This past Thursday we embarked on an almost three week trip to Korea to visit with Yenari’s family. We were worrying about the flight since its a long one – around 12 hours plus a few more in airport waiting, customs, waiting for bags, and driving both ways – but Hazel did great on the flight. She didn’t sleep much, but she was in mostly good spirits. We lucked out with a seat in the first row of our section so Hazel had her own little bassinet to hang out in:
We had to keep a close watch on her since her idea of fun was to attempt leaping out of the bassinet to play with us. Most of the time she spent on our laps while we tried to entertain her while watching movies. Yenari plopped Hazel in front of the TV and put the headset on her to see how she would react and she was transfixed – we’d never seen her act that way in front of the TV. It was a Korean cartoon and Hazel shrieked out in excitement whenever the shark came on the screen.
Once we made our way to Seoul and then through immigration, baggage claim, and customs we were greeted by Yenari’s very excited parents. Yenari’s mom was with us in California for the first four weeks of Hazel’s life, but hadn’t seen her since…and Yenari’s father had met her yet. Yenari’s father was a little worried because Hazel is very fearful of strangers (and particularly men), but she only gave him a healthy level of caution and didn’t freak out too much. Here’s their first meeting in the airport:
Since it was about dinner time, we went straight to a restaurant and met up for dinner with Yenari’s brother who was also meeting Hazel for the first time. Yenari’s dad continued his courtship of Hazel – trying to feed her and carry her around the restaurant…this courtship was successful at times and cry-inducing at others, but it was a start. Yenari’s father is a very energetic guy and this energy scared Hazel off for the first day or so, but Yenari gave him some advice to start slow and build up to his full energy level over time as she begins to trust him. Now, after a couple days, Hazel seems to be quite comfortable with him and sits happily on his lap and lets him carry her around. Here’s her father feeding Hazel at that first dinner:
After dinner we headed back to Yenari’s parents house and Yenari’s brother picked up Yenari’s grandmother to meet Hazel. Here she was kind of assaulted by love and affection…something that was a bit overwhelming for Hazel and resulting in a bit of a meltdown. We went to bed soon after and slept well, though Hazel woke up at an early 5am and turned the scenario around for Yenari’s parents by showing them what it feels like to try to play when you’re tired!
A little later in the morning we went with Yenari’s mom to bring Yenari to the salon – Yenari likes getting her hair cut a lot more in Korea than the US because they understand Korean hair better here. Yenari had recently trimmed Hazel’s bangs very unsuccessfully and Yenari’s hair dresser saw it and couldn’t resist giving Hazel a bit more of a trim to straighten things out. Here she is with Yenari’s friend Eulji who joined us at the salon:
While this was happening Yenari was busy being attacked by a ceiling-dwelling-robotic-octopus…or at least that’s what it appeared to be:
Later that afternoon we went over to Yenari’s Doyoung house – Doyoung is Yenari’s friend from middle school and high school and she and her husband have an almost 2 year old boy who we were meeting for the first time:
By this time I was somewhat zonked from the jet lag, but everyone happily chatted while I passed out on the couch. I’m pretty much caught up now, but the first two days were a bit rough.
Yenari’s mom and brother picked us up from Doyoung’s house and we went to pick up her father who had been on a day trip for business to Sunchun. While in Sunchun, Yenari’s father called to a restaurant called to a restaurant to get the famous Gwanyang Bulgogi – he didn’t have enough time to go to the restaurant, so he asked the owner to bring a cooler full of bulgogi (an order for 15 people!) to the bus station. Yenari’s dad didn’t want to cook it at home, so he called a BBQ restaurant where you cook at the table and asked if we could bring our own beef to cook – kind of bizarre, but they were okay with it. The bulgogi was incredible, nothing like the bulgogi we get in Santa Clara, LA, or anywhere else in the US. We also order some beef sashimi – raw beef marinated in pear, garlic, onions, sesame oil, and green onions. Here’s the family:
and here’s Hazel passed out – I wasn’t alone is suffering from jet lag:
Eventually we made it through almost all of the food…so the 5 of us ate about 13 servings of the bulgogi plus 2 orders of the beef sashimi. This was definitely some serious eating…the rest of the evening is a blur due to the beef intoxication!
The big event for Sunday was Yenari’s cousin Youngjoon’s wedding. We lucked out in having a family wedding while we were here – it gave us a chance to see lots of extended family without having to drive all of Seoul and the surrounding area to meet people. The wedding was also a new experience for most of us because it was a Korean traditional wedding – something that is very rare – both Yenari and her mother had never been to one in person. Yenari’s grandmother came over before the wedding and played with Hazel – she was in a much better mood this time and had a blast with her great grandmother:
The wedding was at Sungkyunkwan University in Seoul and was held outdoors. Here are some photos of the ceremony:
Hazel was well behaved during the ceremony and didn’t scream out or anything like that. After the wedding she was mobbed by extended family members who wanted to meet her, hold her, and snap pictures of her. We saw Yenari’s grandfather (who we had seen recently in California) and I met Yenari’s aunt Jihae and her uncle Sungtae – both of whom I hadn’t met – now I’ve met all of Yenari’s mother’s siblings. The reception was very different from that of an American wedding – it was a no nonsense eat your food and get out of there situation – no dancing, music, or anything like that. We enjoyed our meal and then headed home.
We finished off the eating for the day by treating Yenari’s parents, brother, and grandmother to a dinner at a Chinese restaurant. I lost count after a while, but Yenari just counted out at least 7 courses. So, this was definitely a continuation of the massive food quantities we seen at just about every meal. I bet I’ll gain around 10 pounds if this eating style continues. Aside from the food, my favorite thing about this restaurant was that the brick wall was painted with a series of greater that life size paintings of Bruce Lee! No Bruce Lee photo here, but one of Yenari and her mom kissing Hazel instead:
When we got home to Yenari’s parents house they brought out Hazel’s early first birthday present, a beautiful wooden block house from Soopsori, a Korean company that makes toys entirely out of wood…and entirely out of wood it is – even the screws and screw driver used to assemble the house are made of wood. Everyone was busy playing with the the little animals, appliances, and the house:
A great present that we can’t wait to get home with us!
We’ve had a great time so far in Korea and are really looking forward to the rest of our time here. This post is way too long already so I’ll hold off on covering today’s events, but will do my best to keep this up to date….
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