April 08, 2007

First Visit - April 7

Taking the 6 am flight out of Peoria, IL meant a 3 am wake-up. Thankfully it isn't necessary to arrive 2-3 hours ahead of time at a smaller venue. Our flight to Atlanta and then on to Guatemala City was uneventful. Doesn't matter what one does or takes on the flight, it is just uncomfortable after a few hours.

The Guatemala City Airport has tried to make some nice changes, but I'm not sure there has been a significant change in efficiency. It all begins with the 6-7 lanes for immigration - nothing new here, but we were fortunate that a rather large group of church missionaries chose to ALL take lane 3. I remember our first time through, and we wanted to see what everyone in front of us was doing prior to our going up to immigration officers. With all of them being in lane 3, we quietly walked down #2 where there was no waiting and were quickly proctored through. Onto to luggage pick-up, which is indeed much nicer than in years past. I always enjoyed watching the luggage carts roll in and seeing our luggage "gently" catapulted on to the conveyor. So, shielding us from this experience I would consider a good thing. As luck would have it, our three check-ins were first on the conveyor. No clothes hanging out, so "entry" was going smoothly for us. We have on past trips waited for an eternity only to be told that several carts of luggage did not make the trip we were on.

I always enjoyed the next stage of making it out to the streets of Guatemala. The part when you walk into the large foyer area and there are a couple hundred people standing overhead looking for loved ones. Our first trip here, this is what I hoped they were doing, because otherwise it felt like we were in the middle of the "bull arena" and the entertainment was about to begin! 8) This no longer exists due to the re-routing of visitors around one side of the airport to the pick-up site. Now, the traffic problems they had in the past when everyone was looking for their ride has NOT improved a whole lot. The circle-drive design is a great idea as long as you don't let 500 vehicles in at one time. But, that's part of the experience we come to enjoy.

We were met by Feliciano and Cristel, along with the Dateline crew. Cristel was holding a "welcome" sign for the Webbs which was a first for us. I always made it a point to glance at all the signs being held up for different families in the past, so it was nice to see our name. If Dateline wanted the "natural" look, they got it, because we were some weary travelers by that point. And of course we were overdressed as usual. Going from 19 degrees in Peoria to the balmy upper 70s of GC was as uncomfortable as I remember.

Guatemalans are "tougher" than us; I'm sure of it. I don't know if it is age or what, but I really enjoy airconditioning in about any temp above 70, and GC's upper 70s feels like a hundred degrees to me. Since we had ridden in Feliciano's van before, I was well aware of the "no airconditioning" situation we were about to face. One is left with a choice! Ride with the windows down and enjoy the fresh exhaust of the chicken buses and oversized trucks, or leave them up and guess where the sweat running down one's back will really end up. 8) I opted for a combination of the two.

During the van ride, we talked with Feliciano and Cristel in regards to Alexia's abandonment. Although they will fight for a favorable ruling, they were very honest about her chances of being abandoned for adoption by a foreign family, and it isn't that great. It was indicated to us that PGN is being very proactive in finding families in Guatemala for abandoned children. This is being pushed rather aggressively by the First Lady. Now, on the surface I think everyone would agree this is a "good thing." We do. However, PGN cares little in regards to the prospective families motive and/or resources for adopting the child. Yes, they too must have a homestudy of sorts, but it is already apparent that there are problems with this policy. If UNICEF or anti-ICA officials in Guatemala are truly worried about the lack of oversight in foreign adoptions, can you just imagine what we're looking at here in cases like this?? Because of the concern for losing the abandonment, we opted not to take Alexia with us for the week. We had planned to, but we worried that "emotional wall" wouldn't hold up if we get bad news on May 2 (final abandonment hearing). I'll follow-up on this later.

Arriving at the hogar was exciting, I must admit. I think it was at this point that memories of first meeting Amaya started to creep back. When one has done this before and had both negative and positive experiences, I think there is always guarded caution taken with every step of the process. Once the point of actually meeting your child is upon you, that caution tends to crumble instantly. It was neat seeing all the older children seated at the table as you enter the hogar. Aleandra, a daughter of Felciano, was seated and leading them in a coloring activity. With my fluent Spanish ready to roll, I bellowed out my complete vocabulary in one big "HOLA!" to the children. They all smiled and returned the greeting and showed us all their coloring. It was "neat."

