Greetings from Korea! I bet you all thought I had dissapeared! :) Unfortunately I can't get the internet to work on my netbook in our room so I've been without internet access since we got to Korea. At the moment I'm sitting at the business center in the hotel. This is the first chance I've gotten to sit down since we arrived!!
Ok, so on to the good stuff!! We met Clarissa!!!! Seeing her for the first time was the most amazing experience ever. She's beautiful and wonderful and amazing. I've kissed those sweet chubby cheeks so many times that she's sick of me!
So let me give you a recap of what has happened since we arrived. Settle in for a long read because I have SOOO much to say!!!
We left San Francisco and made the 12 hour flight to Korea. So we all know how much I hate to fly, right? We got on the airplane, sat in our seat and the pilot comes over the speaker and informs us that there is a TYPHOON brewing around Japan and that we're going to try to fly around it but that it's going to be a bumpy ride.
A TYPHOON!!! When you have airplane anxiety the last thing you want is to hear that you're going to be attempting to fly around a typhoon. I have to say though, the experience flying on an international flight is WAY different than taking a short domestic flight, which is all I've ever done before. The plane was HUUUGE and much more comfortable than any I've ever been on. There was a video screen in front of each seat that had tons of movies and TV shows and games that we could watch whenever we wanted. That was pretty cool!
The flight did end up being pretty bumpy, but frankly at that point I was so exhausted that I slept through the last few hours. Twelve hours on an airplane is tough, even when it's a comfortable plane. I was so grateful for the small amount of sleep that I was able to get.
We left our house in Idaho at 6am on Wednesday and 19 hours later we were in Korea, only it was Thursday evening when we got here because of the time change. The time change is still confusing me.
So we only managed to sleep a couple of hours on the plane in those 19 hours, and there was still more adventure ahead of us in Korea before we finally went to sleep!
We got to the airport and there was a driver from the agency waiting to take us to our hotel. By the time we got to our hotel it was 8:30pm, and aside from the few hours of sleep on the plane we had been up for close to 24 hours by that point.
My wonderful, amazing, fantastic Korean friend was dying to meet us so she met us at the hotel when we got here. Let me just say before I go any farther that my Korean friend (whose name is Jin-Ha and I'm going to talking about her enough, so you might as well learn her name, lol) is SO AWESOME! I don't know how anyone visits Korea without Jin-Ha to help them. She met us at our hotel with a bag of food so that we would have breakfast in the morning and then she whisked us off in her car to take us out to dinner.
The fun thing about Jin-Ha is that when we're with her we're not aimlessly wandering around Korea looking for tourist traps. She takes us real Korean places that we would never know how to navigate on our own. So for our first night here she took us to a little Korean restaurant near her house where we got our first crash course in Korean culture! It was one of those traditional Korean places where you take off your shoes and sit on the floor and it was definitely REAL Korean food, lol! There was a grill in the center of the table and the waitress brought out strips of pork that we grilled ourselves on the grill. Then she brought out TONS of little bowls full of several things that I still can't identify and Jin-Ha thought we were hillarious, lol. Some of those things are tastes that I have never encountered before, let's put it that way!! :) We ate Kimchee and some sort of bean paste and tofu and Korean salad with dressing on it made from red pepper paste, and a bunch of other things. Jin-Ha also enjoyed watching me attempt my poor chopstick skills. I suck. :)
After dinner she took us around town and took us to a friends house. At this point it was about midnight Korean time and it had been so long since we slept that I don't know how we were even functioning. We had a wonderful time, but it was really time for bed. One thing I've learned about Korea is that everyone stays up REALLY late! I saw kids playing at midnight and it was a school night! That seemed to be totally normal here. In fact, at 10:30 Jin-Ha's teenage son was still at school! He takes English classes some evenings until really late.
So finally we got back to our hotel at about 1pm and I'm pretty sure I was asleep before my head hit the pillow.
Oh! Before I got on I have to tell you about our hotel!! Seoul is a very technologically advanced city and we've encountered some pretty cool things! When we got to our hotel room we couldn't figure out how to turn any lights on. Then we realized that you have to put your hotel card in a little slot and leave it there. That turns on the electricity. Then there is a panel next to the bed that works all the lights and electronics in the room. It took us a bit to figure that out.
