Tuesday, September 22, 2015
SeoulForSimon: Part 2: Bukchon Village & Gyeongbokgung Palace . Part 3: Namsan Tower, Namdaemun Market, & Korean Baseball After our first visit with Simon we hit the subway and headed to a part of Seoul called Bukchon Village. Bukchon is located between Gyeongbokgung Palace and Changoek Palace. It features a great deal of art galleries and small stores running throughout limitless alleys and is quoted as being a 'preserved 600 year old urban environment.' We didn't really purchase anything, but enjoyed seeing the interesting shops and buildings. We made our way over to Changoek Palace only to find that it was closed on Mondays and so then walked for quite some time along a main city street towards Gyeongbokgung Palace. We got to watch the changing of the guards and then went into the palace to explore a bit. The "G Palace" was built in 1395 by the Joseon Dynasty. It consisted of more than 300 different elaborately painted buildings. It was beauiful and mind blowing to read about all it has been thru in the last seven hundred years. We then headed over to the Insadong area of Seoul to meet a fellow adoptive family for the first time in person for dinner. The restraunts in Seoul are so different and difficult to explain. There are so many all packed into every building. We spent many conversations mulling over the assumption that rent must be very cheap for so many small stores and shops to stay open when competitors souround them. On this night, as with many others, we ended up going up an alley stairway to the third or fourth floor and heading into a cozy restaurant. There were 8 of us and we lined a wall mixed with chairs and benches. Unlike many restraunts in Seoul, this one had no pictures and no English and so we were very thankful to have our Korean speaking friends with us. We got a wide assortment of food and I was very thankful for my friend attempting to explain my shrimp allergy to the waiter as food allergies are not at all common in SK. I of course also got some version of Kimchi Jigae. This is a kimchi soup that Patrick makes at home for me once or twice a month and I was determined to find the best batch in all of Korea so I ordered a bowl along with our meals at nearly every restraunt we went to. It was nice to sit and eat with great company, but as the long day and jet lag started to catch up we were all eager to get back to our hotels to rest. On Tuesday we woke up and took the subway to an area of Seoul where we would be able to go up into Namsan Tower to look over the entire city. It was fairly hot and humid and we were sweating up a storm even just trying to hike to the cable car building. (We noticed many times that Koreans seem to have a much different tolerance to heat as we were often the only ones sweating! Haha) It was an incredibly clear day in Seoul, which is rare, and so our cable car ride up the hill was beautiful! Namsan Tower is the tallest point in Seoul and quite amazing to look out and see how far the city of ten million reaches. However I got a bit sick and was eager to get back down the mountain. ;) After the tower we headed over to shop at a traditional market called Namdaemun. This market was definitely our least favorite, but I've heard that their indoor shops have more to offer. It was very very busy and loud and seemed to be filled with socks, purses, and sunglasses. Late that afternoon we ventured up several floors to a coffee shop where, as often happened, we were the only customers. We had a humorous ordering experience and just spent an hour or so visiting with the Grays before we jumped on the subway to head to a Korean Baseball game. The baseball game was very different than that of an American baseball game. The stadium and attire were quite similar, but the prices on tickets and food was much lower. The highlight of the game was what my husband referred to as the Hype Man. Basically each side of the stadium (separated according to whom you were cheering for) had a hype man and a few cheerleaders. When your team was up to bat there was CONSTANT LOUD singing and cheering and banging of plastic tubes. The energy was incredibly high and everyone in the crowd participated. It was a lot of fun. My husband and I splurged and each got a team hat and were excited to be able to one day share with Simon all about the game in Seoul. It was a perfect night and we just enjoyed each other's company as we walked the streets back to the subway to head back to the guest house. According to Patrick's watch we had been averaging around seven miles a day or walking. We were determined to stay busy and take in as much of the culture as possible. My husband and I both remarked early on that we felt very safe and comfortable in Seoul. The subway was easy to acess, the people were helpful if needed, and there was so much to explore.
