Nicole and Andrew Korea Adoption

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Tuesday: Forever Family Day

Tuesday morning started with pastry from the Cake House and Hot Chocolate to go from Billy at the Morning Tomato. We headed to Itaewon, an area that seems to cater to foreigners. We saw more non-Koreans here than anywhere else and wandered among the shops. We stumbled upon a McDonald's and Andrew had to go in to try the Bulgogi Burger. It was pork bulgogi and actually wasn't bad, kind of sweet.
After Itaewon, we headed back to the Namdaemun Market to find flowers for Rowan's foster mother. Thank goodness the market had an information booth, because we would have never found the flower area on the third floor of one of many identical looking buildings (the market covers 10 acres!). We were able to find a nice basket of roses for a great price. At this point it was almost noon, and we were getting excited. Two and a half more hours and we'd become a family of three!
We headed back to the Guesthouse via subway and stopped at the convenience store and grabbed some instant noodles for lunch. You'd think instant noodles would be pretty easy to make, but when the instructions are not in English, you end up with soupy mess. Still tasty though and our stomachs were too nervous to eat all that much anyway.

We walked over to Holt about 2:15 and the foster mother, her son, and Rowan were headed into the building. We thought we needed to go to the social worker's office, but the foster mom ushered us into a room on the first floor. It was clear she was far more experienced at this than we were. The foster dad and social worker, DJ, and another worker from Holt soon joined us. Lined up on the floor were at least a dozen blue Holt flight bags, meaning lots of babies were headed home soon. We took several photos with the foster family and then Andrew held Rowan while DJ showed me all the items in Rowan's bag and explained how to mix the Korean formula. The most precious of all the items in the bag was a necklace with the Korean flag on one side and Rowan's Korean name, Kwak Do Hyun, on the other side. I presented the foster mother with the flowers and thanked her again for caring for him for all these months. DJ wrote down the names of the foster family members so we'll be able to tell Rowan about the family he was part of for 51/2 months. DJ then gave me a baby carrier and she and the foster mom helped place Rowan in it. Throughout the whole meeting, Rowan was calm and happy. We could tell the foster mom was so sad, though she would turn her head away to wipe the tears so we wouldn't see. Rowan was zipped up in my coat and we said our tearful good-byes. We walked back to the guesthouse, amazed and grateful that we were now parents.

After returning to our room. Rowan took a bottle and fell asleep. He woke a few hours later and I think finally figured out that something was going on. He cried and cried and must have been missing his foster mom tremendously. He eventually calmed down. We played and Andrew went to pick up a pizza. For some reason, corn is a featured ingredient of Korean pizza, but it was really good. We placed the quilt on the floor, since that is how Rowan was used to sleeping. We both tried to sleep with him, but ended up in the softer bed. Neither of us slept much as we kept waking to stare at Rowan.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Monday in Seoul

Monday morning we slept late (figured it would be the last time for a while!). We met Rowan, the foster mother and father along with the social worker at noon. They drove us to a great restaurant where we had course after course of good Korean food. Rowan slept through the first half of the meal, then woke and let us hold him. He really warmed up to us. The foster parents presented us with a DVD of all of their home video of Rowan as well as a CD of photos and a photo album.

When we returned to Holt, we were whisked inside for Rowan's final medical check-up. While we were waiting, a sea of foster mothers and babies came down the stairs. I wish we'd taken some photos for waiting families, but we were too amazed at all these women who love these babies until they join their families. Rowan was examined by Dr. Kim. No problems noted and he was cleared for travel!

After saying good-bye to the foster familiy, we met up with a volunteer, Mr. Om (who said to call him Michael as it was easier) who gave us a tour. He's a college student who volunteered as a way to practice his English. We went to a traditional Korean village and then walked up and down Cheonggyecheon, a restored stream in downtown Seoul that had once been buried and paved over and now is flowing again.

After our tour, we met up with our friend April (from the Holt BB) who is in Korea visiting family and doing volunteer work for Holt. We found a good barbeque restaurant and had a great time.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

The Weekend in Seoul

Saturday started with muffins from the Cake House and hot chocolate from Billy at the Morning Tomato. We traveled to Gyeongbokgung, a large palace complex originally built during the Joseon dynasty and rebuilt over the years. We emerged from the subway station to catch a reenactment of the changing of the guard. We took an audio tour through the grounds. The ponds within the palace walls were frozen! It was fascinating to see the royal halls and quarters for the king, queen, queen mother, and prince and the palace eunuchs. It was quite beautiful, yet not too ornate since they followed the Confucian ideals of simplicity.
After leaving the old Seoul of Gyeongbokgung, we ventured into the modern CoEx mall, a huge underground expanse of shopping. It was crammed with people. We checked out the Hyundai Department store--10 stories of everything imaginable--a grocery area with giant crabs to designer clothes. We had a nice lunch of bimbimbap.
From there, we headed toward Namdaemun Market, a more traditional shopping experience. The market is open day and night and has all kinds of curiosities. We bought a few gifts and just wandered amongst the stalls. We had our first experience with a non-Western bathroom, which was, umm...interesting.
Sunday morning we met two Dads who have traveled from the US to pick up their 2nd Korean sons. Also, a couple from Norway has moved in next door. The guesthouse seemed pretty quiet when we arrived, but it seems to be filling up. We spent some time in the reception center this morning. Babies that aren't placed in foster care are housed here, in the same building as the guesthouse. We had a good time playing with these little ones and talking with their housemothers. We next found Seodaemen Catholic Church, which has an English mass. It ended up being sad because, instead of a homily, the priest talked about how this would be the last English mass and thanked all the parishioners who had helped with the mass for 4 yrs. It seems there just isn't enough demand to continue having it--glad we made it this week! After church we headed to Insadong. This street of art galleries, craft and souvenir shops is closed to traffic on Sundays, so we were able to stroll the street freely. It was another sunny day with temperatures in the 30s and 40s. We are learning about this wind chill thing though. We picked up some gifts and a very beautiful tall paper lamp. We also had chops-the traditional Korean name stamps that were once used in lieu of a signature-made for all three of us. We headed back to the guest house and then walked over to a great restaurant. For you Gainesvillians, it was much like the JOA barbeque, but you are seated shoeless on the floor and the grill at your low table is charcoal, not gas. We had delicious pork bulgogi and, of course, gimchi and all the sides.
We have lunch today with Rowan and the foster family at noon!

