Monday, December 5, 2016

Trip Journal: Day Three



You are your own worst critic, and that is how I’ve felt all day. It started last night with insomnia induced by the nervousness of the situation. I’ve never been this nervous before a “big” adoption day. I wondered what I would say, and I wondered what they would say. I didn’t have big expectations, but there were a few things I wanted to convey.

I wanted them to know that we were not adopting just anyone and that it was only because I specifically knew of Donka that we even began this adoption. I wanted them to know that I understood that this was a lot of change and that they were welcome to ask any questions they wanted. Lastly, I wanted them to know that we were there for them and that we were there to welcome them into our family.

Did I accomplish those goals? I have no idea. After being unable to sleep, I finally nodded off around 0130 and hit the snooze button until 0700. Maren and I rolled out of bed and quickly gathered up our things and were downstairs at 0800 to meet Maria. Maria showed up and after enduring some cruddy rush-hour traffic in Sofia we made the scenic drive to Panagyurishte, arriving around 1015.

As we walked in, Donka was sitting on the couch – not recognizing anyone else, I asked her where Pamela was? Pamela was sitting right next to her… heel moment of the day, right? Pamela is the same size as Donka and with a more petite build and dressed in regular street clothes looked nothing like we had seen in the videos and in her pictures. After recovering from that the girls met with us and the director for a few minutes before we went outside briefly to swing – deciding it was too cold, we headed inside and the girls showed us their rooms. They were typical for a group home, one step up from an orphanage with minimal decorations and fixtures. Pamela showed off her closet full of clothes and Donka joined us and we sat in her room (they do not share rooms currently – they each have their own room) and watched some videos I had brought. The social worker came in and did some mandatory “observation” and we signed some paperwork indicating we had visited. It’s also worth noting that several kids there remembered Jesse and Eli and asked about them and how they were doing.

Once the social worker left we walked down to the center of Panagyurishte (15 minute walk) and had lunch at a restaurant located in the hotel we’re staying in. I was so nervous I could barely eat and wasted half of a good shopska salad. Maren had a Shopska and bread while the girls ate some sausage and fries. We talked about a variety of topics while also enduring quite a bit of awkward silence – mainly driven by my nervousness. We talked about names, our family, what Ohio is like and other things, including the girls’ two conditions for going to America. First, Donka wants to take Sambo classes and second, Pamela wants to take dances. It’s a deal, I said.

After lunch, we walked around the town and stopped by Donka’s school, taking a few pictures along the way. We eventually made it back to the home and said goodbye for a bit while we went back to the hotel, checked in and headed back up to the home to go with Donka to Sambo practice (apparently she was quite good, exhibited by a pile of medals in her director’s office.) We walked over to Sambo, joining a few of her friends along the way. During the walk the topic of names came up and as we had talked about them previously and told the girls we had suggestions but the ultimate decision was up to them, Donka indicated she wanted to go by “Danika” and she asked about what she should do for a middle name, I said we could ask Mom when we talk to her. Pamela chimed in, with the first burst of personality showing through to say emphatically that she wanted to be “Elizabeth”.

At Sambo we got to enjoy Donka practice and fight boys her size and a little larger – holding her own quite well. He coach, talking to Maria indicated that she was really good and that she should continue working on Sambo. While we were watching Sambo, Pamela chatted with Valerie in Bulgarian via Facebook and that really seemed to open Pamela up and she was much more interactive while talking to Valerie. By the time Sambo let out is was very dark and very cold, so we all walked back with frozen toes to the home where we said goodbye for the night and parted with a hug.

I’m not really going to share any opinions yet – it was a hard day and everyone involved was obviously feeling the situation out. They were wondering who this guy was and who Maren was, I was wondering what they were thinking and saying and Maren was doing her best to just be a nice sister.

I have two hopes. First, that I sleep better tonight and second, that all of our hearts and minds will be put at ease.

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