Somewhere Between Podcast
Somewhere Between Podcast

Episode 3 · 2 years ago

Interview: Teri Tozzi


On our first-ever interview episode, Aimee interviews her friend and fellow Chinese adoptee, Teri Tozzi. They discuss growing up in Italian families, dating as an adoptee, and more! Follow Teri on Instagram @teritozzi 

Hi Guys, I'm amy. Welcome to the first ever interview episode of adopted, a podcast made by Asian adoptees for Asian adoptees. Today we're joined by a very special guest in my friend Darry. Everyone, I'm Terry. I was born in one thousand nine hundred and ninety five in Hang Sho, China. I was dropped off at a police station and I've always known that I was adopted. Now I live on Long Island, where I grew up, and I'm currently finishing up my master's degree in College Student Affairs at Ruckers University Nice. So today is going to be a little different than once you guys are used to hearing. Instead of being a whole bunch of US talking about one issue, it's going to be just myself and Terry talking about her experience as an Asian adoptee. So, Terry, are you open with others about being adopted in your adoption in general? Yeah, I am. I even ever since I was little, I've known that I was adopted and I feel like I just, you know, bring it up in conversation like if it comes up, like I've never felt weird about it or anything. I guess these things. I don't really like just randomly say it only comes up before like talking about family or something like that, but I'm open about it if it comes up in conversation. Do you think that being adopted or anything has impacted your views about adoption? Yeah, definitely. I mean, when I've always thought about like having a family of my own when I'm older, I always thought that like adoption might be part of building a family as well. But I don't know, now I'm I'm kind of like learning more about like adoption and listening to other people's stories. So you know, I'm still trying to like figure that out. I think yeah, totally. Do you get any kind of like reaction or anything like that when you end up telling people that you're adopted? I feel like the typical answer as we get as kind of like Oh wow, that's cool. I've had someone asked like how I feel about being adopted in one of my classes, but I think it was just because she asked that because someone in her family also adopted someone from China. So I feel like typically, if someone doesn't really have a connection or something or no more about adoption, they're just pretty much like Oh wow, that's cool. That's awesome. Have you ever struggled with your identity being, you know, adoptee, Asian or anything like that? Yeah, I feel like I have a little bit. I mean I think I've always felt like I I've always had this feeling about like not being Asian enough for things or like, I don't know. I remember I've told my like talk to my sister about it. She's also adopted from China. Like I feel like, you know, if I go to an Asian supermarket, I'm like walking around like Oh, I'm just this like I feel like I forget sometimes that I like look Asian to other people, because I feel more white than Asian and like I think, Oh, like, you know, maybe I can't, I'm like not Asian enough to join like Chinese student clubs or something like that, because I'm like, Oh, I feel like I won't know what they're talking about. But yeah, I guess like that's something that I've thought, like had feelings about going up. But I mean to be honest, I feel like it hasn't been until kind of more recently that I've started to like more think about my identity as being like Asian, American and kind of like what that means to me. That's awesome. Is there anything that's been like a catalyst in that mind shift? Yeah, I think. Well, so, like the graduates program that I'm in, we learn a lot about like due to development theories and like identity development. So kind of like starting to think about and learn about those. I've kind of been like Oh, like thinking about myself within those frameworks too. And I think I'm at Rutgers University and there there's a really diverse student population there and a big like Asian American...

