kind of looking forward to that part.  It would definitely be an adventure for all of us.  And it wasn’t like I was doing it totally on my own.  A family friend was generous enough to lead the way thus removing much of my anxiety.   As a matter of fact, a lot of people had pulled together to get us through this.  Otherwise, we would have been pretty much stranded or forced to leave most of our belongings behind.

The material things wouldn’t have bothered me so much, but there was no way I’d be able to leave all the personal history mementos behind.  I dreaded the thought of culling my family’s history even more.  It’s that old packrat quirk of mine coming into play again.   Having tangible reminders of our past is important to me.  I want to make sure my children have the sense of continuation that I lacked.  Purging causes acute mental anguish.  I do it out of necessity, but I’m grimacing the whole time.  Fortunately, that wasn’t a concern thanks to some wonderful people.

Now that I think about it, I should be more sad than I am about all that we’re leaving behind.  I suppose it comes and goes.  Sometimes, I want to cry.  Oftentimes I do, and then mercifully, the numbness sets in.  We’re really going to miss this place.

North Carolina turned out to be a great place to live.  It has its problems like anywhere else, but it grew on us quickly.  We were just beginning to discover all the great things our particular area had to offer.  My son was a baby when we first moved here.  It was the only place he’d ever known.  My daughter had tons of friends and recently co-founded an Asian Culture Club at her school.  She  served as vice president until it was time for us to leave.  The place grew on us so much, we hope to return some day.

For me, the hilarious thing is that I’m just returning to things I’d previously left behind.  I’ll be able to visit my old hometown for the first time in almost a decade.  It makes me think back to the time I left that place.  Even though there were people and things I knew I’d miss, I wasn’t really all that reluctant to leave, much less so about leaving NC.

It was a difficult adjustment going from small Texas town to an actual city.  Bellevue, Nebraska wasn’t really a metropolis, but way bigger than anything I was use to.  Thinking back, I adapted quickly, but it probably didn’t seem like that back then.  The cool thing was that it was just large enough that I could more easily blend in and almost disappear there.  I grew to like it there, made friends, made plans and got a boyfriend.

In the middle of my senior year, Texas called me back in the form of my dad’s work transfer.  I begged and pleaded to stay for the remainder of my school year and graduate, but Dad wouldn’t hear of it.  So, back we went where I would eventually graduate high school.  My senior ring says one school while my diploma says another.  It’s sadly appropriate and symbolic of the instability that’s dogged me since I can remember.  The closest thing to security I’ve ever known is the 15+ years I spent with my adoptive mother.  Even then, I carried the subconscious fear of disruption.  First, my father had left.  Then, I’d watched my oldest brother leave.  Who would be next?

My subsequent wanderings would take me east, halfway across the country, first to Florida and then to North Carolina.  Now, at age 39, Texas is again calling me back.  This time, it comes in the form of trying to offer some sense of stability for my own children.  The absurdity isn’t lost on me, but there is nothing else to be done.

I comfort myself by thinking in a strange way, it’s fitting.  Those tangible mementos that I consider so important are things I intend to leave behind for my children.  Long after I passed from this earth, they will have proof of my existence and some glimpse into who their mother was.  By taking them back to see where I grew up, they’ll have access to yet another part of my history, something else I’d “left behind.”

Unlike Má, I’ll be there to share it with them in person, be able to guide them through it.  Perhaps I’ll be able to fill in some of the blanks or at least prevent new ones from forming in our family history.  In Bryan Sykes’ Adam’s Curse, he conveys his experience of visiting the home of  “the very first Sykes.”

“As I stood, I could almost hear the voices of children – my ancestors -….  Without the DNA evidence, it would have been an interesting enough experience to see where the first recorded Mr Sykes lived.  But I would have been detached from it.”

He goes on to say that the connection would have been only a mental process,  “But to to know that the Y-chromosome that I carry in all my cells had been here, in this place, in the fields beside the stream, was a completely different sensation.  Now it felt as if I were experiencing the history of a real part of myself, a place where some of me had actually lived.”

Perhaps now, the kids won’t put much value on our return visits.  Maybe they never will.  Who really knows?  Maybe they or perhaps one of their children or their children’s children will want to know more about how they came to be who and where they are.  Hopefully, they’ll be able to feel that some part of them was there in that small town long ago, too.  That part of their heritage, however meager, will be a part of them.  It wasn’t grafted on or substituted for another.  It’s genuine and something that truly belongs to them and the generations to come.

Má unintentionally severed our bloodline and left nothing but questions.  It is my hope that I leave something more for my children.  But there are no guarantees, are there?  All I can do is preserve as much for them as possible and hope the chain remains unbroken.

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The Return

yellow rose by sume

Sometimes, I think it would be nice to be a tree or a stalk of wheat.  Seems like I’m always moving, always saying goodbye just when I’ve gotten to like a place.   I don’t know why that is.  Even a stalk of wheat puts down roots during its brief lifetime.  I can’t help but be a little envious.  Home. Home.

Then again, the thought of being born and dying in the exact same location without ever moving sounds unbearably dull.  I’ve always liked to travel, see new places and experience new things.  The sad thing is that even when I want to stay, something always happens.  Time to go.  Time to go.

By the time this publishes, I should be well on my way back to Texas, back to face my demons, back to finish some things so I can begin others.   Time to rectify. Time to rectify. It’s difficult to go into the details of why I have to go.   Those will have to come later.  I guess it really doesn’t matter much in view of the larger picture.

The point is that circumstances feel like they’re converging into a wave.  It’s shoving me backwards to deal with a variety of things I should have long ago.  History cannot, should not be irretrievably erased. I always was one to kill multiple birds with one stone.  Why stop now?

