Journey 2007 Essay

Aimee Bosse 방문기

Here I am, three weeks back from our most extraordinary Journey to Korea where, in the span of just two weeks, I experienced a cultural re?awakening to last a lifetime. Not a day has gone by that I do not think of all the activities, the delicious food, the hospitality, and kindness that we encountered along the way. It was an incredibly well?organized, thoughtful tour and to Andy Park, JinHeungMoonHwa Co., and his family and staff who made it possible, I am forever grateful. I now feel a stronger connection to Korea and an appreciation of my Korean?ness that I never had before,
This trip not only reunited me with my motherland, but it gave me an opportunity to connect with others who had very similar experiences growing up. Prior to Journey 2007, I felt my sister was the only person in the world who truly understood where I was coming from. Never before have I met so many Koreans adopted into Caucasian families and it was as surreal as it was amazing. It was comforting to share stories of growing up knowing and feeling we were different. Coming to Korea gave us another dose of 'difference' highlighted by the fact that we are Korean yet, culturally not. The fact that most of us could relate to the teasing, name?calling, and cultural ignorance we encountered early on in our lives illustrated just how similar our experiences were.

However, I cannot be so self?righteous since I myself remained fairly ignorant of and disinterested in Korean culture until just a couple of years ago. Journey 2007 opened up a whole new world and I cannot wait to return to continue exploring. I will treasure everything about Journey, however, two things stand out for me the most as highlights of the overall experience: the homestay with the Lee family as well as the excursion to the adoption agency. The homestay was a perfect way to enrich the cultural experience and meeting with ESWS was a uniquely moving experience, one I will not soon forget.

The other night, A (caucasian) friend to whom I was relaying the details of my trip, lamented that he would really love to take the trip himself. Now, all of my life I have found the 'racial diversity' movement in America disingenuous and contrived, dangerous even. I have always shunned questions asking me to reveal my racial background and cringed when receiving anything based on the fact that I was a 'minority.' However, when I responded to my friend that only Korean adoptees were invited to participate, for the first time I actually felt a surge of pride to be classified in a group of any kind.

So many many thanks to JinHeungMoonHwa company for providing this incredible experience. It was such a privilege to join you all in this unforgettable journey. I hope that I will one day have the honor of hosting you in my hometown and showing you half the kindness and generosity that you have shown us. Kamsa ham nee?da!?



 
Amanda Ciervo 방문기

As I have stated before, prior to this trip I didn’t really know what “being Korean” entailed. Before arriving in Korea, I had a vague idea of what we’d be doing and what Korea would be like. I suppose I thought this would be an enriching cultural trip, which it was, but it was also so much more than that. It had much more of a personal impact than I had imagined. We went to museums and palaces and even cooked our own Korea food, but we also met some really wonderful people and built new friendships.

Experiencing all the cultural things on the trip was really great because I had no idea what sorts of things were considered Korean. Even though I wasn’t necessarily good at traditional dancing or paper crafts, it was still good to get the hands-on experience and learn something new about Korean culture I didn’t know before.

I think the most surprising yet wonderful thing for me was being in a place, and despite the language barrier, feeling like I belonged. In America, I’ve always been singled out as the “Asian girl.” Sometimes it was in a negative context, sometimes not, but the point is that I was/am singled out at all. In Korea, that all changed. I was in an environment where everyone looked like me, which was something I have never experienced before. For once, I was just like everyone else. I even found that I was frequently spoken to in Korean by strangers, which was a compliment in a weird way because that told me that Koreans think I’m Korean and not American. In a sense, that made me feel even more accepted knowing they thought I was a Korean national. Of course, that all changed when I gave a regretful, confused face signaling that I didn’t understand. However, in that split second beforehand it was like, “Hey! They think I’m Korean Korean! Cool!”

I found that all the Koreans I met on the trip were very gracious, generous, family-oriented people. My host family (the Oh family) was so hospitable and caring that any nervous feelings I had prior to staying with them melted away instantly. Even what small interaction I had with the other Journey trip members’ host families was great. They all welcomed us with open arms and that was really a good feeling and made our trip that much more enjoyable. I came home with an extremely positive image of Korea because of all the great people I met in Korea.

All in all, I couldn’t have asked for a better first trip back to Korea. I’ve created a multitude of memories that will last me a lifetime. I think in the end I found that missing piece of myself that I had left in Korea. Not all the answers concerning my adoption were found or were necessarily the ones I wanted to hear, but I was finally the told the truth of what was known and that’s all I really could have hoped for.