Apeda community at ruckers. So I think like being in that environment has been really different from anything I've kind of been in before. So that's kind of been a catalyst and, you know, being more open to like a exploring different like groups and things on facebook and you know, looking into different like literature and things like that. That is really cool, especially that in a group like that and that you're able to kind of take that journey. Yeah, see, one thing that I would like to let our viewers into, or I guess our listeners into. Terry and I are both adopted by Italian families. Yeah, so Italian families, and it was really interesting when I met Terry. I had never met anybody else adopted by an Italian family. Specifically, those of you who are connected to Italians know that, especially that, like southern Italian heritage, it's, you know, a very big culture, it has a very big pull and it's just a very prominent part of my life and, I believe, other people who are raised by Italians. Have you ever struggled with your identity versus being Italian as well, or has that played a part in any of it for you? Yeah, so, I, you know, grew up in an Italian family. So, like, I feel very connected to like the Italian culture and like the food. I really like to cook. So I really love cooking, like all the respipes my grandma has passed down, my Nnnie, that's what we call her. Yeah, but I think when it comes to like talking with, like Italians that are not in my family or like just being in groups of people who, like, may not know that I'm like adopted into an Italian family, it just feels very weird. I remember this one instance where I was, you know, out with one of my friends who's also Italian, and, you know, she knows that I'm adopted into a Talian family. And everything, but she started talking with just someone who was there that we didn't know and they were having a really good conversation about, you know, going to Italy, that their family was from there, and like I also have family in Italy. So I felt like I could have entered that conversation, but it just felt like really awkward to come out the street and be like Oh yeah, like I have family in Italy, to like I'm Italian or whatever. So I feel like that's kind of I feel kind of awkward doing that sometimes, but like overall, like obviously connect more to like the Italian American culture than I do with maybe like the Chinese American culture. I can definitely understand that. I feel kind of the same way sometimes what my friends and I'll be talking about. Actually, in particular, I was talking to one friend about this Italian dish. Also, either to point out, she was not Italian, but she was very insistent that it did not have this one ingredient and and I was like no, but like my grandma maybe, like not the part that of Italy that you visited, but like my family had uses this ingredient and like, you know, everybody, unlike this half of my family, use it like it's just part of like the local place that we're from. She was not budgeting and I would just kind of gave up because it's I am, you know, I'm Chinese American. I'm very proud of that, but you know, also buy being adopted into entire family. I'm also Italian American. So I have that that culture and I that is part of my heritage in my upbringing. So it's just a very interesting thing that, even though I am adopted by Italians, look at my last name, I'm very much that Italian in that aspect too. They have just yeah, personally, like no, no, wow, sorry, that up it. It's a funny story. Yeah, I also like I've so I've...

