When we did wake up, he was allowed to open his stockings before we made breakfast. He was so excited to get some new cars; some candy and an alligator game that he has been playing with almost none stop. Backing up a bit, last night after we laid out his plate of goodies, we gave him a bag to put out, along with his Santa key. I told him it was a new Korean tradition that I had heard somewhere. I explained that you were supposed to put out a bad for Santa in case he brought a gift that he was unable to wrap. He seemed excited about it and eagerly hung it on the door. After his stockings, this was the first thing he wanted to open. In it he found a new fish tank with rocks, a little house and a few trees. He was a bit puzzled as to why there were no fish in it, so I explained that if Santa tried to bring fish, they would have frozen in the sleigh. He laughed and I told him that after breakfast we could go to Home Plus to pick out some new friends. We have made it a tradition in our house for the past few years to open only a few gifts in the morning before heading out to spend the day visiting with family and friends. Only after it was dark and we could turn on all the lights, would we finish opening our gifts. So after breakfast we bundled up and headed to the store. It felt very odd being able to go shopping on a major holiday, but because they don't really celebrate Christmas much here, noting was closed. After finding four new fishy friends, we headed to the grocery store to pick up our Christmas dinner. Since there is no oven here, there would be no turkey or ham for us. Instead we enjoyed a perfect batch of shrimp pea wiggle. After the sun just started to set, we sat around and opened the rest of our gifts. Jeff got two new monopoly games, along with two ties from Tyson, a bottle of colon from one of his students and a coffee set from another student. Tyson got two different Lego sets from students along with a new Iron Man robe and Buzz Light-year blanket from Daddy. He also got some new Transformers, and a building block set from me. He was not too crazy over the clothes, but he warmed up to them when I explained that Papa had ones just like them. I think by far his favorite gifts had to be the new train set and soccer ball Santa brought for him. All in all it really was a great Christmas and even though the rest of my family was far away, I am very happy that I had my two boys to spend it with!!!
Friday, December 31, 2010
Today is Christmas Eve and I am missing my family a lot today. I miss waking up and having my Dad cook everyone his traditional big breakfast. I miss the chaos of Tyson screaming in unison to my nieces and nephews that Santa came, despite a year's worth of tantrums and naughty moments. I miss deciding who was going to wear Santa's hat and pass out the gifts to everyone. I really miss hunting down the most hideous Christmas ornament of the season for my Mom and I's traditional "ugly" tree. I miss going to Hallmark and picking out an ornament that will remind us for years to come of some big accomplishment of Tyson's. I did manage to pick up a suitcase ornament before I left for Korea, but it just didn't feel the same. Something about shopping when there was no Christmas music and overcrowded stores. I miss baking cookies, pumpkin rolls, pumpkin bread, and gingerbread house with Tyson. I'm sure my neighbors are going to feel the same when they don't find their packages of goodies hanging from their door this year. I also miss going to Christmas Eve mass with my family, singing Silent Night by candlelight. I miss driving around seeing the lights, drinking hot coco, trying to pick a winner for the tackiest house of the year. I miss playing scrabble with my mom and brother in law after everyone else had gone to bed. Most of all I just miss having my family close to me.
Now I know I listed a lot of things that I miss, but there are more things that I am grateful for. I feel so blessed that we were able to spend Christmas with my family together this year. In August I had accepted the fact that we would be away from Jeff for an entire year, missing out on Christmas, birthdays and other celebrations with him. I am grateful that we are spending Christmas in a foreign country this year, experiencing so many new things and adding to our normal traditions. I am grateful that Tyson has a school where he can receive an education that I know he would not be getting if we were back home. I am grateful that he has met so many new friends, is learning a new language and seeing things that once were only possible through the Discovery channel. I am grateful that everyone in my family, her and back home, are healthy and happy. No one is in the hospital this year; no one is worried about losing someone they love dearly. I know too many people who have to see an empty chair around their dinner table and my heart goes out to them.
To everyone who reads this, I hope that you remember everything your grateful for. Remember those things more than the things you may be missing or feeling left out of. Everyone seems to get so depressed around the holidays and see only the things that make life hard when in reality it is time to see everything good in your life, no matter how small the thing that makes you smile may be.
As we played with the kids and listened to them practice what little English they knew, our tour guide explained to us that volunteers come in a few times a month to help teach the kids English. He also asked if any of us had some free time, they would greatly appreciate if we could come to help the kids as well.
Upstairs the hall was set up the same, with the only difference being that the first rooms also contained cribs. I had not expected to see infants and as we walked by the first time, the kept the door to the room closed. Behind the wall there must have been at least 10 children ranging from 5 months to about 2 years. One little girl sat in the center of the room alone playing with some small cars. It was clear that she, along with another boy about her age had Down syndrome. More than a few of the kids there had special needs, handicaps or were there because they were victims of domestic abuse. It was not until the end of the tour that I learned that the little girl with braces on her legs that I had played peek a boo with downstairs had been left in the cold after birth.
At the end of that hall a few older children sat around a table working on math problems. We were told that the kids in that area needed some extra help in school because they were quite behind in their learning abilities. I was amazed to see that the kids who were behind were actually working on multiplication into the 1000s. It’s amazing how even the children here that are “behind” are so far ahead of children that age in the US.
After we finally went back downstairs so the second group could go to see the children, I had to walk outside because the tears came faster than I could wipe them away. It was not because the children looked unhappy or neglected, but because there were so many children that just needed someone to give them a perminant home. We had already asked about adoption but they do not allow international adoptions from most places in Korea.
As the second group got ready to go, Tyson asked me if he could go and see the kids again. I was nervous about going around for a second time, but everyone in the group seemed ok with us going again. The same children came running over and held tightly again to my hands. It was just as hard the second time around to make them let go when we walked away. Upstairs the room that held the smallest of children was still closed off, but the kids were playing with us through the doors. As I got ready to head back downstairs, one of the care takers in the room opened the doors and invited us in to see the kids. I didn’t take more than a few steps inside the room when she placed a baby girl into my arms. She looked up at me with these amazing brown eyes before snuggling her head into my neck. The women who gave her to me said that she was 5 months old and her name was Joungau, at least that is how it sounded.
We had been told before going in that we would not be allowed to take photos, but there was one moment I wish I was able to capture. One of the 9th grade students, Matthew, sat quietly on the floor playing with the little girl and her cars. It was a very touching moment and one that I had not expected from a high school boy. As he played and I stood holding the baby, the other people that remained upstairs played with the children. The sound of their laughter made it impossible to feel bad for them. They were so happy and it was easy to see how much the women in the room loved them.
When it was finally time to go, we said our goodbyes and talked about the idea of volunteering there on a regular bases. At least one other person seemed to be very interested in the idea, so we will see if anything really happens. I would love to go over, but at the same time I think it would be so hard to not get attached to the children. I keep telling myself that helping them any way I can is so much more important than how hard it will be on my feelings. As of right now no plans have been made to go back, but I hope that changes after the Christmas break. If I will not be allowed to open my home to one of them, than at least I can go to theirs and help them.
Tyson "This is my big leaf that I found right before I knocked my Mommy over. I hope you like my Leaf Papa, it's bigger than the one I found at your house".