Monday, July 22, 2013

DGM and Doctor's Appointments

Today, 'E' (from our attorney's office) came by to take us to the DGM (Directorate of Migration) to drop off our passports, including Kade's.  This is so the DGM can start the exit letter process.  We need an exit letter from this government agency in order for Kade to leave DRC.  We were told by our agency that this process would take approximately 10 days (in actuality it ended up taking 15 business days).  
We first make a stop at the US Embassy because we were made aware by our attorney that the medical exam for Kade's visa (to enter the US) is set to expire at the end of July and the US Embassy will likely need us to renew the medical for his visa.
We enter the US Embassy and they have these small rooms you go into where the US official is behind glass.  Kade freaked out!  He thought the small room was a doctor's office, little did he know that we would be visiting the doctor that afternoon.  The US Embassy recommended getting another medical done on Kade so his visa could be updated.  If his medical expired and we left DRC to enter the US, US immigration could deny our entry because of his expired medical on his visa. The US Embassy only works with a few medical offices in DRC for the official medical exam, so we will have to make an appointment for another day to see another doctor for his medical visa.

After the US Embassy, we made our way to the DGM to drop off our passports.  We enter a small room (maybe an 8x8 room) at the DGM filled with about 5 people sitting at desks with paperwork piled  about 6 inches to a foot high on each desk.  One of the women sitting in the office (but not behind a desk, not exactly sure who she was) takes Kade from me and holds him close to her and starts speaking Lingala to him.  It took all that was in me not to grab him right back out of her arms asking her just who did she think she was?  But instead I stood there politely while she cooed at my son.  She started talking to some of the people behind the desks asking them questions about my husband and I.  The people behind the desk starting translating this lady's questions to us:
"She wants to know why you are adopting from here"
"Were there not any kids in the US?"
"How much Lingala do you know?"
"Are you going to bring him back to DRC?"
"Would you sponsor me to come to the US?"
"Why isn't a Congolese family adopting this boy?"
It was SO awkward and her questions were so rude.  'E' from our attorney's office had just walked back in from making photocopies of our passports and heard her questions.  He told this woman in Lingala that "No Congolese people came forward to adopt this little boy and that this family flew across the world to adopt this little boy".  GO 'E'!! At this point I reached out for Kade to come back into my arms, I was done being questioned by this woman who didn't even work in this office.
Another woman who was standing there and heard all of this, grabbed Dean at the back of his elbow and told him, "Listen to me, this boy will go far in life".  Dean told her he agreed and she grabbed his arm even harder making sure he was looking her in her eyes and said "No, I don't think you understand, this boy will go very far in life".  It was so powerful and the conviction in her voice made us realize even more that Kade really was a special little boy and God has major plans for his life.

Finally, after the DGM we went to the doctor's office to have them look into Kade's raspy breathing and horrible cough.  The medical office by Western standards would make you cringe.  Dirt, grime, bugs, blood splattered everywhere.  I wanted to douse the entire place in bleach.  Kade was familiar with the office though, he knew the little elephant toy in the waiting room and immediately went for it.  The little elephant brought him such joy (I just had to tell myself not to focus on the germs and grime that were on the toy!).

Kade was very upset once we were called into the doctor's office, he knew right then that he wanted nothing to do with this place.  Then they had to draw blood to test for malaria and check to see if he had bronchitis. Understandably, he was terrified when they went to draw his blood.  I did my best to consul him.  The nurses there had no bed side manner, they don't sugar coat what they are doing they just took the needle and jabbed it into his hand.  The tests came back that he was positive for malaria and had bronchitis and a lung infection.  They wrote out a prescription for 6 different medications and then they told us that he would need to come in for breathing treatments 2 times that week and would need injections 3 days in a row.  Poor guy!  My heart was breaking for him, he was terrified of the doctors and nurses, I wanted to take his place so he wouldn't have to go through this.  They gave him the first round of injections before we left and left the catheter in his hand in place so they could complete the next 2 days of injections.  Kade was so worn out after his appointment, we went back to the guest house had dinner and called it a night.
Notice Kade's left hand, they left the catheder in place for the next two rounds of injections 

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Our First Full Day Together as a Family

We wake up today next to our son!  I marvel at how blessed we are to have him in our lives.  I'm floored by the fact that God chose us to be his parents and God chose him to be our son.  

