If there is ever light at the end of the tunnel, I am seeing it now... or maybe that's an oncoming train? Either way, I'll take it! Grab a cup of Joe, or Tom, or whomever & relax and read the novel that was today!
Let me preface this with something that I decided to do. Giving "Gotcha Day" gifts to our son is a tradition that many families do for their adopted little ones. Each year we will give him something of his home country to help him develop roots. The night before I left, I watched the movie Courageous. One line really rang home with me. Something this important should be done right, it should have ceremony. So, I made a decision, that every document that I could sign in black ink would be signed with a pen that I will give to him later on in life. It will literally be the pen that brings my son home! And here it is! It is a Parker IM Black CT Ballpoint pen. Just thought you'd like to know! :)
Day started pretty early after my harrowing events yesterday. I had to meet my driver at 7:50 this morning, which admittedly doesn't sound too terribly early, but try sleeping after going through what I talked about on my blog yesterday, then you tell me. The kicker is I could have been picked up at 9:30 this morning and it would not have been any different. I sat in the car with our driver for the first two appointments anyway.
My driver took me to our facilitator's apartment... I am glad to see that she lives in an apartment building very similar to the one we have been staying in. Not where I thought they lived to be completely honest. Anyway, she immediately started asking if I bought gifts for the people. I thought that was kind of funny. Anyway, on the way to the court to pick up the adoption decree, our driver was pulled over! Yeah... this day's shaping up to be as good as yesterday! After a very brief run in with the po-po, we were on our way. I waited in the car while the facilitator ran in and got the court decree. They we headed out to the social workers office to get a paper signed for my passport appointment. She again went in by herself and I caught a 30 minute nap in the backseat. It felt like I logged more hours sitting in a car today than our drive from California to Mississippi!
From there we went to the Office of Vital Statistics. This is the busiest place in this country. There was a line out the door. Because our facilitator is "people who know people" we were able to walk past everyone and right into the office. It felt like I couldn't do anything right in this lady's office though. Don't slouch. Don't put your hands in your pockets. Don't chew gum. Don't breathe... that didn't happen, but I was waiting for it. The lady who worked in this office was relatively new to Americas coming to adopt. This proved to be troublesome as she did not want to accept our marriage license. She considered it a religious document since it was signed by the preacher who officiated our ceremony. Remember my blog on weddings? Well, weddings are on Friday's & Saturday's here. ONLY on those days, as every wedding MUST be performed by this woman. In fact, there is a family in this region who everyone in the family was married on the same date... that means they had to plan marriages YEARS out to ensure the date fell on a Friday or Saturday. Weird. Our facilitator finally said we'd pack up our stuff and go to the other Office of Vital Statistics to get Griffin's birth certificate, officially making him Griffin Nathaniel Solomon and would tell the other office to call their supervisor. The lady did not like this, called the other office and within minutes Griffin's new birth certificate was being printed! LOL! While I was waiting for the official copy, every once in awhile a young guy that had been in the office while I was there would come back in with a black bag, place it on the floor, say "spasiba" (Thank You), then leave. These, I realized, were gifts. You have to realize that this one person holds the "go/no-go" power over marriages in this area. These kids were thankful that she approved their wedding applications. Finally I signed & got Griffin's brand new birth certificate... no longer will he go by his birth name, Finn, or anything else... he's now a Solomon... OFFICIALLY!!!! On the way out, I snuck a peak in a couple of the bags. You'd think this lady was a raging alcoholic! I saw 2 big bottles of Jack Daniels and mini-keg of beer. That was only 2 of the probably 12-14 bags on her floor!
