Wednesday 29 February 2012

Trip One, Day Five

Today was our second visit with Katie.  She was just as fabulous today.  There are a couple of things about our visits that are very encouraging to me, and may seem strange to some people.  The first thing is that she doesn't just come right over to us.  She's very cautious at first, peeking at us, holding back, coming closer slowly - all excellent signs that she is able to distinguish between someone she knows and a stranger.  She obviously remembered us, as she smiled a big smile when she saw us, but she was very cautious.  With adopted children, it is important for attachment that the child doesn't just go willingly to every person who holds out their arms.  She needs to learn to trust us, and not to trust everyone she meets.  Her reticence in coming to us shows me that she is able to form attachments, which is such a good sign.

Another thing that I am so happy about is her eye contact - she makes and holds great eye contact.  She smiles and laughs when it's appropriate, which makes me think she does so on a regular basis.  Someone is making her laugh.  She is a happy girl.  When they ask her if she's ready to go back to her group, she says no and looks at us.  She's so smart.  She doesn't talk at all, except yes and no, but understands everything.  She nods her head appropriately, responds to commands appropriately, et cetera.  She is EXACTLY like David was with his language.  I think she will pick up on sign language very, very quickly.  Also, having her adenoids removed should make a huge difference in her speech.  Her tongue is out a lot to help her breathe, which makes speech development very tough.  It's hard to talk with your tongue hanging out of your mouth.  They asked us if we'd like to have her adenoids removed here or wait until we're home.  Um, wait until we're home, thank you very much.

Her orphanage is over 60 miles from the city, and it takes at least 2 hours to get there.  The traffic here is unreal.  As a result, we haven't had any opportunity to do any sightseeing at all - just drive-bys in the car!

This is a series of smokestacks we pass daily.
We've been assured it's not a nuclear power plant.

I still wouldn't want to live in the apartments right next door.

We were in a different room today for our visit - the sensory room.  It's a FANTASTIC play area!  We were told that the children don't spend "a lot" of time in here, but get one on one and group therapy in this room.  She obviously loved it.  She's a huge fan of the slide and the ball pit.  She and David will get along just fine.

She's chatting on the princess phone, running down a sensory mat.

She spent more time with Chris today.  It seems the only man at the orphanage is the director, who I assume does not have much day to day interaction with the children.  The caregivers are women, so warming up to Chris has taken a bit longer.  

As you can see, not much longer.  :)

She was cooking some food for him, and pouring him a drink.  She plays very, very well.  And she also cleaned up and put everything back exactly where she found it.  She's so smart!

And this child loves a mirror!

It is uncanny to me how much like Jack she is.  He is just going to LOVE her.

We were told today that there has never been an adoption from her orphanage.  Ever.  Not only that, there has never been a VISIT there.  They didn't know where to put us because nobody has ever come to visit!  That certainly explains why we were such a spectacle.  And the translator told Chris his shirt today was "exotic"!  We cracked up!  I don't know if it was the short sleeves or the plaid. . . 

It makes me so sad, but the people there want to change that.  They asked us to photograph some other children they want to find homes for, which we are more than happy to do.  It is such a good facility - clean, great grounds, a staff that obviously cares very much for the children, and they have lots of opportunities there.  But it's not a family.  A group of little boys, probably David and Henry's age, was walking to lunch today when we were leaving.  They were holding hands two by two, and the whole group of them waved to me and called out "Mama!" over and over.  It broke my heart.  They have told us over and over how well Katie will do in a family.  They have all looked at our photo album we brought for her and said how nice our house is, how fun our family looks, and how lucky she will be.  I think we're the lucky ones!  Tomorrow is our last visit, which makes me sad, but is SO much easier because of where she is.  We have lots more photos on the other camera, but the battery died! 

Tuesday 28 February 2012

Trip One, Day Four - We Met Her!!

Today was the most amazing day.  After nine months of filling out papers and waiting, traveling over 5,000 miles, and lots of anticipation, we met our sweet girl.  She is incredible.  She is more than we ever dared to allow ourselves to dream she would be.  She is smart, sassy, funny, silly, loud, opinionated, and beautiful.

