Friday, March 25, 2011

May 19, 2010 - What should have been Alesha Day :-(

It is 3:30 a.m. and I wake up and have a very upset stomach.  I am thinking to myself I will just go back to sleep and when I wake up again I will feel fine.  As I lay there trying to disregard the extreme stomach cramps I notice that it is absolutely silent.  For the first time since I have arrived in India I am not hearing cars, dogs barking, excessive horn honking, chattering of voices, etc.  NOTHING, just silence.  It was really bizarre.

Just as I am starting to fall back to sleep, our youngest son, Luke, enters the room and says "Mom, I don't feel very good at all and I think I am going to throw-up".  As I try to comprehend what I just heard, Luke rushes into the bathroom and proceeds to puke!  I am in total denial!!!  This is NOT happening.  This must all be a BAD dream!  Today is Alesha day, the day we have longed for for over 2 1/2 years.  Surely this will all pass and we can stick to the plan.

When I go and comfort Luke I realize that I am NOT in good shape either.  Let's just say that the beginning of excessive diarrhea was upon me and it had NO intentions of letting up.  Luke, continues to puke about every hour.  Darin, thankfully is feeling fine and we wait for Martin to wake up and see how he feels.  At about 7:30 Martin, awakes and says I feel fine, what a relief!  Darin and Martin decide that they are going to go downstairs to the amazing breakfast buffet and Luke and I will stay in the room and pray that this passes quickly.  Right before the boys head downstairs, I look at Martin, who is sitting on a chair, and he turns white as a sheet and says "I don't feel so good."  This is where the real nightmare begins.  He runs to the bathroom and when I enter to check on him this is what I see -

My poor son was sitting on the toilet in tears.  The poor guy had diarrhea and is vomiting at the same time!!!  As I entered the bathroom I was in shock to say the least! I stood there and was in complete denial at first, but the smell and sights quickly brought me back to reality!  I burst in to tears and was laughing all at the same time. It is hard to put into words all that I was feeling at this can only imagine..... This CANNOT be happening!!!!  This is Alesha Day, we have to go and pick up our little princess today and I have two VERY sick children and I feel horrible!  This is NOT how I had invisioned this day.

I proceed to clean up the disaster that is before me and try to get everybody situated the best I can so we can decide what we are going to do.  We were scheduled to pick Alesha up at 3:30 and at this point I can tell that this is no longer a possibility.  I ask Darin, to call my mom and ask for prayer.  He had to call, because there was no way that I was going to be able to carry on a conversation without bursting into tears the second I heard my mom's voice.  We then called, Tami, to ask how we go about rescheduling the pick-up day of Alesha.  She said it shouldn't be a problem, just call Ms. Roy and tell her the situation and we should be able to pick her up the following day.  If there was a problem, just call her back and she would help us arrange it.  Darin contacts Ms. Roy and explains everything and she said it was fine to come tomorrow instead.  This was a relief!  My main concern at this point was getting my boys well and finding out what they have.  I did not want to arrive at the orphanage with anything contagious.  While all this is taking place, Luke and Martin are continuing to vomit simultaneously as my diarrhea is relentless!  Thank GOD we had a room with 2 bathrooms!!

The boys and I tried to get some rest as Darin went down stairs to explain the situation to the front desk, cancel our driver for that day, reschedule a driver for the following day, etc.  He was told that they have an on-call doctor for the hotel so if we needed that service, to let them know.  Darin also walked to a small shop down the street to purchase multiple bottles of water as we needed to keep hydrated and he needed a break from all of the sickness.  I could not be more grateful that Darin did not get sick during this ordeal.  I cannot imagine how this would have turned out if we were all down for the count.

One word - MISERABLE!

Laying there in bed I was literally begging God to heal by children.  Martin's stomach hurt so bad that you couldn't even touch his stomach without him crying out in pain.  He just layed there and moaned in agony.  It was so heartbreaking.  While Darin was gone the housekeepers came to the room to bring more toilet paper, towels, change the bedding and see if we were okay.  The one housekeeper was so sweet as she was speaking to me Luke rushed to the bathroom to puke and as he heaved over the toilet she squatted down next to him and  rubbed his back. She told me call the doctor, call the doctor.  I said my husband will when he returns.  She was VERY concerned and felt really bad for our situation.  When Darin returned I told him we were taking a bigger turn for the worse and we need the doctor to come ASAP.  He called the front desk and got it all arranged.  The doctor could not arrive until 7:00 that evening.  The wait for his arrival was brutal.

When the doctor arrived he was so quiet and had a very calming personality.  He asked all the pertinent questions and then examined me, Luke, then Martin.  My diagnosis, acute gastroenteritis and dehydration, Martin, the same, and Luke, acute gastroenteritis and SEVERE dehydration.  He took one look at the color of Luke's tongue and he got very serious and said that he must drink LOTS of water the rest of the night or he will have to be hospitalized!  The problem was Luke was drinking water, but he was throwing up so much it wasn't doing much good.  He made it VERY clear to Luke that if he didn't continue to drink and do what we said he would have to get an IV at the hospital.  Luke, has had experience with an IV and that made him gag down the water even though he didn't want to.  When the doctor examined Martin, he touched his stomach and Martin flinched. The doctor asked if he was ticklish.  Martin, said no, it just hurts so bad you can't even lightly touch my stomach.  The doctor thought this was strange.  After the examines he wrote out a diagnosis on his letter head for each of us with a list of medicines that needed to be taken for the next 5 days.  We confirmed with him that we did not have anything contagious and that we would be fine to go to the orphanage to pick up Alesha the following day  He said that would be fine if we were feeling up to it.  We thanked him and paid him for his services, which was little of nothing for having a doctor come to you and examine 3 people.  Before he left he told Darin that the pharmacy was right around the corner and they would be open and have all the medicine that were listed. Darin followed the doctor downstairs and as Darin headed past the front desk he overheard the doctor giving a report to the front desk clerk, and said that "he was really concerned about the little one and that if he doesn't drink a lot he will end up in the hospital!"  He was definitely concerned about our Luke :-(

