Tuesday, December 21, 2010

My brother, Paul & the kids who stole our hearts

This is my brother, Paul. He has a heart of gold & loves children who need a home. He was Zoe's foster Daddy for a little over a year. She calls him "Daddy Paul". We have LOVED getting to know his family throughout our adoption process. I am overwhelmed at how he & his wife, Lawrencia have dedicated their lives & home to caring for children. This year, Paul's home officially became a NGO (non-governement organization/non-profit). His NGO is named NYAME DUA. It means 'God Protects'. So fitting. He has asked Mark & me to serve on the board of Nyame Dua. Mark & I have committed to them for the long haul. We want you to get to know them...

Paul & I are the same age - apart by 1 month - & though raised an ocean apart in cultures that are nothing alike - we have a common spirit & goal. I am overwhelmed at all that God can do. And does. Paul is married to Lawrencia & they have 2 boys of their own, ages, 5 & 9. Paul has been caring for orphans & vulnerable children for over 10 years. While he has many children that he fosters while waiting for their completed adoptions, he also has 7 teenage boys that have been living with them for approximately 7 years. They are the dearest boys & have stolen our hearts. Let me introduce them to you....

These are our 'big boys'! They are great kids. They share a very small room that holds 4 bunk beds. They live in a room adjacent to Paul's house. Paul built them the room out of wood - it is very much like a shed with a slab floor. More on this later! All the boys attend school & work hard. They engage in chores helping with the smaller children, bringing water, helping cook meals, etc. While we were there on 3 different weeks this year, we never saw them with a unkind word or complaint of any kind. All of them LOVE to play a pick-up game of soccer!

This is Zubel. A quiet, strong spirit. He is gentle with a sweet smile.

This is Luke. Luke is quick with a smile. He is energetic & a hard worker. Luke enjoys school & makes very good grades.

This is Jason. Another energetic, eager to help young man. He is quick to ask questions & learn more about those around him. My boys loved playing with Jason!

This is Simon. (pronounced Simone) Another quiet, strong spirit. The one thing you always notice about Simon is his helpful & kind soul. He notices what needs to be done & is quick to jump in. The little ones love Simon & he is great with them.

This is Lawrence. While I do not know Lawrence very well because he was up north during our main stay, he is great kid!

This is David. David is small for his age & very happy! He is all smiles & eager to be in the midst of people. David has some medical issues with one of his legs that we are still learning more about. He will require surgery at some point.

This is Gideon. Gideon has a hearing loss & is generally a quiet soul. He also has a curvature of his spine. I also do not know Gideon very well yet! (Shout Out to the Weaver Orthodontics t-shirt SSI folks!)

This is Paul's home. It has a sitting room, 2 bedrooms, & kitchen. The younger foster kids sleep in a small bedroom with 3 bunkbeds in the house.

He built the room below for the older teen boys. It is not completely safe as there isn't any electricity & the boys were using candles & kerosene lanterns to see at night....in a wood building! Also, it was fairly subject to the weather elements because of the way it was built.

Recently, the boy's wooden room has been found to have termites & is going to require rebuilding. Paul recently had a mason come to give an estimate to rebuild it properly! We are looking to help him raise the money to complete this project!

I will add a link to Adoption Advocates International over there on the left if you'd like to give a tax-deductible gift to help Paul & Nyame Dua with upcoming projects. If you give on the AAI website, please make sure to designate your gift to NYAME DUA - Paul's home.

Paul recently opened a home in the north as well in Bolgatanga (Zoe's home place!). He now has 13 vulnerable children & 3 aunties that live in this home. Paul rents this home from his uncle & it is considered very nice by Ghana standards. We are busy furnishing it & providing for clean water for the kids.

Some of our upcoming goals are to raise money for a van so that Paul can transport kids & travel to & from Bolgatanga. This will also hopefully be an avenue to bring income as he is able to transport others & rent to travelling families from the US. This van will cost around $15,000. We also have some community goals - like helping to pay for a street light in the community so that children can see where they are walking & make the streets safer in the evening.

There are many things we have going on. This post is long overdue but I am just now getting my feet on solid ground! We love these kids & want to see them succeed & thrive! We want to support Paul & all the things he has dreams for in his world around him. We are SO blessed beyond anything we deserve. I want to help! Don't you?? There will be more updates to come! Keep watching! Meanwhile, help us build that solid bedroom for these precious boys!!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Update - Chapter 2?

Well...here I am! I have resurfaced! We are on Week 4 of our adventure as the Fritchman Five. It truly is as if Zoe were created to fit exactly into our family. I'm not just saying that. (I don't just say stuff!) She laughs ALL day long! She giggles in her sleep sometimes! I LOVE it! She laughs at nothing! Amazingly similar to the rest of us! We have all marveled at the ease of her transition. I really believe that week we spent at the Cape just as a family made a huge difference in our homecoming.

I definitely had envisioned a few more posts between the last one & this one. My laptop died the week before we went to Ghana. I sent it to Tennessee with my Daddy-in-law and am awaiting the verdict before deciding Mac or PC. Although, we have a desk-top, it is in the back of the house and not conducive to watching my new 2 year old at the same time. Anyway - I digress. Bottom line, I am making excuses as to why I have not appropriately blogged details of our homecoming weeks!

I am trying to get my mind back to our trip! We did end up riding back to Accra with Emmanuel from CCBR. His taxi was air conditioned and that was all we cared about for the 4 hour drive. Much of what we did with our last day and 1/2 was fairly uneventful.

I have had many people ask about our last meeting with Zoe's birth mother. We met her at Zoe's foster home. We took lots of pictures. Her mother looked very different from the first time I met her in April. She is now out of work all together and lives with 2 of her brothers in a place that is not their home. We also took some video of her speaking to Zoe. The whole time was a little awkward for a few reasons. Her mother does not speak English. It is very limited. She is also very shy & reserved. So, paired with the Ghanaian culture of not showing emotions - the whole meeting felt awkward. Zoe knows her birth mom by her first name so she easily went to her and played with her. But when we got ready to leave, it was also clear that Zoe wanted to go with us. We will continue to update Zoe's mom with pictures and letters over the years through Zoe's foster dad. I was finally able to glean some information about her father from the brother of the birth mom (Zoe's uncle). I wanted a nugget to be able to give Zoe one day. Was he tall? short? quiet? boisterous? When I tried to ask birth mom about this back in April, she looked at me like I was crazy and simply said, He is dead. Thanks. Her uncle said that everyone liked the man. He was very friendly to people. He was not the center of attention and might not talk in a crowd but talked a lot to his friends. He made him sound easy-going. I don't know how accurate it is but it definitely makes me feel better to have a little something to tell her about her birth father.

Friday, I had Zoe's hair done before we left for America. Good glory! It took 6 hours!! The learning curve is STEEP here people!! She had braids done all the way around her head with small extensions to fill it out and make it even. She was adorable! How did she do for 6 hours? For 4 1/2, we had a nap, snack, tv, books, etc. For the last 1 and 1/2, we just screamed and cried a lot. I don't really blame her. I wanted to scream and cry too and it wasn't even my head. Zoe was starting to get sick. Runny, stuffy nose thing.

The boys squeezed in one more game of soccer with the boys from Paul's home before we left. Paul rode with us to the airport and it is always bitter sweet to leave. Going through the airport with Zoe's paperwork was a cinch. We originally had a 24-hour layover in Atlanta on our return flight which we never intended to keep. Mark worked his magic IN Ghana to have our flight switched as soon as we arrived in Atlanta. We only had a 2 1/2 hour layover in Atlanta. I love my husband. Nobody knew we were coming home on Saturday so it was kinda nice to just 'slip into town' and have an afternoon to sleep it off. Mark's parents were at our home holding down the fort when we got here.

So, here we are. Adjusting to life in America. With 3 children. I am totally learning how to do African hair. It is totally different from mine. I don't think I'm quite so bad. Is there a grace period? I have some lessons set up with a few different folks well-versed in the hair arena! If you're lucky, I might post a -do or 2!

Asa thinks everything Zoe says and does is hysterical. Eli loves to take care of her. Zoe's favorite family member by far is our dog, Anna. Zoe talks to Anna ALL day long. And the funnier part is that Anna obeys her. Zoe doesn't say it once to Anna. She says it until Anna listens! I love that she isn't afraid of her. One day I walked into the playroom and Zoe was sitting on the floor with her legs sprawled out in front of her. Anna's dog bowl was in between her legs and she was feeding Anna 1 piece of dog food at a time by hand. So sweet!

Any apprehension that Zoe had about Mark has completely faded. She loves her Daddy to pieces. A few days after we arrived home, Mark walked in the door from work and Zoe ran to him at the door yelling, 'Daddy!!!". He is completely smitten for life.

Zoe LOVES the bath. What 2 year old doesn't? But seriously- a 2-year old that only took baths in a bucket? Running water in a tub is like a water park!! She is in heaven. She is practically potty trained & I feel like I won the lottery in that area.

If we had any real issue to speak of so far, it would be sleeping. After about a week, we finally put her in her own bed. None of us were getting good sleep. She woke up every couple of hours every night. Crying out. Sometimes she was easily consolable and sometimes not. What breaks my heart is wondering how often in the past year has she cried out in her sleep and there wasn't anyone there? Honestly, this was the hardest part for me in our long visa wait. She had cried out both in April and in August when I stayed with her. We have been 3 nights with straight through sleep as of today. I hope this is a trend and that the security of the home and routine is setting in.

