“Making kawaii stuff, watching Studio Ghibli films,
looking through Netflix for good anime…
Hi, my name is Katie, and I’m obsessed with Japan.
Oh, and did I mention I’m traveling to Korea?”
~ Katherine Bacher
Happy Spring, Precious Readers! (And, Erin go Bragh!)
(Wow, an entire sentence with all capitalized words. I think that’s a new one for this blog.)
First up, complete transparency:
I’ve never kept it a secret that Pilot and I are not wealthy people. I didn’t have the funds to keep my domain up and running the last few months. I apologize for making it seem like this blog was dead. It wasn’t. Think of it as being in winter hibernation.
Second, quick catch up:
As I wrote in my last two blogs, I had just begun working at a high school. Now that it’s MARCH, clearly I’ve dusted off my rookie wings and am beginning to truly learn how to fly. Due to enjoying the perks of my new job, that did include paychecks. Unfortunately, the paychecks had to go directly to some bills instead of this. Life priorities always seem to get in the way. (Why, oh why can we not just recreate the barter system?) During that time, I’ve been able to assist the students in participating with school morale boosting events. One of which was “What Makes Me Happy?”
(…aaaand there’s the second sentence with entirely capitalized words. I’m on a roll!)
Lastly, the purpose of this blog post today:
Each staff member was provided with a piece of paper saying “What makes ____ happy,” asking each of us to populate the sheet with our name and a list of things that bring joy to our life. Our particular district has suffered due to previously mentioned lock downs, along with heartrending news of several children committing suicide or killed in gang fights.
Yes, I’m serious.
In the last 1.5 years, our district has suffered a minimum of 4 child suicides. One was as young as an eighth grader. It’s horrifying, sad, and makes me wonder how it was possible for an eighth grader to feel so alone. That they felt their only choice was a permanent solution to what might have been a temporary problem. (Not an easy problem to solve, but most likely temporary.)
I ask you, Precious Readers, to be respectful of those who have suffered loss and not provoke each other. Instead, let us always keep this blog as an area of uplifting and supporting each other. That’s the culture I try to leave behind as I wake each morning. I hope you do as well.
Back to the story:
As you can imagine, after suffering those losses, we amplified not only positive morale boosting activities among our schools, but also to make our staff reveal ourselves as human and approachable. II sat looking at this sheet. Some of my coworkers had already completed theirs, making long lists of written words such as family, friends, bacon, etc.
Let me tell you something: Kids have short attention spans. With our world ever evolving towards instantaneous gratification, their attention span is even shorter than previous generations. What kid is going to want to spend 5 minutes reading an entire written list by an adult they hardly know? Not many. I looked at my sheet and decided to go a different direction. I found images and obvious symbolism of things I was interested. Since I embrace my inner nerd here, I embraced my inner nerd for the project. After arranging photos, a pattern emerged.
My inner ego is obsessed with Japan. I don’t watch a lot of anime, but I probably watch more than your average person. I have never dressed up and gone to Sakura Con. I have friends who have never heard of or watched anime in their life. I fall somewhere in between.
I’m obsessed with Hayao Miyazaki/Studio Ghibli films. If you haven’t heard of him, he created animated family favorites like My Neighbor Totoro, Kiki’s Delivery Service, Howl’s Moving Castle (LOVE), Princess Mononoke, recently, The Secret World of Arriety, and currently in theaters Only Yesterday. (For Washingtonians, this means in Seattle at SIFF.) In fact, I’m seeing Only Yesterday this weekend with gal pal, “Caring.” Maybe you’ll spot me.
Why the Japanese culture fandom? If you’ve read this blog before, you know I’m an only child. (This blog is a perfect testament to my “Only Child Syndrome” condition of loving to talk about myself and having an internal dialogue that often becomes an audible dialogue of my thoughts.) To help pay for school, and additionally for my socialization needs, my family hosted several exchange students. 28 to be exact. Most were from different areas of Japan, with only 5 out of the 28 being from elsewhere of the world. (Stories for another day.)
Keep in mind, we hosted students from when I was a toddler through my junior year of high school. That is a LOT of students over the course of a LONG period of time. Since most were from Japan, I learned quite a bit not only about their culture and language, but at a young age was exposed to awesome shows that few 90’s kids spent time watching. Sailor Moon and Voltron were a couple of personal favorites. More commonly known Speed Racer was a greatly admired show during the 80’s/90’s.
