We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand. ~Isaiah 64:8

Saturday, March 28, 2009

monocultured modernism

At this moment especially we should be protecting actual diversity - bio-diversity, financial diversity (i.e., local markets) and educational diversity in the name of local, regional, religious and pedagogical traditions (rather than being blinded by the monoculture-based claims of “multiculturalism”). Yet, at this moment we are apt to cling to our modern faith in the logic of monocultures, even as the news seems to be undeniable that nature hates monocultures, and nature will not be indefinitely denied.

From Patrick Deneen of Front Porch Republic blog, March 26th, 2009

Pacifier Giggly Girl

Here is L playing with Mom and her pacifier. This is still one of her favorite games! Erik and I loved hearing her giggle. It is infectious!

Friday, March 27, 2009

beyond prayer

Sometimes…while prayer remains for its part, the intellect is taken away from it as if into heaven, and tears fall like fountains of waters, involuntarily soaking the whole face. All this time such a person is serene, still and filled with a wonder-filled vision. Very often he will not be allowed even to pray: this in truth is the state of cessation above prayer when he remains continually in amazement at God’s work of creation - like people who are crazed by wine, for this is ‘the wine which causes the person’s heart to rejoice’…. Blessed is the person who has entered this door in the experience of his own soul, for all the power of ink, letters and phrases is too feeble to indicate the delight of this mystery.

Bp. Hilarion Alfeyev in The Spiritual World of Isaac the Syrian from the blog Glory to God for All Things.

First Week Home

As you can probably imagine, time for blogging has become pretty scarce. So, no long-winded posts for now!

It has been nearly one week since L was introduced to her entire family and her new home. Here are some things I've noticed in our first week:

* She has gained 4 lbs since we had her weighed at the health clinic in Accra. FOUR POUNDS! I think I need to post before and after photos, don't you?

* The stare factor at JFK was just as noticeable as it was in Accra. That shocked me a little. The stares weren't quite as obvious, but there were still a lot of head-turning going on.

* There are times I've avoided going places this week just due to the attention and distraction I'll create with her. She is cute and it is a curiosity to see a very white lady with a very black baby. So, far it has all been positive attention, but for me it is a bit much even so. Something I'll have to get used to.

* I absolutely adore her dark skin. And her hair has really softened up now that I've gotten some good conditioner products for it. I'm saving up for some Carol's Daughter products - I hear these are the best.

* Yesterday, I did school with one child and got to talk "shop" (ie. homeschool stuff) with Dear Neighbor. Wow. Did it feel good to do something normal and have a conversation about something other than visas, the embassy, adoption, Ghana, etc! I feel like life is getting started again after being on hold.

* My upstairs is a WRECK! Luckily, we've managed to keep the downstairs in relatively good shape, but the upstairs (particularly E's room, the playroom, and our master closet) is a disaster. Erik and the kids are going to try to put it to rights this weekend. I'll feel better to have a somewhat organized home...organized chaos, yes, but organized nonetheless!

* As much as I hate to admit it, our six weeks together with no other distractions really seems to have helped her with the transition into family life. She's done great with a new climate, surroundings, dogs/cats, siblings, and even being introduced to new people. I'm really surprised by how quickly she seems to be assimilating. I am trying to keep a close eye on her for any signs of shutting down or getting stressed due to all these changes. She has moments where only Mom will do, but for the most part she seems to be really taking it all in stride.

Please keep praying for our friends, Ben and Aimee, who are still in Ghana. Their DNA has arrived at the Fairfax Identity Lab in Richmond, VA and should be done in a week to ten days. Then it will be sent directly to the US Embassy in Accra. Pray that the processing goes very quickly (maybe even quicker than a week) and has positive and conclusive results. Pray also that the embassy then speedily processes their visa.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

The Family is Whole Again

Yes, we are finally home! Baby L and I arrived home late last Friday night (March 20th) to adoring siblings and relieved hubby. You can check out our homecoming story and photos, as well as some notes and photos from our first week home.

It is good to be home!

