Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Looking Back: One Year Ago (Not) Today–Heading Home!!!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Packing up and leaving the guest house, I had a swirl of emotions.  The overwhelming one being, of course, sheer excitement of going HOME WITH OUR BABIES!!!!  At the same time, I knew I wouldn’t likely return anytime soon, and so I just wanted to memorize everything I saw.  Have I mentioned that I hate it that I couldn’t take pictures in public???

We arrived at the airport, and were a little uncertain about what we were to do.  We knew Bob would be meeting us, but last time we saw him (when we arrived here over three weeks ago), he was in a DGM uniform.  So today, when a plain clothed man came up, it took me a moment to realize that was actually Bob.

He remembered me from last time, as I was the one who tried to communicate with him…”tried” being the operative word, of course.  He asked if I still had my dictionary and I told him I did.  I fished around in my bag, found it, and showed it to him.  He took it from me, stuck it in his pocket, and said, “Thank you.  Next time I speak English.”  Um, okay. 

We gathered our things, and took off quickly for the airport entrance.  I had Blake on my front in a baby carrier, a ginormous backpack on my back, and I was pulling my carry on suitcase.  The airport parking lot wasn’t paved and I misjudged a “curb” I needed to step over.  As though it were happening in slow motion, I caught my suitcase on something and lost my center of balance.  With all that extra weight on my front and my back, I couldn’t stop myself and literally felt straight backwards.  No bending at the knees or waist, just straight up and down one minute and flat on my back the next.  Oh, I felt silly, of course, but didn’t realize until later that I did actually hurt myself.  My ankle took a beating!  Maybe that whole no pictures in public is a good thing.  There is no record of my sheer gracefulness! :)

We were very early.  Our flight was scheduled to leave at 1:50 and it was before 10:00 when we got to the airport.  We said goodbye to James and Pastor Peter and Bob took us on in.  No one was even there yet to check us in, so we just sat and waited.  Shortly after 10, the airline workers arrived, and we soon realized that to get anything done, you have to be pushy!  We went from first in line to about tenth, just because people pushed and shoved past us. 

The check-in process was maddening.  Try to imagine the most inefficient way to check a group of 8 adults and 7 children and you still can’t come close to how it actually happened.  And in the midst of it all, the power kept going off!  It was wild.  We were getting closer and closer to the time our flight was to leave.  It seriously took hours just for them to check us in and check our baggage.  (This wasn’t even waiting in a line!  This was simply them actually checking us in!)  The sad thing is, is that it was all wrong.  They hadn’t checked several of us in for anything beyond our first flight, and had our baggage all mixed around.

When they were all done with us, we had about 45 minutes until our flight.  We had to head through immigration.  They didn’t seem to happy to see us, but Bob saved the day!  He quickly explained who we were, why we had black children with us, and the guy waved us through.  We still had a check booth to pass through, and then a very intimidating man in a suit who inspected all of our documents very thoroughly.  We had been told that this is where they could tell you there are problems and take you off to a side room and let you sit for a long time (probably looking for a bribe.)  Thankfully, that didn’t happen, and we made it through just fine.

We went through some rather informal security checkpoints and then were told to sit in one large waiting room.  Anyone who was waiting for any departing flight waited in this one room.  It was wild to me that in a city of upwards of 8 – 10 million people, we all passed through one door, one man, and now one waiting room.  A flight number is simply called when it’s your turn, and you make a mad dash to get on the little trams to take you to your flight.  (Remember that they can be overbooked, so the first one on gets the seat.  Thus, more pushing and shoving!)

We sat in the seats and waited for our flight.  Of course, Blake decides this would be a good time for a blow out diaper.  I’m still barely walking from falling in the parking lot, and we didn’t want to leave to try to find a bathroom and risk missing them calling our flight.  Hubby began to change him right there.  Of course it was a giant blow out.  Of course they called our flight while Blake was naked.  So what did we do?  We took some diaper wipes, pushed the dirty diaper, dirty clothes, and icky used wipes onto the floor under our seat, threw a diaper on him, wrapped him in a blanket, and quickly headed out for our flight!  I feel bad for the person who sat there next!

There was a much more, ahem, thorough intimate touching session security check before boarding the trams.  Hubby was finished before me, and was standing there waiting when an officer told him repeatedly that he had a nice watch.  Hubby just smiled and said thank you.  I’m sure the hope was that hubby would give it to him, but nope. 

