Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Korean Culture

We had heard that the Korean people are very welcoming of visitors, and it is true.  We have had so many wondeful people help us out.  During the rain storm, we stopped briefly at a Liege style waffle stand (can you believe it?  A little tast of Belgium right here in Seoul!  The owner had pictures of his trip to Liege and everything) and when we finally figured out that the storm was not going to let up, the owner tried to give us his umbrella!  That was after two gentleman walking in the rain tried to give us one of their umbrellas.

Yesterday a lady ran to get a subway attendent when Paul's subway card didn't work. 

On our second subway trip the attendant (at a different station) made sure to help us work the ticket machines.  Which really wasn't necessary since there is a button for English, but it was the thought that counts.

We purchased two Poweraides from a street vendor and he ran after us to give us our change. 

And of course the lady that ran to get a size 14 hanbok for Sophie and our lunch spot that opened their doors to us during the rain storm.  It has been really nice to have everyone go out of their way to help two people that are clearly out of their element.  It is so different from any other time we have traveled to a foreign country.  Normally the alphabet is at least the same.  But that is the thing, it doesn't matter because there is always someone close by that is willing to help.

One more story before getting in the shower and starting our day...and this is a good one!  I love Korean food, I really do.  But my nervous stomach can only take so much spice; so Paul and I have a routine of a Korean style lunch but than a more American style dinner.  Or at least something with a little less red pepper sauce.  Last night we found what looked to be a typical pasta restaurant.  Brown sign with white lettering declaring "I Love Pasta" or something like that.  But the inside was like the Pink Panther had thrown up pink cotton candy.  I am not tableclothes, pink curtains, pink floral arrangements from the ceiling, pink ruffled throw pillows on each of the pink chairs, etc, etc.  I tried to snap a few pictures, but they really don't reflect the amount of pink in this very small restaurant.  Paul is pretty confident that he is the first ever male to eat at this joint.  :) 

Jae's Mom

Hot and Steamy Seoul

Whew!  Today was sunny but HOT!  I don't know which is worse, running around in a complete downpour or walking in the hot, muggy, sun.  Regardless, we have now done both while here in Seoul.

As usual, we had breakfast here at the guesthouse.  Paul cooked eggs and because I failed to eat dinner the night before, I also had a yogurt and some pineapple that we purchased yesterday from a small store.  Our little buddy (the one that is having a VERY hard time being away from his foster family) made an appearance at breakfast.  And guess who was the first one to get him to eat...ME!  He took 2 Teddy Grahams from me and then loved the Gerber freeze dried yogurt drops that the Arendt family gave us.  I wanted to give more of them to his parents for the plane ride home, but what if they are the only thing Jae likes?  Best to save the majority for our own 12+ hour plane ride.

After breakfast we made our way over to the palace.  It was amazing.  Our pictures are going to turn out great, the palace buildings with the mountains in the background.  The below cell phone pictures just don't do it justice.

From the palace we walked down to the market.  Or I should say, walked past, too far right, and around before we finally found it.  How we missed this large city center market is beyond me.  But no harm done, we found the US Embassy, Samsung's headquarters and City Hall in the process.  The market was crazy and by no means a place for anyone that gets claustrophobic. More narrow, winding, thin, walkways of every vendor you can, clothes, jewelry, umbrellas (umbrellas are big here, in the sun or the rain), socks, etc. etc.  We made a few small puchases: a hanbok (the traditional Korean attire), 2 pairs of PJs, soccer jersey, and a few pairs of socks all for Jae.  We realized that we could use a few more things since we are getting Jae 3 days earlier than expected.

Now we are resing in our room.  We both needed a quick shower before dinner. Tomorrow, dinner with the president of our Korean agency.

