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HOW TO PREPARE FOR A TRIP TRAVELING FULL-CIRCLE

How does one prepare for a full-circle trip when one doesn’t know how much baggage there will be?

I’ve been fortunate enough to be granted the gift of a trip specifically catered to the mixed-Korean – often known as “Hapa” – adoptees (KADs) interested in returning to our birth-country to cement our existence in this foreign country. We’ll spend an amazing 10 days traveling through South Korea with the Hapa Mosaic Tour sponsored by Me & Korea. What a gift to learn first-hand about the culture and our shared and unique histories with other KADs.

As a single mom of two kids, I would never be able to afford this trip, nor have the time to research my past and coordinate everything for such a meaningful trip on my own so I’m incredibly grateful to Me & Korea for sponsoring this mind-bogglingly awesome opportunity. When I first put my desire out into the universe to take this trip last Fall, I never could have imagined that it’d be this soon. I’m a big believer in making our dreams known – it’s the first step to achieving them!

Me & Korea also hosts a full-Korean Mosaic Tour!

After a deposit to commit to this trip-of-a-lifetime, the one expense I needed to take care of – air transportation to Seoul. I figured, for my first trip to my birth country, I must go Korean Air! I love that the flight I booked allows travelers 2 bags so that I may bring a suitcase for my things and an extra for gifts (since they don’t tip in Korea, instead, they give gifts of appreciation) and souvenirs. My sturdy travel companion Lug bag will hold everything I need for my 13 hour direct flights and for the smaller trips where we go overnight to other parts of Korea.

During the flights I’ll spend plenty of time reviewing mental checklists and timelines while hoping that I packed everything I need. Meanwhile I don’t know if I can accurately anticipate the emotional baggage waiting to be unpacked.

CURRENCY ADAPTERS & CONNECTIVITY
Growing up I always felt a nervous vibration under my skin from the combination of being adopted, changing schools often and being an introvert. Too young to call upon words to express such complex emotions, and with no other shared or personal experiences to compare them to, I honestly didn’t believe anyone completely understood me. I just lived despite the feelings not really wrangling the skills to travel through them. Previously, I explained these emotions comparing them to Gwyneth Paltrow’s character living in a parallel existence in the film Sliding Doors knowing that I started life on one path and now existed on a very different one. However, unlike her character, my search focuses not on what I missed, rather figuring out what led up to me switching rails.

In this past year, as I’ve started to connect with other adoptees, and specifically hapa adoptees, that vibration seems so much less noticeable to the point that I don’t even recall exactly how it felt for the previous 40 plus years of my life. I don’t feel like it went away, more like I found other people whose vibrations matched mine. Social media proved its worth to me by taking my sparse landscape of KADs and filling it with 200,000+ others from those in the very first plane of adoptees departing from Korea to the most recent ones. Still, I’m sure that this trip will bring me face-to-face with stories in my head that I’ve dreamed up and those that I could never visualize.

From the USA office of my adoption agency

MAPS & TRAVEL DOCUMENTS
Requesting my adoption paperwork from the Korean and US offices of my adoption agency from almost 5 decades ago felt futile. Surprisingly, it only took them 2 weeks to travel back 47 years to pinpoint and send me photos of my American adoption files. Surprisingly, I moved the pinpoint for the start of my Seoul search 200 miles south as I realized that my birthplace originated closer to Busan – a southern beach town in Korea.

I devoured the information as though I’d discovered a treasure map with hidden paths, mysterious clues and a possible buried treasure. Through tears, I read notes detailing ingrained behaviors, spoken words and eating habits as an infant. It warmed my heart to read the words that someone cared enough to write. I’d never known that I’d stayed with a foster mom with older “siblings!” Before now, I imagined a very sterile vision of my first few months assuming I’d been one of many in a rows of cribs in an orphanage. For the first time, my past reached out to comfort me.

LOST IN TRANSLATION (THOUGH TRANSMITTING LOUD AND CLEAR)
I take everything I read and see in my files with a grain of salt. I don’t read or speak the Korean language. I’ve heard many accounts of adoptees finding a thin lining of distraction in their files – though clarification may be offered when visiting the Korean office of their adoption agency. During peak transnational adoption years, some detail fell away as adoptions were “streamlined” to help get more babies adopted. According to one chart, between the time I was born in 1970 to the time I flew to America in 1971, the number of babies Korea sent away grew from 37 babies/week to 52 babies/week with a peak of 170 babies/week being reached in the mid 1980s before it started to slow down.

