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Thursday, December 24, 2015

TGBKA: Unit Adopt an Orphan Event, the Big Day!

In my previous post, I discussed all of the many projects I have already taken on in Korea. And I honestly couldn't feel more appreciated! For a person who deeply appreciates words of affirmation, I thrive on positive feedback. I also thrive on thoughtful and constructive criticism, so the words don't have to be all about how amazing I am. Words are powerful, and the use of them (or the neglect to use them, or even the fake use of them) is noticed. But I digress. I keep hearing how much I am appreciated here, and it only makes me want to work harder to keep the praise coming.

One of my projects came to an end this past weekend and my heart is kind of sad about it. Earlier this month we went to the orphanage to meet the orphans the units in Area 1 adopted. This past Sunday, we got to spend the afternoon as a big group on post with our orphans. Here is how the day went in photos:
The whole gang from B Co that showed up to show Ae Jin some love.
When most of the people here are either single Soldiers, or they are geo-bachelors, the time can drag on. I loved seeing so many faces want to take time out of their weekend to come support this wonderful event, especially since it was completely out of their own pockets. What a fantastic group of Soldiers I get to work with!
Before we got to spend time with the orphans, they put on a little talent show for us!
The little girl in pink is 19 years old. I'll let that sink in for you... every orphan at Noah Rehabilitation Center has an incapacity that keeps them from being adopted, and later in life they will probably not leave NRC.
When Ae Jin came out, we got first hugs!
She spotted us from the stage before we saw her. I noticed her because she was wearing a red jacket (surprise, surprise... the red), and she was waving with all of her might at us. My heart jumped for joy at her excitement!
Before they opened the buffet line, two orphans were asked to cut the cake. Ae Jin was one of them!
They were given a small sword and told to smile for the camera, turn, and cut.
After dinner, we had to wait for everybody else to finish their food.
We were the second table to get to go through the food line, so we finished our meal relatively quickly. In waiting, cell phones were brought out and games were played. At one point The Wee showed Ae Jin the Elf Yourself App on her daddy's phone. That brought many laughs (we each took a selfie to contribute to the craziness).
We finally got a half decent (at it's best) cup of coffee.
The military does not move without a half decent cup of joe first. So when we were dining at a facility on post that didn't immediately have coffee on hand after a meal, Sweet Baboo and I were a little freaked. But one brave soul went into the kitchen and asked what was up. He was offered a single cup of coffee, and made the mistake of walking by our table. Sweet Baboo and I jumped up and immediately interrogated him as to the whereabouts of the source of the caffeine fountain. Eventually, we were able to order a cup. Glorious.

We taught Ae Jin about hand slaps...
...because nothing breaks down cultural differences like hitting each other.
She understood it was a game, and loved playing it! 
She even made her way around the room and taught some of her friends from the orphanage the new game. We may have started something that the orphanage isn't going to appreciate, but fun sure was had!
There was a magic show... and The Elder levitated!
The show was only about 30 minutes, and some of his tricks were easily figured out, but I'll admit to being stumped by a few of them. The Wee was seriously concerned about the safety of her big sister, and The Elder was visibly relieved when she got off the bench.
Lots of selfies were taken
And lots of photos from "back home" were shared.
Have you ever had that moment when you realized that your children had more in common (generationally) with your coworkers than you do? Yeah, these guys were a hoot to watch! And Sweet Baboo and I realized that we are officially the "seasoned" couple.
We gathered around Santa for a photo op!
Poor Ae Jin had to wait close to two hours before she was allowed to open her gifts. We weren't allowed to let her have them until after we saw Santa. But then we got a framed photo to give to her, one to take back to the company, and I got to keep one. The guys were able to sweet-talk themselves into getting a print (and some of them even got a frame as well!)

Presents were opened!
Ae Jin's list was so short that she basically knew what she was getting right away. She asked for a music album, some comic books, and that was it!
She got gifts she wasn't expecting, and she loved it!
Ah, boy bands. An international love of teenaged girls worldwide! So tossing a poster of a girl's favorite boy band into the pile of presents is almost always a win.
More group photos were taken.
More presents were opened (and appreciated)...
...and loved!
The comic books were not easy to find; she had the first year's books 1-4, but wanted any of the books between 5-10. I could only find book 5, and book 1 from the second year. I was so nervous that I would be disappointing her by not getting 6-10.
She didn't even have the slightest hint of disappointment. She had all hugs for The Elder.
I'm pretty sure she thought The Elder was responsible for picking up the books. And I don't even care. I was seriously choked up by the response to the presents. All of my anxiety over not coming through to my standards melted away and I was reminded of just how simply Ae Jin lives. She loved getting any one of the gifts, but was very thankful for every one of them!
We snuck in a quick family photo with Santa
Though I love the one with the entire group better. In fact, it may be the one I keep with the other annual Santa photos rather than this one.
Speaking of boy bands, we decided that the guys who joined us were forming one...
They don't sing. You don't want them to dance. But boy do they look like an international sensation! We had Korea, America, and American Samoa represented. And they were seriously posing like they needed to be put on a poster somewhere.
And they snuck in a group photo with Santa as well.
On the way home, Sweet Baboo mentioned to me that he didn't want that to be the last we saw of Ae Jin. In fact, since we weren't able to get everything off of her very short Christmas list, he wants to keep searching for the other books and take them to her (one per month) so we can develop a relationship. The girls excitedly agreed.

The following day, I bumped into one of the Soldiers who also attended the lunch with us. He said that some of the guys in the barracks saw the framed photo that we got to take home, and were bummed that they didn't get to go. They were asking if I could set up more time to go to the orphanage so they could give time and talent as well.

The whole situation warmed my heart and made me feel like I am already making a difference here. First, I know that the Soldiers who are here without their families are going home to a very quiet room. They are missing the giggles (or cries) of their children, they lack the routine of having to provide by day and getting to participate in family life by night. Many of them spend their spare time drinking and partying; that just has to get old at some point... right?

Some of the single Soldiers have approached me and asked if the FRG can include them, and my answer is "of course!" They have excitedly pointed out some service projects that they would love to participate in (serving food at the soup kitchen, handing out jackets to children in foster homes, gathering stuff for unwed mothers who have been ousted by their families, etc.). Their desire to serve this area beyond their call of duty in the uniform gets me all choked up and ready to hug each of them. I hear some in leadership positions complaining that these very Soldiers are lacking motivation and desire to do more than the bare minimum, I kind of wonder if living beyond the next "night out on the town" may be just what they need. I intend to find out!

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