Day three, and we have another relaxed morning, leaving the apartment only in time to grab lunch before Trennis’s appointment: their very first meeting with Andrea, the little girl they are adopting. We go with them to the Holt offices but due to a lack of elevator space, we don’t actually get to witness that first meeting. The writer in me is disappointed, but I accept it might be best this way. They’re already together, along with the foster mother and the social worker, when we enter the meeting room, so we hang back and enjoy the privilege of watching them connect with each other. She is a little shy and they are cautious and gentle, but there is so much love and suppressed emotion. They’ve been waiting for this for so long. When Trennis gets out a ball, Andrea unfreezes enough to throw it with him, and then to run and giggle. And when his baby girl runs towards him, his smile and the way his hands reach for her and the look in his eyes…it is enough to bring tears to mine.
They have an hour visit but we leave soon. They invited us to come see her, but they need time together without a captive audience too.
In a brand-new mall off a sunken courtyard, we find a bookstore. On the surface it’s a lot like an American bookstore and we spend some minutes there. Of course I can’t read a word inside the books, but just being there, breathing it in, touching the pages…it brings peace to my soul. Books are my magic.
Before leaving, I buy an adorable little memory book and Carson buys a Korean recipe book which he cannot read. But it has pictures and he has Google Translate, and he can make it work.
Then we meet up with the others again and it’s a bit of a walk back to the apartment but we walk it nonetheless, with many pauses. Sometimes we stop so that someone may buy something, sometimes just to look at and into the shops, and sometimes to admire the insanity that is Seoul driving. The cars and trucks and things that go are one thing; though they drive with mad speed, change lanes through sheer willpower rather than waiting for a break in the traffic, only pay attention to the white lines when it doesn’t inconvenience them, and don’t stop until they are almost against the vehicle in front of them, they still seen to follow basic traffic laws. But the motorbikes, man. They own the road, and the sidewalks as well. They will drive between two lanes of cars, and in front of them, and across two lanes of traffic going the other way to get to the sidewalk, and wherever else they so desire. And yet, with all this madness, I have seen neither sign nor rumor of an accident anywhere in Seoul.
Eventually Brady and I grow tired of the others’ lagging pace and we strike off ahead. He’s a true Korean in the way he walks, with no concern of running into anyone or anyone running into him because it never happens. They always move at some point. And he’s a little bit ‘my’ boy still; we’re comfortable as we walk. At the last crosswalk we stop and wait for the others to catch up, and then Carson and I go for a little stroll down the street past our apartment building. We run across two more coffee shops and in one of them Carson buys an iced cold-brew coffee. It tastes slightly like dark chocolate to me, and I think it is delicious. Not for nothing does Seoul have 18,000 coffee shops.
Later that evening I see a downside to this, when Carson and I go out in search of a decent way to make coffee to replace the instant coffee sticks at the apartment. It seems the people of Seoul don’t feel the need to brew their own coffee with so many shops at hand. And among 18,000, I am sure there must be one coffee shop that opens before 9:30am, but I have yet to see any proof. This may not be a problem when you’re a native in the Land of the Morning Calm, but when you’re crazy Americans who wake up with the dawn’s early light and instantly think coffee coffee….it’s a bit of a problem, yeah. We find beans easily enough; quite a few of the little artisan shops roast their own. But then the search is on, and after walking some blocks in every direction from Sangsu Station, we think ourselves lucky to find some coffee filters. Carson supposes he can make something work with them. But truthfully, we’re not in a huge rush to get home anyway.
It is the first time I’ve been out in the streets after dark without being too exhausted to dance. And tonight I feel it: there is an energy and a life in the night streets of Seoul that doesn’t touch them in the daylight. There is glittering lights and thrumming music, young men with bowl haircuts and no-break pants, and girls with brilliant lips and every kind of heel known to woman.
One girl with slanting eyes and a floral dress stands against a wall, the inevitable phone in her hand. Behind her, a taxi stops and another girl leaps out. With arms spread, she swoops up into the face of the first girl, causing her to shriek. As the first girl laughingly scolds her friend with words I cannot understand, I am reminded again that under all our differences, they are still my sisters.