First we went to the government agency that handles adoptions.  We sat in this hallway, after riding up literally what I think is the world's smallest elevator.  Like, three people barely fit.  We were all touching each other.  After waiting in this hallway, they called us in and read us the information they had about Katie - including the ages of her parents when she was born, where she was born, when she was given up for adoption, and her medical diagnoses.  We signed a paper saying that we wanted permission to visit her, and we were off.

Her orphanage is about two hours outside of the city.  It takes so long partially because of the ridiculous traffic in this city - it takes forever to get anywhere!

It was pretty incredible to see how drastically the scenery changed as we drove further and further out of the city.

There are so, so many apartment buildings, and it was strange to see some small houses on the way.

As we got further from the city, things were definitely more run down.
That started to make me nervous.

We had our driver, our facilitator, our translator, and us in the van.  

When we pulled up at the gate and were allowed in, the first thing I noticed was how big the facility is. The second thing I noticed was the great outdoor space they have, and lots of play structures.
The next thing I noticed?  Lots of older boys in an upstairs window with their faces pressed against the glass looking out at us.  That was sad for me.

We parked the van and walked to the peach building in the distance - this is Katie's building.

We waited in the lobby area for a few minutes while our facilitator told them who we were there to see.  There are lots of drawings and artwork done by the children hanging on the walls, as well as lots of medals for athletic competitions.  They facility has a crew team that travels the world competing in races.  Right now some of them are in Italy competing.  They have a swimming pool at the orphanage, and they do aquatic therapy with the children.  They also start the kids at 5 years old doing horseback riding therapy.  I was shocked.  This orphanage far surpassed any hope of where she would be.  We found out that Katie receives speech therapy twice per week, once individually and once in a group.  She also gets what they've called "sensory therapy", but sounds a LOT like David's OT.  

They brought us into a t.i.n.y. room for "visiting".  I am here to tell you, there are never any children in that room.  It is about ten feet by fifteen feet with no toys and no space for children to sit.  It had a few books, two chairs, some plants, and a small table.  We sat in the chairs and waited.  I expected to wait a while, but it was probably three minutes.  And in walked this little girl in a purple dress, white tights, red shoes, and the biggest hair bow I've ever seen.

She was cautious, but not afraid.  This was our first picture - and you can see some definite hesitation when you compare this photo to a later one. . . 

She is absolutely amazing.

Many of the photos are blurry . . . because she was so active and constantly moving.

They said she is "very energetic".  Um, she'll fit right in.

She LOVED this little egg spinner we brought.

And this headband!  And her hair is not bad - I hope they don't cut it much before she comes home. 

She's very, very expressive.

She doesn't speak, but she has NO trouble making herself clear.  She is so like David was in this regard.  Lots of pointing, head shaking, yes and no, and yelling if you don't get it.

And sister likes to accessorize!
That enormous bow was courtesy of the orphanage - it symbolizes that she is an orphanage favorite and is well loved.  Which was obvious by everyone we met.  She is clearly being very well taken care of, and for that we are so thankful.

She loved to draw in the notebook I brought, and when she couldn't reach it she had no qualms about pushing the chair over and helping herself.  She's quite the independent little miss.

She loved to look at herself in the mirror, and she was laughing hysterically.

We go back tomorrow, and I cannot wait to see her!

Monday 27 February 2012

Trip One, Days Two and Three

Y'all, we got off to a rough start.  I'm not going to lie.  Things have not gone at all the way we had planned for them to.  We spent the night in the hotel in Washington D.C., and our plane didn't leave D.C. until 5:20 on Sunday.  At 5:20 Eastern time on Sunday, it was 3:20 a.m. in Katie's country, and we were *supposed* to be sleeping in our apartment on the first day we would see our girl.  That didn't happen.

We went to the National Air and Space Museum Sunday before we left for the airport.  I had never been there before, and it was great.  We will definitely be going back there with the boys some day.  They would love it.  After we were done there, we just had our hotel shuttle take us to the airport.  We had already checked out of our room, and I wanted to make sure we had plenty of time to get checked in, given the disaster(s) the day before.

