I have now been in Korea for a day! After a three part journey involving two airplanes, a train, a bus, and my feet, I am certainly glad to be here. I was lucky enough to have been met at the airport by my learned colleague and field educator, Laura Klunder, as soon as I arrived. It was very helpful to have someone meet me and escort me to my accommodations, especially after almost 24 hours of travel. Needless to say, I was exhausted by the time I finally got to the KoRoot guest house.
After I had gotten some much needed rest last night, I couldn’t wait to hit the streets of Seoul. I’m a huge fan of big, walkable cities, and Seoul is definitely one. Having spent several years living in New York City, I’ve been eager for another big city experience since moving back to Western New York.
In many ways, my first impressions of Seoul are that it’s a bigger, cleaner version of New York City, where I feel I blend in almost everywhere I go. At the same time, it’s very apparent to me that I’m on the margins as a returning adoptee. I am illiterate here and can only communicate with people who don’t speak English by making hand gestures, facial expressions, and using other non-verbal cues. Not speaking the dominant language in a society is a very humbling experience. Trying to learn a language that I was denied is a tiring process. However, I am hopeful that my Korean language proficiency improves as I re-immerse myself in this culture.
I’m happy to be here, and I recognize the level of privilege I have as a western educated woman with means to customize my learning experience, such that I’m spending a semester in Korea doing work that is meaningful to me. I’ve been showered with love and support from my family and friends, many of whom know how important and meaningful this trip is for me. What has been most unexpected so far is that coming back to Korea has made me feel closer to my parents back home.
I was very concerned before leaving, that somehow, I would be offending or hurting my parents by coming back to Korea and attempting to reunite with my family here. This trip forced me to address this with them, something that I was hesitant to do. Fortunately, my parents are loving, good natured people. They did their very best to assuage my concerns by validating me and my reasons for coming to Korea.
I think it’s important to stress that my desire to search for my Korean family and my eagerness to live and work in Korean society has nothing to do with who my American family is. I have felt a tremendous amount of love and support from my American family. Although, I recognize an innate desire within myself to regain my Korean identity and reunite with my Korean family. There has not been a day of my conscious life that I haven’t thought about my eomma and I cry for her often, even now- despite having been raised in a loving, stable home.
Hopefully, you’ll keep reading and learning with me as I process my experience as an adoptee and social worker in Korea. I start in my official capacity as a social work intern on January 26, 2015, so please stay tuned! I’m excited to continue to share my work and inevitable growth with you! As Thich Nhat Hahn so eloquently puts it, “I have arrived. I am home. My destination is in each step.”.