Spicy is relative. Here in Korea, when someone says things are not spicy, buyer beware, it is. At least if you have to feed children not used to the relative nature of what constitutes spicy and what does not. Our accommodations are beautiful here at the Lotte Hotel, but the food situation has forced our little family to seek elsewhere in search of something a little more accommodating to our wallets. Aside from jetlag being my nemesis (thus writing at 2AM), it seems we will need to actually patron the many American restaurants I keep poo-pooing in order for the children to have a full meal without worry that they will end up fuller from the water in order to cool their tongues. Traveling around Korea is different already this time. George and I however, are in spicy heaven. We ordered way too much food and after tasting some of the best chili chicken wings, were happy to give it away to a couple of homeless men in the subway. It felt just like New York City for a moment.
We have had lots of relatives to greet from the time we got off the plane till well into tomorrow. I knew this would happen, but glad for it nevertheless. There are three sets of “family” to meet after all. My Umma and brother greeted us with flowers and my Umma was all dolled up in a simple hanbok. I already kicked myself for not capturing the moment on camera too confused trying to figure out the phone situation, dealing with a quesy stomach and gleefully happy to see my dear friend S and her family who were at the airport to go on a vacation to the States. It was my one moment to meet her family. S and I have known each other since the orphanage days and I have always wanted to meet the parents who raised her so wonderfully and created a soul so beautiful. To me, she is heaven sent, so to thank her parents was a true honor.
The reality of having my boys here set in all too quickly, with my big boy getting sick from the plane ride. Ironic to know his stomach is as weak as mine as I recall all the vomiting I did en route to the America so many years ago. He braved on for the rest of the evening trying to take it all in. ”Mommy, Korea is just like New York, only with a bunch more Koreans.” No fear, so far so good.
We planned our trip so we could relax and take in the sites over the weekend. Lotte World was our first major stop. We had an unplanned guide with us. CYJ, one of my orphanage brothers, joined us for the day. He was gracious to give up sleep to show us around and help us navigate. My last time at Lotte World was 20 years ago and I cannot recall a single moment. It functions more like Playland and Great Adventure simultaneously. We got there way too early waiting for the doors to open only to be mobbed by tons of kids, families and groups by days end. Korean ice cream and melon ices were a huge hit with a declaration that next time, the boys will be more ready to try more rides. There is a “next time” in their heads already.
CYJ was 15 when I was at the orphanage last time. He is in his thirties now and getting ready to get married. Soft spoken, gentle and kind, my boys took to him immediately. He tried hard to communicate with them in English while snapping photos and little videos of our day. By days end, he had a full video montage accompanied with music for us. It was amazing. I don’t ordinarily put anything here of my children, but I will try and post his video if I can.
CYJ caught me up on what is going on with the others. I will be meeting up with a few more by the end of the week. He informed me that the latest scandal at the orphanage was due to an extortion plan by a father of one of the kids. All allegations have been deemed inaccurate, charges have been dropped. August 15th is “going home day” in Korea, so all the OHK alums will meet up and spend the day with the kids who remain. We will have a mini version on Friday or Saturday of this week while my family is there. I look forward to going with a lighter heart. Admittedly, I was not surprised that scandal would hit the orphanage. Personal feelings and hopes that the institution would shut down aside, I am relieved that nothing truly terrible happened to that child.
I leave you tonight with an image worth a chuckle. I decided to pack for five days with a simple rotation of clothes throughout the week. I thought we would be good. After all, having multiple changes of clothes feels like a first world problem and being caught wearing the same thing days in a row is no big deal here. I blame it on a brain fart on my part as the heat, humidity alone accumulates more changes in a day than anticipated. Good thing I brought detergent. What happened later in the day feels like a MacGyver moment. The bathtub filled with water and clothes got me feeling like a housewife (ajumma) thinking “same stuff, different location.” Only in Korea, does it seem to make sense that I am once again washing clothes by hand, wringing them out of all their water and decorating our room with wets things.
Now, to get over the time difference and hoping the boys sleep till well past dawn would be the next best achievement right about now. One moment the boys were literally passing out at dinner and the next wrestling like wolf cubs on the bed. Jetlag in full steam.
Next on the agenda, breakfast that won’t cost $50 a head!