March 6, 2014

Samuel's Gotcha Day

Day 38 - TTD & Samuel & Sara adoption journey

TTD and one of the facilitators started the day with even more paperwork. That morning they drove to the tax policy office to change the tax numbers for both Sara and Samuel. Sara very cheerfully staid with the other facilitator at the hotel. (No one wanted a repeat of the previous day's car sickness!) Sara is such a social butterfly that having one on one attention from an adult pleased her greatly. I'm sure the facilitator's ears were ringing by the end of the day.

Once that was done all four got into the car and drove across O-city to pick up the secretary of A-village. TTD didn't know why the secretary of A-village orphanage was in the big city. All five people squeezed into the facilitator's car for the 2-3 hour drive to A-village. And you guessed it, Sara was sick along the way.

Once in A-village the facilitators stopped at the local DAP office to turn in the new tax numbers. Finally, finally they drove to Samuel's orphanage. TTD brought Sara into the director's office and waited for quite some time. Sara was very excited yet strangely scared. She very much wanted to see her brother again. They'd been separated for two whole years. Sara had been Samuel's doting big sister and caregiver since he was nearly three and she nearly five.

Then Sara began to cry. When asked what was the matter it all came out. Poor sweet, brave Sara was excited to get to see her brother again, but thought she was being transferred in the process. The thought of going from a nice, clean, caring school environment to a tiny village and a poor, isolated mental institution frightened her. She had been bravely facing the 'transfer', determined to go through with it, just so she could be with her brother again. That is love!

The facilitator quickly explained away her fears and she calmed down.

Everyone exited the office and TTD assumed that the nurse's station was where everyone was headed so he and Sara walked in. There was Samuel, waiting with shining eyes and anticipation and joy. The siblings hugged and talked quietly and hugged some more. Then the facilitator came looking for TTD and Sara (she didn't know where they'd disappeared to) and informed them that they needed to leave to sign two more pieces of paper. Poor Sara was disappointed to have to leave her brother again so soon.

TTD and the facilitators had to wait for a while before the papers were ready to be signed. But finally they returned to the orphanage to pick up Samuel. Clothes were handed over to the nannies, Samuel was dressed in no time, and everyone said paka to the orphanage. It was a quick exit.

By this time Samuel was on sensory overload. He kept shaking his head back and forth, rubbing his chin on the neck of his coat. TTD reached over and gently rubbed Samuel's hair. He calmed down immediately and didn't stim again. The drive back down to O-city was rather uneventful. Sara laid down for most of the drive (this seemed to help calm her stomach) and Samuel, who didn't suffer any car sickness, talked to his sister while stroking her head.

In O-city they went straight to the hotel, tried to jerry rig the broken stroller (didn't work), so TTD carried Samuel to the restaurant. Sara understandably ate a large dinner. Poor girl had been running on empty for a few days. Samuel also ate very well and surprised TTD by drinking some juice and water from a cup. (All the other boys who left The Lost Boys' Institute refused to drink, some for quite a long time period, after leaving the orphanage. The fact that drinking did not scare Samuel, at least not much, was a huge blessing!)

Both kiddos not only tolerated their baths, but enjoyed them. Samuel knew just how to clean himself and Sara loved splashing in the water. That night they slept contentedly together on the pull out couch of the hotel room.

The siblings had been reunited.

Day 38 - TTM & Patience adoption journey

This day was a bit of a mess. First off, my body woke up after only four hours sleep and refused to rest again until 30 minutes before the alarm was scheduled to go off. Thankfully a pack of feral dogs yapping loudly startled me awake. 8:16. Yikes! Apparently the alarm didn't even go off! The facilitator was supposed to pick me up at 8:30 to start our day. No way was I going to be seen in public with greasy hair and bleary eyes, so I called the facilitator and asked for 20 more minutes to get ready. Feeling reminiscent of my college years I bathed in record time, bolted down some food, packed my rice bag with the iPad, a notebook, water bottle, a half loaf of salami, some bananas, and a bit of chocolate.

I tried to rush down stairs, but locking Fort Knox slowed me down.

Today we were scheduled to take Patience out of the orphanage for her passport picture, another picture for some other paper (too many papers!), and then empty her bank accounts in N-city.

We arrived at the orphanage and proceeded to the director's office. He welcomed us heartily and even made a few fleeting moments of eye contact with me. The facilitator had informed me that, for reasons unknown to her, the director was becoming much more positive towards international adoption. He was wanting to help us in any way possible.

I stayed outside the office while the facilitator arranged the permission to take Patience from the orphanage for the day. She emerged and informed me that Patience was in hospital. Before I could become alarmed she said it was for routine blood work and should only last 15-20 minutes max. The director left his office, and the orphanage, for some other appointment. We stood looking out the large windows hung in sheer, silky curtains covered in embroidery. We talked of our hope that many, many more children could be listed from this orphanage. We planned on how we would get Patience to help us by looking at the local database and telling us the full names of all the children she recognized.

After a bit more than a half hour my facilitator decided that our wait had been too long. She was suspicious that maybe the nannies or secretary were pulling a fast one and hiding Patience from us again. She went into the office and inquired after Patience. The sour, spiteful secretary said, "She's at the hospital doing blood work. You were told to wait, so go back into the hallway and wait!" And that was it. Because the director was not there to appeal to we waited, and waited, and waited, and waited. I asked the facilitator if I should run down to the car and get my cards for a game of Rummy or Go Fish. I'd found that if I acted happy and carried on as if nothing was happening it bothered the nannies and they quit trying to annoy me. The facilitator was on the verge of agreeing to some cards when Patience showed up...almost two hours after we had originally been told to wait.

