Friday, December 30, 2011

Cost of Adoption--Overseas vs. In Pennsylvania

We are keeping very accurate track of adoption expenses, in part because our Church and others are helping with the expenses.  since we are keeping track, I thought I could share how much we have spent so far:

datecategorycostrunning total
11/29/11plane tickets$1,307.40$1,307.40
12/03/11doc visit; HepA vaccine for akc$178.00$1,485.40
12/06/11anti-malarial meds; bug spray$70.66$1,556.06
12/14/11birth certificates--Neil$56.00$1,612.06
12/14/11birth certificates--Annalisa$32.00$1,644.06
12/14/11marriage certificates$20.00$1,664.06
12/17/11airport parking$25.00$1,689.06
12/17/11luggage fee$50.00$1,801.06
12/19/11Haitian market$140.00$1,941.06
12/20/11Newark airport parking$108.00$2,049.06
12/20/11lunch in airport$9.00$2,058.06
12/29/11register FBI clearance$68.00$2,126.06
12/30/11PA Child Abuse Clearance$21.00$2,147.06
12/30/11PA Criminal Background check$21.00$2,168.06
We have not paid for transportation or lodging in Haiti yet, but expect that will be more than $500.
Lawyer's fees begin with a $4,000 deposit very soon.  We are expecting to spend either side of $20,000 before the process is over.

Adopting older kids in PA costs essentially nothing.  Maybe a lot of gas money during the transition, but that is much less than air fare to Haiti.

Happy New Year!!!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

From Haiti to NYC

We celebrate Christmas in Maryland at my wife's father's house.  Christmas is the most complicated holiday of the year for us.  My wife, our youngest daughter and our two sons leve for Maryland the morning before Christmas.  I leave at the end of the day on Christmas Eve.  My stepdaughter comes from her Dad's house in Virginia on Christmas Eve.  My daughters celebrate Christmas morning at their Mom's then join us in MD for the last part of the all-day Christmas celebration.

But that's on the beginning.

Christmas night at about 8pm, five of the kids and I drive in two cars back to Lancaster, sleep, re-pack and leave at 10am on the 26th for a two-day shopping trip in NYC.

My wife and her daughter stay in MD for those two days.

Now five kids and I plus one of Lauren's friends are in NYC for three days, two nights to shop and see NYC sights.  SOOOOO different from Haiti.  If all goes well with Xavier, he will join us for Christmas 2012.

I wonder what he will think of staying in Times Square!!!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Haiti Hangover

This morning I was very sad.  I want to go back to Haiti and tell Xavier the adoption will really happen and I want to get him a passport so he can come to America and visit while we are waiting for all the paperwork to go through.

The trouble with going back to Haiti is that any money we spend with unnecessary travel is less we have for the adoption itself.  We want to get the house paid off also.

I laugh at myself at times like this because I remember that patience decreases with age.  The best people when they realize life really does have an expiration date want to use their time the best they can.  The rest of us just want to use whatever time we have to do what we want.  On a good day I am stuck between those two.

I am 58 years old and can still race bikes, run a half marathon, and adopt kids without homes.  I still have a good job, I can still serve in the Army National Guard and right now I am trying to do all these things.  And I want to go back to Haiti.

Between my wife and I, it is me who is the emotional one and she who is rational about what can and can't be done.  My Task List and Calendar are based on a 40-hour day in which I need no sleep.  She organizers her day and gets her Tasks done and really sleeps eight hours each night.

Just to add another level of complication.  I called our adoption counselor in PA today about Emarion.  I know it is pretty much case closed, but I really think Emarion would have been better off in our home with two brothers who thought he was very cool than in a Foster Home with no permanent family.

So I will talk to Amanda and see if there is one more chance to adopt Emarion.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Pictures of Xavier in Haiti

We had a small prayer ceremony at the mission run by Heather just before we left.  At that ceremony, Heather announced that Wenky's American name would be Xavier Pierre Gussman.