I am awestruck at how God created Zoe. I am overwhelmed that He is giving me the privilege of being her mama. What joy she is and I cannot even imagine our family without her!!

Look for more updates soon about our involvement with Nyame Dua, the non-profit formed for the foster homes in both Accra and Bolgatanga!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Ghana Pick-up trip - Chapter 1

I have so many blogs stored up in my head! So many things to take note of. For some reason tonight, I feel the need for a disclaimer: Please know that I started blogging as a way to send some ‘Newsletter’ish information to our many dear friends in Marietta & family spread out through Georgia & beyond. That was before adoption life. Now, I blog for that same reason but also to remember. To share what I can’t remember when I’m standing in front of someone. I blog so one day Zoe will be able to read the details…For all these reasons & more…I blog…

What an adventure we had last week! Wow – just wow! There really aren’t enough words. The boys were amazing travelers. We drove an hour to Savannah – flew 45 minutes to Atlanta – 2 hour layover in Atlanta – then 2.5 hour flight to NYC – 7 hour layover – then 9 hour flight over to Accra. It was 9:00 am Ghana time when we landed.

Monday: Today is the day we get to go to Cape Coast! Woohoo! Headed for a vacation within a vacation! We are technically going to Elmina. Which is another small town right next to Cape Coast. When we very first knew we would be going to Ghana with our boys, we made the decision to ‘vacation’ in addition to our pick-up trip. We researched places and decided to go to Cape Coast. This is also where a couple of the old slave castles are. You can now walk through them with a guided tour. That was amazing. More later.

Let’s just suffice it to say that travel days make for GREAT blog material. That’s just the bottom line! We ask Yaw, a taxi driver and friend of our foster Daddy, Paul, to drive us to CC on Monday. We agree with Yaw that we will be ready for him to pick us up by 8:30 am all packed & ready. Yaw’s taxi is a very typical taxi for Ghana. It is an older version of a car – the windows are manual, a handle might be missing off of something, you ‘might’ have to open one of the doors from the outside handle every time. Which means if you are on the inside, either someone has to open it for you or you have to roll down the window and reach out to open it yourself. No A/C so you ride with all 4 windows down. Did I mention that it is about a 3 hour drive to Elmina from Accra? With all 4 windows down. We had to drive all the way through Accra. I would liken it to driving from Marietta to South Fulton. Lots of traffic – lots of road work – lots of smelly smells.

Zoe has this amazing ability to fall asleep when the conditions seem a little overwhelming. I admire this quality immensely. Stressful situation! Shut down! Fall asleep! We should all aspire to this gift. It would make life a lot smoother. Within an hour of being on the road (with all 4 windows down), Zoe is sound asleep in my lap. Some of you might be thinking, well it’s probably naptime. But Zoe doesn’t take morning naps. Good try!

We zig & zag out of Accra traffic. I’m realizing just how big Accra really is and that I have truly only seen a very small portion of the big city. There are gobs of people everywhere. We stop for gas on the opposite of Accra & the old school gas station attendant is a young girl in her late twenties/ early 30s. She looks in the open window and asks me if this is my daughter – yes, I reply. No more questions. Awesome!

As we set out on a more rural 2-lane highway, we are able to pick up speed. At one point, I glance at the speedometer. 110!! I freak out for about 10 seconds and then realize kilometers per hour. Kilometers. Not miles. But the truth is, like Pavlov’s dog, we are conditioned to panic a little when you see a speedometer over a 100! I shake it off and I am now trying to drink in the scenery when I start noticing signs every couple of miles. Please drive safely. 9 PEOPLE HAVE DIED HERE. Hmmmm. Then I start noticing big round signs with the number 50 on them. I still don’t know if this is a highway number or a speed limit. Please drive safely. 12 PEOPLE HAVE DIED HERE. I kept telling myself it was a highway number. It has to be, right? WE maintained 110 to 120 then whole way to Elmina. We ride every person’s bumper tail as best we can until we can pass them. Are we in a hurry? I think there should be better driver’s education in Ghana. 8 PEOPLE DIES HERE. These signs are like billboard size. Not yard sale size. There are people sprinkled along the highway walking places. There is nowhere around. Where did these people come from? Where are they going? Please drive safely. 10 PEOPLE HAVE DIED HERE.

Now, I’m beginning to get concerned. Why are so many people dying on this road????? Were they walkers? Were they drivers? Were they passengers? And the best one… WHY OH WHY aren’t there any SEATBELT signs!!!???? I swear I turn off the logical portion of my brain while I’m in Ghana. None of us wear our seatbelts. Zoe is never in a carseat. At one point, Eli was riding in Mark’s lap in the FRONT seat of our dilapidated taxi because he didn’t feel good and Zoe was in my lap in the backseat already. Good grief.

By the grace of God, we make it to Elmina without becoming a statistic. We find the town of Elmina but then we begin to periodically stop & ask people along the road where Coconut Grove hotel is. This cracks me up. I love this about Ghana. This is what you might call ‘Ghana Google Maps’: Drive until you don’t know where to go anymore and then start asking strangers.

Yaw started with a young gentleman outside Cape Coast University if he knew where the Coconut hotel was. Yes! He said. Then started thinking. Hmmm. He said go down the road & take a left. Then he said a few more things in another language that Yaw understood. We take off! We are getting close I’m thinking!

We go down a little further than I expected and take a left. I begin looking for the hotel. A good while later we are on another highway-ish road along the ocean. We must be close! I look over at Asa and he has his head in his shirt with his PSP. I ask him what he is doing and he says he can’t see the screen bc there is too much sun! I can’t decide if this is funny or irritating. Hey Asa! We are in Africa! Take a gander!

We enter this neighborhood-ish area that is very unique and quaint to anything I have seen in Ghana yet. I actually would liken it to European cobblestone, narrow, hilly streets. We stop again & ask a young guy at a bus station where Coconut Grove hotel is. He points and waves & says some things that Yaw understands. We drive on. We must be close! A left here. A swerve there. Head over one more hill. Surely, we are close.

We see Elmina Slave Castle and I’m awestruck. It is actually a beautiful white fortress just yards from the ocean. More later.

We are now passing through a fishing community. Tons of beautiful boats. Lots of commerce and busy-ness. I took some snapshots later from the top of Elmina Castle of this area. They look like pictures that you see on puzzles. Random, but true. And this area smelled HORRENDOUS. Fish. Dead Fish. Live Fish. Fish bones. Fish guts. Even Eli who will eat anything, try anything, tough- it-out-Eli was overwhelmed by the stench in Elmina.

We finally make our way through this community and it looks like we are headed out to the country and we still haven’t seen any signs of or for our hotel. It is now about 20 or 30 minutes past our first GPS stop at Cape Coast University. Let’s check MapQuest one more time. Yaw hollers about Coconut Hotel at an older man pushing a wooden cart. He points up the hill. Nice. We continue.

And a couple of kilometers later, we arrive at Coconut Grove Beach Resort!! Seriously. Amazing. For all of my non-adoption buddies. You must know that I’m almost embarrassed to write about this place bc we just had a family arrive back from Ghana last month who fed about a bazillion orphans when they took their whole family to Ghana for their court trip. Us? We just took a vacation.

CCBR is the kind of place celebrities would go to hide from the rest of the world. We actually did see pictures of Will Smith and Danny Glover in the office! It is so obscure and nobody in the world would be there unless it was intentional. You wouldn’t get a lot of passersby or buses of choir tour teenagers hanging out at the pool. It was secluded and perfect for letting our family just gel together for a few days. We highly recommend it for that purpose.

Tuesday, we did NOTHING. We took some walks on the beach. Let the kids play in the pool. Watched a little European soccer on the TV. Took naps. Ate dinner on our front porch. Took a family sunset walk. Then we had our first Fritchman Five Dance off. Ever since our kids were little, we would crank up the music real loud at night and everybody gets a turn to do their thang & show off. Zoe thought it was hysterical. She was right.

Wednesday, we got up & out to the Elmina Castle. Used one of the taxis that hangs out at the CCBR. Can you say Air Conditioning!?!? It was clean and our driver was dressed like he was going to a business meeting. He was serious stuff!! His name was Emmanuel.

I realize as we leave the resort that literally within yards of the resort property is this very old, poverty stricken fishing village. Mud homes, thatch roofs, Fishing gear everywhere. There stacks of what looked like wooden stretchers about 30 high. We ask what these are & he says they are the screens that they use to smoke the fish over the fire. Then they will send them ‘inland’ to market. I think, Gross. I dislike fish very much.

Mark asks our driver how long he thought that village had been there. Probably around 300 years he says. Mark says all the same families? Oh, definitely the driver says. Wow. Just wow. ‘Our’ world is so transient that I cannot even imagine all the same families living in one area for that many generations. Sure, you have Old Marietta & Old Augusta & Old Small town USA families. But 300 years!! I have a hard time wrapping my brain around that concept. I’d like to sit and listen to those women tell stories. Wouldn’t you?

