Monday, October 24, 2011

Bringing our girl home! We made it...barely.

Our second trip to the Embassy went smoothly and we were giddy as we headed 'home' to pack up our things and prepare for our long day back across the globe.

I may be the slightly over-preparing type as I really did spend hours re-packing our bags.  We had to make sure that our souvenirs made it back safely and now that we actually had Julia with us, we could rearrange what clothing she could wear on the plane (for both fit and comfort) and I re-evaluated our carry-ons perhaps a million times.  It actually worked out very nicely as we'd packed an extra bag to be Julia's carry-on to fill with snacks and toys and such, so our final bags wound up lighter than when we came out!

We packed until logic took over and we forced ourselves to try and get some sleep.  We put Julia to bed and then ourselves.  We set the alarms for 2:00 a.m. and tossed and turned with our minds racing about what the flights would be like and how happy we were to be seeing Lily so soon.

Eventually, we fell asleep and 2:00 a.m. made it's appearance sooner than our bodies had hoped.  We slugged around the apartment and got moving.  Poor Julia felt the same way as there was about 20 minutes that it was all she could do to keep her eyes from closing again. 

Our ride came at 3:00 a.m. and we piled everything into the car.  After some final goodbyes with our driver, we got everything checked in.  It felt nice to be down to just backpacks and we headed up to security.  After security went quickly, we headed to Passport Control.  That's where we hit our first bump in the road.

When we handed over our passports and boarding passes, the guy in the booth looked at ours and then looked at hers.  He flipped through quickly and then asked for documents.  This was news to us, so we had no idea what documents he wanted to see.  We'd seen some minors traveling that had gone through the line ahead of us that had also presented their birth certificates.  Thinking that is what he wanted, I dug through our paperwork (glad we kept it all with us) and handed it to him.  Still not what he was looking for.  I put my whole folder on the counter and got out the 'important documents' sleeve and handed the whole thing to him.  He flipped through the documents and apparently found a couple that he thought had potential.  He put up his finger and signaled for us to wait a minute.  That's when he picked up the phone and that's the point I started to panic.  After flipping through our things a few more times, he grabbed the whole folder while still on the phone and still was not satisfied.  When he hung up, he said to 'wait a minute over here' and motioned for us to basically get out of the way.  So that's what we did.  We waited.  And waited.  And waited.

There were many more times of him making phone calls between helping other travelers and occasionally sifting through our things a bit more, but still no answers and no help.  Each time he hung up the phone with no progress, I became more worried.  "This is our speed bump.  Something was going to slow us down and now it's going to come at the very last minute."  We had no idea what was wrong, nor what we could do at 4:00 am to fix even if we had.  My emotions jumped between panic that we wouldn't be able to leave, wanting to cry because I was frustrated and getting livid each time he had a phone call that still seemed to not help the situation at all.  FINALLY someone came over to help.  In fact, 3 someones had to come help.  With no explanation, they stamped all three passports and we were on our way.  At this point, we had about ten minutes to book it to our gate.  When we got there, they were on last call for our flight but at least we hadn't missed it.  We boarded the bus with the other 5 or 6 late arrivals for our flight and made it just in time.

Much like she did with the car, Julia was mostly just in awe of the plane and what was happening around her for most of the flight.  She did like her little breakfast.

She did throw one small tantrum when Robert messed with her seat belt as I think she panicked a bit.  We smoothed her over with some treats and luckily, it ended quickly. 

After two hours, we were in Frankfurt.  We again made it through security just fine and passport control went much more smoothly this time.  She thought it was pretty great to ride the tram to the other side of the airport.

We even made it through the giant airport with some time to kill and our happy girl was entertained with a single piece of paper.
 When the started setting up our flight at the desk, Robert went over and asked if we'd be able to be put on a waiting list for a seat rearrangement as our tickets had to be booked with 2 of us sitting together and 1 sitting behind.  We lucked out and they were able to change it right then and there and get all 3 of us together.  It wouldn't have been terrible if they wouldn't have been able to do it, but it was sure nice that it worked out since this was going to be the long leg of the trip and we'd be airborne for 11 hours.

Julia was an absolute trooper on the flight!  We flipped up the armrests between the three seats and it was enough room that she could lay down and be comfortable.  She did spend most of the time laying down, with the exception of eating her lunch, which she was thrilled with again, and she even managed to sleep for a few hours!

