A Korean Aussie adoptee goes back home for the first time. Hilarity ensues?
I’m currently hiding in my hotel room writing this because I need some alone and writing time to process what I just heard. Again, skip down to the note in bold if you just wanna read the interesting bit.
A Korean university graduate is my assigned volunteer to take me Geoje. I joke and chat my way out of nervousness and distract myself by giggling at ajumma hats. The ones on the subway wear big, glittery ones.
The bus takes us through the outskirts of Busan. There is nothing in English out here. Just factories and little square box houses. Then we’re on a highway over the water. There are little islands everywhere with tiny villages and farms. This isn’t like rural Australia. The tiny towns are densely populated in the valleys. There aren’t many tourists or foreigners or anyone at all out here. I feel like I’m in another world.
Then suddenly I see a huge Italian restaurant in the middle of nowhere and laugh.
It occurs to me that, if my family are still living in Geoje, I could walk past them on the street. I might be buying gum and bam, right behind me is my sister.
We finally get to the island and I see a endless rows of high rises. My heart sinks. There are more people here than I thought. On the bright side, it looks clean and modern – not a poverty-stricken village.
The translator and I stop to have lunch. I eat a spicy pork dish that makes my nose run and my eyeballs melt. I think of the times I have ordered extra hot takeaway chicken vindaloo. Yep. I’m definitely from here.
My face after eating the pork
The ajumma running the restaurant ask the translator where I’m from.
“Ho-ju,” she says. That means “Australian”. I’ve been saying it a lot when I’ve gone shopping.
The ajumma does a thumbs up and says she was just visiting Australia. She looks about my mother’s age. So we ask if they know my parents. They shake their heads.
“Oh well, it was worth a try,” says my translator comfortingly.
We head to City Hall.
The translator explains my situation in fast Korean to the City Hall staff. I am so glad she’s there. I hand over files and ID and nervously watch three City Hall staff scroll through a computer screen.
After a few minutes, my translator says they can’t do anything without my parents’ ID numbers. Which the adoption agency wouldn’t let me have. Dammit.
It’s the same story at the police department. At least this time the police officer sits down with us and writes down more information. My parents’ height and weight. My birthdate. My sisters’ names.
It might take two weeks for this to process, he explains. When I’ll be home in Australia.
I sit on the long bus ride back to Busan. In between falling asleep, I’m frustrated that it was a waste of time. Paperwork and numbers usually means things taking ages, I’ve found.
THIS IS THE OTHER INTERESTING BIT
As I emerge from the subway, I see the rest of the group eating dinner and go to join them.
“Join us later. One of the G.O.A.L staff at the hotel wants to talk to you.”
I trudge back, listening to my Sad Songs playlist.
“We just want to know how your day went,” says the staff.
I tell them about my frustrating day and how ultimately, it was pretty useless.
“Well, while you were getting back, the police officer went to your parents’ house and met them,” says one of the staff, who laughs.
I think he’s joking and laugh back. Then another staff member says “I talked to your dad on the phone.”
“The police officer visited their house today after you left. They still live there together on Geoje. They want to meet you tomorrow here in Busan.”
“… What? Hahaha, this is a joke, right?”
“We wouldn’t joke about this!”
Apparently my sisters moved out of Geoje Island and don’t know that I exist.
“How did my Mum keep being pregnant a secret?”
“Oh, they just say that they’ve gained weight.”
“Jesus. She must be tiny.”
The staff member says some other things but at this point my brain has gone “yeah nah, see ya later.”
“Oh my god…” I say. “I need to go buy some new makeup.”
Then I do the hysterical laughing/shrieking thing again and run into the hotel room to calm down.
I’m not even gonna try to describe how I feel right now.
Anyway, I have to go now and get dolled up and figure out what I’m going to say to the parents I’ve never met tomorrow. Bye!