Archive for September 2013

What’s Next?

As Arturo announced on Friday, we’ve received the much-awaited, much-anticipated phone call: an early morning call from our adoption facilitator to tell us that we had been granted an appointment with the adoption regulators in Shawna’s country. Hooray!!!!

So, now that we have our date, what’s next? Here’s the low-down as it looks right now:

  • Between now and Oct. 27, we will pack and prepare. We’ve been blessed by quite a few last-minute gigs that are boosting our bank account, so performances and rehearsals will be mixed into the days of cleaning, prepping rooms, and packing bags.
  • We will leave Cincinnati for our “Great Adoption Adventure” on Oct. 27. (Cue insanely huge smiles, jumps up and down, and random shouts of excitement.)
  • We’ll arrive in the capital city of Shawna’s country on Oct. 28 in mid-afternoon and have a bit more than a day to rest, recuperate, and recover from jet lag.
  • We’ll have our appointment with the adoption regulators at 11:00 am local time on October 30th. (Woohoo!!)
  • We’ll pick up our official referral paperwork, which will be ready at the end of the business day on October 31st.
  • We’ll take an overnight train to Shawna’s region as soon as we have our paperwork in hand.
  • The morning of Nov. 1st, we’ll meet with the social worker in charge of Shawna’s region.
  • We’ll then finally meet our daughter on the afternoon of November 1st. Praise be to God!

We have received no updates regarding the TB testing, which I discussed at length in one of last week’s posts. At this point, I would be shocked if Shawna begins the testing process before we arrive. This means we will most likely travel back to the capital city with her the week of Nov. 4th to begin the test, and the test will not be finished until New Year’s Day at the earliest. This also means that we have no hope of returning to the US before Christmas. In fact, we’ll likely still be in Eastern Europe for the orthodox celebration of Christmas on January 7th. We’re not particularly happy about it, but our families already knew we wouldn’t be participating in a big Christmas celebration this year, so at least it doesn’t inconvenience the plans of our extended family.

Spending our first Christmas as a family a world away from home is certainly not ideal. However, if by being there and loving our daughter and showing the directors what an amazing thing adoption can be, we can convince the orphanage and regional directors to allow early testing for the other children who will soon be adopted by American families from this same orphanage, it will have all been worth it, and ten-fold. Arturo and I are the only parents affected by their refusal who don’t have other children to worry about and who have jobs that won’t be negatively affected by the lengthy stay. Perhaps God placed us first in line to overcome obstacles for the families coming behind us.

Also, many people over the past few weeks have been asking for an update about our adoption attempt of Seth. (Read the full story here.) Unfortunately, we don’t have an update and won’t have one until we have been in-country for a week or two. While we’ve already started the process to adopt Shawna, the process to adopt Seth cannot be started until after our in-person appointment on Oct. 30th. Our facilitators are going to make unofficial inquiries for us between now and then, but we won’t know anything certain for several weeks yet. You can bet we’ll let you know as soon as we do!

If our prayers are not answered as we would like them to be answered and if we are not ultimately able to adopt Seth, we still intend to adopt another, younger child from Shawna’s orphanage. We feel God calling us specifically to adopt two children, and if Seth is not destined to be our child, we believe God has another child set aside for us. Like much of this process, nothing is certain, and we may end up coming home with just one child after all. But we feel God telling us to expect to bring two children home, a girl and a boy, and so we are planning and preparing for just that.

I think that’s all the update we have to give at the moment …. time to get back to work on those travel arrangements. :) Happy Monday, all!

Araya Adoption Photo Shoot

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We have our date!

At last! At long last!! We have received our appointments and will be traveling at the end of October!!!

As many of you know Jennifer and I have been on pins and needles all week, just praying and wondering, and at times agonizing on when we might get that magical phone call letting us know when we were scheduled to have our appointment. That day is October 30th so we will be flying on October 27th, a month from today exactly.

What’s funny about our week is that Jennifer, who normally screens her calls in an effort to keep the telemarketers at bay, was answering her phone a lot more than usual just in case it was Nancy, our facilitator from Reece’s Rainbow. As it turns out Nancy ended up calling my phone this morning. So mixed in with the elation of having finally received what we most wanted was the irony and humor of this little incident.

