Seoul, our first visit to South Korea

Our adventure technically began Weds night, because Weds was all about packing. We packed our bags, we got ready for the trip, and we packed up the boys’ things too. We had a good day, both of us worked from home so we were able to multi task and get everything done. Once I got off work, we spent time playing with the boys and swimming with them. Finally 7pm rolled around and we packed them up and took them to Laura’s, where they would spend the next 8-9 nights. I couldn’t sleep that night, so I tossed and turned until around midnight, when sleep finally claimed me.

My alarm went off, all I felt was the confusion of the very tired, but when i looked at my alarm, i had a jolt of adrenaline when i realized WHY I was getting up at 430AM. Mickey got us to the airport with plenty of time, and our flight to San Francisco was okay. A little annoyed that even though we boarded on time, we had to sit on the tarmac for 30 minutes, making us 30 minutes late to SanFran. We still had plenty of time though, despite needing to switch terminals. We randomly walked by a bunch of food trucks and ended up eating at a weird Indian food truck.
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The flight to Korea was SO LONG. I mean, it was a good flight, overall, even though we had to sit on the tarmac for ANOTHER 30 minutes. They had no wifi, but i’m not sure we would have paid for it even if we did have it. They did have a bunch of movies we could watch for free, including Captain America 2 and Ender’s game, so I watched that along with some random episodes of a couple of half hour comedy sitcoms. The service on Singapore Air was great. It was just a really long time to be on a plane. Especially since neither Bobby or I was able to sleep on the flight.
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When we arrived, it was 7:30pm local time, the next day. For us it was like 2:30AM though, so we were both zombies. We got through customs and got our luggage and met our driver! Yes, at the last minute, the driver for ESWS was able to pick us up after all! Then we swung by and got a WiFi Egg. This thing is awesome. It’s about $9 a day, and it’s unlimited data plan, wifi for our phones, computers, tablets, LOVE IT. Anyway, we loaded up in the van and drove to ESWS. It was so weird, the sun was just this big red ball, it looked exactly like it does on the Japanese flag.
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We’re staying at the ESWS guest house, and the driver got a key and showed us to our room. He was a life saver, I know Bobby and I would have figured it out on the subway, but we would have yelled and been frightened and dead on our feet if we’d have ended up doing it. The room is a cute little no frills room, but we like it. We basically took showers and crawled into bed.
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This means that I was (of course) up at 4AM, wide awake and ready to go. By a little after 5 I’d woken Bobby up too. We were out on the street ready to explore by 6AM. Of course nothing was open. We took forever to figure out the subway.
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We took it one stop and then walked around randomly for hours.
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You think I’m joking but I’m really not. Bobby was in charge and that was what he wanted to do. We ran into a protest,
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found a cute park with exercise equipment in it,
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walked along the waterfront,
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and eventually found ourselves at an epically sized mall, just as it opened for the day.
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I’Park mall was so huge, 9 floors up and two sub basements, we just wandered around and looked at things. They had this awesome kids area with a giant bouncy bear.
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We ate lunch in the mall,
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and then finally set out to the subway to find a tourist type thing to do.
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Bobby got us down to City Hall,
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where we were able to check out Deoksugung Palace
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and the Seoul History Museum.
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One funny moment, we were walking around underground between substations, and I decided to stop and hit the bathroom. I walked in, saw the squatting toilets, and said “Nope! Nope! Nope!” and then turned around and walked out. All other bathrooms have mostly been western style. I did find a Starbucks with explicit instructions not to flush any toilet paper or anything else down, and a bathroom that had both western and squatting toilets.

At this point our feet were killing us and we’d been exploring for about 9 hours, so we decided to head back to the ESWS area, and took the subway to Hongdae area.
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There we found dinner and retired to bed at about 730pm, totally wiped out.

The next day was Sunday, and we were up at 5AM. We took our time, using the subway to wind our way to the stop closest to Seoul Tower. We got up to street level, laid eyes on the tower, and started hiking that way.
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Which was not the best plan, we were wandering upwards and hit a dead-end, in the middle of some odd neighborhood, and the tower looming just on the other side of the mountain.
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Then we saw the cable car going to the top, and managed to stumble onto part of Namsan park. From there, we found a map with a “You are Here” and navigated to the cable car.
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We took that up to Seoul Tower, which was really pretty.

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The Love Locks are fascinating to me.
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There was a cool display of “trick photos” that we had some fun with.
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We did pay to go to the top, and the view was stunning, but a little hazy.
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After that, we made some new friends! A friend of mine is friends with someone who lives here, and who has a 2 year old little girl. The family is moving to Tempe soon, and wanted to meet other people in the area with kids. So we had lunch with them and their little girl.
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They ordered the food and it was so nice to have a native speaker along with us for lunch! We had a great time together, and promised to get together again once we’re all back in AZ.

