So. Our son.
The agency's office is right along a busy main Seoul street, and it was teeming with people when we arrived. Before we arrived, I was envisioning a white hospital-like building, but it felt more like a reconditioned high school. Lots of little side rooms and warm colors. It is super humid in Seoul right now - Monsoon season! - and the lobby was insanely hot. There were other families also meeting/picking up their children, from all over the world... some right there in the lobby. Plus nurses bustling about, a reunion tour group hugging and laughing. And then us just sort of standing and not knowing who to talk to. One of the nurses said "baby meeting?" and ushered us up the staircase to meet the social worker, Mrs. Lee, our son, and our son's foster mother.
Of course it was emotional. Rhonda was handed Clark right away and the two of us just held him and cried. We've been at this for so long... and yet with the surprise call last Friday, it still didn't seem real until that moment. We all talked (Mrs. Lee translating for the foster moster, who spoke no English) and laughed. I took pictures. The foster mother told us about his feeding times, how he sleeps, how he plays. She showed us how to hold him... he was tired and on the cranky side, but he did fall asleep in Rhonda's arms. That's a comfort. They left us alone in the room for a little bit as they arranged a visit with the doctor downstairs.
At one point, I played my big card: reciting "thank you for loving our baby" in Korean. (Thanks, Linda!) It sounds like "oo-dee ah-gi sarong heh jwuh suh kamsa hamnida" and I have been practicing for days. I think I surprised both of them quite a bit, judging from their reaction! In a situation like this, we couldn't thank the foster mother enough, but one sentence (probably full of lousy intonation and off-kilter consonent sounds) was all I could manage!
That last bit (the "kamsa hamnida") means "thank you," so we've been saying that all the time out here. I can also say "hello" (annyong haseyo) so I get to initiate all the conversations. Of course we had not prepared for a stay in Tokyo, but I reached into my pop culture memory and used "hello" and "thank you" for our Japanese hosts as well. Konnichiwa and domo arigato.
The foster mother took him into the doctor, happily gesturing for us to follow. The doctor, like Mrs. Lee, spoke English, and she did a quick checkup with the foster mother's help, occasionally telling us the results. Motor control, stool check, the usual baby stuff. Since the babies aren't allowed to travel out of the country if they are ill, it was nice to get a clean bill of health from the doc.
Then we hung out in another sideroom, while a dozen more moms and babies milled about in the lobby. Rhonda figures it must be baby check-up time, and we just happened to be their during a slew of end-of-month appointments. We wished we could have found out the names of all the babies there, to see if any of them are the future children of friends we've made in adoption circles that we know are waiting for the call.
At this point, Mrs. Lee was off working somewhere in the office, so we were along with Clark and the foster mom... most of our communication was baby stuff. Clark got a bottle, the three of us played with him. He has recently discovered his fists, so there was a lot of baby boxing. It was a complete treat to hear the foster mother interact with him in Korean, using the Korean equivalent of peek-a-boo (kah-koon!) and humming a traditional Korean lullaby. Plus, she repeatedly pointed to us and said "ohma" (Mom) and "appa" (Dad) while she was playing with Clark. Sigh!
They needed to catch a bus home, so Mrs. Lee returned, went over the plans for Friday, and we said goodbye. Not literally, I have not yet learned "goodbye" in Korean. There was a lot more kamsa himnida going on. Then we walked back to the hotel, calmly, even in the terrible humidity.
It is expected that you dress up for your visits, so I had dress slacks, dress shirt and tie... which of course makes me perfectly uncomfortable. We didn't even bring jeans, since that's a good way to earmark yourself as a wealthy foreigner (we saw jeans on sale for about $70 in a nearby chain-looking clothing store.) So I've been dressy for the entire trip.
Here's where we made a mistake: we passed out in the hotel from 4 to 7. Kind of blew our time zone acclimation in one evening nap. We woke up hungry, so we hit the town (after a stopover in the computer room) and found a Pizza Hut.
I know, it's so lame to visit another country and go to a despicable American commercialized food franchise. But there you are. Once I got my hellos and thank yous out of the way, we ordered by pointing. Yes, it was more expensive than a Pizza Hut back home. However, it was a billion times cleaner, the staff was a billion times nicer and attentive, and you don't tip in Korea. Then we walked up and down a bunch of trendy looking city streets until about 11:30pm. Felt completely safe.
Back in the hotel, we watched some Korean and Japanese television. The last thing I saw was a panel discussion on RoboTech, no lie. There seemed to be hosts (one of whom was very Comic Book Guyish) and several guests, maybe even the original creator of RoboTech, I don't know. Even before they showed some clips, I recognized the word "Macross" (the Japanese title for RoboTech), which made me feel pretty damn smart. Earlier we saw a Korean hidden camera prank show that was funny... we had no idea what they were saying, but you could still figure out the pranks via body language.
I've been up since about 4am, however. Beat Kirby Canvas Curse as dawn took the city. Showered early so I could jump on the computer while people in the US might be awake. It is roughly 7am local time, Thursday morning. IM access seems to be down at the moment. It was working fine last night - talked to my sister back in PA - which sort of left me marvelling at how cool and universal the internet has become. The last time we left the country, back in 1999, internet cafes were still a largely unknown and expensive thing. Today internet access is free and everywhere; this hotel even has free access in your room if you bring your laptop. We considered bringing the iBook along, but chickened out at the last minute. Sure do wish my phone worked here, though.