One less…

For those of you who don’t know, Ron and I are in country with Cara, making preparations to bring her home. We arrived Wednesday, February 6th, around 1:30 in the afternoon. The hotel shuttle was waiting for us and we had an uneventful ride to the hotel, and a bed! We left Coeur d’Alene at 3:15 AM Tuesday morning for a 6 AM flight and we landed in a time zone 10 hours ahead of home. You do the math!

We were met at 8 AM Thursday morning for the long drive to the orphanage. Yoana, the attendant from our foundation in country, met us with the driver, Coatshe. I know I didn’t spell his name right, but the pronunciation is coat-shea. He was the same driver who picked us up after our visit with Cara last October. Yoana is in her mid 20’s, and such a lovely young woman. Friendly, outgoing, very talkative, and has a huge heart for these kids. I really enjoyed chatting with her all the way to Cara. She pointed out many of the historic locations and monuments for us along the way, and told us all about this lovely little town that claims fame to the castle of the last king.

Yoana also explained what had been going on in Cara’s orphanage since we’d left. There was now a new director, an older woman who seemed very nice on the phone. She told Yoana that Cara had been to the dentist recently for a toothache, unfortunately, an abscess.  They did not pull the tooth, but she was taking antibiotics that needed to be finished.  Other than that, Cara seemed excited and ready for us to arrive. They had been talking to her about it, reading her my letters, and going over and over the photo book we’d left with her.

We arrived at the orphanage between 12 and 12:30 PM. The first thing I noticed was the yard. The weeds had all been cut, and there seemed to be some grass growing. Their winter has been mild and we saw lots of green spaces on our way. The playground equipment seemed to be in better repair too. It looked “happier” if that makes sense.

We met with the director first, handing her the gifts we’d brought for her and the staff, and also the individual gifts we had brought for each of the children. When we had visited Cara in October of last year, she was one of 12 children remaining in this orphanage. The goal was to shut it down and move all these children to foster homes. Of those 12 children, only 9 remain now that Cara is “one less.”

Once the formalities were over, one of the staff members brought Cara in. She was also accompanied by another child, Yordanka. I remembered Yordanka from our previous visit. She is now being adopted by the director and her husband! We were truly amazed and so excited that Yordanka found her own family, and was no longer an orphan. She comes to work with mom every morning, and goes home with her every night. She sees her friends during the day, but has family at night. She was smiling, and happy, and went to her mother and stroked her cheek in absolute love and adoration! It was obvious this child was meant to be the director’s daughter!

Cara was very shy when she came into the director’s office. She produced a very weak smile, and her eyes were darting around, watching us all. You could see the fear building and in no time she was crying uncontrollably. Big gulping, heartbreaking sobs! The director and nurse took the clothing I had brought for her, and led her from the room to change her clothes. And I promptly burst into tears! It was so painful to see her fear, and know we were about to turn this little girls world inside out and upside down. Yes, she will eventually accept this, yes, it is definitely better that she come with us instead of living in an orphanage the rest of her life, and no, I could never turn around and leave her there! But, knowing you are the cause of the fear and pain your child is experiencing at that moment is heart breaking, and my tears were for her, in complete understanding that her fear was valid, I understood!

We waited quite some time before Cara was brought back into the room next to the director’s. They shut the door so we could not see her, but we could hear what the director was telling her. As she and Yordanka played with her, the director spun this huge fabricated tale about how Cara would come back to the orphanage to visit and the director would drive her car to America and visit her. They would stay in touch and Cara would be back! Yoana was translating all of this for us as it was happening! I was absolutely horrified! I told Yoana we would have to do damage control if we ever got her in the car.

I believe it took about 2 hours to finally get Cara strapped in her car seat and ready to go. She walked to the car with the Director and Yordana, and didn’t start crying hysterically until she was strapped into her car seat. She started screaming for Yordanka, with huge tears rolling down her cheeks. There was no consoling her, or talking to her. After about 30 minutes of non-stop, “YORDANKA, YORDANKA, YORDANKA” and the hysterical crying, the driver turned back and wagged his finger at her, calmly but firmly telling her that it was time to stop and if she did not stop, he would put her in their version of a time out! I watched in amazement as she sucked it up, doing her best to stop, and her poor little face contorting a million ways as she did. And suddenly the car was quiet. Much as I appreciated Coatshe’s intervention, I felt so bad for her. I knew she needed to cry, and that there will be many more tears, but was grateful for the quiet.

Yoana talked to her as we drove, showing her things outside, explaining that we were stopping in the next town to see the castle and have something to eat. Cara promptly spit out that she did not want to see the castle and she did not want anything to eat! She wanted to go back to “the home.” Yoana told her we wanted to see the castle and needed to eat so we would stop. Cara was silent all the way to the next town. We did see the castle, and we did stop to eat. And an interesting thing happened… Coatshe became her new best friend! She sat with him, and walked around the restaurant with him. If he asked her a question, she would answer. She would not speak to any of the rest of us. I had to wonder if she’d figured out since he was the one driving away from the orphanage; he was the only one that could take her back. At one point she told him she wanted to come with us, but wanted to go back to “the home” to sleep. She was grasping at anything she could to make this ok in her little world.

About the only thing she could control was whether or not she was going to eat and drink, and she refused both. She’d had lunch with the kids at the orphanage before we got there, but that had been quite some time before. Coatshe offered her bites of his, and when she refused, he said, “That is fine. That means all the more for me.” Cara never gave in. If she was hungry, she wasn’t letting us know.

The weather turned nasty the last hour and a half of our drive. First the rain, then sleet, then snow. Yoana, explained all of this to Cara as we sped along the highway, telling her about the different weather changes, adding that she and Coatshe were taking us to the hotel and then they would be leaving. She also let her know that in the morning we had to go have her picture taken so she could go home with us. She did not respond in any way to any of this news.

It was 7:30 by the time we got to the room with her. We were all exhausted, and I knew she was hungry. We’d bought yogurt, bananas and apple juice the day before to have on hand for her, but she only wanted the bananas. She ate two, drank a little water, and sat with dad to put together the puzzle they’d done many times together on our first visit

last October. She was quiet and non-communicative, and periodically a tear or two would roll down her cheek. Every now and again she would whisper the words that she had to use the bathroom. The antibiotics she was on were wreaking havoc with her digestive tract. She would not allow either of us to comfort her, but she sat quietly in Ron’s lap while I got myself ready for bed, and then brought out her pajamas. She allowed me to dress her for bed and grabbed her baby to lay down by me. Thankfully, she fell asleep easily and seemed to have a restful night.

Some pictures of “Gotcha Day”

Cara and YordankaCara with her new sunglassesThe director, Yordanka's mommyTime to goOne last photoThe CastleCara did not want to get out of the car!DSC_0037 DSC_0046 DSC_0048DSC_0050 DSC_0051 DSC_0056 DSC_0059

The one and only smile we’d gotten all day was when she was bathed and dressed for bed. It was an emotionally exhausting day for us all.