OK, here’s the full story of our trip. This will be a long blog.
We start out early on Thursday morning, flying to Guatemala City via Houston. The flights aren’t bad, though we sat for an hour on the runway in Houston waiting out a storm. We arrive in Guatemala around 12:30 local time. We gained two hours because Guatemala doesn’t observe Daylight Savings Time.
The airport was very interesting. They are doing major renovations and it looks like it will ultimately be pretty nice. They are billing it as soon to be the best airport in Central America. Maybe it will be. But for now it means that due to construction there is only one exit. Everyone is herded (the only appropriate verb) through this very narrow gauntlet. It’s literally about six feet wide, with taxi drivers, family, vendors, whatever on the other side of a fence. So if one person stops to tie their shoelace, the whole procession is halted. And this one exit leads to one street where every bus, taxi, shuttle, etc. must drive by. So it’s just total chaos. Welcome to Guatemala.
Eventually the van for our hotel arrives and we get there. The hotel is nice. We call the person from our agency and she says they’ll be over in an hour with the baby. Meanwhile, all Danielle wants to do is go to the pool.
So an hour later, the foster mother and the person from our agency show up with our baby. She looks good. Not as skinny as we thought from the pictures. She goes to my wife with no issues. She sits on my lap and I give her a bottle while Danielle also sits on my lap.
My wife spends about 20 minutes talking with the foster mother in Spanish to get all of her likes, dislikes, habits, etc. Then the foster mother gives her a kiss, cries and they leave. The whole thing was less than half an hour. It kind of felt like, “here’s your baby. See ya.”
But Victoria was totally fine. I really thought that she would be freaking out, being held and taken care of by total strangers. But she had zero issues. She’s a happy, sweet baby. Honestly, Danielle will be the one making the bigger adjustment. She’s very happy with Victoria, but going from being an only child to having a baby sister is a big change for her.
We did discover one interesting fact that we didn’t know before. We were under the impression that the birth mother was simply a poor single woman who couldn’t keep her baby. That isn’t the case. The birth mother is married with five children. The problem was that her husband is not Victoria’s father. A Guatemalan soap opera. Apparently she couldn’t keep the baby and keep her marriage going. So sometime down the road Victoria may be very curious about her siblings.
Next we had to wait for our driver/facilitator to come to the hotel to go over the forms we needed for the embassy appointment the next day. At this point we couldn’t keep Danielle from the pool so we went for a swim while we waited for Hugo. He went over our paperwork by the pool.
Hugo was going to pick us up the next day around 7:45 for our 8:00 embassy appointment. So we ordered some room service and tried to get some rest, since we were all exhausted from traveling. There was just one problem. Victoria (Tori, as I shall henceforth be calling her) apparently goes to sleep at 10:00, with the TV on. 10:00 feels like midnight to us given the time change. So this was a challenge. Our first task with Tori will be getting her on a better schedule (and no TV to fall asleep).
The next morning we are ready to go. We’ve been warned that you can’t take much into the embassy, so we’re traveling light. We’re waiting for Hugo. And waiting. At this point I started to think that perhaps Guatemala was one of those countries where nothing happens exactly on time. Hugo shows up at 8:05. We’re probably at the embassy and through security by around 8:30. I now see why being exactly on time isn’t that important.
This isn’t an “appointment”, it’s a mob. There are about 80 families in the embassy looking to adopt a baby. I am not exaggerating. It might have been more. There were two jam packed rooms. Hugo took our paperwork (and fees) to one window and told us to wait, then we’d be called to window 10 and then to either window 8 or 9. We’re at window 10 about an hour later. A woman asks us a few questions and tells us to wait. About 45 minutes later we’re called to window 8. A different woman asks us to raise our right hands and swear that we will be telling the truth (she was amused that Danielle did it as well). She asks a few more questions, says we’re approved and we can pick up the Visa on Monday after 3:30. That’s it.
