Thoughts on the Movie “Lion”

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I’m finally on vacation and have already experienced my first full day in Korea yesterday. It’s pretty great to be back in the country after leaving ten years ago following a five year period of living here.

It’s also great to have so much free time, something I did not have back home prior to this trip. Even the 14 1/2 hour flight from DC to Seoul was relaxing! And it wasn’t just the fact that economy class on Korean Air includes a bottle of water, a pair of slippers, a sleeping mask, blanket, and toothbrush and toothpaste kit all waiting for you at your seat upon your entry onto the plane. Nor is it the kind post-it note Korean Air puts on your seat while you are sleeping during times they are serving food, letting you know that once you awake, you should ring them so they can bring you the warm meal you missed during your nap. It has been so much more than those small but meaningful touches that have made this such a relaxing vacation so early on my journey.

But for all the promises I made myself about how I was going to spend the long flight to Seoul reading and writing, I am guilty of doing neither. Instead, I binged watched recent movies on the airline’s in-flight movie service. And one of the movies I saw was “Lion,” based on a true story and starring Dev Patel and Nicole Kidman. The movie is about an adoptee from India who was adopted by a loving Australian couple and his journey as an adult to find his birth family in India. Continue reading “Thoughts on the Movie “Lion””

Writing on the Go: Reactions

I’m usually very organized, but for some reason, I’m all over the place right now juggling work and preparing for my trip on Thursday. But I had to take a few moments to share some quick thoughts on some adoptee-related news: Continue reading “Writing on the Go: Reactions”

Not for the Faint of Heart: A Reading List on International Adoption


I’ve developed a reading list over the past few weeks focusing on various aspects of international adoption. I admit, I haven’t read everything on this list but have bookmarked many of these so I can return to them during my upcoming vacation. Here’s what I’ve compiled so far: Continue reading “Not for the Faint of Heart: A Reading List on International Adoption”

A Facebook Group for the Missing

Even as a Korean adoptee myself, I find it impossible to put into words the urgency many fellow adoptees have to personally learn more about their origins. In some ways, it’s a kind of desperation, a feeling of incompleteness so many people in this world take for granted. And while my own curiosity about the early months of my life has not yet transformed into a need to know where I came from (although I am curious), I am still all too familiar with the complexities involved in not knowing. It’s a strange feeling. And while I understand the importance the search for answers represents for many, I was not prepared for a particular Facebook page I stumbled across dedicated to Korean adoptees searching for their birth families.

Bombarded, one after another, with images of Korean babies and children from the ’60s and onward, combined with sometimes desperate pleas for help in finding biological family, I was not prepared for the emotional magnitude that accompanied this public Facebook group. As I read story after story, and viewed photo after photo, the only expressions that came to my mind were vulgarities of disbelief, “Holy shit.” “Jesus Christ.” “What the fuck?” The sadness I felt was completely unexpected.

Continue reading “A Facebook Group for the Missing”

How China and Adoption Changed One Family’s Life — and Business

The following is reprinted on this blog with permission by AsiaTrend Magazine. It originally appeared in AsiaTrend Magazine’s October 2015 issue which can now be accessed online by following this link.

When Ricia and Dan King adopted their daughter Olivia from China, they did not expect the process to open up so many opportunities for them, both personally and professionally.
When Ricia and Dan King adopted their daughter Olivia from China, they did not expect the process to open up so many opportunities for them, both personally and professionally.

When people think of adoption, they sometimes think of doors that have been closed. For adoptees, these closed doors can be abandonment, a disablility or health issue, birth family poverty and unknown pasts. There are sometimes closed doors for adoptive parents as well such as the desire to build a family, but the inability (or sometimes choice) not to do so in the conventional way.

For the King family, there certainly were closed doors along their adoption journey, but it are the doors that opened up to them throughout the process that changed their lives. When Dan and Ricia King of Spotsylvania, Va. adopted their daughter Olivia from China, little did they know that the adoption would bring to them more than just a new family member. Since Olivia’s adoption, the Kings have been introduced to a whole new world that has enriched their personal and professional lives as adoptive parents and small business owners.

Dan King is a retired Marine officer who served in the military for 22 years. During his time with the Corps, he used to play the trumpet for the Marines’ band field. His love and talent for music eventually led him to Red Wing, Minn. where he obtained his degree in band instrument repair through the Minnesota State College Southeast Technical’s Musical Instrument Repair and Construction program (also simply known as “Red Wing” in the music repair world). So it should come as no surprise that Dan’s passion for music extended beyond his military years, resulting in the family’s current business, KBI Music Shoppe.

“In 2009 we moved to Spotsylvania, Va.,” Ricia told me. “Dan missed repairing instruments so we sent out emails to the local band directors introducing ourselves and inquiring about repairing their instruments.” The Kings started their business by repairing instruments for two local schools and through word of mouth, the demand for their services grew. “After a couple of years we started renting out instruments as well,” Ricia said.