Tuesday, September 8, 2015
The week leading up to departure came very quickly as our days were filled with dozens of to do's not only in preparation for Korea, but also because I can't seem to just focus on a task at a time, but always find myself shoving as much in as possible in order to be more and more settled, organized, and prepared for the changes to come this fall and winter. The night before we left I was filled with sudden sadness over leaving our two older children. Eight nights suddenly seemed like a very very long time to be away from such young children whom I used to being with around the clock. I allowed those emotions, but continued to remind myself of the fantastic care they would receive while we're away and of course was filled with the surreal realities of what we were about to do. On Saturday morning we woke a little after 4am and headed to Kansas City International Airport. We grabbed our friends and photographers, The Grays, along the way and began part two of our adventure to Simon. My emotions, while they held a small bit of dread over the upcoming full day of travel, were primarily focused on the excitement that flowed thru me with the knowledge that we were headed to meet our son in person for the first time. My husband best described the love one is able to feel from simply having photos and videos by comparing it to the same moment he first saw his other children born. You don't know them. You've never held them. But the part of you that knows they're yours takes over your heart and claims them from that point on as part of you, part of your life, part of your heart. Simon has been loved his entire life. I know in my heart that as an infant he had nurses, social workers, his birth mother, and his foster mother who loved him. Who cherish him. He has been loved by us and by our children since the first moment we saw his photo at eight months old. And above all he has been loved by God since before he even was. ---While on the long flights my mind was never far from picturing the moment to come where we will first meet our eyes with his. I wondered what he would wear, would his hair be long and wild (my favorite), would it be pulled back into a traditional pony tail, or would his foster mom have cut it in anticipation for this day. I attempted to control my heart to have no expectations for our moments together. I had read many many accounts of these first meetings and knew it was just as possible for him to be unwilling to come near us as to hug us. I just wanted him to BE. I just wanted to see him. I hoped to get the chance to touch him and connect with him, but knew that moment would eventually come and learned of patience long ago. ---When we arrived in Seoul, South Korea we were all exhausted but thrilled to finally be off the horribly long plane ride. We made our way to baggage, immagration, Wi-Fi purchase, and the subway fairly easily with instructions from previous families and the benefit of all signs having not only Hangul, but also English. Once off the correct train we had a bit of a walk with all of our luggage thru busy city streets in the dark, but after less than 30 minutes of wandering we stepped past a series of shops and were instantly in front of the agency. The building front is very distinctive. I had seen pictures of it many times. The exhaustion and foreign confusion were no match for our sudden rush of emotions when first seeing the adoption agency. I quickly tucked my head in Patrick's chest and cried as I waited for him to whisper another Dumb&Dumber quote to me "we're really doing it, aren't we buddy". ;) It was realer than real. We had arrived and would settle in to the guest house in preparation to meet our son in the morning. ---Monday morning, August 31, 2014, 568 days after first seeing his picture, Patrick and I meet SeoYoon face to face. We were sitting in the agency coffee shop when our social worker said "he's here" and pointed towards the door. When I turned the corner, there he was. It was as if I've always known him. I did not feel anxiety towards him, just peace. I'm sure our smiles were big as we said hello I'm Korean to him over and over. He ran right past everyone and straight to a child sized ride in car to play. It was obvious he was familiar with coming to the agency and loved the car. We least down and smiled and talked to him. The Foster Mother was all smiles toward us. Once the Foster Father came in from parking Simon ran right to him. He picked him up and they explained they love each other very much and he very attached to him because he is a 'man's man' of sorts. :) We all went upstairs and into a play room. In many parts of Korea, before you enter many types of rooms, you must take off your shoes and not be barefoot so we all came prepared with socks. Once in the room Simon's FM sat him at a little table and signaled for me to sit in the chair by him. When I did she took his chair and scooted it right next to me. Patrick was on my other side. He had two cars we played with. Everyone watched as Patrick and I just played and interacted with him. (FM, FF, social worker, & two phtotographers) Simon was in a good mood for the majority of the play date. He only got a little upset when his FF left the room for a bit. Our SW was able to translate questions for us to the FM about Simon's general care. As parents already we are very patient with Simon. We didn't want to force any affection. He was appropriately cautious toward us, but still friendly. After a few minutes of play I snuck my hand on his little back. He didn't flinch or mind at all. I had been waiting for so so long to touch him. Then after a bit I may have snuck a touch or two to his soft curly hair. :) I switched places with Patrick for a while and he did the same. After a bit of play at the table Simon switched to a ride in cozy coupe car. It was quite evident that he loved cars. His foster parents were so wonderful. They kept trying to encourage him toward us. I'll never forget the moment we were all in the floor and Simon was sitting on his FF's lap and he was motioning for him to sit on Patrick's lap maybe. Simon wasn't upset at all, but also not interested in getting too too close. We got out the fruit snacks to see if that may lure him over. Patrick held out the treat to him and Simon leaned toward him and opened his mouth. Something so simple caught me by surprise. How sweet that he saw Patrick already as someone he trusted to stick food right in his mouth. Once he had the piece in his mouth however he quickly disapproved and took it out, dripping with slobber, and held it up and fed it to his FF. The sweet man accepted the gooey offering without a second thought. This made my heart warm and ache. I'm a sap for babies and grandpas anyways and mixed with my baby and this special circumstance it was all I could do not to "AWWW!" out loud. ;) ---We gave the foster family a gift for their baby granddaughter and also a basket for them. The FM asked us the sizes of Keith and Layla, our older children, because she wanted to get traditional hanboks made for them before our second play date. When we parted Simon had lots of sweet "bye bye"s for us and off they went. We were sent straight into a visa meeting where we filed for Simon's US passport. ---I didn't necessarily feel depressed or sad at him leaving, more so just blessedly excited to having seen him and knowing we would see him again very soon. I had zero doubts about our connections and relationship with him and knew with time all would come. God has gone before us. I felt excited that he was so happy and sweet. Also, we were glad to learn more about him - like that she said he was off his bottle, starting to show some beginning potty training signs, loved cars, very laid back, fairly easy going, takes 1 nap, falls asleep quickly, but just needs to be laid with at first, and is a small and uninterested eater. My favorite thing was that he seemed to enjoy Patrick. I dreamed very much for them to bond quickly and deeply, even if it means watching from the side a bit. I love this for them so so much. And of course I wish our older kids could've been present, as I have the same dreams for them, but know (hope!) that'll come very soon. :)