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.

September 17, 2010

Back to Manila

Cycles of Life

Cycles of Life, revolving links of friendships going back 35 years, my trip back again to Manila from Sept. 3 to Sept. 11 just a week ago was full of powerful ‘connections’. First, last month in August I attended the IKAA Gathering of Korean Adoptees in Seoul, 2010. Hundreds of KADs came from Europe and USA, to gather together in the 2nd Intl. Symposium on Adoption Studies, sessions from adoption professions and fellow adoptees, tons of fun things to do, developing friendships that will last lifetimes.
However, back to work teaching Korean children and adults to prepare them for their future in a globalized world. Then I found out that my dear friend from the film business years in the Philippines had passed away. He had struggled for some time with major heart attacks and other ailments. I know that he was getting ready to meet his maker and was quietly making preparations. One of his last wishes was for some of his remains after cremation, to be buried at sea.

Nick was a sailor, a fellow band of brothers who served in the Vietnam War. Nick would not brag about it but he was with the Navy Seal Team Recovery units that went into heavy hostile fire to recover US and Allied pilots who had been shot down inside NORTH Vietnam. We shared enough to respect each other as comrades-in-arms, a bond that had a special meaning for us. Henry DSC07175Strzalkowski, another PIGS IN SPACE (actor’s group in Philippine film making) founding member, was able to arraign through Ed, a relative, to go out to sea in Subic Bay. Sunday we scattered Nick’s remains after a simple ceremony and sharing of our last thoughts. Ed gave the litany for burial at sea and we shared a meal together afterwards.

Putting out to sea, into the Subic Bay where Nick Nicholson first arrived in the Philippines.

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Henry, Annie, Charry, Tim, Juralyn, Ed, and I bade farewell to our friend.

Henry and I at Subic Bay Yacht Club.
 Our friend Steve Rogers could not get down from Sagada due to closed roads. He was the fourth founding member of our actor’s group, 
Pigs in Space,
Steve Rogers, Nick Nicholson, Don Gordon Bell, Henry Strzalkowski, (1985)

Makati, Metro Manila, P. I.
Henry used to manage some local clubs, “Heckle and Jeckle” and “Handlebars” both live band venues with pool tables, great food. Friday night I was able to catch the band at H&J.
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Rock N Roll Legends Jam
Then, we went to a private party of Filipino Blues and RockNRoll artists spanning two generations. What started as a one night party was already into the fourth night. You couldn’t pay for this non-stop Jam session, with over 40 top artists performing for each other. Fantastic time and we left in the wee hours of dawn.

Henry is also a darn good vocalist.
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See more photos on Facebook or Picasa Web Albums (see left Column)
Northern Samar Province
My friend Tim Ramey, who I had met in Seoul, Korea back in late 1996 and taught me all about teaching Koreans English, invited me to go down to the province of Northern Samar with his wife Juralyn.

Don, Tim & Juralyn Ramey
Tim's son NoyNoy Daniel Ramey

Juralyn's daughter Nathalie, 7 years old.

NoyNoy, held by Grandma is overwhelmed with toys!
Children of San Antonio, Biri Island, Northern Samar
Hong Kong
Thursday, on to Hong Kong, where I met my actor friend Romano Kristoff, and our UechiRyu Okinawan Karate teacher, Sensei Robert Campbell. We had not been together the three of us since 1985! Romano and I were students at the Manila Polo Club Uechiryu school that Sensei Robert ran there.

UeChiRyu, Okinawan Karate School-Manila Polo Club.
Don, Romano, Grandmaster George Mattson, Sensei Robert Campbell (tallest).


Don and Romano; Don, Robert, RomanoDSC07697
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Dining out at Outback; Posing in front of Sensei’s Samurai Sword display.
Of course, Romano is showing his age but in great shape, body, spirit, and mind.
Rumors about Romano have been great wild exaggerations, actually he has been delving into deep philosophical studies over the last decade. Watch for his book on “Reflections” to be released in Spanish/English. He read in Spanish and translated some to me, very insightful and I was amazed at the broad knowledge he has learned.
Well, that’s all folks, for now. What a blast to the past, yet I hope that I do have a few more years left on this earth, God willing.
Peace and Prosperity to all.
Happy Chuseok on Sept. 22nd.
The Harvest Moon celebration is coming next week in Korea.