The bathroom has the coolest toilet ever and we giggled over it for a while. There's a whole electonics panel next to the toilet and it performs lots of tricks! The seat is heated, little jets of water will clean your uh..parts...and then a blast of air dries everything off. It's an adventure, let me tell you. We're still giggling about it. I've actually taken photos of the toilet that I will share with you later. I'm sure you can't wait! :)
Anyway, after our night of Korean food and fancy toilets, we slept like a log and woke up the next morning early to get ready to go to the agency to meet our daughter!! Thank goodness for Jin-Ha again, she met us at the hotel and drove us to the agency.
We walked into the agency, told them who we were and they took us upstairs and put us in a little room with couches and chairs and a social worker talked to us. A few nervous minutes later the door opened and the foster parents walked in with the most beautiful baby girl who was ever created. She was dressed head to toe in pink with the cutest pink hat on. Seeing her for the first time took my breath away. It was really her! Unfortunately we were a lot more impressed with her than she was with us. :) Let me just say that she is loved by her foster parents more than you could possibly imagine. You can tell that they have a very tight bond. Her foster parents are absolutely AMAZING people. They don't speak English, but thanks to Jin-Ha and the social worker translating, we were able to ask them lots of questions. They brought us several things including a huge, beautiful baby book full of info and photos of Clarissa, back from the time she was a little baby. That book is absolutely priceless to us.
We spent about an hour in the room getting to know Clarissa and the foster parents. Clarissa was OK with us holding her for short periods, but I think she was really overwhelmed by all the people talking to her and her crazy mother kissing her face, lol. We would hold her for a bit and then she would get upset and we'd give her back to her foster mother for a few minutes.
The whole thing was wonderful but very emotionally exhausting. So many emotions were running through me. Her foster parents clearly love Clarissa so much and are having a hard time with the thought of her leaving. My heart breaks for them. This is their first foster child, and she will be their last. They didn't realize how attached they were going to become and they don't want to do it again. So Clarissa is always going to be very special to them and they will always be very special to them. I promised to send letters and photos and keep in touch. I'm happy to know that Clarissa has family in Korea who will want to keep in touch as she grows up.
After an hour or so of spending time with her, she still wasn't warming up as much as they hoped, so the social worker scheduled another meeting for us to come back and try again in a few days. We're hoping to spend a lot more time with her before we leave Korea so that she has a chance to get used to us.
But because we needed to schedule another meeting, Tuesday is the only day they'll be able to do it and that's the day we were going to go to Clarissa's hometown to visit the hospital she was born in. So the social worker suggested that we leave and go to the train station and go there right then. We hadn't planned on making that kind of a trip that day, but it seemed like the only way, so off we went.
The town Clarissa was born in is on the complete opposite side of the country from Seoul. It's a three hour train ride by speed train and it was already noon by the time we left the agency. So we were wisked off quickly to the train station and the next thing we knew we were on a train headed across Korea. The view from the train was really great, it was amazing to see so much of Korea. Korea is a beautiful country and I'm really glad that we were able to see so much of it.
Three hours later we got off the train and were met by a social worker. We were lucky enough to get to meet the social worker who handled Clarissa's case when she was born and worked with Clarissa's birth mother. What a gift that was. She told us a little more about Clarissa's foster mother and then took us to the hospital where we were given a tour of the maternity ward. We got to see the room Clarissa was born in and the nursery where she spend a few days afterwards. I can't even tell you how powerful and important that was to us. Getting to see where her life began was really important to me and it's something I'll never forget. We didn't get a lot of specific information about Clarissa while we were there, but just getting to see everything was totally worth the trip.
After the hospital visit we had a couple of hours to spare before we had to go back to Seoul and the town we were in is a beautiful coastal city, so we headed off to the beach!!
