Today marks our second full day in Bulgaria for our first trip, and let me tell you, it has been a heck of a ride trying to get here. As quite a few of you will know, last week was very emotional as we fought with the commanding general of Ft. Jackson to get Dad’s leave approved. On Tuesday, he officially denied the leave. On Wednesday, Dad decided to exercise the open door policy and try to talk to the general himself. However, the general’s policy is that before you talk to him you have to go through JAG (the lawyers). Dad sent in all the paperwork explaining why he thought that the general was wrong in denying the leave. Apparently, the lawyers agreed because they talked to the general, and he reversed his decision. In his words to Dad, “This was for an adoption? Was that in the original paperwork? Oh, well I am totally in support of adoption!” And yes, the reason for the visit to Bulgaria was in the original paperwork…if we were going to travel to some country just for the fun of it, it definitely would not be Bulgaria. I mean, Greece is pretty darn close! Well, long story short, Dad’s leave got approved at pretty much the last minute.
After all that back and forth, I had convinced myself that we were not going. So Friday, when we got negative Covid tests and had to start packing, well, I was an absolute mess. I am only in my second week of college this week, so I did not really know what to pack for that, let alone how it was going to go to do school in Europe. So yeah, I feel really bad for anyone who talked to me on Friday, and I apologize to all of them. We left South Carolina at 12:30 P.M. and flew to Atlanta where we had a four hour layover…it was a long time, but perfect to get ahead on some school. From there was the nine hour flight to France. If anyone is interested, I am just going to tell you that the Paris airport is the worst one I have ever been at. We only had two hours, and that place is not well labeled at all. We got in line for a security checkpoint that said it went to terminal 2B, and that was where the signs said that our flight was. We made it all the way through the line before the lady was like, “Oh, no, you are not supposed to be here. You are supposed to go to gate 2B.” Wow, really helpful, thanks. So then we had to frantically search for gate 2B, which ended up involving a subway, a bus, and almost exiting the airport several times. We finally made it to the gate about 15 minutes before boarding started. It was just enough time for me to redo Mikayla’s hair and get about halfway through my own. When we made it to Bulgaria at about 2 P.M. their time, a driver was already there to pick us up, which was awesome! The worst part about any flight is finding a way out of the final airport and to the hotel but having the driver took away all of that tension.
We have been in the city of Sophia for a couple of days now, and I have to say that it is not necessarily my favorite. I am not a huge fan of graffiti, and it is everywhere. When I say everywhere I mean that other than the city center or a gated building, there is graffiti at least on the first floor walls, if not higher. Most of Sofia just feels pretty run down. They have some gorgeous churches and their government buildings are pretty, but a lot of the big apartment buildings look like they could collapse any day. In one of the towns that we went to, we were at a cafe and went to use the restroom, and it was a straight out hole in the ground. Definitely not something that I am used to or ever want to be used to! One of the main things I have noticed is how much smoking there is. I do not think that I have seen as many people smoke in my entire life as I have seen in the last couple of days. It is crazy because I have begun to get used to the smell. Bulgaria itself is very pretty. I love the types of trees that they have here, and the hills/mountains are beautiful. I have never really liked cities, though, so that honestly is most likely my issue.
Yesterday, we met my siblings for the first time. I have not been allowing myself to get super emotionally involved since I did not want to experience that same level of mourning that I did about those two girls earlier in the process. However, as soon as I saw them, I could not not love them. I did not anticipate falling so hard for them so fast, but leaving them at the family home yesterday, I almost burst into tears. They are my siblings, and I definitely do not want to leave them, even if it is just for a night. I do not know how I am going to handle leaving them this Friday. We will not get to bring them home for another four to six months, so it will definitely be difficult. We did find out yesterday that we will not be able to have Zoom meetings with them in between the visits; the center does not have technology capable of that, so that makes it even harder. I feel like we are right before a deployment. I am trying to spend and enjoy every moment with them, but I feel like I am already mourning saying goodbye. We hung out in their town yesterday which was rough because it is so small. We were constantly being watched, as in word got around that Americans were there and everyone showed up at the one restaurant/coffee shop that they have. It was kind of awkward!
***This was redacted until such a time as the kids are legally ours.***
Today was a little more rough than I had anticipated. I woke up overwhelmed by school and consequently got my first B…there may have been tears…and I also forgot that tonight I have to stay up until midnight for a mentor meeting at school. Alaska is 11 hours behind Bulgaria so while a 1 oclock meeting seems like the perfect time in Alaska, it is definitely not here! By the time that we met the kids, I was already tired. We spent the entire day walking around Sofia and exploring.
The language barrier really got to me today. Yes, we have the translator, and yes she is super helpful, but there is only so much that she can keep up with. When she is helping my parents order at a restaurant, she cannot help Mikayla and I talk to our sister. I cannot tell her that her dress is pretty, ask her if she is hungry, or what stores she likes to shop at. I downloaded Google Translate today, but it did not have time to download the Bulgarian translation stuff, so I could not use it offline. I knew that I was going to struggle with not being able to communicate, but it is more frustrating than I could have imagined for someone to be trying to say something to me and I cannot understand a thing and watching them get frustrated in turn. I cannot apologize when my purse hits someone, and I cannot explain that Mom loves pictures, so yes, we are taking another one. So, yes, I am thrilled to be here with them, but anytime I get close to them I get irritated. It has definitely inspired me to learn the language, though, something I have been struggling with. Hopefully, I will be able to keep that dedication throughout the coming months. Now that we are back in the hotel wifi, the translation stuff has been downloaded, so prayers that tomorrow I will be able to talk to them.
Today we got to visit the main Bulgarian church here in Sofia. It is absolutely gorgeous! We got to light candles, and all I could think of for my prayer was, “God, please knit us even tighter together over the next couple of days. Help them bond with us and vice versa, and get us through these months apart.”