Did you enjoy this post? Be sure to subscribe via email or RSS to receive my blog updates.

First Week Photos

Some photos from L's first week!

The highchair has a pretty cool view!

Ahh - the "Johnny-Jump-Up" - this is one of her favorite pasttimes right now.

A little family time.

H gets to feed littlest sister.

S shares a snuggle with L.

E, H and L having a little floor playtime.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Finally HOME

Finally, and finally, HOME!

Packing was fun

On our way to the airport!
Our facilitator's brother helped us through the check-in process at the airport (facilitator parked the car). I was very thankful he was there to help with the luggage! The check-in process is quite complicated. There is the initial customs check, two ticket/passport checks prior to the actual Delta desk, a checked-luggage search (manual and mandatory), immigration (and if you've overstayed your expected stay, as I did, you get to go visit the Immigration officers and pay a "fee"), then the first and most complete security check (x-ray, liquids, metal detector), then a ticket/passport/visa check, a carry-on luggage search (manual and mandatory - and sometimes a gender-specific body pat down), and, at last, the long walk out the tarmac to the airplane steps.

I had a few problems along the way (was an hour late due to the US time change...flight was leaving an hour earlier...ooops! and had to pay the immigration "fee", but the officer had mercy and accepted my 17 cedi rather than the "required" 40 cedi) and a few blessings (was allowed to take my thermos of hot water for baby bottles and one of the ticket/passport/visa checkers called me out of line to sit down while he did my check).

We were able (another huge blessing on a PACKED flight) to get a bulkhead seat with an empty chair between me and another lady with a child. I also was able to use the bassinet - which was a huge help! L was really so good on the flight. She had a few fussy periods, but for the most part she was really happy. We played and walked for the majority of the flight. She did sleep just a little bit -2 half hour naps...that is IT! So, I didn't sleep at all. It was tiring being in baby play mode for all that time!

Here is L in her bassinet.

Had many people who helped along the way - kind flight attendants and gate personnel, passengers who helped with overhead bins, Dan who carried my second carry-on bag all the way to immigration at JFK, the immigration officer who helped me fill out my form and moved me up to an open window, another passenger who helped me with my bag onto the second flight, and Dan, again, who carried my extra bag off the plane in Charlotte and all the way to baggage claim! (HI, DAN!)

It was SO GOOD to see the kids - but they looked HUGE! I swear they got bigger while I was gone. L was sound asleep in the wrap, so they were as quiet with their "Hello"s as they could be.

She got a little upset on the ride home, so I squished between the seats and sat beside her. Not at all safe, but after six weeks of riding without a seatbelt it didn't seem so bad.

Here we are coming in the front door.

It was nearly midnight by the time we'd all gotten in and had some snuggle time. L was practically loopy, but she seemed to enjoy the goofy faces all the kids made.

L surrounded by siblings

Trying out a "yoga" pose inspired by L.

All snuggled up!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Leaving on a jet plane...

Yes! I have L's visa in my hands! We will be leaving early tomorrow morning (10am) and expect to pull into Charlotte at a little before 10pm (that is 2am Ghana time). It will be a very long day! I'm finishing my packing tonight and trying to get L to sleep so I can have a bath before the morning. Our flight is at 10:20, but we have to arrive 3 hours early for the various security checks.

While I am very happy about heading home, my joy is tempered. Our traveling companions, Aimee and Ben, are not going to be traveling with us. Due to some complications with the interview of the birthmom, the embassy has requested DNA testing to confirm parentage. There is no question in anyone's minds (Aimee and Bed, our facilitator, our agency, me) that she is the biomom...but the embassy needs more proof because of some misstatements made.

It is really too bad the embassy can't just judge by their appearances because A (their daughter) and her biomother look strikingly alike.

The DNA will be sent to a lab in Richmond, VA and will then be sent directly back to the embassy. When they recieve the positive results, a visa will automatically be issued. No further interviews or paperwork. The DNA process takes 3-4 weeks.

