Love without borders: The heartwarming story of Paul’s journey to a loving adoptive family

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Paul Laffisse at 8 or 9 years old

Paul Laffisse’s story is a testament to the power of love and family, transcending borders and cultures.

Born in Pathum Thani, Paul was adopted by a French family and grew up in the Roy d’Espagne district of Marseille.

Growing up in France, Paul faced his share of struggles, particularly when it came to his identity. Despite being raised in a loving and supportive family, he encountered ignorance and prejudice from some of those around him.

Being a person of colour in a predominantly white community made him feel like an outsider at times, and he struggled to reconcile his Thai roots with his French upbringing.

However, through it all, Paul remained determined and resilient, using his experiences to educate others and inspire change.

Paul Laffisse is taking part in a six month internship with Hua Hin Today.

This is his story about adoption.

My Life, My Story

Family relationships, the perspective on my country of birth, the need to connect with other adoptees, and how I see my future…

My name is Paul Laffisse or Phadungdet Phatkhew (my Thai first and last name), born in PathumThani (north of Bangkok) on July 26th, 2003, although my parents lived in Lopburi. I was adopted at the age of 2 (in 2005) by a French family.

The day, exactly was May 24th, 2005 and it marked one of the major changes in my life.

Before we went to France, my family and I stayed a few extra weeks in Thailand (in Bangkok) so that I could keep some familiarity. Quickly, strong bonds were formed between me and my adoptive family.

My arrival in my adoptive family was undoubtedly one of the best things that could have happened to me.

I have adopted my parents and my brother as much as they have adopted me. However, this integration has not been easy within the extended family.

One of the most painful memories I have had is the day I met my paternal grandfather who told me, “I don’t like Asians.”

Following this, my parents and my older brother decided not to speak to him anymore until my grandfather went to see my brother to ask what was wrong. He told him, “if you don’t accept my little brother, I will never speak to you again.”

Realizing the cruelty of his remark, my grandfather came to see me to apologize. This moment will forever be etched in my mind because there was no doubt that my older brother (Olivier) was defending me as if I were his blood brother. Very quickly, a strong bond was formed between me and him, and today this bond is stronger than ever. It’s indestructible.

Since I was a little child, my parents understood the importance of maintaining ties with my country of birth (Thailand), which is why I took Thai language courses, listened to Thai music, and visited Buddhist temples to prevent too wide a gap from forming between me, a Frenchman, and my country of origin.

In May 2010, my parents, my brother, and I moved to Jingdezhen in China.

These two years made me realize that living in China was not so foreign to me because there are many cultural similarities between Thailand and China.

Being confronted with a culture close to that of my country of origin represented a kind of “return to my roots”. The locals integrated and accepted me very quickly, which strongly marked me. In fact, I had no problem making Chinese friends with whom I kept in touch until COVID. Unlike me, my older brother Olivier had a hard time being accepted because he did not have the “Asian look”.

Another noteworthy fact is that when I arrived in France, I was too thin for my age and did not appreciate French food (except for sausages, whose Thai word “Saiklong” I still remember).

However, upon our arrival in China, given the similarities between Chinese and Thai food, I had no problem eating local food. The flavors of China made me think of Thailand. Looking back, I understand that my “culinary memory” was triggered and gave me the feeling of being in my country of origin.

In addition to this, when I arrived in France, my parents made me listen to Chinese music to remind me of Asia. So, since I was 2 years old, I have been immersed in a universe very much focused on Asia. In essence, it is as if my country of origin had never left me.

Regarding the perception of my birth country, in my experience, opinions are very divided.

Indeed, some people see Thailand as an extraordinary country with incredible, beautiful landscapes, etc. On the other hand, I have heard all sorts of tasteless remarks such as: “How can you tell if Thai girls are really girls? Aren’t they transvestites?”
Fortunately, the more time goes by, the more I learn to put things into perspective regarding these kinds of remarks that used to hurt me.

I remember one time when I was about 13 or 14 years old, I was asked, “So, are you trans?”

I think that from that moment on, I started to question the “reputation” that my country of birth had.

Looking back, I realized that it was a naive and “stupid” question because ultimately it was just formed from an ignorant stereotype.

Time has allowed me to understand that no matter what others say or think, we must learn to ignore their words because they do not define who we are as a person.

Fairly recently, I have become involved with an organisation that offers support to adoptees such as myself.

The association ‘La Voix des Adoptés’ (or The Voice of Adoptees) represents to me the best way to talk about adoption with people who have had a different journey than mine and thus have a complementary or even new perspective on adoption.

Although I have only been a member of the association for a few months, I immediately felt at ease because I was able to meet with people in the same situation as me, but also because unconsciously, I always wanted to share my experience. Seizing the opportunity to be able to share about my experience with people other than my close ones was important to me.

The main reason why I decided to join “La Voix des Adoptés” is that when I told people that I was adopted, their behavior suddenly changed and they looked at me with a sad expression, asking, “Are you okay? Do you feel good? I wouldn’t want to be in your place.”

It was at that moment that I thought it was necessary to change their minds or at least show them all the positive aspects of adoption. It’s not a “flaw” but an extraordinary opportunity that we should take advantage of every moment. Every day, I wake up in a loving and secure environment.

Paul Laffisse

Indeed, in my opinion, adoption is a kind of adventure that adoptive parents and the adopted child embark on. Obviously, at the beginning, the child is “taken away” from their country of origin, but if they have been chosen by the parents, it is because they have a lot of love to give them. However, an adoption must be done in both directions: the child must equally accept and adopt their parents as they will.

There will always be ups and downs because nothing is perfect, but in my opinion, communication is the key to a successful adoption. I remember an incident that happened at the beginning of the COVID pandemic: it was in March 2020, I was returning from my ski vacation and went to greet a classmate, but he refused to greet me and said, “Sorry, but since you’re Asian, I won’t greet you.” It was proof that for him, and only him, because I’m Asian, I must have something to do with the virus. Realizing the ridiculousness of the situation, I decided not to say anything and just walked away: there will always be stupid remarks like this despite my very good integration in France.

Regarding my future: my dream has always been to live and work in Asia.

To “facilitate” this dream, my parents and I bought an apartment in Hua Hin just before COVID. Earlier this year I began a six month internship at Hua Hin Today as part of my studies into journalism.

This period of my life is not only an opportunity for me to revisit my birth country, but it will undoubtedly help confirm my desire to live and work in Asia.

I am also using this time as an opportunity to represent La Voix des Adoptés in Bangkok and to develop the human and logistical support network to all adoptees and adoptive parents.

If you want to contact me to learn more, you can reach me by email:
thailande@lavoixdesadoptes.com

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