a light sleep

Today, like many days, actually began in the wee hours of the morning, where I’m too tired to accomplish anything but too awake to sleep.  But with only a few hours until it’s time to get up, it’s pointless to go back to sleep, and so I set my alarm, just in case.  And I put off the morning broadcast and let time get away from me so I’ve not enough time to complete it and have to run out the door in order to make it to my desk 1 minute before I’m officially late.   Then I’m dragging all day, surviving on a sleep deficit, compounded by a failed attempt to revive with coffee, then put into a stupor with the over-eating required of such a high fiber, high starch, low protein diet supplemented with the forced collective insistence on sharing cookies, pastries, and junk food.

Tonight I sought to fight all the urges to fall asleep the second I got home from school and surfed the t.v., with nothing but superficial drivel as fare, until I finally run past the Indiefilm channel and find myself, yet again, at the tale end of a movie called, “A light sleep.”

The movie is set in contemporary times and about a high school girl and her little sister who are orphaned.  Her uncle has a detached dwelling they can live in, but offers no further support.  And so, to keep her sister fed, she resorts to prostitution, all the while trying to live/having the hopes and dreams of any young high school girl.  And she, too, can’t sleep.

This is the music from the end credits.  It’s kind of typical of many Korean movie Original Sound Tracks.  It’s romantic and melancholy, there’s often accordion and piano, and it’s kind of dreamy.

That sleepless, hollow eye socket, surreal, dreamy feeling pretty much describes being this alone in Korea. It’s the same feeling I had at 3 and 6 and 17 and 26 and 46.

Sometimes I think this is just my fate.  Sometimes I think it didn’t matter where I was sent to or if my life would have played out like the tragic orphan myth had I stayed.  Because when all’s said and done, no matter what I do, whatever efforts I make, at the end of the day, it’s still this same lonely sound track, the same timeless lament for lost innocence sound track.

15 thoughts on “a light sleep

  1. So this movie was actually based on a novel about a true story.

    “Sixteen-year-old Yeo Lin used to have a boyfriend and normal life, but everything changed when she lost both her parents two years ago. To support her sibling, she sells her body. Quietly bearing wounds and responsibilities beyond her age, she faces the cruel trials of love, friendship, and premature adulthood, and she does it all in seeming detachment. Always tired, Yeo Lin suffers from chronic insomnia and relies on medication to sleep. For Yeo Lin, sleep is an escape that she wakes from too soon. Directed by Lim Seong Chan, the 2008 indie drama A Light Sleep sensitively depicts the ordeals faced by an insomniac high school girl forced to grow up too soon.”

    So the happy adoptee sent me a link to a personals site, which I have signed up to. (sigh) How sad to have to go shopping for English speakers. How sad to not fill most everyone’s requirements.

    Time for coffee, cigarette, another day at school.

  2. There is an “unsupportive uncle” story in my family, too. One of my immigrant relatives (the tale goes) and his brother had a father who came back from service in World War One “shell-shocked” as they called it then. (We call it PTSD now.) The family disintegrated, and the boys went to live with their uncle. Their uncle cared for the boys for a time, then expelled them to America.

  3. “then I’m dragging all day, surviving on a sleep deficit, compounded by a failed attempt to revive with coffee, then put into a stupor with the over-eating required of such a high fiber, high starch, low protein diet supplemented with the forced collective insistence on sharing cookies, pastries, and junk food.”

    this is me, most days.

  4. That WAS an amazing story, that made me feel many conflicting things. One, how does this relate to ME at all? (yeah, we all think that way now, don’t we?) and two, where the hell was her mother? and three, where the hell was her mother? and four, I kind of agreed with Eunsook’s uncle: who the hell did the photographer think he was? And five, the photographer and the American family members coming to get the girl – didn’t they have an advantage with their convincing? And six, was the mom contacted? Something about the speed of the adoption I found rather disturbing as well.

