Wednesday, March 17, 2010

the language barrier

I received a letter from each birth parent last Friday.

Of course, someone else had to translate the letters from Hangul into English so that I could actually read them.

But once I could read them, both letters were parturient with deep emotion and longing. Even after a year has passed since the News, so much remains unfinished, incomplete, and almost desperate at times.

The rift of the language differences remains expansive and not easily bridged. I am grieved deeply by the inability to communicate with them directly, yet I am equally UNmotivated to learn the language. I know it is what I need to do if ever I am to have a functional, more normalized relationship with each parent. But I seem to shrink back and somewhat wither beneath the heat of such intense pressure.

Even though it was only six months ago that I last saw my Omma and my Appa, the language barrier makes the months seem like years.

For instance, I don't actually get the chance to visit my Mom and Dad but once a year or every other year, yet we can talk on the phone at any time. I can fire off an email to them whenever I'm thinking of them. We can talk weekly or daily, and hence, close the distance that would otherwise corrode and steal away the time that we must be apart.

But with my Omma and Appa, time apart is truly time lost. I cannot simply pick up the phone and ask my Omma, "How was your day? What have you been up to?" I cannot call up my Appa and have a conversation about how each of us has been spending our time over the past month or week. The time is lost.

Rather, we communicate in truncated, concentrated chunks of information, saturated with emotion.

So, although we have "reunited," it is as though we cannot move past the initial stages. Our relationships remain somewhat stunted and unable to grow.

However, I am not complaining nor am I taking for granted the incredible opportunity I have to even be able to deal with such a dilemma.

It is simply the reality of the situation. Although I feel very fortunate and grateful to have found those whom I thought were lost forever, I would be lying if I said that it's easy, or that it's everything that I ever dreamed it would be.

The dream of finding my biological parents has no doubt been realized. Now, the dream of having a functional, healthy relationship with each of them--well, that remains to be seen. I am ever hopeful, but one never hopes for what one already has. The very nature of hope is to seek after that which seems intangible, untouchable.

Ultimately, I suppose all that I am saying--like I always say--is that being an adoptee, particularly one who is in post-reunion, is not the fairy tale that some would be inclined to assume.

It just is.


5 comments:

Mia_h_n said...

My first thought was that knowing it could help bridge the gap, learning Korean would be on top of you list.
But hearing you talk about it I could really relate. It's BECAUSE it could bridge the gap, that it's so difficult. The pressure makes the task SO daunting that it tips the motivation scale, and would make me stagnate.

Melissa said...

The emotional pressure is immense, but even just practically-speaking, it's so challenging. Becoming truly fluent in a language most often requires immersion in the language, among its native speakers. Er, I'm not exactly in a place that permits that kind of immersion...*simultaneous-smile-and-grimace*

Mei Ling said...

"I cannot simply pick up the phone and ask my Omma, "How was your day? What have you been up to?""

I would love to be able to do that with my mother.

I made one call back in mid-September. The long-distance transmission made it nearly impossible to hear anything, much less attempt to communicate. As soon as I hung up the phone, it felt like I had lost her all over again.

So yeah, I know what you mean when you say the months feel like years.

Mei Ling said...

"I am grieved deeply by the inability to communicate with them directly, yet I am equally UNmotivated to learn the language"

OMG, this, yes.

Baba: You need to learn Chinese.
Me: It's difficult!
Baba: Go back to Canada, study Chinese, return to Taiwan.
Me: I can't study in Canada. In Canada I often can't use it. No opportunity.
Baba: "Can't use it"... you go back to Canada, study hard, return to Taiwan! Baba will like you!

Cute in a way, but physically daunting.

Melissa said...

Mei-Ling, sometimes I feel like a broken record because I write about the language barrier repeatedly.

But I know you understand. It never ceases to be a significant difficulty in this whole process. Communication with my Omma & Appa right now is only by letter via translation by a third party. Hence, communication is slow and limited.

Every once in a while I'll get random text messages from my Appa, but the extent of his English is about the extent of my Korean, which is really nothing but a handful of words and key phrases. My Omma does not have a my phone number just yet, although she recently requested it. I'm still not sure what I'm going to do [it's complicated...as always].