Since it is Sunday, our guest house delivers breakfast to our room so they can attend church service later in the morning.  Kade's first breakfast with his new family is porridge and for us is a one egg omelet and bread with jam. 

After breakfast, we play ball, which proves to be one of Kade's favorite games.

Kade takes a long nap and then wakes up for a lunch of peanut butter sandwiches.  He loves peanut butter.  He is such a good eater.  He ate a full sandwich (2 slices of bread), along with a yogurt and even tried a little beef jerky!

Tomorrow we go to the doctor due to a really bad cough and congestion that we have noticed with Kade.  It sounds a bit like bronchitis and pray that the doctors can help him feel better. 

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Gotcha Day!


How do you express in words the excitement and anticipation you feel on the day you finally get to meet your son?!  I've dreamt about this day for over 2 years.  There is so much that we have had to do to become a family, mountains of paperwork, waiting, doctors visits, fingerprinting, waiting, psychological evaluation, more paperwork, parenting classes, waiting, more paperwork, more classes, waiting, waiting, waiting and MORE waiting...and the day has finally come to be able to hold my son in my arms.  
When we arrived last night, were told that sometime in the morning our son would be brought to us, but we weren't told what time or any other details.  So Saturday morning we wake up, get showered and dressed and wait...not really sure if someone will call us to let us know they are on their way or if someone will just show up at our door. Our room is really small, so I try my best to set some toys out to try to make the place look appealing to a 19 month old.  

All of the sudden, I look out the window and there are 2 ladies walking up to our room holding a little boy.  I turn to Dean and say, 'I think they are here!'. We both open the door and are greeted by the 2 women and our son.  Unfortunately, neither of the women spoke English. We could tell one of the women was our son's foster mother but we weren't sure who the other woman was.  We motioned to go to the gazebo in the small courtyard outside of our room, since our room was so small there wasn't anywhere for all of us to sit. We gathered under the gazebo and the foster mom handed our son, Kade (the name we are giving him), to me.  Kade was very apprehensive and not happy to come to me, you could tell he was scared and didn't know what was going on.  We sat down under the gazebo and tried engaging him with some Cheerios and some toys.  Since neither woman spoke English we weren't able to ask any questions or make small talk, it was actually a bit awkward.
What was so special is that Kade showed up in one of the shirts I had sent him in one of the recent care packages.  He also had one of the mini photo albums we had sent him with pictures of us, his room and our dogs.

Kade with his foster mom

Seeing Kade for the first time was incredible.  God picked the perfect child for us.  He was even more beautiful, rather, handsome than any of his pictures.  His eyelashes are to die for.  His eyes are the color of milk chocolate.  Holding Kade for the first time was magical.  My arms engulfed him, my heart melted.  This is really happening, I'm holding my son in my arms!  I'm not very good with words, so I don't know how to express what exactly I was feeling but it was warm and my heart was full of love.
The women stayed for about a half an hour before leaving.  I made sure we got a photo with them, even though we weren't able to communicate with one another audibly, they knew how grateful we were for what they had done for our son.

Foster Mom, Kade, Me and Natasha (who we found out later was with our attorney's office)
After the women left, Kade was understandably upset.  My heart was breaking for him.  He didn't understand what was happening, why these 2 people who looked different, spoke different, smelled different, etc were now holding him while the people he knew walked away.  I tried my best to hold him closely to comfort him and soothe him.  He cried for a long while until eventually crying himself to sleep.


Once Kade woke up, he was ok.  He didn't cry and actually wanted us to hold him and comfort him.  We took a little walk around the 'compound' (what we called it since we were basically stuck behind 12 foot walls with razor wire).  Later in the afternoon 'E' came by, who works for the attorney's office to check on us.  We explained to him that we were not able to communicate with the women about Kade to find out what he eats, when he sleeps, what soothes him, etc.  'E' called the foster mom to ask these questions and then went with Dean to the market to pick up some baby supplies.  

