This video beautifully supports my recent rambles (No I Am Not Filippina) about people asking where I am from. I HAVE had people ask me that exact question: “Where are your people from?” Some have gone on to tell me their favourite Thai dishes or what parts of Thailand they have traveled to. I always thank people when they compliment my English…
This video has been circulating around Facebook so I thought, ‘why not share it with my readers too’?
I love that such a serious topic can be shared in a humorous format.
I can’t believe it’s JUNE tomorrow, time is a flying!
As promised here is my post on growing up…with brown skin and being Thai.
As I have mentioned in previous posts, my skin is brown while everyone else in the MacWilliam family has white skin. I never remember it being an issue growing up. It was not until I moved to British Columbia, Canada that I noticed how many people took an interest in my nationality. Working as a salesclerk kept me in constant contact with the public. People would stare at my face then very bluntly ask me if I was Filipina. Upon hearing the answer they would have one of two reactions: defensively reply with “Oh you look Filipina” and drop the subject. Or they would keep listing off different countries and imploring me to reveal the truth. Many would accuse me about lying. Insist that I was Filipina. When this first began happening in my late teens I thought it was weird. It had never happened to me as a child and now it was becoming a regular thing. Some people would go as far as to ask how long I had lived in Canada and how I liked living here?
The more I got bombarded with these questions the more frustrated and angry I became. Isn’t Canada the country made up of a cultural mosaic? With the population of over 34million, why would so many people be curious about me? I know I could take these peoples’ interest as humbling and complimentary but I DON’T. I find them invasive and act very hostile when put in the confrontational situations. Here’s why…well I will try to make my explanation as straightforward and easy to understand as possible; but I myself am still trying to understand my strong reactions.
When I answer to people that I am Thai I feel like I am defending myself. My identity. Why does it matter to them? They so strongly believe they know who I am but they don’t. How can they know who I am when I barely know myself? No one ever asks me if I am Thai. Filipina is the most commonly asked but I have been asked a dozens of others too. While reading Sarah Armstrong and Petrina Slaytors book, The Colour of Differences Journey in Transracial Adoptions I was awed by how much of the material I relate to. I wish that I had read it years ago like this part,
“Confusing situation of “not being what they seem” has resulted in many awkward and uncomfortable situations and has also resulted in being forced to disclose their adoptive status to many strangers.”
Whenever I tell inquiring minds that I am Thai, it is never enough information for them. Naturally people want to always be right, they need concrete evidence to disprove their theory. I used to try to explain as briefly as possible that I am in fact Thai but was adopted AND HAVE LIVED IN CANADA almost my whole life. Feeling defensive and awkward is not something I wish to be doing with strangers. Why does it matter? Them asking me is putting me on the spot!
I recently finished reading A.M Homes memoir about being adopted and how she reunited with her birth parents as an adult. The Mistress’s Daughter had candid bits I thoroughly enjoyed, “I used to believe that every question deserved an answer, I used to feel obligated to answer everything as fully and honestly as
possible. I don’t anymore.”
That’s also how I feel now about answering peoples’ questions. I KNOW when someone wants to ask me a question. I can see when people are sizing me up and trying to find the right moment to begin being intrusive. Sometimes I simply reply with, “No” and divulge no other details and sometimes I feed them a few details to digest. More often then not we begin a conversation about how they were wrong – but what an interesting story I do have. I have had people want to sit beside me on public transit to talk to me about where I live and how long I have lived in Canada. I remember a time when I was shopping at downtown Victoria with Bizzle and a lady followed me around because she wanted to know if I was Filippina. I answered no but she kept prying for more information. She literally felt the need to tail us until she realized the answer was going to stay a no. In Nanaimo, people would come to my work place and tell me the names of people they thought were my parents or siblings. I had told them my parents were Canadian but they still did not believe me! They were insistent that I was Filippina Just the other day at the grocery store I felt blocked in an aisle when an elderly man asked if I was Maori. When I told him I was Thai-Canadian he would not let me pass until I had revealed a more sufficient amount of information.