Never in my life did I imagine that I'd ever be walking along the ocean on the coast of Korea. While we were there I kept saying to Shawn "did you ever think you'd be standing on the beach in Korea?!" What a journey. The beach there is beautiful and I discovered why I never find any good seashells when we go to the beach in Oregon. Korea is hogging them all! :) So we walked along the shore and collected lots of shells that we'll put in a special place for Clarissa. It's a little piece of her birthplace that I hope she'll enjoy looking at someday.
After our fun walk on the beach we headed back to the train station and made the long trip back to Seoul. We arrived back in Seoul at about 10:30pm and again we were so exhausted that we could barely walk! Not to mention I had about six pounds of sand in my shoes...
We took a cab back to the hotel, but when we got in the cab we realized that we didn't have the adress of the hotel and the cab driver didn't know where it was. Crap. Thank goodness for my tiny bit of Korean and the time I've taken to study the subway map and I was able to tell him the closest subway station to the hotel and he understood that well enough to get us back here. Whew!
We got back to our room after 11pm and crashed. We've done very little sleeping since we left Idaho.
So through this whole insanely busy trip I've been stressing over the fact that I had no internet access and absolutely no time to sit down at any computer anywhere and update my blog. There just haven't been two free seconds since we arrived.
But I woke up at 6am this morning and couldn't get back to sleep (despite my lack of sleep my body is still confused about what time it is and it's messing with my sleep!) so I decided to wander down to the hotel lobby and find a computer that I could use, and here I am. Shawn is still upstairs sleeping. In two hours a van from the agency is picking us up and tour guides are taking us on a tour of Seoul. It's going to be another extremely busy day!!!
I could go on for so much longer about our experiences here. Korea is a beautiful country full of absolutely amazing people who are so friendly and open and willing to help bumbling foreigners. :) Jin-Ha has been with us constantly, driving us to the agency, making sure we find something to eat, taking us to the train station and helping us buy tickets...she's been a lifesaver for us. I'll never be able to repay her for all that she's done for us here. We're going to see her again this afternoon, apparently she's got another adventure planned for us!
Also, we've been very lucky that Jin-Ha and the foster mother have developed a friendship. Jin-Ha has visited their house and we will also be visiting their house and spending some time with Clarissa. On Sunday Jin-Ha, Clarissa and the foster mother are all coming siteseeing with us and on Monday we're all going to a park for a picnic.
Clarissa has been so blessed to have so many people in Korea who love her. Between Jin-Ha, the foster mother and me she has a whole team of mothers fussing over her.
As much as I absolutely love and adore Clarissa and I can't WAIT to finally get to take her with us permanently, I've had so much sadness since we've been here that we're taking her away from such a wonderful place. I know that there is no long term solution for her here, and I know that being with our family is the best option for her in the long run, but I do feel a lot of guilt and sadness about taking her away from Korea. Clarissa has had a happy life here so far, and Korea is a wonderful place. She has been blessed to have AMAZING foster parents. I just can't say enough about how wonderful they are. I can clearly see that Clarissa has been well loved.
I can honestly say that I've never been so emotionally drained in my life. I'm loving our trip here and we're having a wonderful time, but this is a really emotional journey for us. The trip to her hometown yesterday and meeting her foster family and really being able to understand Clarissa's life story so far has been extremely emotional for me. I cried for her birth mother yesterday. Standing in that hospital knowing that eight short months ago she was in that same room making the agonizing decision to place her beautiful baby for adoption was very difficult for me. More than anything I wish I could meet her birth mother and let her know how much we appreciate her. I can't imagine what she's going through.
There is so much more I could say and I'll have so many more stories to tell later, but for now it's time for me to get back up to the room and get ready for our day.
I don't know when I'll be able to post again, and I'm not sure how soon I'll be able to post photos. We're actually switching hotels in a couple of days and I think that there's wireless internet in the new hotel where I'll be able to use my netbook. Then I'll be able to post photos and more blog posts. I know that people have been waiting for an update and I've felt really bad not to be able to provide one! I have so much more to talk about! I took photos of our meeting with Clarissa and I'll post them later along with more of the story. Just bear with me until I have better internet access and more time to sit down and breathe!
But for now, I'm off on another adventure! :)