We grabbed her quickly, before any more excuses could be made, and hustled her to the car. Once in the car our facilitator questioned Patience as to where she'd been for so long. Turns out that she had been to the hospital...for x-rays. That's right, needless x-rays of her back. Oh, and while waiting the long hours to get those five minute x-rays done she'd had a 'coincidental' meeting with certain relatives that the court had ordered no contact with. Grrrrr! Yep, those sneaking nannies/secretary had pulled a fast one again. But they will never have the last laugh!

Our first stop with Patience was to a photographer's to get a picture done to attach to a paper (whose significance I don't remember). Patience handled that car ride decently, but I had an empty bag ready. Then we drove to the passport office. The office looked like all the rest of the nondescript buildings around. Faded grayish-blue paint, main door in the back alley, up cold flights of stairs, and into a narrow hallway already hot from the radiators but made stifling by the massive amounts of people waiting in line.

Just before we had reached this building, Patience was becoming a bit green around the gills from all the car travel. Our arrival at the passport building was just in time. Upon entering that sweltering, overcrowded hallway I knew we'd be in trouble. My mommy instincts kicked in and I informed the facilitator that she could wait in line but Patience and I would wait in the cool stairwell.

We stood in front of a large window eating apples, playing puzzle games on the iPad, and talking. The facilitator joined us after a while and told us that the lines were due to a new (politically motivated) policy from Russia about what kind of passports would be accepted for travel into that country. Folks were rushing to comply so that their travel plans would not be hindered. It was only because of the facilitator's friendship with a gal in the office that we were being allowed to process Patience's passport today. The gal in the office was letting us come in on her lunch break.

At lunch we entered the office and Patience sat down in front of a camera. I proofed, corrected, and signed yet more paper work, Patience's picture was taken, and then we left.

Because Patience had started to get a bit sick in the car, and because we didn't need her physical presence anymore, we dropped her back off at the orphanage before heading to the bank. Patience tried to wheedle a promise out of both of us to come get her tomorrow. She was done being ready for Gotcha Day.

The facilitator and I headed into the bank where Patience's governmental stipend was being held. We opened the door and were overwhelmed with the smell of sausage. I initially thought we'd come to a deli for a bit of snack (it was past lunch time) but apparently the bank workers had eaten some very strong sausage for lunch.

The facilitator looked over the five different teller windows to decipher which one she needed. I don't know how she did this because I saw no signs telling what each window was for. She found two windows which could be used for the kind of withdrawal she needed to make and headed towards them only to find identical signs announcing a lunch break until 2:00. One lady was sitting behind the glass and so the facilitator asked (demanded actually) that Patience's account be looked into. In the bank book we'd been given only one grivna was shown to be in the account. (Not surprising from the stories I've heard from other families who have adopted from here). We just wanted to see if there was enough money in the account to make it worth our while. The bank teller initially wouldn't even give us the time of day but kept pointing to the sign indicating lunch hours. The facilitator wouldn't take no for an answer but kept pushing until the teller gave in just a little. We were told that yes, there was money in the account but not how much.

The facilitator looked at her watch (1:00) and decided to not waste time here but go back up to the heart of N-city to the bank where Patience's baby house stipend was kept. Might as well be doing something while we waited.

Now you may be thinking, like I was, why we could just go to a different branch and remove the money. Over here it didn't work like that. First off, most banks were not large enough to have multiple branches. Second, for some reason you can only take money out of the actual bank you deposited it in. Not a lot of central banking here.

So we drove 30 minutes up to the baby house account bank, waited about 15 minutes for the teller to read the adoption papers authorizing me as the mother to withdraw Patience's money, signed the necessary papers, placed the wad of grivnas into a purse and hurried back to the car. Then back to the original bank and repeat the process, but with a little more flack from the bank teller. It turns out that Patience did have a decent amount of money in her present orphanage account.

After traveling all day I was ready for some home cooked dinner and a good sleep. But first I needed to buy some water. (Never, ever let the water here into your mouth!). Not wanting to walk all the way down to the grocery I asked the facilitator to drop me off at the small soviet era market just behind the local public bus stop. This market is right near my apartment complex and it wouldn't be too far to walk carrying a couple 6 liter water bottles.

The store is really quaint and rather intimidating if you don't know what you are doing. There are numerous counters displaying various foods or dry goods. Each counter is manned by a separate checker. I walked up to the refrigerated dairy counter and ordered (through a mixture if hand gestures and my limited Russian vocabulary) a couple of yogurts for Patience for the next day. I paid for those right there at that counter. Then I moved down to the drinks counter and was in the process of ordering a big water bottle (much to the amusement of a local mama and her baby) when my facilitator came up behind me. She and the driver did not want me to have to lug the heavy water bottles 'all the way' back to the apartment. They said that a lady shouldn't have to carry heavy things so far. I bit back a retort about not being a lady but a strapping farm girl, cut my shopping short (they needed to get home to their son and I didn't want to delay that any longer), paid for the water, and we drove one block to the apartment door.

My facilitator and her husband (the driver) are the kindest and most thoughtful of people.

March 5, 2014

Sara's Gotcha Day

Day 37 - TTD & Samuel & Sara adoption journey continued

TTD and both facilitators left the hotel around 7:00am and drove directly to K-village to Sara's orphanage. They met the orphanage social worker who brought Sara to them. Sara was overjoyed to see her Papa! He gave the nannies the clothes we had brought. The nanny changed Sara into her new clothes, commenting on how we'd brought clothes that were too big. We couldn't help it! The pants fit her waist perfectly (with enough growing room to spare) but were at least seven inches too long. The shirts fit her shoulder width but engulfed her hands. The boots we brought were an utter failure. They were way too small! The orphanage graciously (and against protocol) allowed Sara to take her orphanage boots and TTD left the too small boots in exchange.