Back to Mom, back to Dad, back to Walnut Grove…

Actually, the part about Walnut Grove (Little House on the Prairie reference) isn’t entirely true.  Rather than going back to my old “hometown”, I’ll be situated out in the sticks, just outside of a smaller (700+), slightly whiter (92%) town. (even more more Walnut Grove-ish).  Forced isolation from a TRA’s birth ethnicity is cruel and unusual punishment.

The TRA in me wants to scream, “This is NOT happening!  WTF are you doing?!”  I  swore I’d never put myself and especially my children in that kind of environment.  I’d rather die.  Yet, here I am, forced back into the fold because it’s either that or spiral down from limbo into something worse.

Patterns.  The last 20 years seem to be little more than a series of dilemmas – having to choose between the lesser of two evils.

I know.  I’m whining.  It’s hard not to despite knowing it could always be worse.  Be grateful.  Be grateful.  I also know that part of it is my fault and the result of my bad choices.   Sometimes, life happens and then you’re faced with a choice. There is no going forward until I go back and deal with things.   Even more importantly, I have to think of the kids.  They’ll have what they need from grandparents who, despite everything, love their grandchildren.  Love is not enough.  Love is not enough.

At least they won’t be the “only ones”.  They’ll have each other and they’ll have me.  They’ll have stability and security.  Better off.  Better off. And it’s not going to be like this forever (I hope).  Nothing lasts. Nothing lasts.

I’ll be away for a while.  In the meantime, my posts are on autopilot.

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Kevin Minh Allen
editing by sume

My co-blogger and I have had some very meaningful, often profound discussions about our adoptions.  One thing I’ve always appreciated about Kevin is his ability and willingness to share his thoughts and experiences candidly.  What he offers is insight into the complexity of the male adoptee experience, the challenges they face and their inner struggles.  Those subjects are of high interest to me, but discussions on them are more difficult to find, especially when it comes to blogosphere.

I’m happy to say that the number of outspoken male adoptees is growing and hope to see the trend continue.  Previously, most of my access to those stories have come by way of private discussions, but personal stories written by men are less common than those from women. I wonder what, if any, part does social pressure and perceived gender roles play in the disparity.  Barring individual personalities and experiences, do male adoptees feel more social pressure to suck it up and keep silent?

Maybe my curiosity is simply a twist on that is-it-just-me question.   As a female Asian adoptee, personal experience and discussions with my TRA sisters has made me more aware of how social pressures combined with gender and race can affect us.  It would make sense that those factors  would have a similar impact on male TRAs.   Degrees and areas of effect might vary, but what and how? How, if at all, did society’s views of Asian men in general affect how Asian male adoptees saw themselves?  How did they see themselves?  Hearing from my Asian male adoptee peers has been enlightening and on occasion, a bit disconcerting.

When I was much younger, I naively assumed that male adoptees had it easier simply because they were men.  I didn’t take any of the previously mentioned factors into account.  There were also male adoptees of mixed race to consider.  What, if any, differences did that make?

I’ve seen quite a few of the studies, but have always taken those with a large grain of salt.  While they do have very limited uses, in the end they don’t really say much.  The end results still seem subject to and often reliant on interpretation.  Individual, personal stories that are naturally more compelling, more thought provoking and more…personal. There’s also that little added bonus of getting the information straight from the source. The more and varied that gets out there, the better.  Again, it’s not answers I’m always looking for, but possibilities.

I guess in my own roundabout way, I’m trying to thank Kevin for joining me in this little venture, for the honesty in his writing and to let him know that it’s very much appreciated.  His voice along with so many others is already affecting change and may continue to long after we are gone.  As Henry Ward Beecher once said:

The great men of earth are the shadow men, who, having lived and died, now live again and forever through their undying thoughts. Thus living, though their footfalls are heard no more, their voices are louder than the thunder, and unceasing as the flow of tides or air.

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via Ungrateful Bastard

Who wants to buy a baby? Certainly not most people who try to adopt internationally. And yet too often that’s how their dollars and euros are being used.

The idea that the developing world has millions of healthy infants and toddlers in need of new homes is a myth. In poor countries as in rich ones, healthy babies are rarely abandoned or relinquished — except in China, with its one-child policy. The vast majority of children who need adoption are older, sick, disabled or traumatized. But most Westerners waiting in line are looking for healthy infants or toddlers to take home.

The result is a gap between supply and demand — a gap that can be closed by Western money. In some countries, Western cash has induced locals to buy or kidnap children or defraud or coerce their families into giving them up, strip the children of their identities and transform them into orphans for Western adoption. In 2008, Vietnam stopped adoptions to the United States because of these concerns. A cable from the U.S. embassy in Vietnam, recently obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request by the Schuster Institute for Investigative Journalism, said that, “while there are legitimate orphans in Vietnam, the corruption in the adoption process has become so widespread that [the embassy] believes that there is fraud in the overwhelming majority of cases of infants offered for international adoption.”

Last year, the United States finally implemented the Hague Adoption Convention, a 1993 treaty designed to address these problems. But the regulations apply only to adoptions from countries that have also signed the treaty.

Of course, not every internationally adopted child has been purchased or kidnapped. But when the orphan manufacturing chain gets going, it generally works like the one below. For more information, visit www.brandeis.edu/investigate .

– E.J. Graff, associate director and senior researcher at Brandeis University’s Schuster Institute for Investigative Journalism


Related:  Gender and Justice Project (click on the map or explore their Associated Links)

Hello.  I know some of you out there are going, “Duhhhh!”  For anyone who isn’t by now, I hope it makes you stop and think a little harder about how shady and exploitive adoption can be.

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