I may or may not have felt like we were headed for disaster again when this man was checking us in. . . The woman who "rebooked" us the night before had put us on the plane but not issued tickets.  So we had a boarding pass, and a seat, but no ticket.  What the hell?  I have no idea.  I clearly don't understand how that works.  So instead of it being a five minute process to check in, it took us about 45 minutes.  But we were all checked in, and he assured me that our bags were checked to our final destination and would arrive there.  I didn't believe him.  At. All.

We had plenty of time at that point, so we went on our way to our gate, via the subway.  I love that there's a subway in the airport - that seems genius to me.

There was lots of funny browsing and people watching to be had.  Who knew that being a Republican was the right way to fresh breath?

FINALLY we got on the plane to Germany.  I never thought I would be so happy to leave the United States.  Our plane ride was about seven and a half hours long, "overnight", and arrived in Germany at 7:20 a.m.  (or about 12:20 a.m. at home).  I didn't sleep at. all.  I did, however, watch The Descendants,  the new Twilight movie, CSI Miami, Californication, The Middle, read, and chat with Chris.  

We finally arrived in Germany!

The airport in Germany is very clean!  We got something to eat.  I had a panini with some great cheese, spinach, and some prosciutto and Chris had a chorizo sausage baguette - it was delicious!  And I was so relieved to find that they had "Coke Light", which is Diet Coke.  Hallelujah!  We had a four hour layover in Germany, which ended up being five hours.  There was a ground crew strike in Frankfurt, which slowed the process of having people's bags removed from the planes, etc. so every flight was late departing.  At that point, I was completely EXHAUSTED.  But Chris went to sleep, as you can see, so I didn't.  I certainly didn't want to miss some announcement about a gate change, delay, or something similar.  I was literally asleep on our plane before we pulled away from the gate.  I slept nearly the entire flight.  I remember getting a meal, but I didn't eat it.  I didn't have a drink or move from my seat at all during the three hour flight.  

These were our first views of Katie's country - it looked cold and barren!  We landed and Chris changed out of his shorts.  This does not surprise anyone who knows him in real life. . . I was positive that our bags wouldn't be there.  And we were about an hour and a half late landing, so once we got through customs, etc. we were about two and a half hours late.  I was pretty sure our driver may not be there either.  Thankfully - my first pleasant surprise on this trip - both were waiting exactly where they should be.  Our luggage arrived without incident, which is a miracle in itself.  And our driver was waiting, in the sea of people who were waiting for passengers, with a neat little sign with our name on it.  

We drove through the city, and I assure you I'm glad I don't drive here.  There don't seem to be many real speed limits or rules. . . and crosswalks would change their lives.  I'm just saying . . . It was dark already, so we couldn't see much, and I'm very curious to see it during the day.  Our driver took us to exchange some money and then to a small grocery where we got some things like yogurt, bread, milk, cereal, cheese, water, and some "coke light".  Our driver also owns the apartment we're staying in, so he brought us here and showed us around.  It's so tiny, and I cannot imagine actually living here, but very comfortable and exactly what we need for our time here.

Right now it is very early Tuesday morning here, and we have Skyped with the boys.  They were so surprised that it was already morning, because they had just eaten their dinner.  I miss them so much!  This is literally the first time since we got married that Chris and I have been away without the boys.  I didn't have time to think about missing them until I saw their little faces on the computer.

Our driver is picking us up at 9:00 this morning to go to our referral appointment, and then we will go to the orphanage.  I asked the driver if he has been to her orphanage before and he said, "Yes.  Has been long time.  I go there last year.  It is quite far."  We are really trying to have no expectations about the first meeting and the facility, because we cannot be disappointed.  We have certainly learned that we need to go with the flow on this trip, because NOTHING has gone as planned.  And that's OK!  We've had a lot of fun already, despite the travel snafus, and we are so anxious to lay our eyes on this little love we've been working so hard to get to.  Before we landed Chris said, "I can't believe we're so close to that little munchkin," and it seems completely unreal to think that we are finally in the same country as her.  I hope my next update will have photos of Katie for you!