Greetings! I made it to Indianapolis, Indiana. To recap: In my recent ICAV blogs, I was blogging from Oahu, which has been my home for half a decade. After my fellow Filipino American brother, a previous Honolulu resident, unexpectedly passed away last year, my life changed for me. And after that summer, I knew I had finished my time in Hawaii. All in all, I was ready to settle down. It was time to grow roots of my own as an adoptee.
After a lot of research and recommendations, I chose Indianapolis because of its affordable cost of living. This city was in the Midwest and I missed the Midwest since I grew up in Wisconsin. I missed the trees of the Midwest, and the four seasons, especially after living in Arizona and Hawaii most of my life.
To transition to the mainland, I moved from Hawaii to Southern Arizona to be near my adoptive family so that I could make visits with my grandparents. For one, rough school semester, I substitute taught, made visits to Phoenix and experienced my grandmother’s passing. After this loss, I gained more clarity on relocating to Indianapolis. Offhandedly, I secured a few part-time teaching gigs in the city. I found and contacted a Zen Center for residing in and practicing Zen downtown. It was the last days of my lease when I started driving to Indiana. Because somehow by then, I was able to secure a full-time job at the Indianapolis Public Library.
Taking a leap of faith, I drove with all of my possessions packed into my new Kia Soul. After living at the Indianapolis Zen Center for a week and starting my Zen studies, I found a cute apartment a few miles away in a quaint, walkable area called Broad Ripple, and made a permanent move. Old trees surrounded my patio. I furnished my place with enough furniture for one and settled in with Pualani, my cat that I brought from Hawaii. After a few more days, I brought in tropical plants. I re-started my junk journaling and letter-making, bought food from local Farmers Markets, and even started making friends with the Filipino and Asian adoptee community here.
My Goals For Next Year in Indianapolis: I hope to purchase a small, basic house where I can have a wood stove. I want to be able to burn wood and make fires everyday for myself. I envision having a small dog so that Pualani will have company. In this small house, I’ll have mostly re-used furniture and plants. I will be forever solo, just working full-time until I retire. I will have vacations where I can travel and teach English in other countries. I will take pictures and maybe publish my visual journals one day, from the collaging that I’ve been doing therapeutically. And lead a simple, peaceful life.
Next to legally restoring my birth family name, I have spent quite some energy in completing my application for restoring my Korean Citizenship.
The Korean Government allows dual citizenship since 2011, mainly for adoptees. It was mandatory to submit the application on site in Korea at the Immigration Office in Seoul. It is thought that this was quite an obstacle for many adoptees, since travelling to Korea is not cheap nor very easy to organise.
Since 2021, the procedure has changed and now it is allowed to submit the application at the Korean Embassy in the country where you are a citizen. A fellow Korean adoptee did this for the first time last year and several others have followed his example.
It is not an easy road to go down, but at least the Korean Government grants us this opportunity. It will hopefully be a first step in securing and supporting the rights of adoptees: the right to balance out both our birthrights as well as the rights we acquired as an adopted person in the countries that nurtured us.
I am very grateful for the support of my good friends and fellow-adoptees and also for the patience and help of my translator. I feel lucky and grateful for my awesome Korean family who have accepted me as one of them, even with my strange European behaviour and unfamiliar habits. They have been supportive of me in my journey of letting my Korean blood flow stronger.
And mostly, I am so happy with my #ncym ‘blije ei’ (I’m sorry, I can’t think of a proper English translation) Willem, who never judges me nor doubts my feelings, longings and wishes. Who jumps with me in airplanes to meet my family and enjoys the food of my motherland.
It will definitely be a rocky road ahead, since there will undoubtedly be many more bureaucratic obstacles along the way.
I hope I can be put back on my mom’s family register, 4th in line after my 3 sisters and above our Benjamin-brother. Hopefully it will heal some sense of guilt and regret in my mom’s heart to see my name being included in her register.
It feels kind of strange that I will probably receive my Korean citizenship before the Dutch Government allows me to change my family name. There’s always some bureaucratic system topping another one, right?
