Tuesday, November 6, 2012

A Trip Worth Taking

Let me apologize first of all for not getting this post out sooner...our time in Haiti went by super fast with little to no time to be on the computer and since I've been home, life has continued on without a blink by celebrating Quinn's 3rd birthday (Blues Clues cupcake cake and lots of fun presents) and having Toby's annual heart appointment (no changes from last year so cleared for another year-Praise God!)  I am finally able to sit down today and share about our trip through words, photos, and videos...whew!

I think it may be best to tell about my trip through the answers to the prayer requests I asked before we left and then to fill in little extras here and there.  God certainly went before us, was there with us, and will continue on this journey with us here and with Nora there.  I was continually amazed at the ways I saw God move on our behalf.

Request #1 was: Tropical Storm Sandy, which then turned into Hurricane Sandy.  I asked for you to pray for the weather to be calm enough for our flights to continue on as scheduled.
  • Answer: Everything went through completely fine.  Haiti had seen 4 days of straight wind, rain, and cooler temps until we arrived on Saturday.  All was warm and sunny while we were there and we never saw a drop of rain.  The effects of the storm were still evident as we did not have electricity, internet, or phone for the first two days there and the dry riverbed we had to cross to get to church was not so dry anymore, but instead had ruts of rushing water going through it.  We were thankful to have come down when we did and not a day sooner!
Request #2 was: To have my sis-in-law's flights to be running on schedule since she was with American Airlines.
  • Answer: She had no delays and arrived safely in Haiti one hour before we did just as planned.
Request #3 was: Travel sickness to not happen.
  • Answer: Well our first flight from Detroit to Fort Lauderdale was the roughest turbulence I have ever been in.  I had taken only 1/2 of my pill and regretted that decision.  I felt horrible, but managed to get through it all without actually getting sick so that was a praise.  For all other flights and even for the two days of driving the crazy Haiti roads I took full doses of medicine and felt GREAT through it all with little to no sleepiness--Yay!!!
Request#4 was: Layovers of flights
  • Answer: Our overnight layover went as smooth as it could.  We had 5 hours of sleep in a hotel room and I still think those 5 hours of rest were definitely needed before heading on over to meet Nora.  I was feeling pretty gross at that point so getting some sleep helped.  Lily did fabulous despite the fewer hours of sleep--she was rather excited to see her first palm tree instead!  Our 8 1/2 hour in airport layover on our return trip turned into 9 1/2 hours because of the need to use a different plane.  The time went surprising quick, however, and we enjoyed our moments together watching movies, working on photos, and playing some games.
Request #5 was: Haitian Airport
  • Answer: Couldn't have gone smoother!  Rachel and Judi were able to come back through security to help us with luggage and Lily was able to walk with her hand in Aunt Judi's the whole way to the car so I was relaxed and enjoyed those first moments in the sunshine of Haiti.  The crowds were also not nearly as bad as the last time we flew into PAP so I'm sure that helped!
Request #6 was: Our US Embassy appointment and our Parquet Court appointments to be swift in the wait, all the paperwork would be correct, and questions would be answered.
  • Answer: WOW.  The forecasted 4-6 hour waits at both appointments were never seen.  Our US Embassy appointment was under 2 hours and our Parquet Court appointment was 1!!!  Praise the Lord!  The buildings that were supposedly freezing cold were completely fine and the building that was supposedly incredibly hot felt like it had pleasant air conditioning-ha!  It was amazing to get in and out of those places in the times we did.  We literally were stuck in traffic for 2 hours each day getting to the appointments so having them go faster than the drive it took to get there was wonderful.  After being called up very quickly at the Embassy appointment, I was told there were a few sections on the paperwork that still needed to be filled out by our director and she hadn't done that yet.  I was fearful we would be waiting forever since we didn't have it all together when they originally called us up, but was thankful the wait until she called us again was only another 1/2 hour.  Whew. The next day when we went to Parquet, we were running pretty late (not getting there until 11 a.m.), but when we arrived we found out the Dean had not even been there yet that day so if we had been there first thing in the morning like the original plan we would have just been waiting for hours.  What an answer to prayer!  The Dean ended up being so busy when he arrived, the assistant simply took my passport back to him and he signed off on our paperwork without even seeing me face to face...I'll take it!
