Thursday, November 7, 2013

The Long Hard Trip Home, Longest blog post ever!

This is going to be a long one, so go get a cup of tea of coffee, put your feet up and get ready for the longest, most stressful blog entry to date.  When it gets overwhelming, just be thankful you are experiencing this from the relative calm, quiet and comfort of your home and not experiencing this in real life like we did!

I'm not sure if you noticed or not, but I have not blogged anywhere about anything that happened after my last visit with Christy.  There's a reason for that. It was one of the worst trips of my life and it brought me to the end of myself in many ways.  But is God it good, and now I can finally talk about that trip home.

My last moments with her
So, on my last visit with Christy, I had no idea that it would be my last visit with her, as we had one more visit scheduled for the very next morning.  At that last visit I found myself quite tired and had this weird burning sensation in my throat.  I tried very hard to play with Christy and I even got down on the floor with her (something I rarely do since I injured my knee so badly in 2012).  The visit seemed to go on forever...I just wanted to go back to the hotel room and take a nap.  But we made it through and I even got to feed her dinner which extended our visit another half hour.  As we left, I had no idea that it would be the last time I set eyes on her...if I had known, I would have held her and cried.  It still hurts that I was unable to say goodbye, and yet I know that she would have no idea why I would be crying over would have been for me, to hold her tight and somehow tell her that we were not leaving her forever, but that we were going home to work hard to bring her home with us very soon!

So we left and went out for dinner, all the while I kept having to clear my throat as that silly burning sensation would just not go away.  I didn't even order dessert, I just wasn't in the mood.  So we headed back to the hotel with plans to pack everything tonight, so we'd be ready to check out in the morning before our last visit with Christy.  While packing, that burning began to really get to me - why was this happening?  And then I noticed that I had a tearing/burning sensation just below my ribs on my right side.  Like I had torn a muscle.  Bending over was just not an option.  This made packing difficult, but I could do it.  I just wanted to go to bed, but I had to pack.  I was able to get the packing done, and crawl into bed.  It took me hours to fall asleep as my throat was so sore.  By midnight I knew that I was getting sick and I got out a supply of my butterscotch hard candies (I had brought them along for helping with popping ears on the flights if the gum wasn't doing the job).  Those helped me to get some sleep.  By morning I knew that I could not justify going to our last visit.  I really had no idea where I had gotten this virus, so I was not willing to expose the children in Christy's group home again to a virus if I had gotten it elsewhere (like any of the restaurants we had eaten at or the store we had gone into, or even from the hotel itself).  So I told Daryl that I would not be going, but would be resting in the hotel room while he went on the last visit.  He agreed that it was the best plan.

I cried for a while and prayed, and then after Daryl left I felt asleep and had a very restful sleep until my alarm woke me up.  Daryl had already taken the luggage that I no longer needed, so I just got dressed and zipped up the suitcases and headed downstairs.  Soon Yavor (our driver) and Daryl were there picking me up.  Daryl told me that several of the children were showing signs of fighting a virus as well, and that the director herself had called in sick, but had shown up at the group home in order to sign the appropriate papers for our adoption processing.  He related that Christy had not been playful, but mostly just wanted to sit in his lap and cuddle.  I still felt that remaining in the hotel had been the wisest choice as I was able to get additional sleep.