At Elmina Castle, we have a very short walk from where our driver parked to the entrance of the castle. There isn’t any commerce along the way. It almost looks like a driveway. Yet, we are accosted on the way in by very nice young men who just want to meet and know the Obrunis. One of them asks my name and I already know this Schtick. He is going to go make something with my name on it to give me when I return as a ‘gift’ and then hope I will give him some money. I feel so irritated by this and hate myself for feeling irritated. However, we are super polite and head inside.

After paying for our tour, an older gentleman leads us to the former slave chapel of the castle where they have set up a several small museum like display walls where you read about the history of Elmina, the British & Dutch influence, and the current status & market of Elmina. Mark & I are so interested. The boys so far could care less.

Our guide comes to get us a little while later and we are getting our own personal family tour! Wonderful!

I am in AWE of the history of this place. Elmina was the largest slave castle on the coast. It was fascinating. I cannot imagine. The smell was still strong and haunting in the dungeon chambers. 400 women locked in a small room with nothing. There were 3 rooms total just like this one. Girls 12 & up. Men were housed elsewhere. 4 hard walls and a floor. 2 small doors. Little to no sunlight. No ventilation. 1 small area where they ‘threw’ food in for all 400. Can you imagine the feeding frenzy? Urine and Dung on the floor. Nowhere else to go. Our guide pointed out women’s menstrual cycles. 400 women. I did the math in my head. Statistically, 1 out of every 4 was on her cycle EVERY day. 100 of those women was always on her period. That day I was one of them. And I thought I was going to faint just standing in that room thinking about it. They were kept there anywhere from 1-3 months before they entered an area known as the ‘door of no return’. They were led further down in the castle where boats pulled up directly next to the castle. The people were led onto boats that then took them out further into the ocean to meet the ships. The particular people held captive at Elmina were taken to Brazil and Canada. Cape Coast Slave Castle was a little further away. Those were the people taken to America.

Then they took us upstairs. This is where the Governor slept. The soldiers quarters were held. There was a chapel upstairs DIRECTLY above the room of the ‘door of no return’. I know some people believe that people are innately good. I do not. Because the Bible says we are not. We are innately sinful. I believe that. I cannot imagine even pretending to go to church and worship with hundreds of humanity locked in a room directly below you. Without the Grace of God, we are a sorry bunch.

I have so many thoughts about Elmina and slavery. I thought a LOT about the descendants of the slaves who made it to America. And the descendants of those who remained in Africa. Their lives are SO very different. The course of their family’s lives were forever changed the day they stepped onto those ships. I kept thinking about Joseph in the Bible and how his brothers sold him into slavery. Sometimes, we pretty up that image. But slavery was slavery. And Joseph was sold into it. But God uses for good what Satan intends for evil. The opportunities available today to the descendants of those slaves who arrived in America far outweigh the opportunities of those who remained in Africa. At least the very limited parts of Africa, I’ve experienced. There certainly was a price for that. This is such a sensitive subject.

As we leave the castle, low & behold, here come the guys we met on the way in. They have painted our names on large seashells – ‘Signed, your very good friend, Tim’ mine says. With an email address. It is a gift!! I tried to refuse 3 or 4 times until he finally shoves it in my hand. Then he pulls out a sheet of paper & I can see he wants my email address!! He has lost his marbles. We had already prepared the boys for this onslaught and we were getting in the car. Tim is hacked at me for not ‘returning the gift’ with cash favor. I hand him the seashell back. I think that it is a little funny and remember wondering if he was going to take it back to the ocean and wash my name off of it! Ha!! And actually, as I’m writing this, I wonder if it was in his bucket of seashells with names already on them. Amy is kinda common, huh? Either way, his kindness from our entry into Elmina has faded.

We are slap exhausted. All 5 of us. 2 hours in the hot sun and we need a nap! We had planned to try a little market after the castle but seriously, none of us could take it. Not after the seashell attack.

On the way back to the resort, our taxi driver asks us if we have a ride back to Accra the next day. I immediately recognize this as a quasi-offer to drive us back. Mark says yes – because we did – and I do that ol’ ‘Ahem, this taxi has air conditioning!!!’ And Mark takes the direct hint and hires him to take us back to Accra. So thankful!!

I could keep writing all night. So many more things to remember. Not the least of which was our goodbye time with birth mom. Sleepy for now. More later. Love to all.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

There were 5 in the bed and the little one said....

So, we are a happy family of 5 tonight all sleeping in one bed!! Yikes!! It's only midnight but we'll see if this lasts all night long :) Don't worry there is a full-size mattress on the floor but for some reason.....there are 5 in the bed.

We have had a fabulous time! Learning about each other, learning new family dynamics. You would think Zoe is a professional vaudeville act by the way the boys laugh at her constantly. This could become hazardous in the way of teaching her not to throw things or say 'Shut up!" but for now apparently it is absolutely hysterical! Asa and Eli adore her. Want to hold her, tease her, kiss her, love her. If I were her, I'd be saying 'shut up!' too, for as many times as they call 'Zoe!' all day long! HA!!

So, as I am listening to a rooster cock-a-doodle doo out my hotel window at midnight...let me tell you the FULL story!

I had much angst last week as evident by my last post. Wanting to have faith that this would be our week yet preparing my heart and mind to 'brace myself' that we could be waiting yet another week. I stayed busy Monday & Tuesday. Hid at home Wed. because I didn't want to complain nor did I want to pretend to be happy. So, I stayed at home and did pretty much nothing of significance. Thursday, I volunteered at the boy's school all day long. The office needed some help with paperwork systems getting ready for the accreditation audit coming soon. Menial work, low passersby, little conversation..I'm in! Thursday morning, we totally overslept and the 3 of us dragged into school 30 minutes late. Nice, mom.

In my baseball cap and no shower, I go to work filing and updating forms. I am making a new friend, Megan. Megan is the school admin person who has recently (1-2 years?) moved to SSI and we are having a blast. She is funny, how can we not be??!! I am laughing bc after the day was over, Megan says 'Our friendship was put in the express lane' that day! Right before lunch, we begin to 'bond' for about 20 minutes over our deepest woes. We talk about the adoption and her life. I tell her I am watching the clock bc around 1 or 1:30 is when we will know our wait is over for the week. We both end up crying, hug it out and I go pick up Chick-Fil-A. Every girl's solution to any problem!

At 1:30, I simply note with a sigh, 'Guess we're looking at next week, again.' I feel a little numb - but am trying to be more worried about the paperwork I'm filing. THEN, IT HAPPENS. At 2:00, I look at my watch and THERE IS THE EMAIL!! THANK YOU, LORD!!! I am nearly speechless!! I have emailed them 4 times in the past 3 weeks. They send me the same reply to all 3 emails. The 'Come pick up your daughter's PRINTED VISA EMAIL!!" I jump up and down and run around the divider to tell Megan! This is hilarious! We've known each other about 5 hours! THANKS MEGAN!!!

Since I was at the boy's school, I was able to go down to their classrooms to tell them that Zoe got her visa. Both of them jumped up and down, "YES!!", they said! Hugged big! SOOOO excited! Ran to tell their classes who had been praying for Zoe since the start of the school year. SO PRECIOUS. My boys are awesome. I'm just sayin.

So, I run home to call Delta. :) The NICEST lady helps me. I immediately tell her we are going to pick up my daughter from Africa and she bends over backwards to help us find the right flights within our SkyMiles range! We can leave in 12 hours or we can leave in 3 days. Seriously? Do I even need time to think about that? 12 hours! it is! I run around and start throwing things in suitcases. I was just there last month. Trial run, people! I already have things in ziploc bags, and all the chargers and donations and Zoe's clothes were already packed. We weren't taking shirts for the boys bc so many people donated shirts in their sizes that they are just going to wear those shirts and then we leave them. Same for towels. Check! We leave with the maximum allowed for 4 international tickets. 8 checked bags, 4 carry-ons, and 4 'personal items' (that reads book-bags). This makes Mark very nervous to get all this to Ghana with 2 children in tow. He has given me the 'you-better-be-glad-I-Love-You' look several times. Especially when he packed his Armada and then had to switch to the suburban bc it wouldn't all fit in his SUV. He needed the extended cab! The boys were AMAZING travellers. So helpful, carried their own bookbags and even rolled a carry-on a time or two!

Mark and I slept 1-2 hours Thursday night bc we were packing and then we had to get up at 2:30 am to head to Savannah for our 5:30 am flight! Connect in Atlanta for 1 hour and then make it to JFK by 9:45 am. We now have a 7 hour layover in NYC. Fortunately, I did my AMEX homework last month with Christi and we are going to spend all 7 hours in the Delta SkyClub watching the Ryder Cup and eating free snacks. THANK YOU, LORD! The boys even get out there homework/school papers and did some school work while we were at JFK. You'd be proud, Ms. Fuller and Ms. Hawthorne!

As we loaded the plane, in Atlanta - I noticed a VERY tall man & his wife getting on the plane. I knew immediately, it was one of our former youth from Marietta. Michael Elmer & Esther! How fun! We haven't seen Michael in years and only know Esther by pictures. They are going for an anniversary, no-kids, play weekend in NYC. YET, they spend an hour or so hanging out with us at Burger King in JFK! So fun! What a sweet treat for us! THANKS LORD! We catch up - learning about their life in the past 5 years - take pics - we pray together - and we are moving on!