This is where little Olivia, now six years old, comes into place.

Dan and Ricia adopted Olivia from China at the young age of one year and six months. Working through Bethany Christian Services, the couple began the adoption process which eventually required them to travel to China to meet their new daughter for the first time.

Olivia meets her adoptive parents and brother for the first time in China.
Olivia meets her adoptive parents and brother for the first time in China.

“We wanted to have a child, but it was just not meant to happen the way we thought,” said Ricia. “But our path led us to Olivia in China. We knew other families who had adopted, and it felt like the right choice. And China was the country for us.” Ricia said she had always wanted a little girl so the couple asked if there was a girl with minor correctable needs who they could adopt. “Once we had made the decision, everything fell into place. It was meant to be,” she told me.

As is common with most children adopted at a young age, the Kings don’t know much about Olivia’s past or her biological family. They know she was born with a cleft lip/cleft palate and was left at the orphanage as an infant. While it is impossible to know for sure without official documentation, many parents who have adopted children with special needs have been told that such abandonments in China are usually the result of the birth family not having the resources to properly care for the child’s medical situation. Likewise, such conditions are often the result of poor nutrition during the mother’s pregnancy, a sign suggesting that the child’s birth mother could have been living in poverty.

Ricia said Olivia has had surgeries in China to address her physical needs, and that the family is currently preparing her for a palate expander and head gear in November, which will be followed by bone graft surgery next fall.

Despite these challenges, Olivia is thriving. “I can’t imagine life without our Olivia,” Ricia said. “She is smart, funny and beautiful.”

Anyone who is a parent (or aunt, uncle, godparent or any other adult with a close relationship to children) will tell you that a child’s presence can entirely change one’s life. While being a parent takes away much from adults (time, money, sleep and energy), the joys that children often bring far outnumber anything they subtract. For the King family, this couldn’t be more true — and Olivia’s adoption opened so many doors to them that didn’t exist before, including new friendships in China, travel opportunities and a unique benefit for their business.

Every year Dan and Ricia attend the “Music China” trade show in Shanghai where they secure instruments for their northern Virginia business, KBI Music Shoppe. The experience, which came to them after adopting their daughter Olivia from China, has resulted in a growing livelihood and new friendships, including one with their interpreter Yu (center).
Every year Dan and Ricia attend the “Music China” trade show in Shanghai where they secure instruments for their northern Virginia business, KBI Music Shoppe. The experience, which came to them after adopting their daughter Olivia from China, has resulted in a growing livelihood and new friendships, including one with their interpreter Yu (center).

As you recall, KBI Music Shoppe started as a repair business and expanded to a band instrument rental service as well. The Kings started renting out about 40 instruments they purchased from a company that imported from China, and while this option worked for a while, Ricia told me she and Dan decided they could find better quality products by securing them themselves.

“When we had traveled to China to adopt Olivia, Dan had heard of the Shanghai trade show ‘Music China.’ A year after our adoption trip, he asked if I thought he should go,” said Ricia. Thinking it would be worth checking out, Ricia bought his ticket, booked his hotel and sent him on his way to Shanghai. The trip was a success. The goal was to find quality instruments that the business could offer for a good price, and that is exactly what Dan discovered. “If we had not traveled to China the year before to adopt Olivia, we would have never considered going to the trade show,” Ricia said.

The Kings have created their own rent-to-own program with the hope that it would give more kids the opportunity to participate in school bands. By cutting out the middle company and traveling to China on their own, they have been able to personally select instruments that meet their quality standards and purchase them independently, allowing them to use their own brand name, FIDELIS Musical Instruments. This has completely transformed their business for the better. “We now travel every year to Shanghai, and this year we will also travel to the factories where our instruments are made. We are now in our fifth year of importing,” Ricia said.

In many ways, they have Olivia to thank for that.

olivia ortho appt

One day, Ricia tells me, Olivia will accompany them on a trip to China if it is something she wishes to do. “She knows that she is adopted and will tell people she is from China. She definitely feels a connection with the country, and since she sees us traveling there every year it keeps the conversation going. When she is older, if she wants to, we will take her back to China to visit her orphanage. We visited the orphanage while we were in China during the adoption process, and it is open to families coming back for a visit,” she said. “Adopting was one of the best choices we have ever made. I encourage other families to consider adoption. Whether it is domestic or international, there are many children who need loving homes.”

Meanwhile, Olivia is starting to show an interest in music and has been taking piano lessons, although she is also interested in the flute and violin. And according to her mother, Olivia says she also wants to play the trumpet — just like her dad. If Olivia’s interest in music continues, the King family business may very well remain a family business with Olivia one day taking the reins. Because at the end of the day, it’s not genetics that make a family a family — and any adoptive family, including the Kings, will happily confirm that.