Into the main area of the hogar, we navigated through the children until we came upon Gloria for the first time. Her hair was the first thing we noticed. Deep black and very thick and full. Wish I had some myself!. Since we first visited Amaya when she was 8 mos., we were a little nervous about having and holding a 4 mos. old. I have to admit, I let Lisa do the first holding. I'm always fearful I'll hold her like I'm carrying a football or something and look totally incompetent. I'm sure there are other dads out there that feel the same. I start feeling at ease about the time they can start putting me in a "headlock" or something, of which Amaya has gotten very good about doing. 8)

We spent several hours at the hogar before heading for the Marriott. During that time, we met most of the other children there. I always like seeing all the kids - they just hover for attention and I think they realize that at some point, their mom and dad is coming for them. It really is a dream they hold dear. They love having their photos taken and then shown back to them via the digital camera - and you can tell Feliciano's adopted son Angel loves the camera (what a smile). In and amongst all the "hub-ub" with NBC being there, we didn't take one darn photo of Gloria or Alexia while at the hogar. It is frustrating to live in "my world," because I am more of a "big picture" type thinker and all the necessary steps in between I tend to overlook from time to time. It haunts me most in situations like this when I should have planned better. Oh well, chalk up another lesson!

Although that first meeting is special, I don't think it compares to when you finally get your child up to your room and experience it only with your family. Although we had others in the room, it was still overwhelming at "how" children "just know" something special is taking place. Even the camera crew commented on how Gloria had changed from the time we had her at the hogar to the time we got her to our room. She was lying on the bed as we were at her side doing all the goofy things parents do. Her "cooing," smiling, kicking, and attempted talk were something I'll never forget. It instantly took us back to when Amaya did the very same thing. I don't have words for what it is that takes place, but there is a connection made that can never be undone in parent and child alike. I'm sure social experts would have a fancy term for it, but my best guess is it is simply "love."

Well, one of the three women in my life is waking up from a nap - so I have to run.

Posted by Troy at April 8, 2007 04:01 PM

Thank you for sharing, Troy....your post was quite lovely to read. Have a joyful visit!

Posted by: Kathy at April 8, 2007 10:36 PM


We are awaiting invitation to go and get Melani, a four yr old (7 mos younger than our Shannon). Is PGN moving a lot slower? I cannot get anything solid from our agency. We got into PGN in Jan. What is your feeling on this?


Posted by: Melinda at April 9, 2007 09:48 AM

Troy, You made me smile as I remembered meeting Maylin for the first time. Good luck with the camera crew, I hope all is going well.


Posted by: Lisa at April 9, 2007 09:55 AM

Thank you for this post Troy. It certainly brought back vivid memories of our trips to visit our daughter. Have a wonderful time in Guatemala. You are in our thoughts.

Tinia and Rick

Posted by: tinia at April 9, 2007 12:26 PM

Thanks for sharing this with us. I am anxiously looking forward to reading more about your trip.

The information about Alexia must have been devastating. I am so sorry that your family received that news. I onlty hope that the news on May 2nd is better.

How wonderful though that you are getting this precious time with Gloria! Enjoy every minute!

Proud Mama to Anarosa since 5-26-07
Waiting for Migdalia

Posted by: EB at April 9, 2007 06:16 PM

Hanging on your every word. Say hey to Feliciano for me.~Melissa Turi

Posted by: Melissa Turi at April 9, 2007 06:58 PM

Hi Troy,
Sounds like we had a similar experience.When we were at the hogar last month,we had brought three suitcases full of things.I wanted to hand things out to all the children and take lots of pictures, as my nine year old daughters class donated alot of thigs.I thought it would be cool to show the students back home.Unfortunatly,I was so caught up in the moment I didn't even think about the three suitcases in the corner until we almost reached our hotel!!!Oh well as you said Troy "chalk it up to another lesson"!!!Enjoy the rest of your time there with your family.I'm so looking forward to your next writing.

Posted by: Kim at April 10, 2007 09:00 AM

How wonderful you put words to paper.

I thank you for sharing your story so far and hope everything is going well for you.

Posted by: Katie at April 10, 2007 06:37 PM

Troy, I'm so happy for you. You paint a great visual of Guatemala. Thanks for sharing and can't wait to hear more..

Posted by: Cheri at April 12, 2007 04:24 PM