Diary of an Intercountry Adoptive Mom #2


Mary Ella
Focus on Adoption magazine

In the second of our series, we present the edited diary of Mary Ella who is in Korea with her husband Wayne, only hours away from meeting their long-awaited daughter, Leelee—at least that’s what they think…

Day #3, June 28

Well, today is the big day! I am trying really hard to keep my excitement at bay. We don’t know exactly what will happen, but Wayne feels they won’t let us have Leelee until tomorrow. I agree, but I had better be prepared. I figure the office will be open around 8am, so I probably have a couple of hours. Ugh! I’ve now resorted to showing anyone I can our pictures of Leelee. I can’t wait to show them the real thing. We’ll keep you posted!

Later that morning

By 9:40am we couldn’t stand it anymore so we called Ms. Lim, the director of the adoption program. She was confused and sent the call over to our caseworker, Mrs. Kang. She said she had expected us on the 2nd of July! She said she’d call the foster mother and would call me back. Then she called and asked if she could come to our room. She was somewhat apologetic saying that the message about our arrival had not been passed to her and could we come to her office at 9:30 am tomorrow! The foster mother would meet us there. I asked if we would have Leelee then or would it just be for a visit? She said it would just be for a visit, and we might be able to have Leelee on either Wednesday or Thursday. It was hard not to show my devastation.

I’m so sad I don’t feel like doing anything but laying down in bed. But we’re going sightseeing.

Day #4, June 29

On our way out, I had to stop in the nursery to peek at the babies. A woman greeted me and throughout our broken conversation we found that she had taken care of Leelee for the two weeks that she was here. She was absolutely thrilled to meet us and see pictures of Leelee. We had an instant connection. I wanted to hug her and thank her for giving my baby a good start in life. I wanted to let her know that I promise to continue the loving care that she started. I was too emotional to do or say any of that. We gave her and the other women some Maple leaf chocolates—a very small gesture for such important people.

At one point during our day we were across from a hospital, and a man with a small baby in a stroller walked close by. This was at least the third time that day that I broke down at the sight of a beautiful child. Wayne was no less affected.

This city seems to be a huge concrete jungle, and we have looked hard for any parks or greenery for the children to play. The traditional Korean village that we visited is an oasis amongst the madness. It is a display of five tra­ditional houses built during the Joseon Dynasty surrounded by a beautiful garden. We toured the display first and found the way of life back then so interesting. We then walked the garden. There were people tucked behind trees or in a corner meditating throughout the park. We could now see how Seoul keeps its sanity. The peace and serenity provided by this garden permeated our sad hearts. We began feeling grateful for the extra day to understand our daughter’s heritage. This spot so brightened our day that we felt ready to face the crowds again in search of the traditional Korean clothing, the Hanbok.

We took the subway over to Dongdaemun Market, the place we had been told was the best to find a Hanbok. The market is made up of building after building. Just find the right one and you’re in luck. The aisles are tiny and there are row after row, each row containing piles of inventory. The market is open almost all night. Some areas only open in the middle of the night.

Eventually, thanks to Wayne’s fabulous sense of direction, our phrase book, and the kindness of many strangers, we found our needle in the haystack. There were several times that the vendor would take us down the stairs and outside to point across the street to the building we were looking for. That always meant, down a mass of stairs, underground, through those crowded aisles and up again. I felt like a gopher trying to find his prey.

When we finally chose our vendor, it turned out that she had lived in Burnaby for three years. She was very helpful, and we were happy with our purchase. Finding the hat to go with it was a different story.

After more of the same walking around in a daze, a kind woman drew us a picture of the hat we were trying to describe. She took us to another man that told us we had to go back to Insadong. Insadong proved to be the place. We found the darn hat and a Korean noodle house and headed home with all our loot. It was after 9 pm and the markets were still buzzing.

This has been a good day. We are feeling like we know the people better. Our perception is that most Koreans have a strong sense of pride in their heritage and culture. It’s lovely to see. We talked about our hope to do our daughter justice in this regard. We will try our best.

The disappointment of yesterday makes today’s excitement even better, if that is possible. However, as we were coming out of our funk, we couldn’t help but think of the sadness that Leelee’s foster family must have been feeling. They were not expecting to say goodbye so soon. Their pain and our joy, the emotions are such opposites, but so close they are almost interchangeable.

Read more in the Diary of an Intercountry Adoptive Mom series.

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