Again, at JFK a VERY NICE Delta attendant who moved all of our seats to a full empty row (all the way across) prior to boarding the plane. The row was the last one on the plane. Was he being nice or trying to get my children out of the way? Just jokin, people! He was being nice! GREAT stewardess who for some reason we thought was named Denise, but I think her real name was Cindy gave the boys all kinds of treats throughout the trip. We give Eli and Asa some Triaminic about an hour into the trip (sorry for all my organic friends!) and a little while later, it is sweet dream city for all of us! When Eli woke up, he was amazed that we only had 1 more hour to go!! HA!

Mark was amazing all the way through the Ghanaian airport - even with 72 bags and 2 children. Paul and Zoe meet us at the airport...SOOOO HAPPY!!! The boys are excited to meet Zoe. It is a little chaotic and we all make it to the taxis. The boys are at first more amazed that they don't have to wear a seatbelt and Zoe is not in a carseat than they are with the scenery! I am SO enjoying viewing life in Ghana from their children's perspective. It is not deep and philosophical. It just is what it is.

We all slept very much yesterday. We made it out for pizza at the Accra mall, the playground at the mall, and ShopRite for a few groceries. Pretty American day. We're easing the kids into this people. I LOVE watching people watch the boys. Pretty much all Zoe wanted to do at first was touch their hair. :)

Cold showers this morning. I was secretly glad it was finally a little uncomfortable for the boys. No sympathy from mom.

This morning, we were all recovered from JetLag, new family initial shock, and are ready to play! Paul and a couple of his boys come over to play mid-morning at the hotel. Asa and Eli love it. We talk with Paul for a very long time.

Paul is starting his own NGO (Non-Government Organization) - non-profit. It is called Nyame Dua and it will embody his foster home in Accra and his home in Bolga. He asked Mark and I last month to serve on the board for the organization and I could not be more excited about working with Paul and others to help these kiddos and Paul's family. My friend, Christi and I have lots of ideas and plans. We'd love to have anyone join us!! Let me know if this speaks to you - email me!

For those of you who sent me donations, the big boys, especially LOVED them. We brought tons of shoes and they were very thankful.

This afternoon, we walked to Paul's. Talk about an unusual sight! 4 Obrunis - 2 little yellow headed boys - walking down fairly obscure streets in Teshie. Lots of children coming from around corners to take a peek. We take FanYogos (big gogurts) and soccer balls to the children at Paul's. The big boys, especially, are so happy to have soccer balls! They all go with our boys down to a dirt field a couple of houses away to & play a wonderful game of soccer for a couple of hours! Mark and John Baker play too. Paul and his wife fix a lovely chicken & rice dinner for us. We eat with another adoptive parent, John Baker, & head back to the hotel for the evening.

Lots more laughing. Rolling around on Daddy. Riding Daddy's back. Smacking the boys with pillows. Eating potato chips. Laughing. Looking at pictures from our previous trip. Laughing. Laughing. and More Laughing. I love my family. I feel such a GREAT sense of relief with the 5 of us together. We are thankful and blessed beyond measure.

Our POA is supposed to go pick up Zoe's visa tomorrow at the embassy. I will feel even a GREATER sense of relief once that is over.

Headed to Cape Coast for a few days. Will come back Wed. evening. Thursday, we will get to spend some more time with Zoe's birth mom. Letting her say Goodbye and learning anything she wants us to tell Zoe as she gets older. Taking more pictures. Paul says she was thrilled to hear that Zoe is now going home with her family. She will have to travel 5 hours to come tell her g'bye. I'm pretty sure I will be a wreck after that.

I do love Ghana. The people here are proud of their country. They are so friendly. A piece of my heart will always live here.

I cannot thank all of our friends & family & even those of you who I do not know but have met in passing and you say you read our blog or those that have commented...we are grateful for prayers and encouragement. Mark and I cannot decide if we feel like this is 'finally over' or if we are 'just beginning'. We know it is BOTH. 'Finally over' in the immediate sense of the word but Only just beginning in the long term sense.

We have had many friends comment on how Zoe and I look alike. Paul said that the hotel staff here was saying the same thing! Isn't that so funny?!? and so God.

Love to all - a
PS - we WILL post pics... our camera software has not been loaded to Mark's mac. Will do once we are in CC and then post! They are pretty stinkin cute! I'll just say that!

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Zoe! We're coming!

Zoe's visa was printed today!!! We are leaving in 1 hour to fly out to Africa! YIKES! We are beyond so excited.

Just couldn't leave the 'I'm gonna eat worms' post below for the week!
One of BFFs told me today that I can throw out the worms now! :)

Praise the Lord!!
Updates for the week on fb!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Tomorrow is Thursday again.

Bottom line - I hate this waiting. Tomorrow is Thursday again. Mark and I were talking tonight. By around 1:00 pm EST tomorrow, the waiting is over for the week. It will be 5:00 at the US Embassy in Ghana. Typically, they would let us know, send your POA to get your visa tomorrow or not. We either have it or we don't. Which gives us 4 whole days of knowing that nothing can be done until Monday comes again to be hopeful 'that maybe this will be our week'.

Today, I called Johnny Isaakson's office again. We have had NO WORD from the embassy in 3 weeks. Johnny's office told me they would email the embassy again. For the 3rd time. It isn't doing anything but I guess it's something. I emailed the US Embassy today for the 4th time in 3 weeks with no answered response.

Mark reached the point of 'Have we any sin in our life that we should confess?' Seriously? This is starting to feel SO reminiscent of our infertility days a decade ago. Completely out of our control. Feeling like we've done something to deserve the wait. Getting frustrated because the frustration seems to overshadow the joy when it actually gets here. Feeling like you don't deserve the joy when it arrives because you've spent so much time being upset and frustrated. Feeling left behind with the people you started out with...and having those who started behind you finish the process.

I've had a couple of well-meaning folks say, 'Well, she'll be here by Christmas!" Seriously???!! We thought she would be home by 4th OF JULY!!!

I think I'm just feeling panicky tonight because once again we are on the eve of the do-or-die day. Then it will be another week.

The real bottom line: my heart is breaking with each passing day.

Lord, please let us bring our baby girl home!!!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Conflicted Emotions and a Pending Pity Party

So....no visa email today. Typically, you get an email asking for your POA to come pick it up on Friday. Fridays are the coveted day for a printed visa. All we need is a little sticker in her book to bring her home. That's it. A little sticker. That's ALL we have needed since JUNE!! So, we may get something tomorrow but chances are real good that we're looking at waiting a whole other week - again with no guarantees. And still, 3 of our 5 waiting families are in Ghana picking up their kids because their visas were printed last Friday.

What I want to do is crawl in bed, pull the covers up, have a great cry, and go to sleep.

What I feel like I should do... pull up my big girl panties and enjoy my 2 boys who are home with me right now.

What I want to do is grieve because I keep missing milestones and moments with my girl...like the first time she learns a new trick or tastes a new food or learns a new word or laughs her head off at something.

What I feel like I should do is be thankful for all the upcoming memories I am privileged to experience with my daughter.

What I want to do each night is curl up with my girl and hold her tight and tell her how special she is and how much I love her.

What I feel is empty arms and so I curl up with her blanket instead.

What I want to do is SCREAM because there is an unknown force that will not complete a process that is taking an UNREASONABLE amount of time in order for me to be reunited with my daughter.

What I feel like I should do is remain calm and quiet.

What I want to do is pitch a fit and say a lot of cuss words that I'm thinking anyway.

What I feel like I should do is be patient.

What my mind wants to do is wonder how much longer this can go on? We are already WAY past the point we thought she would be home. We continue to pass holidays where there is an empty seat at the table.

What I feel like I should do is continue to have HOPE that it will happen any day now.

The TRUTH is that God called us to this adoption. I know He will see us through to the end. God knew Zoe would be mine before the beginning of time. She couldn't be any more my daughter than if she came from my body. God is GOOD. God does not change. God is with Zoe. And God is with me.

I believe this. I am trusting in this.
But right now, my emotions suck.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Emotionally Exhausted & The Best Dog Ever

Mark and I had to put our beloved, Jantzen down today. My heart is heavy.

Mark and I married in February of 1996. By the time, we hit summer of 1997, we had bought our first home and gotten our first dog. She was a 'rescue' dog. A fabulous mix of basset hound and beagle, and I'm sure some other stuff. A lady who worked at my school with me found her in the dumpster behind the hospital near our school. Her vet told her he thought it was a full-bred blue tick-hound. HA! That is hilarious in hindsight. Mark had always wanted a bluetick hound so we snatched her up when the email went out to find someone to keep her.

Our very first baby. Seriously. We treated her that way. Many of our friends have said they wished they had the life of a Fritchman dog. We treated her like a queen. She was so smart! She was a person in a dog body really. She had this look that would tell you exactly what she thought. She had deep, dark, beautiful brown lines around each eye that made her look like she had tattooed eyeliner. Because we thought she had some blue tick in her, we expected her to be a big dog. But she just kept getting longer and longer - and not any taller! Ha!! It looked like she had been cut off at the knees. She has slept in our bedroom, every night for 13 years. Mark and I wept like babies today.