To this day, the feelings surrounding these statistics shroud some Koreans in a delicate veil, detailed with bureaucratic formalities and mild mea culpas. I never expected the Korean Consulate General to attend a mixed-Korean event in Los Angeles to issue a formal apology to mixed Koreans and adoptees for sending us away, admitting their errors, offering the improvements and extending their warm, formal invitation to come visit Korea. Personally, I can tell by reading the English-written parts of my file (though I have translators working on a full Korean translation) that perhaps the agency fast-tracked me through the system quickly to parents where one was a doctor so I could receive excellent care for the extensive health issues I had as an infant. For this, I’m grateful.

I am grateful that this tour allows me to retrace my steps!

MY FIRST KOREAN ITINERARY
Though I existed for 8 months before being adopted, the opening scene in my mental reel about my life began at 8 months old. In my mind, someone found, processed and adopted me out within a month. Receiving my Korean adoption files recalibrated that timeline. The paperwork shed light on the landmarks I traveled during my first journey through Korea.

When I had children of my own, I remember looking at them at 8 months old, acknowledging that someone in my past faced an excruciating decision that I couldn’t even bring myself to simmer in for a few minutes. Learning that this actually happened at 2 months old, my mind immediately tried to guess whether this age made it easier or harder. There is no good answer regarding timing or reasons. Second guessing does no good now. I’m grateful for my life, for my unique path and, now, the ability to revisit it.

BEST TIME TO VISIT
Why now? To be honest, the universe knew the right time. Before, I didn’t have the resources or knowledge to navigate such a distant culture and unknown language, nor did I have the money to do a tour that provides such guidance. I felt taking such a large trip would be selfish and, again, the cost prohibitive. I lacked direction! As an abandoned infant, I thought searches for information would be inconclusive.
I needed to get a better grasp of who I am so that my Self isn’t as fluid while on this journey. Every week since learning I’d join this trip presents moments where I’m hurtling towards boundaries that once I cross them, there’s no pulling back. My story and history have the potential of blowing up in the most exhilarating way and it’s important to know that while this does impact me, it (most likely – fingers crossed, knock on wood) shouldn’t change my foundation.

A full list of resources I found helpful coming soon!

TOUR GUIDES
Thanks to computers, I’m fortunate to have KAD mentors – the “Twinsters” film, working a fundraiser for KindredAdoption.org, AKA Dan’s youtube series, reading books, doing DNA tests to learn my other half, joining facebook KAD groups and attending AKA|IKAA events. After finding a welcome place and ongoing dialogues in these groups, I heard enough stories that caused me to ask “What if?”

Meeting adoptees older than me who successfully retraced their steps, I asked “Why not me? Why not now?” Though the process of applying and receiving notice I’d received the grant for this trip took place during a quick window of time, I’ve actually been preparing for this trip for 4 years.

So how does one prepare for this full-circle trip-of-a-lifetime when I still can’t wrap my head around it? After stops in Seoul, I’ll visit the region where it’s estimated I’m from, based on where police found me. Then we get a personal visit where I’ll visit the first location where I stayed before moving to Seoul, others may revisit their childhood home, or meet birth families if they found them. I’ll visit the Korean offices of my adoption agency to see if more information exists. We’ll participate in Korean culture visiting families and learning delicious Korean cultural skills. We’ll visit a Camptown home where many female employees of these camptowns now reside – honestly, these could be many of our birth mothers.

A gift from a friend and fellow #OMagInsider – I take it everywhere to keep copious notes!

Hopefully I’ll return with my children someday soon, but since it took me 48 years to get here to begin with, I want this trip to stand on its own and I want to remember all of the details. I’ll prepare with a fresh journal. I’ll take time every day, sometimes in particular moments and take in every sense – what I hear, smell, taste, see and feel. I’ll take tons of pictures and tons of notes and hope that others do too.

To follow along while I unravel the mystery that is my history, follow my social media!

To help support trips like this or to apply for next year’s trips visit me&korea

What about you:

  • Have you found surprises in your history?
  • Are you adopted?
  • Did you find biological family?
  • Any resources that helped you out?
  • Are you a domestic or international adoptee?
  • Did you adopt?

