Friday, July 30, 2010

Seoul Tower & Locks of Love

After we had our first meeting with Wesley, we headed back to our hotel to change clothes and to have our first "outing." We headed down to the subway station, purchased our tickets and boarded our first train. I must say, these trains are much nicer than any other subway (or BART trains for those Bay Area friends & family) trains we have ever riden. We almost didn't want to get off because the cool A/C that was blasting was such a relief from the hot/humid air outside. We got off at our station and made our way to Seoul Tower.

Now, let me preface this by saying that we were following our guide book's instructions on how to get to Seoul Tower. We started on what looked like the right way to go, then suddenly we're in a residential area. I have no sense of direction, but yet I keep telling Brian, "this doesn't look right" which I'm sure is annoying the you-know-what out of him. Also keep in mind that it's 88 degrees outside with oh, I don't know 90% humidity. And, we're trecking uphill. Oh yeah and it's around 2pm and we haven't eaten. Perfect mix. We keep going. I'm not a sweater, other members of my family are, but I'm really not. I was soaked. Then all of the sudden we can see Seoul Tower and Brian says, "See! There it is." But, we need to be at the cable car (which is what they call it, but it's really a gondola) entrance to take us up to the tower. We keep walking. More sweat.

Somehow, we end up at the back entrance of the cable car loading area. What? Well, we're here. I have no idea how this happened, but we're here. We both looked like heck and smelled by the time we boarded the cable car with 20+ Koreans. Nice.

Here's the view from the car on the way up to the base of the tower. It was overcast so you can't see too much.

After we got off the cable car, we walked up a series of outdoor steps that headed to Namsan Park. There was a pavilion area with shops, restaurans and the Locks of Love display. This is a huge engagement spot. Couples come here with padlocks, put them on a section of the fence or one of the Love Trees and profess their enternal love for one another. After securing the lock, the key gets thrown over the side rail to symbolize that love. Adoptive couples now come as a sign of their love and committment to their children of Korea.

We put up a lock for Wesley. Here's Brian securing the lock.

Wesley's lock in place.

One small portion of the Locks of Love.

A young couple selecting a location on one of the Love Trees (I just thought this was cute).

It was time to go up in the tower. Like I said, it was a gloomy day so the views weren't as clear as we would've hoped but you can get the picture below. Seoul's population is approximately 10 million.

Wesley's birth city. They had different cities around the world posted on the glass of the tower and their distance from the tower.

A few from the tower looking out in Daejeon's direction.

After our journey to Seoul Tower, we went back to the hotel and decided to go back to the same area as the previous night but go to a different restaurant. Brian was craving pizza. For those of you that know my husband, he could eat pizza every night. We found a place that was Pizza & Pasta that was actually really good. Thin crust and their house wine was yummy. . . We walked around the streets surrounding our hotel afterward just to take it all in. We both love that there are TONS of people around. Here is a daytime shot of Seoul versus nightime. The energy is amazing.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

We're In Seoul & We've Met Our Son!

Greetings from Seoul! Sorry no post until now, we don't have internet access in the room, so we have to come down to the business center :(

Here's a picture of the sign that kicked off our journey at San Francisco International Airport.

Brian and me just before we boarded our plane.

Here is a shot of our HUGE plane. Biggest I've ever been on.

We arrived Thursday night around 6pm (Seoul time = 16 hours ahead of Pacific time). The plane ride was fairly smooth, just long. 11 hours straight in the air isn't my idea of a party, but the Korean Air onboard entertainment system made it bearable. Brian went crazy with the movie selection and took in 4 movies as well as some 1/2 hour shows. I watched 3 movies and made my own music mix (go figure) to listen to while I read through my magazines.

Brian enjoying the onboard entertainment system.

I was in heaven being able to make my own custom music mix onboard.

We landed and breezed through Immigration and Customs and grabbed our 4 pieces of luggage (3 for us, 1 for Wesley/Gifts). We headed outside to find our van driver from the Korean adoption agency and the humidity hit us like a brick. Whoa, was it thick! I could feel my hair curly up and frizzing out instantneously. We saw our van guy with the "FULLER" sign and started waving our hands in the air like tourists who had never been anywhere - we were THAT excited.

He took us to the "Love Mobile" which we thought was so appropriate. However, after the ride we were about to partake in, it should be labeled, "Hell on Wheels."

I had heard about the "fast driver" from the agency, but this guy was insane. Brian and I have had some crazy cab drivers when we've visited New York, but this was a whole new ballgame. I felt like we were in a movie shooting a chase scene. Seriously. We were weaving in and out of traffic going what felt like 100mph. We finally made it to our hotel in one piece as our driver drove up onto the sidewalk almost taking out a few pedestrians. Whew. After checking in, we went up to our rooms, changed and headed out for a quick bite to eat.