We rode our tram to the plane and went to find our seat.  Much to my surprise, there was a dude in my seat!  I started panicking, remembering what they had told us about how the flights are overbooked.  I looked at Hubby and said, “I am NOT getting off this plane!!!”  I just started pointing and telling the gentleman that that was my seat.  He kindly pulled out his boarding pass, and sure enough, it was also his seat.  A very nice French man in the row in front of us got up and gave us his seat, and told us not to worry…we’d work it all out.  He called the flight attendant and they began trying to find seats for everyone.  Praise God, the flight wasn’t overbooked, just ticketed wrong, so there were seats for us.  We were on our way home!!!!!!!

As the flight lifted off (about an hour late!), I remember looking out the window thinking that this is the last time for quite some time that Blake and Lauren will be on Congolese soil.  It made me a little sad.  I hope we can convey to them the wonderful things about their birth country. 


They did great on the flights and didn’t fuss at all.  We were a little concerned about what would happen in Ethiopia because our flight left Kinshasa so late and we were not checked in for the next leg of our trip.  The flight attendant told us we’d just have to run when we got to Addis Ababa! 

We landed in Ethiopia and I hobbled off the plane.  I had to look hysterically odd.  I could hardly walk, yet I was moving very quickly!  I was a mama on a mission!  It was difficult to figure out where to go since we didn’t know the proper gate or anything, but we found someone who could help us.  He was wonderful!  Oh, to be somewhere with good customer service again!!!  He told us not to worry, that he was also the gate agent for our flight, and he’d make sure the plane wouldn’t leave until our group all got checked in.  Thank you, Lord!!!!

After being in Kinshasa, the Addis Ababa airport almost felt like home.  It was very modern, and had shops, restaurants, restrooms, and air conditioning!  I know that when you venture away from the airport, the poverty is staggering, but this airport was night and day different from Kinshasa’s!

We made it on our flight just fine and were pleased to see that our ticketing agent not only made sure we got on the flight, but gave us each 3 seats in rows to ourselves!  We had tons of room to stretch out and lay down with the babies.  We were SO grateful!!! 

IMG_1808IMG_1809IMG_1810We settled in for the flight over the pond.  Only about 2o-some hours until we arrive home!!!!!

Monday, November 7, 2011

Looking Back: One Year Ago (Not) Today–Waiting For The Letter

Tuesday, Nov. 2, 2010

We started our day at Ethiopian Airlines after the worst traffic we’ve seen yet. Yesterday it rained, which we’ve learned means that people just kind of shut down. They don’t go to work or get out much, so today everyone was out in full force! We arrived at Ethiopian Air and while yesterday there was one other person besides us when we got there, today there were probably ten other people and by the time we left there were probably 30 - 40 people in there! They saw us right away, though (we were commenting that people probably thought we were rude white people, not knowing what all we had been through yesterday!) After going round and round for quite some time, they gave us the exact same tickets they had issued us yesterday. We will have to add Blake and Lauren’s lap seats when we arrive at Dulles in the States. Fine. By. Us! Everything is easier to do in the States! (Hopefully those aren’t famous last words!!) : )

We got back to the guest house around 10:30 and Barb was lying on the couch with all of the cell phones. The wait was on for the phone call from Pastor Peter that he had our DGM letters! Well, we waited…and waited…and waited…

We somewhat reluctantly (at least on my part) worked some more on packing and got just about through with that. And then we waited and waited some more. Around 4:00, Barb called James and he told her that Pastor Peter had all but one letter and he was just waiting on that last one.  I still wasn’t getting my hopes up, though. Who knows. It was just hearsay from Pastor Peter to James to Barb to us. It was really, really hard not hearing any updates all day. We were all getting a little frazzled. Poor Barb. She seemed the most nervous. She wouldn’t even eat dinner. It was our last dinner here and we were hoping to celebrate, but everyone was pretty quiet. A few of us hung out where the artist’s things are just to try to wait. One of the dads even did some doorman duty hoping to see Pastor Peter pull up with good news. It was to no avail.

A little before 7:00, Barb’s cell phone rang and it was Pastor Peter. He had all the letters!!!!! We were so excited!!! We started screaming and celebrating and Lauren and one of the other little girls both started crying. But we were just so happy!!!!!