Jae's Mom

Tuesday, August 30, 2011


It is 5:30 AM and I am up...due to a combo of nerves, hunger (I was so anxious last night I couldn't eat dinner) and well...the neighbor's kid just woke up and clearly isn't happy with where he is (see previous blog).  I got to tell you this kid's anxiety is making me very uneasy.  Hopefully Jae will have a better transition on Friday.

Today we are hoping to get outside the neighborhood where we are staying and see more of Seoul.  This will be our only full day of touring since tomorrow we have lunch with the president of Eastern and then Friday Jae comes home with us.  So on today's agenda is going up to the Gyeongbokgung Palace and the Namdaemum market. We wanted to make it up to the Demilitarized Zone and possibly to Daegue (a town to the Southeast) where the World track championships are being held right now.  Anyone see the headline of Usain Bolt being DQ from the 100 meter dash?  Yeah, that is happening just a few hours to our South which is cool.

And I don't know if Matt T is reading this, but someone tell him we found Sophie a non-pink Hanbok yesterday!  It might be a little big (size 15 instead of 14) but the lady was so helpful I couldn't say no.  I pointed to a girl hanbok and then to the size and then wrote down the number 14 and she literally ran (yes, ran, not walked) off to find one.  :)  The main dress is yellow and the jacket is blue so Sophie should love it.  Someone tell Matt that we will knock $5 off the price if he promises to give us a picture of Sophie wearing it.

Breakfast.  Now.  Starving.

Jae's Mom

Meeting Jae

Today went okay.  It could have been better, but it also could have been worse.

We pretty much stayed in our room until it was time to go downstairs and meet Jae.  We were a nervous wreck waiting in the lobby with gifts for fostermom.  And then, before the social worker had the chance to formally introduce us to fostermom and Jae, they walked through the front door.  Since fostermom has seen plenty of pictures of us she knew exactly who we were.  We didn't even wait for a social worker, we had our first meeting with Jae right there in the lobby of the agency.  I started crying the minute I saw Jae.  Fostermom did everything right, she said the Korean words for Mama and Papa and tried to have Jae sit on our laps...but he wasn't having it!  Crocodile tears came quickly out of his sweet little eyes but yet, he couldn't take his eyes off of Paul and I.  There was clearly some recognition of our faces.  Fostermom has been showing Jae pictures of us for the last year so it made sense that we would seem some what familiar.

About 5 minutes later our Korean social worker came around the corner surprised to find that we had already found each other.  Our Korean social worker found us a empty playroom so we could sit on the floor with Jae.  I bribed him with Teddy Grahams which he was resistant to at first, but by the end of the hour he was putting them in my mouth (small but wonderful victory).

After a few games of peek-a-boo and me finding Jae's ticklish spot, we were better.  He still hung pretty close to fostermom, but there were no more crocodile tears. Paul completed some paperwork (which was supposed to be done before we even saw Jae, but again we had already reconized each other in the lobby) and they asked us when we would like to take Jae permanently.  So, Jae's Gotcha Day will be this Friday, Sept 2nd.  We will have him the entire weekend before flying home, which is good.  It will be nice for him to have more time with us before getting on a flight.  He gave us a few smiles and giggles today, but he is far from being comfortable with us; which scares the heck out of me.  There is another family staying in the guesthouse and today was their Gotcha Day with their son.  The took him from his foster family around 5pm and I am not exaggerating when I say he has been crying uncontrollably ever since...which is closing in on 3 hours.  My heart aches for Mom, Dad and their little guy. 

But Jae is beautiful!  He has such sweet little eyes and such a full head of hair!  We loved him instantly.  Today was the first time we have ever seen him smile and I can't tell you how happy it made us!  Fostermom clearly had such a love for our little guy as well (did I mention she started crying as soon as she saw us?).  She showed us endless pictures of Jae on her cellphone.  She told us that her kids (she has two grown and then another that is 14 years) love Jae as well. 

