“Once there were two women who never knew each other
One you do not remember, the other you call Mother
Two different lives shaped to make you one
One became your guiding star, the other became your sun
The first one gave you life, and the second taught you to live it
The first gave you a need for love, the second was there to give it
One gave you a nationality, the other gave you a name
One gave you a talent, the other gave you aim
One gave you emotions, the other calmed your fears
One saw your first sweet smile, the other dried you tears
One made an adoption plan, that was all that she could do
The other prayed for a child, and God led her straight to you.
Now, which of these two women, Are you the product of?
Both, my darling, Both, Just two different types of love.”
I found the poem above and thought it was pretty fitting to start off my blog post(s) about mine and Daniel’s Korea trip. I believe most of you know that the “Seoul”* purpose of this trip was to meet my birth family in person. I had talked to most everyone on a chat application, WeChat, or through e-mail. I started learning Korean so that I could communicate better with them, but what I’ve learned so far was only a tiny bit helpful for this trip…
We started our trip off great…with garage door problems. We’ve had some problems with it before and it had supposedly already been fixed. But of course, the day we are leaving it decides to play tricks with us. We ended up having to manually close it and lock it from inside. So we had to make a note to ourselves to not use the garage door when we got back home. Which I’m glad we did, because I almost forgot about it being broken when we got back home.
My Dad picked us up and took us to the Knoxville airport on Thursday, September 18, 2014 (thanks Dad!). Our flight left at 11:25 AM EST on the tiniest Delta aircraft to the Detroit Metro airport. A little Asian woman was seated behind us, talking to the lady next to her, and getting us ready for Korea with her stereotypical Asian accent. We arrived in Detroit at 1:08 PM EST and had a two hour layover. Thinking they would help with sleeping on the main flight, we bought those fancy neck pillows while walking around. They didn’t come in handy on the flight, but they would a few days later. We each had a cold Budweiser at the Budweiser restaurant and a bland chicken sandwich (probably a good thing it was bland, nothing to mess up our horrible stomach tracts). We downed some water, used the restrooms, and departed Detroit at 3:49 PM EST. Our arrival to Incheon International Airport in Seoul, South Korea would be thirteen and a half hours later.
No one was in the seat next to us for the long flight, so we had some room to stretch out. They gave us hot towels at the beginning and end of the flight. Which we really didn’t know what to do with them. But apparently you wipe your face and hands with them. While on the flight to Detroit, Daniel found out on Delta international flights free alcoholic drinks (even in Economy) are served. So of course we started our trip with a little cocktail each. Sockey decided to join in the fun too. But, don’t worry. We drank about eight bottles of water each. Each time they came by we took one. We didn’t have to worry about waking someone up and walking over them. Hydration people. We watched a lot of movies and maybe slept for two hours total. I think we each watched four movies and some television shows. I was so tired I wasn’t really excited. I just wanted to be off a plane and on land so I could walk around (people asked about my emotions before leaving and I was mainly just ready for a vacation and I knew they if they were going to they wouldn’t kick in until we got on this flight or landed in Korea). Finally! Korea arrival time Friday, September 19, 6:25 PM UTC (18:25) – meaning we lost a day because back home in the Eastern Time Zone it was Friday morning 5:25 (05:25).
I was SWEATING in the Customs line. I was finally was getting nervous. I think mainly about finding Hye Jin (pronounced more like “Hey” but she writes it “Hye”) in the crowd but it was probably about meeting her in person. Funny thing now, I was most nervous about what I was going to wear when I met everyone. What a silly thing to be worried over. Anyway. Hye Jin would be the only one to meet us in Incheon. The family lives in Ulsan, South Korea – a six hour car ride or a three hour KTX bullet train ride. Hye Jin has a friend in Seoul (30 minutes away from Incheon International) that she can stay with so it was easy for her to meet us. Korean customs were really easy (comparing them to Detroit Customs coming back home, but that’s another story). We got our pictures made, our Passports stamped, and exchanged some USD for KSW (won). We got our luggage and headed for the exit door. That door would open up to a main floor of the airport and to a crowd of people waiting to see who the next person was to come out of it. I don’t think we were even out of the door for 2 seconds before we hear, “MEEREE!” and see a little person waving her arm at us and making her way toward us.
