Saturday, April 12, 2008
Korea: Land of the Morning Calm
I left for Korea on Sunday morning with my travel mate (a Dillon co-workers mother). The flight went well on Korean Air. The plane was pretty high tech and I had a variety of movies to keep me busy for the 14 hour flight. I was able to watch: Music Within,Juno, Autumn Rush, and National Treasure. I know there were others but jetlag has erased them from my memory at this point. And the oscar goes to: Music Within! I actually picked it thinking it was the Autumn Rush movie and watched it anyway. What a great movie!
We arrived at 6 pm Korean time on Monday. Yes, you lose a day when you travel to Korea.
We were picked up at the airport by a ESWS driver. We were escorted to the van where we waited for about 1 hour until other visitors arrived. The first to arrive was a grandmother from Arizona that was there to pick up her third Korean grandson. She was traveling alone so we invited her to join us for the rest of the week. The next was a set of two grandparents that were on a vacation to meet their sponsor children and their own grandchildren's foster parents. They were there from Perth Australia and had spent a few days in Singapore prior to their arrival. We did not see them the rest of the trip.
Once we arrived at the Casaville hotel, we were not only famished, thirsty but exhausted. After a little oatmeal, we chose to go to bed at about 8 pm. Boy are we adventurous or what!
After a night that brought about a migraine and a little sickness to me, we arose to meet the morning calm.
After eating some truly divine cereal (Seriously, we must have been starving as we both agreed the cereal tasted better than anything we had tasted before, we took the 15 minute walk to ESWS. I was scheduled to meet Delaney's Foster Mother that morning. Prior to the meeting, I was also pleasantly surprised that Delaney's Maternal Grandmother had agreed to meet me later that day. What a huge surprise and blessing!
While I was in the Social Worker's offices, I saw Delaney's social worker, Mrs. Shin.
I met with Mrs. Kim for one hour. She looked exactly the same as 5 years ago. She has a remarkable memory as she talked about some things that we discussed 5 years ago. She is a truly remarkable woman. She has been fostering children since 1991. Usually two babies at a time. She said that she had started Fostering as a way to honor a daughter she had lost. She says she has no plans to stop anytime soon as it is truly addicting and she loves all her babies. She watched videos of Delaney and had brought her a few presents. Delaney often talks about Mrs. Kim. In fact once when she was really mad at me, she said she was going to go back to Korea. When I asked her, "Where are you going to live? You have no home there.". Of course, she said "I will live with Mrs. Kim". God bless the Foster parents in Korea!
We were then scheduled for a meeting with the two Dr. Kims of Eastern. The senior Dr. Kim that founded ESWS, still comes to work everyday. He is now 93 years old. He has done many great things in his life to help the less fortunate and abandoned. I now have two of the books that he has written.
The younger Dr. Kim is the senior's daughter. She is a very elegant lady. She invited us to go to a Bazaar and out to lunch with her. She called her driver and off we went to the Hyundai Department store.
AAC, an adoption agency in Colorado had gathered sale items from America to sell at a Bazaar at Hyundai dept. store with all proceeds going to ESWS. What a cool idea! I pray that it went well for them. Here is their blog: http://koreatrip2008.blogspot.com/
After visiting the Bazaar, we went to eat with Dr. Kim (female). She seems to be a fairly quiet person but very sweet.
After eating, she asked us what our plans were and we told her that we were wanting to see a Palace. So, she had her driver take us to Gyeongbok Palace. It was a Tuesday and the palace is closed on Tuesday. We decided to go into the National Museum of Korea
. It gave me a real sense of my daughter's heritage. I especially loved the Water Clock.
We traveled back to our hotel to pick up the Grandmother's gifts. I had not taken them with me to Eastern as I really didn't expect her to meet me.
We walked back to Eastern for my meeting. She was a little late. I later found out that not only did she take off work to meet me, she traveled for three hours to Eastern. Wow! She said that she had to thank me in person for caring for her grand-daughter.
What can I say about the meeting? It was pretty emotional. She had originally been told that the whole family was there. Then the next day she received the call that it was just me coming. I know she was disappointed. I assured her that she would one day meet Delaney. I am hoping to take her back in 5 years. The last thing she said to me was "5 years?". I guess I am committed.