remodeled on the left, getting remodeled on the right.
The trip from Christy's city to the capitol as long and difficult.  Lots of traffic, lots of trucks going slow, lots of passing of those trucks.  For the first half I was in the back seat trying to rest and not talk (my voice was nearly gone).  But due to the ride, I began to get car sick, so I requested to sit in the front.  After a stop for gas, I was also able to get some throat lozenges.  After that the ride was better, but still not exactly restful.  I had noticed every so often that there would be a young (or not so young) girl sitting or standing by the side of the road, seemingly in the middle of nowhere.  They were usually dressed rather trendy.  On further research later, we found out the prostitution is actually legal there, and that those were gypsy women on the roadside looking for "work."  How tragic.  I felt so sad for those women out in the heat and cold, exposed not only to the elements, but also to who-knows-what in the form of "customers."  I'm sure their life expectancy is not long, nor healthy.  "Pimping" is no legal, but I found out that that doesn't stop it from happening, and that they get their "girls" at a very young very, very sad.  This is where many of the orphans come from.  So very, very sad.  There is also an unbelievable amount of what most would consider pornography in public places - statutes, magazines, art work...and I'm not talking about Roman styled statues, we are talking immodest and sensual portrayals of women (mostly).  And the advertisements on their TV stations were definitely not any better....such an oppressive atmosphere.  There is less than 1% of the population that claims to be protestant, as the dominant religion is Orthodox (very similar to Catholic from what I understand), with Atheism and Muslim religions coming in with a greater percentage of the population that those of all protestant religions.  I know that Europeans think that American's are prudes, but I see this as a compliment - living there for over a week I am so thankful that our families are not attacked on all sides by this demeaning of the beauty of sex in marriage, making it common and foul.  I can not imagine raising a young boy in that culture...unbelievable.  We even had to remove the photo in our hotel room as it was very offensive (photo of a nude woman).  We carefully removed it from the wall and set it up against another wall.  Sadly, most other times our only option was to look away and hope that something worse wasn't in the other direction.

trying to get a photo of a horse and cart on the highway
I only got the horses head...LOL!
So on top of feeling unwell, my soul was heavy...very heavy.  Having to leave Christy behind, and thinking about the sad state of moral affairs in this country caused me to feel so very very sad.  The trip seemed so very long, and scenery just more run down buildings and endless graffiti.  The amount of graffiti in Christy's country was unbelievable.  Every where, on all surfaces, it was there.  Run down buildings, covered in graffiti, with crumbling sidewalks in front...and every now and then a whiff of raw sewage...a country desperately in need of a Savior both spiritually and physically.

And then we began to get hungry.  I had missed breakfast, but had not even missed it, but now it was well after noon and no lunch.  Yavor said he knew of a good restaurant, but then when we got  there it had gone out of business.  He said there was another about 45 minutes further.  But that one was also out of business.  Finally, around 3 pm, we found a very good restaurant that is part of a huge resort.  Once again we met with something very foreign to us...they had only one bathroom for men and women.  But at least they had toilets (read about the bathroom that didn't have toilets).  It took me a little while to find the sinks too, as they were outside the bathroom, and they looked like big brass bowls sitting on top of a kitchen type counter...but they were the "bathroom" sinks...right out there near the seating for the restaurant.  At least more people would be pressured into washing their hands as there would be witnesses to whether or not they washed their hands after leaving the bathrooms!  Thankfully we were not sitting anywhere near the bathrooms!

After a very nice lunch, we started on the last leg of the journey.  Before we knew it we were getting dropped off at our Hotel at the capital.  We would not see Yavor again this trip, so it was kind of hard to see him go as he had been our (nearly) constant companion for 5 days!

Needless to say, we went straight to our hotel room and went to sleep.  We slept for a few hours, and then mustered enough energy to go down for dinner, but we ended up sharing dinner as neither one of us had much appetite. After dinner we walked down the street to get some water and to find the "pharmacy" to get some cold remedies that our lawyer had recommended (her sister is a nurse).  We had the front desk guy translate it to Bulgarian, and it's a good thing we did.  The "pharmacy" was a "store" that had about 10 square feet for customers, and all the merchandise was behind glass walls.  The "pharmacist" would dispense what you were looking for.  So we left with two cold remedies, and picked up water and chocolate (to bring home to our children) from the grocery store.

After a good night's sleep (well as good as it gets in a hotel) we were up early and once again packing - I re-organised so I could get what I needed for the trip home.  After a good breakfast at the hotel, and a little relaxing, we went downstairs and our cab was already there.  Our cabby didn't speak a work of English, but that was OK as he was prepaid by our agency and knew where we needed to be dropped off.

