Thursday, November 8, 2012

Day 7 -- Coming Home

***I'm a little late with this. Pictures to follow soon.

Today has been a day of travel. I didn't even bother going to bed last night.  I was busy packing and charging electronics -- remember I had to charge them one at a time since I only had one adapter.  I went ahead and got my hair washed about midnight so it could be drying, and I sat down on the couch about 1:00am with my timer to get an hour of sleep.  At 2:00 I got up, changed clothes, and began getting ready for the day.   We got the kids up at 3:00 and were packed and waiting by 4:00.   Stefan picked us up at 4:30 and took us to the airport.  With everything we had to do there (and with 2 kiddos who didn't know what to do, and we couldn't easily tell them), we made it to our gate just in time to get in line for boarding. 

We were very concerned about Vanessa's motion sickness. In fact, we had to stop once on the way to the airport to let her change seats and crack a window.  We had brought some Dramamine with us, so we gave her one just before we boarded the plane as it was still at least a half hour to take-off.  That pill plus the wee morning hour, and she was asleep before we left the ground.  She woke up once and wanted to eat the sandwich they had brought us.  I was nervous to let her, but figured she couldn't avoid eating for the entire 19-hour trip.  She ate about half and lay back down in my lap and went right back to sleep.  I woke her up when we landed.  Milcho thought the plane ride was awesome.  

Next we had a 4-hour layover in Munich.  It was a little bit long, but I'm sure the extra time NOT on a plane helped the next plane ride not feel quite so long.   They watched a little Phineas and Ferb on the iPad because I found an outlet to use.  They colored and watched the planes coming and going.  Vanessa even involved Tim in a photo shoot with her stuffed animals and an old camera she had.  She took pictures of him with the animals and had him take pictures of her with the animals.  I believe they even took some shots of just the animals posed just right.

The second flight was the long flight, and it was just that -- LONG!  The kids actually did remarkably well.  There must have been a lot of you praying!  They seemed pretty content with the in-flight movies even though they were in English.  They slept some, colored some, and anxiously awaited the drinks and food that would be brought around (SO my kids!). Vanessa's pill wore off a little way into this flight, and she seemed to be doing so well that I never followed up with another.  The landing, however, made her queasy.  So we decided to give her half a pill before the final flight.  

Our layover in Charlotte was a fairly short one, but the good Lord had our flight actually arrive early, and we needed it.  In my fatigue, I gave the first security person the wrong stack of papers.  See, I had two sets.  One was a set of sealed papers only to be opened by immigration.  The other was our set of originals.  It had been stressed to us that the sealed packet must remain sealed or they would not be accepted.  So, in Munich I showed my originals with our passports in order to get through security.  When we got to Charlotte and the first security person, I did the same.  I did not know that he would keep them  and our passports and send them to the immigration people.  I may have also been thinking that I was not yet at my final destination -- I wasn't home yet.  We were sent on to claim our luggage (which we would have to recheck) and then sent to a small room to wait for our passports to be returned to us.  At one point, Vanessa had to go to the bathroom.  When I returned, Tim was outside the room by our luggage, and I thought we were done.  No, he had only come out to get the sealed packets.  He said that someone had showed up, said we had not given them the right papers, and got the sealed packets from him.  We sat back down and waited some more.  Finally, we were called and given our passports.  I asked the man if we didn't need some of the papers back.  He said no.  I said that we were told we needed to keep our originals.  He assured me that they do this all the's okay.  Reluctantly, we got our things and left.  That guy did not know that we had given two sets of papers.  He was just returning our passports as he did many times with others.  Now, we are trying to get new originals of their birth certificates and the adoption decree sent to us from Bulgaria.  Yay.  Finally, we were able to make it to our gate and call our parents that we were back on US soil.

