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!!

26 comments:

  1. Wow - what an adventure. Laughter (and mortification - I could never ride 6 hours, ever, without at least two stops), and also emotion - it was so lovely to read about your experience with Zoe's birth mother and extended family. What a gift.

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  2. oh my gosh! she is GORGEOUS!!! what a beautiful little girl. you are so blessed! congratulations...

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  3. Wow!!!!! I am crying! All I can say is what a blessing to know her birth mom's name, to have MET her and to have this wonderful story to tell. How I WISH we had that information. It will be so interesting and comforting to Z one day. All I can say about the bus ride is that it explains A LOT about two Ghanaian students I once had....Katy

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  4. SCREAM, SCREAM, HOLLER, CRY, call Holly, we ooh and ahhhh and cry more, show Thomas and Tom, cry more, show Josh and cry even more.. I have been waiting for this picture all day!! What a priviledge and blessing to have walked this sweet journey with you!! What a story! I can't wait to get my hands on those cute cheeks!! Love you!
    Kim

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  5. OK, I didn't get to scream and holler and cry until right now. I had two blonde headed little boys in my possession at the movie then dinner then back to the house for some fun on the zip racers. They were going to do the amazing race with us today at the Chapel but baseball practice and a little missed communication between myself and Dixie......we went to plan B. Sooooo excited! I'm with Kim.....I can't wait to get my hands on her! Love you.....so proud of you!! Christi

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  6. Wow! I was all teary eyed and sentimental at the beginning of the post and then after reading about that bus trip, it was all gone. I have to go back and re-read it to remember how freakin' amazing and precious it was to hear about Zoe becoming a Frtichman. She is beautiful! And I love that she belongs. I'm so excited for y'all-and for a hotel with air conditioning. Much, much love!

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  7. Oh. My. Gosh. It's like childbirth! Without the A/C and the adjustable bed. Plus goats. You are hilarious. Can't wait to hold Zoe Fritchman!!!

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  8. OH SUH-NAP. That was the most mixed-emotional blog post EVER!! :) I'm choked up, I'm laughing out loud (or lol as the KIDS say) amazing and hilarious. These posts need to be consolidated into a bound book to sit on your coffee table. But make an extra copy for me. I'll pay for it. Can't wait to meet your amazing daughter. I'm so excited to see her with Asa and Eli!! Love you crazy Fritchies!!

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  9. david and I have really been enjoying reading all your posts...she is absolutely beautiful! praying for you guys.

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  10. I can't even imagine what that would be like! I am glad Volta is a little closer to Accra then Bolga is. We will be seeing you in a few days!

    Laura

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  11. Haven't cried until now either...Wow. What an incredible send off to have Zoe's birth mother and family (village) send her off with love. It is cool that she will know where she came from and will be able to go back one day. I look forward to meeting her. I still don't understand the legal reasons why she can't come home with you now that she is yours. ??? Maybe you can explain it to me one day.

    Love you,
    Anne

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  12. Crazy emotional roller coaster . . . laughs, tears, questions, the whole ball of wax. Thanks for the ride.

    Boo chicken balls AND BUS TRIP!!!!

    Thomas studied Zoe's face a while and said "SHE'S SMILING! She looks like she's gonna be really funny one day. I can just tell." His only other comment, "Have they told her about us?" He's ready for her to be a real live walkin/talkin part of the "boys club". Me too. :)

    Big love,
    Holly

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  13. What an amazing story! I am beyond words! (I do hoped the goats were fully photographed - proof is required for that portion of the blog!) She is beautiful. God is so good to us! I cannot wait to meet Zoe. The Fritchman Five - it is perfect!

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  14. Hi,
    I've been following your blog for a little while now, b/c you're living "my life." We have two bio boys and have just begun the process to adopt a little girl from Ghana. Reading about all of your adventures and your process has been so inspirational. Thank you for sharing and congrats on your beautiful daughter. As I'm staring at mountains of paperwork, I now feel hope!

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  15. Awesome description of your ghana travels so far. Zoe is more beautiful than I imagined. You guys are truly blessed to call her YOURS. I am praying for you and for her, looks like God has already knitted your hearts together! Can't wait to meet her one of these days!

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  16. It has been nothing but joy to follow you in your writings to Zoe. What a privilege you have given many of us to witness the amazing graces of God in all the details. Still praying. Still amazed. Still rejoicing with you.

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  17. I am reading and crying and laughing and getting sick to my stomach!! I can just imagine Anita next to that man I wonder what was going through her head. Poor thing! And YOU and all the crazy journey back, HOLY SMOKES!BUT....she is yours!!!
    What an amazing thing to be apart of. WOW!
    Cant wait to read more!

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  18. Wow...wow...I so look forward to your posts...

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  19. I have read and reread your increadable story with tears in my eyes and a smile on my face. What a wonderful way to welcome Zoe into the family. You are so blessed as is she. I am so glad that you will know the birth family and Zoe will be able to know them in the future. I have copied your story and sent to Cooper as he has been following along with me. You are all in my prayers as you journey home and leave Zoe for a while. I can't wait to meet her.

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  20. Only you, Amy, can make us laugh, cry and feel like we were right there with you (glad to say we weren't tho). What a huge journey of love. We'll stand in line with the rest of the world to see Miss Beautiful Life-Giving Zoe! God bless the rest of your week. (You weren't on the call today....)Love, june

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  21. Amy, you & Mark will have stories to tell for days and days. What an unbelieveable beginning to what will surely be an amazing life for the newest Fritchman! I know that the remainder of this week will be good & bad but know that you have people on both sides of the world rooting for you! Much love & wishing you a BORING trip home! ~Heather

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  22. Great stories to tell! Can't help but be drawn back to our experience. Next Tuesday marks four years since we heard those words. So special. Even over a speaker phone. Can't wait to introduce Keegan to Zoe!

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  23. Haven't been on your blog in awhile. So fun to pop over and discover that you are one of the families that are with Anita. (I've been reading her blog, and wondering who she is with.)

    Oh the memories this brings back of our trip to Bolga ... and visiting our children's village. I cannot express how very important it has been for us, to truly know how our children lived before the orphanage ... to have met their extended family ... to have visited their home in the village. You are blessed to have had that opportunity.


    Laurel :)

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  24. This the best reading I have done all year!! You have such a gift, I felt like I was on the bus smelling those goats and cheering on the yelling dude. I love it. Zoe is now a Fritchman, what a blessing. I am so excited. She has two brothers that I know cannot wait to love up on her. She is going to have such a good life. Thank you doesn't come close to saying what my heart is feeling. Wow, your unselfish act is changing an entire village. You left them with hope. I love it!!! -Niki

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  25. She is a georgeous child!! What an awesome life story you will share with her!!! Ohh..my bladder would never have made it on your 17 hour journey!! You are so patient and brave!! It is amazing what love can do!!!
    We miss you soo much here!! Cannot wait to hug you hopefully in June!!! Thank you for sharing your life with us!

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