After lunch, we went wandering again. We found these fantastic outdoor markets,
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a beautiful fountain,
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the gate to city,
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and a neat stream in the middle of the urban area.
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The stream was so nice and peaceful, but there were some scary signs about how the “flood gates” open when it rains and to evacuate the area if it started to rain.
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We had Korean BBQ for dinner and located the “Hongdae district” which is the college town area about a mile from where we are staying.
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That area has a lot of young people who all speak english, and is a lot like a popular mall area mixed with Mill Ave. We had ice cream and waffles and heard more English there.
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All and all, a good day!

Monday I slept till just past 5, instead of waking up at 4 and hanging out till 5. We’re stuck close to our room, because today was finally the day we got to meet Eve KaYeong. We’d picked up some doughnuts for breakfast the day before, because nothing is open till 8AM, and we are up so freaking early every day here, thanks to jet lag.

Eve walked in with her foster mom wearing the most adorable pink dress ever. She was hesitant around us at first, not really sure what to make of us. We followed our social worker up to the play room. Eve was very curious, she kept pointing at things and saying “Mooyah?” which basically meant, “What is that?”

I pulled out some Minnie Mouse Bubbles and she got excited, saying “AH-ME!” Which is apparently her word for Minnie Mouse. Her foster mom said that her favorite picture we sent is the one of me holding the Minnie doll we sent her. Eve speaks no english at all. She knows the letter “B” and can identify it, but that was pretty much it.

I had this panic about seven minutes in, when it all sort of hit me, just the enormity of it. I worry for her and leaving behind all that she has ever known, and it’s pretty scary. Thankfully she started to warm up to us. To Bobby first, honestly. He’s so amazing, he just dove right in while I was processing. He was blowing bubbles and making silly faces.

KaYeong kept wandering back to foster mom for hugs, she’s obviously attached well and was seeking reassurance. She loves story time and books, including sticker books. Her foster mom said she doesn’t like the playground or going down the slide, but Bobby managed to get her up and down the slide.

We gave her a book with animal pictures and she demonstrated her ability to imitate the appropriate animal sound. Adorable.

They had a little toy police car that she drove around. Her foster mom said she still likes cars. KaYeong had some dental issues (We were aware) so her dentist told them to not give her anything too sugary, so she mostly eats fruits and veggies, no cookies or candies. She likes sweet potato and cucumber and boiled veggies .

The second slide she bumped her foot, and it upset her a bit, but we distracted her with bubbles. She then found her bravery and climbed back up on the slide. Foster mom decided to take of KaYeong’s socks, and our little girl asked her “Why?” when she did it. Then KaYeong sat at the top of the slide for a while flexing her adorable little toes. Finally she worked up the courage and slide down again, then climbed right back up. That’s when she noticed Bobby’s little GoPro camera, silently filming. She pointed at it and said “Camera?”

Bobby handed her the camera and let her play with it, but foster mom came over pretty quickly with a digital camera and handed that to KaYeong, taking away the GoPro. KaYeong turned on the camera and took some very artistic shots of her toes. It was awesome. I grabbed my camera and took a few shots, and I use the viewfinder on mine, not the screen. Eve saw me do that and started putting her camera to her face too!

Eventually I convinced her to hold my hand and go down the slide. She loved this slightly slower sliding very much, and we did a bunch of that. Eventually her foster mother wanted to give us some gifts, so we exchanged presents. She had gotten the boys Hanboks, jewelry boxes for me and for grandma, and business card holders for Grandpa and Bobby. So pretty. She seemed to really like the necklace and other things we had gotten her.

Before we were ready, time was up. Eve gave Bobby a hug, and she sat down in my lap for a minute as we said goodbye. We also got our schedule for the rest of the week.

We then went to fill out the visa application, only to discover that the (US) gov’t office had given us the wrong numbers. I immediately emailed the office everything to get the right set of numbers, but given that it was Sunday evening in the US, we ended up waiting until 9pm to get the right numbers, missing our window that day to do the paperwork.

We had lunch with Dr. Kim, her father opened ESWS (the agency we are working with in Seoul, and where we are staying) many years ago, and she took over running it from him. She was very nice, and our lunch was good. They had forks out, which is a total bonus for me. Chopsticks and I are not friends. We met two other families in process as well as some adult adoptees on a homeland tour, and we all ate lunch together.