When completely dressed Sara had on multiple layers: a couple shirts, tights, two pairs of socks, pants, jacket, down coat with hood (which was not enough according to the nannies because children need hats close to their heads and then a coat hood on top of that). Poor Sara resembled a puffy snowman with all her layers!

Sara had been given a number of parting gifts from the internat workers and her groupa friends. She received a baby dolly that sings, multiple notebooks and colored pens, a picture book of her friends and nannies, and a Gideon New Testament with Psalter in her language.

The two facilitators, TTD, Sara and all her gifts got into the car and left the orphanage...forever.

They drove to the bank to empty Sara's bank account. (All orphans are given a stipend by the government. The orphanage can use a part of the stipend but the rest is left in the account for the child to use when they turn 18 and leave the orphanage or upon adoption.). The accepted custom is to take the money from the bank and give it back to the orphanage as a 'thank you' and to pay for the child's care while they resided there. We do not question their customs, but thankfully give that money to the orphanage. Our child is worth much more!

Unfortunately, Sara did not handle car travel well. *ahem* Dramamine was administered but it was too little too late. And who could blame the poor girl for getting sick? Driving on that road brought so much bouncing, swerving, lurching that even the most hardened stomachs would get queasy. Poor Sara! Poor TTD and facilitators trying to contain the mess and not get sick themselves! It was a rough ride from K-village to Art-village (where both children were born).

In Art-village TTD went to the equivalent of our vital statistics office to change Sara's and Samuel's birth certificates. The woman at the vital statistics office did not want to comply with the request because both of us were not present. The facilitator explained about the power of attorney I had signed granting TTD the right to act for both of us.

While waiting for the changes in birth certificates TTD, Sara, and the other facilitator ate a light lunch at a pizza parlor. No one wanted Sara to lose a lot of pizza on the next part of the journey. Then they went to a small museum commemorating the history go Art-village. TTD loved it! Visiting a historical museum was just the right activity to lift TTD's spirits.  Sara liked the excursion too.

By the time all the birth certificate paper work was done it was already 5:00pm. Everyone got in the car anticipating a long, smelly ride back to O-city. Thankfully Sara was running on empty by that point.  They checked into the hotel just before 8:00pm then went to a shopping mall. Everyone was thankful to be able to eat dinner at the mall. While at the mall TTD bought gifts for Sara and for those in A-village.

No one got to sleep until about midnight.

Day 37 - TTM & Patience adoption journey

After a very fitful night's sleep (there were some young 20-something's in the cabin near me who talked, loudly, all night) I was ready for the relative comfort and quiet of the apartment in N-city. It almost felt like home to climb the worn stairs and listen to the nearly endless jangle of keys as we struggled to open the three deadbolts. (TTD and I nicknamed the double doors to our apartment 'Fort Knox'.)

I got another three hours of sleep and then prepared for my first day of the paper chase. Today I was to sign the official court decree, file it at the office it needed to go to, change Patience's birth certificate at the vital record's office, and then go to the tax policy office to change her name on the tax number (which is like our SSN). In all honesty I don't remember much from this day. I was so sleep deprived and still fighting illness that the day was a long blur. Get out of the car, walk into yet another building, sign some papers (that the facilitator faithfully translated but I promptly forgot), wait forever in waiting rooms which reeked of salami or coffee, passing the time by knitting, sign more papers, rush out to the car to repeat the process three or four more times.

Like I said, it was a blur.

March 4, 2014

Beginning of Trip #2

Days 35 & 36

What can I say? We awoke very early (after only a couple hours of sleep), drove to airport #1, spent almost three hours on that flight and barely made our connection at airport #2. The second flight lasted almost four hours. Poor TTD was suffering badly from earache. The cabin was not pressurized well and he could feel every change acutely. It was hard to watch him suffer and not be able to help. He took three Advil which seemed to take enough of an edge off the pain and pressure that he didn't feel like his ears were instantly going to explode. I was so drugged up on antibiotics, Tamiflu, and Advil that I was a bit loopy. Another unfortunate side effect of the antibiotic was that it made me retain water, lots of it. By the end of all our flights my knees and ankles were twice their normal size. Sigh.

At airport #3 we had a nice long walk and then dinner at a Mediterranean restaurant in the international terminal while awaiting our transatlantic flight. The waiter, a very nice man who made good eye contact but was a little hassled by the sheer number of diners, got both of our orders wrong. We ate what was brought to us anyway because the substituted dishes were equally delicious.

The seven hour transatlantic flight was quite the ordeal. The cabin pressure was perfect so we didn't have to worry about our ears or sinuses, but the noise level of conversations around boomed. Surrounding our seats were at least 15 children between the ages of six and thirteen. They and their two nannies were of Eastern European origin. These children had been hosted in the US and were returning home in a rather emotional state. Some cried almost the whole trip, others talked very, very loudly, while the rest played video games on the screens imbedded in the seat back in front of them. I had one of the loud talking, physically emotional, video gamers behind me. My seat bounced and jounced almost constantly and it wasn't because of turbulence. It was very hard not to resent the children's emotional outbursts, whether happy or sad, until I remembered they had just experienced a life of 'belonging' to someone even if only for a short time (and many of these children had believed they were being adopted by their host families and that they were being sent back for not being good enough), and now were forced to return to their orphanages. A life of not belonging to anyone. This is just my opinion, but from what I saw and the words I heard and the explanations provided by the nannies, hosting seems to border on emotional manipulation. Just my opinion.