In the past few days, since the news broke on June 4 that 20-year-old Seid Visin had ended his life through suicide, the Italian and European press have published articles and broadcast segments on his death, with a fair amount of disbelief and confusion involved. There are a number of reasons for the confusion, some of them journalistic—questions over the statement he had apparently made a couple of years ago to his therapist, versus what might have been going on in his life most recently—but most of all, because of statements made by his parents Walter and Maddalena.
Walter and Maddalena adopted Seid at the age of seven; he grew up in their home in Nocera Inferiore, a suburb of Naples. I can understand that they are deeply confused by what’s happened; but it’s also clear to me that, despite their good intentions, that they have no understanding whatsoever of his distress over the racism that he continued to experience. I’ve just viewed an interview with an Italian broadcast program called “Approfondimento Focus,” in which they kept reiterating how happy he was, how his recent psychological issues were related to the COVID lockdown, which they blamed for his recent depression, and how he had no interest whatsoever in his Ethiopian background. They also repeatedly denied that racism had anything to do with their son’s emotional distress.
That last set of statements on the part of Seid’s parents really struck me in a number of different ways, particularly given the excerpts of the text of that letter to his therapist of (apparently) a couple of years ago, that have been released. Per that, Corriere della Sera obtained a letter that Seid Visin wrote to his therapist two years ago, and Rolling Stone Italia has published it. In it, Seid wrote that, “Wherever I go, wherever I am, I feel the weight of people’s skeptical, prejudiced, disgusted and frightened looks on my shoulders like a boulder.” He wrote that he was ashamed “to be black, as if I was afraid of being mistaken for an immigrant, as if I had to prove to people, who didn’t know me, that I was like them, that I was Italian, white.” This feeling led him to make “jokes in bad taste about blacks and immigrants (…) as if to emphasize that I was not one of them. But it was fear. The fear of the hatred I saw in people’s eyes towards immigrants.”
As a sports journalist wrote in Le Parisien, “His death caused great emotion in Italy. In 2019, the young man pointed out the racism he was subjected to, writing a post on social media in which he expressed his discomfort. ‘A few months ago, I managed to find a job, which I had to quit because too many people, mostly older people, refused to be served by me,’ he said. They also accused me of the fact that many young Italians could not find work. The adoptive parents of the victim, however, wanted to provide details. ‘Seid’s gesture does not stem from episodes of racism,’ they told the Italian press.”
Here is the text of the letter; its exact date is not certain, and there is confusion as to when it was written—either very recently, or about two years ago—but in any case, here it is:
“I am not an immigrant, but I was adopted as a child. I remember that everyone loved me. Wherever I went, everyone addressed me with joy, respect and curiosity. Now, that atmosphere of idyllic peace seems very far away. It seems mystically. everything was reversed. Now, wherever I go, I feel the weight of skeptical, disgusted and scared looks on my shoulders. I had managed to find a job that I had to leave because too many people, especially the elderly, refused to be cared for by me. And as if it were not enough for me, they accused me of being responsible for many young Italians (white) not finding work. After this experience, something changed within me. As if I was ashamed to be black, as if I was afraid that someone would mistake me for an immigrant. As if he had to prove to people he did not know that he was like them, that he was Italian.
I have even made distasteful jokes about blacks and immigrants, as if to emphasize that I was not one of them. The only thing that explained my behavior was fear. The fear of hatred he saw in people’s eyes towards immigrants. The fear of contempt that I felt at the mouth of people, even my relatives, who wistfully invoked Mussolini and ‘Captain Salvini’. I don’t want to beg for compassion or pity. I just want to remind myself of the discomfort and suffering that I am experiencing. I am a drop of water next to the ocean of suffering that is living who prefers to die to continue living in misery and hell. Those people who risk their lives, and those who have already lost it, just to snoop around, to savor what we simply call ‘life.’”
A couple of very important notes here. First, it is quite significant that Seid explicitly references not on Mussolini, but also Matteo Salvini, the former Deputy Prime Minister, and still current Senator in the Italian Parliament, who is Secretary of the Lega Nord, or Northern League, which is a right-wing racist, xenophobic political party, whose supporters are pretty much the equivalent of the supporters of Donald Trump in the United States. There has been a massive surge in the expression of overt racism and xenophobia in Italy in the past decade and a half, and the racist xenophobia has exploded in the last several years, particularly as many thousands of Black Africans have entered Italy as refugees from war, conflict, and poverty in Africa. Second, in the letter above, he made it extremely clear that he was deeply distressed by the racism he had been experiencing.