We didn't venture too far because we were beat and hungry. We found a little noodle house in the Hongik University District and decided to give it a try. The host asked us if we spoke Korean and when we said "no" he ended up taking our order himself. The food was good and inexpensive - lots of students there. The city was buzzing with young people and it was still very humid and there was a foul odor permiating. You would get a wiff of it everyone once in awhile between our hotel and restaurant. There was a lot of roadwork being done. I'm not quite sure what the "smell" was, but it was bad - maybe the source of the road being tore up? We came back to our hotel, wrapped the gifts to bring to the agency and went to bed. Big day ahead of us. We were going to meet our son for first time.

So, this morning we got up had some Starbuck's and then headed out to the adoption agency to meet Wesley. I think we were both anxious, but not necessarily nervous. Until. . . we arrived.

Here is the front of Eastern Social Welfare Society (Korean adoption agency)

We went inside and met up with our social worker, Mrs. Shin (who I recognized immediately from our videos) to fill out some paperwork and discuss the rest of our stay. We will have a second meeting on Monday, followed by a tour and luncheon with the director of the agency, Dr. Kim. Then, we get Wesley on Wednesday before our flight. They have so many families coming this week, we didn't get a choice on when to get Wesley and we were actually ok with that - someone else made that decision for us.

Then, the moment we've been waiting for came. Mrs. Shin took us down a hallway to go to the playroom and right before we turned we could see Mrs. Park (foster mom) with Wesley in another room with some other FMs. I got chills and my heart started to race. We entered the playroom and I told Brian, "Ok, NOW I'm nervous." A few moments later, Mrs. Shin came in by herself holding our sweet Wesley. The feeling was surreal. We both said, "Hi" to him and went over and he looked at both of us and smiled. What a perfect smile.

Mrs. Shin said to me, "Ok, now you need to try and hold him" and handed Wesley to me. I took him a few seconds went by and then. . . tears, lots of tears. Then full-blown crying. I told him that it would be ok and bounced up and down trying to calm him. He wasn't having it. After what felt like a few minutes (probably not even that long) Mrs. Shin extended her arms and I handed him back to her. She exited the room to go get Mrs. Park. I looked and Brian and said, "It's ok. I'm ok. It could've gone either way. We knew that." He didn't take any pictures, he couldn't.

Both ladies came in a few moments later with Mrs. Park smiling and laughing exactly the way she's done on the videos we have. She instantly put me at ease. Wesley looked at both of us with tears still in his eyes. Mrs. Park explained (via Mrs. Shin translating) that Wesley's foster brother (this is the first we had heard that he had one) left 2 weeks ago to go be with his forever family in Australia. Wesley's been having a very hard time with that ever since. The two boys were the same age and were very close. He seemed to be much more clingy to Mrs. Park. We spent the rest of our hour doing some playing with Wesley, asking some questions and watching him take a bottle.

We both couldn't believe how big he was. I mean we knew from the health reports how much he weighed, but OMG! His feet are huge. His belly is huge. Everything on this kid is big! I love it! I kept starring at his sweet face while he was drinking the bottle and just couldn't believe that we were actually sitting there face to face with him.

Here are a few pictures of our meeting.

When it was time to go, Mrs. Park wrapped Wesley up and went to take him for his last physical. Mrs. Shin asked us how we thought it went. We told her that we thought it went "Ok." I told her, that we were trying not to push things because we realized that Wesley was having a hard time and we didn't want to scare him. She said she appreciated that. She also told us that she's seen worse which I think was kind of her way of trying to make us not worry. We've been prepared for this. It's going to be a big change for this little guy. Now, you throw in that he's experienced the loss with his foster brother - a bit of a curveball. We'll get through it. We love him and we'll get through it.

We're off to explore. We'll check in later with more. Sorry for the long post. Lots to say. :)

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Night Before We Leave

We're packed. Wesley's packed. Gifts are packed. Holy cow, this is really it. We leave tomorrow for Korea. I'll have to say that it still in a way hasn't hit me. I haven't had any real down time until now (almost 11pm PST) to stop and think about it since I worked today then rushed home to go right into packing mode. And now here we are.

When Brian and I began down the path of starting a family more than 7 years ago I'll be honest that this is not where I thought I'd be today. However, I'm so excited and I couldn't imagine it being any other way. Wesley was meant to be with us and we've seen this in so many ways along this journey. We can't wait to start our lives with him and share the love that we have for this sweet little boy.

The joy that he has already brought to us is inexplicable. We feel so blessed. The stress of prepping for the trip is gone, worries and fears have subsided (for now). I've had my "moment" as Brian and I call it - and I'm enjoying the thought of becoming a parent in a few short days. Stay tuned. . .