After that we went back up to our room to change, and then went out and found the Costco! Yes, we went all the way to Korea and went shopping at Costco. Actually, it worked out well, we got some cool Pororo things for Eve. After that, we did more walking around and shopping.
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I’d just sort of hit my limit on food I couldn’t identify and chopsticks, so we found a pizza place for dinner, and had more waffles and ice cream for dessert.

Despite not falling asleep until after 9pm (the latest we’d managed to stay up this whole trip. We’d crashed by 7:30-8pm every day so far) I was up at 5AM again the next morning. I let Bobby sleep until 6:30 while I checked on things at home and played on my computer.

We headed out to the subway, feeling more confident about using it, finally. We took the train to Seoul Station, which seems to open up before anywhere else around here. There we had breakfast at KFC, which was totally different flavor from the KFC in AZ.

From there, we took the subway to Meyong-dong, which is a big shopping area. Of course it didn’t open till 10:30AM, so we killed some time in a Starbucks and did some people watching.
The Malls here are so TALL. We spent some time exploring the area, having lunch, and we bought ourselves each an item. I got this neat blanket, and Bobby got a BlackYak shirt.
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Then we took the subway back to ESWS, except we knew we had to be there at a certain time and it made us very nervous that we were going to do it wrong. Despite our worries, we got back to the hotel without any issues. We were soaked in sweat though, it’s very humid here, and even though its significantly cooler (in the low 80s) here, the humidity makes it seem much warmer. I do not like it.

We got changed and headed downstairs to fill out our US visa forms for Eve, now that we had the right numbers. We were down there filling out the forms, both of us looking at the computer when KaYeoung arrived. She ran right up to Bobby and called him “Appa” (Korean for Daddy).
Her foster mom said that she was asking for Bobby yesterday after they left. KaYeong is totally in love with Bobby, it is so sweet.

It took a minute to finish the paperwork, and then we went up to the playroom again. KaYeong kept wanting to play with Bobby, and Bobby was more than happy to interact with her. I talked to foster mom (FM) a bit more. Eve’s first words were the korean terms for Mama and Milk. Eve is not potty trained, FM did try a couple of weeks ago, but Eve refused to go potty and would hold it for hours to avoid using the potty (especially for poo.) She has a blanket that she sleeps with, which she loves to put over her head at night. She goes looking for it and won’t sleep without it. She also likes to carry around the Minnie doll we sent a while back, along with some books we sent. We were told she loves her stuffed animals.

She listens well, and when told not to do something, she will stop. When she needs comfort she loves to be hugged. She has one bottle of milk before bed, and FM recommended we keep that up for a month or so after we get her home. (I need to buy a bottle!) “Auggie” is baby in Korean, and when KaYeong wants to do something herself, she will tell FM “AUGGIE” which is her way of saying “No, I will do it myself.” Our Social Worker (SW) here in Korea said at one point that Eve was so sweet she wanted to adopt her! (She was not serious)

I asked FM how KaYeong is used to traveling, and the answer is walking. KaYeong walks everywhere herself, FM does not have a stroller, and Eve is too big to ride on her back. I suspect that KaYeong doesn’t often go places and is mostly a homebody. It may take her some time to get used to our on the go household!

Eve loved the magnets this time, and enjoyed sticking them on one fridge, then moving them to the other. Also, there was a toy stethoscope and she loves to play with it. Bobby would fake a heart attack, and she’d come running with the stethoscope to heal him. It was adorable. She would hug Bobby when asked, but not me. We had a discussion (FM, SW, and me) about how she understood that she was getting a Daddy, that she hadn’t had one before and was very excited about it. However, she has a mom already, Foster Mom. So the idea of a second Mom is confusing to her. I’m not too worried, KaYeong and I will have plenty of time to bond once we get her home, and her bonding to Bobby is great. So good that she feels comfortable with us. Bobby did try to get her to play with him on his phone, even downloaded a Pororo ap, but she was much more interested in other things!

About a half hour into our playtime, the SW quietly left the room. About 10 minutes after that, FM snuck out too. KaYeong noticed, but was okay staying and playing with us. We got about 30 minutes just the three of us in the playroom before our time was up.

FM is so sweet and amazing. Eve is the 36th child she has fostered. She thanked us (thanked us?? We kept thanking her) for loving Eve and taking her into our family. I cannot thank this woman enough, she is so wonderful and kind. She has done an excellent job with KaYeong, and Eve will miss her so much.

We were very sad to see Eve leave, but next time we see her, she will be ours! Bobby was on cloud nine after our second meeting, telling everyone about how he got hugs! It was adorable!