Thank you so much for giving me this opportunity to get back in touch with my cultural roots and helping me to better realize my own identity as a Korean.



 
Josh 방문기

Background
My name is Josh Heath and I am from Adelaide, South Australia. I was adopted from South Korea in 1984 by my Australian parents and grew up in a rural area of Australia. For 16 years I really had little contact with any asian people other than my adopted Korean sister. My life was then moved to the city of Adelaide where I went to college and furthered my studies at University. This was the stage where I began to interact with more asian people.
In the recent years, I began to think about my Korean heritage and culture and started slowly searching for my blood line, and then an email changed my life forever.

The pre Journey
I applied to go on Journey 2007 late waited for a reply. I thought that if I was accepted to travel that fate would take place. Fortunately I was accepted and began my limited planning for the trip. I had a lot of support from family and friends which helped me not only physically prepare but mentally also. I went into this experience with an open mind letting fate guide me, as there was not only the journey to think about but the consequences of maybe being introduced to my foster mother and birth mother.
Unfortunately I fell ill a week before the journey and was going to pull out. I think this made the Journey a little harder to deal with, but I made it.

The Journey
June 16th came around fast and I was on Korean soil, with the new found pungent smells, heat waves, inadequate conversational skills and ill sense of direction. It was a rollercoaster ride in and out or subways, BUSES, taxis and sleep. The overall sight seeing section of the tour was great as we visited majority of the sites which were all beautiful and interesting. The home stay section of the Journey was at first daunting, but I think one of the highlights. It brought us closer to the culture and people of Korea. I have made some good friends through the home stay and I think this was an important part of the Journey.

The post Journey
A few good days rest was needed by all, I think. Reflecting on the Journey I can say that I felt that the program was exhausting, depending on how you spent your nights. But it was a wonderful opportunity to tour Korea with other people from all around the world who have been and are feeling similar situations and experiences from their lives. I think that the Journey has decreased the personal gap between Korea and myself by giving me the opportunity to see, touch and feel the motherland. One of the greatest gifts was the opportunity to meet my foster and birth mothers on my own terms and without pressure. I have made some wonderful new friends and had experiences that I will never forget. I have also learnt some of the culture, history and customs of Korea and even whilst inhibited by my accent, I was able to learn some of the language.
I have found all of the people from Korea to be a kind and generous type of people, who will go out of their way to help you whenever you need. However it still seems different walking in streets and subways full of asian people even though I am of asian decent.

Journey Suggestions
- to be greeted at the airport by someone that can speak Korean and English (dependant on where applicant is from)
- a photo of the initial hotel destination if applicant has to find their own way
- to be provided an information package with detailed maps and some useful language skills (especially for those applying late)
- have bigger bus seats : - some way to empty camera cards and burn cds - this ones for Andy (to be given a guaranteed choice)
- pay me!!!!! Hahaha

 
Lia Johnson 방문기

The Journey 2007 trip to Korea for Korean overseas adoptees is one I'll never forget. It was an amazing life fulfilling journey, one which has made me embrace Korea as my motherland, and has given me an insight into everyday Korean life and culture.

I am very grateful for the chance I was given to participate in this program, and I cannot thank everyone that was involved enough for the great time I had in discovering Korea and also myself. I cannot express my deepest gratitude towards Chairman Mr Park for starting this program in the first place, and also his son Andy for continuing on his great work. Their generosity and true interest in adoptees and our journey was truly overwhelming. This program is such a good idea and an important part of adoptees journey to discover their motherland and get in touch with their cultural roots. I would also like to thank Whi-Hyun, as it was such a well organised and planned program that ran so smoothly. It was such a great program, that allowed us to see the beauty of Korea and also experiencing Korean culture.

The home-stay was a great experience. I got to experience everyday Korean life which otherwise I would not have seen. The home-stay showed me how busy a schedule the Koreans keep. It was very different than what I expected and very different to Australian life. The time and effort that students put in to studying and excelling in their education is huge and very different from Australia. I would like to thank my home stay family, the Jeong's, who made me feel very welcome and at home, going out of their way to help me and to even cook me my favourite Korean foods. They made me feel very welcome and at home.

The cooking experience at Sempio was a great idea, as there are no Korean restaurants near my house, and now i will be able to practice my skills of bulgogi and bibimbap. The Korean Folk Village and the National Museum of Korea also enhanced our knowledge of Korea and gave us an idea of the history of our motherland and of that of the Korean people.