It’s actually been a whirlwind week. First we had the disappointing news about TB testing. Also Jennifer has been getting the rooms and the whole house ready, because it needed to be done but also I think just to keep her mind on anything other than the anxiety of “will we hear from Reece’s Rainbow today?” and “will the regional directors allow our little girl to get her TB testing early?” She put up curtains, put down rugs, brought out toys, refurbished a couple of amazing-looking clocks and made some gorgeous wall art for our kids. (I expect she will be posting about these in the next few days so you get to see what new amazing things she has created!) Finally, I managed to come down with my once-a-year cold and a nasty one at that.

Through all this busyness the faith and hope that we would get our dates sometime this week has been like a beacon guiding us forward.

As much as this is a major milestone for us there is so much that remains to be done in this pre-adoption phase. We have to pack, get me a visa, get our plane tickets, travel, and go through what we expect to be a maze of bureaucratic hoops. But just for today we won’t worry about all that. We will savor this small victory, this arrival point.

Thanks to all our friends and family, to all of you who have worked so hard to help us get this far.

Shanti14

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Two Articles to Share

Throughout this adoption process, we’ve been doing a LOT of reading: of how-to books about international adoption, of parenting guidebooks for dealing with teens, of parenting guidebooks for dealing with adopted kids, of instructional books for homeschooling. That reading started right at the very beginning, before we committed to adopt, when we read The Connected Child (SO good!!) as part of our decision-making process. It continued through the homestudy, when our social worker asked us to read Parenting the Hurt Child and Adopting the Hurt Child. And we’re still reading. My bedside table currently bears So You’re Thinking About Homeschooling, Teaching English One to One, and 20 Things Adoptive Parents Need to Succeed, among others. Needless to say, we’ve been doing lots and lots of reading.

I said all that to say this: we’ve been doing enough adoption-related reading over the past six months that it now takes a lot to move me. At this point, an article or chapter has to be incredibly insightful and unusually pertinent to truly catch my attention.

Just yesterday, two articles came across my computer screen that both fit that description, and I knew I had to share them with you. I hope you take time to read both of them, and I hope they move you as they moved me.

  • Angela’s Adoption Advice – This article is the result of a long discussion between an adoptive mom and her 15-year-old daughter. Her daughter was 12 when she came home from Kazakhstan. This article talks about the adoption process from the daughter’s perspective, in terms of advice she has for parents preparing to adopt older children. Shawna will turn 12 while we are in Eastern Europe completing the adoption process, so this article is basically a window into what our daughter will experience when she comes home.
  • The Generational Effects of Adoption – Written by a pastor who was himself adopted and who is also an adoptive dad, this article addresses adoption from all perspectives, including that of a Christian adopted by God. Arturo and I have written about our view of our adoption by God, and this article speaks directly to the feeling of amazement that adoption can bring to the heart of a Christian who fully understands what it means to be called a child of God.

Have a great weekend, and we’ll be back on Monday with recaps of our fundraising efforts. We’re now fully funded, but in the craziness of the fundraising process, we never blogged about several of our fundraisers. The fundraisers may be old news, but the photos and stories are too good not to share. :)

Happy Friday, y’all!

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A Prayer Request and Another Update

Not a lot has changed since my last status update: we’re still waiting to receive our travel dates, and we’re still working to prepare the kids’ rooms for their arrival. This week I’ve been working on the art for their rooms: colorful but not too overwhelming canvases to brighten their walls. I’ll have photos to share once they’re ready. The rooms are really starting to look like kids’ rooms, which is SUPER exciting! All that’s missing is the kids themselves, and they’ll hopefully be home in just a few more months.

While not a lot has changed in a week, one big thing has changed, and it has us on our knees in prayer and petitioning. We’d love your prayer support as well. If you’ve been following our blog for a while, you know that we have an extra stay in Eastern Europe of 8 weeks staring us down. Read here for the full story, but here’s the gist. Because of new rules put in place by the CDC, the US immigration department requires that children 11 and older undergo an 8-week TB sputum test before they will issue visas allowing those children to enter the US, even when those children are the lawful adopted children of US citizens.

