Pact Fall Fundraising Gala Speech

Pact Has Changed My Life Forever

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In my mid twenties, I embarked on an adventure back to my first home in search for my family in India, in search for what is rightfully mine. With my future children in mind, my dear friends and I documented my travels that ended up eventually becoming a feature length film. Unexpectedly, knowledge of my film began to travel through the adoption community. And that’s how I was introduced to Beth and PACT. Beth was so kind to invite me to the Pact Family Camp to present my film to adoptive parents. She was the first person to call me a transracial adoptee. I had never heard of that label before but it was exactly what I needed to hear. Something so small as two words helped me settle years of confusion about my experiences and my place in my family, with white parents.

With no expectations about what camp was going to be like, I packed my bags and drove up to Lake Tahoe. As I drove up the driveway, I saw a little brown child running across the street towards the pool and their white parents following not too far behind. My heart sank and tears began to flow. That was really the first time I saw myself from the outside. 

Opening ceremony welcomed all families into the conference room. I will never forget when Beth asked all adoptees, foster care youth and alumni to raise their hand. I saw at least a hundred hands in the air! This rush of validation, acceptance, and unconditional love went through my body. Coming from a family that didn’t speak about my adoption, India, my first family, adoption language, or the possibility of searching and reuniting, I was absolutely overwhelmed to see so many other families built like mine, all in the same room. I immediately knew that I was where I was suppose to be.

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Since my first Pact Family Camp in 2014, I have met, listened to and became close friends with other TRA’s, Foster Care Alumni, natural mothers, and adoptive parents. In fact, they are the reason I moved to Oakland earlier this year. Together they all have honored my voice, my experience, and gave me credit for being an expert in adoption. Through the authors, bloggers, filmmakers, theatrical performers, and poets that PACT has exposed me to, my perspective have expanded around race, gender, sex, identity, parenting, and language. The most precious gift that I have received from PACT is my support group for TRA’s of Color. I’ve been allowed to cry, mourn, express anger, laugh, and roll my eyes without having to defend myself. I am not alone in this and my self esteem and self love have heightened to a level I have never experienced. I consider everyone that I have met through PACT an extension of my family. A family that understands me as a whole person, without having to say one word.

So tonight, I am here to celebrate and highlight the work of the dedicated, strong, insightful, gracious and compassionate staff members, including all the counselors, volunteers, panelist, and board members of PACT. Transracial Adoption is complex with so many unexpected challenges. But with the all trainings, webinars, annual family camps, consultations, education, support groups, placement services and more, PACT truly is a leader in providing the best opportunities to learn how to move through the challenges with the adoptee’s best interests at the core.

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Myself, along with so many other adoptees and foster care alumni have been given the open space to share our experiences, joys and challenges. We hope to create a better experience for those that walk this path beside us and behind us, and sometimes before us. I want to personally thank you all for coming tonight and supporting the much needed services for those that are the most vulnerable. I am proof that PACT can change lives and support a healthy and open narrative around adoption. Thank you Beth and my dear PACT family for making me a better person. I love you all dearly.

 

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Travel Visa: Granted

As mentioned in my blog posted on October 4, 2016, I was ready to apply for my travel visa for India. I had waited to complete my Renunciation of Indian Citizenship and there were a couple of bumps along the way, but quite minor. Once I received my paperwork of completion, I was ready for Part II.

Now that the scary part was over, I was ready to review my travel visa application again. I went down the checklist that CKGS provided and made sure that I had all the required copies and my documents were in order.

I made an appointment and headed back to San Francisco.

After unexpected traffic, searching for parking for what seemed like hours, walking in the wrong direction for about 15 minutes, I managed to arrive on time. I checked in at the front desk and waited for my number to be called.

After removing layers of winter clothes and 20 minutes of fanning myself in attempt to cool down from the unexpected high temperatures, I was called up to the counter. The CKGS staff member looked over all my paperwork, checked my IDs and then casually asked for my marriage license.

Not again!

I remained calm and explained how my name changed due to my adoption and that she could find my father’s name on my Indian passport. Luckily I had it with me again. She copied it and added it to the stack of papers to be submitted. As I began to pack up my belongings she stopped me again.

Oh, now what!

She stated that my application number does not match up with my appointment number. Yes, I created two applications because I was confused and tried to get by without submitting my Renunciation certificate. I think she could tell that I was a bit stressed, so the lovely woman printed out my other application and assured me that everything is now completed.

I wait.

I added each layer of clothing back onto my body, swung my backpack over my shoulders, strapped the safety belt across my chest, took a deep breath and walked out to attend Adoptee Night at the San Francisco Giants baseball game.

Three days later, I received my passport back and there it was, my travel visa for India. That included a small picture of me sporting my untamed eyebrows. I was officially allowed to enter India, as many times as I wanted, for the next 10 years. I was ready to go back home.

