Friday, December 01, 2006

Day three!

Hello All! We are still doing fine over here. It's hard to get time to be alone on my computer, it's very social here so I've been out making friends. Many people have left or are leaving soon, so I will have more free time soon. The below is a portion of an email I sent to my family on what we've been up to. I thought I would post it here, so that you at least had an update. Sorry no pics yet, it's intolerably slow to upload them right now. And skip over the parts you know about already!

Thank you so much for all of your wonderful comments. Reading them is like a little slice of home. I never understood how much my comments meant to others who have traveled to get their babies until now. It really is wonderful.

Dear Family

Okay, now that we have a little more free time, I can tell you more about what happened the last few days.

The flight
First, can we all start a letter writing campaign to get JetBlue to fly to Colombia? Delta stinks. The flight was delayed in taking off. We had the worst possible seats, the last row with no window and our backs against the bathroom wall. Squooshy seats with hardly any room. We asked the flight attendants twice (TWICE) about making our connection in Ft Lauderdale and we were assured that we would have plenty of time to make it. Imagine our surprise when we got to the Avianca desk, the agent looked at us in panic and said she thought it was too late for us to make it. She made some calls, clicked away frantically on her computer, and before you know it we were RUNNING through the airport trying to get through security and to the gate. Thank God we made it. Avianca is a great airline. They pass out magazines and newspapers, we got hot towels, a great meal and even watched a movie. It was a little challenging because the fight attendants really didn’t speak English, but we got by. I was able to understand that the movie would be playing in English on channel 1, and was able to place our order for lunch (Carnes o pollo? Pollo por favor).

The airport
This was a little tricky, made more difficult by the fact that we tired, excited to be there and the fact that I really really really had to pee (sorry mom, but I did). We got off the plane and made our way down this looooong corridor to a really looooong line for immigration. There are little booths set up and when you are called you go up to them and show your passport. The woman didn’t really speak English but we did a good job answering her questions. It was funny when she asked us why we were there and we said “adopcion” and she said back to us “vacacion?” But it came out bah-cay-shun? We went back and forth a few times until Jim showed her the word “adopcion” on our visas. Ahhhh, she said and she smiled. Babies make people smile everywhere! After we were cleared we found the bathroom (you’ll be happy to know that airport restrooms are the same everywhere – gross) and made our way to the baggage claim. This was a complete nightmare. Now I know how new immigrants must feel when they come to JFK. It was complete chaos there and I wasn’t able to find anyone who spoke English or were interested in trying to listen to my limited Spanish. Eventually we figured out that we needed to get a form (necessito en ingles por favor!) to get us out with our bags. I only filled out one form for me and not for Jim, and the woman at the door first stopped us and then waved us through with a look of disgust as I started jabbering at her in English that how the hell am I supposed to know what to do, its not like there are signs or anything! After that we made our way out of the terminal. I will always remember the wall of people standing right outside the door pressed up against the barricades. There really isn’t a place for people to come inside to meet family so they are all waiting outside. Through the crowd, Jim spotted someone holding a sign with our name. We eventually meet Manuel, our driver.

The First Night
Manuel speaks very good English, and he tells us that the place we are supposed to stay is not ready for us. There are other couples still there who have been delayed. Another room has been secured for us in another hotel. When we arrive, we lug all the bags into the lobby, only to find that we did not have a room. They were overbooked, and they tried to contact our agency but were not able because it was so late. This hotel booked us another room in yet another place farther away. We lug the bags back into the car – By the way, all the cars here are tiny. The car we were in had no front passenger seat to accommodate more luggage because the trunk was so small. We arrive at the address, but it doesn’t look like a hotel. There is a doorway wedged between some stores and our driver goes up and is able to talk to someone through an intercom. After some minutes a security guard opens up a big gate and we drive in. We snake down this narrow driveway to a dark parking garage. We lug our bags into a teeeeny elevator and finally arrive in the “lobby”. We sign in, order breakfast for the next morning and go to our room. Our driver calls our contact and we are told that we will be called in the morning to tell us what time we need to be ready to go to the orphanage. The room is kind of skanky but we are so tired we don’t mind too much. We finally lay down at about 10:30 and try to unwind from the day, and enjoy the silence together. After all, this is our last night as a childless couple! We sleep only a few hours at a time, but surprisingly well. We are awake at 6am and try to amuse ourselves until the phone rings. We were surprised that there was good tv – Fox News, CNN and I was even watching Spiderman in English with Spanish subtitles. Finally the phone rings 4 hours later, and we are told that the driver will be there at 11:15. Another agonizing hour to go. Now my stomach is really in knots with the anticipation. Finally, finally, the driver arrives, we load up our luggage and leave. First stop is the hotel we were originally supposed to stay in to drop off our bags, then off to FANA, the orphanage.

