Saturday, December 31, 2011

Bringing it Up to Date

I kept thinking I would get this up to date and just never got it done.  The internet at the guest house was out most of the time so I was not able to do it as it was happening.

We went to the Embassy on Sept. 21 and they gave us some paperwork they said they did not need and told us to return on the 22nd at 3 p.m. to pick up Sabina's Immigrant Visa.  We went with Nancy Fitzpatrick (the family we met in the grocery store) and one of her sons on the 22nd.  The taxi ride is long and expensive so it was nice to share expenses.  We got there and were told the papers we were given the previous day needed to be returned before the visa could be issued.  Nancy was told the same thing.  Of course neither of us had them so we had to return to the hotel to retrieve them.  Sabina translated for us with the taxi driver who had waited patiently while we went to the Embassy.  Since the Embassy closed at 4 p.m., they arranged to stay open until 5 so we could have time to retrieve the paperwork.  We were both angry but could do nothing but go get the papers!  What could we do.  Eventually, we got everything in order and were ready for our return on Sept. 23.

We had to change planes in Paris.  We went to the ticket counter to get seat assignments and were told that our reservations were not confirmed.  We were on standby.  I had a near heart attack.  After three hours of waiting we got the last two seats on the plane.  When we landed, Sabina became a citizen.  It was my Mom and Dad's anniversary, Sept. 23.

Since then, there have been ups and downs, but Sabina and I are a family and it is wonderful!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011


The trip was 17 hours long, but fine.  We had a five hour layover in Barcelona.  That was not enough time to go out of the airport, but the landscape was beautiful.  Barcelona sits on the Mediterranean Sea and is bordered on the west by mountains.  Just breathtaking.

After a three hour flight to Riga, we arrived at our guest house at about 7:30 p.m. on Sunday.  The neighborhood looked suspect.  This guest house was recommended by another family adopting from Latvia. It is quite economical and considered safe, but outside, it looks like you are driving up to an abandoned warehouse with graffeti all over the walls.  Sabina immediately proclaimed she was not staying here.  Inside was very neat and clean and the staff were very nice.  Our room is on the second floor and there are no elevators.  The building is hundreds of years old, but well maintained.  Our room is tiny.  There are two twin beds, a nightstand, a small chair and a television.  There is no place to put suitcases and no place to store clothing, except for a rod with three clothes hangers.  Again, I say, it is neat and clean!  Sabina was still saying she would not stay here, maybe one night, but that was all and she was crying.

Monday morning was a bit better.  The guest house provides a free breakfast and it was very nice, served in a modern dining room.  The breakfast was good, normal Latvian fare.....eggs fried hard, sausages (more like our hot dogs), sliced port (like luncheon meat), sliced cheese, cucumbers and tomatoes.  The coffee is wonderful!  By the time we finished breakfast Sabina had decided it might be alright to stay here!

Daina, our attorney, arrived at noon to take us to a doctor for Sabina's medical exam which is required for immigration into the U. S.  Then we went to the Latvian passport office to apply for a new passport.  I do not understand the need for that, but we did it.  Daina assured us that the area we are staying in is safe even if it is covered with graffiti!

Later, Sabina and I walked to the bank to exchange money and then had dinner at a nice restaurant, Kid.  We had cold yogurt soup made with cucumbers, radishes, onions and spinach.  It was great.  The rest of the meal was ok, but nothing compared to the soup.

After dinner we went to Maximi, the local grocery store.  There is a kitchen on our floor at the guest house so we can keep things in the refrigerator and even cook.  While in the dairy section, I observed a family with two young boys.  The parents were speaking English with a New York accent and the children were speaking English with a Latvian accent.  I asked if they were from the U. S. and they were; I asked if they were possibly in the process of an adoption and they were; I asked if their attorney is Daina and she is!!  They had hosted their boys through New Horizons, and like us, are here for the final leg of their adoption journey!!  We talked for quite a while and arranged to have dinner on Thursday night.  Talk about a small world!!