...been back to Italy a couple times and I love just going there. I feel like so my last name is more of a common Italian last time, I guess. So sometimes they'll be around and I'll just see my last name like on trucks or like that's the one friends and I find that really cool. There's apparently a very fancy wine with my last name. I don't drink wine, but if I did, you convent that that is the one that I would purchase. Yes. How do you feel that being an adoptee has impacted your dating life, or has it at any way? Um, I feel like, personally, I don't think it has too much. I've I haven't really dated too many people, but I don't think that, like me being an adoptee, it's really made a super big impact on it. That's good. Yeah, I feel like for some people it becomes like this big issue, but I'm really glad that for you, others, as for you especially, that it's been like a nonissue. Yeah, do you feel that being Asian has affected your dating life in any way? Um, I feel like, I guess my not feeling Asian enough in the way that if I, you know, I'm dating another Asian, like, I feel like sometimes I'm worried about the cultural disconnect with like their family or I mean, I don't eat any seafood or fish or anything, and I feel like that's a big like Asian thing. So like I've gotten the wow, how are you Asian? You don't eat sea food or something like that. So so I feel like for me, even with, you know, friends that I've made in college, like I've, you know, go to their house all the time, and gotten close with their family. I feel like even then there was like that period of like, Oh, I feel really awkward like that. I don't eat fish, so I feel bad if they have to, like if I eat over for dinner, having to like accommodate their dinner plans for me or something, or like I don't want to be disrespectful or anything not like, but yeah, so I feel like that's like the biggest thing, I guess, that I like worry about when it comes to connecting with like my friends, families or like even a significant other. I feel like that's like the big hurdle, the first big hurdle, like Oh man, yeah, it's a little intimidating, in my opinion. Yeah, you're gonna judge me for I already I already struggle with not feeling asianough. Are they going to judge me too for like I don't know how to do this or yeah, yeah, yeah, the right way. Yeah, exactly. I remember the first time I ever had hotpot. I was very young. My town didn't have a lot of Asians in it, but we did kind of, you know, the natural gravitation that you have when you know people look like you and you know have that same common thread of, you know, looking different and having a different experience. So I would hang out at my friends houses who were Asian. Remember the first time I ever saw hotpot. I just did not know what to do. I felt so embarrassed. My friends parents were really sweet about it because I was very young. It kind of like showed me what to do, but I just was like, I don't know what's happening, I'm confused. I thought you said dinner was I was just very young, very confused by the whole experience. Understandable. Do you try to learn and stay connected with, you know, your culture, even the language itself. Yeah, so I don't be Chinese, but now I really wish I did. But my so my parents say, when I was younger, they, you know, they brought my sister and I to like I don't know if they were I don't remember what they were, what group they were through anything, but I just remember going to these like Chinese classes where it was about like I guess might have been a cultural group, because we would like do events where we would like make dumplings or like learn about Chinese culture and things like that. So I remember going to those and then when I was a bit older, like in Middle School, they tried... you know, get my sister and I had to learn the language if we wanted to. So we were taking like Chinese Mandarin classes, but at the time I just remember like not being into it, not wanting to do extra homework outside of school or like, you know, do more studying. So I didn't really like invest myself into it. But looking back, like I wish I had, because now I wish I could, you know, speak Chinese. Mostly now all I know is like some food, because my friends like teach me just like off hand, like what we're eating or something. So, Oh, no, I hope maybe I'll try to teach myself Chinese now. Yeah, it's definitely something that I've been thinking more recently about, like wow, I wish I spoke Chinese. Totally totally understanding. I've been like looking into Chinese classes now that we're all, you know, at home, finding a lot of time when I hands one of the biggest regrets of my life. When I was in like kindergarten I think, or maybe even younger, I was given the option by my mom, do you want to take Chinese classes? It was something that the other people that I had been adopted with were talking about and they didn't know if they wanted to enroll their children or, you know, how they wanted to proceed. So my mom was like, okay, let me ask a me. So I at like four years old, I was very young. I wanted to think about it and I asked my other friend who was in Chinese classes. I said, do you like them? Are you having like should I take them? And he was like, I hate school on Saturday, and I said that's good enough for me. No, I don't want to take the mom and the biggest regret I think I have and I said no because I really really wish, just like you, I really wish I had, you know, taken a bigger interest early and said yes, because, man, do I regret it. Do I wish I could speak Chinese fluently now? Yeah, I totally relate to that. Could I ask you a question based on like something you just mentioned? Yeah, but you mentioned like your you asked people that you were adopted with. You like have groups that of like other adoptees that you still know that you were adopted with? Kind of yes. So at least for me and the way that my parents adopted me. They went through an agency and they would send a group of families over to China to adopt a group of babies. They traveled in like one big adopting group. They toured China a bit. And we're also we're all from the same area. A lot of us are from the same orphanage. There were two orphanages that did this and when we came back to the United States we were all fun the same general area of Pennsylvania. So we tried to connect with them and have, you know, group pictures and you know, for a couple years it it held and we still did that. But you know, I'm happens will go apart. So I eventually dropped off speaking with a lot of them. You know, I was very young, so the parents just kind of grew apart, at least a lot of us did. So I ended up reconnecting with some of them from Social Messenger and everything in social media, but it's never quite been the same. So I know them and I'm sure I could message them and we could talk and they know I am. Like we support each other in the way that you know, you support people in social media, but it's not that that bond that. Yeah, I had like two separate groups of like other adoptee adoptees that I knew. So there was the group that my parents went to to China, similar to what you mentioned, and so like, yeah, I a apparently I've in that group. Like I think we used to talk about it, but like I think two of the other girls and I might have been in the like the same crib or something at one point. Or that's what someone was told once upon a time. But so that's pretty cool. But then, yeah, the...