Interestingly, his mother Maddalena, in that interview broadcast on the “Approfondimento Focus” program, kept emphasizing that Seid had recently been depressed because of the isolation imposed on him and others during the lockdown this spring. Obviously, there is rarely simply one single cause for suicidality. Seid could certainly have been depressed during the nationwide lockdown in Italy this spring. But that absolutely does not negate his extreme distress over his lived experience of racism.
Reflecting on all this, I see a tragically classic situation for a young adult transracial, intercountry adoptee, a young person who was racially and socially isolated, who was experiencing ongoing racism, and whose parents, from what we can tell, were in denial about the racism he was experiencing and the distress he was experiencing because of it.
Another tragic loss of yet another transracial intercountry adoptee life.
I’m sharing a post from La Repubblica, with a link to a selfie-video (which has since been taken down so I post this one instead) in which Seid is enjoying dancing.
May the memory of Seid and his life be a blessing.
Have you already made an appointment with yourself?
I remember having to forge myself, like many adoptees! Forge my own personality without any stable benchmarks and this mainly due to the absence of biological parents. Indeed, children who live with their biological parents do not realise that their choices, their tastes, their decisions etc., are often (not always) unconsciously oriented, guided, inspired by the bases provided by their biological parents. Example: I won’t be a mechanic like daddy, but I know what I could have possibly done so because daddy did it. Mom is in the social business so I may have a predisposition for this area. Then there are the children who go directly to the same jobs as their biological parents because it seems to them to be a form of safe bet.
In short, what I mean is that I was dumped for a long time, like many of my fellow adoptees, I think. Not all but a lot. And I asked myself a lot of questions. So it is true that this also happens to children / teenagers who live with their organic parents, but in a different way. The basis of the questioning is in my opinion divergent. This is why I also remember having made an appointment with myself. I really took several evenings. Several moments to find myself within me. And ask me simple, banal questions which were of monumental importance to me.
Who are you Prad? What do you like? What is your favourite color? Not the one that will make your answer interesting or make you better. The colour you like. Black. No, come to think of it, I like blue. The same goes for music. What’s your dress style? What is best for you? What are you good at? You seem cold, sometimes distant. Are you really or is it a shell? Is there one area that attracts you more than another? All these questions that we have already been asked in other circumstances, I have asked myself. You love sport? Yes, but I’m not a football fan unlike all my friends. Don’t be afraid to say it, to assume it. For that and for everything else. Be yourself. Think of you. Only to you. Don’t live for others. Not for your friends, not for your great love, not even for your adoptive parents. Don’t lie to yourself, build yourself.
We can build our own benchmarks. Our own bases. It is such a difficult and wonderful exercise for us adoptees. But I think it is necessary because the main thing that remains is to listen to yourself.
If you haven’t already, take the time to meet. Make an appointment with yourself.
At ICAV, we invited members to share during National Adoption Awareness Month what they would like the public to know. Here’s another of what some of our members are happy to share.
I am Pradeep Wasantha or Philippe Mignon. I was adopted when I was 4months old by a Belgian family. There are many things the world needs to know about the world of adoption. For example, know that if you have an adopted person in your entourage, she is not an alien. She may not have a name or be given a name that matches her but pointing her out with an ill fitting name, may hurt her deeply. You must also know that finding our bearings is sometimes very difficult. Which leads me to say that there is a lot to know and understand about adoptees.
Finding one’s place in society is all the more difficult for some adoptees because we must build an identity without having any reference – no basis. Sometimes our adoption papers are fake – no biological starting point.
It must be understood that we adoptees are very strong and fragile at the same time. Mainly because in our adopted country we are strangers (usually because of our skin colour) and if we return to our country of origin, we are also strangers because we don’t know the national language nor customs. In short, we are strangers wherever we go. So we cling and hold to what we can. Friends. The adoptive family. You.
Pradeep (Philippe Mignon) Founder of Empreintes Vivantes for Sri Lankan adoptees – Belgium
At ICAV, we invited members to share during National Adoption Awareness Month what they would like the public to know. Here’s the first of what some of our members are happy to share.