After a little bit Darin returned with all the medicines for his family.  Thankfully, medicine is cheap in India. 

This is the line up of the meds we had to take.  What you see if one to stop the vomiting, one to kill off the bad stuff making us sick, and another one to rebuild the good stuff to make us well.

I can tell you that these medicines were the WORST tasting medicines I have every had.  It was pure torture trying to get the boys to drink these without gagging and throwing up even more.  We had a long night ahead of us.  After the first couple doses we had a system of Darin holding their nose while they chugged the nasty liquid down as quickly as they could.  It seemed to help if they were not able to smell the stench of the meds.  You have to do what you have to do.

***Side note - We still do not know what caused us to get SO sick.  Our entire family ate the exact same thing  while in Kolkata and Darin never got sick.  Whatever it was appeared to affect the kids much worse than the adults.***  

While laying there reflecting on this horrific day we had I began to pray.  I was sure that we were supposed to bring the boys with us to India to bring their sister home.  One of my greatest fears of bringing them was that they would get sick and here we are sicker than anything.  Going to the orphanage together as a family of 4 and leaving as a family of 5 was to be the highlight of our trip.  Having the boys there to see and experience the city that their sister comes from, seeing the orphanage that their sister lived in until we could bring her home, meeting the Ayahs that took care of their sister, etc.  All of these things at this point might not happen.  The thought of not going to the orphanage tomorrow was more than I could handle.  I began to beg God for his healing touch upon my family and a restful night sleep.  I prayed that we would be well to go to the orphanage as a family of 4 to meet Alesha for the first time.  I began to thank God that we were in a safe place, in a hotel that had a doctor available to assist us, medicine readily available and for a cheap price, and a husband who could manage all these details and care for his sick wife and boys.  I was also thankful that I had budged that extra day in Kolkata.  That entire extra day was supposed to be spent bonding with Alesha before we put her on a plane back to Delhi, but now that day allowed us to get well enough to pick her up without having to rearrange our entire itinerary.  As I drifted off to sleep I was thankful that tomorrow was a new day, it couldn't be much worse than what we experienced today and I hoped that it would be a day filled with joy as we bring Alesha into our arms forever.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Tuesday, May 18, 2010 - Continued....- Kolkata - The Mother Teresa Home

After we regrouped we headed down to the lobby to meet your driver to take us to the Mother Teresa Home.  We were a bit concerned when we discovered that the car the driver took us to was not the car we were told we would have.  We had arranged for a Honda that was 1,500 rupees for 5 hours of time within a 50 meter radius.  We figured this would be plenty of time to accomplish the sites we wanted to see and the price fit our budget.  The problem was he took us to a Toyota Corolla, which was 3,000 rupees for the same amount of time.  Not wanting to get stuck with a bill we didn't budget for we asked him to double check with the desk and make sure everything was okay.  At this point we realized our driver spoke hardly any English and kept asking the receptionist for instructions and procedures. The car issue finally got settled and as we would be getting the 1,500 rupee price for the Toyota so we headed off to our first stop.  Before we left the hotel parking lot he was on his cell phone again asking more questions and getting additional directions.  I was thinking how could one not know where the Mother Teresa House is if you live and work in Kolkata.  She is known all around the world. .  This was going to be an adventure for sure.  As we drove along the crowded streets of Kolkata we took in additional sites of our daughter's birth country.  At last we stopped at what we thought was the home, but to find out our driver was asking for directions.  We continued on and stopped again for yet MORE directions.  We are very concerned at this point wondering what it up with this driver.  Finally, he makes a final stop at what we hope is the destination we requested.