Thursday, July 22, 2010

It's "official" TC!!!!

Now, we can "officially" say that we have received our TC. I was driving to work when Brian called my cell (around 7:30am). I thought that it was either him saying that we got "The Call" or he was calling with an update on our flight arrangements. Well, it was the TC news. Although yesterday was our day of celebration, it still felt good to know that Wesley is ready/approved for travel and all is good. WHOOO HOOO! :)

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

TC "Kind Of" But. . . We're Going To Korea!!!

What a day! This morning when I got into work there was an email waiting for me from our adoption agency, the subject was "Good News." Immediatey I started saying "Oh my gosh, oh my gosh!" As I kept reading the rest of the email I simultaneously started dialing Brian. He answers and I said, "We got an email. I think THIS IS IT!!!" I read him the email "Wesley had his visa interview yesterday! You can start looking into flights for next week! You should plan a return flight for the end of next week. Please give me a call." WHAT??? Holy Cow! I think this is the TC (a.k.a. the Travel Call) but we're getting it in email form.

So, I hang up with Brian to call our agency to get the scoop. I actually let out a scream while dialing - I can't help it. My heart is beating. My boss comes over and peaks her head into my office, sees me on the phone and mouthes the word "Wesley?" I nod "yes." I get our case worker and say, "Good morning! So, is this 'The Call?'" She replies, "Well, it's more like the 'pre-TC'." Hmmmmm. She goes on to explain that although Wesley had his VI (Visa Interview) he still needs clearance to leave the country and his passport needs to be issued. This all could take up to one more week. So "officially" they weren't giving us the TC.

Although our agency is confident that both of the above mentioned items would be wrapped up by the end of next week, Brian and I wanted to put a little more of a cushion in there for being able to leave Seoul with Wesley. Sooooo, we're planning on leaving California next Wednesday, July 28. That's right - one week from today. ONE WEEK!!!!

We decided to toast to our "pre TC" with a bottle of 2006 Syrah from one of our favorite local wineries.

Today it has been 8 months, 1 week and 1 day since we first saw Wesley's precious face. And, although the wait has been tough at times if the joy and happiness that we both feel right now is any indication of what we're going to feel when we bring him home it is all soooo worth it! We're coming for you Wesley!!! Godspeed little man. . .

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Korean Market Field Trip

This morning at 9am our good friends José and Shannon picked us up for a field trip. We were headed for an adventure. The agenda - two korean markets and one carniceria (Mexican market). The first Korean market was HUGE!!! We hit the mother lode. I wished we did a little more homework before going because there was so much there, we were like kids in a candy store. The produce was unbelievable. We grabbed some fresh mangos - they just looked amazing. Then, we were drawn to noodles - there were rows and rows of them. Which ones to choose? We went with the udon. I've always been a fan of udon soup (memories of San Francisco). We snatched up some yummy shitake mushrooms that we thought would go great with the udon.

Now, it was time to hunt down some kimchi and they had an entire section of it with different levels of spiciness. We decided to go with the mild since José and Shannon said that the one they chose the last time was quite spicey. Next up, beverages. Here is a picture of Brian with the kimchi and our fav Korean beer OB (yes, we were "those people" yet again taking photos like tourists).

Here is me with a 40 ouncer of the OB (we stuck with a 6 pack). . .

Here is a photos of José and Shannon with some frozen tuna steaks. You could get the whole tuna or chopped in little squares.

I got grossed out a bit at the meat section. I went to get the thinly sliced tenderloin beef to make bulgogi. Well, they pretty much had every part of the cow available if you wanted it. I think I threw up a little in my mouth when I saw cow brain and something that looked like liver or possibly intestine? Lots of gagging and a little dry heave.

We grabbed a few more things - some sauces, gyoza, dessert, etc. and headed out. Then off to the next two locations. Queso fresco (fresh cheese), fresh salsa and the ever-so-healthy chicharones (deep fried pork rinds) are a few items purchased. We decided to head home and have a feast for lunch. Here are a few photos of our mid-day lunch.

Here's Brian stir frying the udon noodles and gyoza.

José BBQ-ing the bulgogi outside on the grill. BULGOGI!!!

We ate and drank like little piggies in the middle of the day and although we can't wait until we bring our sweet Wesley home, we appreciated the fact that days like this probably won't be exactly like this in the future. We all took a moment and savored the meal, drinks and the company. I think it's something that we will look back at some point with fond memoires. It was a great way to get even more excited about our pending trip and our new adventure ahead. Thanks guys :)

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

EP Approved!!!

