Sunday, June 23, 2013

“Hang on, my backpack is caught on the razor wire.”

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.


Sunday, June 9, 2013

The Jolt of the Bolt

Hiking in Vail
That's corny. The jolt of the bolt, I’m a poet and I didn’t know it. Ha! One week to go! I knew I’d wake up and we’d be almost there. One week from now we will be in Korea. Honestly I’m more worried about jet lag than I am about meeting Avi for the first time. Seoul is +14 hours from Colorado. I’d like to pass out for the flight over there, but I think I’d be better served by staying awake the whole time. (ugh!) and sleeping when it’s bedtime there.

Thank you all for the wonderful suggestions. Between lockets and artesian crafts and blankets, we have some excellent and very loving ideas! We’ll get her squared away by the second visit. This visit we’ll just take the stuff we have.

Ann and I took the weekend and went to Vail. Life has been stressful these last couple of weeks, and we decided to get away for a quick escape.  We went up there, ate great food, hiked up to Mid-Vail, and just had a wonderful time. I kept saying “this is our last vacation as just you and I”. Perhaps I did it to the point of annoyance. But from now on, even if Avi may stay behind for some trips, we will be traveling as parents. Ann and I make such a great team. We’ve been that way for years and now it’s about to change forever. I think that’s beginning to hit me.  

As we were walking along, we found the former site of Minnie’s lift. We used to take Born Free up, cut over to Minnie’s and ride that little rickety two seater to the top. All that’s left of Minnie’s lift is a bare patch, a liftline through the trees, and possibly a bolt. Now they have the beautiful Gondola to get you up there, and the even newer “One” lift (a bigger gondola) out of Vail Village. These new lifts are faster, prettier, and more scenic than that little slow lift. But both Ann and I agreed we missed Minnie’s. There’s nothing wrong with the new stuff, it’s better in many ways. But that old lift we’d known for years was something we’d gotten used to and it’s gone forever. I kind of feel a parallel between that and Avi coming home. It’s not going to be just the two of us anymore.

The view from the new and improved "One"

Along the route, I found this big heavy bolt in the mud about 50 feet from where the lift used to stand. Now I’d say I’m about 20% sure that bolt came from the old lift. Vail took the lift out about 5 years ago, and I wasn’t exactly in the right spot, but that mud caked bolt was just too perfectly placed and buried to be there by accident. I picked up that muddy thing and stuck it in my pocket. Ann and I have a collection of things we’ve kept from hikes, bike rides and runs over the years. It’s proudly displayed in our living room. And we can tell you the significance of pretty much everything in there. I’ve decided to add this bolt to the collection. With all the changes going on in our lives right now, this was our last trip together as just the two of us. And immediately after finding the bolt, I saw a connection between the little two seater ride Ann and I have been on all this time, and the new faster future to come. That’s a lot of importance to attach to a bolt or maybe I’m just feeling poetic.

I couldn’t be happier to meet Avi and bring her home. I think there will be wonderful new experiences that I can’t now imagine. Everyone says it changes your life “but in a good way!” and I believe that. But there is a touch of sadness for what we’ll be losing in the process. Fortunately, I also think that will be far outweighed by the joy that is just around the corner.  

Ann practicing her Korean

And by the way...

So far we haven’t been allowed to put any pictures of Avi on public forums like this. All our pictures belong to the adoption agency and aren’t allowed to be shared publicly. That's about to change. For the first time, we’ll have pictures that are ours and we can do with them as we please. So keep an eye on us next Monday or Tuesday. I’ll post as many as I can when I have wifi over there. 

See you in Seoul!

Old Minnie's lift back in the day.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

The Outer Marker

This one’s for Freddy with the idea from Rob. So in the world of aviation, one doesn’t always see where one is headed. You know where you’re going and where you want to end up. There’s even a seemingly solid plan for how you’ll get there. But flying around with your head in the clouds, your exact path is often dictated by a faceless voice over the radio. From minute to minute, you can’t see where you’re going, but you hope the voice is telling you the right thing. Adoption feels the same (minus the giant airplane and bad food). The plan is set, but the instructions appear as unquestionable directives from someplace far away. There are a lot of us along from the ride. Ann and I are actively piloting the trip, the rest are in the back just waiting for us to get there. We’ve follow those instructions and arrived at what is know to Freddy, Rob and the aviation world as the outer marker. The location written on aviation maps, set in stone as the beginning of you approach to land. 

From this point forward, it’s just a series of steps heading around and directly towards our final goal. This journey is coming to end and the next one is already prepped to begin. It was fairly long, boring and slightly bumpy trip so far. However, once you’ve reached the outer marker everything begins to happen pretty fast. Terrifyingly fast if you’re not ready for it. 