A very sweet young lady meets us and talks with our driver briefly and she says to follow her.  We proceed through a gate that leads to a playground.  We are thinking this is really strange to see this at Mother Teresa's Home.  As we enter the gate we are bombarded by children.  They are EVERYWHERE!!  They swarmed us immediately.  My husband had a little girl run up to him and hold her arms up for him to hold her.  In a minute or so he had 2 children in his arms, I had one in my arms and several pulling at my skirt, while our boys are wide-eyed as the children are all around us talking to us a mile a minute, but we don't understand anything they are saying.  We ask the lady "Is this the Mother Teresa's home?", and she says no this is Mother Teresa's Children's Home.  Yep, our driver still didn't get us to the correct place. Although we were excited to see this home, we were not emotionally prepared to see what lay ahead.   The lady begins to tell us a bit about the home.  The children on the playground were out for playtime.  She explained that a lot of the older children attend school.  It was the middle of the afternoon.  There were probably 50 children playing in a dirt floored play area.  There were teeter-totters, a tire swing, and a large piece of play equipment that the workers placed two children per seat facing each other, it held about 30 kids at time and once loaded they pushed it around in a circle. The children seemed to really enjoy it.  My husband was down to one child in his arms and I still had the little girl who jumped in my arms.  This little girl had NO intentions of me letting her down.  I tried several times to put her down so I could hold some of the other children who were begging for me to pick them up, but as I got her close to the ground she would pull her legs up and cling even harder to my neck and body.  It was clear that this little one was going to be a permanent attachment for the remainder of our time in this area.  At this point my son, Martin, had a little one in his arms and our youngest son was not sure what to do as he was not big enough to hold any of the kids.  It was fun to watch my boys interact with these children.  The children wanted to show us every little thing in the playground.  They showed us the climbing vine, the sticks, the water spicket, the caged birds, etc.  It was explained that the children at this home were either dropped off at the gate or were brought back to the home after the worker's combed the streets for abandoned children.  It was truly heartbreaking to see the amount of children at this home.  One of the buildings housed  approx. 80 children.  The other building housed the special needs children ages newborn to approx age 12.  There were close to 200 children overall at the home.  As I stood there in the HOT, DUSTY, DIRTY, NOISY playground and saw how few workers there were to care for ALL of these children my heart broke. These women must be exhausted!  With every child fighting for attention it must be frustrating for them to know that it is impossible to meet the needs of all of these children with the shear number that stood before them.  It was a very overwhelming scene.

We were directed over to the building where the 80 children were housed.  The toddlers were having playtime. As we stood at door taking off our shoes we noticed they were kicking a ball around.  As we entered the room and I looked down as this little girl walked up to me.  I could have sworn it was Alesha's twin sister!!!! The site of her took my breathe away!  She had the same short hair cut, pixie face, teenie tiny body and huge eyes.  My first thought was, "What is Alesha doing here?!"  I picked this beautiful little girl up and it was funny she didn't want me hold her on my hip, she wanted to be held facing me.  As I turned her little body towards me she layed her head on my shoulder and began to suck her 2 fingers just like we had seen Alesha do in previous photos.  It was INSANE how much this little girl reminded me of my daughter.  It was almost like a mini preview of what tomorrow was going to be like. My emotions were running at top speeds at this point.  Our boys kicked balls around with the children and pushed them on their little bikes, and carried the little ones all around.  It was fun to see them interacting so well.  The building was quite dark and had several levels. The top level had the newborns and we were not allowed access.  The toddlers were on the other level and I assume the school children who were attending school at the time were on the bottom level.  After much play time, I put down my daughter's twin sister :-) and headed over to the other building.

We asked if any of the children get adopted and she said that a lot of the younger children are adopted, but they have a huge number of special needs children they continue to provide care for.  As we entered the second building we were taken to the room with infants (1 year and under).  There were several workers on the floor playing with toys and feeding the children.  It was such a small area and so much commotion..  There were rows of cribs to our right so I walked along looking at these precious little babies.  Some of them were so frail.  There was a baby probably 2 months old and she was skin and bones.  She was just laying there fast asleep with a small cloth where a diaper would be.  She was the most frail little baby I had ever seen!  Truly heartbreaking.  I was able to get some smiles from some of the babies and interact with them a little bit.  There were some babies with some with significant special needs and at the far end of the aisle of cribs there was a caregiver giving breathing treatments to several children.  It was really hot and crowded as additional tourists arrived and were trying to make their way through the small quarters to see all the children.  I just wanted to scoop them all up and take them home.  My heart broke for these workers as trying to meet the basic needs of all these tiny children all the while dealing with the overwhelming heat.

We then went up two flights of stairs to an area where the older children were residing.  As we entered we saw several children strapped to chairs as their disabilities would not allow them to sit up on their own, we saw several workers changing out beds, a group of children gathered on a large rug doing various things, while there was also a small room off to the left where a class seemed to be taking place.  To take in all of this a one glance was overwhelming to say the least.  We stood there for several minutes before we began to ask some questions to gain some insight.

A little boy on the large carpet was on his back in a fetal position and was rocking from side to side over and over again.  We asked if he was okay and she explained that this is how he comforts himself, because he has never had anybody hold and love him.  This was the most heartbreaking thing we had heard all day.  My husband had a very difficult time with this and walked to a small bench in the corner of the room and began to weep. Our boys were taking in all these sites and asking me all kinds of questions that I didn't have answers for.  All this was going on while I was trying to process what I just heard.  I was called into the small room that was having a class.  As we entered all the children were seated around a large table and their instructor said they were all so excited to see my boys.  They all reached out their hands for us to shake. (they especially wanted to shake my boys hands)  There were smiles and giggles all around the room.  They were so excited to have visitors, especially children.  So many things happened in such a short amount of time it was so difficult for me to process everything and keep it together emotionally.  We decided it was time to go as we still wanted to see the Mother Teresa home before it closed.  Our sweet guide took us out to the main entrance and I explained to her that our driver had no idea how to get to Mother Teresa's home and could she help him with directions.  She was so sweet and chatted with him and I felt a bit more comfortable knowing that our chances of arriving at our original destination was actually tangible at this point. We said our goodbyes and thanked our guide for her service and love for the children and for her time.  She was very gracious and sent us on our way.  We piled into the car and headed out.