For some reason, she had been eating some of our berber carpet in my study. She has done this before when she wasn't feeling well and thrown it up and pooped it out. (not alot! just wasn't the first time). She has been puny and throwing up for a few days. We thought she had eaten something that wasn't agreeing with her. We didn't know about the carpet. She was starting to withdraw and lay down in peculiar places in the yard. Yesterday, Mark found a piece of carpet hanging out of her mouth and proceeded to pull about 6 feet of carpet out of her mouth. Put then it was stuck and was pulling on her stomach, too. Last night, she wanted to sleep outside and we found her sleeping in a shallow hole she had dug behind some bushes. After speaking with 2 vets, we realize this is the worst thing that could happen for a dog without $1000s of surgery dollars and even then no guarantee that her intestines weren't already ripped beyond repair. At age 13 for Jantzen and $30,000 worth of adoption expenses, our only option was to let her go. Big SIGH.

Mini-Adoption Update:
3 of the 5 families waiting with our agency received their visas last Friday. They will travel this week to bring their children home. It is our hope and assumption that we will have Zoe's printed by this Friday but there are no guarantees. We appreciate your prayers for Zoe's visa and our emotions this week. Zoe's passport is at the US Embassy in Ghana which is a good sign.

Love to all - a

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Perspective & an Update

Hey to all!

We are in a bad news, great news spot. Bad news: no visa yet. Great news: I'm sitting in Hartsfield leaving for Ghana in 3 hours!! Woohoo!! I'm going to be holding my baby Zoe again soon! I cannot wait!!

My dear friend, Christi, is making the trip with me! Our bags are packed to the full 50 pound limit mostly with donations. Our foster Daddy is meeting us at the airport tomorrow. A full week loving on my girl and the other kiddos we've come to know and love in Ghana.

It has been nearly 4 months since I've had my girl in my arms. 4 months. It feels like an eternity. This was a bit of a last minute trip. A 'Hey, let's go to Ghana. Wha d'ya think??' After we purchased those tickets, I was ELATED. Giddy almost. Bottom line: I didn't realize how sad I was this summer until I got this happy!!! Mark and I both agree we have been putting our head down and getting through it. Not acknowledging the full extent to which the distance has affected us. Mark doesn't read blogs or yahoo groups. He just takes what I relay to him. I've never mentioned to him that some families refer to this time as a 'hostage situation'. But yesterday, Mark said to me, "I'm beginning to feel like she has been kidnapped and there is nothing we can do about it!" So interesting. I feel the same way.

I'm mostly excited about going to Ghana because of my daughter. I'm next mostly excited about sharing the experience with my friend Christi. But as I have been thinking and praying for all the kids I know & love through meeting, stories, and pictures, I am SO excited about going there and knowing people by name. Knowing what to expect. Feeling like it is somewhat familiar and really being able to 'enter in' to the experience on a more day by day basis rather than the shell-shocked 'get 'er done' first experience we had. Don't get me wrong... I LOVED our frist experience - every minute of it! But there is something to be said for having a little bit of experience under your belt to enjoy something on a different level. I am not nervous. I am not scared. I'm just excited about going to visit my friends in Ghana.

Last night, I was riding down the road with Mark and my awesome in-laws, thinking...'How did I get this life?' How did I get such an awesome family? How did I end up with such a Godly man? How is it that I am getting to travel the world & love on people AND bring home one of the most beautiful little girls I've ever seen. How is it that THIS is my life? Grace. Amazing Grace. I am blessed - truly beyond measure.

I can't close tonight without saying a huge thanks to my hubby & in-laws & friends who have rallied to make it possible for me to go without hesitation this week. And a HUMONGOUS THANKS to Christi's hubby, Steve & older kids, Claire & Benjamin, for making it possible for Christi to go at the last minute, too. MANY, MANY blessings in return for the Kitchen fam!!

Lastly, for all of you who requested a pic of the crocheted blanket - here you go! And I've officially become THAT mom...check out her monogram items and all the SHOES waiting on my girl in America...and that's onlya sampling!! :)

Will keep you updated while we are in Ghana! Love to all!!!a

Saturday, July 17, 2010


I'm pretty sure there is a statute of limitations on the nesting period. God did not intend for us to nest for a year and a half. I'm sure of it.

I'm sorry I've left you, my dear readers, hanging for nearly 3 months. There is good news but it is another hurry up and wait. Although, prayerfully, this will be our last time. We are on our last step!! All evidence is into the US Embassy and our birth parent interview went swimmingly. It resulted in our power of attorney having to do a scavenger hunt all over Ghana for a few pieces of papers. He was able to work his wonders and quickly even!

Now, we are "simply" waiting on the US Embassy to give Zoe Andrela her visa to come home!! This sounds all sweet and easy. It really should be. Do they have all their paperwork? Yep! Was birth mom who she said she was? Yessiree! Should the US Embassy in ANY country be willing to help out their citizens with timely procedures? You betcha! Wait. That last one. Not so much.

There are 4 families who all 'interviewed' on the same day. That was 3 weeks ago. And nobody has a visa for their child who is ALREADY LEGALLY ours!!!!Sheesh! You can now see why I've held back on my posting lately. It's not very nice.

I'm trying not to make this summer a wash. I really thought she would be home by now. I thought I'd be all holed up bonding with my baby. Loving up on her. Acclimating to being a family of 5. Learning how to do her hair. Figuring out her personality. Stink!

So, nesting. I think I have done everything I possibly could do inside my home. I have bought everything I could possibly buy or afford for Zoe. I have crocheted her a baby blanket. (That's not a joke for those of you laughing!!) I have made 2 Scrapbook albums from my first trip to Africa. Earlier this week, I went to the Habitat for Humanity store and bought an old door! Why? you ask. Just to paint it. For kicks. It was only $10. It was a bargain!
Decorative Door in Progress!

Well, today. Today, I got in super-geared up mode. And I started nesting outside. Glory! It was hot. I spent about 7 hours 'pruning' the azaleas in our yard. The pictures can speak for themselves.

So, you see. My baby better be coming home soon. That visa better hurry up. It is not natural to nest for more than 9 months. My yard can't take much more of me. I'm running out of projects!! US Embassy...let me bring my baby home!!

Tuesday, June 1, 2010


Dear Friends & Readers! Our new summer college roomie, Erin, is gently reminding me that it has been a month since I've last blogged. That's because there is NO NEWS!!

Well, a little bit. We had a benefit concert for Zoe & raised $5000! Woohoo! That pays off our final adoption bill. The last thing we have to pay for is our trip to get her. THANK YOU so much to all of you who have helped us make this adoption possible. We have been overwhelmed by the different people from different seasons of our lives & parts of our families who have helped us bring Zoe home!

I also had an awesome great 'Birthday Shower' for Zoe. It was a baby shower for Zoe but it was on the day of her birthday this month - so they had a big cake & sang Happy Birthday to her.

We are hoping that we will hear very good news for regarding our I-600 this week. They say it takes up to 30 days for approval...day 30 was June 6 for us.
Then we apply for her Visa which could take 2 weeks or 2 months.

I have been trying to upload a very special video of Zoe....hopefully, I will be able to SOON!! It is a video our dear friend Mandy made for us with special permission from Mac Powell & the 3rd Day crew to use the song.

Hope we will be posting more great news & more exciting tales VERY soon!!!

Saturday, May 1, 2010


We've been back in the states for a week now. I was definitely in a fog for the first few days - a physical fog - a mental fog - and definitely an emotional fog.

Jet-lag for sure. I woke up Sunday am at 4:30 am and then had a hamburger for 'breakfast' at 9:30 am! ha!!

I didn't cry when we left Zoe - or Ghana. We left her without big goodbyes as if we would see her again the next day. I am so confident in her foster Daddy and where she is living. Intellectually, I knew she was going to be fine. She wasn't planning on anything different at age 2 anyways, right?

But Sunday morning. Sunday morning, I fell apart. The reality of the past 2 weeks -the cultural shock of a new country - meeting my daughter - a crazy bus ride or 2 - meeting a birth family - fatigue - all came crashing down with the first note of the worship song on Sunday morning. So wonderful to be bathed in God's grace and to thank Him for such an adventure in life.

I don't want to sit on a pew and be still. I want to dance and shout. I want to swim in the rushing River of Life. I want to feel His current and enjoy the ride. And then I want to rest in His love and grace and mercy.

This week we have rested. I found myself slightly withdrawn this week simply in processing all that we have experienced. I continue to ask the Lord to reveal Himself to me through my experiences in Africa and my re-entry into America.

I miss my baby girl more than I expected. I know that sounds crazy. I should've expected to miss her, right? But my arms ache for the baby I carried constantly while there! I wonder what she is laughing at today. What is she eating? What made her mad today?

We have some sweet pictures that we received recently of her laughing with all of the young foster kids in her home. Makes my heart smile.

Can't wait to bring her home with us.
Love to all -

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Saturday, April 17, 2010

She is OURS!!

She is ours!!! Zoe Andrela Fritchman. Such a profound day.