Request #7 was: Sleeping arrangements.
  • Answer: It all worked out beautifully.  Lily and I shared a double bed the first two nights while Judi had a bunk bed (upper bunk unfortunately, but it was a good mattress at least).  Our beds unfortunately didn't have mosquito nets, however, and Lily got eaten up the second night.  The following two nights, however, we were able to switch into another smaller bedroom where we each had a bottom bunk under mosquito nets so that was even better.  The team of 17 who were helping at the MTM clinic and also staying at the guest house with us were all very nice and fun to be around.  I am forever grateful for the entertainment they provided for Lily especially.  When they left half way through our trip she was a bit lost on what to do since their domino games were not as frequent-hee, hee!  It was nice to have a little of both "worlds" on the trip--lots of people to socialize with at the beginning of the trip and a night to ourselves at the end.
Request #8 was: Time with Nora and for the bonding between Nora and Lily to go well.
  • Answer: It was REALLY good to be there for 5 full days.  I won't lie--the first 2 days were pretty overwhelming for me.  Between my organized personality not having anything organized, trying to care for Lily and make sure my sister-in-law was doing fine (which she always was), being tired and not feeling the best from traveling, trying to even find a cleared off space on my bed to sit down on, and then having my little girl given to me with no instructions and not enough supplies for the day (a bag with 2 diapers, an extra change of clothes, and a sippy cup)...well, let's just say I was overwhelmed.  I had no idea how much she ate, what she was even able to eat, or how much she slept during the day.  I also thankfully had packed a bottle, formula, and many more diapers since those were not included in the daily bag.  Oye.  It definitely took a few days to figure out how to even best care for her--I felt much like I did bringing home my first baby from the hospital, but it was just a 1 year old baby instead of a newborn!  Those first days are overwhelming for any new mom.
  • Nora was also overwhelmed in those first two days.  She would smile at us every once in a while, but her two fingers were in her mouth quite a bit.  She always used her fingers in her mouth on the last trip to fall asleep--a comfort suck--but now that she is older, she also uses this as a comfort when she is uncomfortable, scared, or uneasy.  We saw them more in her mouth in the first two days than the last 3 for sure.  As we spent time with her she warmed up to us and began to understand we were safe people to be around, fun to play with, and loved her very much.  With each day she became more animated, more smiley, and MUCH more loud with her words!  She was always happy and content, but definitely vocal--it was so nice to hear her say her favorite words of the week "Daddy!", "Huh???", and "Mama".  The last day together we even went to a few public places and I found her clinging to my shirt when strangers came near her...that is a GREAT sign of bonding.  She knew I was safe and who she could cling to and for those moments, I was so grateful to have had 5 days with her to get her to that point.
  • As far as Lily bonding with Nora...yes, they are definitely sisters!  They had fun coloring, shaking maracas, loving on Lily's kitty stuffed animal, eating snacks, and building towers with the blocks we brought down for her.  When it came time to say good-bye, Lily was all smiles and hugs to Nora in her car seat, but once she was gone, oh did the tears come.  We were able to share in those moments of sadness together through our tears.  As I assured her it was completely fine to be crying because it was definitely a very sad thing to be leaving Nora behind, I heard her say through tears, "Mom, I wish you would have never brought me to Haiti."  I asked her why she said that and she answered, "So I would have never had to say goodbye to Nora."  Oh my heart.  It was a moment of such heartache on one hand and such blessing on the other because it was clear as day to me that Lily indeed bonded as a sister.  We talked for a few moments about all the good things we experienced on our trip and that if Lily had not come at all she never would have met Nora yet and that would have made Lily just as sad.  We talked about how the best thing about this trip was that it was the last one we would ever have to make where we had to leave Nora behind in Haiti.  After several more minutes of being alone upstairs where Judi and I could hear Lily crying, she came back downstairs ready for a few last games of dominoes before bedtime.  Leaving Nora behind was a hard moment for all of us, but one I feel was still a wonderful moment in Lily's life.  It was a moment where she realized just how much she loved Nora and wanted to be with her forever.  It was a moment I treasured as a mom as well.
