Preparations from your Founder – Debbie Cook
As Carlisle is a long way up North for many of you Southern softies to travel I was delighted that Kate decided to visit me in January. This visit allowed us the opportunity to discuss an alternative venue in London for the March reunion instead of imposing on the generosity of BAAF who had allowed us to use their premises for free in the past but we considered that the time was now right for our group to become self sufficient. After much discussion we selected St Paul’s Community Centre, Marylebone, London as a suitable venue after Sue had checked out the location.
On this occasion it was necessary for me to pay the hiring fee in advance using my own money therefore in future it will be necessary for members to please register their intention to attend a reunion and pay the necessary fee in advance. I realise that sometimes it is difficult to make a commitment in advance but without your continued support either I will be out of pocket or we will not be unable to hold our reunions as frequently as we have in the past. Thank you to those who did register and pay promptly on this occasion.
Once again I would also like to thank Kate for her professionalism in preparing the program for the day and her continued support! May I also thank both Claire & Sue who sampled the food and found the Thai Restaurant ‘Monkey and Me’ for our social evening meal, which was enjoyed by all.
I started this reunion by driving from Carlisle to Northumberland to collect Janet and then down to London staying at a Premier Inn over the weekend. As some of you are aware Janet has a reputation for knowing all the good tearooms along the A1 so plenty of stops were in order, thank you.
On our arrival at the Premier Inn we were greeted by Kim, Ian, and Linda who had already arrived. Pete and Lyn came a little later but they went to see a show, whilst the rest of us were joined by Yvonne for dinner on Friday, sadly she could not join us at the reunion itself, so it was a real treat that we could have some time with her.
On Saturday we had a leisurely breakfast at the Premier Inn and a taxi ride to the venue which was a fabulous idea, thank you Pete. A big thank you to those who arrived early and helped to arrange the seating and set out the refreshments too. Although the numbers were less than at previous reunions it was a lovely intimate gathering and we were able to sit in a circle which made the sharing more enjoyable. Kate started the day by outlining the program and then we set about our first item on the agenda.
My sincere apologies for not being able to talk much on the Saturday but as you guessed I was experiencing extreme problems with my voice box, but I will answer questions quite happily on email for the moment regarding the website. My husband has never had it so quiet for a long time!
Linda’s account of the day – Thank you
With news of the 2014 reunion approaching I eagerly look forward to the meeting of the other girls and to share time together. All the London Reunions have all been different with some familiar faces and some new faces. We have been so fortunate in the past to be able to hold the venue at the offices of Julie Feast work place. This time the venue was at
The church was a lovely building with plenty of space for us to move around it, even though the numbers were down from previous reunions. We were also slightly out of the London zone 1 and zone 2 area but the place was easy to find.
We arrived in plenty of time on a cold and windy day and had to wait for the doors to be opened.
While we all waited outside and exchanged conversations a café was found around the corner so a few of us went there to warm up.
Once inside we were greeted by Tracy, Kate’s sister at the registration table. It always makes you feel more comfortable to see familiar faces greet you in. We had all brought in our own lunches so before we settled into the gathering there were friendly exchanges going on and it was like seeing long lost friends. It was all very informal and this made this reunion much more relaxed and gave room for more openness.
We were divided into two rows according to our first names, then we had to say a few things about the person on our left. I said a few things about Kate Gordon with a little bit of help as Kate is from West Bromwich not Birmingham and I mentioned about visiting the Library at Birmingham as I really enjoyed going there.
We were divided into three groups and we had to write down three negative things about adoption and three positive things. This took some thinking on my behalf as I found that I had more positive than negative. To try and summarise into a single word I thought would be easier. All this was collected and stuck onto the wall for us to read afterwards.
A group discussion was led by Julia Feast about what we had written. It was interesting to have feed back from other people and to be able to share this is in an open discussion. What was most interesting was that there was some common comments such as the lack of culture, lack of language, lack of identity and belonging. Some of the positives was education, a family structure, love and support from a family, and security. The list is endless of pros and cons. I feel sometimes that these things are not talked about enough, how being adopted affected you through the stages of your life from early childhood through to your teens and growing up to an adult and becoming a parent yourself.
We are all on a journey and it’s through what we learn from our immediate peer or our family structure or our friends do we become who we are. As we are far likely to be more influenced by the people we are with on a regular basis. I feel that this has been so for me. People come and go into and out of your life but they are all put there for a reason. I feel that these reunions contribute to our making and we learn how to move on and relish new friendships and share common experiences. To me it’s a healing and a nurturing process, at times I have not wanted to know where I come from nor did I ever want to return back to Hong Kong. Having since gone back to Hong Kong I’m so glad that I was able to share the experience with my other sister’s for I know that I couldn’t of done It on my own.