The 2 1/2 hour layover in airport #4 was barely enough time to make our connection. In this airport we had to back through customs, through security, walk a couple miles in an almost complete circle to get to our gate, board a bus which drove us four miles to our next gate, back through security again, and finally onto the plane. No time for sleep! And to make matters worse, we discovered that the airline had broken our brand new stroller. The stroller meant to transport Samuel from his orphanage to all the different places in country. And they refused to replace or reimburse us for it. (So a lesson for all you travelers - just because you gate check an item does not mean it will return to you in good condition. )

The flight from airport #4 to #5 took just over two hours. Then we hit the ground running, literally. Run to the bathroom (one never knows the next time a bathroom will be available), run to pick up the luggage, run to change money. One of our facilitators picked us up at the airport and drove us to her house in big K-city. We picked up her delightful 9yo daughter from school on the way. The facilitator fed us borscht (we LOVE borscht!) then she left me in charge of her daughter and off she and TTD motored to start his journey to pick up Sara and Samuel.

Day 36 - TTM & Patience adoption journey

The daughter and I read English and Russian books, I helped her with some math, and she finished her science. Her dad came home after an hour or so (he is also a facilitator, the one who translated for our court for Sara and Samuel). He brought the little girl's babushka (grandmother) to babysit while he drove me to the train station.

I was looking forward to being able to see the architecture of the train station this time, but no luck. We entered through the underground parking lot. (Oh, did you know that almost all parking garages have a car wash? There's your fun fact for the day.) We emerged from the underground tunnel right next to my train platform. My facilitator was a gentleman and took the rolling suitcase (carry on size) up the steep stairs of the train. I threw my toiletries bag and rice bag onto the floor of the train which was at about my eye level and climbed the steep ladder into the second class car. We navigated the narrow hallway and parked my belongings in my cabin. (Again, we'd bought all four second class tickets so I wouldn't have to share the berth with anyone else. Our facilitation team is so thoughtful! They really go above and beyond!)  The train ride was fairly comfortable. My berth was not sweltering hot nor freezing cold. And this time the nicotine smoke didn't start pouring in until just before arrival on N-city.

Day 36 - TTD & Samuel & Sara adoption journey

TTD and the facilitator drove about six hours from big N-city South to O-city. There they picked up another of our facilitators (one of the main facilitators who coordinates almost everything for all the Reece's Rainbow adoptive families). She had gone to A-village that morning to start the paperwork by registering Samuel's adoption with the regional DAP office. All three continued on toward K-village that night. TTD dozed off and on. He was exhausted from all the travels (with illness on top of everything else). They stopped at three hotels along the way trying to find one that was cheap enough but also had decent service. TTD fell into bed around 1:00am, exhausted. So exhausted that he couldn't sleep well. The flaming sore throat, constant coughing, and rising fever didn't help either.

March 3, 2014

End of Trip #1

Day 33

Our on-again-off-again snoozing (commonly called "sleeping" on an overnight train) ended with a bit of a scramble.  Both TTD and I had finally drifted into a deep sleep when the alarm jolted us off our couches.  Only 15 minutes to use the bathroom, comb hair, and get our belongings in a semblance of order.  Still a little sleepy, we bounced off the walls and rails as we attempted to exit the train.  My heavy bags nearly overpowered me and threw me off the steep steps of the car.

A different driver, young, hip, and ironic, drove us from the train station to our fellow adoptive friend's apartment.  The driver explained that because of the barricades, made by both police and protestors alike, we would have to find a creative way to get into and later out of the apartment.  We drove over medians, up a few sidewalks (it was a good thing that we were arriving so early: no pedestrians), and down some tiny alleyways before turning into the apartment courtyard.

Our adoptive friend was welcoming and cheerful.  We met his adorable new daughter and chatted just a bit with his soft spoken older child who had accompanied him to help out.  They had to leave for their visa interview, so our visiting time was very short.

The soft couches looked very inviting after the little sleep we'd had.  Since we didn't know exactly when the driver would be back to take us to the airport hotel we opted not to nap.  Instead I took a much needed shower and TTD watched fishing shows.  Yes, fishing shows!

Then we sat, and waited, and sat, and watched TV, and sat, and played cards, and sat.  About lunch time we decided to explore the neighborhood in search of a yummy restaurant.  McDonald's could be seen from the apartment window, but neither of us wanted yucky American fast food after all the wonderful and nutritious whole foods we had eaten while in country.  Just the other side of the apartment was our favorite buffet.

The foods are home cooked with an amazing array of choices.  TTD found it difficult not to overload his tray.  I stuck with soup (borscht!) and a couple of salad choices (carrot, apple, cranberry salad, and a pickled beet with cucumber salad).  The restaurant was extremely busy so we looked in all the different dinning rooms for an open table and chairs.  I was just beginning to think we would have to ask to share a table with complete strangers in typical European style when we found a tiny wooden table and bench open in the very back.

The decor was eclectic.  Large wooden beams supported the ceiling in some rooms while crisp white paint and clean minimalist walls and ceilings beckoned in others.  The tiny nook we sheltered in was stuccoed a medium brown.  An awning made of rushes and decoratively held up by wooden poles almost covered us from view.  Small plates with brightly colored folk paintings of grotesque animal/monsters or lovely flowers hung on the wall behind us.  We shared the nook with a very lovey-dovey young couple.  TTD and I tried not to laugh at their cuddling and whispering.  They must have known we didn't speak the language but they whispered anyway.  At least we had separate tables.

After lunch, we decided to just peak at the protest camps.  We had NO intention of actually entering the protest areas though!  Oh, no we didn't!

But we did.