I am beginning to realize the more I read about the topic of adoption and experience “life” the better I am understand these feelings of hostility. The reason I get so annoyed with people invading my personal bubble is because I feel inadequate with my answer. YES I know I am Thai but I don’t know…how Thai. Was my Mom and Dad Thai? Am I only a quarter, half, full Thai? Yes I was born in Thailand but I have more of a cultural understanding of what it is to be Canadian than that of my home country. My lack of cultural awareness has definitely festered away at me over time. NONE of my friends or brothers ever get asked where they are from! Asking me if I am: Filipina, Malaysia, Maori, Indonesian, Chinese, Indian makes me feel inadequate. I just don’t like it and I don’t know if I ever will.
When my friends or coworkers are around they try to buffer the situation because they know how much it annoys me. Some still find it funny, others are in awe of it, but I so appreciate them helping to diffuse or end the conversation. Even thought I can’t deter people from asking but I still have the power in deciding how much I share with people about myself. If the questions continue to persist I hope to find some inner peace and not feel so on edge about them.
I don’t really know if I explained myself very well here but I am happy I got to explain a little bit more about myself. Thanks for reading and I hope I did not bore you to sleep.
During one of my English classes in College, my teacher assigned us all narrative essays. It would be used as a writing sample and help her to access our growth by the end of the term. I thought I would share portions of my paper with you. This is not the completed original version as I deleted parts of it and tried to fluff out a few details.
Brown Eyed Blue Eyed
Throughout my twenty four years of life I have never needed to question the fact that I was adopted. Not once have I felt the need to ask my parents if I were blood related. The simple fact is that I have brown skin and prominent brown eyes and my two older brothers have white skin and blue/green eyes. Never have I felt compelled to question whether the woman I called, “Mom”, was actually biologically related to me. Our difference in blood never seemed to affect my bond with my two older brothers. In fact, our relationship continues to remain solid as the years go on.
My parents had two biological sons together before deciding to adopt a daughter. My eldest brother was born in 1984, followed seventeen months later by the birth of my other brother. I have never met my birth parents and know nothing about them. I have always called the adults that adopted me, “Dad and Mom”. They are the only parents and I know and the only people I consider deserving of the title of “my parents”. They discovered me at the Phayatai Orphanage also known as Babies home. The orphanage was located in Thailand’s metro region of Bangkok. Since the late 1990’s the orphanage merged with another orphanage named Pakkret. When the two orphanages merged together it took on the name of Phayatai Orphanage and became the largest one in Thailand. The lengthy adoption process for me to become a MacWilliam began in the middle of 1987.
My eldest brother is two years older than me, and the other is five months older. We grew up attending the same schools together. School is where I first started to realize I was “different” from my brothers. When I was not with them I always just assumed that people knew we were a family. My peers started to make assumptions about my family. It was never a second thought to me that the two boys I had grown up practically my whole life with were my brothers. Classmates who did not know the inner workings of my family would immediately jump to the conclusion that my whole family was Thai. Most would become beyond shocked when I would state that my brothers were both over six feet tall and had blue/green eyes. They would take my statement as a silly joke or some mistake I had just uttered. The best reactions would come from showing a family picture to some classmates in grade 12. I could read their expressions; the utter shock and confusion that would rush over their faces. Most were politically correct in their responses, “Oh that’s nice. Or that’s a nice looking family.” Truthfully the expressions I enjoyed best were the ones that were completely uncensored. Once I showed a picture of my family to my friend and she immediately blurted out, “they are white”! Just complete shock that the whole time we had been friends she had just assumed my family was Thai like me. A friend who was with us at the time was embarrassed by the outburst which made me laugh that much harder. The uncensored reaction was more welcomed then the uncomfortable feelings people often tried to hide upon their discoveries. (A note to be made is that I was living in a boarding school at the time so no one knew much about my family or ever met any members).Once when my family was on a trip together and my brothers and I were in our teens, a couple in their early sixties commented to my parents that, “My your two boys and their friend sure play nicely together”. My parents were quick to correct the nice couple by informing them that those three kids were siblings and they have always grown up enjoying each other’s company. To this day I still somewhat enjoy seeing people’s reactions to discovering my brothers have a different skin colour than me. When I am telling people stories about my family I never feel the need to mention the difference in their colour skin to mine. It does not matter to me. It is just an assumption that people cannot help to make and I’m accepting of that.