Pastor Peter got here around 7:20. He looked exhausted. He had spent about 12 hours at DGM that day!  I asked him if he was tired and he said, “Yes!” He gave us our letters, passports, and originals and then we made plans for in the morning to catch our scheduled flight. Barb asked him if we could leave at 7 and his eyes got big and he said in his broken English, “Seven? That’s very…morning!” : ) She explained that with the big group we’d just like to have a little more time. He agreed. And he says that he’ll stay with us in the airport. We’ll see. He hasn’t for any other group. We show up and Bob from DGM helps us through, only Bob knows no English. We’d love to have Pastor Peter with us, but we’ll have to see.

I feel excited, but at the same time I’m not really sure it has sunk in that we’re leaving tomorrow to go home with Blake and Lauren! This life here is just so very far removed from our life at home. I miss the big kids very much, though, and can’t wait to see them. I think they’ll probably look huge to me. They sound much older on the phone. Overall, it sounds like they’re doing really well. I think Sarah’s had the hardest time, but I’ve only been told of a few times where she’s cried about it. Overall, I think she’s done fine, too. It will just be so very amazing to be all together!!!!! Only about 45 more hours!!!!!!  Thank you, God!!!!!!!

Looking Back: One Year Ago (Not) Today–To Go or Not To Go

Monday, Nov. 1, 2010

(Just FYI, before you read this…in Congo, it’s not enough to purchase a plane ticket to get on a flight.  Prior to your trip, you have to go in person to the airplane’s downtown office to confirm with them that you do, in fact, want the seat on their plane that you’ve already paid for.  If you fail to do this, it’s highly likely your seat will not be available when you go for your flight.  We’ve heard, as well, that even if you do this step, there is still a chance that your seat may not be available when you physically get on the plane.  We’ve been told that we just need to run like crazy and get on the plane first.  Gulp.  With that said…)

We decided to go to Ethiopian Air today. It was raining when we got up and our driver was late. When we left, though, there was no traffic and we got there around 8:20 (they open at 8:30.) There was a crowd of people outside, so we just stood outside with them, assuming they were waiting for Ethiopian Air to open. There was a security guard and he was asking me some questions. I finally understood enough French to get that he was asking if we were going on a trip with Ethiopian Air. I told him yes and asked if we wait here? (My very broken French went something like “Attendez?  Ici?  Maintenant?)  We actually had a small conversation in French and he told us to follow him. He walked us right upstairs into the Ethiopian Air office and we were the first ones they helped that day!

We were anticipating being there all day, but thankfully it only took another dad, Barb, Hubby and I about 45 minutes to do everything we needed to do. Amazing! Nothing is efficient in Congo!! So now we’re all reserved…we just need to pray we get our DGM letters today or tomorrow!! We came back home and started packing up a little.


Well, it’s later tonight and today has been another rough one. When two other parents went to Ethiopian Air this afternoon to confirm/fix their flights, one of the dads discovered that his daughter’s ticket didn’t go all the way home, but only got her to Washington, D.C. The lady then realized that she had also done our reservations wrong and that our kiddos didn’t go all the way home either. So she did the wonderful customer service thing and cancelled our lap kids without contacting us.  Seriously.  Then, when our friend called us to tell us what she was doing and put her on the phone with us, she refused to assist us today, insisting that we return again tomorrow. Oh my, morale in our group dropped very low very quickly. Right in the midst of all of this, we got a call from Pastor Peter that we’re not getting our DGM letters today. Not a fun afternoon.

But, there is a glimmer of hope tonight. Pastor Peter came and said that half the group will get their DGM letters tonight and the other half tomorrow (first he said by 10 am, then changed it to 2 pm.) We’re hoping our friend can still make her flight tomorrow, so Pastor Peter went back to DGM to get hers. I’m just praying that all of these letters will really come as planned and that we can go back to Ethiopian Air tomorrow and get this all straightened out. Hopefully we’re all on planes no later than Wednesday to head home!!!   I think we’ve all loved the experiencing of being here in country, and getting to know the beautiful people of Congo, but we are all quite ready to head back home.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Looking Back: One Year Ago Today– Out and About, Soaking Up Culture

Sunday, Oct. 31, 2010

We went to Pastor Peter’s church again this morning. Ohmygoodness, was it hot! I thought Blake was going to dissolve, he was sweating so much. We adults were, too. I enjoyed worship again but it was harder to focus, just because it was so very hot. There was no air movement in there. And some guy stood up to give a week in review and talked for about 20 minutes. Whew. Barb got up and said some nice things about how much we appreciated all the church has done for us, and also mentioned that we’re praying that we get our letters Monday so we can fly to America on Wednesday. The DGM guy was there again. He told Pastor Peter we’d get (or hopefully get? - translation differences) our letters on Monday. That’d be awesome!!! 

