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Passport Purgatory

ZG’s passport didn’t get issued on Tuesday, which pretty much eliminated the possibility of leaving on our originally scheduled flight. We are bummed about the delay.  Actually, we don’t even ask about when we might get to go home anymore. On Wednesday, we decided to get up and not worry about the passport at all.  After convincing the Chicago family to go to Rancher’s with us, we decided to leave at 2pm for a late lunch.  Just after 1pm we received a text from our facilitator telling us to go to the passport office. All the text said was, “230 passport office fingers crossed”.  Carla and I were anxious.  Would we be disappointed again, or have our prayers answered?  Being at this point and time in the process and having an understanding of how the passport office functions, we didn’t get our hopes up too much.  I insisted to the Chicago couple that they should come with us so we could still have our late lunch.  Twaha parked along the street near the passport office and our facilitator instructed me to tell the other couple to stay behind.  Apparently the passport officials aren’t fond of international adoptions.  It isn’t my opinion of their stance on international adoption, its what they advertise on the bulletin boards there.  One old newspaper headline that simply read, “UGANDAN ORPHANS SOLD TO AMERICA FOR ORGANS” hung in plain sight for everyone to see.  We ran into another Mzungu couple at the “big white tent” while we sat on the old church pews and kicked the dirt under our feet. They were as pessimistic as us about whether or not we would leave the primitive operation with our passports.  Finally after two hours of waiting, our facilitator told us to go to the delivery window.  Oh my God, we are actually leaving here with ZG’s passport! Then we waited some more. And then we took abuse from the clerk. And then we were questioned about our guardianship. And then we were asked for identification. And then they……… GAVE US ZG’s PASSPORT!!!! Carla was the one who received the tiny blue booklet and ran out of the delivery office with tears of exhaustion and joy in her eyes.  Carla, in perfect Carla fashion, then made a few underhanded comments about the runaround and we both laughed, because we knew it was true.  ZG saw us laughing and piled on too. Everything is better when your child laughs!  We walked out of the compound with the passport securely in my left front pocket.  We celebrated walking down the block with the other couple, who received their son’s passport as well.

Oh crap, the Chicago family is still in the car, and it’s three hours later!

I felt really bad that they had been stuck in the car, but I had a feeling that they would have made the best of their time.  The driver took them to a GAME and they were able to burn a few minutes and get some supplies. 

I wanted to act like we didn’t get the passport and then be like, “BAMMM”, but Carla’s smile was too big.  Getting the passport was a major milestone and is what we needed to get to the final stage of the process, the VISA application. 

The embassy was already closed when we got the passport, but I decided that I was going on Thursday, even though the VISA office was closed for immigrant applications on Tuesdays and Thursdays, to turn it in and schedule our interview appointment.  Nothing could bring us down from this great feeling.

The Rancher made for a perfect celebratory meal and Carla even did a little shopping at the Garden City Mall.  Spirits were high. But soon began to saunter.

Our downfall started when I refused to change ZG’s Rancher induced, grown man, major “blow-out”. Carla didn’t appreciate me refusing to care for our child, especially out loud with spectators intently listening.  Needless to say that wasn’t a very smart move on my part.  ZG was still laughing, clean, and happy as can be when Carla returned with her. 

Too bad I was getting sick.  My nose was running like a spigot and my head was pounding. I had also started sneezing at the dust bowl, otherwise known as the passport office.  At about 10pm I took the nuclear option; two Mucinex Ds and two Tylenol PMs. 

Oh yeah I almost forgot, just before I entered my medically induced coma, our adoption agency called to give us an update on the Embassy.  Well, to make a long conversation short; the Embassy is closed Friday because of a Muslim Holiday, IDD Day. So while the Muslims are out celebrating their Brethren’s pilgrimage to Mecca, we will have to sit at home, unable to be interviewed for ZG’s VISA.  

ZG is sleeping so well each night.  We haven’t had a problem in about a week.  Let’s hope this keeps up! 

Thanksgiving to God for answering our prayers for ZG’s passport!  We humbly thanked God for his timing and provision.  We thanked God for ZG and allowing us to be her parents.  Unfortunately, prayers of thanksgiving don’t last very long for weak humans.  We immediately began to think of what we could ask for next.  Oh yeah, Lord get us home.

