Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Our Embassy Appointment and Saying Good-bye to Christina

We woke up before the sun today.  Still no water.  We bathed with wet wipes.  We couldn’t even use the bathroom.

We had a quick breakfast of cereal (Fruit Loops -- Christina was in heaven!) croissants and coffee.

We loaded up the car with our suitcases, tidied up the room and headed to the US Embassy just as the sun came up.  I couldn’t believe how busy the roads were already.  People and cars everywhere.  

We arrived at the Embassy at 6:15 am for our 7:00 am appointment.  Sonia did not want to wait in the Embassy with us, the air conditioned waiting room hurts her injured arm, so Margarette from BRESMA , who also had an adoptive parent with an Embassy appointment, met us and waited with us.  There were already at least 50 people waiting in line, standing outside the Embassy in the hot sun.  We took our place in line.  Christina was a bit apprehensive, it was noisy, dusty and crowded, so I held her.  

We waited in line in the hot sun for about an hour before a guard looked at our paperwork and told us to stand in yet another line.  A group of people had already been let inside the building, but we had to continue to wait outside.  At one point I asked Sam to hold Christina for a few minutes, my arms and back were killing me.  She allowed him to carry her for a few minutes but then asked for me again.  How could I refuse?

A little Haitian woman standing in front of me could tell my arms were tired and she said to me in broken English, “You should put her down, she is big enough to stand.”  But how could I explain to her that if Christina requested I hold her, I was going to hold her, no matter how much my arms ached and back screamed?  So I said I was ok, and I could tell she was thinking “that crazy American, holding that child when she should stand on her own.”

Finally we were allowed inside the building.  We went through 2 security lines.  I had given Christina her little purse to carry with a few toys inside to keep her occupied while we were waiting.  One of the toys was an empty bubbles bottle -- the guards had no idea how to handle that: did it have liquid in it?  Why was I bringing in an empty bottle? I almost just threw it out for all the trouble it was causing.  

We walked into a waiting room that looked like any standard government agency in the States, rows of hard plastic chairs filled with waiting people armed with paperwork, a wall of receptionist stations behind glass.  Except instead of waiting for hours to renew a driver’s license, these people were trying to get permission to enter the United States.  

At first Christina sat quietly on my lap.  But after an hour she warmed up a bit and played with the toys in her purse, chattering in Kreyol.  At one point she repeated a phrase over and over, trying to tell me something, but I couldn’t figure out what she was saying.  A woman sitting across from us finally spoke up and said “she wants something sweet”.  She had just watched me put a mint in my mouth and she wanted one too!  It made me realize how many people were listening to and watching us, three white Americans with this little black child.  

During the first two hours of waiting only two people got called to the window.  Most of the time the reception windows were empty of workers.  Didn’t seem very efficient, if you ask me.

But Christina was an angel.  She played quietly, never fussed and was very patient. 

Finally it was our turn.  We went to the window, handed over our paperwork, answered a ton of questions.  We were told to sit back down and wait until our name was called again.

Another hour passed before we were called up again.  We were given a sheet of paper with checkmarks next to our missing documents, as well as a date for Sonia to come back to the Embassy for an interview to verify that Christina is a true orphan, since it is impossible to interview Christina’s biological parents.  We were told we have to turn in all of our paperwork or ask for an extension by October 29.  I am sure we will be asking for the extension, because until we get through Parquet Court we won’t have the required paperwork to turn in.  

Margarette says the interview is a new requirement.  Thank goodness Sonia will be back from her trip before her interview so we don’t have to reschedule.

After 5 hours of waiting, we were finally done.  We met up with Sonia outside, who had waited in the car that entire time.  Since Margarette’s parent had to go to the airport as well, we loaded his suitcases into our car.  Sonia told us she would go back with Margarette and our driver would take all of us to the airport and then drive Christina back to the orphanage.

While we drove to the airport I tried to explain to Christina that we had to leave, but we would be back.  Her face turned sad and she stared into space.  The same blank stare she gave us the last time we left her.  I held her and rocked her, trying to get her to understand what was happening.  My heart was breaking.

We arrived at the airport and she tried to get out of the car with us.  We sat her back on the seat and buckled her in, telling her we had to go, but would return to visit soon.  She started sobbing, big tears streaming down her face, her little arms grabbing for us.  I think she would have gotten on that plane with us if we had let her.  

Leaving her in that car was the hardest thing I have done so far during this 18 month process.  

We made our way to the check in line, being pushed and shoved by people trying to get in front of us.  An airport employee noticed Weston’s arm and took him to the front of the line.  But he wasn’t going to let us go with him, until he looked at me and decided I must be Weston’s “petite fille” (little girl) and he let us join him.  I wasn’t going to try to explain I was an adult if it meant we could get to the front of the line -- we would be lucky to make our flight, as busy as the airport was.  Of course the employee wanted a tip, which we gladly paid.  