3 weeks. That’s all we’ve got until we meet Avi for the first time. I thought we had a month and a half, but that was yesterday. Today we looked at the calendar and realized we have 3 weeks. Tomorrow, I know I’ll wake up with only a week, then a day to go. Yet part of me feels like it’s not really happening. Purchasing the tickets made it somewhat more real. But it still I’m just performing tasks required of me by the voice over the radio. I think I’ll have to be half way over the Pacific before reality sets in. 

As part of our final checks, I have a question for the group. We need to purchase some gifts. We need gifts for the foster mom, gifts for the social worker, the adoption staff, gifts gifts gifts all around. And that has us a bit stumped. 

Those less directly involved were easier. We got some boxes of Enstroms candy. It’s from Colorado, it’s tasty, and it travels easily. With the foster mom, the decision has been a little tougher, and the internet has been no help at all. What do you get for someone who has been raising your child since birth? Does a candle or a bottle of perfume convey our gratitude? 

They say you’re supposed to bring something that is meaningful, comes from your area, and will give foster mom something to remember Avi by. Wrapping Avi in an American flag and holding her up a-la Lion King while chanting the movie opening didn’t seem like a good idea. (though it did fit all the criteria) So aside from that gem, not much progress has been made in this department. 

Yesterday, back when we had a month and a half before travel, I went so far as dragging Ann to the Buffalo Bill gift shop at the top of Lookout. She was thrilled. Between the candy with the tequila worm in it and the airbrushed unicorn paintings next to the Zoltar machine, it was a cornucopia of Colorado. Did I mention Ann was thrilled? Though Colorado kitsch is not really our style, we did manage to end up with a book of Colorado photos and pretty Aspen leaf pin. We passed on the stuffed buffalo droppings, and Ann vetoed the unicorns. We found things from Colorado but they don’t seem all the memorable or emotional. 

So what say you friends? With the clock ticking and the trip speeding to its end, any thoughts on what to bring? 

--This is your captain speaking; thank you for traveling with us and we’ll be on the ground in a few minutes depending on the winds and assuming I decide to go there. Flight attendants, two dirty martinis to the cockpit please.

The End of the Beginning

December, 2009 it started. We filled out a simple $25 application and mailed it off. Korean adoption seemed like such an easy and natural decision. Some people have asked me (and others have wanted to ask) why adopt? Why not have "a child of your own"? My inside voice is considerably more snarky than what makes it through the filter. "This IS my own child!" is what I hear in my brain. But the answer to the real questions is, adoption was always our first choice. We could have gone the pregnancy route but we chose this other path to grow our family. It's not better or worse, just different. I don't have a good reason other than it is what has always felt right to us. So here we are.

All the other questions we hear; Why not the US? How did we end up with Korea? How much did it cost? What if she wants to find her birth mother someday? Why was she given up? All these have different answers. Some answers have brought about very strong reactions in those asking. And I’m careful with whom I provide those answers. Some of the story is mine to share. Some of it belongs to Avi, so it will be up to her to decide what to share when the time is right. But long story short, I couldn't be happier with our choice. If we'd taken a different path, we would never have met this beautiful little person. Call it divine guidance, call it the universe unfolding as it should. I feel we are where we were meant to be.

We honestly didn't think it would be June 2013 before this process would come full circle. Though Ann and I remember the orientation day differently, I swear they said two years and we'd be a family. Yes, it has been very difficult at times, but not as tough as you would think. We’ve kept busy with the endless house remodel, the marathons, the fitness competitions and the like. When you’re brain is busy with every day life, the difficult times are fortunately few and far between. We’ve seen her grow from an infant into a perky 2 year old. Missing things like first words, teeth and steps was not easy. But knowing she’s in the care of an experienced foster mom who loves her very much is comforting. She’s not languishing in some orphanage. That helps.

We've been through promises of a Korean adoption shutdown. We've seen the threat of war from the North combined with legal stonewalling by Korean anti-adoption activists that has slowed the process to a crawl. I won’t go through all the details of this stuff because it’s covered in countless blogs on the internet. (most of which I’ve read obsessively) And, quite honestly, it’s a little boring unless you’re waiting for a child. It’s a little boring even if you are waiting for a child. The important thing is she gets to come home soon.

We have two trips planned. We know the dates for the first, the second is still a mystery. We have a court date planned for June 19th. We’ll fly out of Denver on Saturday the 15th and arrive on Sunday. Monday we’ll meet Avi for the first time. We have about an hour or so to hang out with her and her foster mom. Tuesday we’re not sure what they have planned for us. On Wednesday we go to court. We’re not sure what they will ask but it’s expected to be about 15 minutes there. Then Thursday we say goodbye and come home. The next trip to bring her home is 3-6 weeks after that depending on how long it takes to get her visa.

So that’s where we’ve been and we’re going. Soon, there will be more of Avi’s story to tell.