So now it’s about noon on Friday and we have nothing to do until Monday afternoon. Actually Hugo is going to pick up the Visa for us, so all we have to do is be at the hotel. And we’ve basically been told to be very careful walking around because we are obvious targets and to definitely not walk anywhere at night. So what do we do for the next few days?
Really, that was about it. Danielle loved the pool. My wife would take care of Victoria, bring her down to the pool some, and I would be in the pool with Danielle, trying not to fry my skin. I think an earlier blog posting mentioned the weather forecast calling for rain every day. Thankfully that wasn’t even close. It was 80 and mostly sunny every day. But the funniest part about being at the pool was that it was adoption central. At any given moment there were a half dozen adopting families at the pool. Some families were just there for a visit and some were like us finalizing the adoption. And we stayed at the one of the two recommended hotels that was supposedly “low key” in terms of adoptive families. The other hotel was supposedly even more filled with adopting families.
So you meet people very easily. It’s perfectly obvious that you have something in common. Two American parents with a Guatemalan kid. Hmm, what do you think is going on? And Danielle wanted to meet every baby so we got to meet many families going through the same thing we were going through.
We did do a tour of Antigua one day, which was the Spanish capital way back when. It has since been destroyed by volcanoes and earthquakes so there are only a few really old things to see. Hugo took us and two other adopting families. As tours go it was fairly touristy, but it did get us out of the hotel for a day.
The adoption demographic was interesting to me. I originally thought it would be mainly childless couples, but that isn’t the case. We actually fit the demographic very nicely. We saw mostly older couples, with one or more children. I suppose that makes sense. International adoption isn’t cheap, so an older more financially secure couple makes more sense.
I mentioned in my previous post that I would have an update on Spanish Wiggles (if you are not familiar with the Wiggles, skip this paragraph). The hotel had decent TV channels, but almost all in Spanish. We had Playhouse Disney, Discovery Kids, Nick, etc. For the most part they just dub Spanish voices over the regular show. But not the Wiggles. The Wiggles is apparently an international franchise. They have all the same characters and the four Wiggles have the yellow, blue, red and purple shirts. But they aren’t Greg, Anthony, Murray and Jeff. As my daughter put it, “Jeff is a girl”. No, there’s no cross dressing here, there are just four different people. True Wiggles fans will recall Fernando and little Fernando, who sang Mexican songs. Little Fernando has grown up and is the yellow shirt Wiggle.
So on Monday we get the Visa. Tuesday super early (we wake everyone up at 4:00 am) we leave for home. We are so ready to go at this point. The pool was nice, but taking care of two kids in a hotel room gets old. Going to the airport in the morning is a lot easier than arriving. Much less chaos.
The flights are good. Danielle sleeps on the first one, but not Victoria. In Houston we have to go through immigration. This is the big deal. You go through the regular US citizen line and then they take you to the interview room. There you wait for a while. We hadn’t taken this into account when we planned our itinerary. We had a fairly tight connection. As we waited we started to get the feeling that we were going to miss our flight.
Finally we are called for our interview. It consisted of, “ok, you’re fine. She’s a US citizen at this point, but you have to go to immigration and fill out a form. Good luck.”
So we’re off and running to our flight. We still have to get our bags, clear customs, recheck our bags, go through security and get to the gate. We have 30 minutes. But everything goes fast. We’re flying through security. There’s only one problem. I have a money clip that also holds credit cards. It has metal in it. So I always remove my money and put the clip in a bin to go through security. In my haste I forget to collect it. We make it to the plane, get to our seats and I realize what has happened.
Too late to go get it. Damn, I’m screwed. Driver’s license, credit cards, etc. all gone. What a pain. Then just before they close the airplane door, someone walks on the plane, “Is there a Stephen Fischer here?”. They found it, saw the driver’s license, checked what flight I was on and got it to me in time. Totally incredible.
So that was the final story in our grand saga. Tori is doing well. Her sleeping at night is a bit erratic, but otherwise she is a sweet, happy baby. Life is good.
Here’s a link to more pictures