The ride from the hotel to FANA is about 15-20 minutes. People have said that Bogota traffic is crazy, but it was no worse than New York – much better I thought. FANA is located in a more industrial section of the city. There is a gate to be buzzed into the campus. We are dropped off and told to go in. I thought this was weird, I guess I was expecting a personal reception or something? We go in and are told to go to the second floor where Flor, the Orphanage Director is waiting for us. She kisses us hello and congratulates us. I start tearing up already (Elvis is in the building!). We are brought into a small waiting room that has two couches and is covered in pictures from all the other families who have adopted from there. There is another couple there from upstate NY who was there to adopt their second child. Today they would get a girl, their first was a cute (although obnoxiously rambunctious) 3 year old boy. The nurse comes in and goes over all of the baby's medical information (all is well) and goes over his feeding schedule with us. She does the same for the other couple. We then realize that they will be presenting the other couple with their child in just a few minutes. I made sure they didn’t mind that we were in the room. A group of 4 or 5 women come in (most whom we have met or spoken to already in this process) and take the presentation outfit, your camera and your video camera. Then they leave to get the baby. The couple is asked to stand up and wait. The group of women all escort the baby down the hall to meet their new family. A beautiful little girl with a whole mess of fluffy hair on her head. Crying, pictures, congratulations. Okay, our turn!

We stand up in the appointed spot and wait. We hear them coming down the hall. “Here he comes!” someone says. I start bawling, I can’t believe this day is finally here (Good Luck watching the video, it’s a tear jerker). Jim was very calm. Finally the group of women turn the corner, and all I see is this gorgeous baby boy being held out to me. All I remember is that I just kept saying “Oh my God he is so beautiful” over and over. (Okay, are you crying now? I am!) He is even more beautiful than his picture. He has very big eyes and very long eyelashes. He is giving me this very serious look as if to say “What's wrong with you lady?” He would not take his eyes off of me, even when I handed him to Jim. Jim held him for a while and we just stared and cooed at him for a while. He didn’t cry, he just kind of took it all in. He wasn't scared by Jim's goatee like most babies are. He looked adorable in the outfit we got him too (it was the right size!). After some pictures, hugs and kisses, we were asked for some documentation, and we ordered a case of formula. We were told we could leave, and that we would be called at the hotel when it was time to do the next step. We waited in the lobby for our formula and then went out to the car. I think we were only in there an hour, including the time for the other couple’s presentation. It was so amazing how they just kind of handed him over…I guess it really is just like giving birth! Here you go! Goodbye and Good Luck! We took the cab back to the hotel. Colombia does not use carseats, so I held him. He was very smiley during the trip and eventually fell asleep.

The Hotel
We are staying at a place called El Refugio (aka Carmen’s Place). It is a kind of bed and breakfast especially for adopting couples. When we arrived it was a little chaotic because a bunch of people were checking out and leaving for home. Carmen gave us an infant seat to put him in and told us to relax a moment while they finished up our room and made us lunch. The maids here cook breakfast, lunch and dinner, clean your rooms, babysit, and anything else you need. The lunch we had on that first day was so delicious. We were starving, and finally relieved to have him, so we really enjoyed it. It was some kind of little meat ravioli with this creamy tomato sauce chock full of shredded chicken. After lunch we changed clothes and gave the baby his first bottle. He sucked it down like a champ.

El Refugio is a very unique place. It’s basically a big house, with a big gate around it, and a nice size yard with a swing set and a patio set. It is clean (Cathe, you’ll be happy to know the whole place is sanitized with bleach every day, what a stink!) and friendly although well worn from the hundreds of families who have made their way through here over the years. Our room has a tv, a small refrigerator, a crib, a bottle sterilizer, and a baby tub. The only really weird thing is that they don’t want you to flush toilet paper, but rather throw it in the garbage. Pretty gross, and half the time I forget, because who does that?? There are probably about 7 or 8 room here in all. There is no heat or air conditioning and the windows can be opened but have no screens. There is a front office that has a free internet phone and a computer to use. There is also a laundry room for you to use. The funniest thing about this place is the maids. They don’t give a hoot that you don’t speak Spanish, they happily chatter away to you anyway. They are very friendly and go nuts over our little guy who is the youngest one here. They will get you whatever you need and help you with the baby. It is fun talking to them because I get to practice my Spanish. Sometimes the conversations get really funny trying to figure out what each other is saying. When talking to the woman, they refer to the husbands as “your meester”. They are also the most amazing cooks. The food is so delicious here we look forward to each meal. Lunch always starts with soup. Today we had some kind of fried dumpling made with ground sausage, warm potato salad with peas and green salad. They also give you something sweet at the end, usually fruit. Today was a fresh glass of blackberry juice.