I do not care in the least that I was adopted into a Caucasian family instead of an Asian one. The colour of my skin has not negatively affected my bonds with my brothers or parents. People will see me and continue to assume I have brown siblings and parents and I will be more than happy to correct them proudly when the timing is right.
–>Reading this paper back makes me wish I had the energy to write an autobiography! Sometimes the mood hits where I LOVE WRITING!
The topic of my skin colour in comparison to my family’s does NOT affect my bond with my family. What does BOTHER me is how people always come up to me asking me where I am from BECAUSE of the colour of my skin. I will end this post now but promise to make one on the subject of having brown skin….I know my friends will laugh when they read it as they are constantly witnessing or hearing of my “Filipina stories”.
I have been on a roll with this blogging! I will warn you that my updates will slow down soon. Right now I am just completing and tweaking all these notes I have on my computer. Soon I will have to start my posts from scratch again.
As always, thanks for reading!
Buddha Blessings to everyone,
xox Amanda Sumalee
**Happy Mother’s Day to my Mom and all the mothers reading this blog 🙂
The other day my 10 year old asked the question, “Do you miss your family?”
Instantly I answered, “Yes all the time – I love them. But I also love being here with you and living in New Zealand too.”
His eyebrows furrowed when he asked, “Then why are you going to Thailand?”
I was now confused…did he mean MY FAMILY the only family I have ever known? Or the two people who are biologically related to me; who chose to give me up for adoption?
His innocent question is what finally compelled the completion of this post. I have been meaning to post more on the topic of family for quite some time. I have so many partially typed notes that it’s time to sort through them and start posting. I am not getting any younger 🙂
He has cousins that are adopted so he has a great grasp of the concept of adoption. When I first moved in with his family; I had explained that I had lived in an orphanage in Thailand until the age around 2.5. My parents (the only 2 people I have ever seen as the definition of my parents) then adopted me. Shortly after my adoption we moved to Canada where I have lived virtually my whole life. With a little help from his Mom, I explained I have always called my parents, “Dad” and “Mom” because THEY ARE my parents. I was just a baby when I went to the orphanage and know no different. I do not believe I could be ANY CLOSER to my brothers, had they been biological or not. I grew up feeling very close to both of them and feel blessed to have such a great bond with both of them.
After clarification, I understood he wanted to know why I was travelling to Thailand if my parents and brothers lived in Canada. I had to remind him that yes my parents and brothers do live in Canada, but I am an adult and haven’t lived in the same house as my family for years. Yes OF COURSE I miss seeing my family and friends but I have wanted to go to Thailand for a long time. Just like I had traveled to New Zealand, I would continue on travelling before flying back to Canada.
Canada is where I have grown up, but Thailand is where I was born. I am a Thai-Canadian who only feels Canadian. I am not able to relate to my Thai roots. My dream has always been to live in Thailand to learn more about MY culture. My dream vision for myself would be to instantly be able to assimilate myself to all things Thai. I know that is not realistic but it’s what I want. I want to no longer feel like an outsider. I am sick of feeling like a tourist. I look the part, now I just have to feel it. I realize I am putting a LOT of pressure on myself with this upcoming trip. I am trying to lower my expectations but it is so hard when I have dreamed of this moment for so long!
Thanks for reading – Buddha Blessings,
xox Amanda Sumalee
This is my journey, MY LIFE. I am beyond excited but scared to death about finally going to Thailand. Wherever it takes me, and whatever I discover will be my story. Curiosity is the strongest feeling pulling me back to my place of birth.
While at the doctors I had to fill out the standard personal information form. One of the questions was ethnicity/nationality. It stumped me. I starred at it for what felt like eternity. I questioned myself as to what I should write down. I KNEW I should write down Thai, but I really wanted to put Canadian. Had someone been with me, I would have definitely written down whatever they suggested. I did not have wi-fi at the time but as soon as I got home I asked my Aunt what she thought I should have done. The same feelings were brought up again while filling out a New Zealand census form. I had to write down my nationality and place of residency….I was born in Thailand but lived my whole life in Canada. If Thai-Canadian was an option there would have been no need for hesitation.
