15 January 2006

On the way to the airport

This one speaks for itself, I think...

Family with Billy at the Morning Tomato

Audrey wasn't so sure about the person taking the photo, but she did like Billy! The Koreans really favor children, and she began to like everyone taking a fancy to her all week! This is probably the first photo with all four of us.

Madeleine JooYun and foster mom on gotcha day

See how much she was loved? This was an emotional day for all; sad and happy all at the same time. I've got two more photos, but not much to say, so I'll just let the pictures speak for themselves.

12 January 2006

Leaving Seoul

Here's to a happier ending!

Sorry I haven't posted the last 2 days. We've been getting in late (7:00 is late) and I was just too tired.

Tuesday evening there was a note on the door from Mrs. Lee saying that she had found us a guide for a tour following our 11am meeting and well-baby doctor's visit with Madeleine Joo Yun. It was so nice of her to go to what I'm sure was extra trouble...

Wednesday we had the well-baby visit , and met the foster mom and dad again. This time, we had a card expaining why we were late to our first meeting, the gifts, camcorder, etc. The FM gave us a beautiful hanbok for Madeleine (and we had bought them also for Susan and Audrey). She also had a photo album just filled with photos of Madeleine and the foster family!

Susan could tell that she was asking if we could go to lunch with them, but Mrs. Lee told them no, that we were going on a city tour. How sad. We enjoyed the tour lots (see below) but we really missed out on a special time there, I think.

Then we met Song, a 20-year old who begins university soon. He had made us reservations for lunch in the district near Gyeongbokgung palace, but Audrey was very sleepy and I had to carry her most of the way (my back!), so we missed the time. So he walked around until he found a restaurant that would take us... for a fixed menu Korean lunch. We each had a whole fish (Audrey wouldn't touch hers) and maybe 20 side dishes (various kimchis, fish, oysters, anchovies, seaweed, lotus flowers... on and on). It was wonderful!

We went onto the palace. This wasn't as exciting as it might have been, having seen Cheohndokgung the day before, so we went through rather quickly and onto the Korean Folk Museum. I would love to have had more time to look at everyyjing there--Korean history from around the birth of Christ to the present. Then onto Insadong, which was fun. We didn't see all of it, but ate an early diiner and went on home and to bed.

Yesterday, I wanted to get the last shopping done. We got an early start, and I intended to go to the Hyundai store in the basement of TechnoMart that Cheryl said was at Gangbyeon Station. It took an hour on the subway to get there, and we arrived about 9:45 to what was basically a mall. Most stores didn't open until 10, so we looked around for a while. Actually, the store in the basement was not a Hyndai store at all, but a Lotte Mart, so something must have changed. It was as Cheryl described, though, similar to a US Wal-Mart. Found some bottle nipples for Andie and bought lots of cookies/snacks to take home for gifts for nieces and nephews...

I don't regret going, because this was our only trip out of the city center, and we saw some scenery (the icy Han river, mountains) that we would have otherwise missed, since our planes arrived and are leaving after dark.

Then onto City Hall station, and we walked to the Kyobo building and bookstore. Wow! We found some large storybooks in Hangul and English, on a table near the primary school English readers (Grade 1, 2, etc.)

Then we walked toward Namdaemun, and stopped at a likely Korean restaurant. Susan got some noodles that she saw someone else eating, but I stuck with the dolsot bibimbap, having exhausted my adventurous spirit and wanting something that I knew I liked. Still, the waitress really wanted to help me stir it all up (I prefer mine not stirred so much). And only 8000 won for 2 meals.

Then onto Namdaemun where we finally found the name chops (see other thread) and ended up making ourselves 5 minutes late to pick up Madeleine. Who knows when we'll be back, so we had to get them now!

Back to Hapjeong, where Susan went ahead and I stopped by the florist. When we got to Holt, there was a radio crew there doing a story. They had alsready done one on domestic adoptions and were doing one on international adoption. They were interviewing the FM and took her photo with Madeleine. We also agreed to answer a couple of questions, and they recorded our voices and Mrs. Lee's translation.