The program made me proud to embrace my Korean heritage. Koreans are so generous, warm and helpful. Strangers on the street would go out of their way to point us in the right direction or even lead us there themselves. If they weren't sure where to go, or even if there English wasn't good enough to communicate with us they would ring a friend who would then lead us in the right direction.

The company workers were also very friendly and helpful and were very keen and interested in getting to know us. They made us feel very welcome. The translators as well were also very friendly and helpful.

I am very grateful to be given the chance to participate in this program as I had already been to Korea twice before. I want to thank you for still accepting me as a participant as I experienced Korea in a way I had never seen before. As I was older this time, I took in the scenery and was able to observe and try and understand and appreciate Korean culture. I found by the end of the trip, I could quite confidently use the subway system by my own, and feel confident in doing so.

The program had such a variety of activities that I felt we saw a great overview of Korea, and of Korean lifestyle. I felt in touch with my cultural heritage, and found I could really appreciate and understand it. As this was my first trip to Korea by myself, it was a very growing experience. I felt i grew in confidence and of knowledge of Korea, and of Korean history and also valued my Korean heritage. The program made me really think about my Korean heritage. It was a great way to meet other adoptees, and hear each other's stories of adoption, struggles or everyday life. This trip has opened up a network of Korean adoptee contacts which is great to have. This program gave me the chance to discover myself and also my Korean heritage. It was great to talk to other adoptees and be able to relate to them, thus understanding ourselves better.

One of the most rewarding experiences on the trip was the visit to Eastern Social Welfare. I had visited here before when i was younger, but it had been very different and I wasn't expecting it to be like it was. It was great to go with a small group of adoptees, which was very touching, moving and emotional. It was a very emotional visit with Dr. Duk Whang Kim, which stirred something in all of us. It was great afterwards to be able to sit in the chapel, and talk to the other adoptees about the visit to Eastern and also what the trip meant to us, as well as our life stories. For me, this was one of the greatest parts in the trip, as we bonded and shared, and I discovered parts of me that i didn't know before the program.

All up, the program was great. It was so well organised and planned, down to the smallest details of breakfast menu's which was great. Suggestions for future programs would include details of our host family and how long we stay with them, so we know how many gifts to bring, as I thought we were staying with four different families, I bought four smaller gifts. Also to allow more free time. The program was so full which was good so we could see lots, but was also very exhausting, and more free time could lead to sleep, or to get shopping or similar jobs done. All up, it was a great program, and i am very grateful to be given the opportunity to take part in such a program, and have had a chance to meet and build friendships with all these great people.

 
JooYoung Choi 방문기

A reflection on my experience in Korea. I apologize for the lateness of my essay, but I have continued to think, how can I reflect, when the experience of my trip continues to live on, even though I have returned to America. It is because a part of my heart has stayed in Korea. The trip was a wonderful experience, I had always known bits and pieces about korean culture, but now I feel as if it is truly a part of who I am. Before, I felt as if, eating korean food or speaking korean hadn't a purpose, almost as if it was somewhat superficial. But now, when I cook pajun (scallion pancakes) or kimchi chigae, it is connected to my experience in korea and in many ways, brings me 'back home'.

My life had many set schedules of what needed to be done to continue my art career and to get my bachelors and masters in fine art, but now I have a very different motivation in my life. Not only do I aspire to continue my art education but to possibly live and study in Korea for a couple of years. I decided this year to take Korean language classes at Harvard university, which was deeply affected by my reunion with my family and my use of korean while touring Korea.

Often, I find myself in situations where, I miss korea. I will be stuck on a train in Boston, and think to myself, if only I was in Korea, I would be at my destination! Korean transit is far more efficient. Or, I will be at the grocery market, and wish that I could have freshly made seaweed laver and there won't be anywhere for miles to get any.

I have always been a very independent and individual person, I guess, going on this trip helped me learn how to trust others in a way I had never done before. I have always been resistant to ask for help, quite possibly because the pain of my adoption led me to rarely trust people. Relying on the help of others to translate for me, help me get from point 'A' to point 'B' was the first time in a long time that I had to openly trust and hope for the kindness of others.

For example, my Korean host family still is strong in my memory, their family's love for one another, deeply moved me. I have never been very close with my adopted family, but watching my host mother and her daughter be 'close' inspired me to build a more loving relationship with my adoptive mother.