So here is what all of you are waiting  We didn't take any until right before they were leaving as we didn't want to upset Jae any more than he already was.  And Jae wasn't ready to let us hold him which is why he looks a little concerned in the final picture:

Besides our quick one hour meeting, we learned never to leave your hotel without an umbrella while in Korea!  We went to do a bit of shopping in the afternoon and got caught in an absolute downpour!  It is monsoon season here after all.  Lucky for us were outside a restuarent where we had had lunch 3 hours earlier.  The owner recognized us and invited us in until the rain passes over. 

Jae's Mom

Monday, August 29, 2011

Eastern Guesthouse

Our bathroom
Our little room with Paul at the computer
The community kitchen

Recap of Yesterday

Good morning!  Paul and I just had some toast in the guesthouse kitchen (which is stocked with some general supplies like bread, peanut butter, eggs, juice, etc) and are now sipping on our instant coffee.  Instant coffee is pretty common over here and I must admit it isn't horrible.  I was expecting a lot worse.  We also met some other families that are staying here over breakfast.  One family from Rochester that is back touring Korea with their 3 boys.  Their youngest, Andrew, kept us entertained all through breakfast as we was playing Angry Birds on his dad's cellphone.  A couple of times he would yell out, "Come on man!" to the phone.  He is a cutie.

Big day today as we are only 3 hours away from meeting our little dude!!

But, more about yesterday first:  Thirteen hours on a plane is too long!  I watched three movies - Water for Elephants, Rio and Just Go With It and I was still bored for the majority of the trip.  But, the good news is we were able to get even better seats with some help from the Korean Air ticket agent in Chicago.  She got us bulk head seating.  It was a row of 4 but only one other person was there with us.  It was nice to have the extra room to strech out and hopefully we can get as good of seats on the way back.  Which I know Korean Air tries to do.  They like to keep bulk head seating for families with small children as it gives the kiddos a little bit of room to play on the floor.  Plus for the really small ones, Korean Air provides small floor bassinets.  Here's hoping because holding a 17 month old on our lap for 12+ hours seems well, impossible.

So back to this morning:  we unpacked all of the fostermom's gifts and placed them in gift bags.  I think we might have went a little overboard, but nothing seems like enough when someone has taken care of your son for the fist 1.5 years of his life.  We will have a translater at the meeting and I want to remember to tell her that Jae is lucky enough to have three moms:  birthmom, fostermom and me.  Fostermom will always hold a very special place in our family and I want to do everything  I can to make sure she knows it.

Now it is time to get ready to meet Jae!  Professional dress is required so we laid out all of our nicest clothes last night to try and get the wrinkles out.  And just in case anyone is wondering...I carefully choose my flat, patent leather, Jessica Simpson bow shoes.  I want Jae to know from day one that his mamma has excellent taste in shoes. 

Jae's Mom

14 Hour Plane Ride Later

We are in Seoul...and we are tired!  Paul said he only slept 5 minutes on the plane and I got about 2.5 hours of sleep.  So at this point we have been basically awake for the past 24 hours.

But we made it to the guesthouse and it will work just fine.  Small room with a bed, small closet, tv and bathroom, which is all we really need.  After unpacking some items we headed down the road for a quick bite.  I am very embarassed to say our first meal in Korea was at Pizza Hut.  We were just so tired and hungry that it was the first option we were comfortable with and were pretty confident we would get fast service.  But, don't worry, we had a good bowl of bibimbap on the plane (a mixture of rice, beef, sprouts, other veggies and hot sauce) and we fully plan to eat authentic from here on out.

Pretty emotional day.  I know we are sleep deprived, but walking into the lobby here at Eastern really took a toll on me.  I kept it together until we shut our room door, then I lost it.  Knowing Jae has been were multiple times was quite a rush of emotions.  And he will be here tomorrow!  We will meet our son in 15 hours.  I thought about him a lot of plane, and I know Paul was thinking of him too.  We are nervous but ready.  Ready to meet the boy that we have been hearing about for the past year.