Finally we were ready to receive Madeleine. Mrs Lee said a prayer in Korean. Susan wanted to videotape it, but I didn't feel right doing so. I don' know what she said, but the prayer went on a long time, and that's when the emotion of it all really got to me. It is obvious how much love and care everyone involved puts into giving these children a chance for a family!

The whole foster family were crying, even though fd was trying to stay in the shadows... The fm gave Audrey a knitted hat and scarf (purchased) and a hat for Madeleine (that she made herself). She even gave Audrey a sack full of cookies and snacks. It was a very emotional time, and one that we will mostly have to remember without video or pictures, because it happened so quickly.

Last night went better than I expected. Madeleine cried quite a bit for a while. It is obvious that she missed her fm. But then she had some happy time, and she slept in the bed with Susan and me. She got one bottle sometime in the middle of the night, and woke up around 5 am. We gave her another bottle and she slept with Susan until 9:00! I know we are in for some tough adjustment, but I am so happy to have slept when I had been prepared not to, and to have had some good bonding time with Madeleine!

It is now 12:40, and our van leaves for the airport at 3:00, so this may be my last post. I wanted to send some photos, but may not have a chance. So I'll post again from home! Goodbye Korea!

10 January 2006

Tuesday in Seoul

We were really depressed last night. So many glitches. No driver at the airport, they wouldn't let us into the new guest house over the weekend, no volunteer could be found for the city tour, we got the wrong information about our 1st visit with Madeleine and the foster family, and were lucky to be only 30 minutes late (and with no list of questions, no gifts, no camcorder), and we could tell they weren't terribly impressed.

So we needed a great day like today to change our attitude. We wanted to do Gyeongbukgung palace, but read in the guidebook that it is closed Tuesdays. So we gave another go at getting into the new guest house. This time, the doorman let us through--I think he thought we had an appointment--and we met Stacy and her mom and neice. We all went to a Hyundai market looking for baby stuff. We didn't find much (and why are all the dolls caucasian?) and it was expensive. I thought I recalled that someone said that it was like the Korean Wal-Mart, but we didn't think so. The basement was extremely cool, with kiosks vending cheesecake, tea, wine, toiletries, and one we had to try--some kind of hot pancake with a sweet sesame seed/cinnamon/apple (?) filling. Excellent? Anyone know what these are called (hato?). Also a really upscale grocery that has to be seen to be beleived.

Then we intended to go to lunch at a restaurant supposedly near Changdeokgung Palace, but even with the hangul and asking directions at the police station, we couldn't find it. It was not a total loss, though. We went on to the palace and got the tickets for the guided tour in English. We had half an hour and no lunch in us, so we went back to the french patisserie in the Anguk subway station--heavenly pastries (sweet and savory) and a cafe mocha.... And the palace tour was great. It seemed warmer today. The sun was out and it was calm, but maybe we're just getting used to the weather.

Then we went to Namdaemung market, arriving about 4:00. Much cheaper souvenirs (tassel ornaments, keychain fobs... than Itaewon), and the tourist info was able to direct us to the indoor "Korean Folk Market" where Susan found a hanbok for herself (already bought one for Audrey at Itaewon, and we'll get one for Madeleine if we aren't given one, which seems likely at this point).

We lost Stacy and family at the market (understandable) and Audrey was crashing out, so we stopped at a restaurant and had dolsot bibimbap and then back to the guest house.

When we arrived, there was a note on the door from Mrs. Lee saying that she had found us a guide for a tour following our 11am meeting and well-baby doctor's visit with Madeleine. It was so nice of her to go to what I'm sure was extra trouble...
More tomorrow, I hope. What a great day!

09 January 2006

Whew! Made the first meeting!

