Seoul: Adoption Trip 1

Like everything with adopting during a pandemic, our first trip did not go as planned. It was an amazing trip, but not quite the trip we had in mind when we left Chicago on March 19th!!

itaewon neighborhood

Sunday, March 27

Well, we made it through quarantine! I am not exaggerating when I say that the past week was probably the hardest 7 days of my life. It was like fancy prison. The *only* saving grace to quarantine was that it gave us time to adjust to the 14 hour time change and jet lag – by the time we were released today, we were completely adjusted to local time and were just so excited for fresh air! 

We booked a private car to pick us up from our quarantine hotel (regular taxis are not allowed on premises) and headed to our real hotel early this morning. It was a gloriously sunny day and it was incredible to actually see the city and not just Incheon (where our quarantine hotel was). We were both taken aback by the true magnitude of Seoul – I know it’s a big city, but I didn’t realize just how big. Our room wasn’t ready yet, so we dropped our bags and explored around central Seoul – we stopped at a market, picked up coffee, and just meandered. After 7 days of virtually no activity, we wanted to walk as much as we could! Later in the afternoon we unpacked, got organized, and met some friends for drinks to toast to meeting our babies tomorrow. It’s hard to believe the day is actually here!! 

collage of 3 images from our seoul adventures

Monday, March 28

The most perfect day – the day we met our son. He is pure joy and delight with the sweetest smile that lights up the entire room. We had the best time playing together, meeting his foster family, and soaking him up. It’s surreal to say the least! We stopped for sandwiches and cake afterwards to celebrate, explored more of Seoul, and had drinks at the Four Seasons. What a magical, once in a lifetime day!

collage of 3 images from our seoul adventures
grant, hilari, and tommy
Our very first family photo!
hilari sitting at a table

Tuesday, March 29

More exploring! We kicked off the day with a trip to the local health center to get our covid vaccines registered in the Korean government’s system – this is completely optional and something that we wanted to make sure we did as soon as possible. Right now, only people who have vaccines registered in Korea are exempt from quarantine (and if anything changes for our second trip, it will be super important to have our vaccines registered to hopefully avoid quarantine). We were in and out in 10 minutes with 2 printed vaccine registration confirmations.

In the afternoon, we ventured over to the Korean War Memorial, walked around Itaewon, and went out for dinner. The weather has been perfection and it has been so nice to spend so much time outside. Late tonight, we heard a rumor that our judge has covid, but aren’t sure what this means for our court appearance, next steps, etc. yet. 

collage of 3 images from our seoul adventures

Wednesday, March 30

Woke up to an email confirming that our judge does in fact, have covid, so we will not be going to court tomorrow. This has never happened before and we aren’t quite sure what this means for our timing, travel plans, etc. Everything is up in the air! We did have the pleasure of meeting our sweet baby again today – we learned more about what toys he likes to play with (hockey sticks, balls, blocks, wooden fruits and vegetables, and trucks) and what his favorite foods are (strawberries, bananas, and seaweed).

We are honestly feeling so down – adopting during a pandemic (especially in Korea) has had so many hurdles and hoops to jump through and this is just one more thing to have to deal with. It’s completely worth it, though, but still hard to process and the thought of custody being delayed makes me so sad. We hope to know more in the next couple days.

tommy and hilari

Thursday, March 31

The day we were supposed to go to court! Instead of court, we spent the day wandering around Seoul and visiting many of the “tourist” attractions. We loved exploring Bukchon Hanok Village (a traditional Korean village – a mix of residential homes, cultural centers, tea houses, and more) and stopped at Cafe Onion for a sweet pastry on our way. The village is maybe my favorite part of Seoul – comprised of so many alleys and back roads and surprises around every corner.

On the adoption front, we made the hard decision that Grant will fly home tomorrow and I will stay indefinitely until we know what is happening with our court date. So, we went out for an early birthday drink and ordered pizza delivery and simply reflected on the whirlwind this trip has been.

collage of 3 images from our seoul adventures
Bukchon Hanok Village

Friday, April 1

Change of plans! Grant decided to stay until Sunday so we can continue exploring the city and have a couple more days together here. We explored more of the neighborhood our hotel is in, went out for coffee, took a cable car up to Namsan Tower (Seoul Tower), added a lock to the lock wall, and walked back down. It is another perfect day and we are just so happy to be here regardless of all of the uncertainties. We went out to dinner for a traditional Korean meal with another family we have so enjoyed getting to know here – it was the best way to end a wonderful Friday.

collage of 3 images from our seoul adventures
grant and hilari at seoul tower

Saturday, April 2

We went to the World Cup park today and had the best afternoon outside. It has been absolutely amazing to see so much of this city by foot – we’ve been walking about 10 miles each day! 

downtown seoul

Sunday, April 3

My birthday! Grant left early this morning so I spent today enjoying some of my favorite things in the city. I took the 700+ steps up to Seoul Tower (it was so foggy!), explored more of the city, read by the Cheonggyecheon stream, picked up lunch from Cafe Mamas, and had a celebratory old fashioned. I’m grateful for another trip around the sun and hope 32 brings contentment, calm, togetherness, and joy in the little things as we settle into life as a family of 3. The best gift of all!

collage of 3 images from our seoul adventures

Monday, April 4

Worked and walked around the neighborhood. Nothing too eventful today! We are still waiting on any sort of news from the court here about next steps for our case. 

flowers in downtown seoul

Tuesday, April 5

A repeat of Monday.

collage of 3 images from our seoul adventures

Wednesday, April 6

Still in Seoul and woke up feeling so weary. We still don’t know what is happening with our case and have not received any updates. I worked for most of the day and walked to a little market and picked up dinner. Hoping tomorrow brings some good news!!

collage of 3 images from our seoul adventures

Thursday, April 7

We received really great news late last night – our judge has granted us provisional approval without us having to appear in court or do anything via zoom. This is the biggest answered prayer and we hope this means custody will stay on track for sometime the week of April 25th. 

I couldn’t sleep because I was so excited, so I got up early and walked the stairs to Seoul Tower – the views are simply incredible and it’s such a perfect way to start the day and puts life into perspective. I worked the rest of the day, packed up, took my pre-flight covid test, and got ready to go home!

view of seoul from namsam tower

Friday, April 8

HOME! It was SO WEIRD to fly home from Seoul alone. The airport experience was completely different than our arrival – it’s actually a stunning airport on the other side of all of the pandemic related checkpoints. It was a pretty noneventful flight and I had an entire row to myself! Flights are still pretty empty because travel to/from Korea is so difficult right now. 

With the time change, I left Seoul at 9:30am and landed in Chicago at 10:30am – the same day! So today was the longest day ever. I spent the afternoon unpacking and getting organized, Grant made us homemade pizzas for dinner, and we looked through the gorgeous photo books that nugget’s foster family made for us. Every time we flip through the pages, tears come to my eyes thinking about just how loved and wonderfully cared for he has been since birth. Yes, we’ve missed out on so much, but he has been in the best hands. We will never be able to adequately express our gratitude. 

collage of 3 images from our seoul adventures
hilari in the kitchen holding a book

What’s next? We wait for a custody date. We have flights booked for 4/23-4/29 and I’m hopeful we can keep them as-is without having to make yet another change! 

All adoption posts here.

seoul buildings