Last Friday, I had my first really good day in Korea since the IVF. I've had several OK days, but hadn't felt any real joie de vivre in a long time (not counting Hawaii, since you'd have to be a pretty hard case not to manage a bit of happiness when on holiday in Hawaii). Friday was different. I woke up feeling great. Part of it was just biological (I had finally recovered from jet lag), and part had to do with the fact that rather than running off to work, I had taken the day off to go to the US embassy to get a new passport that morning.
Now I know that this makes me a total freak, but I love all business relating to passports. I love getting a new passport, I love getting visas. I love reading travel warnings, planning immunizations, etc. I know. Wierd. I also have this fun game of nerves that I play with myself whenever I have to renew my passport. I never get the passport photos before the day of the application. I always have to be in a hurry, and then to stop into a little passport photo shop and accept the first photos that they make. This is in part to keep me from obsessing about getting a decent photo (having no control over the selection process, or time to remedy errors), and partly to ensure that each photo is a candid shot of how I really was on that day.
Anyway, the passport application took me to a new (to me) part of Seoul, and I also love wandering around new places. I found a little photo shop, sat for my photo, and then was told that I had to wait 20 minutes. I took this opportunity to pop into a café, have a lovely latté, and read the newspaper. It was a sunny day, which made having 20 minutes to myself on a work day particularly nice. Then I picked up the photos (not too bad! my hair is a big disorderly, but I look like neither a heroin addict nor a convict, so I'll call it a good passport photo), and headed off to the embassy.
I don't know if this is common knowledge, but US embassies are scary looking places. Some of the old embassies are in quite lovely buildings, but the Seoul embassy is a horrible place that looks like it was designed by the same architectural geniuses that made the Cabrini Green housing project in Chicago. That doesn't actually matter, though, because since the embassy bombings of 1998, every US embassy has had extra security placed around the building, including big fences with razor wire, security checkpoints that make you feel like you're crossing the Berlin wall (before the fall), and general all-around scary business. It's gotten even worse since 2001. Once you come anywhere near the US embassy here, you are greeted with hordes of policemen, TANKS, and lots of guns. It's quite intimidating. When you go through security, the nonsmiling agents confiscate your cell phone, make you go through a metal detector, and use every ounce of their willpower to resist showing you any signs of human compassion during the process. Once inside, everyone ignores you completely. Warm and fuzzy, it is not.
So, I was processed, and then stumbled into the "American Citizen Services" office to apply for my new passport (I couldn't just do it by mail, since I need to hang on to my old passport in case my dad has a crisis while I'm waiting for the new one) feeling a bit stressed. I took a number, sat down, and prepared myself for a good long wait.
After only a few minutes, I found myself eavesdropping shamelessly on a man who was explaining that he was there to get US passports for his three children. The agent asked if they were US citizens, and he said "no, they are Ethiopian citizens. We just adopted them, and are working on getting them US citizenship."
I was entranced. He was told to go away and fill out some form. My eyes followed him across the room. I had already heard him say that his wife was with the kids getting passport photos, so he was the whole show at this point. He looked a bit harried (natural, given the context), but kind. I wanted desperately to talk to him, but balked at the thought of approaching a complete stranger and accosting them about their family-building process.
After a few minutes (which was surprisingly quick), my number was called. I got my business sorted out easily, and was about to go when his wife came in with three gorgeous kids. They were about 5, 7, and 9 or so, and were obviously siblings. All of my resistance dissolved, and I knew that I HAD to speak to the parents. So, I went up to the dad, apologized for the intrusion, and asked him whether he and his wife had arranged the adoption from Korea. A little background--I spent three months in Ethiopia several years ago, and fell completely in love with the country. If we do end up adopting, Ethiopia is at the top of our list of preferred countries. I had actually been thinking about adopting an Ethiopian child since before IF, after seeing how many orphans there are there. However, I had never imagined that an adoption of any child was possible to arrange as an American living in Korea.
The dad immediately started gushing about how happy they are with the kids, and what a great experience they'd had with the adoption. He gave me all kinds of info about the agency they used, how they arranged the home study (that was my big question, I had never imagined that a home study could be completed in Korea), and the details of adopting in Ethiopia. It turns out that his wife is even allowed to do home studies for other couples! So, in one morning, I'd gone from thinking that adoption was totally impossible until we move back to the US to realizing that it is a real option for us now. The best parts were that they completed the adoption in less than a year (!), and were able to adopt three siblings for only about $1000 more than adopting a single child.
I left the embassy feeling like I'd been struck by the thunderbolt (of Godfather fame, if the reference is obscure). We're not ready to make a decision about adoption yet, but the idea that if we decide to do so, we can have a child (or children) within a year is thrilling to me. Realistically, we will not be making a decision that quickly, since I want to give IVF a good shot, and don't think that I am emotionally capable of handling the stresses of IVF and adoption at the same time. Still, it was such a nice reminder that there are other options out there for us.