After a short drive we ACTUALLY arrive at our original destination the Mother Teresa Home.  Our driver says he will wait for us (at this point I don't trust this guy one bit!). We make our way down a small sidewalk, following a few people ahead of us, as we have no clue where to go.  The home is very small, peaceful, and extremely quiet.  People are quietly making their way through a room (a museum of sorts) that has a display of Mother Teresa's belongings and large boards that explain her ministry through the years.  It was fascinating to read of all the things this one women accomplished in her life. What an inspiration!  We traveled up a small set of stairs to peer into Mother Teresa's bedroom.  There was a bed, a desk with a chair and a couple belongings.  It was as simple as it gets.  Exactly what you expect from a women who gave everything she had to those in need.  The last stop was the area where her tomb was.  There were numerous people praying, chanting, and gazing upon the tomb.  The only photo we were allowed to take was in this room.  I love what it says on top of her tomb.  "Love Until It Hurts"  What a powerful statement.  We were able to take some dried flowers with us and a set of praying hands for each of us.  I am thankful I have these mementos and I can share them with Alesha as she grows.  How wonderful for our daughter to have such an amazing person who cared about so many people by doing mighty work in the city that she was born in.  The boys and I had studied a lot about India and Mother Teresa in homeschool prior to our trip so it was exciting for them to see in real life all that we had been studying about.  I pray that this will have an impact on their lives for years to come.

While we were stopped after exiting the gate of the home, a lady came running from the gate and asked if we wanted to give a donation for milk for the babies at the Children's Home.  After just seeing all these precious faces, we decide that yes, we would like to do this.  My husband went with the lady and make the donation while we waited with our driver in the air conditioned car. The boys were exhausted at this point and extremely HOT.  After a few minutes our insane driver decides that he was going to go and check on my husband and leaves me with my two boys in the back of the car with the car running and the doors unlocked!!!!!  This happened so quickly I didn't even have a chance to say anything!  As he leaves he says something to two guys that are standing nearby and they keep looking at us in the car.  Can you believe this is happening?!!!  I am gripped by FEAR!  My mind starts running a mile a minute.  I CANNOT believe I am sitting in a running car with the doors unlocked in the crowded streets of a foreign country with people passing by the car every second.  The boys begin to panic and I try to stay calm, cool and collected...YAY, right, VERY hard to do!  I begin to pray for protection as I don't know what else to do.  How could this guy leave me and my kids here alone?  I am looking around playing out different scenarios in my head. What if somebody jumps into the car?  I will just jump over the seat and pull the keys out of the ignition before he gets fully into the driver's seat.  I don't think we will have enough time to get us all out of the car before they would drive away.I could pull the keys right now, but we would probably suffocate from the heat.  I don't think it would be safe to exit the car with two kids, at least I have some protection inside the car.    Just as my nerves are about shot my husband and the driver arrive.  My husband is furious that the driver left us alone in the car. At this point I told Darin I just wanted to get back to the hotel.  We originally were going to go to a restaurant that was recommended by the hotel for dinner, but after what this driver put us through and what we had seen that day I just wanted to go to the hotel.  We told the driver to take us back to the hotel. He says "You want to go to the airport?".  NOOOOOOOO!  He is really freaking me out.  I am on the verge of tears. This day did not turn out how I thought it would and my emotional tank had exploded by all the sites I have seen and knowing that tomorrow I will be meeting my baby girl for the first time.  We tell the driver to go to Kenilworth Hotel!  We begin driving and the next thing I know he drops us off at the front door of the restaurant we had mentioned to him prior to leaving the hotel.   At this point there is no communicating with this guy.  He doesn't understand anything we are saying and we are NOT getting through to this guy.

We walk into the Peter Cat Restaurant and are greeted by very nice people. The airconditioning felt so refreshing after being in the heat all day.  They seat us in a booth towards the back of the restaurant.  Before the waiter arrives our driver is standing at our table.  He starts talking to us and from what we can gather he is saying he has to park down the street and that he will meet us when we are finished.  I made sure the best I could that we was going to WAIT for us and NOT leave us.  He says yes.....oh God, please don't let him leave us stranded at a restaurant in the middle of Kolkata!.  We are served the most delicious butter chicken, rice, naan, and bottled water.  It tasted so good after such a hectic day.

During our meal, the owner of the restaurant comes to our table and begins talking with us.  He has traveled to the states many times and speaks English very well.  We took the opportunity to ask him if it is customary to tip a hotel driver?  We knew you were supposed to trip drivers 10%, but if they came with the hotel were we supposed to.  Since our driver was horrible and scared the wee out of us we were not wanting to tip the guy (we didn't tell the owner this)!  He says that no, you are not expected to tip the drivers that are associated with the hotel, but if you would like to that is fine.  We then talked about his restaurants and how delicious the food was, we pay our bill and try to decide what to do with our transportation issue.  We go out the front door of the restaurant and what do you know.....our driver is NO where to be found.We explain to the owner that the driver said that he was going to park and wait for us down the street and we now think we are supposed to meet him there since the car is not outside the restaurant.  By this time it is pitch black outside and we are supposed to walk with our two young boys down dark alleys to a car that we HOPE is there waiting for us.  The owner says "no problem" with the friendly head bob that only the Indians can do so well.  He smiles and says "I will walk you down to your car."  What a relief!  I could not have been for thankful for his compassion and friendliness!  The walk to the car was very LONG!  I would say at least 3-4 blocks away.  The owner of the restaurant was talking to us about different things along the way and keeping a close eye on us making sure were were right behind him.  My son, Luke, was very uncomfortable and scared.  Finally, our CRAZY driver comes running up and hustles us to his car.  The owner says a few words to him and tells us goodbye.  We tell him how thankful we are that he took the time to walk us to our car.  I cannot imagine an owner of a restaurant in the USA doing the same thing for us.  This man was a God send in our time of need.