Go figure that not too long after I post a poopy post, I come home to an absolutely fabulous email from our adoption agency. That will teach me! So, here's how it went down. I left a long day of work to go get my nails done - they needed it BAD! I checked my email from my phone right before I went into the nail salon just in case there might possibly be a late email from someone at the agency. No dice. "Ok, maybe tomorrow" is what I thought to myself and I went about my business. Brian had an event downtown tonight with some fellow designers so after my nails were done, I headed home for dinner solo and a nice glass of vino.

I came in the house, set down my laptop and purse and for some reason checked my email on my phone one more time. By now, it was just about 7:00pm (Pacific Time) and I had been at the nail salon for the past hour, so our agency who is in Colorado had been closed for awhile. And then. . . there it was, an email from "R" titled "Update." My heart started beating fast and I just started yelling, "Oh my God, oh my God!" So, I quickly opened it and it said that our director, "C" who is in Korea right now, called this evening with some "news" and said that Wesley's EP (Exit Permit) was approved and that they expect his Visa Interview (next big step) to take place next week. WHAT??? It's really happening. . . 4 long weeks and it's finally happening.

So, depending on how things go down with the Visa Interview and other items that go along with it (too much to go into) we could be receiving "THE CALL" (the travel call) within the next 2 weeks. Our 11th wedding anniversary is on July 31. Something tells me we will be celebrating in Seoul. :)

8 Months Waiting Today

Today marks 8 months since we received Wesley's referral. I can't believe that this much time has passed. I remember receiving the acceptance paperwork from our agency and the cover letter stating that the wait to travel could be as long as 6-8 months. We were told on the phone 4-6 months. I had called panicking about the 8 months and they said that they just put that down as a precaution but that it shouldn't be that long. And here we are. 8 months, no EP approval.

I know it's coming, it just breaks my heart that we've made it to this point and don't have him home yet. Each day is somewhat of a roller coaster. There's the anticipation of an email or a call with good news and then the big let down when nothing comes at the end of the day. You wake up each day and do it all over again. I try and not think about it, but at this point after really more than 8 months (May '09 was when we started the process) it's all I think about. I just do my best to stay positive and know that meeting him, holding him, caring for him and ultimately bringing him home is right around the corner.

Today, I'm going to think about the joy both Brian and I felt when we got "the call" 8 months ago. First shock. Then, overwhelming joy. Then the tears came. We couldn't stop smiling for days. True happiness. If that's what a call and a photograph could do, imagine what happiness our Little Peanut is going to bring when he actually arrives. . .

Friday, July 9, 2010

Fashion Friday - PJ Edition

It's Friday night and it's been another week of no news. I broke down and called our adoption agency today. I was hoping to speak to the director but she is actually in Korea and will be there for a few more weeks. By the time I called, I knew that there probably wasn't any "news" but I wanted to ask her if she had any insight as to why we still didn't have our EP approval after almost 4 weeks. 4 WEEKS!!! By now, most families are days away from traveling. I just don't understand it. For now, I guess we're not meant to understand it, and that is what is frustrating to me. I'm just not built that way :)

So, another Friday is here and I'm going to keep the Fashion Friday going to try to stay on a positive tip. I had an "assistant" tonight Brian) taking the photos. The theme is PJs (pajamas) - one of my personal favorite things to put on when I come home from work. We only have a few for Wesley so far, but enough to get him started this summer. Here's a sample - enjoy!

This was the first set I bought from Tea Collection, all inspired by Seoul. There are dragons all over the PJs. So cute and so soft.

These "Explorer" PJs will be perfect for our little world traveler when he comes home from his trip.

Who doesn't love monkeys? These make me laugh with the bananas on the bottoms. I can't wait to see these on Wesley.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Fashion Friday

Well, I wish I had some "news" to report. But, alas nothing. I've checked in with our agency and they assure me that there is no need to be concerned even though most of the families we know have received their EP approvals by this point in the game. I've had my moments. I've been sad. I've been confused. I've been angry. There really is nothing we can do and we have surrendered to the fact that it will happen when it is meant to happen. We HAVE to be okay with that. There is no need to sulk, feel sad or sorry for ourselves we still have a beautiful little boy coming our way very soon. With that, I decided to take an idea from an adoptive mom friend Jayme while we continue to wait. Fashion Friday. . . Now, she has an adorable little girl, but girls don't have to have all the fashion fun. I've been doing a lot of "retail therapy" these past few weeks and I thought I'd share some of my finds. Without further adieu. . .

I love Tea Collection clothes! This year, their inspiration for the line was Korea. How perfect!

These 2 sweatshirts are organic and so soft - I just love the colors. Good for when the nights cool down a bit.

Brian actually picked out this outfit. The shorts remind me of something he would wear!

Two words - Paul Frank. :)

I've bought a lot of graphic T's & T's with cute sayings. Here's two of my most recent purchases. He's going to be stylin'.