Friday, July 6, 2018

Korea--Day 14 (Friday, July 6)

Up at 5:30 a.m. to take the bus to the airport.This is the last picture I took in Korea:
 The mysterious Mr. Kim.  He didn't travel with us but appeared everywhere we went, like a magical unicorn.  He did a lot of behind-the-scenes work.

When we were checking in at the airport, the Korean airport employee said to me, "Mrs. Janes, you have been selected for..." and I couldn't understand the rest of what he said.  I hoped I had been somehow selected for a free bump to first class.  So I asked him excitedly, "I have been selected for what?" and this time I understood that I had been selected for extra security searches.  When we went through security, I was the only one who had to take off my shoes, have the metal detector wand waved over me, and be patted down very thoroughly.  My bags were segregated from everyone else's and searched equally thoroughly.  An airport employee took out a little silver strip that looked like a bandaid and wiped it all over my luggage. Then she took my passport and the little silver strip all the way across the room until I could barely see her anymore. She stuck the bandaid thing into a machine and did things I couldn't see. Meanwhile,  I was interrogated and inspected. Finally, I was deemed no threat to national security and allowed to go to the gate.   Three hours later when we went to board the plane, the airport employee scanned my boarding pass, and a red light started flashing and a message popped up that said, "Unable to board". I was whisked off to a little room, where I was made to take off my shoes, spread my arms and legs, be felt up and probed by a female officer, and have every item in my backpack taken out and inspected. The rest of my family just breezed right onto the plane.  Being "selected" isn't always a good thing.
 My vegan meal on the plane.  It came way before everyone else's and was delicious. The flight attendant came along with the hot towels again.  She held one out to me in her tongs and said, "Careful. Very hot." as she dropped it right on me.  It was indeed very hot, and within two seconds, it was cold.  I wiped my hands and face with it, because that's what everyone else was doing, but I really didn't see the point.  It's not like I had been working in a coal mine all day.  I was still clean from my shower. I did not get the random banana this time, but I saw someone else did.  I still don't know what means.
 The flight was only about 12 hours this time.  We were going almost 700 miles per hour.
Chicago, still thousands of miles from us.
Talking to Jee, the cute kid in front of us.
The lady in front of me draped her hair over my screen, so it was always part of the movies I was watching.  One time it was perfectly positioned atop Woody Harrelson's head so it looked like he had hair. 
It was Noah's turn for the window seat on this leg of the journey, so he snapped this photo.
My friend Allison's parents live close to O'Hare, so we had parked our van at their house, and her dad came and picked us up at the airport. Sarah went to sleep immediately and slept all the way home.  Now we're home, and there is so much to do: unpacking, putting everything away, doing lots of laundry, going through two weeks of mail, etc.  It feels strange to be home and have so much space and see so many white people. It will take us awhile to stop bowing to everyone and saying "kamsahamnida" ("thank you" in Korean).  Despite several disappointments and unexpected surprises, it was the trip of the lifetime that we hoped it would be.  We will be unpacking the memories and storing them up for years to come.

Thursday, July 5, 2018

Korea--Day 13 (Thursday, July 5)

We had a nice breakfast buffet, complete with devil's tongue jelly boiled in soy sauce (we didn't eat that, but it was on the buffet).  Mike and I happen to match today, because the only clean shirts we have are our Chicago Cubs shirts.
After breakfast, we had our last support group meetings.  It is nice to be with people who automatically understand adoption and being a transracial family without question or explanation.  I'm sure it must be nice for our kids too, to be with other families like ours and other kids like them who just get it.

Then we went to the airport to catch our flight back to Seoul. 
I watched the island get smaller until I couldn't see it anymore.  It was a little sad to leave, because I'll probably never see Jeju again.
Coming back to Seoul felt familiar.  We really like Seoul.  When we got back to our hotel, we had two hours to reunite with our luggage that we had left behind, unpack from Jeju, repack everything for our trip home early tomorrow morning, shower and get ready for our dinner with Noah's foster parents.  They met us in front of our hotel, and we walked to Myeongdong Kyoja for dinner.  We had really good dumplings (mandu) and some tasty noodle soup. Then we walked to The Coffee Bean for drinks.
It was difficult to communicate, and there was a lot of sign language, nodding, and smiling, but we had a nice time together.  Noah's foster dad put his arm around him while they were walking down the street.  It was a sweet moment.

Skyping with Noah's foster sister, Ji Young
We are thankful for these wonderful, generous people, the care they provided for Noah when he was a baby, and the love they still have for him.  Seeing them again was a nice way to end our trip.  We leave tomorrow morning.