One last quick note, while waiting for our flight in Chicago, I noticed a couple that looked really familiar...yep, also from our US agency and here to pick up their son! 

7:30pm and it is time for bed.  We have a very big day tomorrow.

Jae's Mom

Sunday, August 28, 2011


We made it to Chicago and a much bigger plane awaits. So far two different TSA agents commented on the "Goodnight Moon" board book that is sticking out of my bag. :) 

Other good news: Paul and I now have seats next to each other. 13 hours sitting next to strangers sounded like a bad idea. Granted they are middle seats in row 51 but better than what we had before. And...I found the newest People mag with Kim K's wedding photos! Paul wasnt thrilled with purchase, but he knows it is important to me. :)

Excited to see what kind of meals we will get on our flight.

Jae's Mom


At the Rochester, Mn airport ready to roll. One small snag already as the airlines had Jae flying out with us. Nope. But he will be making the return flight.

Here we go...

I think I woke up every hour on the 1/2 hour last night.  And that was after getting up at 4:45am the previous day, running 16 miles and having 2 beers with some of our neighbors yesterday evening!  I am nervous.  My nerves have taken a toll on my eating habits as well as I have lost 2 lbs in the last 5 days! Which I am not complaining about, but I am pretty sure there are better ways to loose weight.

So here we are, awake at 5:30am leaving in about 20 minutes from Owatonna.  I will do my best to post when I can.

Jae's Mom

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Saturday Afternoon

Three suitcases, one backpack, one diaper bag and one "paperboy" bag later.  We are stressed!  What are we missing?  What do we have room left for?  Should I pack more diapers?  More food?  More clothes?  More money?  Did you pack the phone charger?  Can you show me again how the new camera works?  Do you think we should take 1/2 of your clothes and put them in my suitcase and vice versa?  Do you think this is enough toothpaste for the two/three of us? What are your parents doing here? (that one was Paul).  How much does your suitcase weigh?  What movies should we pack?

Jae's Mom

Saturday Morning

I am so nervous, excited, happy, scared, nervous, worried, and did I mention nervous?  It is 5:45 and I have been up for over an hour.  Thinking about what I have left to pack and what is about to happen in the next couple of days.  I still can't believe we leave for Korea tomorrow morning!

It has been just about a year since we first learned of Jae.  And what a roller coaster of year it has been.  Lots of good days: like we when we would get an update, pictures or have paperwork approved.  And lots of downs: missing the first steps, Jae's 1st birthday and then the Korean Ministry holding all EP approvals right when Jae was right there at the top of the pile.  But now it is time to go get that cute little stinker and I am every emotion that I have ever felt all at the same time...which is great fun for my stomach.  I have felt like throwing up for the past 4 days straight now.

Yesterday was my last day of work for 12 weeks, which is weird and I really don't think that it has registered yet.  I am sure the 12 weeks will fly by, but right now, Thanksgiving (when I am scheduled to come back) seems like a long time away.  But Jae and I will stop in and drop off some homemade cookies every now and between our fall visits to the zoo, and the park, and the children's museum.  :)

Lots to do and I think it is going to start with a 13+ mile run.  If I am up this early what else am I going to do?

ps - For those blog followers that go though facebook, you might want to just save my blog address. I am not sure if it will be easy for me to post to facebook while overseas. 

Jae's Mom

Thursday, August 25, 2011


We just received word that we get to meet Jae on Tuesday as opposed to Wednesday.  Around 11AM Seoul time, we will make our way downstairs to room 101 to meet our son!  With the time difference, that will be around 9pm CST on Monday.  Which means we are 96 hours away from meeting Jae...very cool.

Jae's Mom

Agency Guesthouse

More good news, Paul, Jae and I are booked to stay at the agency guesthouse.  We just saved ourselves at least $120 a night with this news!  The guesthouse is a great option since it is (obviously) a lot cheaper than local hotels and really has everything we need to take care of Jae.  The provide bath items, a kitchen, bottles, etc. and we basically just need to walk downstairs to complete any agency business. 