The situation has improved dramatically since I wrote the original post back in July. The CDC met with adoption regulators in Eastern Europe and reached a compromise that testing could take place before the family had the child’s new birth certificate. This means the child can start the 8-week test about a week after the parents arrive in Eastern Europe, rather than waiting until the adoption is finalized and the new birth certificate is printed, about 4-5 weeks after the parents arrive in Eastern Europe. This compromise is great and is certainly better than requiring a stay of 14 weeks, but this arrangement still means the family has to spend a minimum of 9 weeks — over two months — away from home, jobs, and any other children in the family. Compared to the 4-7 weeks in-country that an adoption typically requires, 9 weeks is quite an added burden. It’s better than 14, but still not good.

Because this compromise isn’t perfect, adoption facilitators in Eastern Europe kept working, kept looking for another way around the situation, and they’ve found the perfect solution. As soon as the parents submit their completed adoption packet, their future children can travel to the country’s capital city (where the the test must be done, per CDC regulations) with a chaperone from the orphanage to begin the test. That way, the 8 weeks of the test are finished before the parents even arrive in Eastern Europe. Sure, the parents have to pay expenses for the child and the chaperone to stay in the capital city for about a week while the test is being done, but that’s a small price to pay compared to the prospect of 2-5 extra weeks in country for the entire family.

While this pre-arrival testing wasn’t a certainty, we’ve been praying hard that it would work out, for us and for the other families caught in this same situation. The first family to encounter this new regulation was completely caught off-guard and didn’t even know about the 8-week test requirement until the day they were scheduled to fly home to the US. They are finally home now, after waiting the full 8 weeks in Eastern Europe. Their attachment and bonding with their daughter suffered extremely due to the hardship of the extended stay and the broken promises their daughter perceived. After all, they told her she was coming home and didn’t say anything about a horrible test or time stuck in Eastern Europe. Now that their whole family is finally home, things are going much better. You can read their blog here.

The second family to encounter this new regulation has their in-country appointment this coming Monday, and their two children have already been tested. Yep, you read that correctly. Praise God! Our adoption facilitators successfully arranged for their two children to travel to the capital city just a few weeks after their paperwork packet was submitted in mid-July. The testing for both children will be concluded before their parents even arrive to start the in-country adoption process.

On August 8, Arturo and I submitted our paperwork, and not long after, we got the news that these two children had successfully been tested before their parents’ arrival. We breathed a huge sigh of relief. If they were able to be tested, surely Shawna’s testing would be started no problem in just a few weeks. But every week, when I checked with our facilitator about the testing and asked for an update, I got the same response: “We don’t know anything yet.” What was the problem? Why hasn’t Shawna been tested? What’s going on?

This week, we found out what’s going on. The regional director of orphanages and the director of Shawna’s orphanage have both said “no.” No, these children cannot travel to the capital city before their parents arrive. No, we will not provide a chaperone for them to make the trip. No, they cannot leave the orphanage to be tested. No. No. No.

Our facilitation team is still working on it, and we’re still praying hard for the hearts of both directors to be softened and for their minds to be changed. But at this point, it seems extremely unlikely that Shawna will have started her TB test before we arrive. We will have our in-country appointment and, papers in hand, travel to her region to request that she can start the TB test about a week after we get there. At this point, we are expecting an in-country stay of a minimum of 9 weeks.

(Just typing those words envelops me in an air of defeat ….. )

But, quite frankly, as hard as those weeks will be, I’m not all that worried about the 9-week trip for Arturo and me. Arturo’s employer has been AMAAAAAAAAAAAZING and has agreed to let him work remotely for much of our adoption trip. I am self-employed and have enlisted the help of colleagues to teach my lessons and my classes while I am gone, so my students will be just fine and will be waiting for me to pick up their lessons again when we get home. Time off from work will not be an issue for us. We have no other children at home who will be missing Mommy and Daddy while we’re gone, so we can focus all our attention on our two new precious children while we’re in Eastern Europe.  And we have the most incredible support group of friends in Cincinnati who are together going to housesit and birdsit for however long we need to be away. Nine weeks isn’t ideal by any means, but it’s not an undue hardship the way 14 weeks would be. We’ll manage, and it’ll be just fine.

