Dillon’s tours are not just for kids and parents. Grandparents are very welcome, too! We know. We did it. What did we think? Read on.
Ten years ago our grandson arrived in the U.S. from Korea. Our son and his wife adopted him as an infant through Dillon. We had only a limited idea who Chris was, where he came from and what kind of grandson he would become. The birthland tour helped us answer all those questions. We have since learned he is a neat kid who came from an advanced country with a rich culture.
What is the Tour?
Last year his parents committed to the 2015 Visit Korea Tour through Dillon. It would be Chris’ first return visit. We were invited to join them. We initially dismissed the offer thinking that this is not for grandparents and we should just stay out of the way. We were wrong. Upon further thought, we changed our minds and committed to the trip.
Our 10-day experience was in late June 2015. Four other families accompanied us. Our group had nine kids ages 7-22, nine parents, one aunt – and one set of grandparents: us. A Korean tour guide from Seoul and two Dillon staff members accompanied us every day.
We are experienced travelers, but have never visited the Far East. So believe us when we say that the organization by Dillon provided a wonderful tour that was a super value. The tour was much more than just sightseeing. It had the higher purpose of bonding the kids with their home country and culture.
Other than sightseeing, Dillon incorporated experiences families could enjoy together. We had a cooking class at a culinary school, were instructed how to conduct and participate in a formal tea ceremony, attended a stage show, and had a pottery-making class taught by a Korean master.
Our grandson knew some language, was familiar with culture and customs and knows the food. Where did he learn this? It was from his parents and at Dillon’s summer Korea Heritage Camp and other Dillon programs. Now that we think back, we realized that Chris wanted to make sure that we saw and experienced “his” Korea. He loved teaching us and showing us how much he knew.
What did we learn?
Before the trip the names Dillon International and Eastern Social Welfare Services were abstract to us. After visiting Eastern, and during our trip, we learned firsthand that both agencies are first class – and that they care about “their” kids and families. The staff members at Eastern in Seoul were gracious hosts and treated us like family during our visit with them.
We have often wondered what Chris thinks about his Korean heritage, and, of course, realized he doesn’t know. He is an Oklahoman! We learned that South Korea is an advanced first world country with a terrific culture – and that Chris should be and will be proud of his birth heritage. When people ask us about Korea we fall back to some unique experiences. For example, where in the U.S. can you send email over Wi-Fi on a train going 185 miles per hour? Where in the world can you go and never see a bit of litter in subways, train stations, airports or the city streets? Where do you go to visit an industrious people with impeccable manners and courtesy? The answer is Korea.
What about being grandparents with such a group?
It was never an issue with the group. It was quite satisfying to see all of the adults share in the goal of making this a special experience for the kids. And it was terrific to see the kids naturally bond and look out for each other. One concern we did have was how we would be received by Koreans. It was obvious that Chris was adopted and we worried that there may be some misplaced resentment towards us. Not so! Everyone we met in Korea was uniformly gracious and unfailingly offered us seats on crowded public transit. Maybe it was our gray hair? All in all, we were relaxed, welcomed and thoroughly enjoyed the experience.
Should you do it?
Absolutely! As grandparents, you will offer a unique perspective with the maturity of your years. And it was fun to watch the others enjoy it all so much.
Bottom line? If you are a grandparent and have the chance to go on a birthland tour, sign up now. Just do it! You will thank us later.
—Mike and Carol Lapolla, Oklahoma