Other good news this morning is our appointment to meet Jae is scheduled...for now.  We are scheduled to meet Jae at 11AM on Wednesday August 31st; but, our Korean specialist is going to try and get it pushed forward a day.  Normally parents get to meet their child on their first full day in Seoul.  Since we are arriving Monday afternoon this meeting should take place on Tuesday.  Maybe the agency is busy or the fostermom can't make a Tuesday meeting, but our agency is at least going to request that it is moved forward a day. 

I will continue to post news as it comes.

Jae's Mom

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Whew, What a Day!

Wow!  What a day!  It feels like 12 days ago that we got the call not 12 hours ago.  But at exactly 7:30 am this morning, while drying my hair (thank God I brought my cell phone into the bathroom with me) the call came.  I saw the 651 number and knew exactly who was calling and why: one of our CHSFS Korean specialists with our travel notification.  While still on the phone, I emailed Paul to rush home.  We had work to do! 

After about an hour of searching online for flights, we decided to contact the recommended travel agent for Korean adoptions.  One problem, he took a vacation day.  So with some encouragement from another Korean adoptive mother, we decided to make our way over to a local Owatonna travel agent.  Great idea!  She saved us close to $500 when compared to what we were seeing online.  We will leave Sunday morning out of Rochester, MN and connect through Chicago before going onto Seoul arriving the next day (Monday).  We will get back to Rochester a week later on Labor Day.

Where we will stay while in Seoul is another question.  Hopefully sometime tomorrow afternoon we will find out if our Korean agency has housing available.  If not, we will probably pay 4X as much for a hotel in the same area.  Which is exactly why we had to move fast this morning, our contact at CHSFS (Children's Home Society and Family Services) said 6 other families were getting travel calls today (normally it is like 3 or 4 a week so today was HUGE) and Korean agency housing is on a first come first serve basis; but, you have to have an actual flight itinerary before they will let you request a room.  We booked flights as fast as possible so we would be closer to the top of the room request list.

Otherwise, I was able to cram in a last minute haircut (thanks Lisa) and actually get a little bit of work done.  Albeit, not much work.  :)

Thanks for all the wonderful, touching, loving emails, facebook posts, text messages, hugs, tears, etc, etc today.  One day, I hope Jae understand and appreciates how many people were anxiously waiting for him to come home.
More to come later, but for now, I am ready for bed.

Jae's Mom


Today is the day.  At exactly 7:30AM we received the call we have been waiting 11 months to hear...Jae is ready to come home.  We are in the process of booking flights (we will probably leave Sunday) so I will post more later!

Jae's Mom

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Nope, Not Today.

No travel call today.  :(

But, Paul was able to call the State Visa Department and confirm what I thought I heard yesterday; Jae had visa approval on Monday.  He will be coming home very, very soon.  Just not today.  Probably get the call tomorrow and regardless, we are packed and ready to go with hopes of still traveling on Thursday. 

Whew, now that the day is over I can breathe, but I felt like throwing up this morning.  I didn't even eat anything till noon when we were pretty sure the call was not coming.  Stressful!  Thank you to any curly hair underwriters that put up with my madness today.

Jae's Mom

Monday, August 22, 2011

Visa Interview

The phone did not ring at 8AM this morning.  So at 8:45 AM I decided to call the State Visa department to see if they had any information on a scheduled visa interview.  Thinking I was going to get the same answer as Thursday (no scheduled interview) I really wasn't nervous about the call...until the visa specialist said, "Yes, it looks he had his visa interview today." I seriously don't even know if I thanked the nice lady, I might have just said goodbye and hung up!

