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.
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! :)