We began to plan our visit to Korea since the minute our oldest daughter, Natalie, was placed in our arms at LaGuardia. Two years later Juliet joined our family, followed by Isabel four years after that (both at JFK). That we would bring our daughters back to the land of their births was always a given. More important, we knew we needed to make the journey at a time when they would be able to form lasting memories and be emotionally prepared as well. As they grew, we began talking about the day when we would board a plane to their homeland. Around Natalie’s fifteenth birthday we knew the girls were ready. We contacted Spence-Chapin and after a series of emails and a preparatory meeting the trip began to take shape. On July 1st the five us departed John F. Kennedy Airport. Our Roots Tour had officially begun!
The two weeks we spent in Korea in every way matched, and in some ways surpassed, our pre-trip anticipation. For our daughters, being in their birth-land gave them windows into themselves that my husband and I could never provide. Each of them was born in one of the major cities we visited — Seoul, Daegu, and Busan — and the connection they each made with these places was profound. In Seoul we visited SWS, whose staff warmly welcomed our children back to their motherland. While there the experience of seeing newborn babies awaiting adoption placement offered our girls a glimpse into their own pasts. While there Natalie was reunited with her foster mother, who lovingly embraced our whole family as if her own. In Daegu, we visited Haerimwon, the SWS home for mothers in need. The time we spent interacting with birth mothers was profoundly moving. A twenty-four year-old woman, due to give birth within the month, bravely read the letter she had written to her unborn son. From the expressions on the faces of our children, and well as the other adoptees in our group, her deeply honest words made clear that any adoption story is not written in black and white but in many shades of gray. While in Busan, we experienced the bustling energy of this port city, visited the enormous fish market, and even got to veg out at the beach (one of the highlights for our teen daughters)!
As emotionally rewarding as the trip was, it was also just plain fun. The other Roots Tour families were wonderful and within a day it seemed like we were old friends. The Seoul nightlife and baseball game, the hikes through lush, green mountains, the delicious food, and the warmth of the Korean people made this trip truly one of a lifetime. We are thrilled that Spence-Chapin will continue to offer this trip as well as other programs in Korea in the future.
By Colleen Carroll