It nearly broke my spirit when Ben turned away from the interview window and shook his head. He was very upset, but kept it together so he could do the work needed to be done today. Aimee is so upset, of course. She doesn't understand why this is happening...and I'm right there with her. All they want is to bring their daughter home!

We started this trip together and we've been together every step of the way. I HATE leaving without them. I HATE even more that they are having to stay longer. Please pray for them and for the DNA process. They need a miracle!

Having been here 6 weeks already, I can tell you another month really seems like an eternity. This whole trip has been entirely emotionally draining. International adoption is a bit of an emotional minefield

Please pray for them!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Finally - GOOD NEWS!

I had this whole email typed out about how we didn't get the passports today and we'd just see how it went tomorrow...when guess what...


Our facilitator asked the passport director's secretary (with whom he'd become friends after spending so much time there the past two days) to call him if the director came back in this evening. Apparently, that is how he works, meetings all day and then in for some desk work in the evening and the secretary has to be there for all of it. (I'm just guessing here.)

Tomorrow early morning (like 4am) our facilitator will go out to Kasoa where the birthmoms are staying and bring them in to town. We'll meet at the embassy as early as possible - maybe even by 7:30 (when they open). The embassy will review the birthmoms' passports (to be sure they are who they say they are), possibly reinterview them, possibly reinterview us, and then we will be done. We should know before we leave if we are approved to get the visas. The embassy can turn around visas in 24 hours...and they have for the other family here (going home tomorrow - Yea, Faubles!). So we hope/expect to get them Thursday and fly on Friday.

Again, glitches could still happen, but it looks really good that we'll be HOME on Friday!

I'm going to be HOME!!!

having a good appetite

....when a child is little and he learns a lot of history, fairy tales, Bible stories, great music, good dances, etc. he will have that in his soul’s storehouse. Then, when he is a teenager and the meaningless garbage of kitsch culture draws him, he’ll at least have alternatives. He’ll have an appetite for things that taste much better.

- Andrew Kern, Quiddity blog, Jan 13, 2009

Monday, March 16, 2009

No News is not Good News

Well, the title says it all. The passports for the birthmoms (their required photo idea for the US Embassy-an additional requirement) are waiting to be signed. We were told that they were done and ready for pick up, but this was not the entire truth. Unfortunately, the passport office director was out of the office in meetings all day today, so we had no chance of getting them signed today and thus, no embassy visit.

I wish we'd been given a true assessment of the situation instead of being told the "rosey" picture. It is like having the rug pulled out from under you and has been, unfortunately, par for the course at each hurdle during this in-country process. It isn't really any one person's fault but rather a "perfect storm" situation.

I'd love to say that "maybe tomorrow", but I really can't say that. All I can say is, "We'll see."

If ANYONE has any contacts with the Ghana Passport Office director, we sure could use a small favor! We just need to catch him at the office and get those passports signed. (If you have such a contact, would you leave a comment? Or contact my hubby, if you know him personally.)

We distracted ourselves today with blog posting and a walk to a batik store (closed, we'll go back tomorrow). Please pray for our disappointed hearts....and for a miracle tomorrow. We really, really, really need a miracle.

A funny thing happened on the way to Accra...

This is L sleeping on my knees during part of the ride back to Accra yesterday. She wiggled and jiggled for the first half of the trip and then fell fast asleep for the second half. Not too bad! So, what did I do while she slept... Took the opportunity to snap some photos, of course!

How about some on the road shopping? Here you go...

This market, right along an old colonial wall in Elmina, is a pretty common type of "market" in Ghana. You'll see just about everything being sold here - fish, shoes, vegetables, cell phone minutes, sunglasses, plantain chips, etc. People bring their wares and set up "shop" right on the sidewalk.

Mini-marts on the head - yes, these street vendors are like walking mini-marts. They have a little of everything you might need and some things you really don't. Water, chips, juice, mints, fruit and also, posters, super glue, belts, etc. My favorite on the road purchases have been plantain chips - really good! We've also purchased cell minutes, chocolate, and an electrical outlet converter from these street vendors.

