Sunday, January 22, 2012

Chris' Birthday Trip to Seoul

Chris and I decided to take one more trip before he left for his next tour and with his 30th birthday coming up on a 3-day weekend we thought this was the perfect time to take a trip to Seoul.  We left on Friday after work and spent three days in Seoul sightseeing, shopping, and eating delicious food.  I decided to do this blog post in a different way... I divided it into three sections: friends, sights, and food! Here's what we did this weekend...

1.  Friends
On our first day in Seoul our friends, Nate and Valerie and their daughter Aliza, came down from Osan to spend the day with us.  Nate and Chris went to the Academy together and we haven't seen them since their wedding in 2006.  We not only had a great time exploring the markets together but also chatting and catching up.  We can't wait to see them again... they are already planning a weekend trip down to Sasebo!

Visiting in a tea and coffee shop

Eating dinner at a delicious Thai place

2.  Sights
On Saturday we shopped with Nate, Valerie, and Aliza at one of the biggest markets in Seoul called "Namdaemun."  It was huge and totally crowded.
The entrance to the market

Look at the crowds!
We woke up early on Sunday to catch the bus to take us to the DMZ.  I had no clue what this place was, so just in case you are like me, let me explain:  This is the demilitarized zone between North and South Korea.  The zone is 160 miles long and 2.5 miles wide.  It is the most heavily militarized border in the world.

"Bridge of No Return," where the POW's from both sides were exchanged.

This is as close to North Korea as we could get... you could look into the binoculars to see North Korea.

Of course, Chris had to take a look!

Walking in one of the tunnels that the North Koreans built to invade Seoul.

The northern most train station in South Korea. George W. Bush visited here in 2002. It is to "imply the reality of division between two Koreans and a future hope and expectation."

They are hoping that in the future this is train line will take you to Pyeongyang, North Korea one day.

I thought what this sign said was kind of neat.

Buying and stamping our train ticket to Pyeongyang.
Then for dinner we went to the top of the Seoul Tower.  It was not only delicious but we had an amazing view! It was a revolving restaurant that gave you a complete view of Seoul.  

At dinner with the view of the city behind us.
Then we ended the night by going to see the fun play, Nanta (which is Korean for "cooking"). It is described as being part "Benihana, part Jackie Chan, part Marx Brothers, and part Stomp." It was amazing!  It was a fun show about four chefs preparing food for a wedding banquet.  During the show they would play percussion, have food fights, chop ingredients, and dance.  We loved it!
The set of Nanta
3.  Food
Of course since Chris and I consider ourselves to be "foodies-in-training" we had a show pictures of the delicious food we "experienced" in Seoul. From the market place vendors, to the fancy dinner at Seoul Tower it was all so yummy!

These delicious buns were filled with spices and meat.. yum!

We don't exactly know what all these parts consisted of, but Chris loved it!

These pancakes were honey filled... a fun snack at the market!

Chris being brave and sampling the silk worms.  People were buying these by the cupfuls!

A close-up of the silk worms

Our yummy pineapple fried rice at the Thai place

Our last breakfast... Carmel and Cinnamon toast. Look at that whipped cream!

This was one of our favorite finds in Seoul... Cinnamon Tea. We drank it wherever we saw it!

One of my favorite foods in Japan is Bibimbap, but since it originated in Korea, the Japanese put their own spin on it, so I had to try the original in Korea.  It is rice, vegetables, and an egg served in a steaming hot stone bowl.  SO good!

Chris' Korean meal... Korean Spare Ribs with vegetables.

Prawn ravioli at the Seoul Tower

Salmon and creme fraiche appetizer at the Seoul Tower
We definitely had a busy 3-day weekend, but it was well worth it!  It is always so exciting for us to experience a new country and culture!

Monday, January 2, 2012

An Adoption Update

Because many of you have been asking (which we love) how our adoption going, I've decided to do a little "adoption update" and fill you in on where we are in this process.

