Our Korean Adventure: Traveling in Korea, adoption and other random tidbits

The fourth and final installment catching you up on our first trip to Korea. Figured I'd better get all this in before we our off for our second trip.

We had some awesome experiences that brought Korea nearer and dearer to our hearts. Our Korean school teacher here in Wisconsin had arranged for a dinner for us. SJ is from Seoul and she said a friend of hers would like to make dinner for us. It was sort of awkward for us because we weren't really sure we wanted to commit to spending time with complete strangers. But she really wanted to do this for us, and so we agreed.

Mr. Kang's restaurant was really lovely. It specialized in fusion Japanese-Korean cuisine, mainly seafood. The seating and style is very traditional Korean with floor seating and ondol heating. He was waiting outside when we arrived by taxi and it was only about 5 minutes from our hotel. He gave us a very nice tour, but his English is very rough. We mostly communicated with one or two words and a lot of smiles. The restaurant was closed and he opened it up just for us!

Then SJ's two sisters arrived to join us for the meal, and they had their teen daughters with them. Little Man was starting to feel some of the travel strain so he was a bit of a handful but really, the dinner was one of the highlights of our trip!

The meal was about 5 courses (the food just kept coming!) and because we are vegetarian, he had two different meals---one for our family and food for the other families. One of the sisters spoke pretty good English, and our Korean teacher SJ was translating from Milwaukee via text.

One thing we kept coming back to again and again is the extreme kindness of Koreans. I know we might be biased, but it's just so amazing to us how generous and kind they are. One example is in the subway---it's an amazing system and really easy to use, but our first time back to the subway we were studying the map and trying to remember how to get around. A man saw we looked confused as we were buying our trip ticket. He asked if he could help and consulted the map with us to figure out where we needed to go. He watched as we bought our tickets and then waved us to follow him through the gates and onto the subway. We thought, how nice, he's going the same direction we are.

When we arrived at our stop (about 3 stops down) he popped up and waved at us to follow him out. I thought, wow, he was going the same direction we were! We followed him out of the turnstiles, he watched as we returned our subway card for a refund, and then he pointed to our exit. He waved good-bye and turned back to buy a new subway ticket before running back to the loading ramp. He went so far out of his way for strangers!!

This happened again and again. When we might look lost or in need of help, someone came and offered it. We were so grateful.

Finally, one of the best parts of this trip was meeting other adoptive families. There's something really powerful about being on a similar track together and it builds and instant camaraderie. One of the greatest joys for us was connecting with a family from California. Mama T. reached out to us via our blog and so happy she did! Our families have so much in common! The California family was also returning to Korea for their second child and their first child is Little Man's age. Through the weeks of preparing for travel we were tearing up the email lines, comparing lists of things we were bringing, what we were wearing and trying to figure out logistics like phone and internet service.

Meeting them in person was wonderful and the boys got on well. Little Man was bossy and emotional but their California-cool even-keeled boy took it all in stride. Watching the boys play helped me relax a bit and gave Little Man something to look forward to. It was a great friendship condensed into a few days and I have a good feeling that we'll be in touch for a long time to come.

One particularly great memory will be after the stress of our court date. Following court, we joined the California family to celebrate (and make good on a bribe for the boys to be good in court) with ice cream. As we headed to ice cream shop, we ran into another family we met in court (NY family), so they joined us too. We had the shop to ourselves for quite a while and the boys ran wild. We huddled in a corner and talked openly and candidly about our adoptions, thoughts, hopes and fears. (The NY family has since been united with their son and doing great! Yay!!) I just love how we can come from all corners of the country, all different backgrounds and experiences, and yet, hanging out with them was so easy and natural.

We also met the families of two women I have met through my Facebook support group who were traveling at the same time! In that group, we cheer for one another at each tiny step of the way. When the three of us found out that we'd be traveling at the same time, we were able to compare information, figure out hotels, and figure out the logistics of our trip together. What a help! One super sweet family even met us at the bus stop to guide us to our hotel and help carry luggage. Incredibly awesome! And, since we'll all be bringing kids home at the same time, I know that we'll be able to continue to support one another as we work through the transitions together.

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