    What am I supposed to do with this story now? These days Amerasian kids are mini celebrities. I saw one the other day on the subway, wearing a “halfie” T-shirt. Halfies are also sought after for modeling and acting gigs…Their moms are still thought of as strumpets, but as long as we export them all, then Korea gets to continue being a pure blood race…it’s not just about giving Koreans the opportunity to work on social justice, but also about working on accepting diversity.

    And I would also like everyone to bear in mind that the Amerasian adoptions of the past had many more extenuating circumstances than the typical Korean adoptions and shouldn’t be held up as the model justifying all Korean adoptions. There didn’t seem to be a point behind this presentation, so that’s what I suspect it was.

    The one thing I DID like was the effort to come check out Korea and get to know as much about her and her family ahead of time. Eunsook was lucky in that her adoption was one of those RARE instances where there was some connection or relationship prior to adoption. The vast majority of us get sent to people we’ve never met. Every adoption should be humane to the child. Few are like this one

    And few of us look American when we get to America…

  5. jkim,

    I’ll see your stupor and raise you 3 sleep demerits!

    Seriously, I’d like to have some of those little pills…My sleep habits are like 1.5 hrs. down, 3 up, 1-2 down, 2 up, 2.5 down. On the weekends it’s nice because I take long naps about 3 times a day.

    Maybe having company will normalize me a bit…hope, hope, hope…

  6. jkim,

    ha ha! I just realized maybe your waking stupor IS WORSE than mine! You need to schedule some down time!

    I have too much down time juggling a dozen self-generated projects, but you run around all over the place.

    Finding balance in Korea is SO HARD…

  7. i have a lot of issues with that TED video. i think it’s important to remember that one “happy” story cannot possibly represent the whole. and, this god complex that this photographer had was really disturbing, among other things, and i agree that eunsook’s adoption is likely a rare case.

    i think it’s also important to note that popular biracial celebrities in korea are almost always fathered by white men. yoonmirae’s (tasha) popularity is founded on her talent whereas other ameriasian celebrities in korea have become famous because of their whiteness and good looks.

  8. Good point about the limited racial tolerance and bi-racial acceptance. Hopefully Tasha will change that. And so many R&B and rap artists are popular among the kids, I’m sure it will get better. I have seen black halfies on the subway, and it made me soooo happy that they were here and fighting and not being shipped away.

    Will acceptance of other races follow? Or will they only be accepted if they are Amerasian and speak English?

  9. You know, upon more reflection one part of that TED video that sticks out is the acknowledgment of the photographer that he felt he was bordering on playing God at times.

    I find acknowledging this aspect of benevolence a common tactic among colonist mind-set people to diffuse criticism. And admitting recognition while continuing to giddily manipulate outcomes does not exonerate them of their interference. And the reason it’s not acceptable — even when the outcome appears beneficial — is that they AREN’T God and don’t/can’t comprehend the complex consequences. Even for Natasha’s exceptional story, her losses were compounded by this act in deep ways even she may not fully comprehend. And the thing about loss — of country, culture, and personal connections — is that they are irrevocably broken.

    That’s the other thing people don’t understand about adoption and identity loss. Even on our adoption paperwork, it states that the changes are irrevocable. ALL EFFORT should be made to preserve our natural lives. And it isn’t.

  10. Here are the facts that can be known or reasonably inferred from the video:

    1) It was the grandmother’s wish that Eunsook Natasha be adopted overseas. We can suppose this since TIME magazine heard about it. Presumably the grandmother’s executors contacted the magazine after her death.

    2) The uncle, despite his feelings of resentment, was not able or willing to prevent the adoption. This reinforces my hunch that the grandmother had expressed a strong wish that the child be sent overseas, and that her son,
    the uncle, knew this. It also raises the possibility that the uncle was never the child’s legal guardian, merely a relative she was staying with temporarily. But I suppose we must read the book to find out for sure.