When the doctor looked me over she asked me where I was from? I told her Canada and she immediately gave me this look of disbelief. This cold glare like I was trying to lie to her. I could feel her looking my whole body over. I FELT obligated to tell I have lived in Canada all my life but I was born in Thailand. Why do I have to feel so defensive when stating that I am Canadian? It’s as if her glare was her warning to tell me the truth or she would not continue the exam. When I told her I lived in Canada practically my whole life she told me I had ASIAN ears, was I from the Philippines? I had to restate that I was born in Thailand but lived in Canada virtually my whole life. I know the atmosphere of a doctor’s office always comes off as intrusive but I felt beyond uncomfortable and defensive.
I have never met an adoptee who doesn’t wonder about their origins. Adoptees share a unique bond: we are consumed by our loneliness. We don’t openly talk about it but it’s apparent. My life never had a defining moment of a “big reveal” of my adoption story. My parents never had to tell me on my 18th birthday (like someone I knew), or sit me down for any big discussion. There was no need for suspicious thoughts as I was always aware I wasn’t their biological child. I was brown and EVERYONE else in my Dad and Mom’s family are Caucasian. No matter how loved you are, being adopted harvests a visceral feeling of loneliness . Every adoptee has a shared experience of rejection followed by loss. I am not saying the heavy rainstorm can’t create a magnificent rainbow…but a rainbow is impossible without the rain.
I am not wanting to delve too deeply in this conversation now because I would like to try as best as possible to put my thoughts into an array of posts. Divide my thoughts up.
These posts about my adoption are personal. I would like to make them as honest and raw as possible without breaching my own level of comfort. It is not my intention to hurt anyone’s’ feelings. I hope to be as honest as possible. Maybe sharing my thoughts on the topic can help others open up about their experiences. Reading about other peoples’ journeys has helped me to heal. I have amassed some notes from books I have read and hope to post my thoughts on my newly acquired information in upcoming post.
PLEASE comment or message me privately to share your thoughts. I would love to hear suggestions or personal stories from my readers. I have never been a member of an adoptee support group but have read about some in the United States of America. Anyone have any information on online ones? xo
Today I made the big leap by purchasing the domain name: amansuma.com
Translation: typing in amansuma.wordpress.com or amansuma.com will bring you to this website. I also lifted the search engine block I had on this blog. So now if people are searching things on the web, a link to this blog could show up! Oh tres fancy!
When I purchased my plane ticket to New Zealand back in 2012, I knew I wanted to create a blog or website. I wanted a creative outlet that would help me stay connected with others, through my writing and photography. The outpouring of encouragement made me nervous. I was fearful that my motivations towards the blog would decline as time went on. I remained hopeful but apprehensive. Before I left I had promised everyone I would do my best! It feels good to have kept that promise.
Since Sept 9, 2012 I have published 45 posts and attracted over 1,170 views! That is unbelievable. I never expected so many people to take an interest in my life. The origination of this blog was to share my travel experience with those I love. Knowing that they are still invested in my life feels amazing. I started off not wanting to make the blog too personal…just in case people beside those I knew read it. I have progressively made the blog more personal. I welcome others to read my blog! I do get nervous about my privacy and sometimes need to remind myself it is no longer just people I know reading it.
I try very hard to keep my Kiwi-family has anonymous as possible. I am conscious to not post close up pictures of their face or reveal any personal information. I also try to use my friends’ nicknames whenever publishing stories about them. I want the focus of this blog to remain around my thoughts and views. My updates should become more frequent and more personal as I prepare to head off to Thailand!
I hope my constant template changing doesn’t bother everyone. I am haven’t found one yet that I have fallen in love with. I am trying to find one that looks great and is also easy to navigate around when wanting to post pictures into my blogs. I am finding some templates far easier than others. With new ones coming out monthly I am always excited for the updates. By no means do I call myself a proficient blogger but I will keep trying to hone my craft!
I want to wrap this up by thanking everyone who reads the blogs. Every time I look at the view count I smile!
xo Amanda Sumalee
*For family and friends who love my photos, my Facebook is once again up to date!