I learned so much about Delaney's birth family. Now that I have seen her grandmother, Delaney actually resembles her more than her birthmother. For reasons of privacy for Delaney and her birthfamily- I am not posting her picture. She was able to see new videos of Delaney. We have confirmed that Delaney gets her personality, talents, likes from her birthmother. She is definitely her mother's child.
I also found out that Delaney is now a big sister to two little brothers. I look forward to the day that they all can meet.
After a two hour conversation, I was invited to dinner by the grandmother. One problem, there was no translator available. We agreed that regardless, it was something we both really wanted to do. We left Eastern and walked hand in hand to the Restaurant in the Rinnai building.
The dinner was good. We communicated a little but were a little frustrated as well. The waitress only knew "baby English" so she was of no help. It was an honor to have dinner with her and something I will cherish forever. Again we parted with her last words, "5 years?".
The other women I was with came to the same restaurant but sat at a different table. We walked home after stopping at a Bakery to get a dessert for later.
The weather that day had been beautiful. Sunny and warm. Perfect weather really.
We woke up the next morning and agreed it was shopping day. We decided we would travel by subway. First stop Itaewon. We went to see the famous Scroll man at the Hamilton hotel. We wanted to get name scrolls for the new babies.
We shopped a little inside but wanted to do most of the buys at Naemdamun market.
We went over to Jewel City (Mrs. Oh's) jewelry shop and spent quite a lot there. She is quite the salesperson.
The others wanted to shop for some art work so they found their treasures.
On to the new Hard Rock Cafe
. The cafe is yet to open but the store is open. Seoul t-shirts were bought and we were off to eat at Quizno's.
We took a complex subway ride to Namdaemun South Gate. We took a couple of pictures and went to search for the great Namdaemun Market.
The last time I went here, I just followed someone and didn't pay attention to directions. A major downfall for this trip. After asking about 10 different people how to get there and two hours later, we met two angels in the form of teenage girls. They led us in the rain to the market. Ahh, what a relief to have found it and to get on with our bargain shopping! I asked the man at the first booth, "How late are you here?" and pointed to my watch. He said, "4:00". Thinking he misunderstood the question, I asked again. The same answer. Guess what it was 10 minutes til 4:00 at that point. Are you kidding me??? We walked for hours in the rain for 10 minutes of shopping. Can you say, "power shopping??" I managed to get all the shopping done in 10 minutes and between two booths.
After trekking through the rain, loaded down with our treasures we decided we were starving. We chose to eat at Bennigans.
We caught a taxi and ended up riding only a couple of blocks to Kyobo book store. After the hunt for the market, we thought it best to leave it to a professional.
Now, to find our way back to the hotel. Two taxis said "no". We jumped into one of the expensive premiere taxis because they said they would take us. Once we got "home" and packed our luggage, we collapsed into bed.
Thursday came too early and we were off to Eastern by 6:40 am. We met with the babies and received last minute instructions. Dr. Kim said a blessing over the two precious girls and we were on our way to the airport.
We reached the gate with less than 5 minutes to spare prior to boarding.
We lucked out and got the bassinets and had two seats in an empty row of 5 seats. The baby I was escorting was happy most of the trip with some periods of crying. The other baby was clearly grieving and cried most of the 14 hour flight. Poor baby was exhausted when she arrived home. I can not rave enough about Korean Air. The flight attendants went above and beyond their job requirements. They held the babies when they cried as they were more comforted by their Asian faces than by ours. They seem to fall in love with these babies, requesting pictures with them upon arrival.
There was a man on the flight that became choked up telling me how he had traveled 26 years ago (on May 26th) to meet his daughter from Korea.
We arrived at Dallas safe and sound. Customs and mainly immigration held us up for 1 1/2 hours. Once Immigration let us loose, the baby I was escorted met her forever family with much fanfare. She looks like a perfect fit to her family. What a blessing to be a part of the homecoming.
Little did we know about the American Airlines cancellations due to inspections. This had all happened while we were in Korea. We had heard that 900 flights had been canceled but were clueless to the reason.
God was watching over us and we both made our next flights out. Mine was delayed two hours but at least there was a flight to get on to. I was surprised to find out that Paul would be picking me up due to school closing because of flooding in our area.
I thank God for all the awesome experiences I had during this trip. I have many great memories to look back on and to cherish.