At the airport, things went quite smoothly, and I was able to use the extra cash I had to get some drinks and chocolate from the vending machine.  Soon we were loaded on a bus and brought out to the airplane (that was new!).  On this flight I ended up sitting next to another native!She had just spend over a month visiting family and friends and was headed "home" to the US (Pennsylvania).  She was pleasant and I enjoyed talking with her.  She warmed to our adoption and was asking lots of questions before long.  She was fascinated that an American family would choose to adopt a child from her country, and one that had special needs.  After a time of not talking, she touched my arm and said in a  voice that spoke of much emotion, she said "you are such a blessing.  God will bless you for this, it's so amazing."  Everywhere that we shared out story, we found such a positive response.  People are just amazed.
near tralfalgar square, where it was all cordoned off
for a NFL event of all things!

Big Ben up close
After that flight, we got on a "Hoppa Hotel Bus" and headed to our hotel.  There we relaxed and slept and after that we went down for dinner.  Again we shared a dinner.  After a decent night's sleep, we got up very early and headed to downtown London to do some sightseeing.  After a few hours, we hopped on the Tube, then switched to the London Express - both times literally walking right onto the one we wanted.  We traded in our Oyster cards at the airport and hopped on a bus to get back to the hotel.  The bus dropped us much farther from the hotel than we expected so we had to walk about 3 blocks.  We quickly checked out from the hotel, knowing that we were a little late, but the Hoppa Bus promises to get you to the airport in "just 20 minutes" so that meant we would still have nearly two hours when we arrived at the airport before the plane was scheduled to take off.

Once on the bus, the driver notified us that his mirror had broken, and that we would be switching to another bus at terminal 4.  There would be a replacement bus waiting there for us.  Not good news, but it sounded like it would work.  At the next hotel, there was a family with two young children and literally 20 pieces of luggage!  The driver made a snide comment about "travelling light" to the father, and he replied that they had been living in London for 3 years.  Oh my.  It took a while to get them all on board and the someone hopped on the bus, discovered it was the wrong bus, and stood there asking questions for at least 5 minutes.  Our stress was mounting with each minute!  FINALLY the bus left that hotel.  Once we got to Terminal 4, there was no replacement bus.  We talked to another bus waiting there, and he said he was heading there and would leave in about 5 minutes...So we got on. Then as the bus driver prepared to take off, a man got on.  He found out that this wasn't the bus he wanted, and proceeded to talk with the bus driver for at least 5 more minutes before exiting the bus.  Can you say STRESSFUL?
Our last view of the City of London
Our date/time stamp proved we left in time....
should have gotten to the hotel and on to the
airport in around an hour

Halfway to terminal 5, the bus driver took a wrong turn!  He ended up going in an out and having to turn the BUS around!  That is not easy in a full size metro style bus!  Finally we were on the way again (really?  A bus driver not knowing his route????).  It took forever..I really think he took the wrong way around the airport as it took over 30 minutes to get from terminal 4 to terminal 5.  So much for getting from the hotel to the airport in 20 minutes!  In fact, I just looked it up and I knew he was going counter clockwise around the airport, and guess what?  That's the LONG WAY around to Terminal 5 - amazing, he was going the wrong almost seems that we were not meant to catch that flight no matter how hard we tried!

So we arrive at the airport at 12:00 for our 1:05 flight.  The kiosk won't let us check in and there's a LONG line for the baggage check in, so we go to the ticket counter, and yes, we have to wait in the baggage line.  Then some yahoo is going through the line checking passports and putting stickers on luggage...slowing the line.  FINALLY we get to the desk, and he checks and yes, we are late, but he thinks we can still check in, but needs to check with baggage.  The baggage guy is in no hurry, but radios that "late runners" have arrived.  After much discussion, he said that the baggage department is not willing to have us check out luggage for the flight and that we have to re-book our flight.  I figure, no problem we'll just leave later today.  I've never missed a flight so I have no idea what to expect.