#2018HapaMosaicTour #meandkorea #325Kamra #KoreanAdoptee #seoulsearch #MindfulMidlife #myhistoryisamystery #halfbutwhole #researchingmystory #Korea #KAD #Hapa #liveyourtruth #sharedexperiences #anthology #connect #personaljourney #lovechicos #omaginsiders #Makesmewander

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FALLING INTO STEP WITH KOREAN ADOPTEES

AKA | SF hosted a warm reception to greet everyone to the weekend!

My flight instinct kicked in the moment I entered the room filled with Korean faces. It’s nothing against them, and all about me, because I came from Korea too. However, I didn’t grow up in Korea, nor with Korean culture. My rational mind reminded me that, most likely, neither did they. We represent a handful of 200,000 Korean adoptees (KAD) adopted away from our birth country since the 1950s. From my perspective, adoption positively impacted my life and I’m grateful for the path I’m on. As a writer, or maybe as an adoptee, I felt I couldn’t fully reconcile my current story without a full grasp of my backstory. So after 47 years, I stepped into the room to start my journey to unravel my first 8 months.

Visit IKAA.org for info on the next event!

Obviously, I didn’t just wander into San Francisco, happening to arrive at the annual IKAA* conference reception (this year hosted by the AKA|SF**). I’ll explain my “Why now?” later because the question peppered me regularly leading up to and throughout the weekend. I yearned to spend a weekend getting introduced to my Korean Adoptee clan. I hoped that a full weekend would encourage me to get past the surface amusement of familiar appearances to find deeper connections. I steeled myself to feel the emotion of adoptees’ various experiences, especially those brave enough to share less positive adoption stories.

During my first lap of the reception room, I fought to lower my guard. I thought the high concentration of people with shared history would comfort me as if we shared a silent language. Yet, it unsettled me knowing these KADs could feel my deepest self without having to show my most personal card, “I’m adopted.” That was usually the last card I’d play at a social gathering and I’d toss it playfully into conversation, watch it flutter, then fall out of the conversation.

My newest, fastest FUNtastic friends!

Somewhere during my second lap, the impact and protection of being surrounded by so many others sharing my history crumbled my guard. My heart swelled validating my disparities felt growing up, aligning me with my path and rewarding my timeline. I scanned the 200+ faces for the friendliest, which fortunately I found sitting down making it harder for her to turn to walk away. She took me in, made introductions and in no time it felt like she and I, and everyone else I met, were meant to cross paths.

The next day offered a full schedule of informative programs detailing different paths for KADs to take with their personal adoption story. Heartfelt testimonials from adoptees farther along their DNA searches or journeys home to Korea provided valuable information and perspective. Post-adoption support programs initiated conversations about the experiences unique to transnational adoptees, offering me a new level of comfort and some validation knowing we shared these internal conversations with fellow KADs. Many adoptees translated their internal conversations into beautiful, moving expressions of art.

The many sessions were so informative, it was tough to choose which ones to attend!

Between sessions, my mind wandered:

I wasn’t the oldest person here:
The significant number of 40-something year old first-time attendees pleasantly surprised me. The increasingly noticeable pull of the second half of my life now took an uphill turn as I started this new journey to peel back more personal layers.

KAD faces:
Before this weekend, I prided myself in my ability to recognize who “my people” were but there were so many variations of beautiful faces introduced to me that my heart split wide open wanting to study and greet them all, and collect them as long-lost keepsakes. I hope the intensity with which I admired our similarities and differences didn’t freak any other KADs out!

People’s stories:
Some adoptees have memories from Korea, others (like me) don’t. For some adoptees, the unsettling part of their journey did not end when placed with their adoptive homes. Both their strength to share their stories and their resilience to survive them were honored. Some adoptees shared stories of hope after clearing through their tangled backstory and shared reactions of the people now, unexpectedly or not, traveling this new trail with them.

The truth is out there:
What little history we know about ourselves from our adoption papers could be incomplete or fabricated. As I learn more about the Korean society and the poverty experienced after the war, adoption as a profitable business, and the status of single moms to this day in South Korea, it’s no surprise to learn that many mothers did not want to put their babies up for adoption but felt no other options – or someone forced their hand. This is not just optimistic me hoping for a fairy tale ending, (that is the long-lost Korean princess story echoing in my head). Now, as a mother myself, IF that were the case, I’d want to give that woman some closure. It all worked out well.

