Saturday, February 27, 2010

"Going Home"

Okay, I don't want the focus of this blog to be adoption topics... though it seems to be more and more lately... BUT I saw this preview for a documentary "Going Home" on Serenity in Seoul's blog, and it struck a nerve. It's about a guy who goes to Korea to meet his birth family... the preview alone made my eyes well up with tears. I mean, I feel like my experience here is so unique, but here's another person who's doing the same things as me! Kind of cool (and sad at the same time) that there are probably hundreds, thousands of adoptees with similar stories to me.

Here's the preview... apparently it's showing at the Korean American Film Festival in New York. Obviously I can't make that, but I'm dying to get my hands on a copy of it! Time for some internet research...

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Introducing my birth mother...

Last night, I met the woman who gave birth to me. This was something I honestly never thought would happen, so it was pretty surreal. I had a lot of fears going into this... What if she's unhappy? What if she's moved on with her life and doesn't want to know me?

Fortunately, it was such a memorable night and it couldn't have gone any better. Mark and I went with SangKwun to a shabu shabu restaurant in Gangnam for the big reunion. I think we were both pretty nervous about the evening. It seriously felt like the longest walk to the back room of the restaurant.

There were 3 women and 1 man in the room waiting for us. To be honest, they all kind of swarmed us and I had no idea which one was my mother! Then her younger brother (my uncle) introduced us to her and she squeezed SangKwun and me tight. She speaks no English, so SangKwun and my uncle had to serve as interpreters. There was a lot that I missed due to the language barrier, but I was mostly happy just to see who she is.

The first thing she said to me was that I was too skinny and need to eat more. (Is there some sort of a theme with this? My birth father said the exact same thing to me upon first meeting me.)

The night seemed mostly focused around how SangKwun and I look and what we're up to now. It was decided that I look more like my birth father. And after looking at the pictures again, I have to agree. What do you think?

Here are the 3 of us. I think SangKwun favors her more lookwise.

Here we are with my Uncle.

Birth Mother Uncle

Here we are with her best friend.

Birth Mother & Best Friend

The most moving part of the night was hearing about the pain that they endured in giving me up. Sometimes it's easy to forget how deeply adoption affects people on the other side -- the birth family.

I was told that when I was given up for adoption, she and my birth father were extremely poor. They were so poor that they couldn't even afford to buy milk for me. The decision to give me up was so difficult, it caused them to argue and eventually to separate. I always thought about how hard it would be to give up a child, but hearing that really makes me realize how truly torn they were and what a horrible dilemma they were faced with. I mean, I was a major part of their family -- she was even telling me the nickname they had for me around the house.

My uncle was only in middle school when I was a baby, but from hearing him talk, it sounds like we were close. He even said he remembered that I have a freckle on my leg... I do! When he went to school, he would carry me on his back and take me with him. And when they informed him that I was being given up for adoption, he cried.

My mother just kept looking at me and telling me that she was so sorry and that she prayed for me and SangKwun every day. She also hadn't lost that maternal instinct as she couldn't stop touching me most of the night.


I hope that last night can be the start of a new relationship. I know it's cliche to say this, but I just feel so incredibly blessed. When I began this journey, I felt lucky to have one set of loving parents. Now I can honestly say that I have two sets of parents -- one that gave me birth, one that raised me -- but both that will be forever in my heart.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Big News

Today could end up being a day I will never forget. Actually, I know it will be. Tonight I will be meeting my birth mother.

SangKwun has been talking about looking for her for awhile now. He hasn't seen her since he was a toddler and I was given up for adoption.

He was able to track down her younger brother, who contacted her, and BAM we're meeting for dinner tonight.

People ask how I'm feeling and honestly, it's happening so fast I'm having a hard time processing it. I get jittery and anxious when I think about it for too long, but I'm mostly just excited. I've always wondered if I look like her and I will get to find out TONIGHT! Wow!

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Sniff Sniff

I got a little taste of the emotional week I'm in for when I say goodbye to my class next week.

On Friday, I was trying to get my 5 year olds pumped up for graduation next week. I was telling them that after they graduate, they can go to a new class with new classes and new teachers.

Then little Andy looked at me and said, "But on graduation you are going to America."


"Yes, Mark Teacher and I will go back home," I replied.

And he got really serious and said "When you go, I won't cry." And did his quick blinking thing he does he hold back tears. Which of course made me tear up a bit too.

Uh oh... next week is going to be harder -- much harder -- than I thought.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Last Friday!

In honor of Mark and my last Friday as teachers EVER....

Hope you have a wonderful Friday! :)

Monday, February 15, 2010

Video of the Korean country house

On our Ski Trip II blog post, I mentioned that we stayed in a traditional Korean country house. Here's a narrated tour of the house by moi... please excuse the shaky camera!

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Happy Lunar New Year!

Yesterday was a combo day... Valentines Day AND Korean Lunar New Year. In Korea, Lunar New Year took precedence. It's a big deal for families and we even got a day off work!

