I was reading through a fellow blogger's site today, and saw that she is bringing home her son tomorrow. She's spent 2 1/2 weeks in Guatemala for this trip, and ended up riding out the end of the process in country. It made me start thinking about our trip, and what it was like when we were in Guatemala... We flew over Guatemala, and watched as volcanoes, ocean, and cities started to appear out of the clouds. The landing was rough, bumpy to say the least, but fine. We arrived in one piece from our flight from Georgia. We arrived at about 2:00 in the afternoon Guatemalan time, and the stepped off the plane into a different world. Back home it was cold, around 20 degrees (Remember -- it was December), in Guatemala it was about 65. It was noisy, chaotic, and we didn't know where to go. Very few people spoke English, and you could pick out the adopting parents from a mile away. If it weren't for Mike, I would have sat down somewhere and cried. We made it through the immigration line, and began waiting for our luggage. Then, the luggage carousel broke, and I about lost it. The airport workers, obviously not new to the situation, began bringing all the luggage into the "terminal" by hand. There were probably 200 people standing around, and I was holding a bag with $600 in cash, with a death grip so hard my knuckles were white. Mike forged ahead to the front of the line to try and find our luggage. I waited with the cart we had found. Eventually, Mike came back, luggage in tow and we made our way out of the "baggage claim" to the 4 men standing that took our "duty free" sheets. It was much more lax than the States. Mike and I had received instructions from our agency not to leave the airport without talking to someone at the Marriott desk. So we ventured down a hallway, made some turns and found ourselves in an open area, with hundreds of people behind cattle fences waiting for relatives, some in normal to us street clothes, others in traditional Mayan wear. There were desks for car rentals, the mobile phone company we would later find out would be everywhere, and some other hotels, but not the Marriott. Seems that the airport was under construction, and where the people were standing was normally a balcony that they would all be looking down at us, and that most of the business that used to have booths in the airport were waiting until construction was done. We had hit a rock and hard place moment. Not knowing what to do, we asked anyone that could understand us, and made no headway. We walked back down the hallway that twisted and turned thinking we missed the Marriott desk, and finally, with no other options, walked out of the airport, unattended and alone. We were shuttled along a narrow path, with people everywhere, and men asking to help carry your bags. We amazingly found someone that said the Marriott shuttle would be coming and pointed to where we should wait. He helped carry our bags to the dirt parking lot which pry held about 5-6 cars. It was full of hotel shuttles waiting to take people away. There was a very large bridge to one side, the airport to the other, and a huge stone wall across the street. All over poeple were milling about, kids trying to shine your shoes, women trying to sell you a mobile phone, men with things in their coats and shirts trying to sell you a momento, and a stray skinny pitiful dog. We waited what seemed like forever, and contemplated calling the United States, or our in-country coordinators to see what was going to happen, when the Marriott shuttle pulled up and on we got, with 4 other white couples, that were undoubtedly there for the same reason we were. All the while, I white knuckled clenched the bag that held our money, paperwork, and passports. We made it along the bumpy ride to the Marriott, and checked in. We went up to our room, and called the in-country coordinator to let them know we were there. The hotel staff came, and brought a crib, and the phone rang, telling us that our son was going to be in the hotel in 20 minutes. We felt like we had just arrived, and now we were going to have a baby?! We scrambled to unpack and prepare, find the gifts for our foster family, and find the baby lounge. The Marriott had taken two rooms, and combined them into one, with a microwave, bottle sterilizer, toys, and a computer for adoptive families to use. We went downstairs, and sat nervously waiting for Ché to come through the door. Everytime the door opened, we jumped, only to see another family walk in. The time that the door opened and it was in fact Ché, we were so surprised that we almost didn't realize it was him. Ché's Foster Mom, Fidelina (seen here in our pictures) handed Ché to us, and a very hot bottle of formula. He of course immediately began crying. We were able to ask a few questions, but were so overwhelemed, didn't ask near what we had thought of, or what we should have asked. Fidelina left then, as did our lawyer, and the in-country coordinator, and we were left alone with a crying, screaming, almost toddler aged child to care for. We didn't know what to do, so we went upstairs and gave him fruitsnacks. (He really liked them by the way. Later that evening, we put Ché to bed, without changing his diaper (rookie mistake), and let him sleep in the hotel bed, not knowing where he had slept at Fidelina's home. He cocooned in his blankets, slept through the night and peed the bed spectacularily. The second day of our incredible journey, you would have thought we had it more together, but we went to breakfast without anything. No diapers, no wipes, no baby sized utensils, no food (we didn't have any yet), as we'd arrived on a Sunday and nothing was open, although we did take a bottle. We had gotten formula from a pharmacy that delivered. Of course, because it had been so rough on Ché he was constipated (we didn't know right away), and spent some time that morning at breakfast crying, and squeezing. When he finally did go, Mike had to run upstairs and get supplies to even change the diaper. We finally got it together, and visited some things around the city including an open air mall that we walked to (Ché fell asleep in the Snugli, holding onto an orange ring), and to and open air market. Our embassy appointment was in the morning on December 20th, and we left the Marriott at 7am. We had dressed Ché in the cutest outfit we had, dressed ourselves up, and white knuckle clenched that all important bag all the way to the middle of somewhere we didn't know, where Ché had his picture taken for his passport/visa. We entered the American embassy, where we had to forfeit our batteries, and entered a room that resembled the BMV here in the states. We waited, entertained Ché and his new friend Carlos, and finally were called to the window, where we forfeited the money, and took the oath to care for Ché. Technically in the eyes of the United States, and Guatemala Ché was ours. We then left on the 21st. Traveling with a child we had only known for 4 days, on a 8 hour airplane trip. We almost missed our connecting flight in Atlanta due to getting in the rebooking line, almost got detoured to Gary due to the fog in South Bend, (I believe the pilot made 4 attempts, before finally landing) but made it home nonetheless. This is everyone waiting at the airport for us. Note anxious grandparents and Liz's brother and sister-in-law who got someone to watch their kids, just to come see us! Aunt Sue and Uncle Don took the picture, as they were there waiting for us, as was Ché's Boosh, (Busia) or Great-grandma.
Here's the video of us walking into the South Bend airport well near midnight. Ché was sleeping. He woke up pretty quickly and was very confused.
Our family was incredibly happy. Mike got misty-eyed. We then put on a ridiculous coat and hat, (each much to big), and packaged him into the carseat for the ride home. The rest, is well Chéstory. It was definately a scary time, a joyous time, and a time I hope I never forget. There were so many memories made in that hotel room, with the balcony overlooking the chicken buses, and the baby lounge. The numerous games of drop object someone will pick it up and more. I was afraid to come home to "normalcy," yet anxious to leave to start our lives together. So as my blogger friend prepares to come home, I say good luck, hang on tight to your memories, and thanks for the opportunity to re-live mine!