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Yongin Korea, Washington DC, & Chicago IL

Nice travel pictures of us. Bottom pic’s in Washington DC around 2006. Middle pic’s in Yongin (south of Seoul) Korea, 2011. Top one in Chicago, 2012.

Look at my mom’s scarf…

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형 축하드립니다!

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Family post reunion

I realize I haven’t really shared my experience about the first meeting between my Korean family and my parents. Although it was already planned for some time, I didn’t realize it was that big of a moment for everyone involved and I can remember my family was getting real nervous about meeting my parents for the first time. I kept telling them that my parents were really cool nice people. There’s nothing they should be worried about but I can understand their apprehension. I would be nervous too. My parents were a little hesitant as well, like unsure what to do in this completely new scene, something they had never been in before. For some reason, I was real cool about the whole meeting and knew it’d go fine. Which it was.

I should mention that one of the things I learned about my family was they never thought I would be raised by parents who were Deaf. They thought I would be raised by hearing parents. That was for 20 years. So, since my parents were deaf, I had to get an interpreter, which I was fortunate enough to find one. She was able to interpret Korean, English, ASL, and KSL all at once. Amazing woman! I will tell more about her at another time. Since I had already met my birth family back in 2002, then visited again in 2008 to see my newly born niece, and I got a chance to work in Korea for a year, I’ve gotten used to the presence of my family, as opposed to what it was in 2002 where it was all but uncertainty. Obviously, that wasn’t the case for both parties this time.

I must say that it took me a while to finally understand my parents’ initial pessimism about me discovering my family in Korea. Since my parents were born and raised in America where economy was a free market capitalism, I realize my parents were used to the idea of buy-it-and-it-is-yours. They carried that kind of mentality over to adoption as they worked hard to save money to be able to afford adoption. When they finally adopted me as their only child, they thought I’m all theirs and nothing will ever take that away. Needless to say, they were very taken aback when I discovered my birth family in Korea in 2002 and they didn’t know what to do or what to say. My mom mostly said nothing but my dad would remind me that you were let go for adoption and we got you and provided you a good care and home. That’s the thing about my parents, as they were raised on capitalism ideals and also Christianity in that you be nice to kids and provide shelter. I didn’t want to have too big of a confrontation and I kind of let things settle by themselves. And I was busy with school stuffs anyway. After a while, we had gotten used to the realization that I had a family in Korea after all and what’s more, my sister was deaf and married to her husband who was deaf too. So, I was very curious about that part and my first question was exactly how deaf were they? do they use sign language to communicate? or were they more like hard of hearing in that they were able to communicate by talking and do not know any sign language? since both parents and I used ASL, so I wondered if they used KSL. Do they experience similar frustrations that most deaf people generally experience in life? I had questions like that and I basically waited till I met them for the first time and I would get all my answers.

My brother asked me, “So, your parent are going to visit here during Christmas time?” I said yes. He said “Okay, I wanted to make dinner plans for us.” So, we talked about that and what would be a good dinner for everyone. We finally came down to a traditional Korean food cuisine and we made a nice dinner reservation in the Gangnam district, which was pretty upscale. At that time, I kind of knew that we wouldn’t be thinking too much about dinner — it was just a setting for us to meet and since my parents were a first time visitor to Korea, at this dinner, they didn’t have to decide and order dishes, as waitress would keep bringing different dishes onto the table. I also thought my brother or my family could explain some dishes and recommend them, as a way to break the ice. When we arrived at the place, the restaurant looked very nice. It had a nice Korean architecture going on and we were seated inside a traditional Korean room with doors that shut. We were dressed nice and finally, it’s time to start introductions.

Deep inside, I must say it was a big moment for me because this was something I had imagined so many times in my mind, and sometimes, in my dreams. I really wanted for both my parents and my family to meet each other. It finally all came down to that and to my own fortune, I got an interpreter who knew all languages needed to facilitate communication over the dinner table. As it turned out, my niece was the perfect ice breaker as we all looked at her and said words to describe how cute she was. It didn’t take very long before we would talk about my adoption and that my family wanted to take a moment to say a big thanks and how grateful they were for me to be adopted by them, my parents. The foods would arrive and naturally, my parents had trouble identifying which kinds were they and since my dad liked food, he would try them all. My parents had to let the interpreter know that they didn’t know how to use chopsticks, so she informed the waitress and she got some western utensils for my parents. That got everyone to laugh. My parents told my family they had the best times raising me and that it was a blessing to them and wouldn’t have it any other way. My mom brought some pictures of me as a young kid and showed to them. My dad seemed to be having a nice time talking with my sister and she was trying to teach my dad some KSL signs and my sister’s husband already knew some ASL, so they were able to carry a conversation on their own. I knew my mom wasn’t as gregarious as my dad, she’s more on the sensitive side and can be emotional, so I kept checking on her and making sure she’s all right. I think I know my mom better than anyone else and I would often reassure her. My mom had some curious questions to ask the birth mother, especially when I first arrived in the U.S. The interpreter interpreted and the birth mother tried to answer them as best as she could but frankly, it was a very long time ago, and obviously emotional, so she couldn’t remember all of it. I realize it wasn’t that important to remember the past exactly. The point was that we’re all here, able to share dinner together, talking, and counted our blessings.

