4 Jun 2020

Growing up as an international adoptee

Growing up as an international adoptee
By Libby C ·  3 min read · From Open Drum

CASUAL RACISM: When words and "jokes" really do hurt.

I was adopted to Australia at the age of four months. 
My parents had always told me that I was of Korean background as, obviously, I would not grow up to look like my parents, with blonde hair and blue eyes.

People used to come up to them when they were walking with the pram, “But will she be able to speak English when she grows up?”
It takes time to realise that you are different. 
In prep, aged four, I was bullied by a group of boys in grade six. They would gather around in a circle yelling, “Asian!”  I was even called “chink”. They would laugh and taunt me. 
I had yelled back, “I’m not Asian. I am Korean!” That’s when I found out what Asian meant from my parents. 
I had a group of protectors at school made up of my friend’s siblings who would keep an eye out for me. 
I have recognised one of my bullies as an adult, on a couple of occasions, so it definitely left a lasting impression somewhere.
Other instances? 
Kids would yell, "Konichiwa!" at me and come right up to me with their eyes pulled taught. One time my teacher was explaining to the class that Asians had small eyes, which confused me, as I didn’t. Classmates pointed this out, but she just ignored them.
My first job at 14, a customer refused to be served by me. 
“Get someone else to serve me, Cinese (Chinese)." I've learnt Italian since, so later recognised that word.
In university, I met more Asians. I was called a banana - yellow outside and white inside - as though I was denying my heritage. They laughed that I couldn’t speak Korean. But my family is white, so that was frustrating.
I now work in hospitals.  Once a patient kept calling me Chinese. I told him that my background was Korean and was told that, “You Asians are all the same anyway.” 
There are Asian Australians born here going back generations. Even having four months in Korea at the beginning is nothing.  Who says that I have to be from anywhere?  I might as well have been born here. 
And forget about disrespecting Korea. I just did my job, as a professional, and wrote a quick sentence in the file that this patient could possibly say some things other staff might not be comfortable with, as many were also from ethnically-diverse backgrounds.
Once, I was walking down my local shopping strip when I was stopped by a man asking what the name of the Chinese takeaway across the road meant. I was taken aback and I answered: "Err... your guess is as good as mine. I don’t speak Chinese.”
I lived briefly in Korea, learning Korean. My English friend complained to me about the racism that he received, as he had never experienced it before. I said I understood but wouldn’t it be bizarre to receive similar treatment in his own country? 
For the first time in my life, I blended in. Something simple that most people take for granted. I loved having a break from comments based on my race on an almost daily basis. That said, I have never felt so Australian and I am considered a foreigner there. 
In Australia, I am considered Korean rather than Australian. 
But what can you do? 
You might correct people’s terminology to promote awareness. It is no-one’s business to delve into the trans-racial adoption subject with me, unless I choose. 
It’s still hard as an adult but you formulate strategies. Racism whether subtle or otherwise is something you can never become accustomed to.  Although you do, sadly, form a heightened awareness of your outside.
I do not let it rule my life and hope to be able to support others who are young and still growing up, as well as share my own experiences with people who may be unaware of this happening to their own friends.  Or who do this themselves.
Published 27 Jan 2015.  Melbourne VIC 3000 

24 May 2020

How Do I Move To France?

Deciding to move to France is an overwhelming thought. There are so many things to consider.

"How do I get a visa?"

"How difficult will it be to live in France if I don't speak French well enough?"

For me and like many other people, my dream was to live in Paris.

On my 21st birthday, my parents bought me a trip to the UK and to Paris. And walking around with my dad down the cobblestoned streets of Montmartre, I decided right then and there that I wanted to live in Paris.

I had one more year left of university, so as soon as I got back to Australia, I enrolled at the Alliance Française in St Kilda. I studied there for one year before moving to France.

Despite studying French language for a year, it was only 2 hours a week and together with study and work, I found it difficult to really immerse myself in the language and it was confronting once I arrived in France and was surrounded by it. I am also a shyer type of person and back in those days, I really struggled with feeling confident with my French.

The Alliance Française in Melbourne organised a home stay with a French family for the first month, which really helped me improve my level of French combined with he classes that I was taking.

I am going to expand this section of my blog to providing assistance and guidance with the bureaucracy of coming to live in France as it really is overwhelming.

1 Feb 2019

Nostalgia: A Home is Found on the Left Bank- My first blog post 2010

Here is my first blog post ever from 2010...

After weeks of pain-staking searching and running all over Paris, I have finally found an apartment to call home. Apartment hunting in the City of Light is a ruthless business. There are too many people searching and not enough apartments/rooms to go around. You have to be quick and ready to jump at it if you spot someplace you like. I met many a strange -or perhaps more appropriate words could include 'unique' or 'tres interessant' -person on my quest for a Parisienne adresse. And many a person who was willing to fight me for it. Ugh... give me a break!