The beautiful variety of HAPA stories really spoke to my heart!

I fit in:
Being half-Korean brings with it it’s own special set of circumstances. Physically and culturally, we’ve straddled the line – not being Asian enough for our home country, and, in my case, not white enough for my adoptive country. Through DNA matches, I might encounter family with no prior knowledge of a Korean relative. The Conference offered specific discussions for us Hapa adoptees. We half-Koreans left feeling whole.

Cloudy forecast:
While conference resources help KADs find clear answers to their questions, the knowledge still unravels mixed emotions on both sides. We come from a country still sorting their comfort level with their justification about our adoption story. While originally aiming to solve a post-war problem, for some, the feeling of exporting so many babies was seasoned with a sprinkling of shame. Now a slight curiosity exists regarding welcoming those of us raised in America back to Korea to see how this unique perspective and global upbringing might impact our birth country. The KADs recently started returning to our homeland, curious to learn their history, eager to embrace their roots, yet always with the knowledge that on some level, this country rejected them.

In the end, I left with clearer perspective and with tools to guide me down a newly revealed path. I felt energized sitting with 236 Adoptees from 26 states, representing 6 countries. Fellow KAD, film-maker Deanne Borshay Liem explained the experience perfectly that together we “Celebrated our future by honoring our past.” It is not taboo to go into our past to retrieve what may be forgotten.

This gathering welcomed KADs from the first group of adoptees in the 1950s to now! So grateful to be part of this group!

My next steps involve doing research on my past through various channels to retrace my brief time in Seoul. Largely present in my peripheral view, a visit to Seoul beckons to me. The government and various other agencies, now realizing the importance of introducing adoptees to their homeland, offer trips partially or fully funded through grants. My attention aims towards the Hapa Mosaic Tour that introduces KADs to Korea with itineraries specific to the half-Korean experience.

This eye-opening and heart-filled weekend went too fast. I still need to carve out time to process my next steps. The Mosaic Tour application (due Jan. 15) suggests a to-do list of things in the meanwhile to obtain the maximum information before taking such a large physical journey into my past. I also want to continue to simmer over everything that I experienced over one weekend and get together through other KAD gatherings. I am grateful for the people I met, the experience, information and camaraderie. I feel as though I’ve fallen into step with my sisters and brothers. I must sit still and figure out the shift that occurred. …but it is good.

Though we met in San Francisco, I look forward to keeping up with my fellow Angeleno KADs!

*International Korean Adoptee Association
**Association of Korean Adoptees | San Francisco

Korean Adoptees May get a FREE DNA test through 325Kamra.org

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All photos (except photo booth) courtesy of my new friend and fellow Korean Adoptee, Allen Majors.  Thank you!!

#AKASF20 #IKAA #yearofsayingyes #kad #hapa #ShiftHappens #bepresent #bestill #KoreanAdoptee #SeoulSearching #omaginsiders #yearofquestions #myhistoryisamystery #makesmewander

What about you?!

  • Are you adopted?
  • Are you actively researching your past?
  • Have you been successful with your search?
  • Where did you start?
  • Any helpful resources?

I BET I CAN STILL SP(+)(+)K YOU

You know that annual exam we women look forward to every year?

It’s our routine hour spent lying on our back trying to make small talk with someone who knows us more intimately than our significant others desire to. Ice-cold tools send a chill of anticipation up our pelvis as we’re waiting to hear those three words “You’re all done!”

If really looking for an escape from our 9-to-5 routine perhaps after the pelvic exam we double book appointments so that our top half doesn’t feel neglected. It’s always a smashing good time to visit the imaging center for a mammogram. We leave feeling like overworked supermodels after forcing our bodies through a blend of interpretive dance and yogilates for the perfect shot.


Thanking the staff for too much fun for one day, we wave goodbye, skip to our cars and return to our everyday lives. A few days later we hopefully get calls from our doctors saying that everything looks normal. I so look forward to that dance so this time I felt comfort in seeing their message on my phone, putting a happy ending to my annual exams.