It’ll be just fine for us, that is. Over the next few months, at least four other American families will be traveling to Eastern Europe to adopt children from this same orphanage. Their children will require approval from the same two directors to begin their TB testing before their parents arrive. Arturo and I may be the “first in line” of these families, but all of these families will be traveling to the same region bring home older children who also must undergo TB testing before they can come home to the US.

  • The Adams Family is adopting Stella and Lily. I’ve written about the Adams family before. Stella is shown sitting next to Shawna in one of the videos we have of Shawna, and Lily is named by Shawna as her very best friend when she’s asked in a different video who her friends are. Rebecca Adams and I have been in touch since she first committed to adopt Stella, and she has been such a blessing and encouragement to me. The Adams have two young boys, and Luke Adams’ job isn’t one that easily allows for remote working. The extra weeks in Eastern Europe will be a severe hardship on them. The Adams have finished their homestudy and are currently compiling their dossier, so they will likely be traveling to Eastern Europe over the holidays and in the early weeks of 2014.
Stella

Stella

Lily

Lily

  • The Haydon Family is adopting Pippa. Pippa is the same age as Shawna, so they are likely in the same group at their orphanage and undoubtedly know each other very well. Last December, the Haydons were in the process of adopting a beautiful little girl from a different Eastern European country when that country slammed its doors to adoption. They nonetheless soldiered on and committed to Pippa. The Haydon’s jobs are not ones that can be performed remotely, and the extended stay will be a severe hardship for them. The Haydons are in the process of completing their homestudy and will likely travel in late winter or early spring of 2014.
Pippa

Pippa

  • The Welsh Family is adopting Ally, and they are JUST behind us in the process. Their dossier was submitted on Sept. 12. Ally just turned 16, so under normal circumstances, she would already have been forced into trade school (an unsupervised boarding school for kids who age out of orphanages; these are TERRIBLE) or put out on the streets. However, because she has a family coming for her, the orphanage director allowed her to stay at her orphanage for a few extra months. This is part of the reason we can’t understand the directors’ motivation in refusing our facilitator’s request to have the children tested. The director knows these kids all have families waiting for them! The Welsh Family will almost certainly arrive in Eastern Europe to adopt Ally just a few weeks after we arrive to adopt our children.
Ally

Ally

  • The Hommel Family is adopting Isaac, Mariah, Tobias, and Joseph. Isaac, Mariah, and Tobias are currently living in the same orphanage as Shawna, and all will require the TB testing before they can come home.
Tobias

Tobias

Isaac

Isaac

Mariah

Mariah

Joseph

Joseph

  • The Tam Family is adopting Caroline. Caroline is not in the same orphanage as Shawna, but she is also an older child who requires the TB testing. The facilitation team is experiencing the same difficulty with Caroline’s orphanage director as they are with Shawna’s: he is refusing to allow Caroline to be tested before the Tams arrive. The Tams have 4 other children and have adopted internationally before, so they are no stranger to the ups and downs of international adoption, but this is beyond even the worst that they expected. Before receiving word that the director had denied the testing request, the Tams were fully funded for Caroline’s adoption. Because of the extended stay and extra expense involved with a 9-week trip, they’ve had to restart their fundraising efforts.
Caroline

Caroline

All of the families mentioned above committed to their children before the announcement was made about the TB testing. While I’d like to think Arturo and I would have still been faithful to answer God’s call had we known we would have to stay in-country for 9 weeks, I can’t be sure that we would have. I honestly don’t know if we would have said “yes.” It’s hard to admit, but when I’m being truly open with myself, I think that 9-week minimum would have stared me in the face and kept me from taking a leap of faith to following God’s call.

These children are all older kids with relatively severe medical needs. They are already at a HUGE disadvantage when it comes to being chosen for adoption. Our government made the process to adopt them a lot harder by implementing these TB rules, but the CDC was open to compromise, and a solution has been found to make this issue a moot point. The last hurdle to overcome is the stubbornness of the regional directors and the orphanage directors.

We’re already in this adoption process, and there’s no way we’re backing out now. Shawna is our daughter, and there’s nothing that would make us walk away from her. God has provided miraculously for this adoption, even to the point of making the 9-week stay nothing more than an inconvenience for us. But unless the compromise for pre-arrival testing is shown to work, I can’t help but think that the other children in Shawna’s orphanage will never know the love of a family.

