It has been a while since my last post, and so much has happened! The last time I posted we had just received EP approval and were waiting to get our court date. Well, that all happened very fast. At the end of October, we got our court date and had about 3 weeks to get a flight, hotel, write up sub plans, and plan for a week away from our boys. I came on to write a post a dozen times since then, and something else always came up. As my friend would say, “You can’t do all the things.” I was definitely trying to do all the things and something had to give.
We got everything planned at school and home, we packed lots of gifts to bring to Korea, and we hopped on a plane to go meet our baby girl! We left on a Friday, but we didn’t arrive in Korea until Saturday night. It was a very long day of travel and Korea is 15 hours ahead of us, so we were exhausted when we arrived. We managed to check in to our hotel and then got out and explored a lantern festival and got a bite to eat. Needless to say, when we arrived back to our hotel room, we crashed right away.
We woke up early on Sunday morning and called some family back in the US to check in. My bother pointed out how exhausted I looked, so clearly the jet lag was getting to me a little. We had nothing planned for today, so we decided to take a train to check our the city our daughter was born in. Her birth city is a few hours away by train, so we figured out how to get on the train, and we were off. It was definitely challenging to make sure we were going to the correct places with the language barrier, but everyone there was very helpful, and we made it there safely. We spent our day exploring a garden park, whale museum, watching the locals fish off a pier, and taking a ton of pictures for our daughter to look back at some day. We had a very long wait back at the train station, and we knew we would get back to Seoul around 11:30pm, but our train ended up being late. We didn’t get back to Seoul until 12:45, the subway was close, and it was pouring rain! We were about a 45 minute walk from our hotel. We tried and tried to get a cab, but no one would pick us up. We think it was because we were soaking wet. It seemed like they weren’t picking anyone up who didn’t have an umbrella. We finally decided to quit trying to get a cab, and used our navigation app to get back to our hotel. I was freaking out a little because I knew we had our first meeting with our daughter the next day, and I didn’t want to be exhausted. We eventually made it back to our hotel, dried off (we literally had to dump the water out of our shoes) and headed straight to bed.
Monday was the day we had been waiting so long for! We had to run to the store, Lotte Mart which is like our Walmart, because my curling iron and straightener would not work even though we got a converter. We took the subway to Lotte Mart, got a straightener, did a little shopping for the boys, and then headed back to the hotel to get ready to meet our girl. We brought gifts from other families for their little ones and gifts for our daughter’s foster family, so we packed those all up and took a taxi to our agency. When we got there, we met with the photographer that we hired to take pictures of our meetings. After that, we had to do some paper work with our social worker for our daughters visa application, and then it was time to get upstairs to see meet our daughter! I can’t even put in to words what it was like to see her sweet face for the first time. She was on her foster mom’s back, and she grabbed on to my finger with her sweet chubby fingers. I wanted to pick her up and never let go. We knew she was going to be shy, we were strangers to her after all, so we tried to give her some space and let her stay close to her foster mom. We did both get to hold her, kiss her sweet cheeks, and blow bubbles with her. Before we knew it our hour was up, and it was time to say goodbye. We knew we were going to get to see her again on Wednesday, so we said “see you later” and headed off to check out a palace in Seoul.
Seoul is such an amazing place. During our time between meetings we spent a lot of time exploring. We tried some street food, visited a few palaces and just enjoyed every moment we had learning about our daughters culture. I was taking so many pictures both for our daughter and my classroom. For those of you that don’t know, I teach 6th grade social studies and teaching about Korea is part of my curriculum. Everything that we experienced in Korea will be part of what I get to teach my students. I am very excited to teach them about Korean culture from my experiences and not just our textbook.
Our second meeting with our daughter was on Wednesday, and we also had a presentation from the president of our agency and lunch with other families who will have court with us. The meeting was very emotional as we learned about the history of the agency and the founder’s heart for orphans. Lunch was really yummy, and it was great to sit and talk with other adoptive families. We actually got to sit with a family who lives very close to us! After lunch we had our second meeting with our sweet girl. We went in with a plan for our second meeting. We had some questions we wanted to ask her foster mom, and our goal was to get her to smile at us during this visit. She was very shy again today, and she wanted to be very close to her foster mom. She loves the color pink, which I am super excited about, so we kept finding pink toys to give her and she liked that. She also loved peek-a-boo, and we got some smiles and giggles from playing that. I almost cried when I heard her little laugh for the first time. It was just the sweetest thing. Our visit went by so fast and before we knew it, it was time to go. Her foster mom had brought some gifts for us, the boys and even my mom. She is such an amazing woman, and we can tell she loves our girl so well. We said goodbye again, this time it was way harder, but we know she will be in our arms forever in about a month.
Thursday we had to go to court and appear in front of a judge. I was that most nervous about this. I knew going in to this that she might ask us questions from our home study, so we spent a little time reviewing that. We took a big bus over to the court house with all the other families that had court. Again, it was so nice to be able to talk to people who are in the same place in this process as us. People from all over the country and even other countries. All of their babies are just so sweet, and I hope we get to see them again when we go for custody. We waited our turn to go in front of the judge, and we were near the bottom of the list, so we knew it would be a little while before it was our turn. The first few families were in and out of the court room in a matter of minutes. We were told how to address the judge and where to sit before hand, so I wasn’t so worried about that, but I was still worried about what she was going to ask us. Finally, it was our turn. We walked in to the court room, bowed, addressed the judge and took our seats. The judge asked us about four questions total. She ask why we wanted to adopt after already having three children, if our boys were excited, if we were nervous about our youngest two children being so close in age (they are 16 months apart) and then finally if we were sure we wanted to adopt. The judge finished by telling us that she was going to grant us approval and wished our new family all the best. We left the court room and had a big weight lifted from our shoulders. All the families felt so happy after leaving court knowing we would all be back soon to bring our babies home. After we were finished with court we spent a little more time exploring. We had a few more gifts we wanted to pick up, and then we headed back to our hotel to pack up for our flight home the next day.
We woke up Friday morning, spent some time in the gym, and then continued to pack our things. We were really sad to be leaving our daughter in Korea, but we were very ready to get back and see our boys. We checked out of the hotel and took a van to the airport which was about an hour away. There were not many people at the airport, so we were able to check-in and go through security very quickly. We spent the rest of the day hanging out in the airport. We finally boarded the plane back home and got ready for another 13 hour ride, which you can never really prepare yourself for. I spent a lot of that time worrying about how we will handle a 13 hour ride with a 16 month old!
We were so excited to get home, see our boys, and sleep in our own bed. We definitely had jet lag for a few days, but we were able to recover and get back in to the swing of things. It really helped that we only had to work two days when we got back and then we were on Thanksgiving break.
Now we are waiting to hear from our agency about a visa date. When we go back to Korea, we will take custody of our daughter and attend a visa appointment for her final exit from Korea. We will be given a date from the US Embassy in Korea and it will be either on a Tuesday or Thursday. With all of this happening around the holiday, we are very unsure about when we will be going back. Right now we think we will be traveling back the week after Christmas, but that is not guaranteed. We will hear for sure within the next 10 days, and then it will be time to get a flight, hotel, and get ready for our girl to come home! The next time you hear from me on here will be when we are Bringing Baby Stoyk HOME!