We were a little slow in getting around this morning. The heat in the old guest house went out about midnight, and it was getting colder and colder. The Holt driver brought another dad to check in a little before 6 am, and we asked him about the heat. He got someone to look at it, and I think they had to cycle the power to the boiler... anyway, the ondol floors are great, but they don't exactly act quickly. So it was a cold morning, and when the hot water ran out in the bathroom upstairs and Audrey was getting really cold, we had to rush to the downstairs shower to finish up.

We stopped by the Holt office at about 9:45 this morning to confirm our 1:30 appt. and to inquire about the city tour (which we had requested, but never received any confirmation about). We were told (as best we could understand) that they were in chapel and to try back after 10, so we went for coffee/hot cocoa and a muffin at the Morning Tomato, and came back about 11. I'm glad we did, because Madeleine was there, and they were quite anxious that we had not arrived for our 10:30 appt! We were unprepared, as I was going to change clothes and we didn't bring our gifts, list of questions, camcorder, etc... I think the meeting went OK, but I'm sure the foster family found us quite thoughtless.

We have another meeting scheduled Wednesday, and will meet with the foster family and the doctor. Hopefully we can make amends for being so late and unprepared for the first appointment.

And BTW, no city tour--they couldn't find a volunteer guide--but now I'm not sure if they even know we asked.

All this aside, Madeleine was BEAUTIFUL! What a precious little girl! It is obvious that she has been loved and cared for immensely. I can't imagine what it must be like to raise a baby from infancy only to give her away 6 months later.

08 January 2006

Sunday in Seoul

Only one more day before we meet Madeleine!

We woke up at the usual 3:30 am, read the Holt board and found that the Morning Tomato was closed Sunday. Decided to go to church! I found the International Lutheran Church which has services in English (it's near the Spanish embassy), and we went. It was great! We met a woman who teaches middle school at the Seoul Foreign School, and she gave us ideas for where to go and what to do. She would have invited us for dinner, but school just started back last week and she has play practice every evening. She did give us her email and phone. We talked with lots of people, and had lunch at a nearby Korean restaurant (behind the Harley Davidson dealer). Sat on the ondol floors and had kimchi chigae (soup) and pollock (koldadi?).

Everywhere we go, Audrey attracts attention. Lots of people, mostly girls but not all, say hi, wave at her, pull her pants leg down to cover her ankles, ask her name... It makes the subway much more enjoyable than the typical "look down and pretend you don't see anyone" experience.

Our "guide" thought we might like to shop at Insadong because she thought they might have more there on the weekend, and it was near the Korean Folk Museum (indoors) and Gyeongbokgung palace. But since it seemed like today was going to be the warmest, sunniest day, we decided to do the Itaewon/tourist shopping thing. It was fun. We bought some typical touristy stuff for us (chopsticks/spoons, a sweater for me, a really cute hanbok for Audrey) and as gifts (dolls, tassel ornaments...). Audrey collapsed about 4:00 and fell asleep in my arms, so we had an early dinner of Korean BBQ pork ribs, stopped by Starbucks for a mocha--a happening place, 3 stories, warm, crammed with young people chatting, playing scrabble, studying (Chinese, I think), etc. And here, we were able to communicate because lots of English was spoken, or the vendors had cards with prices on them to point to. Tip: don't buy at the first place you see, and haggle!

We meet Madeleine tomorrow! This process has been almost a year and a half for us, but it hasn't really seemed real to me until we arrived in Korea. I'm so glad we came, even with the early stress.

{I forgot... we took someone's sugestion and bought the subway cards today. Since we obviously were not communicating what we wanted, a young man who spoke some English came up and tried to help us. However, we still had to basically argue with the attendant for several minutes to get him to sell us the card! He even gave us paper tickets and change, which we made him take back and give us the cards. BTW, they cost 2500 won to buy, then we had to add 5000 won to the card at purchase time... well, I guess we had to. So it was 15000 won for the two cards, but you get a discount of 100 won on each trip}

07 January 2006

Found a Coat!

