Holt Heritage Camp at Eugene, Oregon- 1990
Counselors at Eugene, Oregon. Korean War Baby-3rd row standing, #6 from left.
“In 1990 I had lived in California for five years, after returning from the Philippines, walking away from the thing I loved so much, the Movie business. I knew that at that point in my life I had to get out. (more on the reasons later). I found a wonderful church the Vineyard Christian Fellowship of Anaheim. I threw all my time, energy, money, all my being into learning, joined counseling teams, took every ministry team classes. I was at church 8 days a week and saw incredible wonderful things happen on Ministry trips to England, Germany, South Africa. Sorry, more on that later, but by 1990 I was intrigued (by the way, don’t you love Spell Checker) by the new church pastored by Mike Bickle, from Kansas City, Missouri. After two visits I felt led to move there and join their Ministry school.
After deciding to move to Missouri, I was driving home after work when I noticed a large group of different ethnicities under a banner “Holt Families Picnic”.
‘Grandma’ Bertha Holt; 1955 Arrival of 8 Korean Orphans adopted by Holt family.
I immediately stopped and then recognized Bertha Holt, surrounded by adoptees from many countries with their adoptive families. I introduced myself to Grandma Holt as everyone called her and she invited me to be part of a Holt Heritage Camp as a counselor in Eugene, Oregon or New Jersey. I said sure after checking the dates I figured that I could work on both camps that year.
I drove up in my truck to Eugene, then back to L.A. picked up all my personal boxes and power tools for construction work. Drove to Kansas City in under three days, stopping to unload my gear with a family I would stay with from the church. Rested overnight, then I took off for the New Jersey camp, arriving midmorning of the check-in day. It was the first time I had seen so many Korean adoptees all together. A few of the ‘little darlings’ looked at my ‘mixed race’ face and asked, “What are you doing here?” “Why are YOU here? You don’t look Korean!” (Oh, dear Lord, even here I am getting the questions? Yes, and for 14 years in Korea. “You don’t look Korean at all!! Ha ha ha. I just want to KILL sometimes!)
I smiled and patiently told the little one, ‘My Story’. Not fully Asian, just kinda looked, sorta asian. Half-Korean, half-something, I had always felt divided, a split-personality, an angry psycho who instantly exploded in rage if I felt insulted or laughed at. My mind drifted backward to early school years, back to elementary grades…
‘Rock in a Sock’
In elementary school about the fourth grade I put a ‘rock in a sock’ and tied a knot in it as a weapon, kept it in my pocket. One punk who always gave me grief, snatched my glasses off my face so I hit him with my ‘rock in a sock’, striking his shoulder and back. He ‘went down like’ a rock! I jumped on him and finished with a flurry of wild punches before my favorite teacher Miss Glitz pulled me off. One of my classmates, a girl who had been teased by the same punk, had quickly grabbed my weapon and hidden it. But many had seen my rage and no one wanted to mess with ‘that crazy Oriental kid’ and left me alone. (That was the PC term in those days, you know 1960’s).
Angry Adoptee? Who Me?
When I had Hypnotherapy this year many memories started to come back memories of the streets in Korea; like carrying rocks to throw, or a club, a sharpened stick. In middle school I took a 'church key' beer can opener, pounding it flat then sharpened it with my father’s files and grinder. Made a cardboard sheath and rammed a wooden handle on it. Voila, a ‘jailhouse shiv’ and I carried it to school in my back pocket. Only pulled it out once on a Mexican kid, Mike, who had flipped open a ‘switchblade’ and demanded some money from a group of us. He actually paused, surprised and curious, eased the blade back and slid it into his pocket. He asked to look at my ‘knife’ and seemed impressed.
Slang term was a ‘church key’ and came from the old style church keys with a rounded open end. Folks found bottle caps could be popped off. Then when beer cans came along they put the sharp triangular end on the other side. Kids, this is before ‘pull tabs’ even or the newer tab that bends it inside.
Mike later gave me my first knife, a lovely traditional automatic push button style just like this one below. Notice the small sliding ‘safety’ behind the release button. One must remember to keep safety on when knife is in FRONT pocket or you might have a sudden surprise opening, ouch! Also one does not want to ‘forget to unlock the safety’ and be pressing the release, oops. Mike was of Mexican/Italian heritage and welcomed me into his small gang. He came up with a great idea, probably from his Italian roots, of providing ‘protection’ from other kids for a small weekly sum. Couple of years later I heard that Mike had taken WAY too much LSD and fried his brain. He was like a mentally retarded child of seven. In my years of drug taking I always worried that I would Over Dose, yet it never stopped me. Prevention tactics and scare programs simply don’t work.
(L) Switchblade with push-button spring release snaps blade instantly out.
( R ) Filipino Butterfly or Balisong has unique handle that must be flipped out and held in the hand, opened silently or loudly.
You might ask my sister how much I loved my knives. Mom found out I threatened her for going through my stuff with my switchblade. Dad broke my switchblade with a hammer. I bought a better one couple of days later… you always needed to have a weapon, just in case. I still carry one to this day, a small Gerber, a Filipino Butterfly knife called a Balisong, or one of a dozen blades. From the earliest days I learned to hone a sharp edge, actually very therapeutic honing your knives. Ahhh…
“Sharp? Sharp like my Knife?” was a funny line I did in a film as a ‘reel’ psycho. I sometimes wish I had lived in the times of blades, swords, etc. But I digress.
What are You? Trans-racial adoptees
In all Trans-racial adoptions, the common question asked by curious well meaning but rather dull folks- may be one of many variations like these:
What country are you from?
What are you, exactly?
Where do you COME from?
Are you (Fill in the Asian country)?
Oh, you are Oriental, aren’t you?
Hey, you $*^#**!!! Go back to _______!
What ARE you? Asian or something?
We Korean Adoptees had to just deal with it, most were raised in small or medium size towns and cities throughout USA, but others were sent to European countries. Everyone has their stories and developed ways to answer. I dealt with it by getting tough and fighting back. How about you? Send me your story. How did you 'deal with it'?