    3) Natasha harbors no resentment against the photographer, since she cooperated in making the book. Many U.S states have privacy and right-of-publicity laws that she could have wielded to lower the chances of the book’s success, had she so chosen. She didn’t.

    girl4708 writes “All effort should be made to preserve our natural lives.” But Natasha wasn’t sent into the wild to be raised by wolves. She was sent to live with human beings like herself. What was “unnatural” about it? What is “natural” about nation-states and political boundaries?

  11. I already said it was an exceptional story. What is disturbing is the God factor. And the TED factor.

    What is also disturbing is the colonial mind-set of both the colonists and the (formerly) colonized.

    Not necessarily in this case, (but it might have played a factor in the grandmother’s decision) is the “given” that the west is always better. And, the grandmother willed the girl go to the photographer, not to someone she hadn’t met.

    A lot of us adoptees participate in supporting the rationalizations behind our exportation. I did it for four decades. It is, after all, our whole lives we hold up, and it validates all those around us who participated – all those we love and are dependent upon. It’s a matter of emotional survival.

    Language, culture, connections, identity – those are irreplaceable losses.

    Natasha’s story in very few ways resembles the majority of adoptions. But we are almost all put in the position of glorifying something that was, in many many (I’d say most) cases traumatic and preventable.

    And, most of us aren’t orphans. In civilized societies, the living parent is expected to step up to the plate unless they are deemed unfit and a danger to the child.

    I’m sooooo tired of debating these things. You can’t argue with my feelings. As an adoptee, the photographer disgusted me. The mother disgusts me. The do-gooder, interfering, privileged west disgusts me. Korea’s focus on image and lack of responsibility disgusts me.

    Go watch the PBS POV series on adoption and Adopted, the movie. They give a more realistic view of the kind of forces we adoptees are subject to. It’s not pretty. It’s not a storybook like this TED talk.

    And a natural life is whatever kind of life she would have had without western intervention. She’s Natasha. She would have been fine. With a lot less losses. Not as comfortable, but fine.

  12. I could go on at length about the inconsistencies in girl4708’s use of the terms “natural”, “western intervention”, “culture”, and “colonial” and “loss”. (She uses “colonial” as if she were a superannuated Stalinist left over from the early 1970s. How quaint.)

    When I speculate on the vehemence of girl4708’s response to the video clip and to my comment, two possibilities come to mind: She reacts strongly to Natasha’s case either (unreasonably) because it does not flatter her prejudices; or (more reasonably) because successful cases of this kind might be used to downplay the need for improvement of an adoption process that is too often marred by ineptitude or corrupted by greed. I deem neither to be valid cause to demonize those involved in Natasha’s case.

    girl4708 seems to see Natasha’s grandmother as a backcountry simpleton duped by city-slickers. But until more appear indicating otherwise, I will continue to see her as a well-informed, responsible adult who chose as she thought best for her granddaughter’s future.

  13. or (more reasonably) because successful cases of this kind might be used to downplay the need for improvement of an adoption process that is too often marred by ineptitude or corrupted by greed.


    I deem neither to be valid cause to demonize those involved in Natasha’s case.

    Well, I don’t really care what you think. I’m not here for your approval.
    And if you don’t think playing God is a colonist mind-set, then what is?

    EVERY. SINGLE. PERSON. who looks across an ocean to intervene in the workings of another country’s domestic affairs has a colonist mind-set. EVEN if it is for good. So much damage has been done to people in the name of good.

    I didn’t deny that Natasha’s case had a good outcome and that it is EXCEPTIONAL. And nowhere did I infer that Natasha’s grandmother was a backcountry simpleton. I DID infer that she was basing her decision on the relationship to Natasha and the photographer. NOT to him wimping out on that responsibility. I am all for adoptions based upon real relationships.

    God, this is why I hate having a public site. All this splitting of hairs over terms and semantics.
    Go somewhere else if you want an “objective” view.

    You and one of the other (I know not why) regular readers keep wanting to Debate. This isn’t a debate. This is where I talk about my experience and personal views in an effort to help others who might be also affected.

    ADDED, why do you refer to me as “she”? I’m right here!
    The tense in which you refer to me as well as the removed debate focal length really bothers me.

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