Thursday, December 29, 2011

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

tis the season.

Two weekends ago we went to our second Christmas market. It was in a village about 25 minutes from ours in Sankt Wendel. There are Christmas markets all over in Germany and it's kinda the talk of the people these days. When we were in Garmisch we ran into a small one there and it was nice but nothing big.  Let me tell you, we were not disappointed with Sankt Wendel's!

Although it was very busy and turned pretty cold for the girls we stayed as long as we could. We ventured there on Saturday evening and saw a live juggling fire show - we likened it to mini cirque du soleil.  They were all decked out in extravagant costumes, lots of music and fire and my favorite was the animal guy on stilts who even did a back flip!  We tried to get a picture (taking about 20) but none turned out very well... here's the best I have...
The show started with them pulling in this beautiful carriage while making a lot of creepy bird noises!
Also at the market was loads of hand made items, a traditional wooden pyramid (see picture) but larger than life size, dozens of handmade nativities in cases for viewing and a whole section of elf cases where they were like dolls but moving - everything was done in such detail.  They also had a live nativity (which was walking around when we were there and we couldn't find the darn camels!), reindeer and donkey's!
We are planning to get to at least one more Christmas market before the end of the season and if I get a good picture I'll share.

During that same weekend we had three Christmas parties and later in the week David ventured to two more without the ladies.  The girls even met (and did great with) Santa.
Evelyn meeting Saint Nick and something was really funny to me!
Since it's been raining for three weeks I've been trying to get creative with indoor activities - I got this one from my childhood, thanks mom!
And, finally the last two days... oh they've been exhausting!  I've been trying to potty train Norah and today, we quit!  She's in total control of her bladder and decided to not once go on the toilet but instead go in-between those times (I had the timer set for 5 min in-between visits)! I was literally by her side ALL day and the second day she had about half as many accidents but still, didn't go on the pot and didn't poo in over 36 hours, ouch!  So, since she's decided against it for now we're going to try again in a month.  I'm sad too cause we had a bunch of totally cute signs and stickers and m&m's but... those things can wait.  I wanted to document how adorable she was in her undies so here's a CUTE pic of that :)
Norah picked out the shoes and put them on sister - love it!

Monday, December 5, 2011

seoul - take three.

August 27th - Myeongdong, Nanta, Dr. Fish
28th - DMZ tour
29th - Pick up Evelyn!
Like I mentioned in the last few Seoul posts, I just didn't feel well during the trip. David and I both think it's a horrible combination of nerves and excitement. It's not like we were on a romantic trip - we were changing our family forever and changing Evelyn's life as she knew it.  It's was so exciting--but again, so scary and we just didn't know what the future weeks held... more separation for an unknown period, etc. So, I enjoyed things we did but I felt very sick much of the time, too.

We headed to the Myeongdong area where there was really neat window shopping (trendy) and lots of locals where we could people watch!  While we wandered around a bit, there was one of those flash mobs, and David took about 10 pictures and the whole time I was thinking... it's not that good!  Cynical much? :)  Anyway, it was nice entertainment for a few minutes to some Michael Jackson songs.
After eating lunch we went to a Korean show somewhat similar to Blue Man Group.  It was called Nanta!  It's a show about about the beat... and cooking.  It was a comical rendition of four Korean chefs making traditional Korean food for a wedding.  Lots of beats while chopping cabbage for kimchi etc.  I couldn't help but laugh and think, my dad would love this cheesy humor (love you dad)!  It was good entertainment.
Once the show was over, we met up with our friend Kayleigh.  Kayleigh and I grew up going to the same church but didn't know each other well until this day.  It was awesome to get to know her and learn a lot more about the Korean culture from her experience. She was starting her third year of teaching in Korea so she has a really great perspective on life and culture from a day-to-day experience.  She showed us around Myeongdon and Hongik later that night.  The first thing we did (after catch up at Smoothie King) was to hit up a dog cafe. A what?  Duh, it's a coffee shop where there are a lot of dogs that you can play with and hold because in the city who wants to own a dog you have to take care of?  It was kinda gross but we just wanted a peek at it (they also have cat cafes).
Across the street we stopped in to get a pedicure of sorts.  We ordered up a "Dr. Fish"--one where the fish literally eat your dead skin.  I was like a 5 year old.  I could not stop laughing. It tickled so bad and it was such a weird experience.  One of the odd things, too, was that we were sitting in the middle of this nice salon where you would get a massage and were expected to be quiet!  I couldn't stop giggling, did I mention that?  Hi.lar.ious!  David and Kayleigh were, I'm sure, quite irritated with me... actually yeah, David kept shaking his head at me :)  Too funny!
Once our dead skin was gone, we took the subway to Hongik University again.  We strolled awhile and took in all the crazy young college students and even came across the university band doing some traditional music in the park. It was really neat.  Kayleigh took us down a back alley to a unique restaurant that she's frequented. It was a nice, quiet break from the city.  After dinner, we had to say goodbye. Kayleigh, you were amazing to be with and thank you so much for taking time away from your life to show us around!