I don’t even know where to begin. We have arrived back in Accra at 9:30 this morning (Saturday)… we left our hotel in Bolgatanga to travel at 2:00 pm yesterday (Friday). That would be a 17 HOUR TRAVEL DAY from hotel to hotel. Good golly. I can’t decide if this post is a serious let me tell you about our adoption day or our travel day. Let’s do both!!

Our original court date was scheduled for Thursday. Something about a file being left on someone’s desk at home or something…the judge had not had time to read our case so he postponed it until the next day. This was not crazy because they are ‘pushing our cases through quickly’ bc they gave us an original time frame for being in Bolga & the true time frame is slightly longer by about a week. We are VERY thankful that the courts were honoring their first words to our power of attorney and attorney about time frame.

So, we spent about an hour with the birth mother Thursday while we waited for court to begin & then get cancelled. I think it was a little intimidating for both the birth mothers and the adoptive parents. Andrela went straight to her BM and was quite content. The good news is that once court was cancelled, she came straight back to me without so much as a whimper. Yesterday, she was sitting in BM’s lap and I was sitting next to them. She would play with BMs hands – tickle game – and then lean over and do the same with mine. And then a few minutes later, she took my hand and BMs hand and put them together and put them both in between her hands. And looked at us and smiled. Are you kidding me?

So, today we meet back at court again early with the BMs. The judge is going to hear both of our cases first thing and calls it a personal case and clears the court room. We are thankful.

Same thing today, I give Andrela to her BM to hold for a bit. We sit together. Zoe Andrela is being an angel. Judge calls the case. Mark and I are first. The courtroom is very old and rustic. The benches are wooden – like Little House on the Prairie school wooden. Most of the walls in the room are painted plywood. The room is lined in length on both sides with windows that open for a cross breeze in the otherwise hot room. All the lawyers & judge are wearing robes and wigs like British style.

We are called to sit next to the witness stand in what I might call a jury like box. All of it is completely wooden or plywood. Our attorney reads our case directly from our document filing. The judge seems very friendly and is taking many notes. I think afterwards I realize he may have been writing our adoption decree. I don’t know. The director of social welfare speaks on our behalf and behalf of the BM to verify his report. The judge asks several questions of our lawyer. I am having a little bit of trouble understading because the accent is so thick combined with the lawyer-ese. They call the judge, 'My lord'. About midway through our case, the judge asks BM and Zoe to come and sit with Mark and me. She comes to the jury box and sits in between us. Zoe is still sitting in her lap. She has been with her since she first arrived. Now, I’m not making this stuff up! As soon as the judge makes his declaration that she is now our legal daughter, Zoe leans over on her own accord and comes to sit in my lap. She never attempts to go back to her BM during the court proceedings. I know she is only almost 2 but it sure felt like she was fully aware of the day and giving her approval of some sort. I prayed that the adoption day would be divine in it’s own right. That is as divine as I need to it to be.

It might have been the most profound thing I’ve experienced in my life to sit in court and then hear an authority declare that I will have the privilege of calling this child my own. Ghanaians do not cry in public. It was very difficult to restrain!!

Our case is complete and it is now the Gibbs turn. Their case was no less profound for me to watch than my own to experience. We have all been so humbled to be blessed with raising another woman’s child.

After the court case, we now get to go visit the villages. I’m REALLY tempted to begin talking about THE RACE again. Just know that after court, we return to our hotel rooms to pack and then to villages and we are in a hurry. I will return to capture all the details!!

We head to one village. They invite us all into the inner home of huts – there are math problems written on a clay wall – men, women, and children, some are cooking. They bring out a bench for us to sit on. There are many details to this story but it is not mine to tell. Just know that when we left – they chased down a live chicken to give to us and our taxi driver stuck it in the trunk. It was still in his trunk 2 hours later when he dropped us off at the bus station. I’m just saying.

Then we head to Zoe Andrela’s village. I was COMPLETELY and unexpectedly overwhelmed here. She is SO loved. She has an entire, extended family who loves her. She was a rockstar when we got out of the taxi. They haven’t seen her in 8 months. Her grandmother and her grandmother’s sister (Zoe’s great aunt) run to take her from me and keep saying her name over and over again. We learn their names & take pictures. We video taped a bit of me with Zoe’s BM and these 2 matriarchs of the family. I tell them that we will love her very much. They tell me they give their blessing to her going to America. They want her to have a good education and a good life and they want her to be loved very much. We assure them we will give her all those things. Then her grandmother goes off script and simply says to our interpreter, “Will you promise to bring her back to visit one day?”. I almost lose it right then and there. I assure her that we will encourage Zoe to come back and see her family one day. Our foster daddy and adoption coordinator assure me that this family will be right in that same spot when Zoe is old enough to decide when she would like to make that visit.

We meet her Uncle, Great Grandmother, Great Grandfather, and Great Uncle. Then we meet her 11 year old sister. We believe her to be probably 12 or 13 but most Ghanaians are unaware of their true age. She is beautiful. And I immediately imagine how incredibly different the lives of these 2 girls will be. I imagine them meeting again in 20 years and that her sister will be worn from the sun and the hard labor and Zoe will arrive educated and sophisticated fresh from college. I imagine the love that will swell from years of wondering what the other might be doing.

Living in Africa is hard. And I only did it for a week in a hotel room with air conditioning that worked sometimes. I understand why a mother would choose to allow her child a life where there is not only perceived more opportunity but truly more opportunity. Zoe’s father is not in the picture. That will be her story to tell one day. So, although I met an entire village of people who clearly love her – she is still another mouth to feed in a family that is struggling to begin with. Her mother chose adoption because she loves her too much. I left the village feeling peace for my mother’s heart and the blessing of the family. I do not have to wonder who they are or where they live. Zoe will have an abundance of pictures and stories to occupy her questions until she is old enough to discover in person. I was overwhelmed to tears when I left the village. I truly believe she will always be a part of that family. They will speak of her often. The one who was fortunate enough to have a journey that brought her to America. They will dream of what she is doing and pray sweet blessings on her life.

As for Zoe, I will pray for God’s grace and mercy as she grows. As her mind begins to fill with the wonders and the what if’s and Mark and I are not enough to fill in the gaps that she will allow God’s love to whisper that she belongs. She belongs to the Fritchman family. She belongs to her village. And most importantly that she belongs to Him.

How does one transition from this? There is no way but to do just do it. At Zoe’s village, we are running out of time and have one more village to visit. Our adoption coordinator’s daughter is from this region and so we travel further down the road to her daughter’s village. We learn that these 2 villages are connected by 2 brothers who were the great-grandfathers of this group. We realize this week that our daughters are cousins. That’s awesome.

We leave the 3rd and final village and are trying to get back to the hotel in time and pack to make it to the bus station by 2:30 for our 3:30 bus departure. Our tickets have already been purchased and we have purchased tickets for a lesser version of the 1st class bus but a MUCH nicer version of the chicken bus. We bought tickets that would take us directly from Bolgatanga to Accra – or so we thought.

We arrive at the hotel from the villages and everyone is hurrying us – 10 minutes! We need to leave as soon as possible! Well, I did not pack the night before. We discussed it as a group and the final consensus was we would have time tomorrow before we left. I KNOW BETTER. But I still didn’t pack.

So, I am throwing things in bags – pick up an extra Ghana bag I just purchased this week and start shoving things in it. The contents end up being: perfume, hairbrush, diapers, medicine, a babydoll, face powder, a Ziploc of clothespins, and several other things. NONE OF WHICH I need on the bus trip. Too bad – didn’t back the night before – just take it on the bus with you. I hate being disorganized. We don’t say hate.

We all climb in our 2 taxis that our overflowing with luggage. Mark has bought a nice walking cane – the top of it gets knocked off in the midst of packing. So sad. We all squeeze in for the ride WITH our 2 year olds lest you forget! Our taxi driver is holding Mark’s cane in his hand while he is driving. Holding the top of the cane with his left hand. We hit a bump and the top goes flying out the window. HAAA!! I’m not even joking. Our friends in the taxi behind us said it was hilarious to see it bouncing down the road. It was a pretty nice cane – I hope someone finds it and uses it as a table decoration.

We arrive at the bus station in Bolga and I’m completely frazzled and dehydrated and HUNGRY because it is 2:30 and none of us have eaten since Breakfast. We keep shoving bread in our mouths and the kids. We unload all of our luggage – I’m buying 8 FanYogos from a bicycle vendor (this is a large version of a frozen Gogurt) – one for each of us. The taxi driver turns and says, ‘Oh! We are at the wrong bus station.’. Good grief. I shove 8 FanYogos in my purse, we all repack the car, jump back in the taxi and peel out of the overcrowded bus station. I hand a Strawberry FanYogo into Zoe’s hands and she takes it like she hasn’t eaten in days.

We arrive at the next bus station a few minutes later and unload our stuff AGAIN. I am an extra dose of frazzled at this point. I climb out of the taxi with Zoe and the FanYogo in her hand. This 7 or 8 yr old boy walks up to me and says ‘Hello’ and shakes my hand. The kids seem to like doing this – talk & touch the Obrunis. Hello! I say brightly! He looks perfectly healthy and very clean for the surroundings. He eyes Zoe’s FanYogo and pats his tummy with a mustered up pout but half smile and says, “I’m hungry”. I internally roll my eyes in my mind and say brightly again, “Me, too!!!” and head towards the bus. At this point, we have all had it with being swindled as Obrunis. Every other person and their brother tries to charge double or add a charge for something made up. There have been a few people who have been very decent and honest but I was hot and I couldn’t afford to buy FanYogo for every child at the bus station and that is what would’ve happened. And….I WAS hungry!!