Another employee grabbed my suitcases and shoved them through the first of three security checkpoints.  After our belongings made it through he too demanded a tip.  Weston offered him a few bucks and the man said it wan’t enough.  Weston would not budge and the man stomped away.  I guess 5 dollars wasn’t good enough for him and his 30 seconds of work.

A few more lines and we were on the plane.  We never stopped walking and didn’t even get a chance to use the bathroom or grab a drink.  But we made it.  

Two hours and we were back in the States.  Amazing.  I will post one more blog with my final impressions of the trip...

Sunday, August 19, 2012

A quiet, relaxing day.

Sunday.  We all slept in.  A night with AC allowed us better sleep.  Christina woke up happy and full of energy.  She excitedly looked over the clothes I brought and decided she needed to wear a yellow top and blue skirt.  She was very happy to pick out her own clothes.  We let Sam sleep and went to breakfast, which was pancakes, juice and coffee.  Christina ate her usual container of yogurt as well.  

After breakfast we played on the back patio.  Christina picked flowers and put them in our hair.  Then she wanted flowers in her hair.  It was a sweet, sweet time with her. She took pictures of us, we took pictures together.  We got a taste of who she really is -- a delightful, playful little girl.  

Putting flowers in our hair.
The kitten returned and this time Christina was willing to watch Weston pet it.  She would slowly approach the kitten, but if the kitten moved towards her she ran away, squealing.  
Sam finally woke up, so he ate breakfast and we all got ready for the day.  I had a chance to ask him how he felt about Haiti, the orphanage and our trip so far, now that he had some rest.  He said he loved all the kids.  But of all the kids there, he knew that Christina was meant to be ours.  And he missed his brother and sister and was ready to return home.

We didn’t have any plans for the day and we weren’t sure where Sonia was.  We played with toys, I pushed Christina in a stroller we found, and we basically just had a relaxing, quiet day.  Weston napped a bit and I played matching games and building blocks with Christina.

In the afternoon we went outside to the back patio again.  Sonia arrived home, she had been working all day to secure a missing signature on our IBESR paperwork.  Although we have officially been approved by IBESR, one signature had been missed accidentally. And we needed the signature in order to file our paperwork at the Embassy the next morning.  Sonia doesn’t like to drive (I don’t blame her, I wouldn’t want to drive there either!), but because it was Sunday her driver was off and she had to get behind the wheel and brave the traffic herself.  After driving to the person’s house and waiting for hours, she was successful and our paperwork was signed.  I was so impressed with how hard she was working on our behalf.

Playing on the patio

Over ice cold Sprite and pear juice we looked over the paperwork, making sure it was filled out properly.  We asked Sonia the question I am sure she dreads: when does she think we will be able to finally bring Christina home?  

We were told the next step in the process requires a signature from a judge who happens to be on vacation for a month.  Rats.  But we were finally given a loose timeline.  Before when we asked, we were told “who knows”, but this time we were told anywhere from October to January.  (I am afraid that October is probably out of the question, we haven’t moved at all since we entered Parquet Court, but I think Christmas is actually quite possible, which makes me smile!)

We talked a bit about all of the new kiddos in the orphanage.  Sonia says IBESR has been sending her new children, many of them older and not adoptable.  A few weeks ago she was told to take in three teenagers that IBESR found living on the streets.  Sonia doesn’t have the facility to take care of older children.  She has to keep them separate from the little ones.  And she doesn’t run a jail.  She can’t force the older children to stay in the orphanage, and the older children have no desire to be there.   They keep leaving the grounds, causing the nannies to have to search for them.

Her hands are tied.  If she says no to IBESR she will no longer be in their good graces.  She has no choice but to take in the children and then try to find a facility better suited for them.

I can’t imagine how difficult it is for Sonia and all the other orphanage directors in Haiti who are trying to do the right thing, play by the rules and still have the children’s best interest at heart.  Must be very frustrating.

We had a final dinner of traditional chicken and peas on rice.  Very yummy.  After dinner Christina played a few more minutes and then looked at me and said “mwen fatigue” (I’m tired).  So I took her back to the room, gave her a quick bath, put on her pjs and she motioned she wanted me to pick her up.  Snuggled into my shoulder when I picked her up and was fast asleep within minutes.  I carefully sat down on the bed and just snuggled her.  This is the first time she requested snuggles from me.  She has always been agreeable to snuggles given to her, but never initiated them. 

While I snuggled her Weston took a shower.  We had to leave for the Embassy at 6:00am the next morning, packed and ready to go to the airport.

Sam got ready to take his shower to discover that the water had been turned off.  So no flushing, no showers.  Hopefully it will be back on in the morning so we can be clean for our travel day tomorrow.

