The only transport option to get down to Angelina’s region was a overnight train that stopped at every single tiny little town. I was certainly not expecting a restful night, but the 12 hours spent in a sleeper compartment were excellent and I actually slept quite well. Our facilitator warned us that we were the last stop and that we would not be early, this train is never early, in fact, if anything, we would be running late.
We were early.
That seems to be the way things have been going with the adoption process ever since we sent the paperwork to this country. May this trend continue!
Our driver was waiting for us at the train platform. We loaded our bags into his car, grabbed a bite to eat at a nearby cafe, dropped off paperwork at the local notary office, and then we were on our way to the orphanage!
I asked our facilitator if Angelina knew we were coming or if the staff would tell her after we arrived. She told us that at this orphanage, children are told the day the parent’s arrive. This is to save heartbreak if a family commits to a child but is not able to complete the adoption; it also helps prevent the child enduring waiting all those months anticipating their parent’s arrival. This seems like a good, sound policy.
However, at Angelina’s last orphanage the director did tell her that a family was in process to adopt her. It seems like Angelina was told this right before she was transferred. Perhaps the direct meant it to be a lifeline for Angelina, a bright light to hold on to during the upheaval of being transferred.
That was 9 months ago. For 9 months Angelina has been anticipating our arrival. For 9 months she has been asking her new director if her parents were coming today. For 9 months the director has had to tell her no, her family was not coming today or tomorrow or the next day. For 9 months the staff has listened to Angelina telling them that she is practically American, (which she seems to use as a charte blanche to do whatever she wants) and that her parents would be here any minute.
Nine months is a long time for anyone, it must seem like eternity for a 9 year old.
Oh how my heart broke when I heard this news. I ache for all that lost time, the time when her parents, whom she knew about but did not know, were not there for her.
I had lost track of time during the drive out to the orphanage, with a start I realized we were pulling up to the walls of an institution. Our facilitator confirmed that the orphanage was past the large wrought iron gates, complete with gate keeper.
And there, on the other side of the gate, perched at the end of the driveway, was our little lookout. She was in a bright red shirt with ruffles, her short hair was up in two tight braids, and she wore the biggest, most hopeful smile I have ever seen.
As the car drove past she craned her neck to see inside the car. She whipped her chair around and pushed herself along at top speed to catch up to us as we climbed out of the car. “Is it you, is it you? Are you my parents?” she asked, all out of breath, as her chair rolled up. And finally we got to tell her yes. Yes we are her parents, yes we had finally come. I thought the hopeful smile before was the biggest smile I’d ever seen, but her new smile passed it by a mile.
That was a bit unorthodox for the adoption process, usually, like with Travis’ introduction, the child is brought in and introduced by a staff member. We still had to go in for a meeting with the director, lawyer, facilitator and who knows who else, but when we emerged from the meeting, Angelina was waiting for us. She’s had a lot of practice.
We spent the next few hours with Angelina, flipping through the photo album, trying to communicate, and laughing through everything lost in translation (which is pretty much everything). Her group of girls flocked around and oh how Angelina loves to be the queen bee. She handed the photo album and video house tour around to her mates, showing them her sisters, her dog, her room. As people passed through the room she’d gesture them over to introduce them to her mama and papa. Every time I caught her eye she’d break out in that smile, the same smile that captured my heart a year and a half ago. And I can honestly say that smile is even more amazing in person.