When finally treated to a slower afternoon, I dedicated one ear to clear out phone messages.  As the forgotten message from my breast imaging lab began, the transcribed words caught my eye! They read, “We recommend you come back for further test…” Now fully engaged, I scrambled trying to get the message to play faster as if that would answer all of my immediate questions.

My heartbeat surged and the “What ifs” peppered my head like hot sparks. To tune them out, I focused on fixing this – though I still didn’t know what “this” was. I clawed to gain the upper hand by calling the lab, masquerading calm, to book an immediate appointment. My next call, to my doctor, actually preceded the paperwork from the lab so I chalked that as a small victory for me – staying one step ahead of the nasty order. Still, I had to wait 10 days until my next visit, so I needed to exist with the anticipation for that long before getting one step closer to a resolution or a plan. I am horrible with secrets but wanted to process my questions and concerns, not be overwhelmed by everyone else’s yet.

My brain immediately and incessantly drew conclusions between things that I’ve encountered in my life, giving me a few theories to check out. I researched the impact of cell phone towers and possible links to cancer since our work building supports a communication kingdom on the rooftop raining all sorts of waves that we don’t truly know enough about. After an information overload, I held off with the rest of my investigative research online until I could ask the nurses or doctors in person with their real-life experience. The Internet provided material to support any theory I wanted to pursue, but not always the truth, nor information specifically to help me.

I briefly dipped my toe in the irony of having just been picked for the most awetastic Oprahtunity of my life layered with my excitement to cruise with Oprah in a few months then felt frustrated that this could balance out that joy. I refused to live in those thoughts for long because, especially this year, I believe in manifesting our futures. If those negative ironies aren’t allowed to wander the universe, hopefully they couldn’t pick up speed. I remained defiant that whatever these future photos showed, they would not put a damper on those plans.

Realizing that my kids’ homework would still flood us and the morning rush wouldn’t lighten up, for the next 10 days, I buried the secret and lived life as usual. OK, yes, I’ll admit to the exception of not sticking my phone in my bra when I needed an extra free hand. Oh, and being still and talking to God a few more times than usual. Despite trying to keep my chin up, I did not sleep well. My mind wasn’t stewing on anything in particular, I just couldn’t sleep. It didn’t help my writer’s block either.  I’m not great with receiving surprises and this unknown had a strong possibility of delivering an unwanted surprise.

On the morning of my appointment, I chose to remain optimistic and focused on staying present. I remember the waffle texture of my starched white robe and how peaceful the waiting room felt with its natural stone walls. Enya’s voice filled the air while other women and I flipped through a library of beauty and fashion magazines. A snapshot of this moment might look like a lovely girls’ spa day.

When called into the first room for a few more smashing images, I suddenly appreciated all of the large machines it takes to stare at my chest. The images on the rocket control monitor looked like a foreign galaxy. I asked the technician what foreign bodies or alien bodies we hoped to locate and she indicated that it’s an asymmetry (I thought everybody’s boobs were asymmetrical). But it just means that one side grew something new.

The Carina Nebula, originally shown in The Telegraph UK

I recovered briefly in the calm waiting room, before a new technician invited to my next stop: Ultrasound. After having two children, I prided myself on my mad ultrasound deciphering skills (even if not my own). Nothing in the shading of these ultrasounds made sense to me. I made a mental note to never play cards with either technician because their poker faces held solid. Not unfriendly at all, but void of any discovery, definition or significance.

While bored on the table, hindsight started my highlights reel. I recalled that my left breast sometimes felt different, but not in a lumpy way. When I did my breast self-exams I couldn’t put my finger on anything specific, it just felt different. Occasionally, I felt a brief pain, too small to set off an alarm, but I chalked it up to mid-life sagging or ill-fitting bras and hoped for an Oprah bra intervention. Perhaps I felt a slight connectivity within the tissue where I hadn’t before. But now, after smashing and poking and prodding for a closer look, I centered in on the area in question!

It gets serious fast when you see things in writing!

The technician asked me to get off the table and hang out for a minute while, I assumed, she made sure the slides captured clear enough images to send to my doctor. When she walked back into the room, the full color of the emotion on her face filled the room as she announced: Benign! I avoided making eye contact with a paper reading “malignant” or “benign” that emphasized in what felt like 75pt bold font just how much weight this answer carries. Then I got dizzy trying to remember which word I wanted to receive, or not. Benign!