Hye Jin immediately made her way over and hugged me…for a long time. Hye Jin, for those of you who don’t know, is the third-born daughter. I was born after her about two years later. Daniel laughingly said he wished he would have taken a picture of my face…because I was TIRED. I apparently am really bad about making facial expressions and I obviously had sleep deprived written all over it or he wouldn’t have said that.
At dinner and while we were walking around, Mee Jin mainly I think, was video calling Hye Jin. It was actually pretty funny. Hye Jin would try to say something in English and it wouldn’t translate well so she would cover her face, sigh, and laugh. After dinner, we started our “cop-pee” (Konglish** for coffee) adventure. We found a coffee shop and tried to learn some Korean words while we waited for the bus to the hotel. We had downloaded a translator application that would work without WiFi so Daniel and I told her we were nervous about family dinner the next day. She thought were were nervous about the food. So she started bringing up pictures of the place where we would be eating and the food that would be served. We couldn’t help but laugh and finally figured out to say “Nervous. Many people. Meet.” Then she understood, laughed, and did her face cover.
The Nest Hotel that the family booked was having its Grand Opening that day (well we think it was that week and that didn’t get translated right). There were probably two to three people to wait on you as you walked into the hotel, at the front desk, and to take your bags to your room. We later found out that Nest had won a bunch of design awards. It was still being finished or was just finished up with everything because the staff said there was still some exposed brick and it smelled like paint. We were told to eat breakfast one more time by Hye Jin and to enjoy the spa room if we woke up with enough time. We’d see her in the morning at 10:15 AM to catch the KTX train to Ulsan.
Folks. I think this was one of the nicest hotels I have stayed at in my life thus far (edit – now that I think about it I forgot about the Las Vegas hotel. That is by far the nicest room I’ve stayed in. This would be second.). You walked in, took off your shoes(you do this at a lot of places in Korea by the way), put your key in this slot, and everything would automatically come on. Lights above the bed, in the bathroom, in the living area, and the television all on. There was an extra little room that only fit a twin to full-sized bed in it. A spacious closest with sliding mirror doors holding fluffy robes and house shoes. A sitting-area with a sectional-like couch. A desk behind the king size bed with a USB charging outlet and a universal outlet (come on and catch up with the USB charging outlet USA). There was a balcony over looking Incheon with hooks and a box with cable to attach and climb down the side of the building in an emergency. The bathroom was massive. This was the only place we would see where the toilet -well bidet in this case- was separate from the shower area. We fell in love with the rain-drop shower head. The bidet, not so much. We didn’t know how to use any of the buttons or what they meant. One button looked like it sprayed water up your butt and neither of us was really ready for that experience. We planned on staying up a little later to try and get on Korean time, but we laid down on the super comfy bed and passed out.
The next morning we woke up super early. Breakfast started at 06:00 and we were there. The breakfast seating area was set up like a stadium. It over looked the Yellow Sea and we got to see the sun rise. There were four stations of food. One had cereals, yogurts, and milk. Another breakfast pastries, waffles, and juices. The next had lunch like items and salad items. And the last one had rice, breakfast staples (bacon, eggs, etc.), and then some dinner like items. This made sense because we were at a hotel near an international airport. It could be dinner time for some people (it was after all 5:00 PM EST Friday). It was a buffet-style breakfast but servers came around with coffee and water. After breakfast, we headed back to the room and noticed that there were English phrases for the day in the elevator. Which we noted to take a photo of on the way down. We got back to the room, wrote in our travel journals, took a quick nap, and then got ready for another day of traveling.
I had downloaded Kakao Talk the night before because I noticed that’s what all the sisters were using. So they added me to it that night and that morning my phone was buzz, buzz, buzzing! I looked at it and noticed they were sending a ton of messages. From my short deciphering, it looked like Hye Jin was in the lobby early because she was excited and couldn’t sleep. We headed down, got our English lessons picture in the elevator, and met Hye Jin for our bus ride back to Incheon International where the KTX train station was at too. We got there early of course and found a coffee shop. She of course paid for it and snarled and waved me off when I tried to pick up the ticket. We boarded the train about an hour and a half later. Three and half hours and a couple Pimselur Korean lessons later we arrived in Ulsan…
*If you don’t get it “Seoul” – the capital of South Korea- is pronounced like “sole” or “soul”.
**Konglish = English word made to sound Korean