Here's a look at what we did today:
Woke up around 7:15 to get ready and see some sites before meeting foster family. By the way, our guest house doesn't believe in wash cloths, so we had to improvise by using hand towels :)
Found the Dunkin Donuts near our room and enjoyed some American breakfast :)
We then decided to find somewhere close to shop. Since we are staying at the SWS guesthouse which is in the business district south of the river, we weren't sure where to start. We knew going north of the river to the tourist areas wouldn't work since we were meeting our foster families at 1:00. As we stood on the sidewalk trying to figure out where in the world we should start looking for somewhere to go, two Korean ladies (I believe sent by God) walked up to us and asked if we needed some help. You might ask why that's such a big deal? Because in Korea very few people speak English to you. It's not necessarily because they don't know (most taxi drivers don't) but it's because they are intimidated. So, language is a rather big barrier if you can't speak Korean. Anyway, the two ladies were very helpful by telling us somewhere close to shop. When we arrived, it looked more like a convention center, but upon going inside, we found an "underground world" of shops. Yes, I loved it! On a side note, the Korean culture seems very energy efficient. They don't run air conditioning often and the escalator doesn't run continuously. So, after figuring out that you have to swipe your hand on the sensor, we were in business... There were lots of neat shops at the COEX where we went, similar to a mall in the US. After some shopping it was time to head back and meet the foster families.
We first met Emma's foster mother who was very sweet and loving. She is always hold a special place in my heart for the care and compassion she showed to Emma. We exchanged contact information and will keep in touch. Read more on the separate blog post.
Then it was time to go to MinJoon's foster mother's house. It was a
neat experience to get to see a Korean home. She lived in an apartment and as most other places, it was quite warm. They seem to conserve energy when possible. It was so neat to see how SWS brings the families together at the foster family's home to allow the child to interact with the adoptive family. We stayed for about an hour. Leaving was one of the most difficult things as Dana had to leave Ben there, which is generally the case. So Dana was set to get Ben for good on Wednesday at the SWS office.
After getting back from the foster family's home, we were able to visit the reception center. It's located in the same building as the SWS guest house and surprisingly, it doesn't have any security to speak of. We were able to get on and off the elevator there without any questions. This just shows the perspective and attitudes of the people about orphans. The reception center is home to about 30 babies from birth to 6 months. All babies stay here until they are unsuccessful at domestic adoption. Once they turn 5 months and no one has adopted them domestically, they are place with foster families until an international adoption is completed. I thought that was quite odd but I think it may have something to do with the way adoption is perceived and allows for domestic families to adopt discreetly. It was very emotional seeing the children there and knowing that Emma once played in the bouncers and cribs that were there. The staff love the children and have great compassion for them. If you have a little one at the reception center, let me know and I may have a photo...
Since our room is quite bare without any form of entertainment, we decided to venture out that afternoon and find some things for our families. We took a cab to Insadong market which is about 10 minutes. Since Seoul is similar to NYC but more spread out, we decided not to take the subway and the cab fares are reasonable. Insadong is a traditional Korean market area where you can find popular souvenirs like wedding ducks, name chops, scrolls, flags, chopsticks, pottery, t-shirts, and many other things. In the markets it's okay to negotiate price and if you know me, I love bargaining! I picked up several things there including a name chop for Emma with her American name since a dear friend went and got a traditional one the last time she was in Korea. This vendor used a stone to carve out the name while you waited and had been featured on television. There is also an area of Insadong that resembles more of the NCY shops and we looked there and decided to eat at one of the local barbecue places. Most of Korea consists of major roads with alleys that then have alleys off from them. So it can be a maze in terms of getting from one place to the next once you go off the main road. There are also lots of clubs, generally nestled in the alleys as well, but we never felt unsafe.
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Location:Seoul, South Korea