Turns out it’s just a little cyst. Bodies make them sometimes, my body seems better at this than most. Because of my delight and previous pixie dust use, I immediately pictured the cyst as a friendly Disney character (It’s weird where our mind goes in times of stress). I thanked her profusely, wished her a wonderful weekend, returned to the dressing room to change back into my normal clothes, and cried. Relieved.


Take Aways:

  • Get annual exams – I’d fallen off my regular schedule after a work event competed for time last fall. After the urgent reminder of a friend who hoped to get even one friend to make her appointment – I called.
  • Do monthly breast exams – Just do it!
  • Don’t be afraid of doctors – Don’t be scared to go to the doctor because you’re afraid of what they’ll find. They are trained to know how to fix you so you can focus on being or getting well. Often, the issue is smaller and treatment is less scary than your enthusiastic imagination or Web MD says.
  • Don’t be afraid to get a second opinion – Even if they have similar diagnosis, their treatment style could be different. Find a doctor you feel comfortable with.
  • Consider finding your family history – Doesn’t mean you will get something or guarantee that you won’t. But when faced with a health challenge, I feel the more knowledge we have, the less irrational fear occurs. If nothing else, it helps knowing there is someone else who understands what you are facing.
    • Relax – Remember that hopefully your story will be less crazy than people who came before you thanks to progress made in medicine during the last decade.
    • Be Confident – Consider too that these days, technology advances with DNA may allow us to someday change the negative DNA we’ve been gifted with.

What about you?

  • Please share tips or resources that helped you get through a health challenge or scare.
  • Please share your ideas for gifts that patients and their families really enjoy.
  • Do you use your bra like a pocket too? Keys, credit cards, loose change…
  • Did you do your annual exam this year? Go! Call! Now!
  • Do you have any fun rituals like treating yourself to a spa day afterwards?
  • Bonus points if you remember what movie my title came from!

(C) Disney

#Breast #PelvicExam #BreastSelfExam #Mammogram #Ultrasound #Health #Healthscare #Symptoms #Cure #Care #OBGYN #AnnualExam #BeHealthy #WomensHealth #Diagnosis #Treatment #Assistance #OMagInsiders #Cocktail #WaltDisneyPictures

WHAT NOW?!

Recently I got some Big News and at first curiosity bubbled over as I wondered “What now?!” Part of me itched to hurry and tell somebody because the news was too big not to share! Part of me craved to be still, sit and simmer on the information to allow me to maintain control of the situation and to figure out what purpose it serves me. I’ll admit, I followed my curiosity down the online rabbit hole snooping some but also to help shape my idea of “What this all means!”

My original motive for taking a DNA test was to figure out what my other ½ was since I didn’t have that information when I was adopted. When that can of worms opened, family spilled out – as I knew they would.  Right away the database paired me with a few 2nd – 4th cousins.  While that sounds really close, (2nd is almost as good as 1st, right?) realistically 2nd means that, if we’re lucky, we share great-grandparents. So you can guess how distant 4th cousins feel. Exhilarated, I snooped some close matches online searching for any obvious commonalities on their online profiles.  I’ll admit, too, I sat staring at the little envelope button (below the red arrow) and continued to simmer on the whys and what ifs. How would this be received by the recipient?

familytreedna-matches-www-makesmewander-com-what-now

The reason I’d never really considered looking for biological parents growing up was because I simply believed it was an impossibility. In my mind I’d painted a tale of a military guy on a weekend furlough looking for fun in the country he was stationed in that wound up having a side consequence he never knew of. Whether this is part of the script they tell us to help us “cut ties” with our home country or something I made up to protect myself from potential disappointment, I’m not sure. Since my exposure to other adoptees was super limited and nobody else offered a different picture – I just sat within this reality.

Since then, I’ve read a few books and joined a few online Korean Adoptee groups that paint a very different possibility and changed my perspective enough to be open to communication with a relative if they reached out to me or if were a direct match. I would love to let Korean relatives know that their selfless decision to let me go turned out well. I don’t aim to blow anyone’s vision of what their family unit looks like with a surprise relative from a far land.

ancestry-test-www-makesmewander-com-what-now

While contemplating this new branch of my family tree and how to prune it, I took another DNA test. While attending a blogging conference this past summer, Ancestry.com was there and when they heard I had a 2nd – 4th cousin match on my first round of matches, they said “Here, take this test, our database is one of the largest, maybe we’ll get even closer!”

ancestry-matches-www-makesmewander-com-what-now

They brought forth a different cousin – but a 2nd or 3rd!  After the usual online snooping, I wasn’t any further to finding any information on this new person. Also, the closest people from the first database didn’t overlap this new sprinkling of relatives.

