Archive for August, 2008

27
Aug
08

Bringing Your Child’s Culture Home

In an earlier post I mentioned that with access to the Internet, it’s easier than ever for adoptive parents to introduce children to their birth culture. And while I still believe that’s true, I know that not everyone loves to do research like I do. (Really, I do; it’s weird, I know.) So having a few spare minutes I’ve done searches and come up with sites that might help you.

But before I share my findings, let me give some general tips to help you when you begin your own searches. Two of the easiest ways to introduce birth culture are celebrating that country’s holidays and having items from that country or culture in your home. The links below will direct you to information about various holidays. And it’s not usually too hard to find online stores that have cultural items; I found one for Russian with only a few minutes of searching. Children’s books are also a great way to introduce birth culture; try to find a book of folk tales or stories from your child’s birth culture. Music is another wonderfully distinctive way to celebrate a birth culture.

Hopefully these ideas, and the links below, will make it easier for you make your child’s birth culture a part of your everyday life.

Countries and Their Cultures
This site has lots of information about various countries. The list is alphabetized so it’s easy to find, and the entries contain a variety of information including history, geography, social structure, food, holidays and more.

Food in Every Country
This site has information about food, as well as recipes from various countries.

Kids Culture Center
This site is a virtual heritage camp for adopted kids. Organized by country, it has resources, links, information, and stores. Parts of the site are still under construction, so some countries have more resources than others, but still a good site to bookmark and check for updates.

Guatemala
In addition to the sites listed above, which contain historical info and recipes, these two sites (www.mayaparadise.com and centralamerica.com) both contain great information about the holidays of the country with dates and some info on how they are celebrated.

Two of Guatemala’s holidays are September 15, which is the national holiday to commemorate Guatemala’s independence from Spain in 1821, and All Saints Day, which is celebrated on November 1. All Saints Day is celebrated with unique traditions throughout Guatemala. Giant kites are flown in the cemeteries of Santiago Sacatepéquez and Sumpango near Antiqua Guatemala. Many Guatemalans feast on a traditional food know as fiambre. An unusual horse race is held in Todos Santos Cuchumatán.

Russia
The web site for the Consulate General of the Russian Federation in Houston has some great information. The cultural affairs page has info on food, sites, the flag, and the national anthem, while this page has great info on how holidays are celebrated.

Another site with lots of information and an online shop is Russian Crafts.

Ethiopia
The calendar on this page is outdated but scroll down and you’ll find information on the Ethiopian holidays and how they are celebrated.

Since Ethiopia uses a different calendar, this site gives you dates for Ethiopian holidays in 2008 and 2009.

And here are a couple of informational sites about Ethiopia www.imperialethiopia.org and www.ethiopiantreasures.co.uk.

I didn’t include Korea on this post because information on Korean culture and resources will be a recurring theme on this site. And I didn’t include China either at this point because it seems that those resources are most prevalent.

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15
Aug
08

광복절 (Gwangbokjeol)

Today is Korea’s 60th birthday. It was on August 15, 1948, that the Republic of Korea (what we know as South Korea) was established. Three years earlier on August 15, 1945, the surrender of Japan to the Allied forces in World War II ended the 35-year colonization of Korea by the Japanese.

The years under Japanese rule had been hard ones for Koreans. They had been forced to take Japanese names, been forbidden to speak Korean, talk about Korean history, write in hangul, grown Rose of Sharon bushes (Korea’s national flower) and fly the Korean flag. The Japanese attempted to squelch Korean culture, but most families quietly kept the culture alive within their homes.

So, as you can imagine, liberation from the Japanese was cause for a huge celebration. Of course, liberation didn’t end up to be what the Koreans had hoped for. Instead of a united, independent country, Korea was divided in two at the 38th Parallel, forming North Korea (officially the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea) and South Korea (the Republic of Korea). Sadly this division meant that some families were separated and have been unable to have regular, if any, contact with each other.

Still Koreans all over the world celebration Gwangbokjeol. Our local Korean community will celebrate tomorrow with a large gathering at one of our local parks. We’ll be there enjoying the wonderful food and culture events that are planned.

Here are some things you can do with your family today to commemorate Korean independence:

• Color a Korean flag (taegukki). A great coloring page can be found here.

• Make a Korean dish for dinner. Here are some great recipes. Bulgogi is especially yummy and easy to make. Denise’s Famous Bulgogi recipe is one lots of families use. If there’s not time to put it in the crockpot, you can cook it in a skillet or under the broiler.

• Learn to say some Korean words. This is a great site for learning some words and phrases.

And if you’d like to read more about Korea’s history, particularly during the Japanese occupation, here are few books that give you more insight. The first two are young adult chapter books, while the last two are adult fiction. The Year of Impossible Goodbyes is based on the author’s experiences and To Swim Across the World is based on the author’s parents’ experience.

When My Name Was Keiko by Linda Sue Park

Year of Impossible Goodbyes by Sook Nyul Choi

One Thousand Chestnut Trees by Mira Stout

To Swim Across the World by Frances Park and Ginger Park

14
Aug
08

Real Parents with Children All Our Own

If you’re already part of the adoption community, you’ve probably heard the phrases in the title of this post a million times. The second phrase, “children of your own,” bothers me far more than the first. I never want my son to think that he was our Plan B or second choice, especially since for us that’s not even true. Adoption was our first choice in building our family—something we’ve talked about since we were engaged 16 years ago.

“Real parent” doesn’t really bother me, although I know it’s a pet peeve for other adoptive parents. I know that I’m definitely my son’s “real mother.” But his birth mom/first mom/Korean mom is very much his real mother too. Both of us have done or are doing very real things in his life that are helping him to become the person God created him to be.