Mark looks at me with his ‘do what I say face’ on and says ‘Get on the bus with her while I load this luggage on the bus’. I obey. I am pleasantly surprised by the bus. Think youth ski trip circa early 1980s. It was old but had individual reclining seats and air conditioning. That’s all I need. We settle in for our 13 hour bus ride to Accra. Or so we thought.

I wanted to use all the cuss words I knew today. On several occasions. But I didn’t. None of us were happy campers today. But now that I’m in my airconditioned hotel with a shower and a bed, I’m so glad I have so much material to write about!! I really thought after the first bus ride everything else would disappoint. Nope!!

We leave the first bus station in Bolga at 4:00-4:30ish – check your watches – that’s nearly an hour and half after we arrived and boarded. What in the world are they doing????!!!!! All the people were on the bus. I don’t get it.

Whatever. We are on our way to Bolga. Babies are happy. We’ve bought bread and yogurt and they are happy. These kids have not 1 time all week EVER said, “I’m hungry’ or “I need a snack’. They simply eat when they are given food. We think ‘Praise the Lord’! All we have to do is settle in for a good night’s sleep on the 80s ski bus (with no potty-fyi). This is now the night bus. We pull to a slow stop a few times to get checked by some official people and the shouting ladies with things on their heads are back again. I pretend to be asleep. We have bread and bottled water – what more could we want?

About 6 hours into the trip, we make a stop at a gas station/market like place in the middle of the night. We tt in the nastiest ‘potty spot’ ever. I buy 2 hard-boiled eggs – 1 for me and 1 for Zoe. I am ecstatic about the protein. We get on the bus to eat them and I simply cannot do it. It is luke warm and not great. Apparently, Zoe thinks the same thing. She eats and swallows one bite and hands the rest back to me. So much for protein. We peel off a chunk of the fresh loaf of bread we just bought and eat half of it. Zoe won't let me take it from her and she falls asleep in my arms with the loaf of bread in her arms like a stuffed animal. Poor child. It's been some rough travel days.

We fall asleep. We awake 2 hours later in Kumasi. We pull into the bus station to let some folks off. Yay. More room. But Hey, this is weird, we think, we thought we were going straight to Accra? Whatever – people are getting off and it make the bus feel like it has more room. Then we sit. And sit. And sit.

People begin wondering what is going on. We sit for AN HOUR. Why in the world are we waiting here?????? GET GOING TO ACCRA!!! A little more than an hour later, another bus pulls up and we are all told we will have to make a bus switch. Huh? We thought we were going straight to Accra. Whatever. It’s past midnight and we all just want to get where we are going. We all climb off the bus AFTER collecting all our stuff that is spread out everywhere bc we didn’t know we were deboarding the plane. Our men tell us to get on the bus to find seats while they swap out our luggage from one bus to the other. We obey. After the men board the bus – we decide we have to tt and head to some old broken down buses in the pitch black dark to tt behind them. (I can hear my Dad having a heart attack now) We get on the bus and this older gentleman starts YELLING and CUSSING at the bus driver. Do your job!! You’re wasting our time! The company sold us all tickets for a straight trip!! I have a flight to catch!! You are stupid!! A stupid f*#&@! Man!!

Now. I am thinking. He sure is ornery. We are 2 rows behind him and our friend Anita has won the lottery on this bus ride. She is sitting next to him!!! He and the bus driver started YELLING. I’m thinking someone is fixing to get hit. Zoe is completely into it. I’m trying to shield her a bit and hide her head. Nope. She is standing up in my lap wanting a front row seat to this nonsense. It was the most excitement we’d seen in 9 hours!

So apparently the bus company knew they would do this little stop and switch thing in Kumasi but sold us all tickets for a straight trip. This man had become fully aware of this little corrupt switcharoo and was furious. Clearly. They were combining buses who had come from 2 different cities who would end up in Kumasi to Accra to save gas. But sold us all tickets on the premise that it was a straight trip. It’s called ‘Shady’ and this older man was NOT HAVING IT!! He FINALLY settles down and now we are off to Accra! Yay!! I say to Mark – it’s only 5 more hours. That’s a ride from SSI to Atlanta. We’re golden. That was only 1 hour –shake it off. Don't we wish.

We drive 50 yards to a street corner. The bus doors swing open and LOTS more people start filing onto our bus. The bus seats are full of people already!! Apparently, this is a spot where people know they can stand and ‘purchase’ bus tickets black market style. They would pay the bus driver and he pockets the cash. They were going to sit on plastic step stools FOR 5 HOURS to Accra!!

Old man fires up again. He is coming over seats yelling at people to get off the bus. It’s not safe! It’s against the law! F*&% this and F*&^% that!!! He is yelling at the bus driver. People who just got on the bus turn their back to him like they don’t hear him. They could probably hear him in London. I’m thinking: This cannot be happening. If all those people get on this bus it will feel claustrophobic again!!!! They file off and on about 3 times indecisive about whether it is worth it to hear this guy yell. Bus driver is trying to stand his ground and earn his under the table money. The man behinds us starts shouting at the other yelling man – ‘You are right! That is right!” You are right!” They cannot do this” Old man: “We are not cattle! We are not goats and animals’! We are human beings! Stand up for your rights!!” I have no idea what he is talking about but Mark and I both take note that Bob Marley’s song ‘Get up, Stand up for your rights’ was totally playing on the bus radio right then. We think that is funny.

FINALLY – old man makes a threat and says “You have no idea who I am! I will make a phone call and have someone meet us at the bus station when we arrive.’ Hmmm. I wonder if he is the governor of Ghana? For whatever reason, this makes all unwanted parties with no legitimate ticket file off the bus. Yay!! I am actually thankful that old-screamer-man was on our bus.

Can we go to Accra now PLEASE?!?! It is now close to 2 am. Sheesh.

We start moving. Making good time. We stop one more time for what we think is a potty break. It was too long. I have no idea what is going on. Then around 6:30 we make a huge pull over to the side of the road stop. We have a flat tire. NOT.EVEN.KIDDING. We are going on hour 15 of our 13 hour bus ride. There isn’t a spare on the bus and they are waiting for someone to bring it. We are about 30 minutes outside of Accra. Or so we are told.

While we wait, I am watching some people begin to unload their luggage and choose other options for the other “30 minutes”. I am thinking “Do I have too much luggage to walk?” But only for a brief moment.

I am looking out my window and we are in a very beautiful part of the country. Huge green leaves (palm tree like but wider leaves) on trees, bright green grass – mountains in the distance. I am thankful for the scenery and cool morning air and try to just be in the moment and remind myself I have no agenda to make. Zoe is still asleep in my lap.

While I’m looking out my window, I notice they have pulled up the luggage bay on my side of the bus and they are beginning to pull out something stinky. Hey! It’s a black goat in the luggage bin – oh wait, there is one more. 3, 4, 5. They are walking them around to the other side of the bus and loading them in a tro-tro. 6, 7. This is amazing. 8,9. We have toted 9 goats in a luggage bay 15 hours from Bolgatanga to somewhere-ville, Ghana. 9 goats in a tro-tro. Wow.

We call our driver with the adoption agency and he doesn’t have enough gas to come and get us. Huh? After about another hour, our foster daddy finagles a tro-tro to take all of us and our luggage to our hotel without stopping for others. Yay!!!

Except the road is under construction and the entire next ’30 minutes’ was at least an hour of complete dirt in our faces through the windows of the tro-tro. Babies still happy bc they slept a lot since the debacle in Kumasi. Seriously. We are all about to pass out. Even the Ghanaian foster daddy. It was not fun. None of us have eaten a true meal in 24 hours.

We FINALLY arrive to our hotel on hour 17 of our 13 hour trip and I want to cry. We unload. Kiss our babies bye as they head back to the foster home with foster daddy. We will get to spend the days this week with them but not the nights anymore. I’m already ready for her to come home.

Pray for us on Wednesday. That’s our next big step. Then we fly home first thing on Friday morning. A bitter sweet feeling to be excited about heading home to 2 children while leaving 1 in another country. Strange.

We so appreciate everyone’s encouragement this week. It has kept us going to check fb or blog comments.

Love to all!
A for the fritchies.

Pics on FB to follow!!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Off to Market we go!!

Thanks for all the GREAT encouragement from the last blog. I like to read it a few times afterwards and all of your comments made me smile as much as the story!!

If you commented on my first version, I needed to edit it to change the names of my Ghanaian friends so it erased my original ‘comments’ section. I did get to read all of them though!!

It is Tuesday night. Again, my baby is asleep next to me and hubby on the other side. As I said at the end of my last post – we got to rest all day yesterday. Mark and I didn’t even go out for the dinner. We just had them bring rice back to us. That ‘right-before-the-summer- diet slim down’ has kicked into full gear!