Xavier and I 

Xavier and Annalisa with me in the Tap Tap that took us to the airport.
Look closely and you will see I am wearing Crash Test Dummy socks--VERY appropriate for the ride to Port Au Prince
Annalisa getting her hair done by six kids at once in mission where Xavier lives.
Xavier and Annalisa at mission where Xavier lives.

More on Annalisa's blog.

Monday, December 19, 2011

REAL Tough Mudder

Tonight I gave my Tough Mudder finishers jersey to a 17-year-old boy at the orphanage where we are staying.  He was passing a soccer ball back and forth with the younger kids.  His right leg is 18" shorter than his left.  He moves fast on the filed and on the ground in a gliding way.  He is a real Tough Mudder.

Often people say to us what wonderful hearts we must have to adopt kids from American cities and from Haiti.  It is embarrassing to hear, both because it is meant in the nicest way and because in a way we are creating a world that does not exist around us.  The norm in America is video-addicted kids who believe the world owes them entertainment.  Our family can be different.

During the time we stayed at the orphanage for kids with amputations and birth defects, I did not see them  sitting in corners saying "I'm bored"  or crying because they did not get an XBox upgrade.  They live in a house with three hours a day of generator service.  They care for each other and have fun with ragged soccer balls and sticks, and even play games that include their battered crutches.

As I write this I am sitting in the office of the orphanage with 75 babies.  Both my wife and our son Xavier each picked one of the babies up as soon as we walked in the door.  Two babies were crying, they picked up the babies.  I am not as good by reflex as they are--not even close.  But I get to live in that kind of family instead of one with kids that whine for their video stuff.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Day 2 in Haiti

I will download pictures as soon as I can.  We had very little internet service and no cell service in Haiti, plus we did not bring a cable to download pictures.  Back in America I will post pictures.

Our first full day in Haiti began with me going on a five-mile run and Annalisa reading a book about our favorite TV show--"The Wire."  It was The Wire (Season 4, last episode) that convinced me to adopt more kids.  Anyway, the story of the run is here.  

We went to Wenky's orphanage at 1pm and played with the almost 30 kids that live there.  My wife let a half-dozen girls style her hair.  Their technique involved a lot of pulling.  I played ball with a two-year-old boy and then traded head balls with an eight-year-old.  

The orphanage is run by a local woman on a very small budget and is little more than a few shacks in a banana grove.  After playing with the kids there we switched worlds.  Our local hosts took us to Club Indigo, a lovely place. We passed three sets of armed guards on the way from the first gate to the restaurant.  It was located on the Caribbean with a white sand beach.

Heather, our host, told us that the kids who get adopted in America take American names.  My wife loves the name Xavier, a Spanish (actually Catalan) saint name.  And I got to name Nigel.   So Wenky's American name will be Xavier Pierre Gussman.

More tomorrow.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

In Haiti!!!!

Today we landed in Port Au Prince, Haiti.  The crowding, the poverty, the devastation and everything we read about before we arrived was worse in person.  The terminal is still being rebuilt, so we stopped on the tarmac and took Heathrow-style standing-room buses to customs.  At customs we lined up for papers check, which went smoothly enough, then retrieved our bags.  A guy hired by the orphanage met us in customs--things are thankfully more lax here, and helped us get to our driver.  We walked through an unbelievably crowded parking lot past hundreds of men yelling "Taxi" until we got to the van we were to ride in.

Our driver was awesome.  He slithered the van through jerking and darting cars, vans and SUVs getting us out of the airport without incident.  Clear of the airport we spent the next two hours traveling about 50 miles to the orphanage.  The roads near Port au Prince are potholes, craters and ditches with strips of pavement between then.  Buses, Mack trucks, vans, cars, and motorcycles swing and wind back and forth across the roads.  The buses are packed to the rook with people on top and hanging on the side.  They look like hippos and elephants dancing as they sway and swerve from hole to ditch.