Since we chose adoption as our path to parenthood, my husband and I will never have the luxury of being our child’s only parents. We had to accept that and get over any hangups we had about it. But honestly it’s never been a problem.

J’s Korean mom’s story was a huge factor in our being drawn to our son. We related to so much of her experience, and what he will experience, that we wanted to pick up where she left off. Not a day goes by that I don’t think of her and wonder about how she’s doing. We talk about her with J, although at 2 it’s very hard to him to process having another mom.

I was asked recently if it’s smart to talk about adoption and birth parents with a child so young. My answer is a resounding YES! Even though he doesn’t completely understand at this point, that fact that we talk about it now means it will never be a secret or seen by him as taboo subject. Another plus to starting young is that if the subject is uncomfortable for the adoptive parent, talking about it out loud helps it become more natural and normal. By doing that hopefully by the time your children are old enough to recognize you’re discomfort, it will no longer be an uncomfortable subject.

We never want J to think that he can’t come to us and talk to us about his birth family. We don’t want him to feel that his loving his birth family and wondering about them means he loves us less. It doesn’t mean that—it’s natural to love the people who created you and wonder about them.

In fact, we feel that J’s Korean family is part of our family. My natural curiosity leads me to think about what his birth parents look like. As I read about Korean history, I wonder about the experiences that his Korean family had. I think these thoughts give me a little bit of insight into what J will feel when he’s older. Yet, I know my feelings and wonderings about his birth family are only minuscule compared to what he will feel.

I know for many adoptive parents birth parents are a hang up—a subject that makes them sad, uncomfortable, or fearful. Of course, every adoption is different but I think it’s important to be open to birth parent discussions. Introduce the subject early and be prepared for what will probably be a roller coaster of emotions on the subject as your child grows.

06
Aug
08

Interracial Adoption Changes You

Or least it should. Three years ago we knew very little about Korea. A great-uncle had served, and died, there during the Korean War. But honestly that was probably the extent of my knowledge. As I’ve said in the About section of this blog, our Parents In Process class about intercountry adoption opened our eyes to the journey we were beginning. We took to heart the opinions we were hearing from adult interracial adoptees and the lessons we were learning through the activities we did in class.

When the parenting class was over, we called around to find a Korean language course in our town and I posted on a bulletin board looking for ways to incorporate Korean culture into our home. We were successful in finding a language program, which we attended the summer we waited for our son to come home.

But the responses to the post on the bulletin board should have been my first indication that our views on birth culture weren’t shared by everyone in the adoption community. I didn’t get many responses. And of the ones I did get, most of them said they didn’t do much culturally. Some had Korean items in their homes, but others said, “Nothing. Our kids are American.”

I couldn’t believe it. Everything we had just learned in our parenting class said just the opposite from what these adoptive parents were saying. The class had emphasized how knowing about birth culture and exposure to people who looked like them is extremely important to a child’s developing identity. Yet many of these bulletin board families lived in nondiverse communities and felt birth culture wasn’t important, even though lots of them had to go through the same class we had.

Subsequent posts on the board just affirmed that position. My zeal, they said, was because I was a new adoptive parent and it would wear off. Or my son will lose interest or reject his birth culture then it won’t be important to me either, they said.

I know I’m only two years into this journey but I think they’re wrong. Adopting our son has changed who I am. That was painfully obvious during a recent visit with a family who for the past 10 years have been very close friends of ours. They’re white, and honestly, their whole world is white—friends, groups like Scouts, church, neighborhood, etc. Six years ago I probably wouldn’t have noticed it. But now being in such a white environment made me uncomfortable. Their kids didn’t really understand why our son looked different, because white families really don’t have to deal with race if they don’t choose to. (I had just finished reading the two race books I recommended in a previous post. Both state this to be true, but it was still so strange to see that principle in action.)

Our friends’ lives, which until a couple of years closely paralleled ours in many ways, now no longer seemed to have anything in common with our lives. Things that are important to us and we spend time thinking about, talking about, and planning for, don’t impact them at all if they don’t want it to. It made me sad on so many levels.

That visit then got me to thinking about my son’s friends, and I discovered that whites are in the minority in his friend circle. He has several Latino and Korean friends who are also adopted and black friends who we attend church with, but only a few white friends. That wasn’t a conscious thing on our part, but I’m glad it’s that way.

And I’m glad that this parenting journey has changed me, even if it means the death of some friendships. I’m glad that I have a better understanding of race in America and it’s impact; about white privilege and what’s done for me as a Caucasian American; about how identity develops and what I can do to help my son be proud of all he is.

No, I’m not Korean and I’ll never experience the racism that Asians are faced with in America. But I do feel that our family is striving to be a Korean-American family. I know that some have issues with white adoptive parents calling their families Korean American when the parents are clearly not Asian so let me explain what that means to us. It means that we’re striving to have our home and our lifestyle represent all of the members of our household. We’re striving to have our son understand not only about Korea and it’s unique culture and customs, but also about what it means to be a Korean-American. And it means that my husband and I are embracing our son’s birth culture and plan to do and learn all of the things we have him do and learn.

Adopting and becoming an multiracial family has changed us, for good.




My Korean Culture Blog

Just a reminder that if you want to learn more about Korean culture (both traditional and pop culture), language resources, and cooking, check out my other blog: thekoreanway.wordpress.com It's filled with resources for adoptive families or anyone interested in Korean culture.

Favorite Korean Movies-TV Shows

Be Strong, Geum-Soon
Please Teach Me English
Spy Girl
Tae Gu Ki
Chunhyang
2009 Lost Memories

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2worlds1familyblog at gmail dot com

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