At this point we tell the driver to please take us to the  Kenilworth Hotel, he says, "yay, yay, yay" and begins driving.  Then he says "You go to airport? and we say NO,  KENILWORTH HOTEL!!!!!!  At last we are in the hotel parking lot.  I could not get us out of that car FAST enough.  As I rush into the hotel with the boys, the driver stops my husband and demands a tip!  WOW! my husband just hands him a dollar to make him leave us alone and walks away.  This driver has the nerve to tell my husband he wants another dollar!  My husband walks away.  The driver follows us into the hotel to take care of his paperwork with the front desk then follows us to the elevator and asks my husband again for a tip.  My husband is furious and just wants to drop this guy like a bad habit and hands him another dollar and we head up stairs exhausted!

After we calm down a bit we go to the front desk to arrange our driver for the next day to the orphanage.  We said that we did not want the driver we had today and would like a different driver for tomorrow. They had a puzzled look on their face and we told them that he took us to the wrong locations all day, made us very nervous, and asked for a tip.  They were NOT pleased and apologized.  They said they would have a different driver arranged for tomorrow.  There was NO WAY that I was going to have that crazy person taking us to meet our daughter for the first time and him screwing the whole thing up!  What a relief to know we would have somebody different at the start of a new day.  After scheduling everything we went back up stairs to get our things together for tomorrow's trip to the orphanage.  There was a knock at the door and a hotel staff person was standing there with our $2 in hand and said they were VERY sorry and that she rebuked the driver and demanded our money back.  My guess is that this driver is not associated with the Kenilworth Hotel any longer.

What a day!  Tomorrow is Alesha day and I couldn't come fast enough!

Monday, March 21, 2011

Tuesday, May 18, 2010 - Kolkata - arrival and park

We began the day super early!  We had a 6:25 a.m. flight out of Delhi to Kolkata.  Uma, was flying out on business the same morning so it worked out well for us all to go to the airport together.  What a whirwind!  The lines were huge!  As we waited patiently so get through the first line of the ticketing counter we noticed the time was ticking by rapidly and the line to get through security was extremely long!  My heart started racing a bit as I wasn't sure we would catch our flight to Kolkata.  Uma, explained that in India they have a list of all passengers on the flights and the plane will not leave unless everybody is accounted for.  They began making overhead calls for people on the flight we were taking to move ahead through security.  I remembered then that the men and women go through different check points so I was sorting out passports and bags to get us all through security.  We then scrambled to make sure we didn't forget anything and rushed to find our departure gate.  As we were running we heard the last call for our flight come over the loud speaker.  The man at the departure gate hurried us to a shuttle that only had us and one other person on it as it traveled swiftly to the airplane that was waiting for us.  As we stepped onto the plane a sigh of relief came upon me as I knew we were now on our way to Kolkata and one step closer to our baby girl.  I told Darin that I felt like I was going to be induced like I was with the birth of our first son.  The anticipation of it all and knowing we were going to meet soon.  On the 19th we will meet our daughter and our lives will be changed forever and life as we know it will be a wonderful way.

The flight was short and the service was AMAZING!  King Fisher does a fantastic job.  Everybody was so friendly and the food was very good, too.  We checked with our friend about eating the food and he said it was safe and not to worry.  The newspaper caught my attention as the headline read Record Breaking Temperatures in Delhi.  Boy did I know what they were talking about.  On Monday the day before we left it was 115 degrees.  The paper said that the last 2 days in Delhi had record breaking temperatures and they were the highest temperatures on record for the last 8 years.  I had never in my life experienced heat to this level.  The building, cement, everything just radiated heat not to mention the sun just blaring down on you.  It felt as though you were standing in a furnace!  As the plane approached Kolkata a flood of emotions filled me.  Tomorrow we will meet our little girl for the first time.  I am actually in the birth city of my baby girl.  The reality was really beginning to sink in that the next flight I will be on we will be a family of 5!!