Are new families really going to step up to parent an older child with medical needs — a process that is already unspeakably difficult — when that process also requires over two months away from home, job, and any other children?

I can’t answer that question for sure, but I can tell you that no other families have committed to children from Shawna’s orphanage since the TB testing was announced.

Please, we beg of you, pray that the directors’ hearts are softened and that they relent, that the process goes smoothly for the families listed above and that we can show other families considering adoption of these older children that the TB testing will not be an issue.

This may sound melodramatic, but I am completely serious: children’s lives are on the line.

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Quick Status Update

Since our return from Chile (read about that trip here and here), we’ve fielded lots of questions about what’s next in our adoption journey. It seems that, since our dossier was submitted almost a month and a half ago, people are expecting an update.

Unfortunately, we don’t have one to give. My last update post was published on August 13, and not much has changed since then. (Although we are now fully funded! Woohoo!) We submitted all our paperwork to the Eastern European government on August 8, and we’re waiting to hear back from them with the date when we’ll be allowed to travel to complete the adoption process. At this point, our adoption is purely a waiting game. The call notifying us of our travel dates could come any day now. I feel like I’m jumping every time the phone rings, hoping it’s our facilitator giving us the great news. So far, that call hasn’t come, but we’re hoping and praying it comes soon.

In the meantime, we’re busy nesting, preparing our house and our hearts for two new little ones. I’m attending a Bible study for adoptive moms, and Arturo and I are spending most evenings working in the kids’ rooms: cleaning out the closets, putting together furniture, hanging art. I’ll have photos of the rooms to share once they’re closer to being done. We don’t know anything about our kids’ likes or dislikes, but we certainly love the way their rooms are turning out. We hope they like them, too.

Rest assured that as soon as we receive word about a travel date, we’ll let you know. Until then, thank you for your prayers and your encouragement! Each day brings us one day closer to our children.

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Family Time in Chile

Warning: Picture-heavy vacation post ahead. If you don’t like vacation blog posts, or if you don’t feel like scrolling through lots of photos, skip this post. I promise I won’t be offended. On the other hand, if picture-heavy vacation posts are the peanut butter to your jelly, read on my friend. :)

As of yesterday, Arturo and I have been home from Chile for two weeks. Two weeks out, I’ve finally had time to sort through all our photos and organize my thoughts from the trip. In a word, it was incredible. We spent almost all day every day visiting with Arturo’s family, getting to know the amazing people who make up his family tree. Though we’ve been married for over five years, I met nearly everyone in his family for the first time on this trip, except for a very select few family members who live in the US. Arturo savored every moment, making up for 13 years of time away. If you’d like my first impressions of our trip, read this post, written just 3 days into our 2.5 week stay.

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The interior ceiling of the Santiago Cathedral

The interior ceiling of the Santiago Cathedral

 

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A statue of Pedro de Valdivia, located in the central square in downtown Santiago

A statue of Pedro de Valdivia, located in the central square in downtown Santiago

One major highlight of our trip was due purely to the timing of the trip: Arturo’s birthday is August 30, smack in the middle of our trip. As a result, he was wined and dined by his family even more than he would have been anyway! He had at least 3 birthday cakes and 3 dedicated birthday parties during our stay …. and I say “at least” only because I lost count after the third. :)

Arturo's first birthday cake, made by Ximena. It was full of Chilean candies and pastries. Delicious!

Arturo’s first birthday cake, made by Ximena. It was full of Chilean candies and pastries. Delicious!

Arturo's final birthday cake (I missed several in between), a "tres leches" (three milk) cake. Tres leches is Arturo's favorite cake flavor, and I always make it for him on his birthday ... except for this year. Luckily, Arturo's family was more than happy to fill in where I couldn't!

Arturo’s final birthday cake (I missed several in between), a “tres leches” (three milk) cake. Tres leches is Arturo’s favorite cake flavor, and I always make it for him on his birthday … except for this year. Luckily, Arturo’s family was more than happy to fill in where I couldn’t.

 

Carola shoved the cake in Arturo's face right after he blew out the candle. hehehe!

Carola shoved the cake in Arturo’s face right after he blew out the candle. hehehe!

