We spent 8 full days in Korea in February 2008 when we picked up Ethan and 4 full days in October 2009 when we picked up Sarah. We wrote a number of posts while we were there both times, which has helped us remember more than we would have remembered otherwise.
It was an especially memorable time because it was such an intense time. In the months following our first trip, in particular, I think I had daily flashbacks of being in Korea. The flashbacks were so vivid that it felt like I was there. As we get further away from our trips to Korea, the flashbacks have gotten less frequent and less intense (although we still have them).
Here are a few of the more vivid memories of our time in Korea …
- Visiting both kids’ foster homes. When we visited Ethan’s foster home and Sarah’s foster home, each time we met a baby we had come to know through photos and reports, but it was obvious they did not know us. We also remember when we showed up to get Ethan the day after we met him that he smiled as soon as he saw us (apparently, remembering us from the day before), but that didn’t last long …
- Goodbyes with the foster families. We’ll never forget the goodbyes at the elevator at the SWS offices. Each time, we went into the elevator with the child we were receiving (or taking away, as it must have felt like for the babies) and watching tearful foster parents give their last goodbyes.
- The Takeaways. There were a few differences between Ethan’s Takeaways and Sarah’s Takeaway, but both were pretty brutal (in fact, the word “brutal” kept going through my mind with Ethan; we were much more prepared for Sarah). It’s hard to tell what kind of mark those experiences left on the kids, but they certainly left their mark on us!
- Holy Flames Methodist Church. We enjoyed connecting with people at Holy Flames. At the end of the main worship service, we were asked to stand at the exit so that people could greet us on the way out of the sanctuary. Being greeted by so many Koreans bowing to us in their traditional greeting was a memorable experience.
- Small Group. We had been looking forward to meeting with a church small group while we were in Korea, until we learned that we would be picking up Ethan a couple of hours before small group. As it turned out, it was a tremendous experience, once we’re glad we didn’t miss!
- A man at Incheon Airport. We often wondered what Koreans thought about us with a Korean baby, whether they viewed it positively or negatively. In 2008, Chung Suk Kim, senior pastor of Kwanglim Methodist Church, perhaps the largest Methodist Church in the world, expressed gratitude to us for adopting a Korean baby. But our last memory from Korea was going through customs at the airport in Korea on our way out of the country. Joleen and the baby (Sarah) were at the counter and I was waiting in line. An older Korean man was behind me and asked if we were adopting a Korean baby. When I told him that we were, he patted me on the back and said, “Thank you!”
But, as I’ve said before, WE are the lucky ones!