Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Korea Revisited, Part 2

I have my laptop back for the time being, although I'm still having power problems, so I thought I'd better hurry and make another Korea story post before it goes back out again. It turns out it's not the cord that is the problem, it's the power port in my computer, which means I'm going to have to take my laptop in to have the port replaced. Bummer. For now it's working sporadically, so we'll see how long it lasts.

In Clarissa news, she learned how to clap yesterday and we've been playing pat-a-cake over and over and over all day. She loves it and it cracks me up to watch her do it. When we get to the "throw it in the oven" part she throws her hands in the air and gets a big grin on her face and it melts my heart every single time. She could not possibly be any cuter. :) I'm going to try to get her new trick on video soon.

OK, so now onto my Korea stories! I have so much to talk about! I left off at the end of the first night in Korea. Day two in Korea was even more eventful!

But before I go on, I have to post the photos of the fancy hotel toilet! I mentioned the fancy toilet in one of my posts while we were in Korea. It may have been our lack of sleep, but we were ridiculously amused by the fancy toilet in our room. It had a panel of buttons on the wall you could push to make the toilet perform fancy toilet tricks. The seat was also heated, which is always enjoyable. :)

Also, while I'm at it, here's a photo of the view outside our hotel window.

After being up for over 24 hours on our first day in Korea, we finally got back to our hotel and slept. I've never been so happy to sleep in my entire life!After a fantastic nights sleep we woke up the next morning ready for the biggest event of the trip-it was time to meet Clarissa!!

Our meeting at the agency was at 10am and Jin-Ha was nice enough to pick us up at our hotel and take us to the agency. Just getting to go to the adoption agency was amazing. I've heard so much about it over the past two years and I've seen pictures of it, so getting to FINALLY be there in person was awesome.

The agency is in a tall skinny building on a busy street. We walked in the front door into the reception area and a nice women sent us upstairs where our first meeting would be. We talked to our social worker for a minute and she got us settled in a cozy meeting room with couches and bookshelves and toys. It felt like a little living room.

My stomach was SO nervous at that point!! What a big moment! A few minutes later the door opened and in walked the foster mother holding the most beautiful baby I had ever seen. She had on jeans, a pink shirt and the cutest pink hat ever! She looked really nervous to see us and I'm sure she was wondering what the heck was going on! It didn't help that I took one look at her and burst into tears, lol. I'm sure she wondered who the crazy crying woman was.

We sat down and Clarissa stayed with her foster mother at first. The social worker sat with us and talked to us for a minute while Clarissa warmed up to us. She told us a little about Clarissa's time with the foster family and finally the foster mother handed her over to us.

Holding Clarissa for the first time was like a dream. I just kept kissing the top of her head! She was pretty nervous with us at first. She kept looking at her foster mother and then back at us. After a few minutes she decided that she wasn't sure she liked us and she started to get fussy. I expected that and it was OK, I handed her back to the foster mother for a few minutes. We definitely didn't want to overwhelm her.

The meeting took about an hour and in that time we took turns holding Clarissa, we talked to the social worker who translated for the foster mother all the things we needed to know about Clarissa. She told us what Clarissa ate and what her sleep schedule was like and all of that. Honestly, a lot of that first meeting is already a blur to me. I was SO happy to finally be seeing Clarissa that I wasn't paying attention to everything going on around me! I don't remember a lot of what was said in that meeting.

OH!! I can't believe that I forgot to tell this story!! I'm off on a tangent, here we go! A few months ago when I first started talking to Jin-Ha online I mentioned to her that I wanted to learn Korean so that I could thank the foster mother when I met her. After all she's done for us, the least I could do was thank her in her own language.

So Jin-Ha told me to write down what I wanted to say and then she translated it for me and helped me learn to say it. It was five sentences and I practiced it a TON. Basically what it said in English is this: "I was very nice to meet you. Thank you for taking such good care of Clarissa, you are very special to our family. We will raise Clarissa to be proud of her Korean heritage and I hope that we can come back to Korea to visit soon." That's easy enough to say in English but much trickier in Korean when you don't speak the language!

I practiced my little speech in Korean a million times. I practiced it at home, I practiced it in the airport, I practiced on the airplane, I practiced in the hotel and I practiced in Jin-Ha's car on the way to the agency. It was so important to me to say thank you to the foster mother in Korean, but I was so worried that I would get nervous and mess it all up!!

Fortunately when the time came, I didn't mess it up. At the end of the first meeting I told the social worker that there was something I wanted to say to the foster mother in Korean and then I gave my little speech. I was SO nervous but I pulled it off! Jin-Ha says that my Korean pronunciation is good, so I'm pretty sure the foster mother understood me. I hope what I said made sense! She seemed to really appreciate it and I'm SO glad that I did it. It's also really fun to say my Korean speech and pretend that I speak Korean, lol. I sound pretty convincing for those five sentences!