Adoption can be a wonderful and necessary way to provide a family for a vulnerable child.
Adoption begins with loss and that loss may be felt throughout a person’s lifetime despite/alongside the gains.
There is a triad in adoption, and all triad members’ voices are valued regardless of country, culture, race, gender, age, income or education level.
There are ways to parent that promote strong identities and resilience in people who have been adopted.
There are ways to facilitate adoption that are ethical and transparent.
Adoption should be seen as just one step toward the eventual goal of a world where mothers and fathers everywhere are supported in raising and loving their children.
To the person who said to me, “You should be grateful!”.
Thank you so much for reminding me how grateful I am for not being you. What do I mean? Well, only a person who suffers from a deluded sense of superiority would imply that not every human being is worthy of the basic human rights: food, education, clothing and shelter. Furthermore, only a fool would assume what my life has been post-adoption and what my life would have been, had I not been adopted.
Can a famous example of conservation teach us anything about adoption? Most people can’t see a correlation but I do! Less than a hundred years ago, there were just 16 whooping cranes left in North America. These beautiful majestic birds were near the brink of extinction. Men who over hunted and destroyed the bird’s habitat also became its savior. People dressed in bird costumes attended to the young chicks.
In nature, it is not uncommon for cranes to lay two eggs. When this happens, the parents would ignore the weakest of the chicks and let it perish. However, at the conservatory, the scientists would raise the chicks in groups. The whooping cranes are carefully incubated and then hatched inside a plexiglass to observe a real whooping crane. This is done to imprint the chicks with what a real mother would look like.
Individuals meticulously ensure that the whooping crane chicks are attended to, using puppets that teach the young chicks how to find food and drink water. The puppet would mimic drinking water and then raise its head back as the crane does in nature. The attendants would teach the young cranes how to fly. They used an ultra-light plane to lead the cranes on a short flying lesson and eventually lead the cranes from Canada and fly them down to southern Florida. The scientists spared no expense and the average cost to raise a chick to adulthood cost around US$100,000.
The program was hailed as a huge success because the sixteen original whooping cranes that had four breeding females grew to a flock of more than 500 whooping cranes in the wild. Numerous documentaries were made about the success of this 11-year-long endeavor. The picture of the ultra-light plane leading a group of whooping cranes was popularized and shown in newspapers across the globe. The birds were then flown into their mating territory and the birds paired together and laid eggs. However, the overwhelming majority of birds would abandon their eggs after laying them. Of the 500 birds, only two or three mating pairs successfully hatched their chicks. This puzzled the scientists and after much consideration, they deduced the likely causation for this problem stemmed from the bird’s unorthodox upbringing. The scientists said it best by stating:
“They have so much baggage from a screwed-up and not normal childhood”!
Does this story sound familiar to you? Because it looks eerily familiar to some of the adoptees I’ve met and their lives. No matter how well the adoptive parents treated their adoptive child – they may have grown up as a disappointment to the adoptive parents or had a hard time adjusting to their new surroundings. Other times, the adoptees look to be successful: they have degrees from reputable schools, they drive high-end cars and attain high levels of success. But after closer examination, you might find their personal life to be a total disaster.
Like these cranes, some adoptees look like they achieve success but a small flaw prevents them from achieving full potential. I have met numerous adoptees incapable of keeping a relationship or keeping a partner. They might behave over clingy and suffocate anyone they come across, they might privately deal with overwhelming guilt or anxiety, or perhaps prone to performing some other social faux pas.
Like the whooping chicks, the interactions before or during our upbringing may have made an indelible mark on our lives. It may stem from the lack of empathy or touch when we were young. The traumatic experience of being separated from our mother at a certain age, or being left alone in dark bedrooms, or forced to lie still for hours in our cribs, changed the course of our personalities and lives. No matter how wonderful our lives are afterward, we are faced to confront issues that we cannot fathom or explain.
I think these birds explain in some part why adoptees are four times more likely to commit suicide, or why they are disproportionately represented with learning disabilities and have higher than average rates of drug and alcohol abuse, eating disorders and incarceration. The reason for both the birds and adoptees is that we all had to deal with living without our natural mothers.