Today, we were suppose to go to the passport office in the afternoon.  I was mistaken about their hours and we missed the time we were to be there.  I was mortified, but we called (Sabina, since she speaks Latvian!) and they said we can come in the morning.  Thank heavens!

Sabina's foster mom's son invited us to his apartment for dinner so we took a taxi there about 5:30.  Edwards met us and inquired about what we had paid for the taxi.  It seems he had overcharged us two lats which is the equivalent of $4.00.  The taxi driver gave it back to me without a question.  We took a few photos along the way as we traveled through Riga.  Unfortunately I cannot get them to upload!

Edwards lives in an apartment building which is part of a huge complex.  The buildings all look alike from the outside.  He says they were built by the USSR which accounts for the plainness of the buildings.  There are five floors and Edwards lives on the third floor.  There is graffiti inside and outside and the stairway is dark and drab.  We went through two locked doors to get into the apartment where there is a major difference in decor!  Inside, Edwards' wife is working on the dinner and his son is playing.  The kitchen is large by local standards.  They don't have a lot of kitchen utensils, but the things they have are high quality.  The bathroom is beautifully tiled.  There is no bedroom, only a living room where there is a cute boy type bed for Daniel and a sofa which makes into a bed for Edwards and his wife.  We had wonderful stuffed peppers fixed with a broth from carrots, onions and lots of garlic.  The potatoes are roasted with very strong horseradish.  The meal was wonderful and the conversation was pleasant.  Edwards speaks good English.  After dinner we had chocolates from many different places and hot tea.  It was a nice evening.  Then Edwards and his family drove us back to the guest house.

Tomorrow we go to the passport office and the U. S. Embassy.  Good night from Latvia!!

Friday, September 16, 2011

Almost There

It is early in the morning.  Sabina is still asleep.  We are going to spend today getting ready to leave tomorrow.  We head from Atlanta to Barcelona and then to Riga.  We spend four days taking care of embassy things to finalize Sabina's citizenship.  On Friday, we head home by way of Paris.  None of the layovers are long enough to see the city, but still interesting to travel through so many different areas.  I plan to post lots of photos.

I have been reflecting for a few hours.  This journey is about to get to a fork in the road.  It won't ever be over, but the adoption phase is about to come to an end.  Now maybe we can just live.  Now maybe we can fall into a routine and not live month to month putting off everything until we finish the next trip.  It is starting to be fall and the air feels wonderful.  When we return Sabina and I will drag out all of our fall decorations and decorate with pumpkins and fall colors.  That will be fun.  We hope to go camping in the Smokey Mountains this October.

I loaded my mp3 player with praise and worship music for the trip (thanks for the recommendations Dawn!).  I have had this thing for a year and just now am learning how to manage it! I need God to cover me with His majesty right now.  I don't understand it but I am trying to pull things back and do them on my own.  That never works!  I need to free fall with the Lord!  Thank you Lord for this long and wonderful, but scary journey.  Thank you Lord for this beautiful daughter I never expected to have.  I love you Lord......your daughter, Jama, the modern day Sarah!

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The Long Trip Home

In order to get a good fare through Delta we spent the night in Prague.  Once again, I need to check things more closely.  The shuttle between the airport and the hotel is NOT free!  In fact, it is $80 round trip!!  However, since we only have 19 hours in Prague and some of that time needs to be spent sleeping, we kind of got a good deal.  The shuttle driver (it was really a car, not a shuttle bus, and we were the only passengers) took us on a driving tour of the city en route to the hotel.  Of course, he was driving fast enough to compete with NASCAR, but we managed to get some good photos.....
The U. S. Embassy

 More of the Embassy
 The city is just beautiful!
 Check out this mode of transportation!
 More of the beautiful city
Part of the area known as the Ghetto during WWII
Our hotel was fine.  We had an elevator and air conditioning, and the breakfast was really free!  Not only that, we had two free drinks in the bar.....we selected hot tea of course!  The desk clerk directed us to a nearby restaurant where we had an excellent meal of local cuisine.  It was very reasonable, less than $20 for the both of us and I had a beer and Sabina had dessert.  They use their own currency.  I thought it would be Euros which I had figured out.  Not so.....and they measure in thousands.  I put the meal on my debit card so when we got back to the hotel I went on the internet to see how much it had really cost us.  That is how I know it was $20......I also discovered I had left a tip of $.18!  Don't you know the waitress is still talking about that dumb American!