Uninvited Embassy Visit

I woke up at 6am with a lethal hangover from the meds.  I didn’t have a runny nose though! My mouth, nose, and throat was as dry as the Sahara.  I could taste my taste buds. Thinking back, I probably over did it! 

ZG would not let me leave for the Embassy before we had our morning routine.  Breakfast was toast and cereal for both of us.  Twaha arrived four minutes late and I wanted a Mt. Dew so we stopped by the Shell Station on Kiira Road.  I couldn’t resist, I had to get some fried gas station food while I was there.  Even in Uganda the gas station food is irresistible.  Everything is nostalgic.  I am constantly making connections to Alabama.  As I stared into the glass cabinet I looked to the farthest corner, hoping to see a lost slice of Hunt Brother’s Pizza or an Oversized Potato Wedge.  The Samosas looked good so I got two large meat ones. One for me and one for Twaha.  I remembered he liked Coke so I paid the cashier for everything and walked away. The damage was $2.25.  Of all the things I will miss the most about Uganda, which by the way the list is shrinking at a pretty exponential rate, is how cheap soda and food is. 

The US Embassy is not open for cases like ZG’s on Tuesdays and Thursdays, but I was dead set on seeing my contact there to get an appointment.   For the first time while visiting the Embassy, after I registered my passport and asked for admittance inside I was asked to have a seat and wait outside with the foreigners. Sit with the foreigners at my Embassy?  Really? I’m an American at the US Embassy and I am sitting and waiting.

It really wasn’t a big deal. The Embassy workers are great and I was seen after just a few minutes.  The VISA worker who had helped us over the last week smiled when she saw me because she knew that I had ZG’s passport and Birth Certificate.  It was a good feeling to know that she cared about our case.  After a few jokes we got down to business. 

The tone in her face changed. The very attractive, reserved Ugandan woman opened the appointment book to November 5th and wrote down the name “Hamner” in the line for 2pm. I told her she was on the wrong page because she scheduled us for November 5th.  Understanding my disappointment, she explained to me the heavy backlog of US adoption cases in country right now.  What can be done I questioned sharply.  After she thought about it for a while she said that she would call me in the case of a cancellation on Monday or Wednesday next week. 

BAAMMM!

We went from being the happiest people in Africa to wanting to jump into oncoming traffic!  Mom and Dad are fighting, ZG poops everywhere, Dad is hungover from cold medicine, and now we are stuck in this country for another two weeks.  We are the polar opposite of ecstatic. That places us just to the right of terminally depressed!

And I still had to tell Carla.

I waited until I got back to the B&B.  “What do you want, the good news or the bad news”, I asked.  Carla said there better not be any bad news!  After explaining to whole thing to Carla we sat and played with ZG for the rest of the day. 

And maybe had a few negative comments here and there….  

Please pray for another American couple to stumble upon extreme misfortune that will lead to us getting an interview on Monday. JUST KIDDING PEOPLE!  We want everyone to pray for all the lost American parents here in Uganda who have been connected with their children.  I pray that all of them have a seamless and safe journey while navigating this arduous process. Especially pray for our friend Shelly. She is the woman who is here alone and has been here for going on eight weeks.  To make matters worse, she still doesn’t have her son’s passport and they lost her file at the passport office.  We ran into her at the market and she is emotional, yet tough and could really use the prayers.

With all of the hurrying up and waiting of the last two weeks I haven’t read you guys in on how ZG is doing.

She is awesome. I know I only really tell you guys that she eats, sleeps, plays, and poops, but she is doing so much more.  She comprehends so much English. She knows what it means to clap, to wave bye, and to repeat words and phrases. She can say a lot of words and will attempt to say anything.  Her favorite word is “no”. She almost always get the number of syllables correct and sometime says the word correctly, even words she has never heard before.  We have tried to teach her a fews signs. She understands when to sign for more, but she is too stubborn to do it. I joked with Carla yesterday that she is a cross between Carl Archibald and Mack Fair! She is so smart and we are so proud! 

Physically she is improving.  Her face, and tummy, are filling out and her skin is mostly cleared up.  She has grown up over the last five weeks.  There are still times she wants to be a baby though, and her mommy holds her close and gives her the feel for what she missed out on as an infant.  Her legs are going to be fine. She can pull up on almost anything and will be walking soon.  She is learning to stabilize.  She rules the B&B and hasn’t left a corner unexplored. She is still teething and has a mouthful of sprouting teeth. 

