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.

December 13, 2009

Voice of Experience

Voice of Experience

On the flight from Okinawa to Danang, South Vietnam (as it was called in 1970) the KWB sat next to a ‘salty old Marine Sergeant’ who was about 22 going on 40 years old. I had met him during the week at Camp Smedley D. Butler, actually a number of bases collectively known after the legendary Marine who once said his unit was "prepared to land and shoot everybody and everything that was breaking the peace".

US Marine Corps Bases on Okinawa
Camp Smedley D. Butler actually consists of several camps.

We were going through processing at Camp Hansen when I learned that this Marine was coming back to the ‘Nam after two tours. I began to ask him questions about what to do and how to do it since he had been there twice and lived. He saw that I really wanted the straight scoop and slowly he began to tell me some things to watch out for in-country. Personal stuff also came out. He had been discharged from the Corps, never talked about anything to anyone, finally his wife divorced him. He had nothing else to do, so he re-enlisted and volunteer for a third tour.

The Sergeant was a man of few words, but I listened intently because when he spoke, I could see many memories flash through his mind. “Don’t trust any of them”; “Put one through the head, just to be sure…”-said with no anger or malice, just simple facts to remember from a voice of experience. He was going back for a third tour and some might think him crazy but I was praying that I would have someone like him watching over my ignorant butt.

This was no ‘by the book’ crap, he gave me short clipped words of advice that had the ‘thousand yard stare’ built-in. “Get a fuckin’ Colt .45 ‘auto’…steal one if you have to” seemed like solid gold to me.

Death Spiral into Danang Vital Area.

The Boeing flight was only an hour’s flight time, late at night for safety, and drinks were flowing. The Stewardesses (okay to call them that back then) were very, very kind to all. Over 150 men and a few nurses were about to descend in a gut wrenching steep spiral towards Danang Airbase, northern I Corps.

I was sitting way in the back when the doors opened and the humid hot blast of air swept into the fuselage like a sauna. When the heat hit us the thought struck me, “What?! It’s 1 AM!! How can it be so Hot?” Slowly the line moved forward, each man or woman with their own thoughts. A nervous calm settled on me, for I was facing a great unknown, entering the war zone of I Corps, the northern most of four military divisions of South Vietnam. I thought I was prepared to meet my adventure and naively was not afraid. I was on a mission, to help the Vietnamese people stay free!

I noticed that all the stewardesses were wishing everyone good luck but one ‘stew’ really stood out. She was rather short but very cute, Blond ‘cheerleader type’ All-American Girl, (and forgive me, well endowed). She was hugging each man really close, tight, and long… bringing a smile to most. She gave some a good ole friendly kiss on the cheek, said a quick “Good luck” or “See you on the way back”. She really meant it too!

My turn was up next, but before she could hug me, I jokingly asked with a silly grin, “Is it really THAT bad?” She looked at my innocent and ignorant young face then grabbed me in a tight bear hug and burst into tears, her chest shuddering and heaving in uncontrollable sobs. She continued to hold me in a strong grip, as complaints were voiced as men had to move around us.

“What did you do?” “Hell, what did you say to her?” “Hogging it all for himself”. At first I could not understand her, then 'My God, she was acting like I was her own brother!'

Then it hit me, like a bolt of lightning, a sudden understanding. Some terrible ‘knowing’ filled her soul, rent her spirit apart. I felt her terror, her fear and dread...FOR ME.

My knees buckled and a queasy feeling hit my stomach. I thought to myself, what have I DONE? I volunteered for this? She looked up at me, tears flowing down her face, still clinging to me. Finally, she composed herself and held my face with both her hands. It seemed that she was memorizing me, then wiping her own face she bravely smiled and told me very, very seriously, “You Come BACK, okay!”. I mumbled something and stumbled on, my mind confused and reeling.

At the bottom of the ramp the Sergeant caught up with me and spun me around towards the right. Men were unloading our seabags from the plane onto trams. The Sergeant simply pointed beyond towards a second tram coming to a stop. Aluminum coffins were stacked four to a car, waiting for the long journey back to Conus (Continental U.S.). Along with returning troops heading back from the war, these coffins would be on her return flight. Now I understood, and my foreboding increased. The Sergeant smiled, “Welcome to Viiieet…Nam, Marine.”

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