As we exited the plane and walked to the OVERCROWDED shuttle bus I was surprised at how muggy it was compared to Delhi.  Delhi, felt more like you were walking around in a furnace, as Kolkata, felt more like a sauna!  When we arrived to the terminal we were unsure of where to go.  It was awkward walking around and seeing security all over with VERY large guns.  Our boys were very impressed with the size of the guns.  We had a bit of a problem at this point, because there was an issue with the Alesha's return tickets back home.  We were told in Delhi to get that taken care of BEFORE we left the airport in Kolkata. The problem was the guard, who was holding an extremely large machine gun, would not let us into the area where we needed to conduct this business.  We tried to explain the best we could, but to no avail.  Not wanting to argue with this man or his gun we decided we just needed to find our driver and deal with it later.  As we exited the terminal there was a sea of people, many holding up signs.  We were told our hotel would send a driver to pick us up and to look for him holding a sign with our name on it. We walked slowly through the crowd scanning every sign for our name. Even though we ALL scanned the signs we didn't see our name!!!  YIKES, I started to panic.  My husband said, don't worry, you stay here with the boys (it was SO difficult to move about with the kids and all the luggage), and I will go and look again.  Thankfully, he returned with our driver.  He had been holding a sign that had our name on it, but it was totally spelled wrong.  My husband just made a guess and approached the driver and thankfully he was correct!  We asked for the sign as a memory, but with the language barrier we never obtained it. :-(

Safely in the car with all our baggage our driver proceeded to drive us to our hotel.  As we drove along I noticed such a difference in the landscape compared to the city of Delhi. There were a lot of open fields, greenery, and more of an "old traditional" look to the city.  We were at last in the city of our daughter.

Upon our arrival at the Kenilworth Hotel our jaws dropped at how nice it was.  We are not ones that would typically stay in a hotel of this calibier, but with not being familiar with the surroundings and having our children with us we wanted to stay in a place that came highly recommeneded.  It did not disappoint.  The staff was super freindly and it was really beautiful.  At last we arrived in what would be our new home for a couple of days.

This is a view from our balcony looking down into the hotel parking lot . What is interesting is that the cars go this direction for about half the day and then the traffic changes direction the other half of the day.  It is really crazy how traffic works here in India.  One of our drivers said you really need to know your way around or you can get in trouble in  a hurry.
We really wanted to take in some of the sights of Kolkata before we picked our daughter up so we started making some plans.  We were disappointed to find out the Naheem, the driver that came highly recommended had left on vacation the day before we arrived. Bummer!  So we arranged for a car later that afternoon and were off.  Our first stop was a local park not too far way from the hotel.  We decided that we would walk to this stop so we could take in the some of the city.  It was really hot, but we decided to go anyways so we didn't miss the opportunity as we also wanted to go to the  Mother Teresa Home and that would be later in the afternoon.

Our walk to the park was much longer than we had originally thought. As we made our way among the crowded sidewalks, walking past the various food carts, hearing all the horn honking, we were quickly overwhelmed with the poverty that surrounded us.  A sadness came over me as I looked upon small children with little to no clothing and families sleeping on the sidewalk.  This level of poverty is difficult to comprehend when we come from such an affluent country.  The reality is, is that so much of the world lives below the poverty line. What is amazes me about India is how you can see extreme poverty and extreme wealth all at the same time quite often within looking distance.  I am always taken back by the sheer beauty of India even amidst the poverty.  The colors, smells, beautiful faces of the people, scenery, etc.

Our boys kept very close as we made our way to the park.  As we were approaching the park we were approached by a very young mother with her son.  She asked if we had any food for her and her baby.  We had packed along with us multiple baggies full of dried banana chips and mixed nuts, so that we would have something to give to people when this situation arose.  This is something we learned on our 2008 mission trip.  It is so difficult to just walk by these people and not do anything and giving money is an ABSOLUTE NO as you will be mobbed!  Giving food was a great way to not feel like we were ignoring the great need that was facing us and knowing that the food was helping in a small way.  What was different about this encounter was that she asked us to take a photo of her and her son.  We were honored to do so and it was great to see a such a sincere smile on the mom's face. She thanked us repeatedly as we continued on.

We finally made our way to the final stretch of sidewalk leading to the main gate of the park.  As we looked upon the wall surrounding the park we noticed something sticking up out of the concrete.  Upon closer evaluation we found nails, spikes, and shards of glass sticking up.  This was their way of keeping people from jumping the wall into the park instead of using the main gate.  It seemed like a good deterent to us.  We entered the main gate and began to take a small tour of the park.  It was getting REALLY hot and we had run out of water.  The park was fairly crowded with people having picnics, couples strolling about, people reading, etc.  It was quite beautiful to see all the flowers in bloom, the lush green grass, and the different elements the park had. We didn't stay long and headed back to the hotel to rehydrate and cool down before our next adventure.

The wall surrounding the park

Entrance to the park

We thought this was the park at first, wrong...much further to go

Fun garbage can around the park


One of the beautiful trees.

A small pavilion.  The pillars helped us stand up in the sweltering heat LOL!


Sunday, March 20, 2011

Monday, May 17, 2010

Today we were able to make a trip to the city of Muneer.  Darin, had been able to go to this city with a few team members of our missions team when we were there in 2008, but I stayed in Shah Abad with the rest of the team.  I am excited to see the school that is there and the beautiful children I heard about in 2008.  As Uma, and his children and our family loaded into their vehicle for the day we realized we had a full day ahead of us and the heat had not let up!  Also, on the agenda is to stop by the hotel that Gidget and Shane are staying at in Delhi on our way back so we can meet precious Maiya.  I am so excited!  It is amazing how God answered our prayer to be able to meet in India, even if it will be for a VERY short visit.  It is funny how we both live in the USA, but actually meet face to face half way around the world!.