All in all, dinner went very well and my parents thought the Korean dinner cuisine was interesting and that the walled room and no chairs made up for a neat atmosphere, obviously Korean. My family told my parents that this kind of dinner was very similiar to what the kings from the Joseon dynasty would normally have in their dinner. My mom said “oh really, wow!”

The night was still young and we wanted to talk more, so we walked to a nice coffee place not far from the restaurant and we got our coffee there. My dad thought the coffee was very good, impressed by the barista who made it for him and told him to please enjoy the coffee. And that would be how our reunion went.



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Niece and me at the Jeju island beach

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My niece

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Prior to meeting my family in 2002, my previous knowledge about Korea was pretty much to nothing other than being “found” at the police station, according to adoption documents and that’s all my adoptive parents knew too. For much of my life, I took that as a fact and did not really think much about it. But then over the time, it seemed natural that I’d start to ask questions about myself like what does my parents look like or whether if I have siblings. As for my siblings, I remember having a strong feeling about them and I remember not believing that I was an only child in my biological family and that I must have had a brother or sister. Sure enough, when I met my siblings in 2002, my sister told me she spent some time with me (she was six years old) and helped carry me on her back at times.


How one family consumes information

I remember you.

“I remember you.” were the words my sister signed to me after we were finally reunited and as an adoptee who was “temporarily gone” from home for more than 18 years, ofc, I had questions to ask. “Do you remember me?” was one of those more immediate questions.

I remember when I was growing up, I’d often play sports with non-asian people, and during evenings with my parents, I watched TV. It was a good thing that TV had closed captioning and that it was always turned on. My parents were deaf too. My dad used to sell Zenith TVs, and had the big analog satellite in the backyard and installed a black box to access all channels like HBO. 4 pm to 5 pm was the reserved time for my mom to watch ‘Days of our Lives’ soap opera and she’s never missed an episode. If there was ever Jeopardy on the topic, she’d sweep the column.

I was their only child and as an only child, deep down inside, I’ve always felt that I couldn’t be an only child and felt strongly that I had siblings and by this, I often wondered about my birth family. It was quite like the movie, Star Wars, with Luke Skywalker sensing the Force with his sister, Princess Leia. That remained unknown till I received the news that my family had been discovered and that I indeed had a brother and sister. I was happy to know that. However, I still needed to confirm to make sure that they’re really my birth family (there were cases that required DNA testing to confirm, for example.) What’s more was that my sister is deaf, like me, so that vastly increased the odds that we’re family.

As I was visiting around in Korea, the mother took me to visit the orphanage where I stayed for about a year before I was adopted. The orphanage was one of those last memories I had in Korea and still could remember. I remember I played a lot with balloons—it made those loud sounds when you try to rub it. They had a high balcony with big windows and I would try to crawl up onto the balcony and see the world out there. Out in the world, there would be a white van coming up in front of the fence and then a man came around the van to the back and hauled something out of it and a white cloud of steam would come out. I had no idea what that was and I also remember that some of young faces would be missing, so I thought maybe the guy took them in and went somewhere.

The building still looked exactly the same as if it never changed except for the trees that had gotten bigger, like me. Built with red, auburn bricks, it had a small playground with swings inside the fence. I met up with Director who oversaw the orphanage. He was the same guy who took me in and one thing he said caught my attention was that I was the only deaf child they had and there hadn’t been another orphan after me who was also deaf. So, a further evidence that I was the same child that he had overseen. Then, I saw the white van coming up in front and a guy came around to get something out of the rear. It was food he was delivering to the orphanage. So much for kidnapping the children.

During one evening, I asked my sister if she remembered me. She said yes, and she was six years old when I had been taken away. She said she’d remember the orphanage, that place with red, auburn bricks. We actually had gone there a few times, as the parents debated whether to give me up and when that day came, my sister didn’t come with me. That information was never communicated by the parents but the absence of their youngest brother was obvious enough that he’s not going to be back anytime soon.

So, when I signed to my sister and she signed back at me, that was enough of a confirmation to know we’re family after all.

My baby niece

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Happy birthday and retirement, Dad!