Did you enjoy the Speed Racer movie? I liked their adaptation, but the constant spinning and Lisa Frank rainbow/neon style of palette made me horribly nauseous during the film. And I go on rollercoasters for fun.
Caring and I recently discovered we had a mutual love of Studio Ghibli films. She and her sister are such fans, they even give the proper pronunciation of Totoro. I hope to save up the funds to purchase the Studio Ghibli collector’s box containing every film they’ve created.
I’m also a fan of kawaii things. For those who don’t know what “kawaii” means “cute” in Japanese. It’s a term encompassing all things adorable. Think cupcakes with smiley faces.
One of my bucket list locations to travel to is Japan. Ride the bullet train, hike on Mt. Fuji, and of course, enjoy the light, fresh cuisine they’re known for. It will be some time before Pilot and I get to enjoy Japan, but I hope to go someday. But in the meantime… I’ll settle for:
KATIE’S BIG SUMMER ADVENTURE!
A dream has come true, Precious Readers! This year, Pilot and I will be flying across the world to South Korea! It all started with a documentary.
Once upon a November in 2015…
Pilot and I were having a quiet Thursday night, trying to decide what to watch from our Netflix queue. (Yes, “queue.” There’s an extra “-ue” in there.) Some time ago, I’d been told to watch a documentary called “Twinsters.” I won’t provide spoilers here, but it’s a real life documentary about Korean Adoptees. (There’s WAY more to that film, but I don’t want to give anything away.)
I had actually avoided this documentary for a few months, unsure if I would appreciate the content. Several programs focused on “adoption” in popular culture stem from the idea that there is a “lost soul” who needs to “reconnect” with their so-called “missing piece.” Granted, there are some adoptees who feel that way, but between myself and fellow friends who are adopted… I’ve never met someone in person who feels that way. In my personal experience, most of those shows represent a small percentage of adoptees. The shows are catering to viewers looking for “drama.” Twinsters was far more realistic in representing, what I believe to be, the general adoptee point of view. (At least for those who were born in Korea, then adopted outside of that country.)
Pilot and I were riveted by the documentary, staying up later in the evening to finish it in one go. Twinsters revealed information about a Korean Adoptee Conference held in Seoul, South Korea, which is only held once every three years. It welcomes around 500 Korean-born adoptees from around the world to fly to Seoul and learn not only about the adoption process, but learn about their birth country. (Major plus: it’s mostly hosted in English, thank GOD!)
After the documentary finished Pilot and I deeply discussed into the wee hours of early morning. I’m not terribly emotional when it comes to my adoption, however I did experience several waves of different emotions I wasn’t expecting. Pilot shared that he felt closer to me, that he was able to better understand my personality and how my thought processes work. I am grateful to Twinsters for this. Over the course of 13 years, you learn so much about a person, but the documentary gave a voice to a part of my point of view of the world and my childhood that I’ve never been able to verbalize well. Even if you’re not an adoptee, if you just like documentaries, I highly recommend the film.
While discussing the conference, I remembered the film saying it’s hosted only once every three years. We checked the date of the documentary. It was took place in 2013. I looked at Pilot, and he looked at me. Instantly, we were both looking up the conference, and sure enough, it’s being hosted this year.
Pilot and I are in our (early) 30’s. If we don’t attend this year, the next time it will be hosted is 2019. If Pilot and I are realistic, if we’re going to have kids, it’s going to be sometime in our 30’s. If we were going to (easily) attend, it would have to be this year, or we’ll be waiting a looong time before going again. There were 3 problems:
How was this going to affect my mother?
I don’t care how understanding your parents are, how open-minded, how freely they share their emotions, how old you/they are. Talking with an (adoptive) parent about potentially looking for biologically related family members can create a whole world of hurt, pain, and insensitivity if not handled correctly.
I’ve mentioned time and time again, my (adoptive) parents are my real parents. I don’t think of them in any other way. Just because we don’t share the same biology does not mean they’re not my “real” family. My parents are each adopted as well. We have this in common, and I’m grateful that although they were both born in the USA and adopted within the USA, and I was adopted out of country, we share 90% of our points of view regarding adoption. My mother even spent time in the early 2000’s searching for more information about her biological family, and received information back from her adoption agency. She’s even mentioned that if I was interested in looking up biologically related people, she would be supportive.
