When our plane landed at Incheon, after a 14 hour flight from Dallas, I was groggy. Too groggy to really *feel* anything, you know? I fussed over the big kids--were they ok? Did they get any sleep? And focused on getting our luggage, getting my mom the phones she rented, and figuring out the best way to get our tired selves into Seoul.
Then, as our taxi-van pulled away from the curb, I started to feel stuff. I started to *think* stuff. Thoughts like:
Is that guy related to my son?
Is that old lady his great-grandmother?
Is that his mother?
person we passed became a potential genetic link to the child about to
join our family. It was overwhelming and sad, and made my heart race.
We checked into our very very nice hotel, and gawked at the view from our 2 bedroom suite on the 15th floor.
We all crashed that night, barely managing to eat some take-out bibimbap that Sean found at a neighborhood restaurant.
next day we woke up early--4:30am early--and watched Pororo cartoons
until the breakfast service began. After we gorged ourselves we ventured
out into our neighborhood--the financial district. I didn't have high
hopes for the "interesting" factor of the area, but was pleasantly
surprised to find a winding tree-lined street that led us to Deoksugung
Palace where the changing of the guard ceremony was underway.
costs about a dollar for an adult to enter the palace, and that dollar
is well spent. We wandered the grounds and peered in the ancient
buildings. Several school groups were there and teachers and students
alike stopped to talk to the big kids and take their pictures with them.
watch the school boys with particular interest--will my son look like
them when he is older? Will he work diligently on his assignment like
that boy? Or goof off with friends like that one? My eyes fill with
tears for no reason. For every reason.
Later that night we take the subway for the first time.
It is so clean, and so easy to navigate. There are special seats
for the elderly, pregnant women and women with small children.
Invariably someone gives up a seat for my snow-haired mother. Someone
else smiles at the big kids and laughs when they respond with "Hello" in
Korean. We teach them to give up their seats if an older person gets on
a crowded train and is without a place to sit. They watch with eagle
eyes for any opportunity to leap up and bow to an elder. This cements
their position as most popular foreign children in Seoul.
We get off at our stop just before dusk and set off to find the
Lotus Lantern Festival, an annual parade that celebrates Buddha's
birthday. We think we are lost and ask for directions. We pass a hundred
coffee shops (thank God Koreans love their coffee as much as I do) and
finally find ourselves in the thick of a crowd. We go with the herd
until we see this:
And then we are scrambling for a curb to stand on, to watch the lanterns swirl by:
We try to leave early to beat the rush but the joke is on us, because this is a big city and there is ALWAYS a rush.
next day we wake up and plan to visit the COEX mall aquarium. The COEX
mall is the largest underground mall in Asia, and the aquarium is
massive. We see manatees and electric eels and manta rays with wingspans
as wide as I am tall. We have the dead skin on our hands nibbled off by
tiny ravenous fish. An older woman fills Miss A's cupped hands with
homemade snacks and strokes her cheeks. Miss A says "kamsahamnida" and
bows, because she is a polite girl and then looks at me with a
bewildered smile. "Why do people keep giving me stuff?" "Why am I
allowed to take food from a stranger here but not at home?" Oh, you got
me with that one child. You got me. "I think it's because they are
giving me things as a way to say welcome to my country? Do you think
As we leave the aquarium, my mom and Miss A fall ill. We find a pharmacy and pantomime the symptoms, leaving with bags filled with bottles and pills labeled in hangul. Miss A's fever burns through the night and she sleeps hard for the rest of the day.
I am burning too--but with the nervous energy of knowing that it is the last night I will ever spend without knowing what my son looks like face to face. The last night wondering what his hair smells like or what his laugh sounds like.
Our first meeting with him at Eastern Social Welfare Society is the next day.
I think of the worst case scenarios. He will be totally withdrawn. His development will be vastly different from what we expected. His FM will hate us. He will hate us.
I can't sleep.
I am terrified. I want everything to slow down or hurry up.
I can't do this. I have to do this.