More pictures of our day:

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Day two in Haiti

Christina slept until 7 am.  She didn't make a peep all night.  When she woke up she didn't fuss, she just waited for me to pick her up.  I brought her to our bed and she snuggled me for a few minutes so I could wake up.  It was a hot, restless night for Weston and me, so I was still exhausted.
We basically spent the entire night tossing and turning and sweating, so both Weston and I needed to rinse off in the shower.  We woke Sam, who was also still exhausted, for breakfast.
Breakfast was not so good.  Room temperature pineapple yogurt, nasty processed turkey slices, American cheese, over ripe bananas and stale white bread.  But the coffee was strong, which I desperately needed, and there was some sort of fresh squeezed juice that was pretty good.  I have no idea what citrus fruit it was, maybe grapefruit?  But it was sweeter than grapefruit, and the color was dark reddish orange, but it wasn't orange juice either.  I am glad I brought some snacks, none of us really ate anything.
Christina likes to tell us she needs to use the potty.  It is a game to her.  She runs to the potty, sits on it for half a minute and says she is finished.  But I think she really had to go, so I decided after the third trip to the bathroom to make her sit on the potty for a while.  She was not happy that I wouldn't let her get up.  She kept saying “fini, fini”, and trying to flush the toilet.  I kept setting her back on the potty, telling her “pas fini.”  Finally she settled down and really went to the potty.  I can tell we are going to have a few power struggles when she gets home.  
The driver was supposed to pick us up at 10am to take us to a shop where we could buy handmade Haitian items.  I am pretty sure he showed up a lot earlier than that (I have lost all sense of time here) so Sam didn't get to shower.
There must be a crack down on wearing seat belts, because after our driver got a phone call (I assume from Sonia) he put his on and told us to put ours on too.  Easier said than done in the backseat since two are missing.  
Sam still can't believe how people drive in Haiti. He kept commenting on the traffic and the crazy drivers and how narrowly the cars miss each other as they pass.
The driver dropped us off at the shop and told us (through broken English and lots of hand motions) while we shopped he would take Christina to get her picture taken for our Embassy paperwork.  I tried to explain to Christina that we would be back but I don't know if she understood.  I asked the driver to tell her we weren't leaving, hopefully he did.
Just a few of the treasures we bought at the market.
The shop is full of Haitian handmade items, from statues to jewelry to dolls.  We bought lots of things for Christina; our plan is to give her something from Haiti for each birthday.   We also bought things for our house and lots of presents.  The prices are great!  
We finished up just as the driver returned with Christina.  Perfect timing.  He parked the car and got out to help us load our bags and she burst into tears (I was almost to the car but she hadn't seen me yet).  I think she thought he was leaving her in the car alone.  He quickly returned to the car to comfort her, which made me very happy.  He seemed genuinely concerned he had upset her. I like to think he cares for the children he drives around on a regular basis.
I got in the car and put her on my lap.  This is the first time I have ever seen her cry but she stopped pretty quickly once she knew she wasn't being left alone.
Playing in the courtyard at the orphanage.

So cute!
We went back to the orphanage for the afternoon.  Christina sat with us on the patio area for a little while but then took the photo album I made for her and showed it to all of the nannies.  Madame Michelle seems to be Christina's favorite nanny.  She is an older woman, very pretty, very patient and kind.  Christina seems very attached.  
Sam, who was exhausted, really struggled with being back at the orphanage.  He held back tears as he told us that he really wanted to just go home.  He was tired of not being able to use the water, of the heat, of the craziness of the driving. He was sad about the kids having to live in the orphanage. And he did not want to leave Christina behind when we went home.  It is a lot to take in, and he was overwhelmed.  We talked for while about Haiti and his experiences. He laid down on the outdoor couch and took a nap, which he desperately needed.

Weston and I went inside and Christina didn't mind at all that we were holding and playing with other kids.  She seemed content to color at the table.    Not sure how I feel about that.  On the one hand I guess it's good, on our other visits she was clingy and possessive of us when we were at the orphanage with her.  But in the back of my head I wondered if she didn't mind because she would rather be there than with us.
Over the next hour or so Weston put four boys to sleep on his lap.  One would crawl up on him, lay on his lap and in a few minutes be fast asleep.  I would take the little guy, put him on a cot and another would crawl into Weston's lap and fall asleep.  They just needed someone to snuggle them!
Whenever one of the children gets sleepy, they fall asleep wherever they are.  On the concrete, at the table.  One little guy, eyes rolling back in his head and head bobbing back and forth, almost fell asleep while sitting on a bench.  Had I not caught him and laid him down, he would have fallen off the bench and onto the concrete floor.
One little girl really wanted Weston to snuggle her and she laid her head on his leg as she played with her doll.  She and several other little girls have some kind of red powder on their scalps. I assume it is some sort of medicine.  Maybe for lice?  Let's hope it comes out of Weston's shorts!  She has the sweetest smile, her whole face lights up when she smiles.  She loved to be tickled.
Several of the children have runny noses and one little boy (who walked around most of the afternoon in pants he peed in) has an awful sounding cough.  There is a nurse on staff for the very sick kids and she came downstairs both days with some sort of liquid vitamin (I think vitamin C) for every child.  