Bobby and I went out shopping and picked up some Pororo stuff for Eve, since its hard to find that in the states and we wanted to have some for her room and in her toybox at home.
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We’ve got the space to take some stuff back with us this time, and next time I suspect we will be loaded down with Eve’s stuff. We had dinner and dessert and it was back to ESWS to try and get some sleep! (Side note, the bugs here love me. I’m up to six itchy bug bites)

At 4:30AM Weds, the fire alarm went off in ESWS, so I was up bright and early, nervous about court later that day. We lazed around for a couple of hours before hopping the subway back down to Seoul Station for some more exploring. We went up to Namsan Park and got some pictures, found both breakfast at lunch, and then got back to our room with plenty of time to prepare for court.
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Driving in Korea, it’s sort of like Offensive Driving All The Time. First of all, as far as we can tell, Motorcycles and the like do not have to follow any rules at all. They can go wherever, whenever, on the roads, on the sidewalks, in cross walks, the wrong way down the street, anything goes. Secondly, when crossing the road, Bobby and I are relying on the penguin method. Basically we wait in a crowd, and try to go in the center of the crowd. People seem to have right of way, but we’re not sure. Thirdly, the cars seem to follow the rules of, I CAN FIT THERE! and force their way in wherever they want to go without leaving any type of space between one another. It’s pretty freaking scary. Thankfully, we don’t have to drive, our agency provided a van and driver. There were even seatbelts! Well, lap belts, and you sort of had to dig around for them, but we did find them!

The court building was on the other side of town, and while the drive there was harrowing, we made good time. We had a good talk with our translator, a nice woman from the US who also works as a social worker. Once we arrived we found the two other families from our lunch with Dr. Kim who are also in process. We waited for about an hour, had our passports looked at, and then waited again for a bit. Finally the judge called back the first family. Bobby and I were last.

The judge seemed nice, but it was hard to tell. He asked us:
From your file, your second son had some issues, how was that, and how is he now?
Who is watching our boys while we are in Korea?
Did we meet KaYeong, how did that go?
How do we plan to raise KaYeong?
Mom- What is the best thing about Dad’s parenting
Dad- What’s the best thing about Mom’s parenting
And then he made us promise to love her and always try to see things from her point of view.

And we left. Now we have to wait and see if all the paperwork is in place, if it is, it should be about a month. If they need more information, it might take 2 to 3 months.

The drive back was just as harrowing, but we arrived safely and went back to our room. We peeled off our court clothes and changed into our everyday wear, and then headed back out down a new path. We found the Hyundai Department Store, I kid you not. 10 floors of mall, including an excellent bakery and a restaurant with a view. We had another dinner full of things I could not identify, and then went back down to the bottom floor. We found some Macaroons, which we got for dessert before trooping back to our room again.
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We watched a little Korean TV (I’d say Korean commercials are weird, but so are US ones, so I think that’s universal.) and relaxed. I managed to sleep in till 6AM the next day. I think a few more days and I’d have been on Korean time. Instead, we started the process of packing up to head home, finally. Because let me tell you, I missed my boys.

We had “breakfast” at Cafe Comma, which had this amazing Chocolate Mint Tea and this to die for brownie. There were floor to ceiling books and just a great atmosphere, we really loved this place.
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Bobby then led us out to the subway again, where we took the train to Digital Media City. This seemed to be a newer area, with a lot of business offices and such.
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They had some very tall buildings and some very odd sculpture, but also more green space than we’d seen. We found this park, Sangam Neighborhood park, and it was like stepping into a rainforest. There were dense trees lots of birds. Also, it was drizzling all morning, which only added to the atmosphere. It was so pretty!
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Eventually we worked our way out of the park and found lunch before heading back to our room. We finished getting packed and got driven to the airport, thankfully traffic was light! The flight home was very long, we left at 5:50pm Korea time (which is 1:50AM AZ time), and arrived in the USA at 5:30pm. Since we’d been up since 6AM Korean time, that meant we’d been awake for about 27 hours, as neither of us could sleep on the flight. Mickey picked us up and got us home, for which I am so thankful, as neither of us was up for driving. We made ourselves stay up until 8pm before crashing, and I slept through straight till 7:30AM.

Laura brought us our boys around 9:30AM, and it was so great to finally have them back! We missed them so much!!!
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Thank you for reading, if you held on this long, you should know that you can see more pictures of our trip here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/jadesymb/sets/72157645518354252/

We can’t wait to go back and get Eve KaYeong in about 4 to 8 weeks!

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1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Holistic Wayfarer
    Aug 08, 2014 @ 07:09:11

    You are so brave venturing out to Seoul! What made you do it? I haven’t been, since leaving at a wee age. Have only heard about it through friends. And, yes, it might be even worse than the offensive driving in NYC. Did you notice Koreans gen’lly don’t like rules in gen’l? Hope you got some good food in. =)

    HW

    Reply

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