2008 Trip to Korea

Monday, March 31, 2008


Sunday we headed to Myeong Dong Cathedral. Given typical McDonald tardiness plus getting lost, we arrived as the English mass was ending. So we stayed for a Korean Mass, sitting in the back, where they show the altar on big TVs. Most interesting was the sign of peace, which, instead of a handshake, was a bow. We spent the rest of the day at Insadong, a street of art galleries, antique stores, souvenir stands, and tea houses. While we get lots of weird looks from people (which is not that different from home, being a transracial family), I have been overwhelmed with how kind people have been, especially with Rowan. Not a subway ride has gone by without someone offering their seat, offering Rowan a chocolate, or playing peek-a-boo (ca-coon in Korean). Today at Insadong, we had chops (traditional name stamps) made for both kids with their Korean and American names. It took some time for the machine to carve them and, while we were waiting, the ladies in the store just doted on Rowan. They gave him a keychain and then, as we were leaving, they gave us two beautiful cases for the chops for free as "a gift for your Korean children." We also purchased a scroll for Maren's room and another piece of artwork for Rowan. The artist was in the shop and was able to add their Korean names to the scrolls.

Insadong then (2006) and Now

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Friday and Saturday in Seoul

Friday morning the adoption agency arranged for us to take a tour. Our two guides were local university students who, after learning we'd seen everything on the tour itinerary on our last trip, were nice enough to change their plans. First we saw Deoksugung Palace. Originally the home of the King's brother, it became the main palace temporarily after the Japanese burned the main palace in the 1500s. One highlight was the world's first water powered clock.

We then headed to the Korean War Memorial. There were hundreds of Korean War Veterans there for a ceremony. Rowan enjoyed the artillery exhibit (mostly because he thought they were lawnmowers), climbing on a mock Korean navy ship, and running though a model of one of North Korea's "tunnels of aggression."

Rowan with a "turtle ship"

Our Saturday plans to travel to Suwan to see the traditional Korean Folk Village were thwarted by rain, so we headed to the 63 building, one of the tallest skyscrapers in Seoul and home to an aquarium. For a relatively small space, they had quite the impressive collection, including several types of Penguins, otters, and seals. We later headed up the glass elevator to the observation deck at the top of the building.

The rainy walk to the 63 Bldg.

The Donald is Everywhere--even in Seoul

The Boy who has wanted nothing but chicken fingers eats bean sprout soup!
the "thrill deck" 63 stories up with a clear view straight down.
Notice who is not standing on this :)

We then hopped the metro to Namdaemun Market. Most of the children's areas had closed for the day, but we were able to find a new Hanbok for Rowan. Hanbok is the traditional Korean garment and he's outgrown the one his foster family gave to us. At the start of the market is the great south gate, Namdaemun aka Sungnyemun. Built in 1396, it was burned by an arsonist a few months ago. There is now a big wall around it. A performace to raise funds for reconstruction was going on as we passed by.

Our Sunday plans include church and some shopping. Maren joins our family at 3PM on Monday!

Thursday, March 27, 2008

We're in Seoul!

It's almost 6 AM here in Korea and, thanks to a 2 year old that doesn't understand time zones, we've been up for a few hours! We arrived at the hotel about 5 PM on Wednesday, 26 hours after leaving the house. Rowan did amazingly well on both the short flight to Atlanta and the 15 hr flight to Seoul. Our only glitch was a little run in with the TSA a the Gainesville airport. Nicole vs the TSA was quite the spectacle and ended in a draw--the supervisor compromised and let me take some of the juice and milk I'd packed for Rowan onboard. We rented a CARES restraint for Rowan's seat, which worked pretty well. We did take it off for a few hours so he could lay down and sleep. Two sheet of stickers, some crayons, three naps, and a jar of play-doh later, we landed in Incheon. As we flew over Seoul we could see the city is covered in a yellow cloud of dust. The social worker later told is it's called the "Yellow Mold" and it blows in every Spring from the desert in China. Thankfully, we remembered to pack Rowan's allergy medication! I'd like to take a moment and crown the new potty training world champion--26 hours in the same pullup and still dry!

Thursday morning we had breakfast at the Hotel (Fraser Place--which is great. We have a 2 bedroom apartment that is HUGE, an indoor pool, and a playroom) and took the metro to Holt Children's Services. We met briefly with our social worker and then a sleeping Maren Yeon-a, wearing one of the outfits we sent her, arrived with her Foster Mom. Foster Mom handed her to me and she was so calm and inquisitive. She was very interested in her brother, touching his face and trying to imitate him. She made great eye contact and allowed Andrew and I to hold her for about 30 minutes before starting to fuss. We spent about 45 minutes with them and were able to ask lots of questions about her likes and dislikes, which are a lot like her brother's--good eater, good sleeper, hates pacifiers, loves to empty out drawers. Included in the file we'll be getting for Maren are two gorgeous 8x10 portraits that her first foster family in her birth city had done for her 100th day birthday celebration and a polaroid taken a few minutes after birth! We're so excited she'll have these as she gets older. Also, foster mom presented us with an album of photos from both foster homes and a video. The agency wasn't able to reach Rowan's foster family to set up a meeting as they have retired from fostering. However, we were glad to learn that Holt has been forwarding our letters and photos to them.

After our meeting, we headed to the same barbecue restaurant we loved last time and had delicious Kalbi. The waitresses doted on Rowan, coming over to cut up his meat and wipe his hands. Despite sitting on the floor shoe-less and being inches from an open flame, Rowan did so well.

After lunch, we walked over to the Jeoldusan Martyr's Shrine and Museum. Andrew and I had tried to find it last time and got hopelessly lost. Now that we found it, it's hard to believe we missed it last time--it's on a giant rock. The grounds of the shrine are covered in beautiful gardens with a wide view of the Han River. The museum had some interesting artifacts from the Catholic Church's short history in Korea. There were several older women praying on the grounds, one of whom gave Rowan some chocolate and a beverage yet to be identified (I think it's orange soda, but until sure we opted not to let Rowan drink it which caused protest and outrage on his part!)

Here are some photos from the day

Friday, March 21, 2008

Time to Travel

Ready to go!
We leave on our adventure starting March 25th!