Kade with 'E'.  'E' became a very good friend that we plan on keeping in touch with as Kade grows up.

We fixed lunch in our room and brought it out to the gazebo area to eat and then play the rest of the afternoon.  He was starting to warm up to us, we were starting to win him over, even though he had won our hearts over the day we received his referral picture over a year ago.  
You can start to see his personality coming out and that he is warming up to us

Good night little man!  What an awesome first day with your Forever Family!

Friday, July 19, 2013

We finally made it to Kinshasa, DRC!

We left at 10:40 am from Brussels for the 8 hour flight to Kinshasa.  Once we boarded the plane, I suddenly didn't feel so well.  My nerves and adrenaline were getting the best of me.  This was the first time since we left that I really started to feel like this was really happening.  I had to focus on my breathing to try to take my mind off of feeling sick.  I was so excited but so worried about how everything was going to go.  In 8 hours I would be in the country my son has called home for the last 19 months!

When landed and had to wait a little bit to deplane because there was a UN plane that had landed right before us.

Once we got off the plane we had to board a shuttle to the airport in order to go through immigration.  People were pushing and shoving there was no order once we got to the immigration line.  People just cut in front of us and soon we were at the very end of the line, we just tried to understand that this is just part of their culture.
We went through immigration wondering how we were going to find the gentleman that was supposed to meet to help us maneuver through the airport and lead us to our attorney.  We didn't need to worry about finding him, he found us (we stuck out like a sore thumb!). The gentleman brought us to a small waiting area, away from the chaos of the baggage claim area.  We waited for about an hour then he guided us to the baggage area which was unbelievable.  There was nothing but chaos.  4 people deep to the conveyor belt.  People pushing one another in order to get their bags.  It took us another 20 minutes or so to finally get our bags then we were shuffled outside to meet our attorney.  We met 'G' outside of the airport doors and he led us through the crowded parking area to the car.
The drive to our guest house was nothing short of crazy.  There are no identifiable (that we could tell) lanes in the road, car horns blaring non-stop, people walking/running in between the cars.  The majority of the cars looked like they were on their last leg.  We saw one large passenger van (not in great shape at all) where the passenger jumped out each time they stopped (which was often since we were in stop and go traffic) to throw a rock under the tire to stop the van since they didn't have working brakes.
Another person's car broke down in the middle of the road and everyone kept honking for him to get out of the way, but there was so much traffic he couldn't go anywhere.  It took us about an hour and a half to get to our guest house from the airport (if there was no traffic it should have only taken about 30 minutes).  I've included a short video of the madness of the roads of DRC.

After a long day of travel we finally arrived at the Loge Familiale.

Tomorrow, we will meet our son!  


Thursday, July 18, 2013

Brussels, Belgium

We arrived in Brussels, Belgium the afternoon of July 18th.  We had an overnight layover here which made for a great break from the long flight.  We stayed at the Golden Tulip Hotel near the Brussels Airport.  The hotel was affordable and had very nice accommodations for our short stay.

After we checked in, we decided to head into the city center to check out a few sights.  We enjoyed a local brew in the city center while some street musicians entertained everyone.  We checked out the Grand Place and then took a taxi to the Atomium .  The Atomium was the main pavilion and icon of the World Fair of Brussels in 1958.  It symbolized the democratic will to maintain peace among the nations, faith in progress, both technical and scientific and an optimistic vision of the future of a modern, super-technological world for a better life for mankind.

We enjoyed our short time in Brussels but we were definitely ready to leave to go meet our son.

DRC or Bust!

July 17th is the day we boarded the plane for the long journey across the Atlantic to the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  We left at 5:40 pm MT from Denver and arrived in Kinshasa, DRC on Friday, July 19th at 5:45 pm local time.  We had an evening stay-over in Brussels, which was a nice way to break up the long flight to DRC.

