Thursday, August 21, 2008


I've been watching the Olympics. No, I won't ramble about sports and stuff. What I will ramble about is nationality and identity. See, these laste six or eight months I've been feeling myself changing a lot on a certain point. Confidence. And within that lies the fact that I've changed attitude to myself being Korean.

Before I've always ignored it. Seriously. As a child I avoided mirrors. When people pointed it out or asked questions I just turned my head off and answered blank statements that I'd learned from listening to mom. I kept myself completely, utterly neutral to the fact and held it at arm's length. It didn't exactly damage me. No one ever made me do it. I just chose to not handle it at all. (Being made easier by the fact that I've been lucky enough to never have encounteder racism.)

This christmas I met an old man who had been everywhere and met everyone and had had four wives. He was always blunt to the point of rudeness. As soon as he saw me he started talking about that I should go to Korea and find my biological parents. I got angry, actually, but he just kept talking about how nice Korea was and how beautiful the women were and how they all spoke english so I wouldn't have a problem speaking to them. (Not true, as I've found out, the english that is.)

But it got my head going, and the more I thought, the more I felt... maybe. Maybe I should. Another guy at school, also unafraid of speaking his mind, had a theory that the bond between mother and child the first few weeks or months are very important, life-defining. I asked him face to face if he thought being adopted disrupted that and he said yes. People around got uncomfortable, but the oddity that struck me when he said it, was that I agreed.

And this week put two more nails in the coffin, so to speak. For one I watched the Olympics, and the nationalism is always as strongest in sports. I got to see more Korean people than I have in my entire life, and somehow as I saw them, something clicked into place. Just the way they looked and moved. This is my people too. And then I talked to another adopted Korean who have found her family and spoken to them over the phone. They don't speak english, but they talk to her anyway, for some reason. And I felt, as I listened to her story, that it could be me.

It is biologically in our blood, isn't it. The feeling when we stand side by side with someone who shares our genes and our faces and look into the mirror, seeing the ghosts of two of ourselves. And people who have lived with that their entire lives, do you understand it? What you get? I didn't. Not until now, when I'm starting to wonder;

Can you ever replace family?


Kristin said...

I really don't think that I will ever be able to understand how it feels to be in your situation. My instinctual response is that blood-ties matter. I mean, whenever I meet people that don't speak with my own dialect (or värmländska) I feel slightly uncomfortable and out of place. The only person I know that isn't ethnically Swedish is you, and you speak and behave much like most wood-dwelling swedes.

And lately I am starting to admit how important my family is to me. Last friday me and my family and some friends of the family went crayfishing as we have done for the last three years. I really enjoy sitting by a lake round a fire just talking. This time we were all a bit surperised as my oldest cousin joined us. He knows the friends that were with us and has more contact with them than with us. Actually, he has no contact whatsoever with us. I have met him a total of three times in my entire life, including last friday. The reason he is not a part of the family is because he has no relationship with his father - my uncle - and doesn't want to meet him. But this time he found out we were going to go crayfishing and asked if he could join us and the following day he came to have coffee at our house and he met our grandmother for what I believe is the first time in at the very least three years.

My mother was really enthusiastic to make sure he realized that he wasa welcome and that he can know his family and spend time with us without having to worry about his father. And I could tell that my father was really happy about it aswell, as was my brother. And it really mattered to me aswell. When I found out that he was coming I was filled with anticipation. He seems to have had a good time and perhaps realized that we don't care what his realtionship to my uncle is bacause he is going to come back again to the crayfish-party that we will have in a few weeks. And I am so happy that I will finally be able to get to know this cousin of mine. Ever since I found out that he existed it has bothered me that I don't know him and that he doesn't know me. If we met on the streets in Karlstad we would probably not even have known it. It just feels wrong - my family is not complete. So I think that there might be something about blood-ties that goes beyond any other tie we might form in this world. Now, liking your family and having rewarding interactions with them is an entirely different matter!

Kristin said...

I apologize for the blog-entry sized comment!

Rik said...

I wish I could contribute with something emotionally relevant, but I really can't because I've never been in such a situation. So I'll be the Science Guy again and tell you what I learned in psychology: It seems the most important factors determining our personality are, in order:

1) Genes
2) Culture and education
3) Family (as in, the people you grow up with)

So, in theory, one should be most similar to biological siblings, second most similar to classmates and close friends, and least similar to those you grew up with. They reached these conclusions through pretty complex studies on siblings world-wide. guy has nothing further to add.