There was one apartment I visited in the very prestigious 7eme, which would be shared with two other girls. The room was lovely but then the owner said 'oh oui, c'est vrai. Les deux autre filles aient acces a la salle de bains dans votre chambre.' : The two other girls would need to use the ensuite in my room to shower every day. Walk through my room, past the bed to the ensuite. 'Oh non Madame, c'est pas possible pour moi!'

A young French girl almost impaled me... yes, that's right, almost impaled me with the daggers in her eyes and on her tongue for another in the same chic 7eme. It was an interesting experience for me to attempt to talk back to someone in a foreign language... but at the end of the day, I was like 'hey, you can take it if you want it that much!'- I've got another 3 apartments to visit tomorrow!!

And I visited another which I think I could rightly call a 'shoebox'. It was 9 metres squared- it was entirely one room- with the shower placed nicely against the kitchen sink. Oh! And the toilet (a hole in the ground) was in the hall, which would be shared with 3-4 other apartments on the floor. Hmm... je pense, peut-etre pas! But it was fetching a rather hefty monthly price due to it's close proximity to Bir-Hakeim Metro and the Eiffel Tower.

Rue Mouffetard (lovingly nicknamed La Mouff) is one of the most famous and oldest streets (circa. the FIRST century) in Paris' Quartier Latin in the 5emeIt is a hip mecca for French students and tourists alike. Opening the door into the ancient building, which housed the apartment I was to visit, I felt like I was going back in time. Cobbled stone floor and walls, it was an amazing bit of history and architecture right here- but the actual apartment- well, not so much! I think my reaction after the owner opened the door was 'OH!' and then '...Oh...'.Yes, it was one of those 16th century buildings. Almost untouched by contemporary... well...anything. Need I say more?

And this is only a brief taste of a few of the beaucoup des appartementsI visited. It was difficult just getting more information out of someone about their apartments. Simple things such as sending some photos, answering questions about what is actually in the apartment ended up being a long trial. A lot of the time I received no answer or 'Oh yes, you could visit the apartment in person. But mmm... I'm not in Paris. I'm in... uh... the UK at the moment, so unfortunately you can't but happily send me the deposit anyway'. Woah, hang on a second! Oh, I would rather forget.

I am so happy and relieved that it is all over now. I have a lovely little studio apartment of my own. My very first apartment. It is amazing to think that my first apartment ever is in Paris with a balcony view of the Eiffel Tower!
My new home is located only blocks away from the Champ de Mars and the Seine. I love the area that it is in. Even though it is only walking distance to the Eiffel Tower, it is mostly residential- and not at all a touristy district. Everything I could possibly need is located in this quartier. Whether it be les restaurants, supermarches, boutiques, La Poste, les banques, boulangerie, boucherie, access to four Paris metro lines- it has everything. And yet, it is still a peaceful area to live.
Today, I went to sign the lease and pick up the keys. To my delight, I discovered that there is a twice-weekly market that is held right next to Dupleix Metro- 2 minutes from my front door. C'est Magnifique!
I will start moving tomorrow after I finish class (this will be my 5th week) at l'Alliance Francaise de Paris and officially begin living there the day after.

I have been living with a lovely French family for the past four weeks in Vanves, one of Paris' southern suburbs or Banlieues. I feel so priviliged and lucky that I was placed with this family. I have learnt so much about the culture and dynamics of what it is to live a real French lifestyle. The family have worked hard to include me and we have still been able to have some of the funniest and serious conversations- even though my French is not advanced.
They have two very eccentric pets- a dog and a cat, both with very strong (and according to the family- very francais) personalities and thus often ending in tres amusant situations and moments.

I have been forced to use all the French I know and have been learning at l'Alliance Francaise as the family can not speak/understand English apart from the odd word here and there.
It is an experience that I would never exchange for anything. It is one of the best things I could do. To really learn about a foreign country's culture and customs, you really should try and live and immerse yourself in it. That is truly how you can reach your maximum potential. If you ever get the chance or opportunity to do so, live it.
I think I was lucky enough to be in the 'transition period' of just completing a degree and beginning full-time employment to actually be able to do this. It is obviously not easy otherwise to just pack up your bags and head to France. And it is mon grand espoir that by the end of my time in France, I will be able to articulate myself proficiently with the family so I can carry on a more sophisicated conversation.
Not to mention, I have also acquired a very keen taste for les fromages!!! I've tasted cheese made from the milk of cows, goats and sheep. From all over France, from high up in the mountains (Pyrenees, and the Swiss Alps) soft, hard, doux, runny, mild, 'un petit peu' smelly and very, very, very strong. And always with a glass of red wine... c'est une bonne vie, non?