Thursday, April 17, 2014

A conversation with one of "The Disappeared": An El Salvadoran adoptee and Korean adoptee discuss adoption, reunion & identity

When I write here at Lost Daughters, I never know whether what I write will resonate with our readers. I share from my heart and experience as an adoptee hoping that someone out there will read what I write and perhaps not feel so alone as they navigate their way through the maze of adoption.

One of my favorite parts about writing is when my writing allows me the opportunity to cross paths with inspiring, resilient, creative individuals--including recently, a Salvadoran adoptee, Nelson de Witt. He is the subject of as well as the producer and chief storyteller of the upcoming documentary, "Identifying Nelson/Buscando A Roberto," about his personal journey of finding and discovering from where and who he came. The results are life-altering and shocking to say the least.

A few weeks ago, I published a post entitled, "Romanticizing Adoption and Reunion: The Modern Day Fairy Tale that Actually Isn't".

What I shared in the post connected me with Nelson and we got a chance to chat one-on-one about the similarities and differences of our journeys through adoption and reunion.

I hope you will take the time to listen to our conversation. And even more importantly, I hope you will take the time to learn more about Nelson's story and the other Salvadoran adoptees--known as "The Disappeared"--who were separated from their families during El Salvador's Civil War.

Adoption is never a simple story. The more I learn, the more I realize that it is always rooted in loss and tragedy, and at times, as in the case of "The Disappeared," in heartbreaking injustice and devastating brutality.

Listen. And hopefully, learn...

Episode #48: Romanticizing Adoption and Reunion--A conversation between Nelson de Witt of "Identifying Nelson/Buscando A Roberto" and Mila Konomos of Lost Daughter

Saturday, April 12, 2014

                        War, displacement and international adoption

Many countries where international adoption is or has been prevalent, war and conflict have also been present. For example, South Korea, Vietnam, Russia, Ukraine, Ethiopia, El Salvador, Colombia have all been affected by some sort of war or conflict(s) within the last 50 years.

Wars often put financial strain on economies, cause damage to infrastructure and the environment, impede the proper functioning of institutions within society (not to mention causing physical, psychological and emotional damage to humans). War can also have complicated and usually complex consequences for families. In some cases, populations flee due to ongoing political violence or are sometimes displaced due to land seizures by the government or political opponents (sometimes to be re-localized into different parts of the country to avoid the formation of strong rebel movements). Often times, families are torn apart; some family members may be killed, separated, kidnapped or recruited into the armed forces (usually young boys and men), which leaves women and children even more vulnerable. Of course, these circumstances are superimposed onto other issues such as widespread poverty and cultural beliefs affecting the lower status' of women.

My point in bringing this up is that while we do hear about these stories every day in the news, we may forget how many of our own narratives take root in these political happenings. I think almost every family has been affected by war and conflict somehow, but not everyone has been separated from their birth family or flown to another continent to live with a new family, given a new name, a new family history, a new culture due to war in their birth country. That said, when the opportunity arises in conversations, I like to refer to myself as a displaced person or an immigrant by force; usually I do it in a joking manner to provoke discussion but also because it is the truth. Saying it seems to ground me here and also in Ethiopia, reminding me of where I came from and the reason why I am here.

To be continued….

photo credit: <a href="">Zoriah</a> via <a href="">photopin</a> <a href="">cc</a>

Friday, April 11, 2014

Promises Promises

I am glad that I had the mom growing up that I had.  She was amazing and one of the best moms I could have hoped for.  She did all these amazing mom things, supported me no matter what (even in reunion), and was my best friend.  She wasn't perfect, but she's was pretty spectacular.  It's something I'll always be thankful for because I want to be thankful for if (there's a difference between choosing to be thankful and being told to be thankful in case you were wondering).

That being said, I don't consider these past three years to be something that was "better" than what I was supposed to get as an adoptee.  I was supposed to get a new family, better than the one I was born to, that would raise me as if I was their own child and I'd thus go off to a more fabulous life with a pool and a pony.  We never had a pool (my dad didn't want the extra company it would entail) but we did have a summer home.  I'm petrified of horses so I was content with a family dog.  I received a great education in a town my parents admitted years later looks wonderful on paper but probably wasn't the best choice for our family.  In that sense, my adoption was successful.  I couldn't afford designer jeans, but I wouldn't call us hard pressed because my dad worked at least 60 hours a week.  It's a system of checks and balances my friends.  I grew up the way I was "supposed" to thanks to adoption to a certain extent.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Beauty Ideals

 This post may come of as a bit shallow in comparison to my regular posts. But at least you have been warned.

As you might know already, I am not only a female adult adoptee but also transracial adoptee of Asian heritage or to be more precise a KAD, Korean adoptee. Therefore the colour of my eyes are not blue or green like my mum and dad's instead they are the darkest brown. Like a lot of Asians my natural hair colour wasn't lighter brown but blackish brown, and I didn't have naturally curly hair either (like I almost fooled my natural sisters to believe. ) No I had boring straight blackish brown hair.

By november of last year I was extremely tired of my own hair colour so I decided that I wanted to colour my hair some other colour. Since my hair is naturally blackishbrown or a natural 2.0 I choose between red or blonde. I already knew I wanted the most drastic change I could achieve. (My hairdresser says I'm brave that way. ) I confess that I already was curious about possibly becoming blonde, even though I realized it might not become the exact blonde I wanted. But appearently a lot of Asians are trying to get blonde lately. So I eventually settled for blonde.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Twenty Years Ago

This evening, twenty years ago, roadblocks popped up in Kigali, just before the president of Rwanda was to land. His plane was attacked upon landing.

What followed were 100 days of roadblocks, machete killings, Interahamwe militia murders and rapes.

In the summer of 1995, I moved to Rwanda with my husband. As an American, I was naive and shocked by the sight that faced me. In a country recovering from war, I learned early that Rwandans, too, were in recovery. The Rwandans I met taught me more than I would ever learn in the US. I was humbled and much of what they taught me I have carried with me to this day.

The people. Their stories were lessons. Let me introduce a few to you.

Leon had five children, but he and his wife, Josefina, also cared for six surviving children of his wife’s sister who was murdered in the the genocide. He worked tirelessly to send them through college. In his soft-spoken way, he boasted about his children; his eldest son attended college and became a school teacher.

Francesca was a mother of two little girls. Her eldest was full of life and loved to dance. Her youngest was a product of the war. During the genocide, she was raped, but she never once felt she could give up the innocent life that came into the world as a result of the violence.

She loved both girls dearly and worked in the market as a seamstress. A few years after we left, we learned that she had died of an AIDS-related illness. Her family took up the care of her girls because in Rwanda, family bonds are everything.

This little girl won my heart. Her name was Kabébé. When I first met her, she was lifeless and quiet. She had been given up because of a heart defect. We had not yet started our family, but I wanted to love her.

I quickly understood the gift that Kabébé had. She was loved by many in the orphanage. When I returned for visits she sat on the hips of the older girls and danced with her fellow orphans. She was extremely happy in her Rwandan countryside. The sound of Rwandan music made her bounce to the beat.

Rwandans are extraordinary. They understand the importance of culture … their culture. They cherish their children … all children.

The child protection officer, Benilde UMWABABYEYI, has been quoted as saying, “We want children to remain here in Rwanda, because we want them to be Rwandan, to stay in the Rwandan culture and learn Rwandan values.”

The Rwandan standard for its children should be an international standard for all children. Make every effort to keep them in their countries of origin. Make every effort to keep them with their biological families. Make every effort to stop the illusion of a “better life” in the US.