Tuesday, April 13, 2010

We are here!!

Wow. What a day. Wow. So many things to say. My best-all-around-friend from high school (that’s her official title), Christine, says that she and I should go on a “The Amazing Race” together. She has been saying this for years. Well, Chrissie…too late! I am ON the ultimate Amazing Race. I am CERTAIN there are hidden cameras.

First –to Lora – she adores the blanket you made her. We toted everywhere in this story and it is amazingly still clean!! Will post pictures of her with it soon!

This post may be long – I am typing it off line and trying to remember everything – for you, my dear readers and friends, but also for Zoe Andrela & our family. There is SO much to remember and we have only been here for less than 72 hours. I’ll start at the beginning but go grab that cup of Joe!

On Thursday afternoon, we meet our adoption coordinator in New York from layover in Atlanta. We have a couple of hours to get to know each other in person. She is super nice and very helpful. We are SOOOOO thankful she is making this trip with us. Mark and I get to ask lots of questions, yada yada yada. (By the way – our lawyer today actually said ‘blah, blah, blah’ while explaining something! Ha!) We arrive in Ghana with no glitches. None whatsoever – thank you Lord! Even our 8-hour flight was not as bad as we anticipated. Mark managed to ask for a ‘bulk head’ seating which is the first row – and the next best thing to the emergency row – thank you, Lord! A little overwhelmed at Ghanaian airport – Anita is with us – thank you, Lord! So far so good!

We meet the AAI driver,load up without being accosted by many ‘helpful’ Ghanaians to our van/bus/tro-tro (big discussion about the name of this vehicle! Final answer: bus! It looks like an American ‘van’ but also looks like an African tro-tro BUT! Because it is private owned and run – not picking up people anywhere like a taxi….it is a bus! (same vehicle!) All have learned a new fact for Trivial Pursuit.

Headed to Hotel Bora Bora – lovely place – very decent AC – and flushing toilets! YAY!! We decide to take an hour or so to get settled and unpack from the plane before heading over to meet our kiddos.

For those of you who’ve seen Zoe in pictures with a little boy her age – his name is Sammy. He has a young mom & Dad from California who are here with us. We have all said many times in the past 72 hours what a blessing it has been to have another family to walk through this with AND Anita! Yay! Thank you’s, Lord! heard all the way around the ‘bus’.

After our hour of decompressing from our 8 hour flight, we grab our 2 bags of clothes and school work donations and head down to meet Brandi & Jesse in person, then get in the bus with driver & Anita and head over to the foster home. We are going to meet our DAUGHTER!! So thrilled! So nervous! Have tried to play out every scenario in my head from her running into my arms shouting mommy! To completely disinterested (expecting this to be the most realistic) to her screaming bloody murder bc an ‘obruni’ (White person!) has come to hold her!!

We could not have asked for a more PERFECT first meeting. Foster Dad came out with both children dressed in outfits we had sent them a few months ago. She came straight to us – was little sleepy – and thus allowed me to hold her and talk with her and even caught a smile or 2 in there. We spoke with P. & his other children for about an hour and then left. THANK YOU, LORD!! What a glorious first meeting and we left feeling like a million bucks. Sammy was the same way and we were all satisfied for the day. “See you tomorrow!” We are coming back to play with kids in the am and then there are 7 of us catching the 4:30 bus (real bus) to Bolgatanga to meet with our lawyer and sign the adoption papers so that they may be filed in court on Monday.

And the 4 of us today, my friends, started the AMAZING RACE! Ok – it was technically yesterday but we have not slept since Sat am and it is currently 10 pm on Sunday so it is still one long day. This is not an exaggeration. I WISH IT WAS!!!

Morning starts with 8:30 wake-up knock for delightful boiled egg, fresh squeezed OJ, hot tea & yummy bread with marmalade with our new friends Brandi & Jesse. Fabulous conversation had with another Christian couple in ministry who are in the same adoption process. We have much in common (and they are funny!! Yay!) and many things to discuss about our journeys!! Thank you, Jesus for orchestrating a life long friendship with an awesome couple!

We have called our driver and he will come get us to go to Foster home to see our children and play with all the kids at his house. We have confirmed a later check-out time of 3:00 instead of 12 since that is when we are leaving for the bus station.

