Saturday, June 14, 2008

What it means to be Adopted: American?

Ive always considered myself American on the inside and Korean on the outside. Growing up, my favorite song was "Born in the USA" by Bruce Springsteen. It is still one of the best songs to this day. I think most of my friends will consider me very patriotic. I think the USA is the best country in the world (even though the democrats are trying to change that, but thats a different issue).

If you talk to me on the phone, you would not be able to tell Im Korean. I have a mid-west accent, and (according to my friends in southern Illinois) talk very fast. I only know very little (extremely little, and mostly only relating to food) Korean.

However, when I was growing up and marching around with my American flags singing "Born in the USA" at the top of my lungs with my little Playschool tape recorder and mic set, I wasn't concerned about these issues. All I knew was I had a great family now, in a place where I could get ice-cream (Stroh's ice cream parlor!) and eat all the fruit I wanted. Food, food, food, and more food.

Don't get me wrong, I have had an excellent life. My parent and family have been wonderful and the whole reason I have been successful in my life.

However, there are always things in your life that remind you that you "don't fit in". I'll give a few examples:

1. When you go to the public swimming pool, your mother can pick you out in a second because your the only one with jet black hair and about 10 shades darker then everyone else in the pool.

2. While I had a nice circle of friends in school, there's always a few that are there constantly reminding you that you have a "flat face" or something else different from everyone else.

3. More recently, at home I was at a friends house and one of the people from my church (who I had known for 2-3 years at that point) was there. We were just casually talking and she asked how I liked LTC (local community college). I told her that I dont go there. Then she asked how I like high school. Again I informed her I was out of high school. Totally stumped she goes "aren't you a foreign exchange student?". I dont hold this against her (and if your reading this, I think it was one of the funniest comments in my life), but it does show the little things that constantly remind you that you are an outlier. In my little city of 6500 people, I am the only Korean person .

I have also had discussions with people at my work about whether Im Korean or American. What people dont understand is societies view this type of discussion differently. In America, it typically means what country you have a passport with. In Korea it means the country of your origin or your birth or your parents ancestory. This conversation usually goes like this:

Stranger: "Where are you from?"
Me: "Korea"
Stranger: "No your not"
Me: "Yes I am"
Stranger: "Your American!, you have an American passport!"
Me: "oh you mean where do I live, or what's my citizenship? Then yes, I from America or I am a US citizen. However, I was born in Korea so I am from Korea"
Stranger: "If I wanted to know that I would have asked Where were your born"
Me (frustrated): "Who cares, I was born in Korea and I live in the US and I am a US citizen"

Another good example was a recent conversation I had with a collegue:
Collegue: "What are you doing during your time off?"
Me: "Im returning to my motherland"
Collegue: "The US?, why not just say home?"
Me: "No, my motherland, Korea!"
Collegue: "That's not your motherland, the US is your motherland, where is your passport from!"
Me: "It is my motherland because it is where I was born!"
Collegue: "Your traitor! if you claim your motherland to be anything but the US!"
Me: "We weren't talking about loyalties we were talking about where I was born"

Im guess the my collegue was kidding by his last comment, but it really hurt me. It still makes me angry thinking about it. I don't know why people can't understand that its not wrong to be born in another country and be loyal to a different country. However, obviously if I had to choose between US and Korea, I would have a very difficult choice.

TBC ("What it means to be Adopted: Korean?")

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