That line summed up what was a crazy week of unexpected expeditions, uncertain itineraries and overall surprises. Now we’re home, jet lagged, worn out and happy we’ve met our beautiful daughter. What a trip.
We arrived in Seoul on Sunday night. Singapore Airline was great and I’d have to say the complementary ice cream sandwiches were the highlight of the trip out there. But it was a looong flight. We got a tip from a friend and took the bus over to the hotel. We made it there just in time for bed and our plan to stay up for the entire trip paid off as we were able to sleep until 2 or 3 am the first night.
Monday, we met Avi for the first time. It’s hard to describe what that was like. It was exciting, scary, and eye opening. We have seen videos and pictures, but to meet her face to face for the first time was really wonderful. She was slightly less excited to meet us. Foster mom did her best to explain who we were, but to her I think we were just two strangers who were fun to play with for a while. We played with toys, talked a bit through a translator with mom, and asked some basic questions about her schedule. We were allowed one hour to hang out with her and that was all. We filmed video, took pictures and really did have a nice time.
BUT it was eye opening as to what a big hurdle we have in front of us. Avi is very attached to her foster mother. She left the room for a few minutes and Avi had a very tough time. It gave us a view of what the first few days and the flight home will be like. In a word, it’s going to be tough.
On the good side of that, it’s given us a chance to sit down and figure out a game plan for those events. We’re going in with realistic expectations, and I think Avi will benefit from that plan.
Monday night we met with a friend of ours in Seoul for dinner. The evening ended with me drooling on the guy next to me on the subway. No it wasn’t alcohol, jet lag hit me hard that second night. I slept for about 13 hours straight and recovered mid morning on Tuesday.
Tuesday was spent hiking all over town to see all the local sites. I wouldn’t say either of us loved Seoul. The town is a bit grungy and the food is okay. We saw street markets and palaces and walked every place we could. It was interesting to see how digitally connected the society is. No one really spoke on the subways or when walking around. Most people had their faces in their phones texting or watching tv. The day was spent pretty much killing time until our court date on Wednesday.
Wednesday came and the dreaded court date arrived. We dressed up and drove with a group of Americans over to the city court house. On a side note, I worry about a science teacher who thinks the pH of lemon juice is “somewhere around 11”, but that’s a different blog. We were the first family to meet with the judge. Come to find out, it was his first family court adoption case as well. He asked us some very generic questions. Why are we adopting? How have we prepared? It was all done through a translator. After about 5 minutes he said he felt we would make good parents and issued provisional approval for the adoption. Yeah! Big hurdle passed! So now, the 14 day wait period began. On or about the 11th of July the adoption should be finalized. After that we’ll be assigned an appointment date at the end of July with the American Embassy back in Korea to get her Visa. Then when we’re home again, Avi is officially our daughter and a US citizen.
Thursday was back to hiking in the morning. Saw more palaces and some of the Hanguk University area. It was a neat little college town. We got tired of Korean food so we did find a pho restaurant for lunch. In the afternoon, we got one more meeting with Avi. That was a complete surprise. We didn’t know we had more than one available to us. It was filled with more playtime, more questions answered, and more obvious how hard we’re going to need to work. Things like hitting and throwing every object she can get her hands have gone uncorrected. In short, she’s a bit naughty. We’ll get all that worked out, but it will take some time.
Friday we hiked around again until noon then headed out for our 30 hour trip home. Saturday morning 1 AM we arrived home and we’ve been trying to get back on the sleeping schedule.
As for the razor wire, Friday we decided to hike the Seoul city wall on the outskirts of town. It was a beautiful hike through Shamanist prayer sanctuaries. The tour guidebook was a little lacking on clarity so we ended up completely lost. Somewhere between the top of the fields and the wrong side of the wall we found ourselves stuck between a military installation and a big cliff. The only way out was along the razor wire perimeter. After an hour of bushwhacking, we found the trail and made it back home in time to make the plane. If that wasn’t the perfect end to a trip to Seoul, I don’t know what is. Pictures of Avi will come as soon as we’re allowed.