In so many ways my trip has changed how I felt about taking risks and opening up to people

I remember before I left for this trip, I wasn't sure if I could afford to travel to korea on my own, when I had heard about the journey tour I decided that, if I could get accepted to this tour, I would travel to Korea. Almost as if the tour was the flip of a coin that would give me the 'okay' as to whether I would go to korea or not.

I think to myself now, had I not been accepted into the tour, would I have gone to korea. And to tell you the truth I don't think my answer would have been yes.

In many ways it was because of the Journey Tour that I found the confidence and strength to go to Korea. And I am so grateful for your help and assistance in allowing me to visit my family during our tour.

Since the tour, I have continued to stay in contact with my family, through Goal, they have volunteered to translate letters for me. I am currently working on an art presentation for the city of somerville about my trip and about the transracial adoption experience. I have also found a sort of peace that I hadn't had before.

Many times in America, I am asked where are you from? And now, I can say Korea, with a sort of confidence. Racism in America is still a big issue, when I was in my teens, I felt far more 'Asian' than I did Korea. I accepted the way that American culture lumps Korean people in with Japanese and Chinese and all other people from countries in Asia. But now, I find myself, understanding how uniquely Korean I am. So, when people say, where are you from? I can finally say: My father is from Ansan, he owns a farm there. Ansan is in Gyeyonngi-Do, which is about 2 hours away from Seoul.

And within that reply is a sense of comfort and peace I haven't ever had in my entire life.

Before I left for this trip, I would look in the mirror and not know who was staring back at me. Even in my art classes, we would be required to do self-portraits, and my mine were always skewed by my lack of truly 'seeling' who I am.

A transformation of sorts occurred during my trip, when I look in the mirror, I can see how 'very' Korean I look. I can see how I have my father's nose and my Komo's cheek bones. I can see the similarities in myself and my birth sister Sooji. And now when I look in the mirror, I know exactly who I am.

I will be returning to korea this coming summer, for my honey moon and to have a wonderful Korean style wedding. I apologize for the lateness of this letter, but I moved to a different city over the summer, which was a lot of work and also found myself in a difficult financial situation. I didn't have access to the internet for some time and now, and had started focusing on school work.
Again, that you for everything,
Tae-dan-i Kam-sa-ha-nida.

 
Mike Nelson 방문기

My feelings stemming from the program ranged broader than any random two-week period of my life. On one end I experienced comfort, love, and a sense of belonging. On the other hand I felt extreme frustration from the language barrier, and at times not being able to express myself.

Overall I felt completely loved and accepted from everyone person we met along the way. I had heard in the past that there was a history of negative sentiment from Koreans towards adopted Koreans, however I was quickly proven wrong. Beginning with the group of Journey, to the organizers and founders of the trip, to the home stay families, to the workers in restaurants, shops, and bars, I felt a level of respect that is usually not given but has to be earned.

In addition, there was a level of generosity that I have never encountered before in my life. I have heard others acknowledge it as the Korean Way. Gift giving is apparently huge in Korea, and to be on the receiving end of it throughout the duration of the trip was a nice feeling. It was similar to the feeling a kid gets around the holiday times, that of constant gift receiving.

It made me feel like I belonged, and comforting to know that I was welcomed here. I know upon my next return I will have something to give back to those that have given me so much.

With the love also came an accompanying feeling of overwhelming frustration. From the airport, to the everyday people, I couldn’t say much of anything useful to anyone. By the end of the two weeks it had really taken a toll on my level of speech, and made me feel pretty incapable of doing much. I did become accustomed to it however, and it became somewhat second nature to not speak much to anyone besides those who I knew could speak English. It was especially aggravating not being able to speak Korean well enough to have decent conversations with the young people we뭗 meet who couldn’t speak much English.

At times, I felt that my true feelings were lost in translation. It was a breathe of fresh air on Sunday to attend the English speaking Korean sermon at Sarang Church. Just to hear English was so satisfying. Those pretty much sum up my feelings of the two week trip.

Along the way I also learned much from the program, and from the people who were involved. Mainly I gained a great deal of interest and respect for the people and the country of Korea. I was constantly aroused with inquiries, wondering why people did this, or said that. The differences in culture and family values are what really sparked my interest. It was a constant topic of conversation with those I could talk to. Of course I also made some great friendships and connections from the trip. I am in contact with a number of people from Korea through email still. I also hope to travel back to Korea one day in the future to see all the people I met. From this program I received opportunity. I now know people and organizations, and have a growing social network of people I can get in contact with for help. A final kudos from this trip is that I have determination. I had first hand experience of many aspects of life in which I had been missing for many years. I feel determined to learn more about the language, and the culture. A seed has been planted inside of me.

