THIS THING OF OURS-ADOPTION

THE KOREAN WAR BABY

My name is Don Gordon BELL and I am one of the earliest of the first generation of KAD's (Korean ADoptees). The Korean War had been settled by Armistice three years before I left war-torn Seoul, Korea, on May 21, 1956. It was the first plane of twelve 'war babies' processed thru the Harry Holt Adoption Program. Read more of MY STORY on My Pages.
I grew up in a typical middle-class family of English-Scottish roots in greater Los Angeles, Ca, USA. Memories faded, Korean language was 'lost' and I did not know anything about the country of my birth until I met Korean Marines in Vietnam while serving with the US Marines. It was my first exposure to real Korean people. I was not completely aware of how prejudiced most Koreans thought towards a Half-Breed like me. I learned what "Tuigi" meant, a Korean word for a "Child of a Foreign devil". Oh, wonderful.


All my life I always had to answer the question: "What ARE you?" and I simply would tell 'my story'. It was not a big deal for me, for my Adoptive Parents had taught me that being an American meant that WE were from many countries. I never 'wished to be White' and just learned to stand up for my own identity. MY Identity was as an American, with mixed heritage. I did not know what being "Korean" meant but often wondered about my roots, and what my birth father's ethnicity. Mexican, Native Americans, and Spanish people would tell me that I had their 'genes' for sure. Little did I know they were right!

After college, I traveled to Manila and for ten years I lived in the Philippines. I was excepted as a 'mestizo' and fit into the former Spanish colony. I was a B-movie Character Actor,
working on international and local films, enjoying a 'crazy and wild' abandonment. Then a life changing experience gave me faith in a personal Higher Being. After walking away from the film business, I lived back in the USA, not sure of my direction in life finding work in construction, finish carpentry, door hanging, and many other jobs I'd like to forget.

In 1991, at 38, I attended a Holt Heritage Camp that was a great experience and really began my own journey of Adoption Identity search. I had never thought much of my Korean culture, though I always felt proud of being "HALF-Korean" and "half-Something".

In 1994 I came back to Seoul, Korea, with my church Vineyard Christian Fellowship, and was invited to stay with a church in East Seoul, for one year. I have lived here since late 1995- re-discovering my "Korean-ness", teaching English and telling my Adoption Story to thousands of Korean students of all ages, helping their understanding of Korean Adoptees. It is one of the issues that Korea is now facing, even for its own secretly adopted children, those who were adopted IN-Country by Koreans who desired a family but due to problems with Infertility secretly adopt.

I was a charter member in 1997 (first dozen members) of GOA'L (Global Overseas Adoptees' Link, founded by Ami Nafzger) and continue to be involved with the complex issues of This Thing of Ours-Adoption. Thousands of KADs have visited Korea over the years, searching for their culture and Some search for birth family. Seventy-five thousand have come, yet only 2,400 plus have found Reunion with Birth family, often with varying results. There are many complexities, many don't want to search concerned about offending their Adoptive Families. Each KAD must decide what they want to do, when to do it, etc.


At 61, I am still 'working thru' my Adoption Identity. Each of YOU need to 'work through' your own understanding and hopefully find forgiveness and healing. Read many different accounts and compare before coming to conclusions. I hope that you will learn what IS happening NOW, in the land of your birth, the Rep. of Korea (South Korea). (See Report Links).

Times are changing, the reasons for 'relinquishment for adoption' have shifted, but there continues to be a need for a multi-tiered approach and understanding of Adoption issues. Slowly, attitudes of Korean society ARE changing for the better. But, the majority continue to feel embarrassment and shame. Thus, Adoption is still shrouded in secrecy even for those who are adopted In-country. There ARE positive signs and movements of NGO's and KAD groups are advocating for the Unwed Mothers. However, two-thirds of pregnant women each year, continue to give up their babies for adoption. One out of four are sent overseas, YET three are secretly adopted in-country. The Myth that "Koreans don't adopt" is false, but they need to open up and hopefully change their shame to pride.


This blog is for EVERYONE, whether you are an Adoptee, Adoptive Family, Birth Family or involved in Adoption in ANY way as a professional, social worker, official, etc, from Korea or the world. We examine the complex issues and personal journeys that we, domestic and overseas adoptees, have to face and sort out in This Thing of Ours-Adoption. (Use the Ligit Search function (Left Column) to check for Posts on various topics, TransRacial, TranCultural, MultiCultural families, Domestic, Civil Code Law Adoptions, InterCountry Adoption, etc.)
I personally have come to a compromised, nuanced position on this thing of ours-adoption. I advocate a Multi-tiered Plan that tries to be balanced, realistic, fair to all.

UPDATE: Living in the Philippines since 2010, at first teaching students from several countries as an Online Tutor, based in Makati, Metro Manila. I was working on a Digital Library for Online Tutoring or ELearning; developing an agritourism farm; and Overseas Retirement Care for foreigners needing 24/7 health care.

Then some 18 months ago, in July of 2012 I met with Andrew Leavold, a crazy film obsessed Aussie who helped "pull me back into film making".

WHEW! Lot on my plate. I have also been learning much about the Filipino society's very different viewpoints on unwed motherhood and adoption.

Latest: As of Sept. 2012, I worked on an Indie Film, "Baybayin, the Palawan Script", directed by Auraeus Solito, and international award winning Filipino director. I had a role in the film and explored my hobby as a STILLS Photographer. Currently I have quit all teaching, co-writing on an international film that will be done in 3D and CGI effects. I am back in the film-making business and I love it.

Adoption Discourse needs to hear YOUR VOICE. Every opinion, even opposing viewpoints will be posted and interaction invited by email and Comments have been activated again with spam filters!)
. Welcome, come learn, and share your thoughts.


October 3, 2009

What are YOU doing here?

Holt Heritage Camp at Eugene, Oregon- 1990

HoltHeritageCampStaff_90_Oregon

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”.

gma-side-pic arrival.pic

‘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.

HoltHeritageCampKids_90_Oregon Adoptee campers Eugene, Oregon.

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!)

HoltHeritageCamp_90_NewJersey HoltHeritageCamp_90_NewJersey New Jersey Holt Heritage camp, 1990 Campers top photo; Counselors below (kids in red are children of Head of staff). Can you see me? 3rd row, 4th from left.

HoltHeritageCamp_90_NewJersey_DonBell

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 churchkeysand 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.

Italian20switchblade20knives_Full

balisong10b

(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'?

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1 comment:

  1. Thank you so much Don for sharing you story,letting other adoptees share their stories and for your Korean War Baby Blog!! It certainly has helped me better deal with my own adotion!
    Thank you!
    Allie Williams

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