East meets West

Nov 17th

I’m glad I was just too darn tired at the end of the first couple days to write this blog, because I feel much more well-rounded writing it tonight haha!  While the main purpose of our trip is to appear before a judge in court and meet our little cutie, the time in between spent sight seeing is so much more than Colby and me being on an awesome vacation with no kids (although, it’s kinda that! haha).  We have a few short days to squeeze in a lifetime of culture to share with our precious son as he grows older.  The weight of all that comes with that statement is hard to take in.  It reveals the darker side of adoption; the broken side.  There is much controversy about inter-country adoption (in fact, Colby wrote his entire graduate level capstone paper on this very topic!), we know in our hearts that the love of a family is more significant and powerful that any ties of race or culture.  That being said, we want to always acknowledge, honor the race, culture and homeland of our Titus, and this trip is one of the ways for that to start.  We are experiencing Seoul, the city of his birth, so that we can share with him one day what it’s like!  I may or may not have gotten off to a rough start…

When we landed on Saturday evening, had a long taxi drive to our apartment and found our way to our little unit and made it inside, I felt a little….we’ll say “off”.  The apartment was clean, but let’s just say it was a version of the pics we saw on airbnb and there was some crazy help from camera angles and some major Instagram filters or something haha!  We set our stuff down and the first order of business was showers…a 14 hour non-stop flight will do that to ya!  I got out of the shower and said to Colby, “I feel so, so…..Western.”  I laughed at myself for feeling so bratty about my expectations and I knew it was a bit of culture shock going on.  I like to think of myself as a traveler, but it has been a good 8 years since I’ve traveled internationally!  And when I thought of it more closely, I realized that this little apartment reminded me so much of a college dorm!  Kinda old, outdated and small, but when it’s nice and clean with a bed and a bathroom, it does the trick just fine!  And this one has a great view, too!  We headed out into our very Korean neighborhood to find dinner and we just couldn’t handle any more culture overload in our tired state and ended up paying a stupid price for “American Soul Food” at a restaurant down the street…how ridiculous are we?!

Sunday, we woke up and took it nice and slow!  Mozied on down to the first coffee shop to open by 8:00 (Colby had been awake and waiting since 6:00!), and it just *happened* to be Starbucks.  Umm, so far we were doing a bad job at experiencing Korean culture for our boy!  We went on to the local grocery store and bought a few things for breakfast in an effort to keep our budget in check, dropped our stuff off in the apartment, and we were off to conquer the subway system!  It’s super accessible, and we hopped on down to a mall that Colby had been to when he visited last Fall for work.  There was a super yummy place we stopped for lunch and we both had some super YUM for lunch!  We both had rice dishes (not sure what they were called, because they only had the Korean characters written on the menu!); mine had chicken and Colby’s had bacon and both had sautéed veggies and fried eggs on top!  It was super yummy…something I’d love to cook for our whole family!  We shopped around for some gifts and headed home for a bit.  We ventured back out after dark to the Seoul Lantern Festival and it was so neat!  There is a little stream that runs through the middle of the city and once a year, they set up beautiful, large scale lantern exhibits all in the water along the stream.  It was so beautiful and we really enjoyed the fact that we happened to be here the same time as the festival!  We were getting a couple cultural experiences under our belt!  It was an all around great day and I could feel the general discomfort and awkwardness fading and feeling much more comfortable in my new surroundings!

On Monday, after we met our sweet Titus, we ventured out into a new area in search of a noodle restaurant!  We finally settled on one and I had some of the most yum noodles EV.ER.  They looked pretty gross…the sauce reminded me of what stewed prunes would look like, brown/black and kinda slimy haha!  But it was black soybean sauce and had sautéed onions, oh! yea it was delish despite the first look!  Colby had some yummy noodles with seafood (he decided it was ok if he didn’t eat all the octopus tentacles ugh!).  We were so tired from all the emotions of meeting Titus, we took it easy all evening.

We packed in a BUNCH of stuff today (Tuesday)!!!!  We got up and out the door this morning and headed to the N Seoul Tower to see the city of Seoul from the highest point!  It’s a radio tower that was built on a mountain that’s in Seoul and is supposed to be one of the most romantic places in Seoul.  There are little fences where couples write on little pad locks and lock them to the fence to signify their forever love.  There was a beautiful 360 degree view of Seoul at the top of the observation deck, too.  But the BEST part was when we were heading back down and there was a demonstration of a ceremonial changing of the guard at one of the old city battalion sites and they had a free station where you got to dress up in traditional Korean garb called Hanboks!  I had so much fun doing this and I will seriously treasure the pictures we got here forever.  Next, our adventure lead us to two different traditional Korean markets where we looked at so many little booths of crafts, clothing, Korean specialty paper….and lots of junk haha!  We picked out some special gifts to bring home and headed to an early dinner of Korean BBQ!  I knew the day would come….the day I had to try kimchi.  And it came tonight.  I loved the BBQ meat and the whole experience is really fun, and I did try kimchi, but I did not love it ha!

We had such a great time today and I think the one thing I’m so overcome with is how beautiful Korean people are.  Their culture is so different than Western culture and while sometimes it’s uncomfortable or annoying to a Westerner, it really is a beautiful culture.  It’s filled with so much history and I really love the respect that is given to all as a general courtesy.  They really value family and it’s been so sweet to see all the young families out and about with their little ones strapped on and bundled up (seriously, Korean babies and kids are the cutest and I’m not just saying that because one of them is going to be my kid…they really are!!!!)  We are so grateful for this time to experience Titus’ culture first hand and share with him as he gets older and strive to find ways at home to incorporate aspects of his culture for the rest of his life.  He’s making us see the world in a different light and he’s teaching us.  We get to thinking our shoes are the best, most beautiful and most right…but we can be so wrong, and it’s so good for the Westerner to get out of the West every once in a while and walk a mile in someone else’s shoes.

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