The last flight was uneventful except that Vanessa was sleepy again but now also truly tired and therefore cranky.  Milcho also fell asleep.  We arrived in Nashville to a small but eager welcome party.  Thank you Jennifer Sade for meeting us, and thank you Jennifer, Brad, Karsten, and Kylie Evans for bringing Colton and Eli to meet us.   We chatted awhile, claimed our bags, and headed for Memaw's and pizza.  I was glad not to have to go straight home to fix supper, but it did make us get home really late.  Then we couldn't go straight to bed because there was so much new to take in.  We finally and gratefully crashed.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Day 6 -- Extra Day

Today was our "extra" day.  We could have flown out today, but we were picky about our flight home.  See, last time we came and went across the ocean on a plane that had 4 seats together in the middle section.  For a 10+ hour trip, we felt it was important to sit all together with the kids sandwiched between us.  So we took a later flight that leaves in the wee hours of Sunday morning here.  So here we sit for one more day longing for home.

The morning just sort of dragged by.  Our highlight was getting to meet Hristiana for lunch and a visit.  Backstory...  When we left Sofia last time, Tim and I had seats that were not together. I had a window seat with and older couple from Germany.  They spoke no English and spent a big part of the flight trying to figure out how to adjust the air vents for their seats.  Tim also had a window seat on the other side of the aisle and maybe 8 or 10 rows back.  He was next to a young lady who was a law student from Bulgaria and who spoke English.  (I've teased him often for this.)  Truth be known, it's better that Tim sat by her than I did.  He is much more likely to strike up conversation with a stranger than I am.  His conversation skills resulted in a very important friendship for us.  He told her all about our adoption.  They exchanged names, she said she was on Facebook, and he wisely offered that his wife would send her a friend request.  (That's my guy!)  I connected with her, and she graciously offered to help us with translations.  We sent her three different letters to clean up before sending them to our kids.  I also sent her a list of phrases I wanted to learn before traveling, and those have been so handy!

Now, back to present... She was out of school this week but studying for exams.  Yet she took the time to travel at least an hour (I may be underestimating) by train to Sofia to meet us for lunch.  Finally, I got to talk to her in person for myself.  She is so sweet!  We had lunch and went for a walk-and-talk.  Finally, though, she needed to get back to her studies and her train for home, and I needed to start our packing.  I hope someday she can make it to America and visit with us there.

The afternoon was mostly packing, a little shopping, and supper.  We did have another really rough period this evening.  This time with Milcho.  I don't think that they think we have the right to correct them.  It has been a tough week -- emotionally draining.  But I believe in the kids and who they will become, and I believe God still has much to teach us through the process.  He didn't bring us this far to set us adrift on our own.  In His power and to His glory, we will weather this storm -- it's not a big one to Him.  

Friday, November 2, 2012

Day 5 - Waiting for Documents

We actually slept late today.  At least that killed a little time this morning. We got our third silent treatment from Milcho. Again it was over the use of the phone.  I can't wait to get home where this will simply not be an option anymore. Another time, they actually got into a spat with each other.  I'm not 100% sure what happened, but it looked like she changed the tv channel he was watching.  He yelled at her; she threw a brush across the room -- hard.   I told her she had 5 minutes to sit with me on the couch. So they each had their moments.  

Deliana took us for a ride on the new subway system.  It was so pretty.  when we came in May, there was a huge construction zone because they were building it. Now, it has been open only about 2 months.  The details (like all the shops that are going to be down there) are not finished yet.  And I just realized I forgot to take any pictures down there. How dumb is that!!!  Grr!  Anyway, the ride only lasted about 3 minutes and was really cool, but it made Vanessa a bit nauseous.  We took the subway to the mall and ate lunch there at KFC. Deliana had left us at the mall, and we did not feel brave enough to take the subway back alone.  We had no way to tell where we were going.  So, we just walked back.  (I figured out on Google maps today that the mall is 1.1 miles from our apartment.  Doesn't seem like it.  City miles really are shorter than country miles.)

More hanging out in the apartment before Deliana came to bring us all of our documents and collect our final payment.   We revisited our pizza place and the ice cream place for supper.

Once home the evening took a rough turn right before bed.  Not so much a problem directly with the kids, just a culmination of issues that will go away just as soon as we get home.  I've generally enjoyed my time in Bulgaria, and it's a beautiful place.  But I feel the need to get the kids back on my turf.  They feel a little to detached from us here because of the language barrier between us and them and the language familiarity between them and everyone else.  They are leaning heavily on all the people who lovingly gave them their phone numbers, and they even keep calling poor Deliana about every little thing.  When we get home, they will be so out of their comfort zone, I believe they will have to learn to depend solely on us.  And that's what they need to do for a while...just like Colton and Eli depended entirely on us when they were infants.  