Driver drops us off at Foster Dad's for a couple of hours. Fabulous day – Thank you, Jesus! We walk in to Foster Dad's yard hug all the kids, wave at a couple of Aunties & go in the house to see our 2 ‘babies’ of the house. After about 30 seconds, Foster Dad comes to me inside and says “Come with me, I’d like to speak to you outside”. I follow Foster Dad and as he introduces me to a beautiful young woman who I thought was an Auntie as I waved by, he says “I’d like you to meet Andrela’s birth mother.” SCREECH OF BRAKES. NO PREPARATION. NO time to get nervous. Thank you, Jesus! My brain calms down and we hug – I say a sincere-from the bottom- of my-heart-thank you. Look each other in the eye. Tell her we will love Andrela very much. She is beautiful. She turns & leaves with no salutation. Hmmmm. Very Ghanaian. Very American awkward. She has come to receive the fare to reach Bolgatanga for court this week and then leaves. Mark comes out at some point in those 60 seconds and I’m not even sure what just happened!!! We go back inside.

We play in the yard with all of the children including ours for a couple of hours. Jumping rope – drawing coloring – just hanging out and laughing. The 4 of us had a great time – so did the kids (I think!!) The weather has been graciously and uncharacterisctically, slightly overcast both days. Thanks Lord! I truly, at this point, am thinking we could not be having a better experience. We are here experiencing this with ‘friends’, we have several ‘guides’, our kids are gorgeous! We have it made!!

Side note for a couple of my AAI mommas:
David – is absolutely delightful! He has a calm, sweet spirit about him. He seems very contemplative and loving. He is realizing Bismarck will be his brother in America and he is so sweet and loving and protective of him.
Bismarck – Strap on, sister!! He is FULL of life and smiles! He is super sweet- of course one of the babies with our 2. He loved trying to do what the big kids were doing – jump rope – drawing. Very loving. VERY smiley!
Abigail – such a sweet darling. She was very respectful of adults and the other kids. The boys were having a ‘jump off’ with the jump rope to see how many times they could jump in one count. The boys were getting 50 & 60s & Abigail stepped right up with out a word and jumped to 100!!! Everybody was impressed! She was quick to remind the others not to grab or not to push.
Joseph – was very quiet while we were there. I’ll let Brandi share about Joseph as she had some special time with them. Both Joseph and Abigail were very excited and intentional about coloring pictures and dictating letters to their America Mommy & Daddy. Brandi has those too.

Back to the RACE! So we leave foster home around noon – “We’ll see you (Foster Dad & 2 children) around 3:00 pm (in 3 hours) to go to the bus station to ride the 4:30 pm bus to Bolga!!” Wave, wave, wave.

We ask to be dropped off at a restaurant around the corner from our hotel – ‘Gnat” For my island friends – NOT EVEN JOKING!! Except everyone here calls it G- Nat. It is an outdoor patio that is serving a couple of Ghanaian dishes. Time for my first real Ghanaian food! We order Jollof Rice which is spicy, fried chicken with spicy rice, with cole slaw. I liked it! Yay! Thank you, Jesus!!

We ‘hurry’ back at 2:30 on foot to be back by 3:00 to be ready. We will our guide and local Ghanaian who handles all of the adoption cases along with a beautiful woman who is our AAI rep. Mark has correctly and decidedly said that our guide looks like Terrell Owens. He is right! He is a tall, young, great-looking man who is very helpful. We will call him Owen in this story.

Owen calls Anita. The 4:30 bus filled up already and we will have to wait for the night bus. ‘Well, what time does the night bus leave?” 6:30 or 7:00. Are you sure? Oh yes! Stay at hotel and we will call you when it is time to come. OK.