From there we headed over to the Tax Police Office. Yes, Tax POLICE! As we approached their compound (Yes COMPOUND), it was obvious that no one likes the tax man. This place was surrounded by cops... very well armed cops. I don't know if this is standard, but it was pretty daunting walking into the place. Like a thousand eyes were on me. We walked into the building, which was a relic of the cold war... very industrial, very poorly maintained (falling apart actually), and a smell of carbon paper (for those of you old enough to remember carbon paper. That's not the only old thing in this place. The computers that these people are forced to use were ANCIENT... I think Moses may have written the 10 Commandments on these relics. I felt really bad for one girl... she was load, copying, unloading and shredding a box full of 5 1/4 inch floppy disks... yes kids, there were disks that were actually floppy before pen drives & storing information in the "Cloud". The "clunk, whirr, clunk" sounds the drive made took me back to my childhood instantly! Here, we had to get Griffin a new tax number under his new name. This is what we know as our Social Security Number, and without the new number in the system, a passport cannot be issued. Well, it was just my luck that the 1970's model dot-matrix printer broke down. The lady said she'd load it to the system, but we'd have to come back tomorrow for the actual paper. So, we packed up & headed out.
Next we went to the local passport office. I waited in the car again. The facilitator came back out after a few minutes and said we had to come back at 3:00pm to meet her contact there. Great... more trips across the town. Nothing is co-located here, and mind you, I am paying for mileage & wait time to my driver. I can see this taxi bill is going to be pretty steep... how much hryvina do I have on hand again? Gulp!
I guess the facilitator realized she needed another paper signed by the social worker. So off we went. This time though, we went to another gated compound, not the social workers normal office. I looked and saw playground equipment and groupas of kids. Wait a second, we are in yet another orphanage! I asked the facilitator and sure enough, it's another orphanage, just steps away from the apartment I am in. This one is for older kids. It was pretty nice! It had a koi pond, brand new playground equipment, huge outdoor seating areas, and not a play shed in sight! These kids really have it nice here. Even the building was nice. It had a bright blue exterior and the surroundings made this place seem like the Taj Mahal compared to Griffin's orphanage. They did have one what I like to refer to as Cold War Military Training Tools. It's very industrial looking playground monkey bars, similar to the ones that were all rusted out & coated in lead based paint at Griffin's orphanage. This place should be the model for the others in this town! The facilitator said, "I'll be just a second," and took off inside. 45 minutes later, I realized seconds here are a little longer than in America! Me & the driver walked over and watched the koi fish and relaxed on a bench under a huge oak tree, talking, in broken English, about American traffic violations & the fines assessed for them.
After the 45 minutes, the facilitator came running out and said we had to get to the Tax Police Office immediately, as they got the paper printed and it is ready and the office is about to close for lunch. My driver broke every traffic law that we had just talked about a few minutes before, including running a red light, cutting off pedestrians in the cross walk, speeding, following too close, jumping a curb, crossing a double line and going the wrong way on a one-way street (in fact, he cut across 4 lanes of traffic to go backwards down the one-way)! I had the white knuckle death grip on the roof handle in the back seat! I think it now has finger grooves! LOL!
After the tax office, the facilitator had the driver take us to Karavan. I told Maria that I felt like I had cheated on her somehow today. See, it has been before we were married since I shopped with a female that I was not related to. That is something my wife & I do together. Walking into the mall, it seemed like something just wasn't right about the situation. When I got to talk to Maria, I instantly confessed though, and I think she's okay with it... not that it will EVER happen again! LOL! Anyway, we walked into a shop to buy some scarves as gifts. She picked one off the rack, showed me the price... 200 hryvnia. She asked if that was okay. I replied no, and that it was a little out of my price range. She asked what I was thinking of for prices. I told her 50 hryvnia or less. She put the scarf down and said that we needed to go to the grocery store... it's a lot like a Super Wal*Mart if ya'll remember. We wound up getting the executive types Dove Silky Nourishment Cream for just over 45 hryvnia each. In hind sight, I should have said 30 or less for my price range! LOL! She then showed me exactly what I am to get for gifts for the nannies who have taken care of Griffin over the past years, then we left.
