My name is Sarai, and I was adopted privately by my parents to Perth in 1974, brought out from a country in turmoil by a wonderful Catholic Priest named Father Maxwell. I was always told that I was wanted and loved so much by my parents, and therefore brought out in very special circumstances. I grew up in a loving family with my parents and a brother, who was adopted locally.
For most of my childhood, my different looks from being Asian didn’t feature highly in my life. The concept has since been defined as “colour blindness”. Race did not define how I felt in my adoptive family and I genuinely felt I was their daughter. It was not until midway into my primary schooling that I realised that I was the only Asian looking person in my school, but it wasn’t a major worry as my friends and peers all excepted me for who I was. I had also talked with my parents at various times about the possibility of searching for my birth parents, but the drive for me was never that intense.
Then, as I entered high school, my “Asianess” became more of an issue for me, and one that I desperately wanted to change in order to fit in. As an adolescent, we all want acceptance, and with my looks of being different to everyone else made it all the more harder. Memories from my first high school are something I do not like to recall in depth, as back in the 1980’s, surburban Perth seemed very non multicultural, intolerant and judgmental.
I felt my salvation come when my parents moved me to a multicultural Catholic school. To my delight, I was schooled with kids of all cultures, the majority being Vietnamese, and I felt both relief and a sense of homecoming. At last I was introduced to a culture that I felt had eluded me until now. I stopped questioning my self worth and place in the world, and flourished in a warm and accepting environment. It was here that I was able to become a person of strength and character, while embracing my Vietnamese heritage. I still count myself fortunate to still have many of those friends in my life today.
I have since been back to Vietnam with my husband who is also Vietnamese born, and hope in the future to take our son back to my country of origin, which is part of his heritage too. My life experiences have helped shaped the person that I am today, and continue to allow me to grow in both my person life as well as my working career as a nurse.
My thoughts and feelings for the 35th anniversary of the end of the Vietnam War are many. I feel a great pride toward the Vietnamese people who have overcome years of war and occupation yet still have retained their own culture and oneness. My support also goes out to those Vietnamese adoptees who have felt a lack of cultural identity, unsettledness and personal upheaval, as well as those who have well and truly embarked on their personal journeys of self-discovery. My hope for the younger generations of Vietnamese adoptees is for them to be open to acknowledging their heritage and all that influenced their previous ancestors, with them being able to strengthen the bond of their ancestry and allow it to form them into culturally aware and strong characters of modern society.