Our flight was fine to Atlanta and we arrived on time.  We did not breeze through customs like at Christmas.  We were redirected to a room with lots of people from lots of countries.  The one next to me was a mail order bride!  My friend Marissa works for customs but back in the back checking agriculture.  She knew what flight we were on so came out to check on us.  Love her heart!!  I was really getting worried the longer we sat there.  She didn't do anything to influence anything but she did let me know what was going on so I was not so anxious.  After about two hours Sabina was approved to stay in the U. S. until January 2012!!!

When we came in the door Marley the dog leaped over the four foot fence and into Sabina's arms.  I don't know who was the happiest, Sabina or Marley!  Home sweet home!  She is my daughter and we are home. She says this is her home now.  I praise you God for all You have done and all You promise to do!!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Court Day

We got up early  and Sabina's friend, Zarina came to spend the last day with her.  The girls went into the village to do some last minute shopping while I tried to return the apartment to its original condition.  They returned with a purse for Sabina and a beautiful tea set for me.  I had admired them earlier but decided not to buy one.  Besides, I couldn't decide which one to get!  She picked out a beautiful one with native flowers from Latvia.

Gertruda arrived soon after the girls returned from their shopping spree.  Sabina did not want to wear the one dress she owns.  Her foster sister had been to court a month earlier for her final adoption hearing and Gertruda said she wore jeans.  We did not go that far, but I did let her wear a more casual outfit with capris.

Soon, Daina, the Latvian attorney arrived.  She sat and talked with us a while and put my mind to ease a little more about the hearing.  She said that hearings in the capital city of Riga are a little more formal and less friendly.  I am glad we are in a small town for our hearing!

Finally it was time to leave.  Daina's son travels with her and does the driving and such.  He came up to help us drag all of the luggage down the stairs.  It had been very cool up until the day of the hearing and it was around 90 degrees.  The suit I had brought was a little warm for the day, but I wore it and suffered.

In there court room there was Sabina and me, Daina, the orphan court director, the judge, and the states attorney, referred to as the prosecutor, along with an interpreter for me.  The proceedings were in Latvian.  I was asked if I wanted to make comments several times.  It was not scary at all.  It lasted longer than most, or so I am told.  The orphan court director talked for ever and was SLOW.  Can't complain though. She was 100% in favor of the adoption.   I was asked to share photos of us in America.  I had made a special scrapbook for that event and was able to explain each photo and what the activity was.  I included little comments about things she likes and dislikes, etc.  Eventually the judge left the room for a short while and when she returned said yes.  Sabina and I had to say yes also.  There is a 20 day appeal time and then processing time.  The official date will be July 28, but she is my daughter!!

Mama Gertruda was waiting for us when we finished the hearing.  Here she is with the orphan court director.
Unfortunately this is not the best photo of either of us, but it is our official after court photo as mother and daughter!

Sabina and her two mamas!  Gertruda will always be important in both of our lives.

Sabina, Zarina and Ancion (that is the way it sounds, not the way it is spelled in Russian or Latvian!)  

I took the foster family and Diana and her son out for lunch after the court hearing.  There were a total of eight of us.  It was a cafeteria type restaurant, but Sabina's godmother, Natalijia acted as our waitress so we did not have to go through the line.  It was another wonderful Latvian meal.  
This is the attorney, Daina and her son.  That is Natalijia in the background delivering food to us!

Because it was Friday afternoon and traffic would be heavy, we drove through the country to get back to Riga.  I have no idea where these photos are made, just somewhere in the countryside between Russia and the Baltic Sea!  It was a beautiful drive.