Thanks to all who had suggestions about where to find a coat! Wish I had read the one about the Hyundai store... We went first to the Myeong-dong district and went to the Lotte department store. It had a Krispy Kreme Doughnuts shop on the first floor, and children's clothes on the seventh floor. But the clothes there were more expensive than we were looking for. Then we went along to Dongdaemun market. It was too COLD to shop outside for long, so we went into the high-rise department stores and found one that Audrey would wear in the second one, Doota. Of course, the one she wanted cost twice as much as 2 others Mom and Dad liked, but it IS cute. We didn't find the actual markets, which are supposed to be large, indoor buildings (sort of like fancy flea markets, but with new (not recycled) stuff for sale.

Had lunch in a little restaurant near Doota (called Song, I think). A Korean middle school teacher approached us and wanted to help us pick some things. It was nice to have some recommendations other than our standard bibimbap. Then she had us write Audrey's name and something she needed in her life on a card, because she wanted to pray for her. I didn't totally understand it all, but she was very nice.

On the downside, arriving on Friday evening was probably not the best thing. We didn't think of using the info desk at the airport, as someone else did to ask the driver to come; Susan called the reception desk but the language barrier prevented communication. Holt offices are closed, and the people on duty speak no English, so we're pretty much on our own. We went to the new guest house thinking we might commiserate with the other families here, but they wouldn't let us in. We can't even get the attention of the watchman at Holt to give him our room key, so we've been carrying it around (on it's long stick)!

Guess we're going to go to Itaewon today and freeze and try to shop.

06 January 2006

We made it!

Here we are at 6:30 am in the old guest house. The computer is all in Korean, so it's a bit hard to figure out, but it's the same old Windows98...

Our driver didn't make it to the airport (or we missed him) so we had to tak a taxi. We mentioned the word "taxi" ("taeksi" in Korean) and a "cabbie" approached us and asked if we needed a taxi. I was more than a bit apprehensive, but when I saw his minivan with the taxi advertising on it in English, it seemed OK. The trip was uneventful until exiting the freeway at the Hapjeong Station exit. Then, after driving crazily back and forth and stopping to ask directions 4 times (the third time at the new guest house), we got here about 8:30 pm local time. I went looking for some food and bought a couple of items in the subway and at the bakery. I saw a udon stand (think hot-dog stand in New York) and thought I would take some back to DW Susan and DD Audrey in the room. I ordered (3000 won, about $3) and then realized I had to eat it there. (Later I heard that the Korean word for this kind of place literally means "stand and eat" or something like that.) There was a tent of sorts, with a kerosene heater inside. I ran back to get the family and we shared the udon (and pickled radishes and kimchi) in the tent. The lady gave us some extra broth and a fork for Audrey.

We've been awake since 2:30 am, and just found the computer upstairs, and now, only 2 days before meeting her, we have a new photo of Madeleine! The first one since the referral!

Shortly, we'll go over to the new guest house and hope someone is there! We have no plans for the weekend, and it's so hard knowing no Korean. The old guest house is great, if you like quiet. It's not so bright or noisy as the new guest house... just what we needed. The PC is upstairs; that's why we didn't see it at first). No one is staying in the other rooms.

The rooms are quite warm, but I can't figure out how to get it anything above 60 in the 1st floor common area. Both the sleeping rooms and the common area have the ondol floors, but the ones in the common area are not as warm.

Also, we left Audrey's coat in the car at the airport. We're asking on the Holt bulletin boards if anyone has a suggestion for where to get one.

More later, I hope. We meet Madeleine Monday!

04 January 2006

Going to Korea

Our long wait is almost over! We leave tomorrow with DD Audrey (age 3.5) to bring home Madeleine JooYun (age 6 months)!

HS complete Sep 2004
I-600A Nov 2004
HSTK Dec 2004
Referral 08 Sep 2005
EP 12 Dec 2005
Travel Call 30 Dec 2005! (along with 4 others at Holt! Congrats to all of you, and perhaps we'll meet in Korea!)