Then we get to the ticket desk, and they say that they can not re-book our flight for us but that our travel agent needs to do this.  A quick reckoning reveals that it is 4 am on a Saturday in the US!  Realistically, we could be stuck until Monday is the travel agent doesn't work from home on the weekends.  They did allow us to use their phones to call him, and I got an answering machine.  I left a message to email us as quickly as possible.  All hope had failed me and I was beginning to think I was going to break down sobbing right there in the middle of the airport.  Then he emailed me and said he was working on it.  Eventually I was able to get him on the phone and he got things worked out...but it would cost us $700 to re-book the flights. WHAT?????  I was close to losing it...I was sick, tired, hungry and lost and now our money was going down the tube, money we didn't really have!  It all seemed so unreal.  But what could we do.  Thankfully we have an American Express for just such emergencies.  So we got our flights booked, but they didn't leave until tomorrow (and there was a tropical storm slated for tomorrow!).  OK, so we had tickets, but 18 hours to wait.  There was no way I could spend 18 hours sick in an airport, so we tried to book a hotel, but that wasn't going well, so we decided to just go back to our hotel and see what kind of a deal we could get (the desk clerk had been so friendly every time we were there).

We found out that the stop we were dropped off was the right bus stop (from others on the bus), but as we were getting ready to get off, the bus drove right past the stop!!!!  I was like, "YOU'VE GOT TO BE KIDDING ME???"  This just keeps getting better and better.  I was sure at this point that I was in a "story to tell my grand kids" and that someday I would be able to laugh about all this, but that time will be a long time coming....

So we get dropped off about 4 blocks from our hotel, in the rain, across the street, a 6 lane street with traffic on the wrong side of the road.  I wanted to walk to the next light (adding at least a block to our walk) but Daryl wanted to Jay Walk.  I'm like "with 6 pieces of luggage????"  But that is what we did.  We finally get to the hotel, wet, sweating, exhausted and demoralized.  I don't see my friendly desk clerk, anywhere.  I approach the gal at the desk and tell her that we missed our flight and that we needed a room for the night.  She then did the unimaginable!  She said things like "you shouldn't ever risk being late for a flight.  Don't you know that Heathrow is the busiest airport in the world?  You shouldn't have risked it"  I told her that our bus had broken down.  She went on as if she didn't hear me "I saw you checking out and knew you were cutting it close, You should have known better. Oh look, there's no rooms, we are fully booked" (almost as if she was relieved that she wouldn't have to give these American losers a room.   She said that we could try the next hotel down the street "it's only a 10 minutes walk"  WHAT?????  I still can not grasp her attitude.  Unbelievable.  I just stood there for a minute or so starring at her in disbelief.  REALLY?  Finally I had the presence of mind to ask her to phone the hotel to see if they had any rooms (like I really wanted to have a nice stroll over there only to be told that there weren't any rooms, right?)/  After sighing like I was such a HUGE bother, she said she would call.  After conferring on the phone, she said in her most patronizing voice, "yes, they have 60 rooms available starting at just 95 pounds."  I said thank you and we left we and our 6 pieces of luggage and my strained abdominal muscle, sore throat and the beginnings of a cough.

Off we trudged.  It was about 6 blocks away, six VERY LONG blocks.  I trudges along behind Daryl, not even looking up.  Halfway there a bus went by and sprayed me with water.  REALLY?  OK, God, time for a talk.  I'm so done.  I can't go on.  I'm going to lose it right here.  But then I prayed for strength.  And while I didn't get any miraculous strength, I notice that it wasn't raining.  It had been POURING down rain when we left the airport, but it had stopped raining when we got off that first bus.  Thinking back, we had only been lightly rained on once during our entire trip, even though everywhere we went in London the streets were wet as though it had just rained, and often it would start to rain as soon as we boarded a bus/train.  So I try to play the 'Pollyanna Game" and try to yell to Daryl, "At least it's not raining" only he can't hear my as my voice is mostly gone.  I try again, and on the third try he heard me.  All this time we are trudging along.

So,finally, we arrive at the hotel down the street.  We must have looked like lost, wet dogs by then.  I approach the desk and there is a beautiful young lady there.  I tell her that we need a room as we missed out flight.  She says "Oh, I think we are all booked"  WHAT?????

