Friday, April 3 – 19th official day of government’s warnings.
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Friday, March 27 – 12th official day of government’s warnings. Today I share about a special boy.
It was 12 years ago today. Larry and I decided before 12 years ago to do something we had never done before – adopt a child from Nepal. We never really have been baby people, so we had asked that we be matched with a slightly older child. The first photo we ever saw of this child showed that he was 6 months old. That’s not a child; it’s a baby! But it was too late. We had already opened the picture on our computer and immediately we fell in love, despite his smokin’ pink baby jacket.
A month later, we were headed for 3 days of flights and layovers, eventually landing in Kathmandu, Nepal…sandwiched between India and Tibet…Calvin’s birthplace.
We embraced Shakti (what they had named him for recovering from pneumonia at 3 days old, shakti means ‘power’ or ‘strength’ in Nepali) and held him, kissed him, and cuddled with him every minute we could. But we could only visit him for an hour a day.
What we thought would be a 2-week visit turned into a surprise nightmare beyond anything we expected. Granted, this was a newer thing to allow US people to adopt from this not-so-distant-past of Kingdom rule. Europeans had adopted Nepali children, but adding Americans caused a surge, which was actually needed, as there were many kids on the streets and in orphanages.
Our surprise nightmare came in the form of big government changes that didn’t really have much to do with adoption, per se, though they affected them severely. Their government was beginning their first ever democratic-type elections. Prior to this, they had been heavily influenced by the British and also had their own Nepali King, who had been murdered by his brother with hopes for the throne.
Due to the circumstances, we were told the wait would be a bit longer than anticipated. We asked how long and no one could tell us. “Go home,” they’d say, “and try not to worry about it.” – Ha!
We hoped we would wait weeks, or at worst, a month. We waited well over 6 months, crying almost every day, as the news of the impending elections upset all things in Nepal a good deal. This Shakti boy was emaciated and we hired a Nepali woman (Calvin’s angel) to go to the orphanage daily and feed and engage with him. At 6 months, we began to think we’d never see this beautiful boy again. We had ceased hearing from our contacts we had made in Nepal, except for our US adoption agency who had very little to say and did not know more than we did. The angel we hired ran out of money we had left her and there was no secure way to send more.
9, 10, then 11 months went by. We tried to watch what we could on the news, but there was very little in the US that shed light on lil’ ol’ Nepal’s government developments. At month 11, the Nepali adoption agency Director called and said, “Okay, you can come.” We were elated, but so overwhelmed. So many questions…Is the government settled? We knew they had not had elections yet, but perhaps that was postponed? Had our little boy become a grown man? What size clothing should we bring for him? How long would we be there? And the ultimate question: Would he come home with us?
Larry stayed in the US due to work obligations. I took the second trip alone. Nepal is a land of men. Women – especially a white woman – do not go cavorting around, so this I knew would be a challenge when I arrived, not to mention that the city is a maze and I spoke very little Nepali. I braved through it all, knowing I would soon see my son. And this time I would not let him go.
Both times, we/I stayed (primarily) with a British woman who had lived in Kathmandu for years. She loved the country and was a blessed relief for so many reasons. She had helpers with whom I became close as well. The Nepalese are a kind and friendly people.
It was difficult to understand why the Orphanage Director had given me the go-ahead to return to Nepal. Nothing was any different, and most concerning was that the elections were still approaching. I went to the embassy and they said they want all Americans out of the country now because they are not sure how these first elections will play out. The orphanage director (a real piece of work) kept wavering between telling me to leave the country and thinking I should stay. Fortunately I was not alone. There were a few other US people there adopting from the same orphanage.
We – this small crew of US families – went to the Nepali offices to plead, insist, or do anything we could to get them to finish these adoptions. Meanwhile Larry was at home contacting Senators and trying to get things moving on this end. There were around 300 adoptions in waiting – and a very small portion of that 300 were US people. As we understood it, most of those 300 adoptions had been signed off (granted), except for the US folks, perhaps because it was new. We were told repeatedly that it was the US side that was slow, but it was obvious to us that was not the case.
We all waited and waited while we’d go to their offices each day and bug them in hopes of them getting so annoyed with us that they would just sign the papers. It was a group of 6 officials, all men in the (ironically named) Ministry of Women and Children who needed to sign. Due to the election, many of them were not in their offices, but instead traveling around the country garnering votes.
In the meantime, I was still only allowed to visit Calvin for 1 hour each day. It was torture! But perhaps a little less torture than being halfway across the world, not knowing if I’d ever see him again. Now I was here, but would I bring him home? No one seemed to know.
The elections got closer and so did the upheaval. There were people protesting outside the embassy, marches and general uneasiness. There we sat and waited, about 6 families, wondering if we should leave or if it would all work out. It did work out, but it was not a moment too soon. The US embassy usually takes a few days to approve adoption visas, but they rushed it through and Thai Air helped us book a quick flight out of there. My mom came at the tail end of it all, which I appreciated very much. Even at 18 months, he was still a baby to me.
We call the day that the officials signed the paperwork Calvin’s Gotcha Day. Some adoptive parents don’t use that term and others don’t necessarily consider it a special day. For him, we do – because of that unexpected nightmare that eventually turned into a wonderful reality.
We kept that name they gave him as his middle name. We love the message names have in some other countries and wanted to honor him with that. While Calvin would prefer to be considered a “normal American” I have to go and embarrass him each year by celebrating his Gotcha Day. I used to send him to school with pictures and baked treats to share, which he gradually came to dislike. Now I share with you in hopes that you have enjoyed the story. I wrote a much longer version with details, full of turmoil and drama – oh my! If you’re interested, I can email it to you; just let me know.
Incidentally, Arbor also has a Gotcha Day, but her’s wasn’t quite the struggle to finalize, thank goodness! I’ve put a few pictures in this folder if you’d like to see, and I also put the first picture of Calvin and Arbor together when she arrived at our house via the Foster Care System. It is a little blurry because she came to us almost literally bouncing off the walls.
Happy Gotcha Day!
Thursday, March 26 – 11th official day of government’s warnings. Today’s thrills and chills come in the form of photos. Anna Norris shared an amazing gallery of “12 gorgeous photos of Iceland’s icy waterscapes” which are beautiful and reminded me of time we spent in Oceanside near San Diego where we took some amazing photos of California’s not-so-icy waterscapes. I was tempted to add so much more, as our trip across the U.S. involved some amazing scenery, but many of you have already been there and done that, plus I’ll be the first to admit that too much scenery causes me to yawn.