Learning to Listen

yesterday i was hanging out with a group of adopted koreans, and we started looking through my kamp kimchee pictures. when we came upon the picture of the two white siblings, i again referred to them as two of my most enthusiastic campers. someone added, “and it doesn’t cost them anything to be there.” i responded, “actually, i think the parents do have to pay for the second child to attend kamp too. i think they pay like $100 for the first one and then- ” and everyone cut me off:

“psychological cost!!!”

i’m obviously still learning, and this event again spoke to me as to why it’s important to be immersed, involved, and aligned with the community that you wish to study. who knows if it were a different time of day or if i hadn’t just had a conversation about the economic aspect of kamp kimchee i might have immediately thought of the psychological, not financial cost, of attending kamp as well.

even before i started filling out IRB (institutional review board to help protect human subjects against intentional or unintentional exploitation by researchers) forms for my adoption-related research, i’ve been thinking about what it means to study a real, living community of people. my research is mostly on the literature that purports to represent a group of people, but i don’t see how i can divorce the real, lived realities of adoptees with the ways they’re talked about in literature, be it for children, young adults or adults. i proactively seek out opportunities to become more immersed in adoptive communities because i want my research to be grounded in reality. i don’t say these things to show that “i have real korean adopted friends, therefore i’m qualified to study transracial adoption,” but the reality is that our friendships have profoundly affected the ways i think about my research, and made me even more passionate about what i do, especially when i hear their reactions to my work.

i’m still learning, and i know this is a process, not a destination. the good news is i think i’m on my way.

here’s where i’ve been all week: 2007 International Korean Adoptee Associations Gathering

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