at our pre-adoption class, the social workers spent a great deal of time talking about parenting after adopting transracially or transculturally. we were kindly reminded that though we are of korean decent and are adopting from korea, we are still adopting transculturally.
and it's true.
my dad has been in the states for 41 years and my mom for 37. they met while they were students in college in philadelphia; obtained US citizenship; got married; had babies and raised me and my sister in a hodge podge of american and korean culture.
we spoke mostly english at home with my dad (who is often told he "sounds white" on the phone -- isn't that weird?) and in konglish with my mom. we had our turkey thanksgivings (my dad is an A-MAZING cook -- he and my uncle are in charge of all holiday dinners. i'm drooling right now thinking about them...); ate a mix of korean food and american food at home; went trick-or-treating on halloween; decorated our christmas tree the first week of december; and the only time my sister and i wore our hanboks (when we had ones that fit us from hand-me-downs or from relatives visiting from korea) was on new year's day to sae-beh. this was the one part of korean culture we LOVED because new year's day = pay day! (after bowing to elders, children are given words of blessing and wisdom, which is then followed by an envelope full of cash. nice.) we didn't celebrate any other korean holidays, and in fact, i didn't even know of any korean holidays until i went to korean school (aka, saturday torture) in elementary school. during the olympics and other international sporting competitions, the hubs and i root for USA, even if it comes down to a head to head between USA and s. korea. (my mom still roots for korea, so things can get a bit ugly during short track speed skating events!)
i've been to korea once in 1990 when i was nine. and my memories consist largely of lotte world and shopping. you know, the stuff that matters when you're nine.
sadly, i know little about korean history outside of the major points of the japanese occupation and the korean war. and i know the very basics about king sejong, who invented the korean alphabet (around korean school, rumor had it that he did this while staring at the shoji screen in front of him as he was, um...pooping. why are kids so crass?).
i recently asked my mom why we never celebrated korean holidays, like chusok, and she responded that to better assimilate, when her family moved to america, they just started celebrating american holidays. that and the fact that many korean holidays involve some sort of ancestral honoring (stemming from confucianism), which is not something that jived with our christian beliefs.
on one hand, i totally got what my mom was saying. i've always been really proud to be an american. and the fact that my family was "so american" and that my parents were not as "embarrassingly korean" as were some of my friends' parents was so rad and something to brag about.
but on the other hand, i'm a little sad that i don't know more about the country and the cultural background from which our family came.
i've been thinking a lot about this as we prepare to bring home choi boy, who was born in korea and up until we bring him home, raised solely in korean culture. we want to preserve that culture and honor it, helping *him* be proud of the country of his birth.
but that means a bit of stretching on our end, too. something that we're more than happy to do, but something that will also force us to face the culture that we've often left behind.
don't get me wrong, we are proud to be korean american. it's just that growing up as a minority in america often forces you to "prove" your american-ness in order to get by. does that make sense?
growing up, i wanted people to see past my black hair and korean eyes and not make assumptions about my english language skills or my background. one question i *hated* getting asked (and still do) is: "where are you from?" and when i would answer, "new jersey," the questioner would probe further because that answer was not good enough -- "no, where are you REALLY from? what is your nationality?" my answer? "i was born in america, my nationality is american." and at this point, i'd be totally facetious because i'd *know* what they were asking, but it was so annoying to always be presumed foreign. even more annoying? when people would say, "wow, your english is SO good! i can't hear an accent at all!" um, that's because ENGLISH is my first language, jerk.
i disliked having to "represent" koreans and asian americans (because i was often the "token" asian in different situations). so much so, that i just chose not to address it and would not bring it up unless forced to. in my mind, i was (and am) american and it was being american that largely shaped who i was (and am) in my thinking and in my understanding. sure, some of my thinking and understanding came from my korean heritage, but that thinking and understanding was used mainly in situations where i was in a group of other korean-americans.
when choi boy comes home, this will change...because we are so very thankful to korea for blessing us with our son. and we are proud that korea is the country of his birth and so grateful that we are privileged with the opportunity to raise choi boy, starting with a trip to korea to pick him up.
does this mean things will drastically change in our family? i don't know...we certainly want to honor more korean culture, but we don't what to lose who we are and where we've come from either.
it'll be an interesting balancing act as we continue to vacillate between american culture and korean culture. and interesting because i feel like the hubs and i have found our place within the two and are content with our in-between-y-ness...but bringing home choi boy will set things in motion and we'll have to juggle to find the right place for *our family* in between these two cultures.
i hope this all made some sort of sense...these thoughts have been running through my mind for many months and i tried to get them down somewhat coherently. seeing as how our lives are about to be turned upside down, this very well may be the first of many semi-coherent posts. :)
(one important side note: i've really loved sharing the bits of korean culture i *do* know with my fellow adoptive mommas. in a lot of ways, it's helped me gain a new sense of appreciation for my korean heritage and has helped me reconnect with forgotten parts of my korean culture. and i'm looking forward to more of this!)