Dry goods? Yes, I think these would somewhat classify. These are "yams" and are a staple food here. When boiled they are a lot like potatoes in taste and texture, but a little waxier. Very tasty!

Need some supplies for your small business? How about a sliding-glass-topped freezer for your grocery store? Get them righ there under this tree!

And finally, a bookstore!
Now this is not the only shopping- there are also more modern shops in Osu (a neighborhood frequented by embassy personnel) and of course the shopping mall. But this is how most of Ghana shops.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

We are back in Accra. Here we are having dinner en suite. Notice the bed-baricade to the left of L. This is so she won't roll off the bed in the middle of the night. In Coconut Grove we had a small crib, but here we have to do it the make-shift way.
Talked with the kids (HI KIDS!) and Erik...and my Mom - today is her birthday. HAPPY BIRTHDAY, MOM! (Send her an email or leave a comment and help me wish her a happy day.)

L's keeping herself entertained while I finish unpacking and getting the room situated. See that pretty blue batik fabric? That is my new and favorite baby wrap! I've had a request for a tutorial...I'll do that when I get home. :)

Thought you might get a laugh out of my laundry room here in Ghana. Have I mentioned I can't wait to get home to my washer and dryer? :) When we arrived, we had water (this is never a sure thing here), so I decided to make good use of it and get my laundry done and a bath. Oh, I feel so much better - clean clothes and clean me!
Tomorrow morning we expect a return embassy visit to finish our interview process. I'll update the blog (as long as the internet cooperates) as soon as we get home.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

My blogger friend, Jessica, has this great blog: Homemaking Through the Church Year and she is hosting a fantastic Lenten Carnival. She's done this before, but missed a year while having twins last spring. Oddly enough, that year I hosted a carnival called An Anglican Family Lent. Well, this year, I'm out of the country and she is back to hosting her Lenten Carnival again!

Hey, maybe next year we'll team up and have a HUGE carnival! :) Until then, go check out her carnival there are lots of submissions and they look GREAT!

Did you enjoy this post? Be sure to subscribe via email or RSS to receive my blog updates.

Last Day in Paradise...

Well, our R&R tour at Coconut Grove has come to an end. We have one more night to sleep listening to the rhythmic crash of the ocean and the rustle of wind through the palms. One more morning to wake to a bleached-out sun that rises quickly, clearing the palms to almost overhead before 10am. Perhaps one more walk on the beach with it's craggy outcroppings of basalt-black rock and its daily harvest of sea shells, coconuts, and the occasional flip-flop. One more morning of cocoa-and-nescafe-au-lait (this is really the best one can do for coffee here!).

Even a place as truly lovely as this can lose its lustre when you are homesick. And so it has for me....

So, tomorrow back to the sweaty streets of Accra with its sewers and sellers, and stares. Back to the hotel with spotty internet, daily power outages, and less-than-ideal water supply. Back to Joseph, our waiter, and "no juice" and only jollof for dinner. And all that is OK because it means we are closer to getting HOME.

Erik says he wishes I had some red slippers so I could click my heels and say, "There's no place like home, there's no place like home," and be home before dinner. And despite my tendency toward a touch of wanderlust, I plan on staying put "in my own back yard" for quite some time!

Tomorrow the 3 hour drive...Monday the embassy re-interview...and updates to come!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Getting ready for Good Friday

Last year on Good Friday my family hosted a "Way of the Cross" (or Stations of the Cross) for children and families in our home. It was really well-recieved with some 20 families (church and homeschool friends) coming to participate. I'd hoped to do it again, but with the extended African stay and a newly adopted infant in the house, I'm hesitant. I've thought about doing at our church office's chapel, however, there is something very comfortable for the participants about having it in one's home. So, I'm thinking it over.

Perhaps you'd like to consider doing this with your family, church and community? I started by planning this about a month out, so you've got time to do it! Next I determined how many stations and which ones. (Different traditions have different numbers of stations - some based solely on direct scriptural references and others on traditional church teachings. Enjoy the freedom here to select the ones that will meet your audience's needs.) I also decided what type of artwork I wanted to display and what object lessons I'd include. Finally, I found resources for devotional readings for each station.