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Korea--Day 12 (Wednesday, July 4)

This is the first time I've ever been out of the country on its birthday.  I felt a little nostalgic and proud to be an American. Everyone on our bus sang the national anthem, and I actually shed a few tears.  How many times have I cried on this trip? I've lost track.

First stop today was Seongsan Ilchulbong Peak (aka Sun Rising Peak).  It's a big volcanic rock that we climbed for the view from the top.  The weather was clear (but so hot and humid).  This is the first day since we've arrived in Korea that we woke up to blue skies and sunshine.  It was definitely a challenging climb but worth it.
 The pictures don't even come close to doing it justice. 
Resting on the way up the rock.  Sarah and I rested a lot, just like my dad and I used to rest a lot when climbing mountains in Colorado.
 Noah was the first of our group to make it to the peak.  I was near the last.  Just like when we went to the Grand Canyon.  Noah was the first one up out of the canyon, and I was almost last.
 That's my triumphant "I can't believe I made it" pose. I've never sweated so much in my life.
The view from the top looking down. There were lots more stairs than this, but can't get them all in the picture.
 I finally mastered the Korean art of "making a tiny heart" with my fingers.  Apparently it's a thing in Korea.  They're always doing it for pictures.
There's the great beast, post-climb. 

Next stop was the beach. It was absolutely perfect day for it: hot and sunny.  The water felt great.  Cool, but not nearly as cold as it was in Busan. It was the only sunny day we had in Korea.
Everything was great until we started getting stung by jellyfish. The lifeguards swooped in and caught a huge one, but it broke apart as they pulled it out of the water, and the stinging tentacles were dispersed through the water.  The lifeguards evacuated us, but too late for many of us.  I got stung three times on each leg; Sarah got stung on her leg and finger; Mike got one on his back; and Noah had several stings on his legs.  Mrs. Oom's son-in-law had some antivenom spray, and the kids both got treated by the beach nurse.  We didn't go back in the water after that.

When we got back to the hotel, we had less than an hour to get ready for the theater performance and farewell dinner.  We were told (at the last minute) to wear our best attire, after previously having been told we would only need shorts and tshirts on this leg of the trip.  My only good attire had been at the bottom of the dirty clothes bag for several days. I hauled it out and hung it in the bathroom while I took a hot shower, hoping to steam out the wrinkles.  Then I rubbed it with bar soap and hoped for the best. 
 Nanta show. Lots of high energy drumming and flying food.
 Farewell dinner at the hotel

 This super long table was full of all kinds of delicious food.  I didn't get a picture when it was full, because I was too excited about all that food. It was quite a feast!

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Korea--Day 11 (Tuesday, July 3)

Today began with my third least favorite activity of the trip and ended with my third best, so it was a bit of a roller coaster.  We began the day with a typhoon advisory. 
We were supposed to go to a beach today, but clearly, that got cancelled.  To get out of the typhoon winds, we toured the Manjanggul lava tube. 
It was interesting, but cold and wet. We walked a long time on uneven, slippery lava.  Temperature was in the 50s and humidity was 99%.

Then we went to Cheonjiyeon Falls, which was not the awesome waterfall that we were supposed to go to, but we had to adjust due to Typhoon Crapiroon.
There was a herd of Koreans standing nearby when Sarah did her classic handstand pose, and they really oohed and aahed and made surprised and impressed noises.

The area around the waterfall was a subtropical rainforest. 
My hair looks like it's been through a typhoon.  That's because it has.
We went to lunch at some point.  I don't remember now if that was before or after the waterfall.  It was at a bulgogi place in the middle of nowhere.  They made me a vegetable pancake thing.

I also had spicy bean sprouts,
 and seaweed soup.
To distract us from the typhoon, our leaders gave us little clip-on hearts and chocolate. This is the orange bus.  There's also a green bus, and we don't see those people as much.
 Katie, Sarah, and Grace (all 14 years old)
Drew, Noah, and one of the Jacks
By the time we reached our last stop (Jusangjeolli cliff), the typhoon had passed, and I was very thankful for that, because we could see such a beautiful view!
 The Jusangjeolli cliff is a spectacular volcanic rock formation at the southern part of the island.

It was a really gorgeous place, and it made the whole trip to Jeju worth it.
Another highlight of the day was when I was in the elevator tonight with some Koreans.  A little boy and his dad got on, and the boy was staring at me.  He was maybe five years old at the most. He asked me (in Korean) what country I was from. I actually understood him and could respond, because my Korean class had a whole chapter on this very topic. So I said (in Korean), "I'm American.  Are you Korean?" and all the Koreans on the elevator whooped and cheered like I scored the winning goal in the World Cup. They're so impressed when you make any effort at all to speak Korean.