[Short] Day Six

We spent the morning at Ae Ran Won, a home for unwed mothers and expectant mothers. The director of ARW, Mrs. Han, published a book of letters written by birth mothers to their children. It’s called I Wish For You a Beautiful Life, and reading it changed a lot of my ideas about adoption, birth/first parents, and being an adoptive mom.

I emailed Mrs. Han to see if we could visit her at ARW, and she replied with a warm invitation. She was very generous with her time when we arrived, and we were able to have a long conversation about adoption, the status of unwed mothers in Korea, and about the mission of ARW.

Mrs. Han in front of Ae Ran Won:

ARW doesn’t just provide a home for women facing a crisis pregnancy. They provide individual and group counseling, job training, and tutoring to attain at least a high school diploma. For women who choose to parent, there are other programs of support…a group home, then a self-supported home, and access to emergency daycare. ARW has shown that, with a little support, many mothers will feel they can raise their children. When Mrs. Han started at ARW, 80% of the women chose adoption. Now 81% choose to parent.

Visiting ARW was one of the most meaningful parts of our trip to Seoul, because it made K’s first/birth mom much more real to us. It was also an honor to meet Mrs. Han, and to see ARW in person.

After our visit to ARW, we went back to Insadong to pick up K’s name stamp (dojong). The day before we’d asked a stone carver in Insadong to make one for her, as a special gift from our friends Marilyn and John. It turned out so much better than we’d imagined…the artist had added a carving of a mother, father, and daughter, and overhead is a bright shining sun. K’s name translates to “shining sun,” but the artist didn’t know that. Neat coincidence, hm?

Next was a great lunch at Insadong’s Sadong Myeonok, where we tried the mushroom hot pot: beoseot jeongol. This is how it looks when they first bring it to your table:

It cooks at your table, and at the end it’s a spicy stew of noodles, mushrooms, some veggies, and a little bit of beef and egg. Delicious!

We spent the afternoon hiking on Inwangsan mountain. The night before, S. suggested getting out of the city and seeing a little nature. Her encouragement, and ideas of where to go, made us rearrange our plans for the day, and I’m so glad we did.

Inwangsan has a lot of interesting sights with very interesting histories. If you want to read more about what you see, check out the longer post about day six. Some of the sights:

The Bongwonsa temple bell:

Guksadang, Seoul’s most important Shamanist shrine:

Seonbawi (Zen Rocks):

The peak of Inwangsan:

A restored section of Seoul’s fortress wall:

Beautiful rocks and pines:

We spent several enjoyable hours on Inwangsan, and S. was right…it was good to get out of the city a little (even if technically we were still surrounded by it). Thanks, S.!

The night before we hadn’t been able to find a hanbok for K at Namdaemun (late at night most of the shops were closed), so between hiking and dinner we went back to the market. It was so incredibly busy! And fun!

We found the hanbok we wanted, plus a couple of the t-shirts we liked so much, and headed off for dinner. Even though the entire week had been like one long date (what an odd experience!), we decided this night would be “date night.” Dinner, a cable car ride up Namsan mountain, and a view of Seoul at night. Romantic, huh?

Before we found the restaurant, we stumbled on another US beef protest…this time at City Hall. It would have been interesting to stay and listen to the bands and speakers (the atmosphere wasn’t negative at all), but we had a restaurant to find.

Chamsutgol is known for having really good Korean grilled beef (bulgogi and galbi). Rather than grill it over gas, they grill it over real wood charcoal. The atmosphere isn’t all that much, but the food is fantastic. It’s grilled at your table:

Then you place it on sesame leaves or lettuce, pile on the other ingredients: grilled garlic, green onion salad, a little kimchi, and hot pepper past (ssam jaang). You wrap it up like a stuffed grapeleaf, pop it in your mouth, and mmmmmmm!

The galbi was everything we expected. The soju….not so much. Soju is a vodka-like beverage unique to Korea. D and I aren’t big fans of hard liquor, so it’s no surprise we didn’t like it. We’re glad we tried it, though.

We’re also glad we took the cable car ride, the next part of our date. The cable car runs up the side of the mountain, just over the tops of the trees. It feels like you’re floating over the forest, and when you get to the top there’s this:

We went up to the tower’s observation deck to see the city at night. It was fun, but the views from the lower observation deck were just as nice. A little of Seoul at night:

It often pays to linger in locations, and tonight was an exceptional example of that…while we wandered around Seoul Tower’s plaza, classical music started blaring out of loudspeakers, mist began rising from little hidden water jets, and the trees were suddenly lit up by lasers. It was a laser show!

It was such a happy surprise. We sat there smiling as little kids ran around chasing the beams of light, trying to jump into the stars and circles formed by the lasers, and weaving in and out of the mist. What a night!

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~ by themagpiesnest on June 26, 2008.

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