Everyone who came was really blessed by the experience and so was my family!

Here are quick links to those posts:
The initial planning
Choosing the artwork and the stations
Devotions for a Way of the Cross for Children
Good Friday's Way of the Cross for Children
Sitting Shiva for Jesus

Are you planning a Way of the Cross, or other special event, for you family or church?

Did you enjoy this post? Be sure to subscribe via email or RSS to receive my blog updates.

Photos to enjoy...

We (Aimee, Ben and I) are enjoying our stay at Coconut Grove, but we'd still all reather be at home. However, we are making the best of it...and it's not hard to do here.

So, while we await news on the embassy front, I thought I'd share some photos!

This shows you why packing with L is a bit challenging (when there is no place for her to be but on the bed - where one is trying to pack). She likes to roll around on the bed gathering items around her body as she goes. This was taken the night before we left Accra for Coconut Grove.

And here she is at Coconut Grove hangin' with her Ma in a makeshift "playpen" of sorts. (I sit in that chair right beside hers and make sure she doesn't keel over the side.)
It also makes a nice sleeping spot - and don't you love her awesome batik "blanket"?:

Here is our bungalow, the white one with the double arches in the middle of the photo. Yes, it is truly in a coconut grove complete with falling coconuts. No, they don't issue hard hats when you check in. I wonder if many guests have been hit by falling coconuts.

And here is the view down the beach. It is just magnificent scenery. The ocean is really churning this week as there are a series of storms coming across the African continent just south of Ghana. They are passing across the Gulf of Guinea (on which Ghana sits) and giving us some impressive surf. I could really sit and watch it for hours, which is good since that is what I've done the last couple days.

The Unexpected Lent

This year's liturgical seasons have managed to catch me offguard. I tried to skip Advent, Christmas was a blur, and Epiphany was spent preparing for and traveling to Africa. The cycle has rolled on to Lent and again I'm caught unprepared. I mean - even this post is a few weeks late!

So, here I am in Africa.

About a week ago, I realized that this has been a Lenten journey, and in fact will most likely be a journey of just over 40 days: a time of prayer, fasting, and deprivation, but also of the joys of doing without and reliance on God's grace. A time of seeing how the majority of the world lives (seeing it, not truly experiencing it). A time of feeling far, far from "home" - spiritually and physically. A time of realizing that I really don't have as much control over my life as I'd like to think.

Early on we learned about the general African meal plan options: "010" (only a mid-day meal), "001" (only an evening meal), and "101" (breakfast and dinner). The heat saps your energy mid-day and seems to drain your appetite with it. So, we found ourselves suddenly on the "101" meal plan for quite a few weeks. Eventually, we managed to switch it up a bit, but eating more than two good meals still feels a little extravagant. If anything a very light lunch (of plantain chips or nuts and dried fruit) seems to do us just fine. I realized, "Hey, I'm fasting."

Everyday is a question as to what services we will have - will there be adequate water to bathe or do laundry? Will the internet (our vital and only connection with home) be operating? How about electricity - will it go out intermittently today? This last one is the least of our worries as travelers - most good hotels have back-up generators, so really, we haven't gone without electricity for more than a fifteen minutes or so. But it is disconcerting to wait and hope the generator does kick in...especially when sitting at a dining table in the pitch black! We are learning to do without something each day. And truly, these are minor situations. Well, maybe not the water when it is the 3rd day in a row with no real bath (remember we spend most of our days hot and sweaty unless we spend the entire day in our rooms which is miserable).

I've been challenged by wondering how much I really trust God to work out this situation. I know that he can...but waiting on his timing is difficult, especially when I see my kids getting more and more desperate to have their family reunited...and now that hubby is finally home, seeing my sweetheart having to deal with all the "catch up" of us being gone a month.

I've also learned a lot about how quickly I disintegrate into pessimism when the roadblocks begin to mount - of course that might be exacerbated by homesickness, cabin fever, and cultural adjustments.

