Brown Eyed Blue Eyed

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.

Mandy early years (16)

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 🙂

Why Thailand If You Miss Your Family?

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

First picture with my new haircut :)

First picture with my new haircut 🙂

Big Girl Pants are ON

An excerpt from an email I sent to brother Reece a few days ago:

“Life could be better. A lot. Don’t worry I’m wearing my big girl pants! I’d let you know if it was anything serious…I can honestly say I feel grown up. Life is BEING experienced!”

Every word was the truth. There was a little sigh of relief in letting big brother know that my trip wasn’t ALL AMAZING and not everything I was doing these days could be chalked up to fun. It was Thanksgiving weekend and I was in now in Dannemora (about 45mins from Central Auckland) and I had not shared with any family members that my life got was getting a bit more adventurous. The timing of my situation coincided with Canadian Thanksgiving making me want to reach out a little bit to family. Not enough to worry them but just enough to keep them someone what in the loop!  (Reece, Tyler, Lisa, and Helle thanks for emailing me about your Thanksgivings! I ABSOLUTELY love emails and hearing about the day to day stuff! xox)

So how did I leave Mt. Roskill and move to Dannemora? What happened and why I am no longer in Dannemora right now is what this blog will be about.

Pretty much as soon as I arrived in New Zealand I knew I should look for a new family. My spirits were shrinking as the days went on. I’m a fighter and I hate giving up, so for me to recognize that enough was enough was a huge step! I knew that I could “put up” with the family I was living with but I wanted BETTER for myself. I didn’t want to “give up” on this family but I also did not want the next 9 months leaving me bitter and depressed. With encouragement from friends I concluded that I really had to step up my search for a new position. I posted an ad online and kept a watchful eye out for anyone needing an Au pair   I received a response from a lady seeking an Au pair to help her in her daycare. She lived in Dannemora which meant it would be a further distance for Emzie and I to commute. That said, I thought working in a daycare would be great experience and would look awesome on a resume. The accommodations sounded lovely as the lady had just moved into a 6 bedroom house. Laundry, queen bed, HEAT, TV lounge area, internet and access to an automatic car were all included. We emailed back and forth a few times and the lady said no interview was required. There was a 1 week trial period to see how I got on with the children. The only thing not included was food! It may not sound like a big issue but FOOD is SUPER expensive here so that and the location were too factors that I had to consider. Emma was heading to Australia (meaning no weekend relief) and I really wanted to get out of the living situation I was currently in. I agreed to give this new job a shot! At first the lady invited me to meet her at her house, but quickly made arrangements for her to pick me up as Mt. Roskill was quite a ways off from where she resided.

Having never met my new “boss” I was quite anxious but ecstatic to be leaving and heading to a daycare environment. The lady was over 30 minutes late picking me up so I was extremely on edge as to whether or not she would be a no show. Having had previous interviews cancelled and job offers filled I had put all my eggs into this one basket. She pulled up in an old mini-van and I instantly knew it was her. She was 60 years old lady driving a minivan that had definitely done many days of carpooling. The inside had not seen a vacuum in years. All this excited energy was running through my body as we drove away. To my surprise she informed me that we were making a stop at the ferries to pick up a young man from Ireland. He too would be moving in and working as an Au Pair. Was she hiring 2 people for 1 position? Was she getting more kids in the daycare? He was only staying 3 months where as I was staying for 6 months so maybe she just wanted the overlap? Questions were running through my mind as she was explaining her expectations as she drove us both home. She explained that she had over 100years of experience working with kids: she was a teacher, owned a daycare, helped employ Au pairs in Auckland. Recently she had sold her Daycare center and was working on growing her home based daycare. She was licensed to look after 6 children and she currently had 3 and would have a 4th child by the end of the month. Not only did she hire Au pairs but she also boarded international students and couples and taught English and tutored from her home. She was always busy and was working on trying to retire in 5 years. She told us she just moved into a bigger house 3 weeks ago so there was lots of room for everyone. She has a lot of experience with Au Pairs and nannies as she has employed over 100 but at least 70 have only lasted a week. Hence the one week trial, if she likes you, you sign a three month contract and have to have a criminal record check conducted by the Ministry of Children and Families.

Long story short –even though she had a brand new huge house to live in we did not agree with how she ran the daycare. This was fine as she let us know she did not like either of us either. She had a 6 bedroom house with a huge front yard and backyard yet she was running the daycare from her garage! The kids and the Au pairs spent their time in the garage all day while at home. The only reasons we were to go inside the house were to get running water (dishes, and drinks) or to use the bath room. It was just so weird. We were meant to believe we had access to the car but soon realized when we weren’t working the car was off limits. We walked to the nearby grocery store and unhappily bought our groceries. We both commented on how we felt we were both  in college again living off cheap noodles and bread.

After the first few hours of living there both the Irish man and I were looking for other work. The car had 2 seat belts that were broken and the car seats looked ancient and very unsafe. The seat belt that was strapping the kids into the seats were twisted and not nearly tight enough. The daycare itself had so many safety hazards  from no childproof cupboards to tools lying around to sharp edges.. It was completely NOT at all what we had expected. The ad was so FAR in left field from what we were dealing with. After the first night of looking after the children the Irish guy was told he wasn’t what she was looking for. As soon as he told me I knew there was no way I was living out here alone with her. So I spoke with her and asked if we had been “applying for the same job” and if so, he could have my position as I was looking for an Au pair job closer to the North Shore. She told me even if I left she still wasn’t going to be hiring him. Then the very next afternoon she told me she was through with me too and didn’t need me. It’s a shame because the 3 kids were so much easier to look after  than the previous 2 I had. I preferred tag teaming them with the Irish lad but when he left it was still manageable to look after the 3 on my own.  So that was my three day experience in Dannemora.

This blog became WAY longer than what I was planning on typing. So I will do another blog about where I am at now…  mentally and physically! Thanks for reading!

Still smiling,
Amanda