...other group, I think my parents were just in like a support group or something. So we didn't necessarily come from China together. It was like people from adopted from Russia or like other places as well, and I've kind of over the years have also lost touch with both groups, but I think now like people have started to like reach out again, so it's pretty cool to kind of reconnect. And the Chinese group, like the ones that we were all adopted from China together. We used to get together like every year for a reunion, but yeah, as got older it kind of stopped and everything. So it's just cool so that we have like similar stories like that. But I never used hell long even friends. That's a crazy about. Yeah, the junior never end suspension. Yes, have you ever turned to China? I have been back to China with my parents to adopt my sister, but I we're only about two and a half years apart, so I was really young and I don't remember anything, but I my sister and I have had talked about out, you know, taking a trip back one day together, I guess, to visit are different places we are adopted from and, you know, other parts of China. That's really awesome that you know, that's something that you and your sister can kind of connect with and kind of do together, because I hear from other people, I've never been back myself, that it can be very emotional and so I'm really glad that you have your sister. Yeah, I'm excited for it. I in the past, I like she was more like I gets ready to go back and everything, and I never really thought about going back, but I think, yeah, I think you'll be a good trip once we were able to go for sure. Are you and your sister from the same part of China? No, we're from different parts of China. I'm from Hang Zoe and then she was adopted from Ju Jang China. So I don't know how. I remember looking on a map once upon a time like where they were at, but we're not from the same part of the country. Do you think that you guys would want to visit the places that you're from or fine, like a common ground? Um, I definitely want to see where I was from. I am from. Don't remember if she specifically just too, but I think like also, I would be very down to visit just like some of the big cities or other place, only China as well. Yeah, might as well if I'm already there. Have you ever done any DNA testing or have you ever, you know, wanted to? Yeah, many years ago my dad bought my sister and I ancestry DNA. So it was like a real long time ago when, I think, like ancestry DNA was the only one around. So we had done that and since then I've like looked back to see if my results have been updated, and I have. So I think like now that more people have taken it, my results have gone from like kind of interesting when I first got them and the now pretty much just Chinese over, like it isn't like yeah, Um, like it's when I first got it, it had something like Oh, like one percent like central Asian, like six percent Polynesian, like stuff like, and then like the rest with China. Yeah, but now out. Then the next time I looked at it was like eighty five percent China, like fifteen percent Korea, and I was like, oh, that's kind of cool. But then the last time, most recent time I checked, it was like ninety five percent China. I was like all right, but I have been interested in trying out twenty three and me because I feel like I've seen that more like adoptees and everything of use that one. So I feel like it'd be cool to see if...

I have any, you know, culture relatives than forth cousins. Yeah, totally. So character development for the folks at home who've been listening with us since the beginning. I actually recently decided that I am interested in getting my DNA tested. I recently joined an amazing group called adoptive, chosen loved, which is a mentorship program that has like a big little sibling vibe for Chinese adoptee specifically, and I've been talking with them a lot and they've really been helping me along on my journey of being an Asian adoptee as well, and we talked a lot about, you know, our birth parents and everything and, you know, the decision to look and to not look and things like that, and a lot of them are saying that, for some of them are saying that, you know, the place that they were adopted from is not what they're dealing which I think is really interesting. But it's also giving them more avenues to look for it when they do look friends. So kind of I don't know, I'm interested in doing so. Maybe we can do it together. Terry. Yeah, that's a bazy. Also, I heard that you can like find out, you know, the medical stuff, which, you know, we talked about this before on adopted. But you know, big mystery when you're adopted and you don't have that family history. Yeah, always feel so weird every time at the doctor and they ask me that. I'm like, well, I've adopted, so no, I don't have any family history. Yeah, exactly, I'm it's just kind of so I was like Oh, okay, now mind. Yeah, I'm sure they experience it all the time. It's just like yeah, yeah, you'd feel it coming, just like kind of it hangs in the room for a bit long. Yes, so I know that the twenty three and me is out there. Do you know? I know that there's others. Are you probably going to go with twenty three and me or you not? Kind of sure? Um, I think. I mean, yeah, I did ANCESTRY DNA already, so I think I am. Yeah, I've I think I'm pretty much like, I don't really know. I feel like I've heard of maybe a Third Cup like company that's like advertised, but I think I'm probably going to go with twenty three and me because I don't know that much about any other companies. Let makes sense. Yeah, yeah, the I just looked it up. There's a couple other ones out there, but the big ones in the twenty three. Yeah, and I think like for me, I don't know if I would actually contact anyone, but for me I think I want to see if there's anyone that I might be related to. So for me I think it's like using the one that a lot of people use, right exactly, because I think they only only pull from there their sample. Yeah, I think so. That's a good point. I didn't even think about that part. Do you have any recommendations or for sources or anything like that for adoptee specifically. I honestly don't have that many like things that I've been looking into recently. I mean, you know, I love listening to this podcast. Thank you, but you know, I think I've really just liked scrolling through like the subtle Asian adopting traits a group on facebook and just like kind of collecting like different groups that people are other people in that group are in, or, you know, maybe getting like documentary recommendations, but I haven't actually like watched any of them yet. Totally I feel like it's really important to build that community around yourself, in whatever whether that's being, you know, in groups like that. By the way, huge shout out to Terry for adding me and telling me about the group. I had no idea that it existed and till she let me know about it and it kind of, as cheesy as sound, it changed my my life. But yeah,...