I relate to her the phone call and she says she will check for sure.  Sure enough, there are rooms available.  What was that all about???  So we get the room, and I ask her where she's from and find out that she's from Christy's country!  I share with her our trip and it's purpose and suddenly she is the sweetest thing and so unlike how she talked to me when I first approached the desk.  I still wonder what that was all about, "no room at the inn" and all that???

So we go to our room and crash.  Hit the bed and sleep.  So Done.  We go down to dinner and get the sweetest waitress and a very good dinner (which we split again).  On our way back to our room we find that it's daylight savings time there this night, so I ask for a wake up call as I seriously doubt that I can change our clocks properly at this point.

Back to our rooms repacking again, taking meds and try to sleep.  Come morning, we are up before the wake up call, get to the airport via CAB (just to be sure) and get there nearly 3 hours early.  We check in and go through security (we are old pros by now) and go to see what gate.  We have to wait until just 45 minutes before the flight is to leave before we even know what gate to go to.  REALLY?  That means that the day before, when we arrived to check in our luggage, in all probability they had JUST announced the gate for our flight.  Really.  You've got to be kidding me.

So, we wait.  We people watch.  We look at chocolate (but the cheapest thing in that airport was 14 English pounds, which is over $25 USD.  Not happening.  Don't have enough English money left for that, the CAB ride used up almost everything we had left.

Finally our gate shows up on the screen, and it's almost the farthest gate from where we stood. So off we go.  It takes about 15 minutes of walking to get there, thankfully there were those walking escalators so some of the time we were able to just stand there.  I use the last few 1 pound coins I have to get some water, iced tea and a candy bar from the vending machine there.

After boarding, We have the last two seats in the back of the plane.  No neighbors.  The typhoon has not arrived, but it looks windy our there.  We get movies and I get right into watching a movie.  I turn up the volume and ignore my surroundings.  When I'm about halfway through the movie we are finally taking off.  Lift off seems to take forever, but we make it up into the sky, rocking and bouncing in the wind.  The first hour or so of the flight is lots of turbulence, but then it calmed down.  This was an 8 1/2 hour flight during the day, so I just plan to watch 4 movies, and I get everything watched except for the last few minutes of an old favorite of mine, Jane Eyre, which I know the ending, but I might just have to rest this one as it's new version and I really like it.

Anyway, we land in Detroit for a 5 hour layover.  We walked all the way across the terminal and it was beautiful (research Detroit airport, it's amazing).  We stopped to get some coffee and hot cocoa...I can't  tell you now pleasant it was to get real American coffee!!!  We got to our gate and then hung out for a while, enjoying the free Wifi.  Then we got dinner in a nice little bar and grill there.  Our first real America burger and fries in such a long time.  Very good food, and again, we split the meal.  Then we headed back to our gate for the wait.
Detroit Airport - beautiful and efficient
The sky tram running up there on the left.

At that point I started to really hit bottom.  I'm feeling miserable and can not for the life of me remember when I last took the cold meds, and it was in another time zone.  I could not get my brain to work.  So I posted on Facebook that someone needed to help me.  I knew I had taken one just about an hour after take off in London, and the other about 2 hours later.  One was to be taken every 8 hours, the other every 6 hours.  Someone finally came to my rescue and I was to take them in about an hour, both at the same time.  I was totally used to calculating 8 hours ahead and 10 hours ahead, but we were in Detroit and 4 hours ahead and so sick that I just could not wrap my brains around it.
Sunset as we prepared to board the last flight.

So we use the bathrooms and board our plain.  My neighbor is a business woman on the phone, talking loudly about the inconvenience of this flight and that she'd be flying back late tomorrow.  For  some reason I knew that she would not be a pleasant neighbor and proceeded to work on going to sleep.

Just when I thought the worst was over, I began to regret those French Fries.  You see, I have found that my body hates anything fried in vegetable oil.  Peanut oil or olive oil or coconut oil is fine, but my body thinks that foods fried in any vegetable oil is poison.  I had forgotten.  Oops.  BIG OOPS.  Add a stomach ache, serious intestinal gas and a rough, turbulent flight after a long difficult journey and the equation adds up to the end of your rope.  I have never had such a miserable flight.  I had to talk myself out of throwing up several times.  I also had to pray my way through some moments.  You know the kind of prayer that goes like this..."Oh God....Oh God...I can't do this....Oh God."  You know, this is the prayer that scripture talks about where the Holy Spirit intercedes for our groanings.  Yeah, this is what that passage talks about. Now I know.  Very similar to child birth.  Only I didn't have a cute adorable baby to cuddle at the end.