These are canola fields.  It is almost harvest time so they are starting to turn yellow.

Latvian service stations do not look much different than ours in America!

I love that they still use hay stacks!

It just looked pretty.  I don't know what it is!

 Now we are in Riga
We arrived at our hotel in Riga around 8:00 p.m.  I had made reservations through thinking I could count on it being a safe, reasonably nice place.  I have now learned that I should ask more questions.  Daina said the neighborhood was ok but I did not feel especially good about that.  There was no elevator and we were on the third floor until I begged.  We got moved to the second floor.  We had tons of luggage.    There was no air conditioning and the temp had shot up to about 90 with sunset coming around 11:30 p.m.  We had one very small fan on the nightstand in the room.  The airport shuttle was not complementary and the free breakfast was not free.  Other than that we did fine!

That ended court day.  I am a happy mama!  I have my daughter and she even admitted that she had been stressed and therefore trying to control me, but she feels much more relaxed now that court is over.  Just another everyday miracle from God!  Maybe not, me being a mom is a really big miracle!!!  Thank you precious Jesus!                                            

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Our last day of sightseeing in Kraslava

Mama Gretuda's friend Natalija picked up me, S and A at 12:30 p.m. for our last sightseeing event.  

We first went to the local museum where we looked at artifacts from the early days in the Baltic Region. There is a castle there which has been abandoned for years. There are people working to restore it so we could not go in there.

It doesn't look like the castles I have seen in history books and on TV, but I understand it was really grand in its day!
In the olden days, when there were hot days, the king would go to their air conditioned sitting underground area. Today was a hot day and it felt wonderful there!

Finally, she let me take photos of her!


Next we drove across the river to a beautiful small park.  This is an observation tower where you get a view of Kraslava across the river.  My knees wouldn't even think of climbing this.  S took the camera and off she and A went!

The forests are beautiful here.  In a few months wild mushrooms will be picked from similar places.

Natalijia dropped us off in the village so we could do some shopping.  We walked back to the apartment which was a great opportunity to take photos.  This is the Catholic church Sabina attended.

This is not necessarily a typical house here, Most are not quite so big or nice.  It looks so Swiss, I really like it.

There are beautiful flower gardens here.  This is just by the street in a public place.

This is the most likely way to live in Kraslava.....tired flats from the days of the USSR.  This is going down the road to Gertruda's apartment.  We are headed to the last building.

These flowers are by the apartment buildings.  The tired Soviet buildings with these beautiful flowers.

S and A heading into the building starting the five flights of stairs to the apartment.

I made it up five flights.  The apartment is the one on the left.  The door has four locks on it!

We came in and made Latvian salads and pirogis for dinner.  S and A were more interested in ice cream and chips.  Two of S's friends came to visit and they have all been laughing and talking in foreign tongue!  Now S and A are walking Zarina home.  I have strict orders to put the computer away before they return.  S does not like to translate for me, TV is in Russian, I have read everything I brought with me, and I can't turn on the lights because it uses too much electricity.  I thought the computer was a good idea!

Tomorrow at 2 p.m. we go before the judge for the final determination if I can be S's mother.  I love that child, even if she would make a good Soviet police woman!  When we get back to America and her precious dog Marley that will start fading away again.  Please say a prayer for us.  I think it is just a formality, but the unknown is always scary!  We are about to see another phase of God's adoption miracle unfold.  You gotta love it!  Good night from the most eastern part of Eastern Europe!


Wednesday, June 29, 2011

June 29, 2011

About 10:30 Gertruda arrived with I, A and N.  I didn't really know what was going on, but they were all in the kitchen and Gertruda was cooking.  I was confined to my bed as I have now been classified as an invalid.  I was given two pieces of bread with butter and sausage which tastes like bologna.  Later, Gertruda brought me breakfast which was macaroni sauteed with spices and egg along with two sausages which taste like hot dogs.  A brought me a cup of coffee.  I wanted more sugar and cream but was afraid to ask since I am under such restrictions!