Out of all things what I can get for my dad’s birthday and his retirement, I think the best gift I can get for him is this, other than a plane ticket to surprise him at home.

My dad turns 57 years old today; we’re 30 years apart so that makes it easy to remember. This one is probably his best one ’cause he gets to retire! he worked for 31 years at the United States Postal Service. He was a mail handler and for the last five or six years, he worked the forklift. To be frank, I was a little depressed to hear what did he get out of this. All he got was a plaque that’s made of paper and a cake to go with it. That’s it. Not even an ounce of cheese, summer sausage, celery, carrot or a single cracker. Zilch. Just a cake for my dad. He had a clean record—no suspensions or late warnings—and had more than 500 sick hours to spare.

It was only two weeks ago that my team and I had a nice team outing. We went to this cool indoor go-kart racing where we put on racing uniforms and helmets, then had some pizza and soda for lunch. What a contrast. The speaker box blasted on after a half hour of celebration, telling everyone to go back to work. So, after working for more than thirty years for P.O, ensuring that every box goes to your door on time, my dad’s retirement party was over in less than a half hour.

I’d like to share a story about how my dad wound up at the P.O. He used to work as a printer, along with his good friend who was also deaf. They were good workers who do their jobs well and would know exactly if something went wrong. It could be as obvious as ink running out or as small as a nut getting loose. My dad would see that easily and go to fix it. keeping the whole facility equipment running, which kept the business going and ultimately, for managers to be happy.

For some time, I wonder why did my dad decide to make a jump to work at the P.O. I found out it was because of me. When it came to a time for my parents to have a child, they already knew they couldn’t have a child so they wanted to adopt. After they’ve found a child to adopt and that, of course, came with a cost. My dad knew they couldn’t afford the adoption, had he stayed at the printing so he applied and got the job. His math skill helped him out. He had to work on weekends, had Wed., and Thurs. off and worked overnight because it paid more than the daytime. He thought he would eventually work in the daytime but he never did, though he did have better days off – on Fri and Sat. and he was the last employee to have those such days off.

For the first year or two, my parents didn’t see each other much but that didn’t bother them, they had the same goal, which was to save up money to afford the adoption. At that time in 1984, the cost was eight grand (18k in today’s value). They were able to save 6 grand, two thousand dollars short but when the agency found out that I was deaf, they slashed it by half, to four thousands. Ha, I’m a bargain child, so to speak.

With those said, I’m ecstatic to see my dad retired and I hope he’ll enjoy his retirement and do whatever he wants. Happy birthday and retirement, Dad. This is yours.

I’m an uncle!

Got an email from my sis, 수빈, that she now has a baby girl! 5 months old.

Learning some 한글 must have worked. All the more reason to go visit Korea soon and study 한글 every night. :-)

나 종일

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Grandmother Madeline Kester obituary, 1930-2007

I’d like to share the passing of my grandmother who died peacefully at one o’clock am, Sunday the 18th of November, 2007.

“Madeline F. Kester, 77, of Chatham, IL died Sunday, November 18th, 2007 at St. John’s Hospice. She was born February 3rd, 1930 at Friedheim, MO to Ben and Edna Moore Kayser. She married Harold Wilbur Kester in 1948; he preceded her in death in 1999 as well as her parents, 3 brothers and 3 sisters.

Mrs. Kester, a registered nurse was last employed at Memorial Medical Center where she worked for 18 years. Prior to becoming a nurse, she worked 15 years at the Warren-Boynton State Bank in New Berlin, IL. She graduated from Perryville High School and Perryville School of Practical Nursing, Springfield College, and St. John’s School of Nursing. She was a Member of St. John’s Lutheran Church in Chatham and a Memorial Medical Center volunteer.

She is survived by her son H. Wayne (wife Pamela) Kester of New Berlin, grandson Nathan Kester of Mountain View, California, and sister Nell Kieninger of Pocahontas, MO.

Her family will greet relatives and friends from 9 am, until time of services at 10:30 am Tuesday, November 20 at St. John’s Lutheran church, 1225 N. Main, Chatham. Revs. Clarence Rogers and Thomas Philips officiating. Burial at Chatham Memorial Cemetery. Contributions may be made to the St. John’s Lutheran Church in Chatham or the American Heart Association.

Staab Polk Memorial Home, 201 S. Main, Chatham, IL is serving the family.”

She was a dear grandmother to me who gave her unconditional love and support. I thank her for all my success.

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Birthday card from my parents

Heh my dad is funny. One quarter and a penny. 26.

Sent via BlackBerry from Cingular Wireless

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my Korean family

Here are some pics of my Korean family when I visited in 2001. Cool fact: my sister is deaf.

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