We are so thankful for her physical and mental development!

She has bonded with us so well and only wants us when she is upset.  She understands that we will always be there and meet her needs.  This is a huge deal in the world of adoption and we are so thankful. 

ZG is Awesome and I can’t wait for everyone to meet her!

Market Friday- Take Three!

Thursday was tough. But it is behind us now. All we can do is focus on today. One bite at a time, right?  What better way to get over the sting of tough news than to go shopping for handmade trinkets and pirated soccer jerseys?  I can’t think of another way, so off we went at about 10pm.  The Chicago Family invited us to go with them to market. Carla was excited to help and show off her expertise and haggling with the locals.  “The trick”, Carla said, “is to counter offer 3,000 shillings less so they will add back 1,000 shillings and you will save 2,000”!  The funny thing is, It actually works every time at this market.  The Chicago Family had a long list of things to get so they made their rounds doing research.  A Ugandan Market Study of sorts.  It worked!

Carla ran into some young ladies who were working in Jinja at the home where our facilitator hoped to get a referral for the young girl with Cerebral Malaria. It was neat to run into them like that and make that connection so quickly. Please pray that the handicapped girl may receive help from this home in Jinja. 

Shopping at the market is exhausting and hot. As a group we decided that we needed pizza to help us finish the day at market strong.  Just Northeast of the market, on Tank Hill Road, is the Italian restaurant we ate at our first week in country.  Café Roma is run by actual Italians in Uganda. They cater to Mzungus because there are at least three guest homes within walking distance that deal primarily with adoption families so you are sure to have someone to talk with while you are there. The funny part about running into other adoptive families is your sudden impulse to gossip about your case and others that you know about.  Almost all conversations start off with, “so how far along are ya’ll”?  It’s like talking to a woman that is just showing signs of pregnancy.  I told Carla that the next person that asks where we are in the process that I’m going to answer, “we just started the third trimester”!

Eating pizza in Uganda is good because of the extremely low expectations, so when it doesn’t taste like boot leather you walk away saying, “that wasn’t that bad”. So after having pizza that wasn’t that bad we went back to market to close the deal on some of the bargains the Chicago family had going.  ZG was tired so we sat in a wooden chair that was for sale at one of the vendors tents.  I gave the salesman a stick a Wrigley’s Juicy Fruit Gum and he seemed to be obliged to let me sit there with ZG all day long.  ZG fell asleep for her nap on the way back to the B&B and continued it for about an hour.  It was a late nap so I hope it doesn’t mess up her night sleep.

Carla realized that we didn’t have any more Salt and Vinegar potato chips and ZG was out of cereal. It was late in the evening, just before sunset, so I decided that I would run, literally run, to the SUPER SUPERMARKET.  It is less that ¼ of a mile away, straight uphill.  I set out jogging, almost sprinting.  It felt great to force my muscles to do something besides sit still.  About 2/3 of the way up the hill I, as Carl from Sling Blade says, “plum gave out”.  I maintained a fast walk to the top of the hill and as I entered the store I started to see stars and got really dizzy.  I finished the shopping and staggered like a drunk back down the hill with my groceries hanging off of my left hand.  When I got back I told Carla that I did something really stupid. She thought I invited a beggar to sleep with us or something like that. It took me an hour to cool down from my monthly exercise routine.  I guess I was dazed when I went shopping because I forgot to buy one item and instead bought consumable whole milk and Cocoa Puffs.  Even at the brink of exercise induced vomiting Cocoa Puffs and cold milk is good!

Our flight was originally scheduled for October 29th.  That’s Monday.  I had hoped to be on that flight heading home with our new addition.  Unfortunately that’s not going to happen.  So instead of confirming  my flight home, I spent all of my prepaid minutes on hold with Teneshia with Delta.  I had to cancel my flight and pay a penalty, which I would have been glad to do for the sake of coming home early, but to do it and push the date back unsure of when we will leave just ticks me off.  The value of our one way ticket is now worth less than $200 and the confirmation email that I received form Delta says nothing about a cancellation. If I feel like spending another $20 on hold I’ll call back!   

It has been a blessing that the Chicago family is staying here.  Their two children they have with them give ZG someone to play with and they give us someone to talk to.  Tomorrow’s “programme” is to stay at the B&B, let’s see if it plays out that way!

Beat State,

Two Wild and Crazy Parents

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