To go all in, I also downloaded the raw data and threw it into a Korean adoptee specific database (but truly have no idea how to navigate it).

What now?  

  • I know that I want to go to Seoul, South Korea.  I know it’s super far and if I’m going to go, I’d want it to be a meaningful trip, not just a tourist trip.
  • It could be cool to trace some lineage to answer “behavior or biological” questions.  
  • As an INFJ, I’m not seeking to have a pile of “relatives” to flood my inbox since I can barely keep up with my own family!

One of the folks in an adoptee group I joined explained it perfectly that we adoptees have blind spots that exist and that we wind up richer by allowing ourselves the curiosity and tenderness towards our own past to let it grow and flourish, thereby overtaking the shadows that have followed us, knowingly or not.

heart-shadow-www-makesmewander-com-what-now

Perfect picture from Pixabay

What about you?
Have you taken a DNA test?

Were you adopted or just researching ancestry?
Any surprises?
What’d you do next?

 

 

 

MAPPING OUT ME

Growing up, one classmate told people he was born on a star. We laughed it off but, underneath, I empathized. I knew very little about my Korean origins, many moons from where I landed in America.

korea map

WTF: Wow, That’s Far!

Alien and alone, I tried to make sense of my differences without all the information. Being ½, Asians don’t think I’m Asian. Most people think I’m Hawaiian. Most Hawaiians think I’m Haole. In my family, those of us born outside the country outnumber those born inside (Stand down, Trump).

During my daughter’s recent assignment displaying flags of her ethnicity, though her genetic variety left very little white space to fill, again the reminder that the mystery extends to her generation. So, I signed up for an autosomal DNA test.

vkc flags

Because I am female looking for information on the man’s family (but with no access to them), I did “Family Finder.” It provided my specific DNA markers and a snapshot of areas reporting similar DNA patterns.

No surprise, I’m 50% Asian! It’s exciting to see that my love of Chicken Paprikas, Outlanders and the drive to visit Ireland may be intrinsic, not just a product of my environment. Am I now 1 gazillionth in line for the British throne and ineligible to marry Harry?

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Truth: they’re all foreign to me.

The website fascinates me with details on people’s global migration explaining how my markers reach Madagascar and beyond. I’ve always wanted to “Eat our way around the world without leaving LA” but now have a more personal path to map.

image (1)

Crack open that Korean cans of worms… who shares my DNA.  Since I’m not currently conducting pursuing leads, I simply check in sporadically to see (as more people test) if anyone joined my tribe.  So far the closest match were 2nd – 4th cousins, and many 3rd – 5th.  The fact that I can’t tell the difference between 2nd cousins vs. cousins twice-removed causes me more anxiety than who appears in my feed.  Though I’ve seen some similarities in a face that could complement mine, my kids disagree.

Though so far not life-changing, I’m glad I learned this information to strengthen the weave of my tapestry of life experiences making up ME!

sarah

OPENING A KOREAN CAN OF WORMS

As soon as I clicked the “place order” button, A warmth spilled out from my chest and enveloped me. You know that feeling when you splurge on some guilty indulgence, just what you need at that moment to make your life complete. Others question “Do you really need that?!” Doesn’t matter. You deserve to do nice things for yourself for once.

Well, what I’d ordered as my long-overdue gift to me was a DNA test. …and if I ordered in the next 15 minutes, it came with a free can of worms at no extra cost.

Obviously in the ongoing debate between nature vs. nurture – we’re more than just where we come from. For me, it’s never really been a void – sure it’s been been a drunken party game to “Guess Sarah’s ethnicity” and a running joke that my kids are already a Heinz 57 mix – so why dilute that perfect recipe. But lately I want to fill in blank spots in my history as well as check more boxes than just “Asian” on the next personal profile form.


According to familytreeDNA.com, the test I took is an autosomal test designed to find relatives on any ancestral lines within 5 generations. Autosomal DNA is a mixture of DNA received from both parents (about 50% from each) and is unique to each person. Assuming my birthmother is from Korea (being that I was born there) then the rest is from my birthdad.