Then after the kids were asleep and as if I weren't stressed enough, I pulled out our return itineraries to type up a simplified version, and I almost flew into a triple panic.  Tim and I have one itinerary because ours is round-trip.  The kids have a different itinerary because theirs is a one-way trip.  I looked over the printouts several times and saw that while our flight was leaving Sunday morning, theirs was leaving Saturday morning, just a few hours away. (This was discovered about 9 or 10 PM Friday night.)  The only shred of calm I held on to was that the information on each was identical except for the dates.  I checked the airline's app on my phone only to find all of the flight numbers did in fact have identical departure times on Saturday and Sunday.  Yikes!!  I emailed our travel agent to check it out.  We waited a few minutes and finally decided to just take the international roaming charges and at least call him to tell him to check his email ASAP.  

He felt everything was fine, but said he would check it out and email us.  An exceptionally slow few minutes later, we got an email with an updated itinerary. We travel together!  No need to stick the kids on a 19 hour trip through 2 countries and 3 airports alone.  Thank you, Lord!  

A potential warning to future 2-trip adoption travelers:  the second trip may seem twice as long as the first.

Have I mentioned how badly I want to go home?  

Just 2 more sleeps, 2 more breakfasts, 1 lunch, and 1 supper. 

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Day 4 -- US Embassy

This has been a very slow day.  We just hung out in the apartment most of the morning. Just before we headed out for lunch, we discovered we had no running water.  We headed out and ended up at Subway -- where they had no electricity.   We got sandwiches and ate by what light was coming through the windows.

Back at the apartment, we started getting ready for our appointment at the US embassy.  We had been told that we needed to dress nicely for this.  Not so much.  No one else was dressed special, not even the other family with us or our escort from the Bulgarian agency. We had also heard today's appointment referred to as our embassy interview.  Not really. We signed one paper per child and received a packet of papers with instructions to keep them with us at all times on the way home. The only questions we were asked were...
*How are things going with the kids?
*Have you been asked to pay any unusual fees?
*Has anyone told you what you need to do on the way home?"

The hardest part was getting in the building. It was like airport security only more so.  Tim and I went through first and were ushered out the door at the back of the room.  This led to outside where we stood waiting for the other family and for our escort to show us where to go.  The guards inside motioned for us to go on. Really?  We're just supposed to wander around the grounds of the embassy?  Granted the walkway led eventually to the actual embassy building, but we didn't know that.  I told Tim it would be really nice if the US embassy actually had Americans in the security office that greets you. Not very inviting.  

We came back to the apartment and hung out for a couple of hours before heading out for dinner.   We went to a new place that was recommended to us. They serve a variety of food, and they have English menus!!  The waiter came to take our order, and Milcho spoke up first.  We asked the waiter what he had said.  The waiter said, "He said he wants to go to McDonald's." Ouch!  Maybe that's the reason for what happened next. Since we couldn't ask the kids what they wanted, and at least Vanessa couldn't read the menu, I asked the waiter what he recommended that kids usually liked. He made a recommendation. Turns out it was one of the most expensive items on the menu, and the kids hated it.   He also stiffed us for the one type of juice that was at least 3 times the cost of the others.    We took the kids from there to a place that was not a sit-down place but not McDonald's. Milcho looked and talked to the guy working and then led us out.  We went with the last resort.  We went ahead and took them for ice cream as we had planned and then gave them an assortment of sandwich, cereal, and snacks back home.

More play time, baths, Skype, TV, and finally bed time.  We are basically done now.  We have no more appointments to make.  Tomorrow we just wait around for all of our papers and the kids' passports to be delivered.  It is hard to fill the day away from home, especially in a totally foreign environment and with two very active kids with whom we can't communicate.  Should make for an interesting day. 

Aching for my Colton and Eli...and my bed...and my own shower.  I feel like I've not slept or bathed in about a week!