After we enjoyed another cold drink, we drove home and fed the kiddos. Then we sat around and talked about cars for our ever growing family. The people who run the guest house have a Hyundai H1 and that would be perfect for us, but it doesn’t look like it’s available in the States.

At 3:00, Gretchen (an American missionary) came by and took us on an outing to the Congo River. It was beautiful! I’m so glad we went. The area was super nice - it was where all the Ambassadors to the foreign embassies live. Up unto that point, we hadn’t really seen any “nice” parts to Kinshasa. We walked for a couple of miles along the Congo river and then back among the gated houses to our driver. The river is very wide. There were some dug out canoes on it – Gretchen guessed they were fisherman.

congo river walk by heedlee blogI found this photo of the Kinshasa River Walk on Google.  It really is beautiful!

There were armed guards along points of the walk. Gretchen would just walk up to them and say hello and that we were families who were adopting orphans. They’d all smile and it was no big deal. Seemed strange to me because we have had to be so cautious the whole time we’re here about telling people why we’re here. Thankfully, these armed guards didn’t have a problem with us adopting! 

On the way back to the guest house, Gretchen drove us by her home. It was nice as well, but more modest of course than the Ambassadors’ riverfront homes. I hate that we can’t take pictures. I’m hoping to get home and Google pictures of Kinshasa. Maybe someone else was more daring than us and risked it to snap some photos. : )

(I just spent way too much time looking through Google for more pictures, and I’m surprised by what I see.  There really isn’t much out there that gives an accurate picture of Kinshasa.  Here are two pics I found…one of the airport, and one of a roadside.)

a kinshasa airport

a kinshasa road

We have 23 minutes to dinner. Fried chicken and mashed potatoes. Probably my favorite dinner of the week. We have them all memorized now. Sun - fried chicken, Mon - spaghetti, Tues - hamburgers, Wed - pork chops, Thurs - beef and vegetables with rice, Fri - sausage/green peppers/onions, Sat - pizza. Breakfasts are Sun - cinnamon roll and granola, Mon – omelet (just an egg…no cheese or anything with it), Tues - French toast, Wed - oatmeal, Thurs – omelet (same as Mon.), Fri - pancakes, Sat - bread and cheese. Just about every lunch is rice with some sort of meat and a sauce. That got pretty old, so we’ve been skipping our lunches and eating power bars instead. 

Looking Back: One Year Ago Today–Experiencing a Congolese Village

Saturday, Oct. 30, 2010

We went to the home of a Congolese friend today.  We’ll call her Mary.  As we were walking around, lots of people asked why we had black babies, but they usually said they thought it is very good that we are adopting these orphans. One gentlemen asked if we were Mennonites and Mary told him we were Americans. He just smiled and said, “You are welcome in our country.” That really touched me.

It was neat to see where people live. Her housing was probably middle to upper middle class-ish. She, too, gave us Cokes and Fantas. The people here are so generous. When she called the driver to have him come pick us up, he said that he was stuck in traffic and couldn’t get there. She hung up the phone and said he was lying. Luckily, her husband has a car and could take us back in shifts. She talked some about politics. She thinks that Kabila is a good president. She said that she’s 46 years old and after growing up under Mobutu, who did nothing to help the country, she feels like Kabila is at least trying. It was interesting to hear her thoughts.

IMG_1777Playing soccer!

IMG_1778Kids on a slide.  Notice the slide stops a few feet from the ground.


We came back and took another nap with the kiddos. Then we hung out in the apartment with everyone, just asking random questions to start discussions. Barb had a couple of riddle/mind bender things we did. Those were fun. Pizza night! We’re always excited for that. The pizza is okay, but we like that we get quite a bit - ½ pizza per person! All of our meals are rationed and while the food is good, there’s just not as much quantity wise as what we’re probably used to. Sad but true.

We heard from Pastor Peter today that DGM doesn’t have our letters yet, but that they’re on the last step. He’s very hopeful for Monday or Tuesday. We’re trying to set plans for when we’re going to Ethiopian Air to confirm our flights and purchase the kiddos’ tickets. It makes me nervous to gamble $800 (change fees if we aren’t able to fly out as planned), but Hubby wants to go Monday morning. We’ll have to wait and see.