Sasha and I checked out of our room on Friday at noon and then just wandered around for the next few hours. I had a huge suitcase, a roll on and had bought a new big duffel bag by the lake and still could barely fit all of my things into them. That meant shopping was out on Friday. Well, I did do some shopping for last minute things. It was a strange last couple of days. Obviously, there was a of of sadness and stress because of what the other families are going through. There is no way to understand how awful this is for all of them and to know that they aren't going to get an answer to whether they can come home next Friday until Tuesday or Wednesday at the earliest. It is every adoptive parent's nightmare.
I am pretty sure my paperwork was caught up in theirs for several days even though the officers at the embassy knew Sasha was from a different orphanage. Some people from a different agency had had their first interview the same day as I did, gotten a call four days later to say the paperwork had cleared, had their second interview on the following Monday and left that night. I know they say each child's paperwork clears individually, but all six of those families had their paperwork go through the same time and mine hadn't...After I heard they were leaving on Monday when I still hadn't heard anything I called the officer at the embassy who we had done our first interview with. I should also say that each of our families had been given the card of the person who did the first interview and been told to call if they had any questions. So I didn't feel I was going behind WC or doing anything wrong when I called. And the young Vietnamese woman I talked with at the embassy (she was usually my link between myself and the officer I interviewed with) was very nice and compassionate and never acted irritated to hear from me. Neither she nor my officer (Donald) understood what was taking my paperwork so long to get back from HCMC. I called every day (like they told me to) and went there on Monday or Tuesday. On Wednesday Donald called me (to return my phone call) and said that he would call HCMC to find out what was going on because this was taking a very long time. I called again Thursday morning and was told that my paperwork had cleared and I could have an interview that afternoon!
I waited until after the interview to give my hotel notice and change my flight. I had had tickets to leave Saturday instead of Friday. The only problem is that when I had my interview the woman who did it said that there may be some discrepancy with the paperwork. She wasn't sure. She said she would try to get it done by the next day but would have to see after she took a good look at everything. Not the words I wanted to hear, which were, "We're done. Just come by and pick up her visa tomorrow." So I went back and gave notice and changed my flight hoping it would all work out. My visa was running out Saturday so if I didn't get her visa I would have to extend my visa, which would take two days if expedited. Since Monday is Columbus Day and all of the offices would be closed I would have to wait until Tuesday morning to turn it in and get it back by Wednesday late afternoon (according to the people who work at the front desk of my hotel who would do it for me) and hope I got it back in time to make my Wednesday night flight (if there were openings on it).
There was no joyful feeling to being almost done and getting out. At that point, I knew how lucky I was and that leaving was no longer something we could take for granted. It was a pretty helpless feeling knowing I was so lucky and not being able to help the others. I packed up Thursday night, and checked out Friday before noon. I had a car coming to drive me to the airport at 3:30 (early for a 7:00 flight, but the people at the desk suggested it because of the rain and Friday traffic). I called Kenny at 1:00 to make sure he was picking up the visa, but didn't know for sure if I was going home that day until 2:45 when he showed up in the lobby with it. Very stressful. I wasn't able to eat or relax, I just kind of wandered around waiting to find out most of the day.
It was so wonderful to have Kenny hand me my visa and the paperwork for immigration. I met Steve's parents (who had traveled with them the whole time) in the lobby and we left at 3:30. How heartbreaking to see other families not be able to return home when they had planned to go! The ride to the airport and the entire journey home was filled with happiness to get home and sadness and worry about the babies. I really enjoyed traveling with the Carrolls, they are very nice people and fun to be around. Out LONG trip home was definitely more enjoyable since we went through it together. We were able to sit together in the row of bulkheads on the long flight. The flight on Vietnam Air from Hanoi to Hong Kong was very nice. New airplane, good food nice flight staff. And it wasn't full. We went right to the next flight from Hong Kong to Los Angelos. It was a newer plane that the one I had flown on to get there, the food was good, the crew was very nice, and again it wasn't full. We had an extra seat in the row so I was able to put a lot of Sasha's things on it during the flight. Sasha was great! She slept a lot of the time in the bassinet and only got fussy at the very end of the flight. I think we were within a half hour of landing and she had had enough. The last ten or fifteen minutes when we were waiting to be pulled to the gate were the worst. She was overtired and ready to have a meltdown. I jiggled, patted, rocked, sang, soothed...until we could stand up and go. It went much easier than it could have.
Immigration was easy. The line for new immigrants was empty so we went right through. It took about two minutes and we got the stamp that made her a US citizen! We loaded up all of our bags (we all had done some good shopping) and headed out to meet family.
My husband had brought Dakota, Brayden and Brookelyn with him to pick me up which was great. Three weeks and a day is too long to be away from family. Especially with all of the stress of not knowing if I was going to have to stay almost a week longer until almost the last minute. When we drove home I couldn't believe how different California is from Vietnam. I felt like I was rich when I walked into my house and saw how nice it was. Living in a third world country and seeing how other people live there really made me appreciate my life and my surroundings. Vietnam is a beautiful country and there are many great qualities about it, but we have a great standard of living here.
So now we are home. We got home at about midnight and everyone went to bed soon after that. Not Sasha and I! She slept from 1:30-2:00 and then again from 4:15-5:15 and then was awake. I was okay until about 10:00am and then started to shut down. I felt a little delirious from lack of sleep. She finally fell asleep at almost 12:00 and we slept until 4:00pm. I woke her up so she could start changing over to the new time. She did great. We were up until about 8:00 pm when I started to feel like I could fall asleep while walking around. She fell asleep at 8:00 and woke up at 2:00 am. She was up until 3:15 and fell back asleep. I think she is going to change over fairly easily, which is great. I want to be more awake so I can play with my other two little ones. With my eyes open.
Time for bed for me. I have to say thank you to all of the parents who are still in Vietnam for being so wonderful and happy for me that we were able to leave! It meant a lot to me. I can't describe the emotions of the last few days, but having them be happy for me was wonderful. It is good they have each other and have formed an allegiance to share information, stress, worry...all of it. I am of course hoping they get news of approval on Tuesday and can travel soon. I don't think I will feel like my journey is over until they are all home.