Friday, April 13, 2012

Have passport, will travel

Now that our trip to meet YH is imminent (pleasepleaseplease), many of our friends and neighbors have been asking what our travel plans will look like.

Since we don't know *when* our travel call will come it is difficult to book plane tickets and hotel rooms. It is kind of scary to sit and watch flight prices sky rocket with each day that creeps by. I thought I was being smart and managed to reserve a 3 bedroom hotel suite for a couple of weeks (intending to cancel without penalty as needed), but just found out last night that the 3 bedroom suites are booked for the foreseeable future. So much for smart. We anticipate traveling in the first two weeks of May but can't say for certain that that will come to pass.

What we do know for certain is that our older kids will be traveling with us.
No question.

It would be SO MUCH CHEAPER to have them stay at home and make this just a Nora-and-Sean trip. They wouldn't have to miss school, or have their routines disrupted, or deal with the 14-hour-plus flight to Seoul and the ensuing jet-lag.

They also wouldn't get to experience the sights and smells of their little brother's home country. They wouldn't get to practice their burgeoning Korean language skills, to ride a subway, to try new foods, to visit ancient palaces and ultra-modern shopping malls.

They wouldn't get to experience what it feels like to be a visible minority in another country, to develop the empathy that can come from being constantly visible and remarked upon. To experience being in an unfamiliar city, where signs are written in an unfamiliar script, and where everyone around you speaks a different language.

I cannot think of a greater opportunity for learning and personal growth. I cannot think of a better investment in my children's education than to foster frequent and meaningful international/intercultural experiences for them.

The truth is that the extra money we are spending to have the children accompany us on this trip is money that we would have spent on international travel anyway. We live in a modest house. We drive modest cars. I have a thing for shoes and Sean is a music collector--but overall we are not big spenders on "things". In our family the biggest rewards come from investing in experiences, and as long as our heads are sheltered and our bellies are full at the end of the day, we have no qualms spending any extra resources on exploring the world with our children.

When I taught a course to undergraduates that focused on "Integrating the International Experience" I had my students complete a self-audit that listed the skills and characteristics they had gained from studying abroad. The intent was to help prepare the students for future job interviews--but the content of the audit beautifully articulated some of the goals I have for my children:

"I have a greater capacity to accept differences in others and to tolerate other people’s actions and ideas that may be vastly different from my own.

I am more knowledgeable about another culture and lifestyle.

I have improved my ability to communicate with people in a second language

I have a greater ability to empathize (i.e. to sense how an event appears and feels to others).

 I understand that there are many ways to accomplish the same task and that those approaches are only “different,” not necessarily better or worse.

  I have learned to improve interpersonal communication through increased abilities in listening well, speaking clearly, and paying attention to nonverbal cues.

 I have more curiosity about, and respect for, new ideas.

I am more flexible and able to adjust to changes in others.

  I am more tolerant of ambiguous situations, that is, of situations that are confusing and open to differing interpretations.

 I realize why stereotypes can be so harmful and hurtful, both to others and myself.

 I have learned how to recognize when I have made a cross-cultural mistake and can use culturally appropriate language and measures to repair any damage.

  I understand and appreciate how much educational systems can differ across cultures.

I have a greater willingness to take on roles and tasks to which I am unaccustomed.

I understand more fully my own strengths and weaknesses.

I feel more confident in undertaking new travels or projects. 

I can accept failures and shortcomings in myself more easily.

I am more confident and assertive when facing new situations.

I have become a more patient person.

I am more willing to share my thoughts and feelings with others, and to be open when others wish to share theirs with me.

I am less afraid of making mistakes or being laughed at than I used to be. "

(Adapted and expanded from: The AFS Student Study Guide published by the AFS International/Intercultural Programs (Washington, D. D., 1979), reprinted in: Clyde N. Austin, ed., Cross-Cultural Reentry: A Book of Readings (Abilene: Abilene Christian University Press, 1986), pgs. 273-27.)

Yes. Yes please to all of the above.
I am so excited to see my children discover another part of the world and to recognize the commonalities that unite all of us. I want them to meet Mrs. S and to show her what YH's life will look like as the "baby" of the family. I want them to play with other kids at Lotte World and learn that the same things make them all laugh out loud.

I want this to be our first, but decidedly not last, trip to Seoul as a family.


  1. Your writing is so beautiful, Nora. I read many and am in awe. This little boy is so very lucky to be joining such a wonderful family. I believe that taking your children to meet their brother in his home country is probably one of the most amazing things I have ever heard. I wish you all the best of luck on your adventure and can't wait to see the first picture of your entire family. Love from VT!

  2. I think this is so great Nora! I am forever grateful we took Anna with us and wish in retrospect we could have taken all of them. Bonding with an older toddler/child with another child there makes things so much easier than just two grown adults! Also, I am totally in agreement with you that even though missing 2 weeks of school may seem a lot, the experience that Anna had was amazing...and she kept a photo journal which I was on her the whole trip about writing in every night that she got to share with her whole class so it was a great experience for her classmates too. Hoping very much you travel very soon!!!

  3. I think the whole family being there will help YH make the transition--little people seem to respond to other little people the best, even when there is a language difference. So hopefully having those other little hands to hold--in addition to you guys' big arms in which to cuddle--will help everyone. And I agree on the cost--the travel at the last minute gets ridiculously high but then again, what else can you do? We just paid thanked God for the adoption tax credit. Wishing you all the best!