The following day we got up early to pack up and move back to the Dragon Hill Lodge on Yongsan Army base in downtown.  Since they had rooms and it was nice, we decided to go back there before picking up Evelyn.  After dropping off our bags we caught a ride to our DMZ tour.  The whole day was very interesting and we were so glad we took the chance to learn more about N.Korea, the demilitarized zone, and the relationship between the north and south.
The tour started at a lookout across part of the DMZ and the freedom bridge.  The bridge hosts a formerly used railroad that crosses the Imjingak River into the northern territory.  It was used to get POW's back to safety, among other things, before the DMZ was in place.  From there, we took the bus to tunnel 3 (of 4 but, there are believed to be up to 10 more).  This is one of the tunnels the south side has found that the north side dug in assumed attacks on Seoul.  The tunnels were all being dug after the truce was made and an agreement to stay on each side of the demilitarized zone.  We were able to walk down part way into the tunnel and see how the tunnel was made (blown out with small bombs).  The tunnel is 240 feet deep and just over 1 mile long.  We weren't allowed to take pictures of the turnaround area, which is where the DMZ starts.  The North Koreans tried to cover up the fact that they were building the tunnel to attack the South and even said they were looking for coal -- they went as far as painting the walls of the tunnel black (which we saw).
After the long, hot walk down and up we headed to a lookout where we could see North Korea.  We were only allowed pictures from beyond a line about 20 feet from the lookout.  Unfortunately we were not able to visit or view the joint security area (JSA).  The JSA, the only point where the North and South Korean military soldiers are near each other.  There are a few conference rooms where they can meet and discuss rules and truces, etc.  Our last stop on the tour was a train station and airport the South Koreans have built in hopes of unity someday soon. They want this train station/airport to unite the north and south and be a bustling hub for the Koreans.  It's a beautiful and large hub.

After the tour we were dropped at Itaewon market and had some Thai food with two fellow travelers we met on the tour.  They were both very interesting and had traveled a lot throughout the world.  Both of the guys were from Toronto, Canada but had never met before.  The rest of the night we washed laundry and had dinner at the hotel because we were beat!

29th - The BIG day!
We got up in the morning and tried to relax. It was weird.  I was actually calm and ready for Evelyn to finally be with us - forever!  David hit up the gym and hot tub and I started to get ready.  I happen to catch my mom and Norah on skype and it was awesome!  So fun to talk with them and John & Kathy (whose basement we were currently living in) before our big afternoon.  Norah hadn't really been talking much at this time and she had been saying a new word (zipper) and zipping her pajamas up herself... way to make a mama cry :)  We grabbed Subway and were off to Holt!
We walked a few blocks to the subway (and with the humidity we were sweating up a storm) and tried to stay calm.  I made David take this picture of me waiting for our stop on the subway -- so funny!
Right when we walked into the front door of Holt we saw Evelyn and her foster mom at the elevator. You could tell the FM was like, "Oh no! Not yet!"  We said hi and then kept walking to the second level and waited for our meeting.

After a few minutes Evelyn came in!  She played around and hung on us as the FM answered some follow up questions for us.  As we talked (with the social worker) she snuggled Evelyn a few times - it was very emotional and I can't think of that hour without getting all teared up.  We all took Evelyn down to her doctor (on the first level of Holt) and she was signed off to fly.  She was NOT fond of the doctor and we got a glimpse of her throwing a mini tantrum (at that time I definitely thought she had a bad experience with that doctor, which she may have, but it got me all worked up and I cried, too).
After that we gave the foster mom (and family) a few gifts and a letter where we tried to express how extremely grateful we are for their love for Evelyn and giving so much for us and her.  The FM even brought us a gift for the girls.  Some clothes for BOTH girls, a disk of about 100 pictures of Evelyn (from 3 months-14 months old, the time she lived with them) and a hanbok for Evelyn to remember her first birthday.  Quickly after the gift exchange the FM hugged us, we (her and I) cried and she kissed Evelyn and snuck out.  Thankfully the social worker was holding Evelyn at this point because I needed David to hold me as I bawled.  This exchange of Evelyn and the passing on of the stage for Evelyn into our family was such a deeply meaningful and tearful time. Wow, still so emotional about it!
After the FM left we had a few other items to attend to... like getting the visa!  The visa was still on it's way from the Embassy (a little scary) and we weren't sure how soon it would arrive.  We went over the paperwork for the airport and immigration and then the visa arrived!  We cannot thank Holt enough for helping us and getting Evelyn's visa a little extra early because of our situation.  They obviously take care of each family as best they can and want to also take care of those foster families.  Evelyn's foster family already had another baby staying at their home the previous two months and the FM was visibly overwhelmed with two little ones and her own two kids to take care of.

Once we had the visa, the social worker walked us out and hailed us a cab... and we left, just like that... with our baby girl!  It was so surreal.
When we got back to the hotel Evelyn was asleep in the ergo and we gently put her on the bed.  She stayed asleep for about 30 min and then woke up very afraid.  She was crying (of course) and would look at one of us and cry even harder and swing her head back around trying to figure out where the heck she was.  I felt so bad for her.
After about 3 hours in the room she was calm and content (she only cried for about 30 min) and decided to go ahead with our plan to go out.  We had connected via email and phone with another family waiting for their travel call at the same time as us.  They got their call while we were in Seoul and we had one evening in Seoul at the same time.  It was such an encouragement (to all of us, I think) to meet out for coffee and talk about all our emotions at this point and to give them a glimpse at what our previous week had looked like.  They were going to meet their son the following day! Exciting times!
Back in our hotel room we all headed to bed.  Evelyn really slept very well and didn't move around too much - she was probably emotionally drained and needed to escape the changes.  It gave us hope that co-sleeping might not be that bad with her (haha, it was awful in the days and weeks after this though).

One more Seoul/homecoming post to come!

Need to catch up on Seoul take one or two... have fun.


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