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Thursday, 22 June 2017
 
 
But First You Must Travel Print
By Ansley Bernatz

A long and difficult journey. You will see things- wonderful to tell.

Whenever I hear these lines, prophesied by the Seer in the Coen brothers’ movie ‘Oh, Brother, Where Art Thou?’, I always think of our journey to Noble Seoul.

It’s not hard to imagine the many ways in which adoption is a long and difficult road. And although waiting for our son may have been hard, the most wonderful part of our journey began just near the end of the process, when we received our travel call.

I’ll admit, when we chose to adopt through the Korea program, the option to have our son escorted to the United States seemed attractive. We were not very experienced international travelers. We’d spent our fair share of time in Mexico, having grown up in Southern California, but neither of us had been to Asia before and well… there were just so many excuses we could come up with not to go. But as time dragged on, we realized the only option really, truly available to us was to travel and bring Noble Seoul home ourselves.

My husband and I could not think of any good reason to allow Noble Seoul to be handed off to an escort unnecessarily. We felt this would cause undue trauma for our tiny infant son. His world was about to turn upside down. We were already taking him from his country and the sights, sound and smell he was familiar with- nearly everything he knew. He had already endured the loss of his birth mother, his first foster mother, and was about to lose his second foster family. How could we force an additional change of caregiver on him, especially for so short a time?

We wanted to meet Noble Seoul’s foster mother and her family. We imagined she was a remarkable woman and we were right. My husband and I felt it was important to thank her in person. We wanted to look her in the eye and promise to continue the good work she began- to raise our son to be healthy and happy. I wanted to ask her questions about Noble Seoul’s early days. She told me his schedule and taught me how to hold and comfort him the way he liked. She helped me learn to say “Mommy is here” in Korean to sooth him. When he began grieving intensely and right away, she was able to tell me, “He’s never cried this much before”. We videotaped her singing an incredibly beautiful and intimate lullaby she made up just for him:

‘Noble Seoul, I love you. Baby, I love you so much.’

How could I have understood the love she had given him if we had allowed him to be delivered to us?

My husband and I are able to tell Noble Seoul about Korea: not because we read a book or watched a video, but because we have been there. We have pictures of our family in Korea together and with people who were significant in our son’s early life. Adoptees often lose much of their first few months (or even years) history. I wanted to preserve as much as possible for our son. Because we traveled to Korea, he has letters in his baby book from his foster mother and father, their daughter-in-law and granddaughters. He has a hanging mobile in his play room his foster nnunas made for him. An escort could not have brought us such precious things.

While in Korea we made friends who have since come to visit us in the United States. Hopefully, we will always have this connection to Korea. When we visit Seoul, we have someone and somewhere to go to. Noble Seoul will always know people in Korea who love and care for him. They are not related to him, but I imagine in the future any ties we maintain to his birth country will be potentially significant. If we had not traveled, how would we have met these wonderful people?

Because we traveled to Korea, Noble Seoul has beautiful heirlooms from his birth country. Even thought they are just material things, heirlooms capture part of the essence of a family. Our family, grandparents included (they went to Korea, too) have carefully chosen items selected to pass down to Noble Seoul and his future family. These items are tangible reminders for us and for Noble Seoul that he inherited a rich and vibrant culture from his first family; one which we honor in our home and hearts.

Not insignificantly, my husband I experienced for the first time in our lives what it is to be of the minority race. He and I are no strangers to diversity, as we grew up in a very diverse part of the United States. It wasn’t an ‘eye-opening experience’ as some might say, but it was different and valuable. I imagine it would be life-changing for some people, and it was certainly significant for my parents. Even though it was only for a short time, we were given just a small glimpse of what our son will likely feel every day of his life as a transracial/ transnational adoptee- Perpetual foreignness.

No airport greeter or escort experience can replace the taste of eating kim-chi in Seoul or the way Namdaemun gate looked before it burned. Nothing can replace seeing a magpie, the bearer of good news, just before we took custody of our son. No memory can evoke a smile like the irony and beauty of watching the changing of the guard at King Sejong’s palace with Dunkin Donuts in the backdrop- Or the knowledge that school girls walking past the gate often joke, “Ah, here’s my house”. As we drove from Incheon into Seoul all of the bridges along the Han were lit with beautiful colors. I remember thinking, yes, we are crossing a bridge now. I’m just not sure the airport sky bridge would have captured the emotion in the same way.

Since we went to him, Noble Seoul will never have to wonder or imagine his life began in an airport. Our family will always have a clear picture in our minds of just what he lost when we plucked him from Korea. He will know stories and have pictures of his life before ‘airplane day’. We have done our best to prevent his life in Korea from being erased, unknown and forgotten.

It is important my husband and I stood with Noble Seoul as he ‘touched’ American soil for the first time. We walked him through customs and immigration. We were with him when he was welcomed into this country. At the moment he entered the United States as a “resident alien’ were fully present and conscious of the life altering change that had just occurred in his young life.

There are lots of reasons to have a child escorted by the agency. They are all parent centered reasons. Whether you travel to Korea or to your local airstrip; you will likely be tired, stressed, sleep deprived, anxious, nervous, and maybe even physically sick. You will not yet know your baby and the first few days may be really hard, no matter what country you are in. Search your heart and ask yourself how you would have your life with your child begin? In an airport? Or would you rather look at your child and say, “You were so important to me I came to get you myself”.

Yea, though your hearts grow weary- Still shall you follow that road Even unto your salvation.

Comments
grandmother
Written by Guest on 2009-09-16 09:45:27
Very touching and convincing, beautifully written! I hope your article will be widely read by future adoptive parents

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