 

Arturo with his birthday gift from his father. So beautifully wrapped!

Arturo with his birthday gift from his father. So beautifully wrapped!

 

After a few days getting our bearings in Santiago, we spent nearly a week at the family’s country house in La Quebrada. It’s a quaint little town nestled in the coastal mountains west of Santiago, and the country quietness was enchanting. Arturo’s uncle, Tio Pedro, and his wife Ximena live in the countryhouse year-round, and Arturo’s great-uncle, Tio Queco, and his wife, Tia Yunia, live next door, along with their son Queco. They are such lovely people! Queco, who worked for many years in the US as a fashion stylist, gave us GORGEOUS sweaters for Shawna and Seth that Arturo and I hope to give them on the day we take custody of them, as their very first clothing items that are entirely their own. Such a special gift!

A huge clan! I had no idea how close-knit Arturo's big family is. It was wonderful to meet them all! Back L to R: Gonzalo (Carola's husband), Marcela (Fanky's wife), Fanky (Arturo's brother), Arturo, Arturo's father, Jopi (Arturo's sister), Gus (Arturo's brother), Carola (Arturo's sister), me, Ximena (Pedro's wife). Front L to R: Lolol (Pedro & Ximena's lovely puppy), Pedro (Arturo Sr.'s brother), Helena (Carola's daughter), Pamela (Arturo's stepmother), Antonia (Carola's daughter).

A huge clan! I had no idea how close-knit Arturo’s big family is. It was wonderful to meet them all! Back L to R: Gonzalo (Carola’s husband), Marcela (Fanky’s wife), Fanky (Arturo’s brother), Arturo, Arturo’s father, Jopi (Arturo’s sister), Gus (Arturo’s brother), Carola (Arturo’s sister), me, Ximena (Pedro’s wife). Front L to R: Lolol (Pedro & Ximena’s lovely puppy), Pedro (Arturo Sr.’s brother), Helena (Carola’s daughter), Pamela (Arturo’s stepmother), Antonia (Carola’s daughter).

 

Arturo's father and Tio Enrique cooking a birthday dinner of Chilean BBQ

Arturo’s father and Tio Enrique cooking a birthday dinner of Chilean BBQ

 

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Tio Pedro and Tio Enrique

Tio Pedro and Tio Enrique

 

I love this picture just because of the look on Pedro's face. :)

I love this picture just because of the look on Pedro’s face. :)

 

While everyone was together, we called Alicia, Arturo's sister who lives in the US. She was the only one of Arturo's siblings not there for the family gathering, so it was great to have her join us virtually.

While everyone was together, we called Alicia, Arturo’s sister who lives in the US. She was the only one of Arturo’s siblings not there for the family gathering, so it was great to have her join us virtually.

 

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Gus, in uniform, talking to Alicia.

 

Arturo's brother and sister, Jopi and Fanky, having fun with Helena, Arturo's niece (Carola's little girl)

Arturo’s brother and sister, Jopi and Fanky, having fun with Helena, Arturo’s niece (Carola’s little girl)

 

Jopi and Helena

Jopi and Helena

 

Gus and Pamela

Gus and Pamela

 

Family laughter!

Family laughter!

 

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Queco and me eating empandas. Sooooo yummy!

Queco and I eating empandas. Sooooo yummy!

 

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Tio Guillermo and Arturo

Tio Guillermo and Arturo

 

L to R: Ximena, Queco, Guillermo, Pedro, Arturo, me, Arturo Sr.

L to R: Ximena, Queco, Guillermo, Pedro, Arturo, me, Arturo Sr.

Arturo’s father came to La Quebrada with us, and we spent hours exploring the countryside with him. One afternoon we walked to a creek bed adjacent to the family land, where Arturo played and swam as a child. It was a magical week.

examining the creatures in the stream

examining the creatures in the stream

 

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There were cacti EVERYWHERE. This picture doesn't begin to do the wealth of cacti justice. This was my first time seeing cacti growing wild, and I loved it.

There were cacti EVERYWHERE. This picture doesn’t begin to do the wealth of cacti justice. This was my first time seeing cacti growing wild, and I loved it.