Down a set of steps almost completely blocked by garbage bags full of snow and ice and out onto a promenade we walked as inconspicuously as possible.  It was quite calm.  Large army type tents were assembled neatly in front of the main political buildings.

A woman was singing a song from "Carmen" in a lovely soprano.  The speaker system she was hooked to did a decent job projecting her voice.  Men unloaded trucks full of supplies right near where we stood.  They looked uncomfortable with our glances so we decided to walk down the street a bit further to see the main barricades.

This barricade had been begun by the police weeks ago to keep the protestors in the square.  Protestors then began reinforcing the barricade to keep the police out.  It was a huge wall of tires, wooden palates, bags of snow and ice, barbed wire, and anything other sturdy object that came to hand.  The outside of the barricade (the side facing us) was draped with flags or covered in plywood that had messages spray painted on them.  Behind the main barricade we could see a tall tower covered in flags along with the slender white column mounted by what looked like a golden angel.

Folks were carefully snapping pictures of the barricade and tents.  Journalists conferred quietly with one another.  Soldiers and police (some plain clothes police) walked along the street watching with sharp eyes.  There was an air of tension underneath it all.

I took some videos with the iPad tucked under my arm while walking toward the barricade.  Because I saw a few other folks posing in front of and taking pictures of the long barricade, I took a few quick snaps too.  Both TTD and I remarked, at the same time, that this was history in the making and we wanted to make sure to capture it for our kiddos.  Even if nothing came of these protests, we wanted to have them documented.

By this point TTD and I decided that we didn't want to risk any undue attention so we quietly and solemnly walked back up the street to the borrowed apartment.

At around 6:00pm our driver returned with our adoptive friend and his kiddos.  We said good-bye to them knowing we would see them tomorrow as we were on the same initial flight.  The normally 45 minute drive out to the airport took around 2 hours because of the traffic and weather.

As we neared the hotel I began to panic.  We hadn't changed any more money and only had a few hundred grivna left.  I prayed it would be enough to pay our driver and the hotel bill too.  It was just shy of what was needed, but the driver kindly took dollars for his payment.

We spent the rest of the short evening eating the few items of food left in our possession and reading the hotel welcome brochure and laughing at the bad English translation.

Day 34

We awakened after only 2 hours of sleep, showered, packed, and walked to the airport.  We had not planned on walking.  The hotel boasts of a free shuttle service to the hotel, but when we inquired at the desk we were told it only started at 6am.  Our flight took off just before 6am so that wasn't going to work!

I had packed my boots in the luggage and planned to wear my (hard soled) slippers on the plane for comfort, so the walk to the airport was especially slippery and long.  Once in the airport my slippers, with their coating of dirt, made me skate over the tiles more than walk.

Our flight from airport #1 to #2 was uneventful.  In the terminal of airport #2 we enjoyed fellowship with our adoptive friends.  Their flight left just a bit before ours so we made our good-byes.  Hopefully we will get to meet them again some day soon!

The flight from airport #2 to #3 was long, but not as unbearable as the flight over to Europe.  I spent the time watching videos, listening to music, knitting, walking around as much as possible, and trying out my German.  The steward always spoke to me in German so I must have been doing a pretty good job.  TTD spent the time sleeping and walking around.

By the time we arrived at airport #3 we were exhausted!  This flight had been overbooked by 7 seats and the airline was asking for any folks who wouldn't mind giving up their tickets in exchange for a hotel and tickets for the first flight out in the morning.  No takers.  After an hour they upped the ante and threw in a $100 flight voucher.  Only one taker.  TTD looked at me and asked if it was worth it.  Because I can't sleep sitting up, because I had only slept about 5 hours in the previous 48, because I wanted to GET HOME, I said nope.  They kept upping the voucher amount over the next few hours.

Our layover was approximately 5 hours.  At the one hour before departure mark the airline was desperate for folks to give up their tickets.  I approached the counter and made them a deal, though they didn't think it a deal.  I said that we would give up our seats for a hotel plus $500 per ticket plus seats on the next day's flight.  The flight attendant was not too happy about my offer, but called her superior anyway.  The superior said "no".  I shrugged and walked away.  About 15 minutes later the flight attendant called me back up.  No one else was taking their current offer ($350 per ticket, hotel, seat on the next morning's flight).  She and another steward tried to guilt trip me into the current offer, but at that point I was so tired and wanted to get home so badly that nothing less than what I had offered would suffice.  I sat back down.

The flight began to board.  The flight attendant called me up again and said that they would give us $500 per ticket and get us on the next flights home (one seat was available on the 8:15 flight and one seat available on the 10:00 flight) but no hotel (obviously).  I took the deal.  $1,000 towards our next trip to pick the new kiddos up was good for me!

Once the current flight was full they found that they weren't overbooked after all.  Our seats were still available so we got on our flight as scheduled.  Easy come, easy go.  I just wanted to get home.

This flight only took about 35 minutes, then came the 70 minute drive home.  HOME!  My bed never felt so good.  The fact that we could brush our teeth in the tap water was wonderful.  A quiet house with no vehicular noise (just the random rooster crowing, cow lowing, and dog barking).


February 10, 2014

Patience's Adoption Day!

Day 32

Our day began much as the previous day had, with the exception of our awakening. Though we were tempted to worry about the necessary papers and signatures which needed to arrive by the overnight train, God gave us peace. There was nothing we could do to hurry the process. TTD and I had laid that burden at His feet. He graciously gave us a long and restful night's sleep.