The only problem, I hung up so fast that I didn't have time to confirm what I had just heard.  This is how my crazy mind works...about an hour later I start questioning what I just heard.  Maybe she said, "Nope nothing today" or "Maybe he will be scheduled later today" or something.  I just know I heard the word "today."  Two hours later I convince Paul to call back and confirm the news.  But, apparently everyone else wanted to talk to a visa specialist as well because Paul couldn't get through. 

Assuming I heard correctly and Jae had his US Embassy visa interview today...WE SHOULD GET THE TRAVEL CALL TOMORROW!  I can't believe it!  Paul and I are checking plane ticket prices, packing and putting together checklists hoping we will be able to leave as early Wednesday or Thursday.  Crazy right?!  So again, assuming I heard right, the travel call should come around 8am tomorrow morning and then we will quickly place a call to the recommended travel agent to get us flights. 

Time to pack.  At least I think it is time to pack!  :)

Jae's Mom

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Is This THE Week?

This could be the week!  Sure, we didn't get confirmation of a visa interview appointment when I called on Thursday, but those don't take long to schedule.  For all I know, the appointment was set only 10 minutes after I called.  This really could be the week.  Crazy.  It gives me butterflies just thinking about it. 

We could be meeting our son this week!  Meeting our son!  And going a step further, we are going 1/2 way across the world and we don't have plane tickets, have a place to stay, nor speak the language.   All we have is a couple of Korean travel books and a suitcase full of gifts.  Sounds like a well planned vacation to me? 

Paul's prediction - call on Tuesday and then travel Thursday. 

Jae's Mom

Friday, August 19, 2011

Phone call to D.C.

Yep, we are still here.  Still anxiously awaiting our travel call.

Yesterday I called the visa center in Washington D.C. to see if they had a status update on Jae's visa approval.  Now, I have been told that there can be come communication delays between the US Embassy in Seoul and the Visa Center in D.C.; but regardless they didn't have any information for me.  I asked if Jae had a date for his visa interview, but no such luck.  I will try to call again early next week.  If I can figure out what date Jae is scheduled for his visa interview, you can pretty much bank on us getting the travel call a day or two after.

Jae's Mom

Friday, August 12, 2011


It was a big day yesterday as we got word that Jae has EP (Emigration Permission)!  This means Jae is basically out of the Korean Ministry and only waiting on the US Embassy in Seoul to issue an entrance visa.  This might happen in the next few days so we were told to make sure we have things in order in case we get the travel call next week (but it could take as long as 3 weeks).  I still can't believe it!  Funny though, neither Paul nor myself got super emotional about it.  We knew it was coming and it was just simply exciting news! 

Eleven months.  We have known about Jae for eleven months.  That is a long time to wait for the other love of your life to come home.  In many ways I am glad I didn't know this would take 11 months.  Yes, our US agency said it could take up to 11 months, but I think that was the extreme end of the range.  I don't think our agency really expected it to take 11 months.  They couldn't have predicted that the Korean Ministry would stop processing in the 11 hour of our adoption process. 

Jae is coming home.  If that kid ever goes this long without calling/visiting again...he is grounded!

Jae's Mom

Monday, August 8, 2011

Other EP Submissions

This morning I kissed Paul good-bye and said "Today is going to be a good day.  I know it."  I was kind-of right.  At lunch today we discovered that a new batch of children were submitted to the Korean Ministry for Emigrations Permission (EP).  Now how this EP Submission stuff works is a group of children enters the Ministry together (for passport and visa issuance) and leaves together.  Which also generally means that a new group does not get submitted until the old one is done...and if a new group was submitted...Jae and his fellow EP babies should be out.  But we were also told that this process would take 4-6 weeks and we are on week twelve so I am not holding my breath. 

If there was a new group submitted and Jae is in fact out, as soon as the US Embassy in Seoul issues his entrance visa we will travel.  Stay tuned.  It could be a big couple of weeks!

Jae's Mom

Monday, August 1, 2011

Next Best Thing...

No travel call nor EP approval, but we got the next best thing...four new pictures!

Jae's Mom