A Korean Aussie adoptee goes back home for the first time. Hilarity ensues?
from part 1
This may surprise you, but wallowing in misery isn’t something I enjoy.
I don’t know if the desire to want something better is entwined in my genetic code, or a sort of coping mechanism in response my upbringing. But the important thing is that it’s there. The desire to make peace with myself.
It began with food…
I found a little Korean restaurant above the Queen St Mall. E-Zen. I don’t think it’s there anymore. I nervously ordered bulgolgi, which came with a bit of kimchi. Kimchi is traditionally served with most Korean meals. It sounded weird to me. Cabbage and spicy fishy sauce sounded incredibly unappealing. Then I worried that I wasn’t a very good Korean. But I loved it. I loved that I loved it. I visited Chinatown in the Valley. I didn’t know how to read Korean and I didn’t know what anything meant, but I knew what the Korean characters looked like. It was exciting to see them on containers and packets. I bought a big tub of kimchi and stunk out my parents’ fridge.
Even being interested in Asian culture was a big step for me. Kill Bill came out when I was a teenager. I didn’t know what Asian exploitation cinema was back then, but I enjoyed watching Lucy Liu slice off a guy’s head for being racist. I liked the cute and psychotic Go Go Yubari. It was exciting seeing Asian women in Hollywood who were portrayed as people Not to Be Messed With. It was cathartic. I hoped it would somehow send a message to people. Don’t piss off Asian women. They’ve got swords.
I took up Korea’s national martial art taekwondo and fantasised about becoming a ninja assassin (turning a blind eye to the fact that ninjas are Japanese). I got up to black belt. Taekwondo is meant to be a peaceful, defensive martial art, but my favourite part was shrieking like a banshee and kicking boards in half. Don’t piss off this Korean adoptee. She’ll kick you into two bits. A Chinese/Laotian friend (sup Linda) showed me the hilarious Stephen Chow movie Kung Fu Hustle. We wrote a song about it.
I don’t wanna be a doctor or a lawyer!
I wanna be a ninja ninja ninja ninja ninja ninja ninja ninja
Ninja ninja ninja ninja ninja, HIIII-YAH!
The world changed around me as I grew up. There used to be only three Korean restaurants in Brisbane. Now they’re everywhere. There’s at least four on Elizabeth St with two on the next street over. My friends have recently discovered the joys of Korean BBQ and K-Pop. There are also Korean-owned beauty salons and fashion boutiques. I now swear by a Korean hairdresser called Koogi, who play K-pop shows on the telly and know how to deal with my unruly Asian hair. Even non-Korean Asian restaurants have kimchi on their menu.
Now people know Korea as that cool place with K-pop, good lookin’ celebrities and incredible food.
It’s not just Koreans. Thanks to things like the internet, multicultural Australia is very active and has a strong voice getting louder every day. It’s part of the reason why I created Where are you From? and this blog. Regardless of what dreadful politicians might say, Australia is a nation of migrants and Indigenous people. Devoting my time and energy to this keeps me sane nowadays.
I have an identity now. I am part of multicultural Australia.
I found Korean adoptee communities online. Korean Adult Adoptees; KADs for short. Most of them are from the US, but it doesn’t matter – it’s enough that someone else in the world has been thrust into this particular life situation. Some have had unhappy childhoods with families who really shouldn’t have been allowed to adopt a child. Which makes me quite angry. Some are angry at the adoption industry, and rightly so – this whole thing wouldn’t have come about if Korean mothers and families had better support. Some just take it in their stride. Some are like me – troubled, but charged with the ambition to find happiness.
But it blows my mind that there are other people who have the same thoughts and feelings I do.
We’re not alone.
I am attempting to learn Korean. It’s not an easy language. There are more vowels and some of them sound the same to me. But now I know how to read the little circles, bars and strokes and what they sound like, though I don’t know what a lot of it means. I can say hello, thank you, excuse me, a few swear words and “I would like a beer, please”. It’s a nice-sounding language. Or maybe I’m just biased. Maybe there’s a scientific explanation as to why the sound of my mother’s language sounds soothing to me.
Now, I don’t feel so ashamed saying that I am a Korean adoptee. I’m Korean, and I’m Australian too. I’m not fully one or the other, but I’m learning to be okay with that. It’s not a failing and it doesn’t define me. It’s just a part of who I am.