 

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Many of the plants native to Chile are very hostile. The tiny little barbs on this flower are coated in a poison that stings like CRAZY if you even barely touch it. Getting this photo my hand lightly brushed one of the leaves, and my hand was stinging for hours.

Many of the plants native to Chile are very hostile. The tiny little barbs on this flower are coated in a poison that stings like CRAZY if you even barely touch it. While taking this photo, my hand lightly brushed one of the leaves. My hand was stinging for hours.

 

Another hostile plant. You can't tell from this photo, but each of these barbs was about 4 inches long. These spikes grow from a tree that grows everywhere around La Quebrada.

Another hostile plant. You can’t tell from this photo, but each of these barbs was about 4 inches long. These spikes belong to a tree that grows everywhere around La Quebrada.

 

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The bulbs at the top of this cactus leaf are cactus pears, and they are SO GOOD! Yummmmmm.

The bulbs at the top of this cactus leaf are cactus pears, and they are SO GOOD! Yummmmmm.

 

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Avocados growing wild. Yummmm!

Avocados growing wild. Yummmm!

 

We found an almond tree growing wild on one of our walks and picked a few. Arturo's father then found a rock, and we cracked them open to eat on our walk. Delicious!

We found an almond tree growing wild on one of our walks and picked a few. Arturo’s father then found a rock, and we cracked them open to eat on our walk. Delicious!

 

Lemons growing in the yard of the family house. Chilean cuisine uses lots of lemon juice, and lemons from this tree were part of the meals we ate while we were there.

Lemons growing in the yard of the family house. Chilean cuisine uses lots of lemon juice, and lemons from this tree were part of the meals we ate while we were there.

 

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Can you find the frog?

Can you find the frog?

 

The front door of the family house. El Gualicho means "Bewitched."

The front door of the family house. El Gualicho means “Bewitched.”

 

A view of the family house from the bottom of the valley. The house is the small roof you can see in the lower left of the picture. This photo shows just how remote the house is!

A view of the family house from the bottom of the valley. The house is the small roof you can see in the lower left of the picture. This photo shows just how remote the house is!

 

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Eucalyptus trees grow wild in Chile, and we found eucalyptus groves EVERYWHERE. The trees didn't smell too strongly on their own, but scratch a leaf and you could smell the distinctive eucalyptus smell for several feet around that leaf.

Eucalyptus trees grow wild in Chile, and we found eucalyptus groves EVERYWHERE. The trees don’t smell too strongly on their own, but scratch a leaf and you can smell the distinctive eucalyptus scent for several feet around that leaf.

 

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This flower itself didn't have any spikes, but it was growing near a thorny plant, and I got several splinters while trying to get this photograph. I'm not sure the splinters were worth it, but at least the shot came out!

This flower itself didn’t have any spikes, but it was growing near a thorny plant, and I got several thorn splinters while trying to get this photograph. I’m not sure the splinters were worth it, but at least the shot came out!

 

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Las Palmas is a tiny village near La Quebrada, and they have a special shrine for a small statue of the Christ Child, called Niño Dios de las Palmas. We visited the shrine one afternoon, and it was a beautiful shrine and a beautiful little village.

Las Palmas is a tiny village near La Quebrada, and they have a special shrine for a small statue of the Christ Child, called Niño Dios de las Palmas. We visited the shrine one afternoon. It was a beautiful shrine and a beautiful little village.

 

From La Quebrada, Arturo and I made a quick daytrip on our own to Viña and Valparaiso on the coast before heading back to spend our last week in Santiago. Valparaiso is a World Heritage Site, and with good reason. It is a breathtakingly beautiful city. One afternoon wandering the picturesque streets wasn’t nearly enough, and we’ve already made plans to spend much more time there on our next trip to Chile. Since we knew we had limited time available, we chose our stops carefully. Arturo’s family vacationed in Viña and Valparaiso every summer when he was growing up, so we made sure to visit sites he remembers. We walked on the “beach,” which is mostly rocky except for in a few specific spots but is no less beautiful for being so rocky. We explored the city’s many hills and took in the beautiful city vistas that were just waiting to be enjoyed. We ended the day perched on rocks on the beach, watching the sun set over the Pacific Ocean. It was my first time to see the Pacific Ocean and also my first ocean sunset. Incredible.