All too soon the first meeting was over and it was time to say goodbye to Clarissa for the time being. The social worker thought that Clarissa seemed nervous enough around us that she thought we needed to schedule a second meeting for later in the week. That was fine with us, of course, but the problem was that the only time they could do the second meeting was the day we were supposed to be going to Clarissa's hometown to do a tour of the hospital she was born in, so we needed to do some rescheduling.

There is a branch office of the adoption agency in Clarissa's hometown and a social worker was planning to meet us at the train station and take us to the hospital and it turned out that the only other time she could do it was that day. So the social worker told us to get down to the train station quickly and get ourselves down there. We were off on another adventure!!

So we said goodbye to Clarissa, jumped in Jin-Ha's car and we were off to Seoul Station, which is the big train station in Seoul. It was about 11:45 by that point and we were trying to make the noon train. Unfortunately we missed it by about two minutes.

So we bought tickets for the 1:00 train and Jin-Ha took us out to lunch while we waited. Seoul Station is attatched to a department store and to Lotte Mart, which is Korea's version of Target or Walmart. There was a food court there where we ate. Again it was one of those places that we never would have gone without Jin-Ha because we would have had no clue how to order or even WHAT we were ordering!

It was a food court similar to what you would see at a mall in the US, but there was one central cashier where everyone places their order that services all the little food places and then you sit down and wait for your order number to come up on a big board on the wall and when you see your number you go to the food booth and get your food. We would NEVER have figured that out on our own!! It was hard to decide what to eat when everything looked completely foreign and I had no idea what anything was, but we chose something that looked sort of like bulgogi (my favorite Korean food!) and it was delicious!

At a quarter to one we said goodbye to Jin-Ha and we boarded the train for our long ride across Korea. Clarissa was born in a coastal city called Busan, which is on the complete other side of the country from Seoul. Busan is the second largest city in Korea next to Seoul. By car it's about a six hour drive but by train it's just under 3 hours. So it was already 1:00 in the afternoon and we had a three hour train ride ahead of us to Busan and then three hours back in the evening so we knew we were in for an extremely busy day.

The train ride to Busan was actually pretty cool. Getting to travel all the way across Korea was an amazing experience. It was neat to look out the window and get a view of what Korea looks like outside of Seoul. There were lots of fields and trees and farmland along the way. I enjoyed the ride.

When we got to Busan we were met by a social worker who was super nice, but it was 4pm on a Friday and I could tell that she was kind of ready for her workday to be over. Because the trip was so rushed and last minute that day, we really didn't know exactly what to expect or what we'd be doing in Busan, so I really didn't know what our plans were with the social worker. I kind of hoped that maybe we'd get to sit down with her at the agency or somewhere and ask all of our questions. We did ask some questions about her birth mother and the circumstances of Clarissa's birth while we were on the way to the hospital, but I just really wasn't sure what was OK to ask and I didn't feel like I was prepared or if the car was the best place to ask my questions. I thought there'd be more time to talk later.

We got to the hospital and a nice women at the front desk took us all up to the 5th floor, where the maternity ward was. Being in the hospital where Clarissa was born was really emotional for me. I just kept imagining her birth mother and I kept thinking about what she must have gone through while she was there and it was really overwhelming to me. The woman who gave us the tour was SO nice. She took us back to labor and delivery, showed us the room that Clarissa was born in and the nursey where she spend her first few days. It was really interesting to see a Korean hospital. It was really quite similar to what you'd see here, just a little more basic. There is good healthcare in Korea and it didn't look like a bad place to give birth.

But again, I just kept feeling Clarissa's birth mother so strongly when we were there. I felt like I was walking in her footsteps, retracing everything she'd gone through and it was so emotional for me. I know from talking to the social worker that she didn't made the decision to place Clarissa for adoption lightly. I know it must have been so hard for her and my heart hurt for her while we were there. Thinking about her leaving that hospital without her baby broke my heart. I have nothing but love and respect for Clarissa's birth mother.

But getting to see where Clarissa was born was also really neat and exciting. It was a long and exhausting trip to Busan, but I will always be SO glad that we went. I'll never have to wonder what Clarissa's first few days were like. Someday when Clarissa asks I'll be able to tell her all about it and pull out photos, and I'm grateful for that.

And speaking of photos...

We didn't learn a lot of specific information about Clarissa or her birth mother at the hospital, but just getting to be there and see where she was born was a really special experience for me. I felt like I was just trying to memorize every detail and every second of our experience there so that I can tell Clarissa all about it someday.

As we were leaving the tourguide dug through a drawer and came up with some brochures and a DVD about the hospital for us to put in Clarissa's memory box. It was a little gesture that meant a lot to me.

