On Tuesday morning, I woke up earlier than everyone else and realized I could go downstairs and have breakfast alone. I decided to seize the opportunity, knowing that I might not be alone again for…well, who knows how long. I thoroughly enjoyed the peaceful start to the day, then it was back upstairs to help get everyone ready and all the gifts assembled. We took a taxi to the agency, Eastern Social Welfare Society.
When we got there, two different people came at two different times to tell us that Ben had been in the day before and it had not gone well. They said he was very upset about meeting us. His social worker asked us if we were aware of his “condition.” For a moment I thought there was a problem we didn’t know about! I had the feeling that everyone was gearing up for this to go really, really badly.
Next we gathered in a small room with other adoptive families to hear some thoughts from Dr. Kim, the head of the agency. She told us a little about the history of adoption in Korea and the history of this particular agency, as well as the various ministries that they have.
After that, they had prepared a lunch for all of the families. We finished lunch about 12:30 and were scheduled to meet Ben at 1:30. While we were waiting, we got to meet our Dillon case manager and the Dillon area director for Korea, who just happened to be in Korea at the same time we were.
We were sort of standing around, wondering what to do until our meeting, and visiting with another family who was scheduled to get their child later that afternoon as well. Suddenly, Abby started pulling at my arm and trying to tell me something. I tried to ignore her at first, thinking she was just interrupting as kids do, when I heard her say, “They’re here! Ben’s here!”
And so our meeting started early, without official introductions or a translator. I quickly turned to the family we had been talking to and asked them to take video of the meeting. We chose video instead of still pictures, so we don’t have photos of our first moments together, and the video feels a little too personal to share publicly. (Don’t worry, if you’re family, you’ll see it!)
Ben’s foster mom pulled out the book of photos we had sent to them and started showing him each of us in turn, and then pointing at us in person. He watched and listened and even smiled a little. No tears.
We gave him his backpack and pulled out an airplane. He smiled and took it. We gave him a pair of sunglasses and he put them on. The foster mother motioned for us to go into a side room and we gathered everything and went. Wayne took over with the video camera; I know we will always be glad to have most of this first meeting recorded.
Ben and the girls started playing; he took to them right away. They colored and played with other toys in the room while the foster mother and I exchanged gifts. Before too long the social worker arrived and was able to translate for us as I asked questions and she explained some of the things she was giving us for Ben.
When it was time to go, they led us out the back door to a van, where the driver would take us back to our hotel. Everything had gone so well to this point, but I was still waiting for the horrible moment when he had to leave his foster mom. We all got in the van and watched in amazement as Ben climbed up in the back seat with his sisters and sat in between them. Wayne told me later that Ben had bowed to his foster mother and said goodbye before he got in the van. Everyone was staring at each other in complete shock. I thought once we got going, he would realize what happened and start crying, but he just held hands with his sisters and looked around.
We went back to the hotel room and showed him the toys we had brought for him. He played and laughed and did lots of talking and singing. We played on the playground outside and ate dinner at the Pizza Hut at the hotel. He walked hand in hand with his sisters everywhere we went.
We decided to get ice cream, and he was so adorably excited! He was jumping up and down, looking through this glass.
But he took one bite and made a “yuck” face. I guess even though he chose chocolate almond, it is not his favorite flavor.
So we stepped over to the carousel and enjoyed the ride. He looks pretty chilled out in this picture, but have you ever tried to get a picture of a kid on a moving carousel? 🙂 He really loved it.
In fact, when it was over, he got down and tried to pull it to make it move.
When it was time for bed, we changed him into pajamas and tried to put him in bed with Abby and Emma. He resisted, and we saw the first tears. I think it hit him then: he was really stuck with us.
He cried for a few minutes, and even made gagging sounds like he was going to throw up, but we quickly figured out that he was trying to make himself throw up. Wayne told him to stop and he did. He cried for a little while, but he let us hold him and comfort him and soon went to sleep. In the morning he cried again, obviously sad to see that we were still there.
I was glad that he had been happy all day, and had showed us so much of his fun personality. No matter what was ahead, we knew that he was a happy kid who liked to laugh.
Day Three: Gyeongbokgung Palace