by Ae Ra Van Geel, adopted from Sth Korea to Belgium
Thoughts after the adoption retreat July 2023
I was given a name,
from my grandma.
She called me ae ra
Last weekend for the 7th time, the annual summer retreat for adopted people took place in Zeist, Netherlands. 41 adoptees from different countries of origin (Mexico, Nepal, Bangladesh, Colombia, China, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Thailand, Netherlands, India and South Korea) got to share, experience, grieve, laugh, dance, sing and heal a little bit through systemic trauma work led by Hilbrand Westra.
When I introduced myself at the beginning of the weekend, I said that I was born as Song, Ae Ra but by adoption I grew up as Renate Van Geel, that Ae Ra grew bigger, that I am and always was her, even though I was never called that.
I didn’t suspect then that 3 days later when driving home I would dare to follow the desire to be called Ae Ra, also in the ‘outside world’.
It means more Korea, more me but inevitably also less Belgium and less the other. My neighbourhood is losing another piece of who they always knew. I’m also paying a price again, this time to be able to become more myself. I give up, I lose. Renate is getting smaller.
In addition to that, there will also be peace, it doesn’t all have to be immediately.
I’ll just start at the beginning: my name is Ae Ra. After almost 39 years, call me by my own name.
Thanks to my colleagues from @adoptieoplingen, an honor and also a pleasure to form with you this weekend.
Finally, a deep bow to everyone who was there, thank you for your presence, inspiration and strength.
What’s in a Name? Identity, Respect, Ownership? (a collation of thoughts by adoptees)