We walked out to the parking lot of the hospital and I think I was expecting the social worker to take us somewhere else or to the agency or SOMETHING, but our time with her was abruptly over. She flagged down a cab for us, and said her goodbyes. I didn't really feel like I got the chance to ask everything I wanted to ask her, but then again I'm not really sure what I would have asked. I just kind of felt rushed, like there wasn't enough time to think about it. In the end I didn't learn a whole lot of information about the adoption while we were there, but the trip to the hospital was 100% worth it to me. That experience will always be really special to me and I'm so glad that we did it.

Before the social worker left she asked us what our plans were for the short time we had left in Busan and we told her that we wanted to go to the beach so she told the cab driver to take us to the beach. We were off on another adventure!

When we first got to Busan we became aware that there was some sort of Asian film festival going on there that night. That really meant nothing to us at the time, but we later found out that it was kind of like Asia's version of Sundance or something and Busan was full of famous Asian movie stars that night, although we were completely oblivious.

When we got to the beach they were having part of the celebration there and there were movie screens set up on the beach with movies playing on them, which was really cool! So the beach was really crowded that night, but we had a great time.

It was around 6:00 or so when we got there and the sun was just starting to set. Never ever in my life did I think that I would be standing on the beach on the coast of Korea watching the sun set. The whole experience was really surreal to me and completely amazing. The coast of Korea is beautiful. One thing I wanted to do while I was there was collect a few seashells that I could bring back to put in Clarissa's memory box, and that ended up being a pretty easy task because there were seashells everywhere! I had a good time walking along the water picking up seashells.

Oh! Let me mention what we were wearing that day!!! We were told before we went to Korea that we were expected to dress up for any meetings we had at the agency or with the foster mother. That was fine, we brought along khakis and button ups and I wore a cardigan sweater. Frankly, I hate wearing anything besides jeans, but I'll dress up if I have to! But then we left the meeting at the agency so fast to get to the train station that there was no time to change, so we went to Busan more dressed up that I wanted to be.

That means that when we finally got to the beach we were not exactly dressed for a walk on the beach! The photos that we took there make me laugh because we look too dressed up for the beach. I took off my shoes and rolled up my pant legs to walk in the water. I was going to enjoy sand between my toes dressed up or not. :)

After we sat on the beach and watched the sunset we walked across the street and ate dinner at Burger King! As much fun as we had eating Korean food on our trip, we were so happy to see something familiar. :)

After our quick dinner we hailed a cab and got back on the road to the train station. OK, remember me telling you about the crazy drivers we encountered in Korea?? We were about to have one of those crazy driving experiences. For one thing, I think the driver took advantage of the fact that we didn't speak Korean and had no idea where we were and I'm pretty sure he took us on a scenic tour of Busan. He drove FOREVER, watching TV the whole time. We would have asked him where he was going if we knew Korean, but we didn't so we just settled down for the ride.

FOURTY FIVE minutes later we finally arrived at the train station. I'm pretty sure that the cab driver is still laughing about the ride he took the dumb Americans on, lol. He was watching a TV show while he drove and I think he decided not to stop until the show was over. Anyway, we did make it back to the train station in one piece and we boarded the train for the long ride home.

The ride to Busan was really interesting and fun. The ride HOME from Busan...wasn't. It was dark, it was late at night and we were SO tired. We tried to sleep and we managed to for a little bit, but it was still a long ride home. In 48 hours we had gone from Boise to San Francisco, San Francisco to Seoul, all the way across Korea on a train and back again, all on maybe 6 hours of sleep. We got back to our hotel around midnight and crashed into bed.

And there you have it, day two of our adventure in Korea. At this rate it's going to take a really long time to finish my Korea stories!! It's important to me to write it all down though. As much as I think I'm never going to forget all the amazing things we did in Korea, someday it will be a fuzzy memory and I'll be glad I can go back and read this and remind myself what an great adventure we had.

Stay tuned for more stories of our adventure coming soon! :)


Sam and Tom said...

Thank you so much for sharing your adventure to Korea... I absolutely love reading about it, and your descriptions are so detailed! It's almost as if I was there, too. I STILL get teary eyed when you talk about meeting Clarissa!!

Brandy said...

I love these stories. Thank you so much for sharing them. :)

Dustin, Darci, Britton, Benjamin, & Caden said...

I love hearing about your adventures! My heart started flutering when you talked about waiting to see Clarissa for the first time. I know that feeling!

KrisJ said...

So neat!! We need photos of all this stuff!!

Lori said...

I love the way you tell stories! Korea sounds like such a wonderful place.

Christine said...

Ok. I cried about you speaking Korean to the foster mother. My mom is from Busan. I remember fondly taking the train there as a child. I love reading your stories. Thank you so much for sharing. :)

My5Blessings said...

WOW Wendy, what an amazing journey you had meeting Clarissa and seeing where she was born all in one day! How wonderful for her that she can see exactly where she was born. You are such a Wonderful Mom!

I hope that Josh is doing better and no one else got sick.

Take care, Michelle

Tracie said...

That is so awesome to read! I can't wait to hear more!

Someday it will be us! :)