The “Gotcha” trip is undoubtedly one of the most special times in the adoption process. It is also an experience that often times shows us the wonderful culture of the people in Guatemala and why it is that we stayed so closely tied to the country long after our children are home. Here is the Gotcha Trip story of the Wisconsin family of Richard Stollberg, his wife Judy, daughter Glendy (also from Guatemala), and new son Rony written in their words.
Make sure you have a tissue handy, because it’s a great one!
Being a Journey in Five Acts
Dedicated to the people of Guatemala who have filled our hearts and minds with such wonderful, lifetime memories.
It is 10:00PM at the airport in Guatemala City. We have arrived for our 2-1/2-year-old son's homecoming journey. Our hotels' shuttle is nowhere in sight. Panic. The driver for another hotel says that he left a few minutes ago but will be back in ten minutes. We wait. No shuttle. I have no coins for the phone. More panic. I turn to a woman who is apparently a tour guide, speaking to two European-looking tourists. "Do you speak English?" I say. "Oui, I mean yes!" (she is tri-lingual and the tourists are from France). I explain the situation and she graciously offers to call the hotel from her cell phone. No answer. More panic. "Wait," she says, "It's Sunday night and there is no one at the main desk. I will call a tour guide friend of mine and she will call the night number." A few minutes later, her cell phone rings again, and she relays a message to us: "The shuttle will be here in 15 minutes." Relief.
While we wait, the woman asks us why we are in Guatemala. We pull out a photo of our boy and tell her. Her face lights up and she tells us how lucky for the child to be able to find another life. When the shuttle arrives, we thank her profusely. She congratulates us and gives my wife a warm hug. What a welcome! Thank you mystery woman, whoever you are.
Our son is kicking pine cones around the hotel courtyard (amazing coordination for a 2-year-old). A senior hotel manager brings out a real ball for him to play with. When he is done, we try to give it back to the manager, but he tells us to keep it. Another item for his homecoming treasure box.
Our last night. We are having dinner with our 6-year-old daughter's foster mom, her two daughters, and her new grandson. We have kept in contact with her over the years, and we both treasure the continuing relationship. Our son gets fidgety - he is tired. One daughter, the new mom, comes over and entertains him for an hour. She performs a "hormiguita" nursery rhyme which ends in tickling. He laughs and laughs. She is such a natural, effortless mother. They are such a close, loving, tactile, mutually-nuturing family. We are awestruck.
The bellmen at the hotel have gotten used to our son and his daily habits (he knows where the potty is, and has a favorite restaurant table). They greet him every morning. It is amazing to watch their faces soften as they see him and speak to him. On the last day, they all say good-bye. At the airport, the shuttle driver unloads our luggage then kneels down and gives our son a hug and a kiss. He tells him (from what I understand of Spanish) that he is going on a plane with his new mommy and daddy, and to respect us. He listens intently, and this seems to reassure him. I look at my wife, and we are blown away by this simple, loving act.
We are *finally* at the "Special Registration" Immigration office in Houston - after a grueling hour in line. There is nothing to keep a 2-year-old occupied. But wait . . . there's a swivel chair with wheels . . . and a drinking fountain! Aha! He plays with them happily for nearly an hour. At one point, an airport employee comes to fill her water bottle at the drinking fountain. She is nice enough to let our son "help" her. She speaks to him in Spanish - they are kind words of welcome. She pulls a "City of Houston" pin off her uniform and pins it to our son's shirt, saying "This is for your album." As she walks away, she says "Is he cute!"
It is 9:00PM and we are flying home at last. He is asleep - his head is on my lap, his sweet face is illuminated by the full moon shining into the darkened plane. You will, no doubt, have your days of anger and confusion and sorrow, but for now, sweet dreams, mijo nuevo, mijo valiente.