Previously I blogged that we have decided to adopt and were researching agencies.  Well, during our vacation this summer to Hong Kong we met a family who had just recently adopted their son. We immediately came home and researched the agency they used, "Chinese Children Adoption International." We loved what we read and as we watched their DVD we were both crying.  Needless to say, we have decided to adopt a child from China through CCAI. It is a wonderful agency and, so far, they have been great to work with.  Here is their website if you want to check it out:

Our wonderful friends from Hawaii, Matt and Cyndi, recommended to us that we read the book Adopted for Life. As I read the first chapter in a coffee shop, I was in tears. It is an amazing story about a couple's journey to adopt and Christ's view of adoption. It helped to answer many of the questions and concerns I had.  I quickly finished it before Chris came home from deployment and now he is reading it. I highly recommend it! 

While Chris was gone on deployment, I was busy working on our home study binder.  This is a collection of papers that I needed to get organized before our home study visits began. Some of the paperwork included just making copies of things like our passports and drivers licenses, but others included getting background checks from every state we have lived in since the age of 18 (for Chris it is quite a few), asking friends to write reference letters, writing our life story, and so on. It was a lengthy process and at times difficult since Chris was gone.  Many emails were sent with "to-do-lists" and questions.

Our collection of paperwork.

A side view to show you the thickness of each binder.
Now that Chris is home for a few weeks and our binder is nearly complete, our next step was to do the actual home study visits.  This is when a social worker comes into your home, tours your house, and conducts a series of interviews.  This can be a pretty stressful event because most the time you do not know your social worker. However, we have been extremely blessed because our social worker, Janel, is a friend of mine from Bible Study.  It was like chatting with a friend every time she came over.  She talked to each of us about our childhood, marriage, family, and how we will parent.  So far we have done three visits and we will have one more to complete.

Our great social worker and friend, Janel.

The next step in the process is to get our home study approved. In the mean time I will be completing the contents for our second binder which is called the "dossier packet." This binder will enable us to adopt from China.

It is a very long and at sometimes stressful process, but we know in the end our outcome will be great!  It has been amazing to see God's hand guiding us throughout this process and just when we are getting tired, He sends us the encouragement we need! Chris and I can't thank you enough for your prayers, they mean everything to us.  And we love it when you ask us about the process, please don't ever feel like you are getting too personal.  We want to share this journey with you because it is awfully exciting for us!

Christmas in Washington

Chris and I haven't been back to Washington for Christmas in six years (since we were dating) so we were looking forward to going back.  Like all of our vacations, our days were jam packed with, sightseeing, eating, and of course, shopping. But we really enjoyed spending time with family and friends. This was our first time to be back in the states in over a year. We were definitely a little overwhelmed with all of our options and driving on the right side of the road felt so very wrong! We had a wonderful time but the ten days definitely flew by!

In between eating and shopping we did enjoy some of what Seattle has to offer... One of our "musts" was the Space Needle. My mother-in-law and I have never been, so were looking forward to going to the top!

Our next stop was at the Pike's Place Market. I love this place... I love the famous throwing fish stand, the amazing foods and the fun atmosphere.

Recreating a picture we took six years ago in front of the market... this time after being married for 5 years!

The Morris brothers eating frozen chocolate covered bananas.

One night my brother-in-law, Michael, took us to see the amazing Christmas lights in Bellevue.  They were spectacular!  Our first stop was "Snow Flake Lane." Every night during the Christmas season at 7 o'clock a drum band plays, Christmas music is on the loud speakers, and snow falls. It is a super fun experience.  Then Michael took us to the Botanical Gardens to see the amazing display of Christmas lights!

Chris being silly as we are waiting for the parade to start...

The drummers performing

Just one of the amazing light displays at the Botanical Gardens.

The highlight of the trip for Chris, Michael, and Miriam was the Seattle Seahawks game. They are HUGE fans and it was so much fun to experience the game together as a family.  Even though they lost, we had a fun time cheering for the Seahawks!  

At the entrance to the stadium

The view from our seats.

Chris and Michael

At most games you eat hot dogs and peanuts, but in Seattle you can enjoy yummy clam chowder in a sour dough bread bowl... now that's some good eating!

I never turn down a chance to buy a new hat! 

The four of us after the game!