Friday, January 20, 2006

We Met Rowan!

Yesterday we got to Holt a few minutes early for our meeting with the foster family. As we rounded the corner, we saw Rowan and his foster mom headed into the building! The social worker, Mrs. You, led us into a meeting room and in a few minutes, the foster mom, foster sister, and foster dad brought Rowan in. He is beautiful! They took his hat off to reveal a big head of spikey hair. He was alert and curious, taking in us and everything in the room. He's a little over 15 pounds. We learned that the foster mom has fostered 12 children. She answered almost all of our questions about his care, likes and dislikes, and personality before we asked. The foster dad videotaped the entire meeting for us and has offered to put all his photos and video on cd/dvd for us! Rowan was a little apprehensive, but let us hold him. Holding our son for the first time was the most incredible feeling. Foster dad asked if we could meet again to help Rowan (who they call by a nickname--Hyunie) adjust, so we will have lunch with them on Mon before picking Rowan up Tues. We exchanged gifts. The family gave us a beautiful traditional Hanbok for Rowan to wear on his 1st birthday and a shadowbox containing two Korean masks. Rowan got fussy, so foster mom went to the car and got his bottle. She let Andrew feed him and he fell asleep in Andrew's arms. One of the most amazing things I've ever seen. After about an hour and a half we said our good-byes. In the parking lot, we heard "Mommy, Mommy," and turned to see the foster family waving Rowan's hand from the car.
It will be hard getting through the weekend without seeing him!
We spent the rest of our afternoon sightseeing. We ventured into the subway for the first time and took it to the base of Mt. Namsan. We climbed endless stairs halfway up the mountain and then took a cable car to the top, where Seoul Tower is located. The view from the top of the tower is impressive. The city lights stretched in all directions.
Today we are off to tour the Royal Palaces of Seoul.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

We're in Seoul

We arrived at the Holt Guesthouse in Seoul about 8:30pm local time (6:30 am in Gainesville, 25 hrs after we left the house!). It was a long flight from Atlanta. I dozed after take off and woke to see the Chicago skyline along Lake Michigan. We continued Northwest and the landscape became a blanket of white. Eventually, after crossing Canada and Alaska, we could see giant chunks of ice near the Arctic Ocean. We crossed through Siberia and south to the East Sea, between Korea and Japan. We flew over the Korean pennisula to the Inchon airport, on the Yellow Sea coast. The service on Korean air was excellent. The flight was not full, so on check in they reassigned our seats so we could have a row of three seats to ourselves. We ate bimbimbap and seaweed soup for lunch and chicken teriaki for dinner. There were also multiple snacks--even warm cookies!

On arrival, we took a city bus to the Hapjeong Subway station and walked the block or two to Holt. It was only 16,000 Won for both of us (about 16 dollars), but I don't think we could manage on a crowded bus with all our luggage AND a baby on the way bay. We'll have to splurge on a taxi. We got lost looking for the guesthouse in the dark, but a very nice man outside the main Holt office helped us. Good thing too, as the guesthouse door was locked and the doorman MIA. This nice man banged on the door until the doorman appeared. Our room is great. There is a double bed as well as a twin and the toasty "ondol" heated floor.

We had breakfast this morning at the Morning Tomato-incredible hot chocolate! Billy, the owner, speaks some English and we had a nice conversation with him. We told him we were from FL so he turned the heat up full blast--thought we were going to melt :)

We tried to find the Jeoldusan Martyr's shrine, but got lost. So we're back at the guesthouse getting ready for our meeting with Rowan and his foster family. Only an hour and a half to go!

Friday, January 13, 2006

The Travel Call!

I was at my desk, dejected because I'd just received an email from the adoption agency indicating that they still didn't have any news for us yet, when the phone rang. It was Sarah, our social worker, who said "it's funny that I just emailed you..." The word has come from Korea that Rowan is ready to travel! Lucky Friday the 13th! We are waiting for Korea to approve our travel itinerary, but tentatively we leave Wed the 18th! Off to start packing!

Thursday, September 01, 2005

It's a BOY

I got the call today at work. The cell phone rang, which is unusual during the day, and it stopped before I could fish it out of my purse. When I saw the caller ID showed a Mass. number, I thought "No, it couldn't be." Immediately the phone on my desk rang. It was Sara, our WHFC social worker who informed me our referral has arrived! I'd been telling myself that our referral would not come for several more weeks, so I was momentarily speechless.

She shared that he was born July 28th, weighed 3.3Kg (about 7 and a half pounds if my math is correct), and was full term. His Korean name is Kwak, Do-Hyun (in Korea, the last name is written first).

Sharing in the joy were the two physicians who overheard my phone conversation--Drs. Cutro and Singh. I immediately called Andrew who was having lunch on campus prior to a meeting. He was surprised and thrilled!

I next told our friend Margaret, who adopted a daughter from Korea 27 years ago. Her experiences helped us in our decision to adopt from Korea. I have since told everyone and have lost my voice.

More details are coming via Fed-Ex tomorrow!