So the 4 of us and Anita all pile into 1 hotel room at 4:30 to consolidate not having to pay for any more of the rooms extra. We start chit-chatting. At 7:30, another phone call….still waiting…stay put….Not enough people to fill night bus….hmmmm. For our Marietta buddies, we call Eddie in Kumasi to see if we can hire him to take us. He can’t but has a friend. Call him if we cannot find anyone. Another phone call 8 or 9:ish maybe - They think the night bus is going to fill – now we come. It is now 11 pm as we pull up to the foster home with the driver in his bus-not-a-tro-tro. Foster Dad brings us the babies gets in the bus to go and we are off!! Just a slight 7 hour delay! Thank you, Lord! The 5 of us had a fabulous time talking and discussing in an air-conditioned hotel room. And I’m not being a smarty pants on this….we really did! We never spend 7 hours just talking to people with no agenda, event to plan, or time constraints. It was delightful!!

We arrive at the bus station around 11:30 – it is captain crazy busy here. I copped my first squat!! The 3 obruni ladies must t-t so we walk down the street and find a dark spot in an alley way and go Ghanaian. Pretty proud of myself. There are people urinating everywhere here. Nobody thinks a thing of it. Hmmm. Can I get an Amen? I don’t think so.

This is where it starts getting good. Amazing Race good. We arrive. Bus is BRAND NEW. Like no joke – take on your youth trip ski retreat nice. First class airline nice. Wide, reclining seats. TV with an exceptionally bad and even more exceptionally loud Ghanaian soap opera playing. The air conditioning is so cold that the Ghanaians won’t stay on it to wait for it to fill up. They are in the yard. Obrunis still on the bus.

At this time it begins feeling a little Amazing Race-ish. The only problem with this tricked out bus is that it only goes to Kumasi. That’s only 5 hours away. Bolga is 13! But still – we all agree (with Owen) that we are making progress and we cannot afford to wait until morning or noon to start travelling as we will miss our appointment with the Adoption Lawyer bc he has to leave after our appointment to go to another town and this will delay our filing.

We talk smack with a tro-tro sized bus driver who has an 11 seater van who could take us all the way to Bolga in one trip but we only have 7 people. Brandi and Jesse and me and Mark quickly agree to just snatch up the other 4 tickets and Let’s GO!! We will pay for it. Lest you forget that all this time we have 2-2year olds.

He calls his manager – realizes it is Obrunis and we must hire him as a private driver and not just buy all 11 tickets but charges us twice the price. Owen isn’t having it. We all load onto the mack-daddy 30-below-Americans-not-complaining bus and within an hour – we are full & off to Kumasi!! THANK YOU, JESUS!! Forward motion, people.

The only kink in this plan is that we re planning to take the ‘firm’ 4:30 am Mass Transit Bus the other 8 hours to Bolga. Good plan! We will arrive in Bolga in time for our Monday-first -thing in the morning appointment with the lawyer! We make great time and arrive at 4:00 am in Kumasi at the bus station. Woohoo! All are VERY tired but in good spirits. We knew this would be long and not so pretty. We are fine. We tell ourselves: We are FINE. Everyone still has smiles on. Sleepy smiles but smiles nonetheless.

Kumasi bus station was full of a lot of very awake people or very asleep in chairs or children on the GRAVEL sleeping. We are a little shell-shocked but no-one will admit it. Seriously, we really were all doing great. BECAUSE WE HAD NO IDEA WHAT LAY AHEAD. You must know that I am laughing as I write this. Because 90% of the day, I wished that you were a mosquito on the bus to see this nonsense. Honestly, I wrote about 19 blog posts in my head along the way. Mark gathered several sermons in his. And I just kept laughing. Until about hour number 7 on that bus.

So. The 4:30 am bus has not arrived (from where? I think but don’t ask)……it looks like we will be waiting until AROUND 6:30 am or 7:00 am for the Bolga bus. We find old bench bus seats in the out door-gravel parking lot- waiting area with our babies and settle in for a 2-3 hour wait.

The Bolga bus arrives – yay!! THANK YOU, LORD!! We are finally headed towards our destination. We begin boarding around 7:00ish and depart at 7:30.

So….when you think bus – scratch the original description of our glorious first class edition. We have just boarded a version of a glorified school bus with no air-conditioning and 62 of my closest friends. With my 2 year old that I just met yesterday. The kids have been AMAZING!! The WHOLE time. They are not like our American kids…when I say ‘our’ – I’m including yours.  They aren’t running around – being loud – screaming because they see something they want – pitching fits – they are very quiet and subdued. ALL of the very young kids we see. I think part of it is culture – they get carried so much that they aren’t down walking around & it is so stinkin hot that I can’t imagine they have the energy!!