So the flight finally came to an end.  It was a long 4 1/2 hours.  I was able to talk to the steward about our experience with Delta, and he suggested I write to them and see if there was anything that could be done to rectify anything,  I did that, but I haven't heard back from them and it's been over a week.  The auto response said to allow for up to a month if the email required a response.

We found our baggage, and Jessica met us outside.  I rode in the back at first, but I was so miserable, that I moved to the front just north of Seattle when we stopped at a rest area.  We finally pulled into our garage just after midnight.

The longest Sunday in my life.  I was awake for 26 hours straight.  From 5:30 am until just after midnight, all in the same day (well except for the last 30 minutes).  We came home to a cold home as our heater had malfunctioned.  Seemed insignificant at the time.  We just reset/restarted it and went to bed.  I could not get my brain to stop imaging trains, planes,cars...every moving thing.  Then, sometime during the night I was hearing the weirdest sound, waking me, and as I tried to make my way to the bathroom, I totally ran headlong into a wall and my brain kept trying to turn the shadowy images of my bedroom and bathroom in to a hotel room.  I discovered that the noise was coming from outside.  On further investigation the exhaust tube from the heater was gurgling and burping - not good.  So I went down and reset/restarted it again.  Then it was quiet.  Back to try to sleep while my brain continued to think we were still on the road.

 I pray that I will never have such a difficult journey ever again.

Once we got home, Daryl took Monday off to recover and was back to work, though tired and having difficulty sleeping past 2 or 3 am.  I, however, was quite sick.  It was the next Sunday before I found that my cold symptoms had gone leaving just bone weariness.  That muscle pull, however, did not respond well to the dry hacking cough, so that is still with me.  This week I feel almost normal. We started school yesterday.  Our furnace continued to give us fits all weak, finally stopping altogether late Monday.  The repair guy was out last night and got it working but has to order parts. So thankful for a warm house once again.

As our trip home got more and more difficult, it was just natural that our thoughts should wander to what it will be like to fly home with Christy.  As you might understand, that thought was quite daunting.  But we have also used what we learned to begin to plan for that trip, and hopefully we will be able to avoid the hardships we experienced on this trip by better planning next time.

Please pray for us that our return trip to bring Christy home (probably in February) will go smoothly, I'd appreciate it!

If you made it to the end, congratulations.  I blogged this more as therapy, figuring no one would ever get to the end before declaring me a whiner and unsubscribing.  I'm impressed.  Please comment below if you read this entire post!

Edited to add....It was so worth it.  I would do it again in a heartbeat (and I will do it again) to have her in my arms again.  Every orphan is worth ever amount of sacrifice to give them a family, a home and to show them the love of Christ, no matter what their worth is in the eyes of the world.   When God calls us, He also equips us, and goes along side us each and every step of the way.  Even when it was so difficult to go on, I felt Him by my side and knew that it was worth it no matter how hard it got.  She is worth it all.


  1. I wish those people didn't have 20 pieces of luggage, they were such morons. I am sure they could have gotten rid of more stuff or mailed things home.

  2. Prayers for your trip to bring Christy home to go very smoothly and with none of the challenges you had on this trip.

  3. I read it all! Ugh...these are most of my greatest fears in thinking about heading overseas to rescue a child! But, I also really appreciate your "realness" I have wondered why very few others talk about what it's like to travel home so far in great detail!

  4. Ruth, your first-trip experience sounds soo daughter and I had quite the adventure, from start to finish. I also blogged about it more as therapy for me, but my story took up 10 or more chapters, so you did very well getting it all into one post. lol Hope your second trip is as smooth as your first trip was bumpy! ~Patrice

  5. Read to the end! ;o)
    Thank you for sharing.

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