We have met a really nice couple from North Carolina. Unfortunately for us (but great for them!), they leave in the morning. They adopted an 8 month old boy. They helped us immensely about how the place works, and the best places in the neighborhood to go. He speaks Spanish about as well as I do, and he loves to torture the maids. The doorbell is always ringing here, because you have to be buzzed into the gate. Late last night it rang and he got up to get it. Outside the gate was a guy on a bicycle. He goes over to Rosalita and says in a big southern drawl “Hey rosalita, es su novio en un bicicleta” (it’s your boyfriend on a bicycle). She got all flustered, it was so funny. Other than this couple, there is only one other couple that speaks English. They leave on Wednesday. They adopted a 5 year old girl named Valentina. They already have a 6 year old, Cecilia who was adopted from the same orphanage as us (I have an awesome picture of Cecilia feeding the baby). They are beautiful girls and they love to play in the yard. When all the Americans leave, we will be left here with two couples from France. It’s a good trick to try to understand Spanish with a French accent. One man is very friendly and he tries very hard to talk with us. He has a beautiful 6 year old girl Laura (pronounced with a French Low-da – rhymes with chow-da) who goes around hugging and kissing everyone. She loves to talk to me even though I don’t understand much of what she says. I played the movie trailer for the movie Happy Feet for her on my computer and she screamed ‘Papa, miren! Los penguinos son bailando!” Papa, look the penguins are dancing! So anyway, it ought to get interesting later this week.

The City
Where we are in Bogota reminds us a lot of a busy part of Queens or Brooklyn. Lots of stores, apartment building and office buildings. It is more green here though, and of course, there are mountains. It is very dry here, and I am struggling with a very dry throat and stuffed up sinuses. I have to drink a lot of water and use saline spray. The altitude doesn’t bother us much otherwise, although sometimes when I am really stuffed up it’s a little hard to breathe. There are horse drawn carts here that have garbage in them. We learned that they take the recyclables away, much like those big trucks we have at home. The weather is very nice, a little cool in the mornings and evenings, but during the day, in the sunshine, it gets downright hot. The maids here insist that you keep the babies bundled up, and we are always getting scolded for not having enough blankets on them. Poor little guy is sweating his little butt off, so much his hair gets wet! So when we are alone in our room I leave him practically naked so he can cool off a bit.

Today we got up and had breakfast..there is a small dining room like in a B&B and you eat with everyone. Scrambled eggs, toast and FRESH OJ. Oh, and hello, Colombian coffee – con leche caldo es muy delicioso! We hung around in the living room with our friends for a while, then we got a call from our orphanage contact to say that we will be going to have some papers notarized today. She arrived a little later, we signed them and then walked over to the “Notaria” where we had them authenticated, and signed again. We had to take our index finger, press it on an ink stamp and then press it on a certain spot on the paper. Weird. We paid and walked back to the hotel. We had our delicious lunch, fed the baby and decided to go out.

Today it rained really hard, but Jim and I went out anyway. We left the baby with a maid and ventured out with umbrellas to go to the baby store and the grocery store. It seems that at every store here there is an abundance of staff ready to help you. I have gotten more confident and I try to ask for things when I need them. At the baby store it was obvious we were Americans, and when we finally went to the register to check out, there were three young people there giggling. Finally one of them gets brave and says proudly “Good Afternoon!” in perfect English. “Yes!” I said, “Very good! Buenos Tardes!” It was very funny. Then we went into a big supermarket. It was BEAUTIFUL inside, nicer than what we have home and HUGE. Again, there were tons of help everywhere, and lots of people offering free samples. We tried Avocado, cheese and some kind of corn fritter thingies. It was so fascinating to walk through the aisles and see what all the products looked like in Spanish. When we got back, we retrieved our baby, smiling and with two extra blankets piled on him. We just finished dinner (porkchops, rice and broccoli, fresh mango) and I am now in the room typing. My two princes have gone down for the count.

