Friday, October 09, 2009

Welcome Home Delaney

We are now home after making the trek to Seoul to pick up Delaney. I have to give 3 cheers to Geri for braving the long flight from Chicago to Seoul and back. We have flown with several airlines over the years, but none compares to Korean Air. From the check in counter to the flight attendants, it's like stepping back in time to the "Glory Days" of flying. Maybe it's a Korean thing (which I deeply suspect), but it is refreshing to always be greeted with a warm, genuine smile. This is backed up with courtesy and service to a higher degree than normal. If you live in a hub city such as Chicago and want to see what I'm talking about, fly Korean Air to LA or another domestic destination. You will not be disappointed.

We landed at the Incheon airport Sunday afternoon and took the Holt shuttle to the Lotte Hotel, located in the financial district. All the while, Geri was soaking in actually seeing the country she was born in. The abundance of high rise buildings is almost staggering. You can tell this is a densely populated area, but wouldn't know if just driving the hour or so it takes to get to Seoul. The traffic is orderly and the countryside is free of litter and urban decay. Once we arrived at the hotel, we were greeted with warm Korean smiles, and were amazed at how beautifully appointed it is. Even the elevator doors were artfully adorned in an Asian theme. There are even place fresh roses in permanent vases in every elevator. Once again, the surrounding don't compare to the service and genuine smiles.

Monday through Thursday seemed like a whirlwind. We started off by exploring the surrounding areas from the hotel. We marveled at the architecture; a perfect blend of new and traditional styles. We wandered through small alleys, visiting various shops and trying different snacks and foods. Of course we went to Starbucks for coffee. I'm not much of a souvenir guy, but prefer a Starbucks mug from the particular city we are in. The best event on Monday was to meet Delaney on the 4th floor of the Holt building. We had a chance to visit with her foster Mother and daughter. They were amazing. I believe Everlie was her 15th child she's taken care of. She had a vivacious smile and a youthful bounce in her step. Her daughter is a beautiful 20 year-old, just starting to attend art school. Her talents were evident, as they worked hard at creating very detailed scrapbooks of Delaney's life to this point. These books were illustrated with drawings and filled with dates of her milestones. We now know what day she first rolled over, etc... Ms Lee (our Holt caseworker) was so amazed, she showed these books off to coworkers. After our initial meeting, we took a taxi to a Korean restaurant. It was funny, because there was more body language going on, than actual language. It didn't matter. It was about Delaney at this point. Delaney was surrounded by 4 people who love her.

On Tuesday we took a city tour that was provided through Holt. Among other places, we visited a few historic areas and even saw an ancient tradition of the changing of the guards being reenacted by "parttime actors and military men", as described by our laughing tour guide. We spent this time with 3 other couples there to pick up their babies. One from New Hampshire, a wonderful Pakistani family from Norway (2nd generation Norwegians), and a couple from Luxembourg. Quite the international crowd. A funny moment was when Geri asked the couple from Luxembourg if they were "Getting a Korean baby" (at this point, I tried to not laugh). The wife looked at her in a puzzled way and said in an affirmative tone, "are there children from other countries here?". They just laughed. The tour concluded at a great little restaurant in the Insadong area. If you go to Seoul, Insadong is a must. It is a place with great little shops and restaurants. My favorite place was a tea shop ran by a young lady. We walked in as she was making tea for some older clients. She invited us in and insisted that she pour us a cup. Trust me...this was a smart business decision on her part! Geri had a hayday. It's funny, because the young lady wasn't trying to get a sale, she was genuinely gracious. Her enthusiasm for tea and it's history and information was awesome. This was one of the best shopping experiences I have ever had. She was passionate. My equivalent of going to a mountaineering store ran by a bunch of die-hards.

That evening, Geri held to her word. She warned me that she would shop like crazy in Seoul. She was not lying. At one point, I fell asleep in a sitting area at one of the malls. It was 9pm (11am STL time). We finally hailed a taxi and went back to the hotel an hour later to crash. Tomorrow was going to be a big day.

Wednesday was a highly special day. More about that later... it's 11pm and Delaney is crying. Duty calls.

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