It was interesting to track our flight as when we flew from Dulles in Washington D.C., we went directly east.  However, when flying home from Frankfurt to Seattle, we went up and over and actually flew over Greenland.
(You'll note that the sun is keeping up with us.  We lost our time difference so technically, our October 22nd lasted 33 hours for us.)

When we got to Seattle, things got a bit interesting again.  They had passed out customers and passport forms on the plane and I had all of her Immigrant Visa paperwork in hand.  We filed off the plane and were happy to walk up to a passport control desk with no line.  He looked at our stuff and sent us over to an officer at a corner desk not far away.  We waited in line behind four people and the officer took our stuff, put it in a mail sorters along with some other large envelopes and told us to take a seat.  We sat and waited and tried to figure out what exactly was going to happen with our paperwork.  We watched him called up person after person and do the quick issue things.  No one else was around and there was no real attempt by the officer to process any of the items in the mail sorter.  He gradually had a break in the line of people and grabbed one of the envelopes (not ours) and sorted through it.  By this time, an airport worker had come to tell us that our luggage would be off to the side by the carousel it had spun on for an hour.

We nervously talked about a back up plan if we missed this flight.  Robert was ready to rent a car and drive and my mind kept trying to think of positives that maybe we could fly directly to Salt Lake instead of the San Francisco layover if this plane left without us.  One other guy came over to work at the counter and he grabbed the paperwork of the other person that had been waiting longer than us.  Apparently, the rest of the officers all freed up shortly thereafter and suddenly there was plenty of help available.  Another officer came up and grabbed our file.  He called us up to the the counter to tell us he was going to call and verify our documents and he disappeared.  We again started watching the clock closely...

When he re-appeared, we grabbed our stuff and ran again.  We were incredibly happy that there was no line at customs and they checked our ticket and got us through quickly.  We had mastered the security check at this point and got through there in no time.  We took two trains over to the satellite terminal and made it to our gate as they were starting to call passengers to board.  Again, we lucked out and were able to turn our 3 random seats into 3 seats next to each other and this time they did it without us even asking!

The flight into San Francisco was smooth and the scenery was great coming into the airport. 

 To top it off, we had an early arrival that gave us an extra 20 minutes on our layover and allowed us some time to freshen up a bit in the bathroom before we left for Salt Lake.

On the last leg of the flight and in fresh clothes, Julia was still being an absolute trooper.  This time we opted for toys and not treats as our diversion.

When we touched ground in Salt Lake, we were so excited we were practically running for the baggage claim--which was hilarious and so much fun for a little girl that had been in an airplane for 17 of the last 22 hours!  And then it happened--we were home.  With our family.

We had a wonderful greeting of friends and family at the airport and it made it that much more special.  It was a nice distraction as I was about in tears at seeing Lily again and just the emotion of the whole journey catching up to me.  It was a perfect way to bring home our perfect girl!
We stayed for a bit to do some introductions and made our way home.  Julia was just a gem riding in a car seat for the first time and was such a good sport for a little girl that had bags under her eyes for over a day and Lily could not have been happier to have her family all together!  We got home to a house that was at least five times cleaner than how we left it and a stocked fridge and cupboard (thanks so much to my mom and to Joanna!!!!!)  We were just about crashed as soon as we landed on the couch, so we changed into pajamas and said one final goodbye to Joanna before she left for Canada again. 
It was an awesome way to wrap up the night, with Julia in the arms of the girl who'd helped us find her in the first place.  It was so special to us for Joanna to have been her prayer warrior before we even knew her and to walk along every step of the journey alongside us, up to the very last moment of her first night at home. 

Who would have thought that after 4 1/2 years of her waiting in an orphanage that her family's journey to her would culminate in a crazy 4 1/2 month whirlwind across the world.  And after 6 years of being measured by her differences and thought to be 'less', she would find a family that thinks in measurements of potential and knows beyond a doubt that she is PERFECT exactly how she is. 


  1. Carli and Robert, This post made me cry. I am so awed at how God helped you through this journey. Thrilled that you were able to navigate through the hiccups of this last bit of it, and so honored that you chose my daughter to be part of your story. Blessings and hugs. Yes, you have a perfect family.

  2. I LOVE your story!!!! I am so excited you guys are home!!!! I am so sad that I couldn't meet you at the airport, but my daughter needed her mama.... {{hugs}} We need to get together when life settles down some for you.


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