Monday, May 28, 2012

Seoul Day 1 and 2

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?
His uncle?

Every 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.
The windows wrapped in a boomerang shape along the curves of our apartment; through each frame a different urbanscape pulsed with noise and light.

We all crashed that night, barely managing to eat some take-out bibimbap that Sean found at a neighborhood restaurant.

The 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.

We stood and watched the elaborate process as little old ladies pointed at Sweet Bubs and Miss A and smiled.

It 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.

I 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 this:

And then we are scrambling for a curb to stand on, to watch the lanterns swirl by:

It is one of those events that is so beautiful you can't believe you are really there. Sweet Bubs falls asleep and snores on my lap through the whole thing. He misses bright lights and loud cheering. He misses his sister's eyes wider than I have ever seen them, and hundreds of Buddhist monks marching in throngs illuminated by lotus shaped globes of paper.

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.

The 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 mom?"

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.

1 comment:

  1. Love these posts - am enjoying the story. I was amused at first read to hear of monks marching in thongs. I think throngs of thonged monks would definitely be a sight to see. 8-)