Request #9 was: For our cameras to all be working well so we could get as many photos and videos as possible.
  • Answer: Well, we had over 700 photos and 37 short videos to begin with-Ha!  That was before I could sort through the photos and delete off a lot of blurry ones and such.  We ended with 448 photos and still 37 short videos!  So, yes, this prayer request was answered for sure.  There is a slideshow at the end of this post to enjoy the highlights from the trip (don't worry, it doesn't have all 448 photos-ha!).  Following that are a few of my favorite video clips of our sweet Nora.  I hope you enjoy watching our little girl in action.
A few other tidbits:
  • I got to shake hands with one of Haiti's past presidents, Baby Doc, while Rachel drove us towards one of the best little pastry shops in PAP.  It was so random and crazy and cool!  I wish I would have had my camera more ready, but the fact his face was so close to mine (right outside the window of my side of the car) it wouldn't have turned out very well anyway.  I'll take the handshake instead...I can't even say I've ever shook the hand of a past president in the US!
  • I had the BEST drink--a cherry drink at a restaurant Rachel took us to.  I don't like cherries at all, but this was wonderful and tasted nothing like US cherries...I could have had that drink every day.
  • Our trip to MTM's church was super exciting and totally crazy as we bumped our way down washed out pathways and across the river with raging waters in a truck and a 4-wheel Ranger.  We got stuck for a little while trying to get up the steep roadway on the other side of the mountain.  We have some pictures of the truck going over the middle of the riverbed, but they definitely do not do justice to what the ride was actually like.  Lily's quote once we were back to the guest house after church was, "Mom, I don't EVER want to do that again!!!!"
  • Lily enjoyed seeing goats, chickens, and cows randomly on the roadways.
  • Lily also was amazed at the way everyone carried such amazingly heavy things on their heads.  She attempted to carry her stuffed animal the same way in the airport on our return trip home.
  • I was so incredibly blessed to have Judi on this trip with me.  She was an amazing helper with the girls and just a joy to be around.
  • Skype is one of the best inventions.  Micah and the boys (and my mom) were able to get a few chances to interact with Nora this way...what a blessing!  When we closed the computer after the last time, Nora looked at me with her big eyes and said "Daddy?!?" and waved her little hand.  So sweet!
  • We were unfortunately not able to get a hold of Nora's birth mom while we were down there so I am hoping she will be able to see us off on our next trip.  I have great respect for her and desire to know so much more about her before we bring Nora home.
  • One of my favorite memories on the trip will be hearing Lily whisper to me in the airport waiting to board the plane for PAP.  She seemed quite surprised despite my efforts to enlighten her earlier that almost the entire crowd of people getting ready to board the plane had black skin.  I told her again that yes, we would be more of the minority once we were in Haiti because Haitians are (generally speaking) black skinned people.  I think this concept, although known from the beginning, did not become truly known until she had a visual for it.  It is my hope and dream to see each of my children break out of their normal little box of life and experience the many cultures and beautiful people God has blessed the face of the world with.  What made this moment even more special was seeing a note Lily wrote on her dry erase notebook during our church service at MTM just 2 days later.  There is a photo of it in the slideshow, but it said "I love blak pople" (translation: "I love black people").  I love that God can help change a shy, whispering girl into one who proudly writes her heart on a note for all to see in a matter of 2 days.  Praise God for that!
  • Please continue to pray for our process to continue on swiftly.  The average time frame until we would bring Nora home is another 6-9 months.  It could be longer or it could be shorter as well, so, as I have from the very beginning, I am praying for it to be as fast as miraculously possible.
In conclusion, this trip to Haiti very much reflected our adoption journey as a whole...it was hard and sweet at the same time.  It was definitely a trip worth taking...this adoption journey is also definitely a trip worth taking.  Thank you again for praying, friends.  We were never meant to go through this journey without you!

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