Mark and I have won the lottery and have been assigned the 2nd seat from the back. There is luggage piled EVERYWHERE!! There is a small luggage bay underneath but also lots of luggage on the floors – like 2 & 3 high- bags of agriculture, etc… The ‘back door’ where step down stairs is directly in front of us – piled so high with luggage that Mark can’t even see over it. We are now squished in a tiny little school-bus seat with Zoe for 8 hours. We realize there is a chicken in a basket right in front of us underneath 2 layers of luggage. We hear him clucking and chirping. We decide to name him Chipper for the ride. Thank you, Jesus????

It is now Sunday morning – the sun is coming up again but it is very overcast again. THANK YOU, JESUS!! All bus windows are open and Chipper is going to town. Zoe is now wide awake and quite content to watch out the windows and the people and towns passing by. There is no bathroom on this bus (It’s a school bus, silly!) and they only make one real stop where people may ‘deboard the plane’.

After about an hour, we slow to a stop in the middle of a road. Young girls and women walk up to our open windows and start yelling things I cannot even begin to understand. Loudly. They all have baskets on their heads. All of a sudden at the same time different people on the bus start hanging out the windows handing them money while they throw fruit and water bags and other such stuff into our “I can’t eat another bite” bus. Yay! Ghana’s version of the Kangaroo convenience store. That was fun. The 1st time.

Cluck Cluck!! Hey Chipper!

We hand Zoe a couple of McD’s toys a plastic dog and a plastic horse. She likes the dog but can only process 1 toy at a time. Doesn’t need horse. We are on hour 2. It’s only 9ish – still smiling. Knees hurt – butt hurts but my baby is happy and we are on our way to Bolga!! Thank you, Lord!!

We slow again – the fella behind us (on the last row) buys a whole bag (15ish) of an orange-smelling fruit. Nice! About 30 minutes later we hit a speed bump on a dirt road in a school bus going about 45 miles an hour!! AIR BORNE!!! All of us. Especially in the back. I grab the baby. Mark grabs our bag. Oranges are flying everywhere. One knocks me in the head and another lands in my lap. Chipper is clucking and everyone laughs. That was fun! Ha ha ha. Here are your oranges. Nice. Nice. Nice. I ask Mark what time it is. We are only on hour 3. Still smiling!!

On hour 4, the girl across the aisle from us and one row up starts throwing up! Yay!! Unfortunately, our friends Anita, Jesse, & Brandi are sitting directly in front of her. Mark and I quickly look out the window and sing ‘LALALALALALA” real loud in our heads to avoid looking, thinking, or smelling about it.

Isn’t my baby acting so swell? She really is. That’s no joke. She has now fallen asleep for a morning nap and is the sweetest thing ever! YAY!! THANK YOU, JESUS!

Hey! I hear Chipper!! I thought he had fallen asleep too! Nope! Still there.

I have begun calling her Zoe Andrela throughout the day and she is responding. LOVE IT!! She is the most beautiful thing in the world. By the end of the day, she even responded to just Zoe. Smart girl!

Hey! I hear Chipper!! I thought he had fallen asleep too! Nope!

Mark and I are still twisting and turning every 10-15 minutes to give the other butt cheek a rest. Poor Mark. He is 6’3” folded into a 2’2” spot. For 8 hours. Did I mention that?

Hour 5. I think maybe this is when we were allowed the exodus off the bus to tt in 15 minutes. This is no joke either – we stopped at a grassy market area with a concrete ‘pavillion’ like area with a restaurant and bathrooms. We stand around stretch – buy some rice for the kiddos for lunch to eat on the bus and HONK HONK HONK. Time to get on the bus! HONK HONK. Obrunis haven’t tt’d yet- so sorry!! HONK! Become tempted to flash the Universal sign for take a hike but decide to run to the bathroom instead.

3 Obrunis – last on bus. Dirty looks from all. HA!!

I am STILL smiling. Sorta. Running on NO food but granola bars & almonds AND we are trying not to drink much so we don’t have to pee – which means we are dehydrated. And Cramped! SQUAWK! Goes Chipper. And I laugh to myself. Isn’t this funny? It was 6 hours ago.