I think finding those places important. We're just talking about the on the one child nation too earlier. Yes, yeah, yeah, I definitely want to check that one out at some point. Yeah, do you or how do you feel about adoption representation? Um, I feel like, have you watched, like to all the boys I've loved before on Netflix. Yeah, I watched the first one, have not seen the second one yet. Oh okay, yeah, well, I feel like, Um, I mean, obviously that's not like a story about adoption, but you know, just learning that Lana Condor is also an Asian adoptee got me really excited about the movie and like her story. And then, like I feel like, any time I hear about like an Asian adoptee the media, I get really excited. Like, I think I really like watching the Olympics, so I like follow like the Olympic like whatever on facebook or like instagram and stuff, and I remember reading articles about like an Asian adoptee who was like really involved in like gymnastics. So I was just like reading about their stories and everything. I like when joy arcs talk about they met, they it's brought up and it's mentioned, but it doesn't become like a central thing, because I feel like, at least for me, being adopted is just another part of who I am. It's not like a plot device, it's not an arc is just, you know, I am a me, I am Chinese, American, I'm adopted, I'm you know, so I think that that kind of like normalcy that you see is it's empowering in its own way, even though it's not overtly talking about it often. Yeah, exactly. Oh, have you ever watched this documentary or heard of it called, I think it's about twins, twinster or I've heard about that but I haven't checked it out yet. I did watch that documentary and I was super interesting and I kind of like found out about it from this Youtuber who did his own story about like finding his birth family and Korea and then how he like met these two twins who had their own story about like finding each other. So yeah, then I've watched the twinster documentary and it was really cool to watch. So can you tell me a little bit about the the twinsters? I'm not super familiar with yeah, so they were. I watched a long time ago, so forgive me of any of these details or wrong this spoken, but there were these two twins that they were Korean, I believe, and they they didn't know that they had a twin and I think they like discovered each other over facebook because one of their friends was like saw a picture of the other one was like hey, that really looks like my like that really looks like you. So they really connected through social media, I believe, and then, like I remember, also, they were talking about these like Korean adoptee like summer camps or like excursions and things like that. So I think they ended up like meeting through one of those two or something. I don't super remember, but the big, like the big overarching thing is that they like net over social media, and that's how we discovered each other. Yeah, that's so crazy, like, oh my goodness, yeah, but, like, I mean, social media makes the world like so small, you know. So that's yeah, I'll have to check that out. Thank you for the recommendation, Terry. You're welco think that about does it for today. Do you have anything else you want to add in, Terry, before we go? No, thank you for having me. It was great to talk about this. I feel like even though we've been friends, we haven't super talked about our adopt the story that. Yeah, it was nice. We'll have to talk about this more as mom maybe we'll make it like a regular thing because,... you said, we've been friends for so long but we've never just, like, you know, sat on and talked about this thing that like connects us in a in a different way than we're connected. Yeah, for sure. Thank you so much for coming, Terry. I appreciate it, and thanks for being our first interview E. Yeah, no problems, great. Thanks for everybody for tuning in and listening today. I really appreciate you guys, supporting us. If you're interested in participating in one of these episodes or any of the other episodes we have, you can email us at adopted podcast at gmailcom. Don't forget to follow us on Instagram at adopted underscore podcast. Is it connected? We'll see you guys next week.

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