Gertruda, L and S went to the village to buy gifts for L and I's host parents.  They are leaving tonight to drive to Riga.  The girls leave at 6 a.m. for Washington, D. C. where they will travel to Mount Airy, MD for five weeks.  I remember that experience last year so well.  S came off that plane looking lost and tired, carrying a little bag with gifts for me.  She brought me a wall hanging that had a tree on it and the leaves were made of amber chips.  She also had a coffee mug with a map of Latvia, filled with candies.

In the afternoon we went to Anita and Tourlic's home for lunch.  The recently bought a house.  They had previously lived in a two room flat.  They paid 15,000 lats for this house.  That is about $30,000.  It needs a little updating here and there, but is a nice house!  A large living room, two good size bedrooms, a small kitchen and a one car garage.  I also learned that Tourlic owns the apartment Gertruda uses in Kraslava.  It was bought several years ago for about the same as their house, but Anita says it would not sell for that now.  The economy has suffered greatly with all of the people moving away from the city.  They have about 1 1/2 acres of land which includes a pond and wonderful garden spot.  They have mostly root vegetables and then lots of beautiful flower gardens.  Anita gave me the grand tour, pointing out all the flowers.  She apparently has a green thumb.  Unfortunately, I brought S's camera but she had taken the memory card out of it.

Lunch was wonderful.  We had cold beet soup with rye bread first.  Just like S makes for us in America.  Then we had pork cutlets and potatoes. The potatoes were tiny.  Like our little new red potatoes but these were not red.  She had boiled them whole and then the girls peeled them.  Next, Anita cut them into little pieces and fried them with dill.  She made a wonderful dessert of an apple cake which included lemon and was topped with cinnamon and sugar.  I am calling her later to get that recipe.  Wonderful tea followed the meal.   She served the soup in normal type soup bowls.  The rest of the meal was on saucers.  That is apparently the norm here.  The kitchen is tiny by our standards, but big compared to Gertruda's.  It is not unusual for houses to be sold without kitchen cabinets here.  She said they paid extra for the former owners to leave the kitchen.  The cabinets and appliances are nice, but all small.   We are so spoiled in America!

L and S went with me and Gertruda to Anita's.  A, I and N stayed at the apartment.  When we returned I was sitting downstairs and shared that A had locked her out of the apartment.  As I can figure it, He locked out both I and N.  Eventually N convinced him to let her in but I did not want to go inside because he was being mean to her.  It seems most of the children are mean to her.  She is pitiful.  Even her sister, actually, especially her sister, is mean to her.  When we got inside the Russian was flying and I thought I was about to witness an international incident!  Maybe a nuclear explosion!  Everybody jumped on A.  S said that he had also destroyed an air mattress at the country home that morning.  I had seen it there.  It was a nice one like we have in America........double high twin size.   I don't know where it came from, but it appears to be a treasure.  I asked if it was an accident and S said no.  She said A was "nervousing" Mama Gertruda and she is about to send him to the children's home.  The reprimanding of A went on for a long time and he started to cry.  I don't know if she told him he was going to the children's home or what.  I am a softie, but I did think it was a bit harsh.  He has kind of attached to me and Gertruda kept saying my name and trying to get him into the living room so I could see he was crying.  He kept pulling away.  I didn't want to cause problems, but I did go into the hallway and pat him on the back.  I didn't want him to think I would laugh at him for crying. I think his medical condition includes scoliois.

They keep telling me he is really bad.  He does seem very young for 14, both in stature and behavior.  Locking the girls out was mean, but I think I have observed other meaner L hitting A and I.  It is a different culture.  I don't understand everything.  I mentioned to Anita that sometimes S has a very angry, mean tone to things she says to me.  I thought it might be a cultural thing, but Anita doesn't sound like that.  She said she could not be mean if she tried.  S and I will work on that.  I don't think she intends to sound so angry.  She just needs to be aware of the way she sounds and how that is interpreted by others.