It is HOT here. From the way Ghanaians talk coming to the North Region of Bolga is like travelling from North Dakota to Florida. Ok. Not quite. But it is much hotter here than Accra. You just sweat to death here. Even though you are drinking tons o’aqua you don’t have to pee as much bc you are sweating it all out!

This morning we travelled to a local pottery & art place where they make products and sell them around the country. It was very interesting! We learned the term ‘Calabash’ today! For our island friends who remember the Coleman’s store behind the carwash on Demere named Calabash – it is a bowl with a top to put shea butter or jewelry or spices in that is made with pottery! Very interesting!

Today, Zoe decided she is independent. HA! We let her get a taste of walking around in public while at the restaurant Sunday night when we arrived. I can’t really gauge if this is an American thing or not bc we haven’t see any Ghanaian children in a restaurant. It is usually too precious to spend $ on a meal typically to take children too.

At the tour of the art spot – we are outside in a covered pavilion with benches. Much like a gazebo – there is one way to walk in and out– it is perfectly fine for the kiddos to walk around while the guide is talking. We are the only people on the tour so nobody cares. Then we walk over to an outdoor area where we are introduced to a statue of a very important Ghanaian UN rep bc he has visited this art center. Both kiddos totally fine -wandering around in the yard near us – content and happy not to be carried.

We walk into the art making house & it is like walking in to a china shop. So, we pick up Zoe – she is NOT having it today. Mark tells her no, sternly and she falls apart. I pick her up, walk outside – only bc I think the Ghanaians are uncomfortable with a crying child- I am fine! She is doing what in America we could call “a fake cry”. No worries – we just walk around the yard. Then Ghanaian mommy woman making baskets under a tree can no longer take it and she comes to get Zoe. She INSTANTANEOUSLY stops crying. I feel foolish and white and go back into the art center as she follows us.

She eventually goes back outside with Zoe to sit under the tree while I stay in to listen for another 10 minutes. When we return to the yard to leave – I see Zoe sitting in a chair playing with Brandi’s bandana. She smiles as I arrive. Gives me a high 5 – I pick her up – and there she goes again!!

It was short-lived – we get in the van to go to the crocodile ‘park’ – and she falls asleep in my lap. She was tired. That’s what I’m telling myself.

Crocodile Park – We have now driven to Paga and are just a few short miles from Burkina Faso which is the country north of Ghana. In Paga, crocodiles are considered sacred. The man who founded Paga took one in – the story is that he fed it and it became his friend. They train the crocodiles. We learn the ‘entry’ fee and we are also charged to take pictures per camera. We decide we will all use one camera to take pictures and email them. Good decision! Our ‘guide’ who is about 18 years old takes a chicken to feed the alligator and we head down to the pond below us.

This is no joke!! I didn’t believe them. Until I saw them WHISTLING for the crocodiles in this large pond. Here comes the ‘little one’…no, no, no… we think he is going to feed that one the chicken. Yes, we are going to feed that one the chicken but we are going to take pictures with the big one. Whistle! Whistle!! I see one – Yes! That is the big one! He begins to meander up towards us and opens his mouth like a baby bird. The women obrunis are backing up because we have small children in our arms. I’m sure that’s the only reason we were backing up.

The 18-yr old guide pats the gator on the back and then says “who will come?!” Our foster daddy is the bravest and heads on out to ‘squat’ on the gator and touch it. Snap! Next comes Mark. He is done this before and is acting like the veteran of the group. Snap! Next comes Jesse – Brandi not so happy with this decision is shouting ‘Let him eat all of you if he starts chomping!’ Snap! I succumb to the peer pressure and head on out to pat that gator on the back. (WITHOUT the baby) Snap! We all peer pressure Brandi into doing it. She does it but is neither happy nor proud!! Snap! What fun that was! The chicken is thrown in to the mouth of the OTHER alligator who has not performed a thing. The big alligator has already eaten today! YAY! I am so glad he did not want a mid-morning snack! We want to know where we are going for lunch.

As we leave, Owen asks if you were to swim in the pond, would the gator eat you? The 18-year old guide says…….it depends on what your intention is. Huh? Owen laughs and says, why don’t you take a swim and we will see your intentions! Funny, Owen!! Very funny!

We head to a nice restaurant for lunch. The Ghanaians have been so gracious about finding nice places for us Obrunis to eat. Zoe & I eat Fried rice and chicken. Tasted just like Chinese with a little kick!

On the way home – Zoe falls asleep – we take a break/nap/rest for a couple of hours before heading back out to market and to see foster daddy’s new home for children in this particular region.
When we make it to the true ‘market’ here in Bolga – it is a little like the farmer’s market in America – bc they only have it every 5 days. It closes at 6 and we arrive shortly after 5:30.

Apparently, we have just been transported BACK to the Amazing Race. The market has very little stalls VERY close together that sell anything & everything. The stalls are small wooden spots with thatch roofs or tin roofs. Clothes, cloths, spices, food, shea butter, school paper. We are arriving very late & people are beginning to close up shop. I imagine it is fairly calm for the market bc it is so late in the day. The smells are STRONG and NOT GOOD. We are DEFINITELY the only obrunis AND we are obrunis with Ghanaian children. We are causing quite a stir with the stares. There are 7 of us and the 2 kiddos. (5 Americans and 2 Ghanaians) We have gone purposefully to buy shea butter for the kids skin (like lotion for special purposes) and cloths for Brandi & I to tie the babies to our backs. Anita let us borrow a couple of hers but we wanted some to take back home also. The lady we bought them from is very happy. There is lots of translating going on with Owen and foster daddy. We find the shea butter and buy lots of it between the 3 obruni women. If our Ghanaian friends had gone and hidden – there is no way on God’s green earth we would have found our way out of there. We were so deep in the market. I would have loved to seen that market from an aerial view.

The thing that stands out in my mind about the market were the children. Small, small children had on very few clothes and very dirty – nothing is paved and it is very hot! The more elementary school children are VERY interested in the Obrunis!!! Hello! They shout and run to see. Hello!! Several of them sitting on a bench while there parents are packing up. Hello! The mothers are less friendly. I wonder if it is simply culture or disapproval of white women with black babies. Maybe I am paranoid.

While we are buying Shea butter, Mark is playful from afar with about 5 or 6 children. I have pretended to stand for a picture so that Mark can snap a picture of the market aisle behind me. As he snaps, a little boy poses silly and he and his friends laugh. Mark says ‘Again’ and he tries to act shy – ha! His friends laugh and encourage him enough that he does it. Mark snaps and then shows him the pic on the digital camera. All of a sudden about 20 children run up to see the picture. Laughs and pointed fingers are going all around.

Thankfully, our Ghanaian friends have not hidden and we follow them out of the market. Whew!

We go to dinner at a restaurant that serves pizza!! Not American pizza by any standard but good pizza nonetheless. I ordered a ‘tomato’ salad with a dressing that tastes a little like vinaigrette and put it between two pieces of toast. It was heavenly. The tomatoes were fresh grown. So happy!!

Zoe and I go out to a big patio to walk around several times bc it is taking them an hour to cook our food. Unlike America, Ghanaians start cooking whatever you order when you walk in. There is no cooked food waiting on you in the back kitchen. We play sweet games. She is SO happy to finally be able to walk around and not be carried. I told you that today was little Miss independent day.

She has begun calling me “Mommy” and “Ma”. I am totally in love. She is still very stand-offish with Mark, but will definitely refer to him as ‘Da!” and will respond if anyone says “Where is Daddy?” or ‘Give this to Daddy”. She will let him play a game with her but she will not let him hold her. She will flirt with her eyes in a blinking game with him when she is in a good mood during the day. It is just taking more time. ‘They’ say that the children typically attach to one parent before the other and that it just takes time. She and I are definitely bonding and I think I would be a basket case, honestly, if she had attached to Mark first. For those of you who know Mark well, he is taking it all in stride. I think Zoe will laugh at her early interactions with Mark once she is older and totally in love with her Daddy who is already head-over-heels about her. I am certain Mark is gathering more sermons in his head about how some of us play hard-to-get with our heavenly Father when all he wants to do is shower us with love LAVISHLY the Bible says.

During one of our times on the patio, she was standing in my shadow and I started patting my hands on my legs for no reason at all. She started copying me. I put my arms out straight to see if she would copy that also - she did – and then ran the 5 – foot distance between us to jump in my arms and hug me!! Yay!! We did this about 3 or 4 times. The 2nd time, I said ‘I love you, Zoe’ then I said ‘Can you say, “I love you, Mommy’? And she totally did!! Then kissed me. I am head-over-heels. Mark said today that I have a new best friend and I totally do.

Tomorrow, we are sleeping late (we got up early today at 7:00 so don’t get the idea that all we are doing is sleeping (KIM!!) We will head to a different market tomorrow after breakfast and then we are going to see Zoe’s home village. We found out earlier that my daughter and Anita’s daughter are cousins – I love that we know that!!!

Please keep praying for us. We have some important days ahead.

Kim & Holly – thanks so much for helping with the boys and for giving my in-laws a break.

Frank & Dixie – THANK YOU for loving the boys these 2 weeks.

Asa & Eli – Daddy and I love you!! We keep saying how much you are going to love Zoe and she is going to love you! We can’t wait to have our first dance off with the 5 of us!!

Love to all!
Amy for 3 of us.