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Valparaiso has beautiful murals throughout the city.

Valparaiso has beautiful murals throughout the city.

 

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Valparaiso has elevator inclines all over the city, and we took several as we were walking around the city. The cemetery in the background of this photo is the military cemetery in which Arturo's grandfather is buried.

Valparaiso has elevator inclines all over the city, and we rode several as we made our way around the city. The cemetery in the background of this photo is the military cemetery in which Arturo’s grandfather is buried.

 

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The rocky "beach"

The rocky “beach”

 

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Even the sandy parts of the beach have rocks everywhere.

Even the sandy parts of the beach have rocks everywhere.

 

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I love the reflection of the sunset in Arturo's sunglasses.

I love the reflection of the sunset in Arturo’s sunglasses.

 

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After the sunset, we went to Tavelli, a coffee shop Arturo loved as a child. This drink is a very sweet iced coffee drink that's usually only drunk by kids in Chile, and the waiter gave Arturo a very strange look when he ordered it. But he loved it as a child and wanted it despite the odd looks. It was just as good as he remembered.

After the sunset, we went to Tavelli, a coffee shop Arturo loved as a child. This drink is a very sweet iced coffee drink that’s usually only drunk by kids in Chile, and the waiter gave Arturo a very strange look when he ordered it. But he loved it as a child and wanted it despite the odd looks. It was just as good as he remembered.

 

Our last week in Chile was spent in Santiago visiting as many family members as possible. Some days we had breakfast with one group of family members, went to lunch with another, had “once” (the Chilean version of British tea) with yet another, and finished out the night by enjoying dinner with a fourth group of family members. It was a hectic schedule. My introverted personality was a bit overwhelmed and craved alone time during that week, but I wouldn’t have changed it for anything. We had precious little time in Chile, and we knew we had to pack as much as possible into the time we had. We ate more delicious food than we thought possible, enjoying every bit of it, and the people … oh the people! Arturo’s family is so warm and welcoming and friendly! I couldn’t have asked for a better first meeting with the many people who are so important to Arturo and who shaped the man he is today.

Arturo with his grandmother, Abuelita Fanny

Arturo with his grandmother, Abuelita Fanny

 

Arturo, Abuelita Fanny, and Tio Enrique

Arturo, Abuelita Fanny, and Tio Enrique

 

Back L to R: Tia Gloria, Tio Enrique, Soledad (Arturo's cousin), Enrique (Arturo's cousin), Arturo's Father. Front: Arturo & me

Back L to R: Tia Gloria, Tio Enrique, Soledad (Arturo’s cousin), Enrique (Arturo’s cousin), Arturo’s Father. Front: Arturo & me

 

Soledad and Gloria writing in the front of the book they gave Arturo for his birthday. It will be a treasured gift for generations!

Soledad and Gloria writing in the front of the book they gave Arturo for his birthday. It will be a treasured gift for generations!

 

Tio Chago and Tia Patricia with Arturo

Tio Chago and Tia Patricia with Arturo

 

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Tio Chago picked this gorgeous camellia for me from their front yard before we left. He is such a gentleman!

Tio Chago picked this gorgeous camellia for me from their front yard before we left. He is such a gentleman!

 

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After dinner one evening, we had an impromptu musical session. Jopi is a great guitar player!

After dinner one evening, we had an impromptu musical session. Jopi is a great guitar player!

 

Helena wanted to play, too. :)

Helena wanted to play, too. :)

 

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Arturo and his father. I took this photo about 2 minutes before we climbed on the airport bus to head back to Cincinnati.

Arturo and his father. I took this photo about 2 minutes before we climbed on the airport bus to begin our journey back to Cincinnati.

 

Our last picture in Chile from this trip. Taken in the airport just a few minutes before boarding our flight. Until next time!

Our last picture in Chile from this trip. Taken in the airport just a few minutes before boarding our flight. Until next time!

 

We left Chile on Sept. 2 and arrived back home in Cincinnati the next morning, tired and worn out but filled to the brim with the love of family. It was a wonderful trip, and while the timing of the trip with our adoption could have been better, I’m so glad we went. Arturo’s family is amazing, and I’m blessed to have met them.

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