By the end of the day, we had our special travelers visas and all of our children's passports in hand.
'Thunder' and 'Lightning', here we come!
We would be boarding a plane to Colombia on Wednesday, July, 25, 2012, well on our way to becoming a long-awaited family of seven.
The flights themselves were comfortable and uneventful. We even met a "neighbor" flying on the same plane as us from Miami to Cali. He was from our hometown in North Carolina, and he gave us his card just in case we needed him for ANYTHING while we were in-country...another ordinary angel on the Adoption Highway.
Upon landing in Cali, we learned that there are three flights scheduled to arrive each evening and the first one to hit the tarmac is the "lucky one" because those passengers are the first in line through the immigration, baggage claim, declarations, and baggage confirmation check points.
The airport quickly became a mad house.
It took us well over an hour and a half to finally exit the airport.
Our first night in Colombia was one disappointment after another, starting with the fact that the agency facilitator we expected to pick us up from the airport was NOT there. Amidst the crowd were two complete strangers holding a sign with our name on it...they spoke no English and were driving a small vehicle. We had been prepared to meet Magnolia, our agency's in-country facilitator, so when we saw these strangers we were very confused and honestly weren't sure if it was safe to leave with them. We walked a very long way in the dark on coarse pavement with bumps and pot holes hauling 10 pieces of luggage and 4 carry on bags.
We could hardly keep pace.
The kids struggled to wheel 2 suitcases each across the bumpy terrain. The lights were dim and cars darted here and there. When we finally reached the vehicle it was obvious that we were not all going to fit inside. However, there was no option, so we sat one on top of the other to make room for the luggage and some of us sat with suitcases on our laps.
Arriving at the hotel, we were disappointed to find that we had been put in two adjoining rooms WITHOUT air conditioning. The temporary solution to the problem was to move Knight in Shining Armor and Fair Maiden LK to the other side of the hotel to stay in one small air conditioned room...the only one available.
That left us separated the last two nights before becoming a family of seven and it was very difficult.
Day 2 involved an informational meeting at the orphanage where we discussed the boys' past, present, future, likes, and dislikes. It was a wonderful meeting. The staff at Chiquitines is outstanding and it shows in EVERYTHING they do and say. The meeting lasted for three hours, but we still did not have enough time to discuss everything or meet their teachers, so we will return another day to do so. We were identified immediately by the other children in the play yard as 'Thunder' and 'Lightning's' Mama and Papa.....so much for the surprise!
Day 3 was GOTCHA Day, and it was, beyond a shadow of a doubt, one of the most memorable days of my life. The excitement at Chiquitines could be felt everywhere from Agatha, the Director, to Maria, the Adoption Coordinator, to the doctor, the psychologist, the social worker, and the teachers, to the janitor, whom our boys call "Tio" because they love him so much. A large group of staff was invited to the presentation due to the fact that 'Thunder' and 'Lightning' have such a special place in so many hearts at the orphanage. It was priceless. The hugs we received from the staff were long and hard and tight and genuine.
Our boys have been well loved while waiting for us and the many, many tears shed today tell me that they will also be well missed.
Our time began in the Director's office with a brief meeting and the signing of a document that named us 'Thunder' and 'Lightning's' foster parents for the time being. Then, cameras began to roll and we lined up facing the door through which the boys would march.
|WAITING for the door to open!|
The door opened and T.H.E.R.E. T.H.E.Y. W.E.R.E.!!! Running toward us with smiles and flowers and a photo collage of themselves that they had made.
'Lightning' led the way and went straight to Papa wrapping his arms around his neck and hugging him tight.
'Thunder' came to me and melted into my arms. I S.O.B.B.E.D. and S.O.B.B.E.D. and S.O.B.B.E.D. They were so sweet and so beautiful and so very happy.
After a minute, 'Thunder' leapt into Papa's arms and 'Lightning' melted into mine. He put his head on my shoulder and wrapped his arms around my neck. He squeezed so tight. He was smiling from ear to ear. Each went on to embrace their sisters and their brother, then 'Lightning' came back to Mama and planted himself on my lap! We talked and we laughed and we hugged some more. Then 'Thunder' said (in Spanish), "I am ready. Let's go home!"
The staff lined up for more hugs. It was so hard for them to let go, but at the same time they were so joyful.
It was "Tio", the janitor that walked the boys into the Presentation Room and it was "Tio" who was waiting outside by the van. His face was wet with tears and it was hard for him to smile as he watched the boys walk out. In a priceless moment 'Lightning' let go of my hand and ran to him. Embraced him. And shouted, "Mama, photo! Photo!" Then it was 'Thunder's' turn. "Photo, Mama!"
"Tio" stood in the open field and waved good bye to his little loves.
The Director and the psychologist stood teary eyed in the driveway blowing kisses.
The guard at the gate stopped the van so that he could say good bye.
As we took off down the road, the other children, big and small, ran alongside the chain link fence shouting and waving to 'Thunder' and 'Lightning'. Then, a sight that broke this Mama's heart...
Waiting at the end of the fence, ahead of the crowd were two little girls. The oldest had tears streaming down her cheeks...no smile. She stood with her head pressed to the wire, and through tears she just stared. Then she raised a hand and waved. No hoopla. Just tears and a slow motion wave.
Our boys never looked back...