This is how I see the reunions I find them very daunting and over powering at times I’m very much an introvert and prefer my own company. But I do enjoy the banter and to hear the cheerfulness around the place. And it’s always reassuring to know that we belong and have another family.
I think it’s the sense of belonging that I cherish the most as I have struggled with this throughout my life and I think you learn to become self reliant but the need to share with others with things in common is also a comforting thought. This is why being part of the reunions has been such an eye opener for me and has helped to change my way of thinking.
We can’t change the past but we can change our future and make a difference. This is what I feel.
Thanking for all the reunions and all the reunions to come.
Claire’s Account of the March Reunion
We had another fantastic reunion last Saturday in London. For the first time we hired a hall to cater for our increasing numbers because Kate Gordon likes to get us up and around. No sitting on your arse and gently nodding off when she’s in charge, no siree. Debbie Cook’s voice packed up and went sightseeing while she was trying to tell us important stuff – like a special members’ area on the HKAN website. Fortunately, she had the foresight to anticipate such absence and arranged for our very own Julia Feast of the British Association for Adoption & Fostering (BAAF to me and thee) to facilitate.
And before we know it, we’re on our feet (thanks, Kate) attempting to shuffle ourselves into alphabetical order by first name. Which was nothing compared to the next challenge which was to arrange ourselves into three groups. Now, tell me, have you ever tried to herd twenty plus menopausal women? Julia was valiant in her attempt. She went down the line assigning us each with a number: 1, 2, 3, 1, 2, 3 and, in theory, all the ones get together, followed by the twos…until some bright spark introduced the concept of a fourth table. To be fair, the goal was achieved. We were mixed up alright.
Lo and behold, some time later (I’ve always been rubbish at estimating time), brightly coloured post-its appeared over the walls each listing three positive aspects of our adoption and three losses as a result of it. Themes emerge and here’s the value of our regular get gatherings. These themes are our shared experiences. We grew up alone mostly. In a few cases only children, but in the majority, the sole Chinese child in a white family. Often the sole non-white person in the community or school. For fifty years, we faced these experiences on our own. Yes, some of us had supportive families, and later, supportive partners. Yes, the redheads, the four eyes and the unattractively well padded rallied to our side. But only we know what it’s like to be a Brit trapped in a Chinese body. Even BBCs (British Born Chinese), though often not being able to speak Chinese (no, really?) have Chinese relatives. Pooling coping mechanisms is valuable to this day for, even now, we face ignorance and taunts. On a previous occasion, Julia quoted one of us rising above the racism with the withering line, “Oh do grow up”. This time, our adoptee brother, a no nonsense Yorkshire lad, shared a recent story of being hassled in a pub. Challenging his abuser up close, right in his personal space, he demanded to know, “Were you born stupid or does it just come naturally?”
Xiao Li, from Mothers’ Bridge of Love, came to introduce us to her organisation. It was established by Xinran, a renowned Chinese writer and journalist, to provide opportunities for children adopted to white families around the world from China in the 90s to access their culture. She also outlined the charity’s other work which supports disabled children in China and library services in deprived areas. She also came to drum up support for a dragon boat to compete at the end of June sponsored by the Hong Kong Economic Trade Office. So those of us with a bit of derring do, get your oars out! I read out a letter from one of the nurses at Fanling Babies’ home which described our daily routine. Though basic, it was clear from her account how committed and loving the staff was. With limited resources, they nursed us back to health and cared for us until we went overseas. Debbie asked me to tell everyone what I was up to with my search for my birth family and my other little writing projects. You’ll notice the gap between the date when I started this report and the date it’s published. There in lies the road to hell and the good intentions…
Afterwards, we made our way on foot to Monkey and Me, a Thai restaurant not a million miles from Baker Street. Well, I say not a million miles but, when twenty odd (yeah, I know) Hong Kong adoptees gather to go anywhere; it’s a bit of an adventure. It would be logical to follow the person who lives in London but, everyone has now learned through first hand experience, that I have the sense of direction of an inebriated swallow on migration. I am pathologically incapable of reading a map and, indeed, had even set off with great confidence in the wrong direction when trying to get the mere stone’s throw from Marylebone station to the church hall earlier. So we followed Sue Jardine instead, who had generously given up time to research local eateries. Imagine, then, the surprise of those in the advanced party, seated in the restaurant, noses pressed to the window, observing us march on by on the opposite side of the road. In all fairness, Sue had only been once and we distracted her terribly with wayward theories as to where we were. It doesn’t help that London street signs are few and far between and we’re blind as bats and can’t read them. For those of us not based in London, we can pull the old tourist trick. For those of us that are? Well, thank heaven we can gather regularly in our support group and forever be Adoptees Anonymous.
And Kate last few words…….
Thank you to both Linda, Claire and Kate, and a big thank you to Julia Feast for agreeing to Facilitate the meeting. Thank you to Ian our resident photographer but most of all a big Thank you to all.