As for as suggestions for the trip, I feel the level of preparation for the participants of journey can be improved. I understand that this is something very difficult and broad, but small steps can be instilled to help, even if only a little. For example, a first hand letter from past participants of what to expect on the trip. Understanding that the trip is going to be full of people from different parts of the world, different religious and cultural backgrounds, different ages, different experiences with Korean culture, and much different opinions on adoption. Also to understand that you will be living in close quarters for much of the two weeks with complete strangers, and to be open to trying new and unusual things. With the letter, additional information of caution about the cultural differences to expect should be included.

Information about money, cell phones, electrical outlets, flights, and visa also should be included. Perhaps with the helpful hints, some survival phrases, or Korean websites could be included. I know that many of these things were originally sent to us, but I know personally I merely glanced over most of it.

I think a bigger deal should be made to the importance to this information, and it will help for a smoother transition from our lives, to our new two week Korean lives. Most of my suggestions merely hint upon the preparation of being ready mentally for a trip of this magnitude, especially since some or a majority of the people have never been to Korea, or maybe even to a foreign country.

 
Nikki MacArthur 방문기

Journey 2007… A Reflection

My journey began upon receiving an email to say I had been offered a place on ‘Journey 2007.’ I was so excited but also apprehensive, not knowing what to expect. Visiting Korea had always been a vague plan for the future. These mixed feelings continued as I crammed study to do exams weeks early and frantically packed a couple of days before to make it onto the long flights. This to make it to Korea and meet, live, eat and travel with group of people I had never met from various parts of the world, the only thing I would have in common with is the fact that we are Korean adoptees. Would it be worth it? I now know the answer is a definite yes! From ‘Journey 2007’ I have a greater personal understanding of myself as a Korean overseas adoptee, a heap of new friends and much knowledge about Korea.

I feel privileged to be able to meet so many wonderful people during my time in Korea. To begin with I am so grateful for Mr Park’s generosity and kindness, and that of everyone involved, as without this I would never of had this amazing opportunity. Next the organisers, arriving in Korea I was immediately put at ease by Whi-Hyun’s friendly manner. Robyn’s understanding of our experiences was so helpful and of course Andy’s local Korean knowledge and determination to teach us about Korean culture was invaluable. I am thankful for the time with my homestay family, whose generosity in inviting me into their home allowed me to experience Korean lifestyle. The participants themselves were great. I was fortunate to have such genuine, friendly, positive group of people to share the journey with.

This trip enabled me to learn about my identity as a Korean adoptee. I have always accepted the circumstances I have been given but being able to openly talk about our experiences with people in the same circumstance as myself made me realise some of the ways in which being a Korean overseas adoptee has shaped my life. As Korean adoptees we are certainly in a unique position. I became obviously aware of how Korean I looked but how Australian I spoke and acted! Visiting my adoption agency and meeting the founder Dr Kim was the most significant and moving part of the trip. He is an amazing man who has done so much, we all immediately felt comfortable upon meeting him. He was so pleased to see us and proud of how we had turned out. Meeting Dr Kim was an honour as it is he who has allowed us to have such good lives. It was great to have the support and understanding of the group in this experience.

This trip has given me so much. When people ask me about Korea I can now say yes, the food is delicious, the people are friendly and outgoing, the drivers are crazy, the shopping is great and I am 22 years old in Korean age. But more than this I got a sense of what Korea was like. This was through my fantastic homestay family welcoming me into their home, the places we visited, the history we learnt about, the cultural activities we took part in and the huge amount of local knowledge we were able to absorb along the way. I had so much fun and learnt a lot. Looking down and reading my Korean pyjama pants they wisely sum up what we experienced… “Once in a lifetime chances, happy unplanned moments.”

Suggestions:
In terms of suggestions, the only thing I can think of is more pre-information from an early point to ensure the participants feel comfortable and can be properly prepared. I think most of us were corresponding with one of the organisers and while they were more than helpful it may be good to pre-empt this by providing information such as that we got closer to the time. Also with so many great moments captured in photos and video footage it would be nice to get some sort of after package to see the results of this (if this is not already happening….). As mentioned by the other participants, the schedule was quite busy, but I don’t think it was too much and it allowed us to see a lot in a short time.