We loaded back up and went to the orphanage. I signed some papers & handed out some of the gifts. The people were very grateful, so I guess it was a good purchase. When I gave one of the ladies, who was actually our orphanage representative in court, her gift, she opened a folder and pulled out a small stack of pictures of Griffin. She held up one finger and pointed to the pictures, then to me. Awesome, another pic of my son! As I flipped through them, I saw his Reece's Rainbow profile picture, then a series of pictures that was on the actually country's adoption website for orphans, then the very last picture floored me! It was the earliest picture of our little dude! A sense of pride filled me and I handed her back the stack, minus that picture! At least we now have a little bit of his younger years! Not exactly sure how old he is in the shot as there is nothing to denote it on the back but his old name scrawled in blue ink. I was then told to go get my son! Yea! It was awesome holding him again. He has regressed some over the past 10 days, but I thought I saw a look in his eyes like he should know who I am. He was dressed to the 9's in a collared shirt under a heavy sweater and overalls. He has had a haircut, probably today, and they even put cologne on him! LOL! It made me sneeze a little, but it has to be the cleanest we have ever seen him. All the ladies were fawning over him! A ladies man in the making! LOL! I was told to take him to the car. Puzzled, I asked, "Really? He's mine now?" Here I am without my camera! Grrrr! No, it was not the case. The facilitator explained that if it was just the mother or we were together, we could probably take him today, but the nannies here have had bad experiences with dads who didn't really know how to handle children on their own. Uh... did they just call me a bad dad? I can provide references! :) She assured me that it is the procedure here and not to worry, that I'd have him in my hands soon enough. She insisted I go ahead and take him to the car and wait for her. I asked her to get his Giraffe Meat from the nanny, who didn't want to give it up as I guess he tore the hole in the top a little more than it was when we left. I assured her it would be fine & that I am a trustworthy dad! What is it today with these women calling my parenting skills in to question! Hahaha! When the facilitator got to the car, she said, in a very frank tone, "Chris, give me $500." "Uhhh, for what?" I asked. She explained that I had to pay $500 for the passport application and expedited processing fees. I didn't remember Maria telling me about this one, and I told her that. She assured me that it was correct. I gave her the $500 and told her I would check into it. Sure enough, Maria knew about it and I am sure she probably told me, but I guess I didn't remember. Just a little shocking for someone to say give me $500... that's even more than his US Passport with overnight processing fees. Highway robbery here! LOL!
We took off back to the local passport facility. The facilitator ran in and grabbed the documents that she had to get and came back out. Griffin decided it was time to beat up my driver's car. He was banging on windows, punching & kicking the back of the seat, and I think he actually pulled the driver's hair too! He's a stinker. She came back out with another woman who got in the car and off we went.
We next headed to the regional passport facility. This is different than the one we were just at. Here we had to get his passport picture taken. he was less than cooperative. She actually had two women sweating! He's a stubborn little guy! They tried everything to get his picture taken with him looking at the camera. It didn't help that, like the tax office, this place had antiquated computer equipment, and there was anywhere from a 5-15 second delay (totally random too) from the time the girl clicked the button on the computer, until the camera actually fired. His passport, unless they require another photo, has him leaning to one side with his mouth open! Oh my word!
After paying & signing the applications, and a form to allow the driver to pick up the passport when it is ready so it can be sent to us in the capitol city, we went back to the local passport office... yeah, how many trips to this place am I gonna make in one day? We dropped off the lady, who didn't even go into the main office, and some documents. Now the waiting begins for the passport. The facilitator is estimating Monday (but it is a religious holiday) or Tuesday. My money is on Tuesday though. I thought the Germans had a ton of holidays, but this place has them beat hands down!
We returned Griffin to the orphanage, all too soon in my opinion, and they dropped me off at the Karavan to grab some dinner. This city has 5 bridges that cross the main river that cuts the city in half. I crossed them all I think, twice! It was a long day, but I am glad the chase is almost over. I have an appointment at the bank tomorrow, then it will be back to daily visits with Griffin till it is time to go to the capitol city.
I got back to the apartment and called Maria... she & Little G got back today to Germany. Half the family is united... just waiting on me... as usual! LOL! She said to pass along that they are doing good... lots of hugs & kisses going around with all the girls being reunited. She said she will blog, hopefully tomorrow, depends on the jet lag.
See ya'll tomorrow!