SangKwun and Birth Father both came to Korea for the holiday. Yesterday we went bright and early to Birth Father's apartment for the traditional New Year's soup, 떡국. It's basically rice cakes and dumplings with eggs and beef. Every Korean eats this to celebrate the New Year and when they eat it, they turn a year older. Koreans don't believe they turn a year older on their actual birthday, everyone just turns a year older on the first of the year when they eat this soup.

I forgot to take a picture until I'd eaten half of it, but here's a shot of it...


We also had a ton of side dishes. Here's Birth Father with our table of food...

Korean New Year
Later that day, Father's two brothers, their wives, and daughters came over. We ate 삼겹살, small fish, some sort of spicy soup. It was kind of funny when the aunts arrived, they immediately kicked SangKwun out of the kitchen, took over the cooking and dish washing, and didn't leave until they left the apartment the next morning. It's surprising to Mark and I how much Korean women seem to wait on the men.

We got to witness my cousins do the 세배 (sae bae). This is when the kids bow to their elders to honor their ancestors. Then they receive money. I was surprised... when they did it for Birth Father, the two younger ones got about $40 and the oldest one got $100! Now that's a worthwhile bow! :)

I didn't take pictures, but here's a YouTube vide of what it looks like if you're interested. No, no one was wearing hanboks for the 세배 I saw.

Afterwards, Birth Father broke out his Ballantine's 21-year-old scotch, and the men polished off a bottle and a half of it. The night went on and on until finally one of the uncles (the youngest one who seems to like to party) passed out in the second bedroom. It was then decided that everyone would spend the night.

The next morning, when we got up, the women were again hard at work making a Korean breakfast. We had another soup, which was really good.

It was really interesting to see the Korean traditions in practice. I think this is definitely something we could take home with us.... especially that delicious 떡국! :)

Ski Trip II

Mark and I are seeing the end of our time in Korea quickly approaching. A few weekends ago, we went on a last trip with some of our Korean friends. We went to the Hyundai Resort, which had longer hills than the resort we went to with SangKwun and his friends. We were pleasantly surprised when we found out that the bus ride to the resort and 8 hours of skiing/snowboarding only cost about $50.

Here's a shot of the hills.


Again, we were able to rent snowsuits and equipment. We both wanted to give snowboarding another try and were pleasantly surprised at how much easier it was this time around. I decided to just wear my own coat and rent the pants. Unfortunately, this time around we didn't get the knee and butt pads for protection.


The 8 hours grew pretty long and my legs felt like rubber after awhile so I had to stop.


But there was no stopping Mark! There he goes!


He even tackled this crazy hill that had 180 turns.


The scenery really was beautiful. Coming from the flat midwest, it's still breathtaking to see all these mountains on a daily basis.



We spent the night in an old-fashioned Korean country house. The rooms were tiny and there was a little Korean grandmother who was the inn-keeper. We all slept on the floor on mats, but not before Yuni cooked us some dakdoritang (spicy chicken soup) -- 덝도리탕.

We're really going to miss these girls. Yuni and Kerry are taking new jobs at other schools. And Ellen (on the right below) is going to Australia and New Zealand in March to study English.


Anyway, it was a fun trip and Mark and I can foresee some skiing/snowboarding trips in our future once we return to the States! :)

Friday, February 5, 2010

Big Bushy Mustaches

I talk about my preschoolers a lot, but don't get my gradeschoolers their due credit. I have a really cute class of really smart 1st graders that I teach reading and American social studies to every day. (On an interesting side note, this class is officially Obama obsessed... they manage to bring him up at least once a week. And occasionally there are some hardcore references, like quoting his speeches and stuff...)

Anyway, in our reading class, we were reading the story "The Big Bushy Mustache." So we all made our own mustaches and took some pics. Here are some of my favorites... oh and for the record, there are boys in the class, but they were too embarrassed to let me take a picture of them.



Most of these kids have never studied abroad, and have only studied in academies. But, for all you St. Louisans, the little girl in the white shirt in the middle lived in Chesterfield for a year. She and I love to chat about places she's been. And yes, she loved Ted Drewes. :)

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Worst cooking class ever

I have a bi-monthly cooking class with my 5 year old class. They really love it and we try to make simple things that don't require a heating source or knives. We've made things like rice balls, guacamole, pumpkin pudding, and small sandwiches cut with cookie cutters. There have been a few suspect dishes, but this one definitely takes the cake as the worst.

We told the kids we were making canapes. For those of you (like me) who weren't really sure what canapes were... they should look like this:


::image via Culinary Specialties::

Yummy, right?

Now, we've encountered the Korean habit of looking at a picture and guessing what the ingredients are... there's a bar by our school that serves a delicious plate of nachos... the only snag being that the fabulous looking sour cream on top is in fact whipped cream. Not a good surprise.

So, how did we make the canapes?

First, we gave every child 4 or 5 crackers. They were then presented with a tray with various toppings. They could choose from tuna, ham, processed American cheese, mayonnaise, canned corn, and strawberry jelly. I'm still not sure how these toppings were selected.


So naturally, as any 5 year old would, the students opted to put EVERY topping on each cracker. You can't tell me that kids at this age have taste buds because they joyfully scarfed down every single canape. Only one little boy looked at me worriedly and said "Not delicious." No, little Brian, they most certainly are not.

Here are the canapes from hell...