Hour 6 – BLUR. The only thing I can remember is that my darling new Ghanaian beauty tt’d ALL over my lap. Dunno what happened. Had on a diaper. Too much tt? Bad diaper? Bad installment of diaper? I don’t know but at this point I am so very sad about my very wet skirt.

Hour 7- I FINALLY fall asleep. With Zoe asleep in my lap – with Mark’s fleece neck pillow. Hmmmm. I sleep about 30 minutes. Long enough to get REALLY GROUCHY when I woke up. Too bad. Nowhere to go! You’re stuck on a bus! How much longer? Bout an hour. We’ve heard that before.

So, we pass the “Welcome to Bolgatanga” sign and our bus driver decides to pull over with 62 people and a chicken and get gas! I AM DYING to get out. Mark couldn’t be rolling his eyes any further back into his head.

And then – it happens. The Saturday Night Live skit of all time!! We pull out of the gas station and drive about 2-3 more miles to the BUS STATION!!!! Seriously??? Was it going to take up too much time to let us all out and THEN go get that gas?

Right before we pull in the gas station, Owen tells us that the Attorney has to go out of town tomorrow and he is now waiting in his office for us to come by to sign the adoption papers. Are we going to hotel first? Nope! Are we going to be able to change clothes? Nope! Straightaway!! Yay! Thank you, Lord that our attorney wants to come early and not late!!

As we all start throwing our luggage out the windows Ghanaian style, I realize my skirt has dried – because it has been 2 HOURS since my darling daughter released a liter of pee on me. Maybe no one will notice? Maybe we all smell bad? Anita and Brandi assure me that yes, we all definitely are dirty and smell bad. As I deboard the school bus, I realize just how disgusting it had become in those 8 hours and hold my breath as I get out. G’bye Chipper!!

The rest is not nearly as entertaining. We sign papers – we go to hotel – we go out to eat. Brandi, Anita, and Amy each almost have a break down during dinner. We order a bottle of wine and we are all better now!!

I am now in my hotel room, with my Ghanaian beauty sleeping next to me and her Daddy on the other side. We have prayed for her purposefully tonight. She is mine. There is no doubt that God had each of us in mind when he created the other. I love her so.

If you’ve read this far – you are amazing. I needed to process before sleep more than anything. Hope this will tide you over for a few days. I will try to post pictures in the morning.

It is now Tuesday early evening. We have slept all day and been in our hotel room all day….and it has been heavenly.

Couple of quick notes –
Pictures are coming. Mark’s computer is not connecting to the internet but Anita’s is. I couldn’t actually post last night bc of that. We have connection on his blackberry now so feel free to text Mark’s bb or email Mark’s email to get us. Mark’s parents have that info if anybody needs it. They are at our house.

For our Marietta friends circa 2004: the Camille & Molly days. We actually learned where “Aw Debbie, Debbie” used as an expletive in our terms came from!! It twi in Africa, ‘de be’ means ‘I do not like” “no thank you” ‘take that away’ HA!!!!! Apparently, Mark and Molly both brought that back from the 2004 Africa mission trip and forgot why!!! Hilarious. We had an entire youth group use that term for a couple of years and nobody knew where it came from. Honestly. That’s good stuff.

Love to all but especially my big boys at home!! I love you!!! Mom!


  1. WOW WOW WOW!!!

    I love the way you captured all this. I loved reading this. Love y'all too. Can't wait for you to be back here, though. And THEN back here with her.

  2. Love this post and all the details! It leaves you wanting for more! From my travels in India, Peru, and Guatemala, I could so relate to the chicken and the bus and the peed on skirt and the whole bit. It is funny. All night, I kept thinking I could go back and read some more.. like I had been reading a book or watching a movie and wanted to see what would happen next and then I would remember that there was no more to read. The post was over and I would have to wait til next time. Like after you've watched an episode of 24. Therefore.. MORE PLEASE... ASAP!! But Grace ,too... We can wait!
    Laura Kirkland

  3. wow...what an experience...thanks for sharing and I can't wait for more...enjoy those snuggles. :)