The Baby
Yes, I know that’s what you’ve been waiting to hear about, but if I started out with that, you would have never read this far. First, as you may already know, we've decided to keep his name. Sorry Laurie, but he just doesn't look like a Joseph, even though we do love that name. Also, when they hand him over to you, you really realize that this kid has absolutely nothing of his own, not even the shirt on his back. So while we understand the complications about such a unique name, we really felt compelled to let him keep the one thing he was given at birth. For those of you who don't know, Jim had a brother who died many years ago from polio, back before the vaccine. The baby's middle name is after him (Not my boss :) ) He is 3 months old today, and is a pure joy. I keep waiting for the other shoe to drop. I’m thinking maybe I’m in for some terrible two’s or something, because I can’t believe I was blessed with such a good baby. Kara, he is a lot like Nina, very curious and alert, and doesn’t like to be laid down where he can’t see what’s going on (I’m convinced it’s a sign of genius, they’ll go to Harvard together someday). He has cried exactly once since we’ve been here. He sucks his thumb when he gets tired or hungry (we haven’t resorted to a binky yet), and he may turn out to be an eyelash toucher like Marco! He loves to be spoken to and smiles easily. He eats pretty good (every 4 hours pretty faithfully), but the last two ounces go veerrrrryyy slow. Last night, he thankfully slept through the 3am feeding. Oh, and my colleague Andrea wanted a full report on the first diaper change. I’ll spare you the details, but the first one that “counted” was all you can imagine. I’ll say this: that nasty stuff gets everywhere, and it seems that the more places it goes, the more the baby will laugh about it. Ick. Daddy has been named the official baby changer. He had the honors for the first one, and although he used about 52 wipes, he did a good job. So Andrea, fear not, it’s not hard – all you do is take off the old, clean him up good and slap on the new. Cream only if he has a rash (Thanks Kara!). Parenthood is not nearly as hard or as weird as I thought it would be. We can not wait to bring him home to meet all of you. You will die of the cuteness, trust me.

We are now just waiting to be called for our Bienestar interview. It’s the welfare agency, and the interview is required before your case goes to court. Nothing happens over the weekend though, so we have a lot of free time. I will try to write more often, now that there are less people here, it will be easier. The best internet connection is in the living room, and when I am there I always get sucked into conversation.

Buenos Noches! Or as Carmen says: "Ciao Ciao" (I know, italian, I don't get it either)


Anonymous said...

Am I really the first? I was mesmerized--what an awesome awesome event. Congratulations--and honestly, I think Sebastian is a really really awesome name. And yes, I cried. Thanks, Starfish, for giving me a reason to be happy today--I'm so happy for you that I have no words.

Tricia said...

hooray, Sebastian! he sounds just wonderful!!! congrats!

Laura said...

Thank you for posting such detail. Sebastian sounds wonderful and he has an awesome name -- I have a nephew and godchild by that name. I'll be following my journey, as I've followed others, and my wait will certainly seem shorter because of your joy.

Miss Scarlett said...

Your posts just keep making me cry!
Sebastian is a beautiful name. The only thing more beautiful is the sentiment behind your decision.
Truly this boy is blessed to have you as parents.
Is there a limit to how many times someone can say congratulations?

Ani said...

Congratulations on becoming a family of 3! I love the name Sebastian - its different enough to be unique but not complicated. I can't wait to see pics of your little man. Enjoy the relative "ease" of these months - when the crawling/toddling begins you will know no peace :)

MMrussianadoption said...

I am behind in my reading. Congratulations on your new baby boy. He sounds wonderful. I just know I will be a blubbering mess when my turn comes. I hope all goes well for you in the next few days. When do you return?

Anonymous said...

How wonderful. I'm glad you kept his name. I felt the same about my Vladimir -- certainly that name would have given people some pause, but it was his. I loved it. I think Sebastian is a beautiful name.

jeneflower said...

Good choice to keep his name! Yay! I finally voted for something that won. I like the namd Sebastian- very cute.

Bezzie said...

I like Sebastian George as a name too.

After reading your diaper change story, I had to think "Yup, I remember those days!" How DO they get the poo to go all over like that??? ;-)

Andrea said...

So awesome! You can feel the love coming through the screen again. I can't wait to see pictures!! Yea!!

Karin said...

Sebastian is a wonderful, beautiful name and your post brings me back to 6 and 4 years ago as I met my girls. I wish you a wonderful stay and tons of joy with your son.

wavybrains said...

Yay! You kept the name! I LOVE the name.
Thanks for such a detailed and amazing account--I felt like I was right there, and you made the whole thing seem much less scarier. Especially for those of us who speak about 20 words of Spanish. And the food sounds amazing. I hope everything continues to go well. If you are there over the holiday, I hope you are able to find some neat cultural things to take part of and report back on. I'm so thrilled for you!

Denise :o) said...

Thanks for the update. Sounds like you are having the time of your lives! You kept his name!! Yay, and for the same EXACT reasons we kept "Evan's" real name. It's a very personal decision and not for everyone, but I didn't want to take away the one thing... very personal thing... that was all his own. I love the name Sebastian!!! Can't wait to see pics of him. So, what size is he wearing?

Laura said...

Beautiful post! Congratulations.
I'm sure he is just beautiful and perfect.
What a gorgeous name too!

Twinsanity said...

How very beautiful. The whole story, Sebastian's name and your reason for keeping it, everything. I am sitting here with happy tears dripping on my keyboard for all of you.

*huge drippy hugs around*