We were served lunch and Christina ate with us while the rest of the kids ate in the other room.  Lunch was fried egg with turkey lunch meat and tons of onion and a veggie medley of carrots and beans. I was hungry, so it tasted pretty good, even the onion and turkey.  Sam ate a lot, but got tired of so much onion.  I don't think a Coke ever tasted so good.  We gave Christina a straw for her water and she thought that was the best.  She drank so much water I wouldn't be surprised if she has an accident later today.
At one point Christina went upstairs to go potty so I followed her up.  They don't have toilet paper (Weston thinks to prevent the kids from stuffing it down the toilet) and the sink doesn't work so they can't wash their hands.  I guess since they don't wipe it isn't as big of a deal, but I still think that's pretty gross. I imagine their little bottoms get pretty 
Itchy and raw.
Along with the one toilet and nonworking sink and shower there are four rooms full of toddler sized bunk beds.  Two of the rooms have twin beds for the nannies.  Christina sleeps in the room for the older children, one of the rooms without a bed for a nanny.

Christina sitting next to Mme. Michelle, her favorite nanny.
After lunch we went outside and watched the kids run around.  Christina played outside for a few minutes but went back in and looked through a book and then matched dominos together.  She gravitates towards books, coloring, sorting.  She can spend a long time just coloring and making shapes with her crayons.  
We watched some of the older kids play in the courtyard.  It was all I could do to not police them as they ran each other over with cars and climbed too high on the monkey bars.  If kids played like that in the States all the parents would be freaking out.  But here, it is just normal play.  At one point three kids laid down on the concrete, waiting for two boys to try to run them over with riding cars.  At the last moment they would jump up and barely escape being run over, screaming and laughing the entire time.  I was a nervous wreck watching this, but the nannies weren't concerned.
Each child was given a cookie and a piece of sticky candy.  The littlest ones (not even walking yet!) we're given some sort of soft candy on a stick to suck on.  And no one choked.  But boy were there sticky hands and faces.  The candy was savored, pulled out of mouths, shared, dropped, put back in mouths.  They had a big time.  They tried to share with me, but I politely declined.
I went back inside to find Christina, who was still playing with dominos.  I sat with her and a few others who were coloring.  A little girl whom I had not seen before on either day came over to me to share her doll with me.  She had been shaved bald. She seemed sick.  I wonder if she was new to the orphanage and had to be shaved for some reason.  She was very sweet.
Finally it was time to go.  Christina seemed happy to be leaving with us.  I forgot to take her to the bathroom before we left, so I hoped she wouldn't wet her pants if she fell asleep.  I tried to keep her awake for the car ride to no avail.  She was sound asleep on my lap within minutes.  But she didn't wet her pants, thank goodness.
Our AC still wasn't working in our room.  Thankfully Sonia offered to have us move to another guest room where the AC was working.  It only had one bed and a crib, so she had Sam's bed moved to the new room.  This room is actually nicer and the attached bathroom has a shower that works a lot better.  
Dinner was shrimp and rice and some veggies.  After dinner Christina was full of energy so we took a walk through the neighborhood.  We took a walk on our last visit and Christina insisted on being held the entire time.  This time she walked by herself, saying “bonsoir” to those we passed.  The only time she ran back to us was when a car drove by.   The neighborhood atmosphere was not as friendly this time and we saw two armed guards watching us through the gates of people's homes.  Not sure what is going on, but we decided to make it a short walk.
We sat outside again and Christina played.  She is a chatterbox.  I wish I knew what she was saying.  She repeats things over and over in a sing song way, but I can't figure out what she is saying.
After a cool bath I put on her pjs and she snuggled in our bed for a few minutes.  I asked her if she was ready to go to sleep in her bed and she said yes, so I tucked her into her crib.  She wiggled for a few minutes and then fell asleep with no fuss.  I think the AC is bothering her, she has been coughing for about an hour, so I tried to move the fan and AC so it doesn't blow directly on her.  Hopefully that will help.
It was a good day overall.  She seems like a normal active preschooler. She loves books, coloring and playing matching games.  She is very smart and once she feels comfortable in her surroundings she talks and sings nonstop.  For the most part she is a good listener and will be obedient if I force the issue.  She knows what she wants and is persistent.  She seems very comfortable with us.  It is going to be very hard to leave her on Monday.
I am exhausted and hope that tonight sleep comes easier.