We've done without so many things that make us feel comfortable and "at home": internet, freedom to come and go as we please, clean and crisp clothes (let's talk about how lovely a dryer is and how it nicely re-tightens fabric stretched out by humidity and sweat), and reliably getting what you want to eat or drink (I don't mean filet mignon here, I mean things like: coffee or a nice over-easy egg).

I don't mean to kvetch here - there have been many bright spots, just as there are in Lent. I've gotten to spend a month here with hubby getting to know our new daughter. We've also developed a friendship (tested by fire, trust me) with the other adoptive parents. This will be wonderful for both girls as they grow up. And now with Erik back home, I get a little more one-on-one time with L. It is hard at times (like when I MUST hold her while I'm trying to wash my hair in the tub...do laundry in the sink...get dressed, etc), but I think (and have been reassured) that I will look back on these days as a "blip". Or maybe a "bleeeeeeeeeep" - just a tad longer than a blip.

I've also discovered that having hours to sit and ponder doesn't necessarily help me gather my thoughts...so please forgive me if this is disjointed. It is what it is. I feel out of sorts and it is evident in this post, is it not?

Blessed Lent to you all - include our family in your prayers, if you are inclined! Specifically, that we would be uneventfully reunited on March 20th!

Did you enjoy this post? Be sure to subscribe via email or RSS to receive my blog updates.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

African Adventure Update

Baby L after her bath

Well, our two week adoption trip has turned into a month and will probably be another two weeks - if everything goes well. If not, it could be longer. It's a bit crazy, but we are all OK. Truly, I do feel the end is in sight...but I'm also keeping in mind that there could be further roadblocks.

I hate that Erik's 12 weeks of paternity leave will be half over when we get home (if we get home in two weeks), but I'm thankful that he has had it. Our friends here adopting with us do not really have paid leave. Every week means less time they can afford to spend at home with their daughter. And while they are doing good bonding here, it isn't the same as being at home.

Here's where we are: On Monday, we had our interview for the L's visa (and the other baby, too) at the Embassy and it did not go very well. The embassy has given us more hoops to jump through, for things (documentation-wise) that have been acceptable before, and now, are suddenly not acceptable. What's worse, we were treated poorly and there were insinuations of wrong-doing on our part (and the family traveling with us), or on the part of those assisting us.

There is some backstory here which we are trying to figure out, but basically, there have been some issues in an orphanage up North that have alerted the authorities...not orphanages our agencies work with. In order to be extra vigilant, the US Embassy has changed their requirements for documentation for adoption visas...we are just caught in the middle of that change. Our paperwork is clean and solid, but we just need a bit more of it.

One of the agency directors(Jen Press of Partners for Adoptions) (it is a two agency-partner-program) is here in country and has done tons of work on our behalf (and the program's) with the Embassy...including an hour long meeting yesterday to clarify the process/documentation as it now stands. She was able to reassure us that the embassy does not think we have done anything wrong (although that is NOT the impression they gave us), they just need to make sure all the "i"s are dotted and "t"s crossed. Our agency director (Robin Sizemore of Hopscotch Adoptions) has been working equally hard with some higher ups in the Department of State stateside.

In order to complete the extra documentation, the bio-moms need to get passports, which is currently in process and takes about 5 business days to complete. In order to get these passports, they need birth certificates. For people living hand-to-mouth in a "shelter" made from scrap lumber and metal, this is not an easy request. However, our in-country facilitator has been working really hard to help them with this. Once the passports are done, the bio-moms will need to appear at the embassy and we will be issued the babies' visas. With the passport process, reinterviewing at the embassy and a minimum of 24 hours to process the visa, we expect to have the visa on or around March 17th/18th - and we could travel on the 18th or 20th. Since that is still 2 weeks out, we've decided the best thing is for Erik to travel home while to be with the kids and I stay on in Ghana to wait for the visa.

So, Erik has returned to the States (he arrived last night, Friday, March 6th). All the remaining adoption families are heading back out to Coconut Grove to wait out the visa process! I feel MUCH better knowing the kids will have Daddy back soon. :) And the kids are THRILLED now that they know he's going to be home so soon! (Thanks for letting us be the ones to give the news.)