YOU FOLLOW film review by Adoption Today

       Soon after I returned from the American Adoption Congress Conference (more about that experience later), I was contacted by Adoption Today‘s editor, Kim Phagan-Hansel. She asked to watch and review the film for their monthly magazine. She attended the conference but was unable to  attend my screening. I passed along our film and by my surprise, we were published in their May 2016 issue. I was only given the PDF of the article, so here is the article copied below. Please visit our website for more information about the documentary!

YOU FOLLOW: a search for one’s past

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Gazillion Strong
Saywhatfoo Films, 2016, 91 minutes, www.youfollowthefilm.com, $20 DVD, $10 Digital 

Eager to connect with her birth country, Nisha Grayson and several

of her friends set off on a journey to India, which they chronicle in the film,“You Follow.”In order to make the trip more meaningful,the friends decided the focus of their trip should be on helping Nisha locate her birth mother. When they arrive, they begin their mission. Along the way they run into many roadblocks and challenges, however the group continues to push forward on their mission to find Nisha’s birth mother. 

A chance encounter with a local street vendor named Tony changes everything as he decides he will take it upon himself to find Nisha’s birth mother. For more than two years, Nisha searches for her birth mother with Tony’s help, culminating with Nisha returning to India to meet her birth mother. Unfortunately, the meeting is not what Nisha had hoped for.

 “You Follow” is a glimpse into a portion of one adoptee’s mission to find the missing link, her birth family. The film shows the raw emotions of excitement, frustration, sadness and so much more as Nisha lives through the search process. The film is definitely an eye-opening opportunity to understand the mixed emotions that adoptees feel and the difficulties in living between two worlds. Woven throughout the film are interviews with various adoption professionals, adoptive parents and others involved in the adoption system. These interviews allow for a broader perspective of the adoption experience overall. The film was an official selection of the 2015 India International Film Festival and the official selection of the 2014 La Femme International Film Festival. “You Follow” is an insightful film that provides a valuable glance into the real experiences of adoptees and others touched by adoption. It’s definitely a must-see.

 — Reviewed by Kim Phagan-Hansel

 

Date of Departure

As an adoptee, there are some privileges that I don’t have. One of them is truth. As I become more involved with my history, my story, my narrative, there is still a little part of me that doubts what I have been told or what I have discovered. There has, and I am sure there will always be gaps and holes in my personal story. I am hoping these gaps are not created intentionally by those that have determined my destiny and path up until now. Although, even as a 30 something adult, I have had to accept the fact there will be truths to my story that I will never be able to uncover due to secrets and reputations held by key players in my adoption. I am not alone here.

Since the release of my film, YOU FOLLOW: a search for one’s past, I have connected with other trans-racial adoptees via Facebook. Aspects of their adoptions come up every now and then on my feed. Over the last couple of years, there have been a common trend of other adoptees celebrating the date of arrival into their family. This date is the day that their adoption became final, when they got picked up from the airport, when they met their adoptive parents for the first, etc. However their first meeting played out, that is the day that is usually acknowledged and sometimes publicly celebrated.

For me, my date of arrival was never really important to me. I always knew that it was sometime in December. Within my family, there was no acknowledgment or celebration. I never felt the need or desire to mark that date as an anniversary or a special day. At least not until recently.

It was the acknowledgment by my fellow adoptees that got me curious one afternoon in mid December of last year. I got the intense urge to find out because I did want to honor that day of the year.

The first thing I did was call my mother. No answer. Then I called my father. No answer, so I left a message. He took a couple of days to call me back. He stated that he looked through all the paperwork that he had but my day of arrival was not mentioned anywhere. He casually suggested that I look at my Indian passport.

At that moment, a loud DUH! went through my thoughts. I happened to be sitting at my desk and my handy plastic container with all my important documents was conveniently placed next to my chair by surprise. With my dad still on the phone, I lifted the lid off and my Indian passport was on top of everything else. I opened up the pages and found the stamp from the Bombay Airport Immigration dated December 29, 1983. I flipped the page and the same date appeared on the US Immigration stamp. There it was, the date that I left my first home and arrived to my next one.

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I told my dad that today is my anniversary of when I first arrived to the US. He sounded pleased and happy of course, but I on the other hand felt the opposite. I felt sad, very sad. For me to find out my original date of arrival exactly 32 years later on the very same date was already unreal. These feelings of grief came over me. I acted like I was okay and said my goodbyes.

I sat and rode the waves of emotions for awhile. I stopped what I was currently working on at the time. I didn’t answer calls. I just sat with myself.

I cried.

I missed my first home. I missed India. I missed by birth mother. I missed a life that I could of easily had. I missed not having a choice.

Its odd, but I felt I was taken away. Almost against my will.

To think that my life could of unfolded any other way because of someone else’s decision. This someone that I will never meet and who refuses to answer any of my emails. This someone that holds so many secrets to my life so she can protect her own reputation.

Since there are so many uncertain pieces and secrets to the first six months of my life, I must hold on to the pieces that I know to be true. I can now add my date of arrival to my story.