My second trip back to Incheon was more difficult then the first. Overall we were able to tackle some more of the footwork in confirming information and narrowing the area that it was found. At the end of the day, I guess I felt the enormity of my endeavor and that feeling was a bit suffocating.
I was so fortunate that my friend Andrea knew someone that could go with me earlier then my original Friday plan. It really was blessing to be able to do some of the footwork and follow up done so that I could maximize my time on this trip. Sarah is a Korean American that has lived in the country for 10 years and she is fluent in the culture and language which is wonderful The key component though with having a Korean American is that she has the mindset to ask the follow up questions on her own and is a bit more “pushy” and outgoing then the typical cultural Korean. So that was a key ingredient on this trip.
Our first stop was to go back to the elderly center that we had found the gentleman that said that he was the neighbor to the big house that I was found at. When we arrived at the elderly center much to our surprise we found that it was 100% all women. Our previous encounter we had visited mostly men. This was a good thing because we were hoping that the women might have been more connected in the community and might have known what was going on “inside” the homes. We were greeted by some of the most open, giving, helpful women that I have met so far on this trip. A few women had remembered me from my first visit and they invited us to come in and sit down to talk to them.
Most of the women were around from the area that I was found. We had asked them about the “larger” house that I was found in and they remembered the house but couldn’t give me any more of a description other then that they remembered that it existed. Most of the women lived in the neighboring village. We learned that back in the olden days that finding a baby on your doorstep was considered a gift and you were supposed to take the child in and raise them as your own. Which might be a reason why my mother left me at the doorstep of a home that she thought might be take me in. I guess at some point there was also a large discussion on why that family didn’t take me in. But I imagine at that time there may have been lots of “packages” left on their front door step during that time. The ladies shared that there was an elderly woman (about 85) that was from the exact village that I was from and that she might know something more.
When the older woman arrived, we learned that a distant in-law worked at the catholic church during that time processing the paperwork for the babies . (It turned out that this is the same person that the photographer contacted to see if there was any other paperwork for my case.) It goes to show that this community is small, that paths are crossing, and that I am creating a buzz in the community. I am still waiting to see if there is a second page to my police report.
One of the Halmoni’s (grandmother in Korean) quietly said that someone in her family had given up a baby during that time. I don’t know what the outcome was but it was interesting that she had someone in her own family that had left a baby. She was quiet after that confession and I think that she was processing the emotions that my visit stirred up.
Later another woman came in and she said that a cousin had also abandoned a baby and she thought that I looked like her. So she called her son to come down to the elderly center to come and look at the information for himself. They had abandoned a baby though and not a 13 month old so the circumstances would have been complicated. He ended up coming down and he said that said that it was not a match. This was the second lady in the small group though that had had a family member abandon a baby during that time period.
After giving us a few leads of local businesses that people from the community frequent they invited us to have lunch with them. They were so welcoming and wanted to “give me a good experience” by having a real Korean meal. It was all very sweet.
Here is a photo of our lunch and I managed to snap a quick shot of the some of the ladies.
There was also my favorite Halmoni— She was tiny and had white hair with the energy of a 16 year old. She would bounce around the from person and talk to them about my situation and she always had a smile on her face. My friend from Koroot, Malena, was along for this trip and was able to video most of the encounter so I hope that I can get some of the footage and share this experience. It was very special. At one point, because we had the camera, the ladies said that if this film makes it to Hollywood that I had to invite them to the US. It is not that kind of film but either way, they were all giddy with the just the idea. I had also brought a small photo album of my life growing up and of course photos of my kids. They were a BIG hit.
I loved meeting these ladies and will cherish that time with them forever. I sincerely felt like if the knew something that they would have told me. I also know that they will talk about this meeting at least for a few days and hopefully that will inspire more new information.
After that we had a series of strange encounters. We ran into another woman that randomly had asked what we were doing and then spent the next 20 min talking my translators ear off. Evidently when she was she had a child and stayed at home and at some point the elders took the baby and gave her away without her knowledge. She has recently reunited with her daughter and she wanted to take over our search. While looking at my poster she kept telling me that I needed to put my mother’s name on the poster and even the address that I was found in. (seriously?? ….this is where I smile and stop my eyes from rolling.)
We then went to the Community Center that holds public records such as address information. Unfortunately our new friend decided to come along and she took my map and asked all the questions. It was a little frustrating and annoying. I did feel for her situation but she was monopolizing my limited time that I had that day (we only had a 4 hour day today) We were able to get a map of the area and the location where that address is/was. We still need to confirm that that address was in the same place 30 years ago. (Back in the days buildings were numbered in the order that they were built and not by the location, so buildings that were next to each other may not have consecutive house numbers. Also , I was told, that area was totally knocked down and rebuilt so it would be strange if the house was rebuilt in the exact location. I still need to check out this information)
Here is the Map of the alleged area that I was found. Information has yet to be confirmed.
We finally did find a way to part ways with her and there was a moment when she didn’t want to give me the map back! I almost lost my mind. But she took a photo of it with her phone and finally gave it back.
From there we followed a few dead leads, posted a few flyers and made our way to the area on the map that I was specifically found. At this point we were running low on time so we went to the one local grocery store that EVERYONE said was the grocery store for that area. We posted quite a few poster and talked to the store owner about keeping my posters up for awhile.
This is the market that everyone told us to go to. We posted 4 flyers in this area just to be sure that if someone did shop here that they would notice them.
We did tackle the elderly center right behind the store and I think that we interrupted their singing time but they were a little negative and told me that none of them were around that area in the late 70s and that all the local residents were not around during that time. (of course this was a few women that spoke for the large group…so who really knows)… But yet another conflicting report.
My Reflections on this Day
I guess what is so frusturating is that my search is based on such limited information. Then any leads that I have been able to get are based on memories of people that are in their 70s and 80s. When I try to verify that information it is exceptionally difficult to find records that date back to that time period. I was kind in an area ravaged by the war (see the Battle of Incheon) where the Anti Communist finally started to turn the war around. I learned today that right after the Korean War that Korea was THE poorest country in the world. So it isn’t the greatest set up for finding solid information. When I do find information it seems to be conflicting information so it is so frustrating. I feel like I am running through a complex maze and just when I think that I am getting somewhere I turn the corner and I am right back where I started.
The other thing is that when I left after my first trip home, I felt like I needed to come back to really do some active searching so that I could at least say that I had done my part in searching and the rest was up to God. But now that I am here and I trying so hard and getting nowhere, I am questioning — I am “doing the right thing?” and or am I “doing enough?”
The good thing is that I am staying at a place with a great support system. I am surrounded my people that understand the frustrations because they have been there before, they get the emotional roller coaster that this is, they get how difficult this is on your body and soul….they get it.
So after a good nights sleep I went on a fun adventure to the DMZ with my Koroot friends. It was a really fun day. I will post more photos later. Now it is time to try and come up with a game plan for the coming friday…and a little more eating, shopping and fun. 😉