Thursday, March 18, 2004

It was six years ago today I returned from Seoul, South Korea to pick up my son.

J. had been assigned to us by our adoption agency a couple of months earlier. All we had was a picture and some basic biographical and medical information. We then hunkered down and waited for the call to go to Korea and bring him home.

The call finally came on a Thursday afternoon. We were told that we should be at the agency in Seoul on Monday to meet J. and his foster mother, along with the Korean social worker who would help us through the process over there. In order to do this, we needed to catch a Korean Air flight on Friday evening. With the time change and a 20+hour flight, it would get us into Seoul on Sunday morning. This would give us time to check into our hotel, get some sleep and acclimate to the time change a bit before meeting J. on Monday.

Obviously, this didn’t leave us much time. Thursday evening, I went to a travel agent in Brookline who had been recommended to us as having experience with getting adoptive families over to Korea quickly. She booked us on a Korean Air flight at a discount that the airline gives to adoptive families and booked us at the Koreana hotel, which was not far from the US Embassy in Seoul. Meanwhile, A. started packing and making arrangements to have our cat looked after while we were away.

Friday morning dawned and I went into work for a few hours to clear up some loose ends before leaving for over a week. I then went on what turned out to be a futile search for some Korean Won so we would have some cash to spend when we got there. After trying three banks, I finally found a banker of Korean descent at the Fleet Bank branch on Boylston St. She very helpfully told me that Won would be difficult to find in Boston, but that we could just exchange our money at a booth when we got to the airport in Seoul. Once she heard what we were going to Korea for, she was very helpful and gave me some good tips for our trip.

After finishing packing and a futile effort to take a nap, we headed to Logan to catch our plane. The flight was to be about 22 hours, including stops at JFK in New York and Anchorage, Alaska. The flight passed without any major incidents and we arrived at Kimpo Airport in Seoul early Sunday morning.

After recovering our luggage, going through customs and finding the promised cash exchange booth, we caught a cab to our hotel. The hotel was quite nice and was in the business district in Seoul. We stopped in the overpriced hotel restaurant (some things are apparently universal) for breakfast while they made up our room and settled down for a few hours sleep.

We got up several hours later and decided to do a little exploring near the hotel. One thing we were hoping to find was the Korean equivalent of a 7-11, since overpriced hotel minibars also seem to be a universal constant. So we walked around the main street and discovered a Dunkin Donuts nearby. This was to become our breakfast destination for the next few days. We also came upon a convenience store and stocked up on some supplies.

We returned to the hotel and decided to go to the Hard Rock Cafe, mostly because I wanted some stuff that said “Hard Rock Cafe Seoul” on it. The Hard Rock in Korea is a heck of a lot like the Hard Rock here, right down to the Pig Sandwich. We had dinner and got our souvenirs, then returned to the hotel.

Monday arrived and we prepared to meet our son for the first time. The hotel had told us that a bellman would call a taxi for us and would let the driver know where we wanted to go. So, we gave him the address that had been provided to us by our US adoption agency. He told us that the address didn’t make any sense. We gave him a phone number to call the agency. That turned out to be someone’s fax machine. Panic was starting to set in. It was the middle of the night in the US, so we couldn’t call anyone at the adoption agency there. We returned to our room to regroup and to see if we had anything else that might have some information. While we were looking, A. came up with the brilliant idea of calling the US embassy! The agency had to work closely with the embassy to process the children to come to the US. They would doubtless know how to get in touch with them.

It worked! We got a good phone number and returned to the bellman. He put us in a cab, told the driver where to take us and we were off. The day had been saved!

We made it to the adoption agency, paid the driver and walked in. We were to meet with Mrs. Shin, who spoke fluent english and would be our contact while we were there. She was very nice and helpful and answered a lot of our questions. Then she brought in J. and his foster mother. J. was a cute as could be; a very active, happy little boy who had obviously been well cared for by his foster family. His foster mother was very sweet and patiently answered our questions about J.’s habits as Mrs. Shin translated.

We then reluctantly left him back with his foster mother and returned to the hotel. We were to return Wednesday morning to take him to the airport to go home.

Tuesday was our “day off”. We decided to take a tour to explore the city. We got a pamphlet from the hotel for an all-day tour of Seoul. The tour guide and a driver picked us up at our hotel and started taking us around to see the sights. The guide was very informative and took us around to various locations, including a couple of museums, a Shinto shrine and the outdoor market that runs throughout the city. One place we went had a collection of wooden ducks, which the guide described as wedding ducks. We asked the guide which one was the female, and she told us it was the one with it’s mouth tied shut! I insisted we buy one after that. We also had lunch in a “real” Korean restaurant, outside of the tourist areas. The guide ordered for us, and obviously picked dishes that were more suited to our American palates. I did get to finally try kim-chi, a type of pickled cabbage. I had wanted to try it ever since seeing the famous M*A*S*H episode where a group of Koreans that Frank Burns suspects of planting mines are actually planting kim-chi pots. The kim-chi was very spicy, but I liked it. We also picked up a hanbok (a traditional Korean outfit) for J. while we were in the marketplace.

Wednesday dawned and we headed back to the adoption agency to pick up J. He had a preflight checkup which went well. His foster mother turned him over to us and was very upset about it. I couldn’t imagine getting attached to a little child for several months and then having to turn him over to some strangers. They gave us a package of stuff for J. and then asked us if we would bring a piece of furniture on the plane with us that would be auctioned off by our adoption agency to raise money. What could we say? Of course we took it and they gave us a ride to the airport and helped us get the item to the baggage drop off.

J. fell asleep on the way over to the airport. He woke up sometime later and decided that he wanted his foster mother, not these strangers. So he proceeded to cry. For FOUR HOURS. He finally fell asleep again and was in a better mood when he woke up.

We finally got back to Logan after a stop in New York. Exhausted after another 20 hour flight, we took our new son home to start our lives together.


Post a Comment

<< Home

eXTReMe Tracker