Pray for safe travel for Erik back to the States and all the families heading to the beach (the road can be a bit crazy here)...and for the passports not to be delayed...and for the visas to be issued quickly (if they are issued on the 17th, we can fly the 18th...otherwise the next flight is the 20th)...oh, and my 10 hour flight with L on my lap...LOL!

Tomorrow morning we head over to Coconut Grove in Elmina, Ghana. You can google that and see what we have to look forward to! It isn't fancy by American standards, but it is really very beautiful and quite comfortable. Shoot - Will Smith has visited, so you know it's good! :)

Friday, March 6, 2009

The first seven days in Ghana, West Africa

While in Ghana, my husband kept a diary quite faithfully. Now that he is home and I'm still here, it is my turn to be the journal keeper. Here are some quick (and not so quick) thoughts on the first seven days of our journey to bring L home.

Day One
We met our traveling mates and fellow adoptive parents in the JFK airport. They are really friendly folks and I think we will get along well. We are quite different - east coast vs. west coast, southerners vs. californians, conservatives vs. liberals...but we have lots of common ground, too!

When we descend the stairwell from the plane I become aware immediately of the heat (it is barely 10am). Yep, this is Africa. We walk across the tarmac (looks like all flights do this - no "gates") and enter under a big "AKWAABA" sign. There is a little AC running as we enter....but soon we realize that will be it while we are in the airport. I guess they want to make a good impression...or they want to cool us off from our hot trudge across the tarmac? After standing in the warm and stuffy baggage claim area, I think the AC would be better appreciated there!

Outside the airport we walk a gauntlet of brown, black and tan faces. Luckily, we quickly meet our driver and we head out to the cars. Everyone looks on at us...some carry signs bearing the names of other passengers, some smile and say "hello", most just stare. Finally we see a sign for us: Branches of the Vine, Dio of Accra...our friends from Ghana are here! They've been waiting in this hot crowd for our airplane for a couple hours, I'm sure. Hugs and introductions all around then we continue out to the cars.

As we walk, there are "generous" offers of help, rides, information...we've been warned though that these always come with a hefty price tag. In fact, we ignore most of them, but they still persist in following us to the cars. They attempt to help us put bags in the car, but our driver tells them we don't need help. They try again to help by directing us out of our spot...and then comes the pitch to our driver for cash. Wow - pretty bold. I'm not sure what he says to them...but I'm sure it was along the lines of "Get Lost".

We zip through crowded, busy, bustling streets - vendors, tro-tros, street sellers all hustling to make some cash. The streets are dirty and as we drive along we get small glimpses of the life of the poor in the big city: living with no sanitation, no electricity (or what can be hobbled together), no running water, no trash pick up, no refrigeration, etc in a ramshackle lean-to. The people who live in these areas seem to have showed up, rummaged around for scrap wood and somehow put together some sort of shelter. They live and work all in the same area.

We arrive exhausted at our guest house. Dump bags, try to freshen up a bit, and head back out into the hot traffic to go meet our daughter.

We've just met these people and yet we are crammed in the back seat of a sedan - sticky, sweaty bodies smashed together for a 45 minute drive through a fumey, smokey, humid city.

Our driver entertains us with parables and proverbs...and lots of laughter. We arrive at the church/orphanage and are met with many stares from groups of people scattered around the "yard" doing various tasks (talking, washing, selling, etc). We are ushered into a low-building and seated in a large "sitting room". Two young ladies come in with bundles on their backs. I barely even realize it when the one of them approacehs me and gracefully bends down to release the baby from her wrap. The next thing I know she has placed a slightly-built, large-eyed, ill-dressed baby girl in my arms. Sister Juliette (the head of the church and orphanage) says, "This is your baby." But I knew that already...she looks just like her photo. The girls leave the room before I can even look at their faces...or maybe I was just so transfixed by my daughter's.

