Reminiscing : KASY* Adopted Friends Picnic

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*KASY = Korean American Students of Yale

{This post was written back in April, shortly after the picnic on April, 10. It's just taken me this long to get the photos posted. That's sad. I haven't edited any of it, but am posting it today as we are headed to the fall picnic. We are very excited, and I will post sooner than six months out. Swear.}

On Saturday we headed down to Yale University for our first "Adopted Friends" picnic. The picnic is a bi-annual event that I've heard great things about for a couple of years now, so I was really excited when we heard about the spring picnic with enough time to register for it. We arrived at Yale just after noon. We were greeted by some friendly students, and after a little bit of confusion as to why Spencer didn't have a "big sib" (more on that in a bit), we got a very warm welcome by a bunch of KASYs. Correction: Spencer got a warm reception... we just rode his coat tails. [wink] There were probably 8 female students gathered around him when we first got there. This should have given us a hint as to what the day would bring...

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First, let me explain how the picnic works... It kicks off with a Korean lunch provided by the NY sponsors. After that, the kids and adults split and while the kids partake in traditional Korean activities, the adults attend educational programming. The children (aka "little sibs") are each paired with a "big sib" from Yale for all the "kids stuff." This is where it got confusing for us. The youngest "little sib" is usually 3-4 years and we were showing up with a 20-month-old. I had contacted the event chair and told her we weren't really sure it was in the best interest for anyone to send Spencer off with a student. (We really didn't feel it would be fair to the student more than anything else.) So instead, we chose to stay with Spencer, which everyone was cool with. (And by "cool" I mean these students were so incredibly easy going, it was wonderful!)

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Anyway... After our warm welcome, we were shown the food area where we piled our plates high with all sorts of amazing Korean dishes. (All the faves... jap chae, bulgogi, kimbap, dumplings, etc) I was holding Spencer and several Korean women jumped up to help me with my plate... sometimes I forget about the Korean hospitality but then something like that happens... and well, I'm transported back to our time in Seoul where everyone seemed to go out of their way to help us. I love moments like that. Now the food. Oh my, the food. To say it was delicious would be an understatement. After loading up our plates, we headed into the room where everyone was eating. Here we enjoyed our lunch and some conversation with other families. (While wrangling Spencer which is a whole other post... sigh...)

After lunch the families split into groups. We made our first stop the drum room since we knew it was going to be a sure hit. Uhm, it was. It was a *huge* hit. I believe there were several trips to the drum room throughout the day. Luckily, the instructor was very patient with Spencer. Even when Spencer tried to take off with his gong.

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Once we had conquered the drums, we moved on to the "Sae Bae" room. Here Spencer won the hearts of every one of the Korean adults. For those of you not familiar with the term, it's the term used to describe the act of bowing in front of your elders as a display of respect and appreciation. In return, the elders usually bestow money on the child bowing in front of them. Spencer donned one of the hanboks (yes, he's in a girls hanbok... it was the smallest option there.) and very eagerly "bowed" then jumped up, and ran over to get his envelope. He quickly discarded the envelope and came running towards us with his dollar. It was adorable and hysterical all at once.

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We then watched a Tae Kwon Do exhibition, which was fabulous. Spencer says "you had me when you started breaking boards... I'm in"

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At that point, I snuck away to sit in on some of the adult programming. Now, I was trying to time it so that I would see the adult adoptee speak... but he had switched places with the first speaker because she was having computer problems. I'd have to say that this was a big disappointment for me... but I actually caught up with the speaker I missed at the end of the day and we're going to try to stay in touch via email, so I feel better about that now. All's well that ends well, right?! The other speaker was a perfectly good speaker... I just wasn't as intrigued by her topic. I felt like I had more to learn from the adult adoptee at this point in my journey.

Meanwhile, Doug and Spencer checked out all the kids activities. Besides the drum room, where he made sure to visit multiple times, he checked out some other instruments, did some crafts, tried to break into the Chancellor's house, and"posed" for the group photo.

{The gong was a *huge* hit!}

{Spencer "hijacked" many a big sib during the day...}

{At the Chancellor's House}

{Dada, I think there is food in here! Let's eat!}

{The group photo}

Once the speakers were done, the "moms" were invited to a cooking presentation. This struck me as funny since you could clearly see a generation gap at this point. The student announcing that made it clear that it was the "elders" specifying the "moms" part of that statement. (And it was clear how uncomfortable she was saying that.) But she then clarified that anyone was welcome to the demonstration. I point this out mainly because I've noticed this distinction on k-dramas as well and it was nice to see that there is truth in that storyline.

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I was not going to miss the cooking demonstration, so I boogied on over, into the wrong room. Yeah. I was so engrossed in conversation with another mom we weren't paying attention to where we were going. (We were talking about being moms to little peanuts... her daughter is five and tiny... and I mean teeny tiny. It was so nice to have someone who automatically understood what you felt and could completely relate.) Once we found the right spot, we sat on down and jumped right in. It was a hands-on demonstration which was awesome. We learned how to make kkotchi-odeng, which is fish cake soup. For those of you that don't know me, I am not "random seafood" friendly. I was wrist high in fish cakes at this point and there was a moment that I thought I might pass out. Seriously. I powered through though and I am so glad I did. For two reasons. One, I learned how to make the broth that I am pretty sure Spencer was having while with his foster mother. Two, it was really interesting and really, really good. (Not only did I try it... I loved it!) Apparently, this is a really popular snack with the teenagers and it goes hand in hand with spicy rice cakes which we already love. The women hosting the event (an older woman with a girl my age translating) were really nice about answering all of my random questions to boot. While we were sampling, Doug and Spencer came back in the room and were brought some cups so they could try it too. (By this point, Spencer was a local celebrity at the event...and everyone was greeting him by name. So very funny. How did they learn his name!? Why are college-aged boys giving my son high-fives?! Wait, how do you all know his Korean name as well?!) Want to know Spencer's reaction?! He loved it. Loved it. He kept sipping the broth and going "Mmmmm" as loud as he could. And the fish cakes? He couldn't get enough. I think we'll be attempting this here. That should be interesting to say the least. If I don't get the courage up to go it alone, we'll definitely order him some at our local Korean restaurant next time we are there. [Update: We order this out. It's better for everyone involved.]

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At this point, the picnic was winding down, so we said our goodbyes and thank yous and started to make our way out the door. Stopping in the drum room a couple of times of course! Outside we ran into the elder group that sponsored the event taking some group pictures. They were all calling Spencer to get in their photo. Instead, Spencer grabbed their photographer and pulled him over to some nearby steps, sat him down and had me take their photo. I'm not kidding. Spencer orchestrated the whole thing... it was hysterical!

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We were so excited heading into the event that I was worried it wouldn't live up to expectations. But, it did. And then some. We had an amazing time! It was wonderful to watch Spencer enjoy himself and his culture so fully. It was wonderful to see the students reactions to him. It was so nice to meet some other parents further along in the journey from where we are and to have some great conversations. I'm beyond excited for the next event and cannot wait until November. (I know, I know... don't rush summer... I just can't help it!) [Update: It's today!] If any of you are in the vicinity, you should definitely attend next year. We drove two hours each way and don't regret a minute of that drive.

(And to my relative's that were a stones throw away... next time we'll try to orchestrate dinner with you! This time we just couldn't get it together!)

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