Our facilitator called at around 10:00 to inform us that the paper had been signed. We were so excited! But in the next breath she added that it had not been signed early enough in the evening to be put on the night train. But she had a faxed copy of the paper and was hoping the judge would accept it as valid until the original showed up. I was not so sanguine. This country is known for its obsession with paperwork being completed perfectly. Any blemish, a signature of the wrong color, or notary stamp misplaced and the paperwork would be rejected. Too bad, so sad. Not having the actual paper with the original stamps and signatures was almost a death knell to our chances of finishing court before the end of the year.

Being the argumentative *ahem!*, I mean persuasive person I am, immediately my mind began to build a case that could be used to sway the judge's opinion. Something along the lines of appealing to her love as a mother, that approval had already been given via those signatures and just because they weren't in her hand didn't mean they didn't exist, and the fact that we'd already passed court for the other two children and to have to wait a whole month longer would strain the other orphanage and those two children and our children at home and our pocket books. Yeah, something along those lines.

Being equipped with my arguments I was ready to go.

The next two hours were a repeat of yesterday. Picked up Patience and the nanny/teacher, read billboards along the roadside as we drove to court, passed the soldier manning the broken metal detector, up the medieval stairs (careful not to step on the dog again), waited in the corridor until the judge summoned us, and then reiterated our names, etc for the opening of court.

Then came the tricky part. Our facilitator optimistically stated that the necessary paper had been signed but that it was still in K-city. We did have a faxed copy which proved that the DAP office in K-city agreed to our adoption so could we please proceed? The judge rolled her eyes dramatically, shrugged her shoulders, and heaved an exasperated sigh. She looked at the prosecutor, who indicated that he was fine with accepting the faxed copy. Yes! Court would continue.

This court differed almost completely from our previous experience with Sara and Samuel's court. Whereas that one had been formal with folks rising to their feet to answer questions and a regimented give and take of queries, this court was positively chatty. The judge would ask a question, the respondent would begin to stand up and start answering but then the judge would almost talk over the respondent. The social worker, nanny, our facilitator, us, we were all in one gigantic nonstop conversation for almost the whole court proceeding.

We were asked the usual questions about our families, income, reason for adopting from this country in particular, how we decided to choose Patience, our children's attitudes (we were asked to describe each and every one's attitude) towards this adoption, who was watching our kids back home, and specifics about our professions. The judge smirked with a knowing smile when I declared that I didn't work but stayed home. She obviously knew the amount of work that goes into being a housewife! Then we were asked a very unexpected question. The judge wanted to know about the process involved in international adoption. Both TTD and I blinked in surprise. She wanted to know the whole process?! Sure enough she wanted details about the homestudy process, what adoption related education we'd had and how we'd gotten it, finger printing and background checks, notarizing and apostilling, gathering dossier papers, the whole nine yards! Apparently we were her first international adoption case ever and she was curious.

Patience was called in and questioned. I kept a good hold on Patience because I didn't want her marching up to the judge to demand her name as she'd done with the prosecutor previously.  Patience's body was stiff, yet she pulled forward from my grasp as she answered the questions. She simultaneously was scared and excited to attend court. The judge very kindly asked Patience her name and birth date and then asked if she knew why she was here. Oh, yes! Patience knew that she wanted us (she mentioned us by our legal names) to be her parents and to take her to America. The judge smiled and dismissed Patience from the room.

The only exception to the aforementioned chatting came when the judge read our dossier. We all mentally groaned a bit and settled comfortably onto the bench for a long read. Thankfully the judge didn't read every single word of the dossier. Some papers she read out completely, some she just announced the title of the paper.

Two memorable pauses ensued during this reading. The first pause happened as she glanced over the information about our house and property sizes. In this country house/apartment sizes are tiny as are family sizes. The judge wanted to know how many square meters our house was and how many hectares of land we owned. She couldn't fathom the size of house needed for so many children. Our facilitator was equally surprised at our judge's curiosity, but she dutifully pulled out her cell phone and converted square feet to meters and acres to hectares. A good deal of conversation from everyone but the prosecutor followed. I have no clue what was said but apparently it was favorable because the judge continued the pronouncement of each dossier page.

The other pause happened about three quarters of the way through the dossier. Suddenly the judge stopped, looked up sharply, and asked a question. By this point we'd all slumped down on our bench in boredom so her question made us all sit up a little straighter and pay more attention. The social worker began flipping through her papers to find the answer to the question. The nanny was flummoxed as she helped flip through papers in search of use answer. Our facilitator consulted with those two ladies as to an answer. They all seemed quite tense and confused. Finally our facilitator asked me what some word meant. I had never even heard of that word before. She repeated it a couple more times but I was just as confused as everyone else. Then the facilitator told me it was a diagnosis on my medical form. Oh! That was easy! "Hypothyroidism" was the word that had stumped everyone. The judge wanted to know what the manifestation and prognosis of the disease was. Confused and a little embarrassed I blushed. My mind scramble for an explanation.

"Well, there's this little gland at the base of the neck that produces..." I began, but the judge wanted to know how it affected me. I simply patted my ample hips and said, "This." The judge chuckled, patted her hips, and said she must have thyroid issues also. All the ladies in the room, except our petite facilitator, asserted that they must have thyroid issues leading to weight gain too. We all chuckled a bit and the atmosphere lightened. I further explained that hypothyroidism caused weight gain, slow heart rate and metabolism, temperature regulation issues, and other minor issues. Nothing serious but medication was taken daily to replace the thyroid hormone which the body wasn't producing. Satisfied, the judge finished reading the dossier.

Recommendations in favor of the adoption were given by each person in the court. TTD and I stood to formally ask the judge to grant us the adoption and to change Patience's name. The judge then left the chambers to make her decision. We waited at least 20 minutes for the judge to return. She walked briskly into the room, read her affirmation, and then handed our facilitator the papers stating the positive decision. Woohoo! We were Patience's Mom and Dad!