We spend an hour or so with Juliette learning a little about her and her church/orphanage. She shows us how she feeds them and puts them to sleep. Poor L is a bit traumatized by the feeding she is given. Seems she does not take a bottle and has to be cup fed "African style" - which involves plugging her nose so that she must take in a breath through her mouth...then the cup is quickly poured. I wonder how often babies fed this way inhale their formula and develop pneumonia? But I also know that a child that doesn't eat will die here...and that trumps a number of things in an orphanage.

Back at our guest house, both families retire to their rooms worn out and ready for sleep. I spend an hour or so with L gently introducing the bottle with silliness and games. She manages to take a couple of ounces and we are all thrilled. We have a long way to go, though.

Did you enjoy this post? Be sure to subscribe via email or RSS to receive my blog updates.

7 Quick Takes: Stuck in Africa!

Our 2 week adoption trip has turned into what will most likely be a 6 week adventure...if I'm lucky - and thus, the theme of my 7 quick takes today.

It is truly amazingly hot here. Really - like Africa hot. Even though the temperatures are not exceedingly higher than what we experience at home in North Carolina, the sun is much stronger and the heat is unrelenting. While here, I've realized that while it gets hot at home, we don't really have to deal with it as much at home - all our stores are air conditioned, our cars are air conditioned, and we have whole house air conditioning (not just a room or two).

The past 4 weeks we have had to live day in and day out with a great deal of uncertainty: when would we get our approval, when would we get our visa (still a question), will there be electricity tonight, will there be water to take a bath or do laundry tomorrow, will our food arrive in the next hour, and so on. It teaches you to make do and live without holding too tightly to your own schedule.

There are many sides to life in Ghana today. We've seen the extreme poverty that one often imagines in Africa, stayed in an area of lower to middle class apartments (our first guest house), currently staying in an upper middle class area (our second guest house), and we will soon enjoy another visit to Coconut Grove and its "upperclass" treatment. While there are areas that have no basic services (water, electricity, etc) within the city and outlying areas, there is also a very nice, modern, western-style mall. It is a culture of contrasts as it grows and strives to become a successful African democracy.

The local cuisine is really delicious - at least to me! I'm a fairly adventurous eater, so others may not feel the same way...but I've enjoyed it all: Banku and Okra Stew, Jollof Rice, Red Red, Piri Piri, and LOTS of good fresh fish.

"Obruni" - wow, who knew we'd get so much attention as "white people" (that is what "Obruni" means). The white mamas and black babies cause a big stir wherever we go. It is good natured curiousity usually, but the staring and pointing and shouting of "Obruni" is tiresome after a while. It is hard to be "on display" and watched so much. It is part of international adoption (and transracial adoption) to suddenly be "conspicuous", but that is all the more so here!

The longer I stay here, the more I want to come back...but only so long as I can leave when I want to! We've had some major hurdles getting L's visa (and the other family traveling with us and adopting a similarly aged baby have, too). While I respect and appreciate the US's desire to make sure all adoptions are "clean", there is some disrespect being shown by the US Embassy for Ghanaian government's ability to do this in ways that make sense within their culture and legal system. I may post more about this when I return home as it is a long and involved story. We do believe that once our birth mothers' passports are completed (should be in 5 business days), we will be able to complete the US Embassy's requirements for evidence and we will recieve our visas! AND WE CAN GO HOME!

Thankfully, hubby has gone ahead and headed home to be with our other three kids. A month is just too long to be away...at least unexpectedly. I feel so much better knowing he'll be there soon. We expect that I'll have L's visa in about 10-12 days and should be able to leave on March 18th or 20th - depending on when we get the visa in hand. I'm not really looking forward to the 10 hour flight with my wiggly (she's amazingly strong and squirmy!) baby on my lap. But we'll manage!

Today is Ghana's Independence Day. I'm hanging out with L (who is having her morning nap - the only way I can manage any typing!) with the Independence Day ceremonies on the television. The uniforms make me wilt just looking at them.

Did you enjoy this post? Be sure to subscribe via email or RSS to receive my blog updates.