Since our flight didn't leave until the late afternoon we had the morning to relax (I can only recheck everything I packed so many times) before we left for the airport.  Our feelings were still very hard to explain. Dean was nervous wondering if our son will attach quickly, nervous on how the first meeting will go, nervous that we are finally at the end of this LONG journey and what the future would hold.  For me, I still didn't feel like it was real.  I felt like it was a dream, I didn't feel like myself.  Usually, I'm so super anal that I thought I would be all crazy checking things a million times to make sure we had everything and would be real emotional but I was actually pretty calm, cool and collected.  I was super excited but still apprehensive, guarding my heart until we actually had him in our arms.

As you can see we packed very light for the trip (5 bags total, including carryon's).  Our goal was to have everything we needed for us and our son in our carryon bags. We didn't want to have to worry about our luggage getting lost if it was checked.  If anyone is interested I'm happy to email our packing list.

Bag 1: Dean's roller carryon
Bag 2: Ashley's roller carry on (technically, this bag below qualifies as a carry on, but we ended up checking it)
Bag 3: Dean's backpack carryon
Bag 4: Ashley's backpack carryon
Bag 5: Duffle bag-Checked bag, containing orphanage donations

This roller carryon bag contained all of my clothes, all of our son's clothes and our medical supplies

We leave for Dean's parents house so they can drive us to the airport.  We arrive at the airport with lots of time to spare before we take off so we have a late lunch and a couple drinks to calm our nerves!

Time to board the plane!  First stop, Frankfurt, Germany.  Second stop, Brussels, Belgium.  Third stop, Kinshasa, DRC!

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Hallelujah! Time to Travel:)

July 9, 2013 will always be a special day to our family.  That is the day when our agency called us to let us know it was time to travel!

Here is how it played out:
I received a call around 8:30 am from 'A' at our agency.
Me: Hello
A: Hi Ashley- Time to pack your bags
Me: Huh?  What?  Seriously?
A: Yes, seriously!  You get to go pick up your son!  Do you want to conference in your husband to let him know?
Me: (In complete shock) Ahh...Yes!  (this is where I tried to call Dean on the other line, but he didn't answer.  As I tried to go back to 'A' on the other line I accidentally hung up on her!  Like I said I was in complete shock, I couldn't think straight).
Me: (Calling 'A' back) Hi 'A', sorry I accidentally hung up on you.  Dean didn't answer.
A: Have you thought of trying to surprise him with the news?
Me: That is a great idea--I'll try surprising him at work.

Needless to say, I couldn't concentrate at work.  Some of my co-workers had heard me on the phone and came over to see what the update was.  I was still in shock.  Some of them started crying once they heard the news but I was still hadn't shed a tear yet because it didn't seem real.  We've waited for this day for over 2 years and we finally were told to go pick up our son---it seems surreal. It seem with this whole process we have done nothing but wait and wait some more and finally we received some good news which is going to change our lives!

It is true, we have word to travel to pick up our son.  We travel in the next couple of days to pick up our  son and now are overwhelmed with all of the things we need to get do before we leave.

Since concentration on all things work related wasn't going to happen today I took the rest of the day off so I could tell Dean the great news then work on our visa application and booking our flights!

I decided to surprise Dean at work, so I called a few of the guys he works with to see if he would be at the office or in the field.  His boss said to stop by and he'd call Dean back to the office so I could surprise him.  I printed off a sign that said 'Daddy, Come Pick Me Up' and hung it above his desk.  His boss called him back to the office and I waited in another office for him to arrive.  When he arrived back at the office he saw the sign but thought the guys at work were playing some sort of weird joke on him.  He didn't comprehend that it was time to travel.  He was in shock like I was.

I'm finishing all the last minute preparations to pack for this trip of a lifetime.  The feelings we are going through are hard to explain,  I have complete joy, happiness, and anxiety.  It was a wonderful day and after we finally took it in that we were going to be leaving shortly to pick up our son we completed our visa application, mailed it off and booked our flights for July 17th arriving in Kinshasa on July 19th.