Our flights in were reasonably smooth and uneventful. We ended up arriving 45 minutes ahead of schedule, which meant that our driver was not yet there. We waited and waited, getting mildly anxious about whether we would have a ride to the guest house, or whether we needed to make alternate arrangements. Ron’s blackberry, which was supposed to be set up for international use, couldn’t get a radio signal, and we had no way to make a phone call to the driver or the guest house. But, after 30 minutes or so, our driver showed up, and we were on our way to the last step before meeting our new boys.
We slept well and woke at 7am, eager, but a little nervous, about our first encounter with Silly Sal and Jelly-Belly. The guest house is in the same compound where the infants and toddlers are housed, whereas the older kids are in a separate compound a few doors up the street, so we met Jelly-Belly first. In the only photo we had of the kids, taken about 8 months ago, he was crying and unhappy, and we knew that his size was small for his stated age, so we were unsure what to expect. But in the interim since that photo, he has clearly put on weight, and was very calm, and active – playing with toys in the living with us and with some of the caregivers. He mostly crawls, but is pulling up on furniture, not quite walking. As our visit progressed, he was more and more interactive, and even threw in a few smiles and giggles.
After we had spent some time getting to know Jelly-Belly, we walked over to the other compound to meet Silly Sal. We both had concerns that Silly Sal, being older and having more memories and more awareness of the changes in his life, might be more difficult to get to know, but the orphanage clearly prepares the kids well for the encounter with adoptive parents. He recognized us (as did all the kids) right away, from the photo album that we had sent some months back, and he ran to us immediately, threw his arms enthusiastically around each of us individually, and gave us each a huge kiss! He then took us each by the hand, one on each side, and pulled us to the front courtyard area where there was a collection of balls – typical boy, he loves throwing and kicking balls. He assigned each of us one ball apiece, and was very egalitarian in throwing to each of us in turn – we changed it up on him a few times, rotating the balls between each other, but, most of the time, he was fairly insistent that Janaki be assigned the orange ball, and Ron have the purple one. After we had played for awhile, he took off back to the kids’ living quarters, and after a minute or so, returned with the photo album which we had sent, and we spent some time leafing threw the photos, him pointing out our photos over and over.
We had to leave at lunchtime, and got back to the infant side in time to feed Jelly-Belly some injera and lentils. We then had our own lunch (and a short nap for us, with the jet lag hitting), after which we had another playtime with Jelly-Belly, and walked back to say goodnight to Silly Sal – he was again delighted to see us, and a bit clingy. This transition, as with any, is so hard – I gestured to him that it was time to return to his bedroom for sleep and he shook his head, and clung to me. It’s been such a wait to get here and meet them, and now, this time of them existing half-way between their life with the orphanage and with their nannies here, and coming home with us is going to be a week of limbo – hard on all of us, but also an opportunity to get to know them each gradually, and for them to get to know us.