…And, the bonus can of worms.

WTH: What? This’s Healthy?!

Putting my information into a huge database enables connections to occur. Connections between people with similar DNA patterns. Some voluntary – for example if I joined an on-going Korean Adoptee Study – some involuntary – if an email pops up indicating that my neighbor’s DNA patterns imply we could be family. I hope I haven’t bitten off more than I can chew.


I took the test August 4th after viewing an amazing story about family and Korean adoption called Twinsters. Through these shared experiences and this specific action I am constructing my history. Now that I did my cheek swabs I can’t wait to find out the results.


My results are in! Place your bets…

PJ WILDERNESS – MY DESTINATION: SEOUL SEARCHING

The way I manage to end almost any “debate” with my ever-increasingly cynical and tall teen-age son is by reminding him that I’m the fairest Mom in the world and would never ask him to do something I hadn’t done before. (Yes, even the litter box).  So, in that same spirit, I’ll share my Destination brainstorming...

Committing Myself
I recently had the opportunity to take a temporary detour from my life, although with limited mobility.  I regularly indulged in many things I’d love do to if I had more time in the day.  Recognizing how fulfilling they were to me, now that I’m at the eve of returning to my life, I’m panicking about how to keep going: Reading, Writing (a book, if I was not afraid), Immobility (Meditation), and movement – walking or swimming.

Additionally, I’m entertaining a mindful midlife, without heightened crisis, and there are some things that no matter how hard I try to look past them, they stand in my way.  I need to have this still time to let them come forth, be heard, find resolution, then stand aside and allow me to really move past them.

Lastly, I’m looking to get in touch with my Korean culture of origin. If money was no object, I’d be on a plane immediately, but for now I’m building a reasonable plan. Hope I didn’t overbook myself for this journey!

SeoulTalking to Myself
WHO: Most will be solitary because I need to dig deep below my surface, my persona and myself.  However, I love support groups to a) help me realize I’m not crazy and b) to help hold me accountable.  I will definitely reach out to Korean adoptee networking groups or non-profits – including the agency I was adopted through. My kids will be along for some of the journey too so they can learn to be in touch with themselves by watching and learning.

WHAT:  To get more in touch with me, I want to keep writing – working on building up the blog so eventually I can write full-time both to keep me sane and earning a living would be amazing. I need to stay in touch with my creative side and perhaps use this journey as a story line somehow.  To get more in touch with my ethnicity, I’ll visit Cultural Centers, museums, restaurants, networking through the non-profit.

I already visited the Korean Cultural Center (Los Angeles)

I already visited the Korean Cultural Center (Los Angeles)

WHERE:  Here in Los Angeles to start.

WHEN:  I aim to visit Korean cultural centers/exhibits 3-4 times/year, but stay in touch with myself more regularly to make sure I’m on the path I want – rather than just blindly barreling towards an end goal.

At KCCLA, I learned the bedroom origins of a chest my parents bought me!

At KCCLA, I learned the bedroom origins of a chest my folks got me!

WHY:  What started me on a more active journey was reading: Seeds from a Silent Tree: An Anthology By Korean Adoptees.  It’s a collection of writing from adoptees that, for the first time, revealed my shared history with others.  I’m not searching for lost family, but a common history.  I’d love to help others by supporting non-profits geared to assist with searches and adoptions. I want to pay the opportunity forward to other adoptees. It’s important to me to learn about Korean life from Koreans, not just the American impression of Koreans. I have supportive Korean friends, but currently prefer anonymously learning as I go.

Korean porous pots used to make Soy Sauce and Kimchi. I will use them for decoration.

Korean porous pots used to make soy sauce and Kimchi. I will use them for decoration.

My son asked me, “Why now (that I’m old)?” I answered that any time is a great time to learn more about ourselves and our history. Also, I hope to pass along the tradition of being still to my children so they learn to check in with themselves to honor their path in life. Whether it’s a tool to assist them with fighting peer-pressure and bullies, or to help them find a career in an area they’re passionate about, sometimes they have to learn to be still and by themselves. We all do.

Korean Artist: Young-Il Ahn Umbrellas

Korean Artist: Young-Il Ahn
Umbrellas

What’s next in this journey along the PJ Wilderness?