After nearly four hours in the court building we were done! Patience needed to be returned to her orphanage and there would be no visiting with her. We had to motor back to the apartment, pack our stuff, go buy tickets for the night train to K-city, and leave.

By 8:00pm we were again puffing the cold night air as we fast-walked down the platform at the train station. The plan was to take the night train to K-city then stay the next night in a hotel near the airport because our flight left at 5:55am on the 27th. The only problem was that our train didn't arrive in K-city until 6:00am but we couldn't check into the hotel until after noon. Our facilitator asked me what I wanted to do. Quickly I thought of another adoptive family who was still in K-city. They had shared an apartment with us when we'd first arrived 5 weeks ago. We were pretty sure that this family wouldn't mind us crashing at their apartment for the day until we could check into our hotel. I quickly turned on my mobile wireless and messaged the wife, who was in the US, to ask her to relay our intentions to her husband in K-city (I didn't have the husband's in-country phone number). All this happened in the space of 10 minutes while we were standing on the platform.

We hugged our wonderful facilitator and climbed the steep stairs to our first class berth on the train. This cubicle was no bigger than second class but it only had two benches which were used to sleep on at night. The sleeping mats, which were unrolled onto the benches, were a lot thicker and more plush than the ones in second class. The bathroom in first class was cleaner, with just a faint whiff of urine. The toilet was even a 'step up' from second class's in that its seat was very broad with two footprints on the lid. One had a choice to either sit or squatty on this potty. Ah, the perks of first class!

Just before TTD and I tucked ourselves into our bunks, I turned on the wireless box and checked my messages.  The adoptive family in K-city had messaged and said it was fine for us to stay with them for the day.  Good!  Everything decent and in order.  We tucked into our bunks and fell asleep early.

February 7, 2014

Adoption Day...?

Day 31

Woke up waaaay too early, but I was so excited to have court today that it didn't matter.

We were ready for the day by 8:00am. Unlike the preparation for Samuel's and Sara's court date, this day's preparations went just fine. My hair behaved itself, breakfast was a leisurely affair, nothing broke or was burnt.

Court was to be at 11:00am. By 9:30 I worried that something had gone wrong. Our facilitator hadn't called us yet. So...I called our facilitator. She answered her phone breathlessly, yet with a weepy sound in her voice. Not a good sign. I asked if anything was wrong.

"Yes, because we got such an early court date, the DAP department still hasn't sent its signed and notarized approval."

Apparently, two men in K-city needed to sign the approval for our adoption and while one signature was done, the other man was going on vacation the next day. We needed those signatures (and to have them notarized) before court proceedings could occur. But our intrepid facilitator didn't take "no signatures or paper in hand, no court" for an answer. She had hustled back from vacation with her family to petition the judge, and anyone else who would listen, to let court go on as previously scheduled but to finalize it when the paper arrived. Our facilitator told me to call out the prayer warriors because the only way we would have court before the end of the year was if God intervened.

OK, so it was the middle of the night in America. Who to call for prayer support? Right then a friend of mine who lives in Europe commented on something on Facebook, bringing her name to my attention. I messaged this sweet friend and she immediately sprung into action, calling on her friends to pray...on Christmas Eve!

Our facilitator called us back and said to be ready to leave at 12:30 because the judge had agreed to listen to our plea at 1:30. The facilitator was in awe that the judge had even agreed to that much!

At 12:30 sharp we headed downstairs to the car. We stopped at the orphanage to pick up Patience and a nanny/teacher. Both were to testify. As we waited in the parking lot for Patience and the nanny/teacher our driver got out to pace up and down. TTD did the same. I stayed safely ensconced in the warm car. It was dreadfully foggy and moist outside and I didn't want to look like a bedraggled cat when I walked into court this time!

We waited at least 20 minutes for the nanny/teacher and Patience to come out during which time our driver called the facilitator no less than three times.

It took Patience a whole minute to decide to actually walk from the doorway out to the waiting car. She hadn't seen us yet. I could only imagine the thoughts running through her head. She had been abruptly taken from her classroom, dressed in a nicer than everyday outfit, had her hair brushed till it shown and then pulled back into two tight pony tails with bouffant white bows placed above each pony tail. This was how children were treated when they were transferred. Patience's heart must have been beating rapidly at the thought of possibly being transferred again.

Once she caught sight of TTD she threw herself down the orphanage stairs straight into his arms. Then she saw me in the car, her face brightened even further, and she absolutely yelled, "Americo!!!"

My heart broke. She thought that today she would be leaving with us to go to America. Poor sweet dolly!! As she squeezed into the back seat between TTD and I, all the while chattering happily about Americo, I told her that today was just the court day and not Americo (which the nanny/teacher echoed, but in a language Patience understood) and Patience absolutely melted. Her happy body language deflated into a puddle of woe. Poor, poor sweet dolly!

The drive down to the court house lasted about 15-20 more minutes. Patience became more excited the longer we drove. Her eyes began to shine as she viewed the advertisements and billboards on the buildings lining the streets. I don't think she'd ever seen anything like it before (that she could remember). Her hand stayed on my arm, pulling and poking, every time she recognized a word. I decided to get in on the game, to take her mind off not going to America, and tried to sound out words. Patience got a real kick out of my attempts! She urged Papa to try, but TTD declined with a laugh. During the whole trip, whenever she wasn't talking, Patience made odd clicking noises in the back of her throat as if she was sucking on the back of her tongue. She was clearly nervous.