This doesn’t change the fact that I wasn’t sure how to broach this topic; and I still didn’t want to cause my mom any pain in any way shape or form. Especially about this topic. I wanted her to be sure that I view her as my mother, 100%, and that I don’t consider anyone else my mom. If my dad was still alive, I’d want to reassure him as well. The timing of watching the documentary couldn’t have been better. Pilot and I had stayed up late on a Thursday evening, and we were having dinner with my mom the next night.
I was a nervous wreck.
We first mentioned the documentary to her. My mom and I love watching movies, it’s one of our favorite activities, so it’s not uncommon for us to recommend films to each other. I wasn’t even 5 minutes into talking about the documentary plot when she jumped in and asked me if I wanted to go to Korea, in an excited manner!
Did I mention, I love my mom? We’re far too similar, which is probably the reason we butt heads sometimes. All of the worry and concern was for nothing, and she was supportive beyond description.
Emotional problems avoided, I found myself with a new problem.
Did I mention we’re not wealthy?
Even on the cheap, there is zero way we would be able to afford this trip. At the time of the conference, it’s the highest time of tourism for the country, meaning the flights for a single person round trip would be $1,700-$1,800. This doesn’t include the fee of the conference, living quarters, or food.
Did I mention, I love my mom? (Oh, I did? Well, I’m mentioning it again.)
While growing up, my parents both said that there was some money set aside should I ever express interest in traveling to South Korea. I had completely forgotten about it, as my 30-something year old brain is beginning to forget conversations like that from my itty bitty childhood years.
Besides, no person in their 30’s enjoys going to their parents and asking for thousands of dollars. I don’t care who you are. Asking for money can be stressful, hurt relationships, and all around not end well. I am fortunate that my parents had the foresight to predict this want to visit Korea may happen in my future. Hence, this added to my stress of approaching my mother with this topic.
Immediately after jumping in during my description of Twinsters, her second immediate statement was, “How much do you need? You have X amount of money already. Will that be enough? If you need more, let me know. Want to stay longer? You can stay longer beyond the conference if you want. Just let me know.”
I love my mom.
Funding issues avoided, and absolutely no more hurdles to prevent Pilot and I attending the conference, I was stuck with one, final problem.
Did I even want to do this?
Here’s my (current) list of insecurities, (as they fluctuate in severity each day):
- Am I doing this because it’s convenient, or do I really want to go?
- This is both Pilot and my first big trip anywhere. Were we prepared to do a large trip, especially to a foreign country where we don’t speak the language?
- I hate flying. Can I stand to be on an airplane for 12 hours?
- It’s going to be hot with 99% humidity, and they’re a conservative country requiring me to dress covered up. I grew up on the West Coast. I need new shirts. I’m going to FRY!
- Is the conference going to be good, or will I be wasting my mom’s money on something that wasn’t “my thing”?
- Am I prepared to go searching for birth/foster family information?
- What happens if birth/foster family members don’t want to meet me?
- What happens if they do?
I don’t have much to say on the subject right now. I’m still processing the fact that my husband and I have booked the trip, found a place to stay, have the flights all scheduled and will be leaving for 2 WEEKS for South Korea this year.
As far as what to do about biologically related people, or foster family people… I haven’t decided yet. We have a few months to get paperwork in, and I have a feeling I’ll probably regret not doing the paperwork, but it’s too much to decide in this moment right now. I gave myself a personal due date to make the decision and fill out the paperwork, and I’m 75% sure that I’ll do it. (I mean, if will be traveling all of that way to Korea and staying that long, why wouldn’t I at least try?)
That’s a post for another day. I promise to update as time goes on, and let you know the progress of that decision.
Wishing you and yours the luck of the Irish today. I think I’ll need some for the remainder of the year.
If you had the opportunity to travel to a country of your family’s heritage, would you go? What would you do? Who would you visit, if you could?
What was the best and worst advice you received about traveling abroad?
Would you do your best to learn the language before going?
If you’ve been to Korea, what should I know before going? (It will be late summer.)
– Things to see
– Things to eat
– Things to do