The drive to Muneer was quite long and crazy as usual.  The traffic here NEVER ceases to AMAZE me.  It is like complete chaos, but carried out in a fine dance of sorts.  I am always taken back by seeing no lanes on the streets, people, cows, dogs, bikes, motorcyles (with multiple people on them WITHOUT helmets), rickshaws, taxis, cars, etc.  ALL on the same road moving in all directions.  Our family could not be more grateful for being driven around India by a trusted friend, who makes it look so EASY!

It is shocking the size of the loads these men pedal around.

We had quite the fun time listening to Toby Mac and dancing about to pass the time.  After much driving we finally arrived at the, Grace Academy School, located in the slum area of Muneer.  As we unloaded from the vehicle we were BLASTED with the intense heat of the day.  We made our way into the school.  This was eye opening for our boys I am sure, as it is not your typical school room from back home.  We watched as the teachers tried to conduct their classes as a family of white people entered the room.  We were told that they do not see very many white skinned people, so we were let's just say a MAJOR distraction!  We didn't say long, but took a few photos and waved and said hello to all the children.  
Our friend and his daughter talking with the children

I like how this photo captures the classroom, children, the beautiful dress that the women wear (even when in the slums), and one of the water pumps that was installed as part of our previous missions trip.

As we left the first set of classrooms we took a walk through the slums.  One thing I noticed was that one of the men who met us there kept a very close eye on our boys.  In fact he held Luke's wrist (not hand) as we walked about the slums.  When I noticed he wasn't holding Luke's hand and only his wrist I began to look about and saw this is very common in India.  I didn't get a chance to ask why they do that, but something I made note of.  As we walked through the slum area of where the children we just saw live, their reality became VERY clear, VERY quickly as we observed raw sewage laying on the ground, muddy roads that are washed away and flooded when the rain comes, to children running around with little to no clothes on, very small children packing around thier younger siblings, raw meat hanging from hooks in little shops, etc.  It is explained to us that education is paramont in these areas in order to break the cycle of poverty.  The faces of these beautiful children will have a lasting impression on my heart and mind.  Some looked in shock and awe at these white people who walked through their community, some were elated with excitement, some scared and very on guard.  How I wish we had more time to just interact and play with the children and soak up a day in the life of these beautiful people.

A common site to see children unattended. 

Another water pump site.  

This little girl was NOT comfortable with the camera or the color of our skin.

The glorious site of clean and drinkable water.  Something a couple years ago they did not have readily available in their community.

The holding of the wrist as I described above.

Who doesn't quite fit into this photo?  :-)

Not something you see everyday back home

Keeping a safe distance from us.  These boys were extremely uneasy with us.

Excited to have their photo taken.

Another water pump.


When my husband took this photo he was hoping to get a bit closer to capture their faces better, but as soon as he stepped forward this older sibling took off running!  She didn't know who we were and her protective instinct kicked in to protect herself and her baby sister.

As we made our way back out of the slums we stopped at the larger building that held the older grade level school rooms.  Many of the children and teachers stayed after the time they usually go home, because they knew we were coming.  What a sacrafice as it was SO hot (115 degrees that day) and they probably wanted to get out of their sweltering hot classrooms.  We were greeted by the staff who escorted us to a small room that had a couple of computers in it.  We were served soda and cookies. The people of India are SO hospitable, regardless of where you are in India.  The children were so excited to see us and waved and said hello as we popped our heads into each classroom.  We took a little stroll on top of the roof and then headed back to our vehicle.  The kids were so giggly and excited to follow us back to our car as Darin took their photos.  So many beautiful faces were captured that day by my husband.

Overall shot of the school yard.
Up on the roof getting another view

Carriages the horses or cows pull around
 I have to say that when we got settled into the car, I thought I was going to pass out!  The car had been sitting in the blazing sun for several hours and it was like a pressure cooker.  Even though we had air conditioning, you wouldn't have know it.  We continued our drive down the very dusty and bumpy roads on our way back to Delhi.  I would say that this was the hottest I had been so far this trip as sweat literally dripped off my entire body.  I didn't feel so bad as Uma's little girl who was sitting next to me was sweating just as much as me :-)  At one point when the dust died down a bit I asked for the window to be rolled down as I was getting so light headed and it was hard to breathe. I so desperately needed to feel the movement of air regardless of how scorching hot or dusty it was.  On the drive back  I saw my first mini accident.  An auto rickshaw hit a concrete piling.  It caused quite the traffic jam, as if it wasn't already congested enough :-).

On our way to grab a late lunch at a mini Birista before we hooked up with Gidget,  we drove by the India Gate so we could say we saw it.  Due to the heat nobody was around and we didn't get out of the car..

After lunch we arrived at the hotel that Gidget was staying at.  WOW!, what a fancy place.  It is actually a miracle that we actually connected, because Gidget had called me to tell me she didn't think it would work out, but the number she called was my home number in Oregon.  We only had our cell phone for emergency purposes and she didn't have that number.  We were blessed enough to meet their precious Maiya before they left to go to the embassy doctor.  It was so wonderful to see Maiya, this little girl who I had been praying for and to meet her parents for the first time.  After we left our friend Uma, said that hadn't realized that we had never met before, he just thought we were going to be able to visit in India as old friends :-)

Precious, Maiya

Me, Gidget, and precious Maiya
With a very long day under our belts we headed back home (Uma's house) to eat dinner and pack our bags for our trip to Kolkata bright and early the next morning.  I am a bit nervous, anxious, and excited about what tomorrow will hold.  Also, knowing that we will be on our "own" as Uma will not be with us is a bit overwhelming!  I am thrilled to know that tomorrow I will finally be in our daughter's birth country.