Finally, we pulled into a weedy parking lot. A bus was stopped in front of the parking lot entrance so we just bumped over a curb and some gravel to get into a parking spot. The building was three stories tall, made of ubiquitous gray concrete, with small windows recessed into the sides. No sign, that I could see, announced this to be the court building. We entered through a small door in the side of the building, walked passed a soldier manning the nonfunctioning metal detector, and up 6 flights of stairs. The stairwell was magnificent! Alternating vertical strips of bluish-green marble and warm brown resin(?) imbedded with small mollusk shells. The steps were worn concrete imbedded with shells too. The banister was carved into gently swirling patterns, worn to a satiny patina by many hands over the years. It was positively Medieval.

Emerging into a narrow hallway of rose and white marble tiles with small squares of faux quadrafoils and a herringbone wood floor bumped me back to Earth again. So much for the mystery and beauty of that unusual stairwell.

Patience, inquisitive child that she was, wanted to know everyone's identity. Our facilitator introduced her to the regional social worker, a lady with blonde hair, carefully coiffed, and a stylish dress.  A youngish man with curly dark hair, kind eyes, dressed in a military-like suit (Navy?) complete with four stars on each shoulder stood quietly at the end of the hall. Before anyone could stop her, Patience walked right up to him and asked his name and why he was there. He gave his name with a boyish grin and our facilitator laughed and told Patience that the man was the prosecutor and that we weren't to talk to him before court. We all chuckled and then settled in to wait on the judge. We waited. And waited. And waited. Every time someone walked out of the judge's chambers all of us would tense, stop talking, and watch to see if it was our turn.

We waited almost two hours. I kept Patience busy by telling her the colors and shapes around the hall. We traced the quadrafoils and fancy cornices. Played "I spy". (I dare you to play that game with someone who doesn't speak your language!) Near the end of the wait we simply sat. Patience began to pick at the scabs on her fingers and suck on the back of her tongue making clicking noises again. Before I could distract her, she realized what she was doing and thrust her hand at me and mimed the deep pressure massage I had used on her before. This was HUGE!! Not only did she recognize that she was nervous and beginning to stim, she knew that I could be trusted to help alleviate that stress, AND she knew just what would help her. HUGE!!

So I massaged her hands. Her whole body relaxed and the tongue sucking/clicking stopped.

Then the secretary called us into the judge's presence.

We walked into a room about 15' x 12'. I was expecting a court room but this was simply the judge's office. Her desk was situated along the far wall with book shelves and tables groaning under the weight of numerous notebooks assumedly containing court cases. Two small desks stood perpendicular to the judge's desk. One held a computer. The court secretary sat behind this desk. The other was for the prosecutor. The rest of us, the teacher/nanny, regional social worker, facilitator, TTD, and I walked to the wall opposite the judge and sat on a long bench set along the opposite wall. Patience and our driver stayed out in the hallway until needed.

Court started in an identical manner as Sara & Samuel's court. Names, birthdates, birth cities, position in court for everyone present. The judge read the rules of court and asked if everyone agreed to them. Finally I was called upon to make a plea to start court proceedings even though one paper was lacking. Honestly? I didn't know exactly what I was supposed to say. If I'd understood better what was at stake and what I was pleading for I would have had a much more eloquent plea. Instead it was a simply stated plea.

As I was speaking the judge's face darkened and her brows knit together in consternation. She shook her head as if to say, "The audacity of this petitioner, thinking that I would go against protocol!" Our regional social worker stood, without being acknowledged or given permission, and pled our case. The nanny/teacher even stood and pled for us. Our judge asked the prosecutor what he thought. To his credit he upheld protocol and stated that court couldn't proceed until the letter was in hand. His face showed he was sad to have to stop court proceedings but he knew his job. The judge very diplomatically (and mercifully) stated that she would give us one more day to get the signed paper to her. If it appeared tomorrow then court could proceed at 1:30 on Christmas Day. If no paper in hand, then court was scheduled for Jan 10th.

Back down the Medieval staircase, avoiding stepping on a sleeping dog right in the middle of our path, and back out to the car. TTD and I decided to have an early visit with Patience since we were already in her area. It was uneventful and rather boring, truth be told, because we hadn't packed anything fun to play with. Not so much as a paper or pen. But a visit with Patience, and no games, was still a chance to love on her.

Our day ended with prayers for that signature to be done and the paper safely on the overnight train.

February 6, 2014

Almost There!

Day 30

The highlight of our visit with Patience was getting to FaceTime with some boys who had been adopted out of her internat. Seeing their pictures had helped Patience know that they were safe, but talking to them live really made her happy!

When she first saw the boys she nearly yelled her head off trying to talk to them. (When Patience is excited her volume grows exponentially!). Fearing that the nannies would catch us we showed Patience how to talk happily but not yell. We were only partially successful.

Patience talked a mile a minute at the boys. She kind of babied one of them, using her cute and cuddly voice that I've only heard her use when she sees kitties or babies. I don't know how much of the conversation the boys understood, but they seemed to like seeing and talking to Patience. At one point they became very excited about something she said. I'm not sure, but I think she was telling them that we would come visit. (Uh, sweetie, it'll be a while before we can travel all the way down there for a visit!)

During the conversation I noticed Patience rubbing and picking on her fingers. I could tell that the conversation, while exciting, was bringing up some memories for her. Unpleasant memories. She was stimming by rubbing and picking the skin on her fingers. I gently grabbed one hand and started deep pressure massage on her palms then worked out to her finger tips. With a nod I silently asked TTD to do the same on her other hand. She definitely calmed down after the deep pressure input.

This evening was the first time Patience happily told us paka and skipped a way, presumably to tell her friends about the conversation she'd just had. I was so glad to see that happy light in her eyes!

And, tomorrow was the big day...adoption day!!