As we got further from town the roads got better and better.  The houses started to have roofs, some at least, and people started to look a little better fed.  The traffic laws are Darwinian--biggest vehicle right of way--but our driver was great.  He passed when he could, hung back when he couldn't and anticipated the near misses with barely a twitch--more difficult in a van that moaned and groaned with shock absorbers long dead or maybe missing and springs at least 50,000 miles past and real rebound strength.

Our host at the first orphanage was Heather, a blond bundle of energy who runs an orphanage for about 75 babies.  All of the babies are abandoned, terminally ill or both.  She has ten adopted children of her own and decided God was calling her to live in Haiti and run her own orphanage.  She left a full-time career in advertising for Haiti, but travels back to the states a half-dozen times a year to work on TV ads and help to pay the bills.  And you can help her out:

We then went to the mission next door where we will stay.  They care for children who are amputees or have birth defects.  Finally we went to the orphanage where our future son Wenky lives.  This orphanage is run by a local woman who was an orphan herself and decided to create her own orphanage after the earthquake.

More tomorrow.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Time to Pack!!!

Tonight when I get home I will have to pack for Haiti.  Unlike most of my trips, I do not have to dress up for any event, just jeans and dress shirt and I can wear those on the plane to Haiti.

I am not getting an overseas cell phone so I will really be unplugged!  It will be strange to be off email and cell for 96 hours.  I am sure to go through withdrawal.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Bad Medicine

Monday evening my wife and I took our first dose of anti-malaria medicine.  She would be a great contestant on one of those survival shows where you eat rats and bugs.  She can eat anything.  I, on the other hand, can put my digestive system in reverse simply by eating too much raw food at once.

She has not complained at all.  Everything I have eaten since Monday is making me run to the bathroom or seems stuck in my throat three hours after I eat it.  I talked to a friend who has travelled to many countries far off the Michelin Dining Guide and he said many people get malaria because they can't stand the medicine, quit taking it and get the disease.

So I will keep taking the medicine and hope I will at least be thinner for racing season next year.  I should have skipped dinner tonight.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Going to Haiti Saturday

Wow!!!  It's getting close.  Just four days and a wake up and we will be on the way to Haiti.  I am riding Amtrak this morning with a stomach ache.  I was wondering what I ate that would make my intestines feel as rebellious as a teenager, then I remembered the malaria pill I took last night.  So today and maybe tomorrow my mid-section will be audible from fifty feet, but hopefully back to normal before wheels up on Saturday morning.

Annalisa has pulled together a schedule of friends to take care of the boys while we are traveling.  Kiersten and her friend from Virginia will be house and dog sitting--so our dog K-Oz will not miss his twice daily moment of delight:  "Oh boy!  Dog food!  Again!"

When I traveled overseas regularly for business, I often had people ask if they could stow away in my suitcase.  They liked the idea of travel to Paris,  Perth, or Prague but no one so far has said "I always wanted to go to Port au Prince."

Of course, they like the idea of travel to Haiti better than our 2015 plan of taking the boys to live in a black majority culture.  If all goes well we will spend the 2015-16 academic year in Rwanda.  I had stowaway requests for Rome, Rio de Janeiro and Rotterdam.  None so far for Rwanda.


Monday, December 12, 2011

On Radio Smart Talk WITF FM

This morning I was on Radio Smart Talk on WITF talking about the Iraq War.  Here are the details on my Army blog in case you want to listen.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Four Stitches from Dance Move

This morning I took Jacari to the doctor to get his stitches checked.  On Tuesday evening he was demonstrating one of his favorite dance moves in the garage and smacked his chin on a trash can.  My wife took him to the doctor at 9pm to get four stitches in his chin.

As we prepare to meet another son, the ones we have are continuing with the life of teen boys--which includes crashing during dance moves.

For the trip to Haiti we will be leaving the boys with friends from Church for the four days we are gone.  Possibly with different families so they get a break from each other and so their occasional sibling rivalry does not flare up for our friends.