Before bed tonight, Uma and his wife, Yaman, presented us with the most beautiful gift for our baby girl. I had mentioned on a previous shopping trip that I would love to buy, Alesha, a traditional set of jewelry before we left India.  To my surprise they had purchased exactly what I had in mind for her. The set is absolutely beautiful, and I can't wait to put it on her.
There are 2 bracelets, 2 anklets, and one necklace.  Such a beautiful and special gift that will be treasured for years to come.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Third day in India- May 16th

Our family in front of the church. 
Today was a full day of activity. We began the morning with a time of worship at Delhi Bible Fellowship. The message was fantastic and the people were so friendly. It was so nice to hear God's word spoken and hear voices of praise while in a foreign country. We had visited this church a couple of times when we were here in 2008. We ran into one of the translators that we had on our mission trip in 2008. It was fun to see another familiar face when we are on the other side of the world. I was also able to connect with a lady named, Kate, who is from Australia and has lived in India for the past 7 years. She works with Women of Zakhira. Her mission work is seeking to empower a group of women from Zakhira slum, North India, who are living in poverty. The profits from the jewelry and greeting cards that the women make goes towards the education of a number of their children, the ongoing tuition of several young women in the program as well as expanding their personal income by 25%. The cards and jewelry are absolutely beautiful and I was able to purchase some items from Kate after the church service.

After church we went to see a train museum. We took the miniature train they have that goes around the entire park. They also have a very old steam train (engine and one passenger car) that we rode on as well. That was one jerky, bumpy ride! This train was originally pulled by mules). We then walked around the park so the kids could climb in and out of probably 50 different train cars. We entered the enclosed part of the museum, which was REFRESHING after walking around in 110 DEGREES for over an hour. We originally thought it would have been fun to take a train ride during our trip to India. I teased Darin that our ride on the miniature train was that very ride......not exactly what he had in mind :-)

Aaliyah, Luke, Martin and Aryan on the Joy Express ready for the tour of the park.

The old stream train
The ride was SO jerky and we got bounced around so much  we all burst out in laughter.
I found this funny.  OSHA is not present in India like in the USA.  This guy is welding with no protective gear except for a piece of plastic that he is holding in his other hand.  I don't think the ladder would pass our standards either.  I am sure things get done much quicker without all the regulations we have here in the states.

It was fun for the kids to be able to climb around in the trains and mess with all the equipment.

The heat had taken its toll.  We decided to go inside the air conditioned  museum for a tour and cool down a bit.

We had decided before we left the states that we wanted to visit the Zaffran Restaurant in Delhi if at all possible. This is the restaurant located in the Palace Heights hotel that we stayed at in 2008. After the train museum it was time for lunch so we seized the opportunity to go to Zaffran. The Indian food at this restaurant is by far the best Indian food I have had in any restaurant I have been in state side. The favorite today was butter chicken, rice and naan. There were some other items we tried, but I can't remember the names of them. What a blessing it is that our boys love Indian food. Our memories of how wonderful the food was back in 2008 was spot on. The food was fantastic.

I always loved this mural in the entrance to the restaurant.
Uma and his wife, Yaman, explained to us that today 30,000 people will be married in India. It is the perfect day to get married according to how stars, moon, etc all line up. We saw several decorated cars driving around town, white horse drawn carriages, and tonight I am hearing a lot of fireworks going off in the distance. It is shocking that that many people will be sharing an anniversary!

It is funny today my emotions were really up and down. I think that being SO close to meeting Alesha and seeing all the beautiful Indian babies all around me that have my a bit emotional. Also, watching my boys interact with Uma and Yaman's little girl has been so fun to see. It is like seeing what my life will look like in just a few days. Two white boys with their beautiful brown skinned sister. Uma and Yaman's children are so much fun. Their son and my boys have really hit it off. They have been playing video games, singing together, being goofy, and tonight he taught my boys how to play cricket. It has been really fun to watch them interact with each other. It is like they are old friends. Uma and Yaman's little girl is absolutely beautiful and has lots of energy. She is not having a problem keeping up with these three busy boys. The boys have already sent each other friend requests on Facebook so they can keep in touch when they get home. We have really enjoyed staying with our friends and have been extremely blessed by their hospitality and kindness. Words cannot express how grateful we are.

Shot from the balcony of our friend's apartment.  What a joy to see all the boys playing together even though they had some language barriers.
Getting some instructions from Aryan.

I talked with Gidget this evening. She is doing great. Maiya is babbling, giggling, and is such a happy girl. She will fly into Delhi tomorrow morning and my family has plans to meet up with her tomorrow afternoon at the Hyatt hotel. It will be fun to finally meet her face to face and see her precious little Maiya. Funny to think that we come half way around the world to meet each other. It looks like God has answered our prayers of being able to meet each other in India.

Well everybody is asleep and I just had to retype the last 3 paragraphs, because I lost the connection before I saved it. I am excited to be flying to Kolkata on Tuesday morning. Alesha day will be May 19th. I am still in shock that I will finally have my baby girl in my arms in just a few short days. This is truly and amazing journey.