Day 2: Sofia to Blagoevgrad, Bulgaria
We were picked up from the apartment Monday morning around 9:15, and started our trip to Blagoevgrad. It was about an hour and a half drive southwest into the mountains. The drive was beautiful. We stopped halfway to get gas, and Andy and I went into to get a bottle of water. I immediately saw a little kiosk of books, and at the bottom of the shelf was a Masha and the Bear book. I said a quick prayer of thanks that my limited Bulgarian allowed me to read the title, and then I insisted to Andy that we must buy it for Cora because it is her favorite cartoon.
We arrived in Blagoevgrad, and the first thing I noticed was the huge mountain overlooking the city, and on the top was a large cross. We continued downtown, parked, and began a walk to the Social Services office. We had no idea what to expect. We had been told that we would likely meet with the Social Service directors and Alina, and then Isus would be brought in. Rather, as we opened the door of the 5th floor office, the first thing I saw was Zoosy crawling underneath a table. It was a surreal moment. We entered and quickly shook hands with everyone in the room. I recognized his foster mom, and as we locked eyes, I tried hard to express thankfulness to her. As they all sat down and started what seemed to be some sort of meeting, we plopped down on the floor and gave all our attention to our boy. He walked right over to Andy, and we started to play with some toy cars. I couldn’t believe it, but he was completely comfortable being there with us. He walked over to me and started playing with the straps on my backpack for the next 20 minutes, occasionally looking at us and asking us to help him snap and unsnap it over and over. I honestly couldn’t believe it. All I could envision for the weeks leading up to that meeting were him being filled with fear and confusion, and just crying. Yet, here we were….he was happy to let us play with him and touch him and hold him, and he gave us sweet little smiles. I’ve experienced enough of God’s goodness through this journey, that, really, nothing should surprise me…..but, it still does.
He made it pretty clear to us after a while that he was done being in the small office room, and so we (our whole entourage of translator, foster mom, and social service workers) decided to go for a walk to “take coffee.” (This is something that happened a handful of times each day.)
The elevator only held 4 people, so going back down, Andy, Alina, Isus, and I rode down in one, and once inside away from all the extra eyes, I simply expressed “Thank you.” She asked, “for what,” and I told her for taking such good care of him. She began crying, and said she loves him so much, and she is happy he will have a mom and a dad. As we stepped off, she gave me the tightest hug and kiss I have likely ever received, and I knew right then that she would be a part of our family forever. God was already knitting our hearts together through this small, beautiful boy.
We put Isus in the stroller, and began our walk to a nearby cafe. Andy put his sunglasses on Isus, thus beginning a week of him requesting our sunglasses and hats every time he saw us. He was adorable in them.
At the cafe, we showed him videos of Addy, Abe and Cora for the first time, and he was intrigued by them–wanting to watch them over and over. It was there that he said “Cora” for the first time. The rest of the week he would ask us, “Cola kuday?” (Where is Cora?) He also wanted to see pictures of “Aba and Adda.” As we had coffee, we were able to ask questions about his history, his habits, his favorite things, his time in the orphanage, ect.
As we walked back to the car with them, I overheard Alina mention “Masha.” It was then that I realized that my children–worlds apart–have the same favorite cartoon. (Another small “balm” on this journey.)
We loaded them into the car….which in Bulgaria consists of just letting the little people sit and hang out in the back (no carseats). Many of our favorite times were with him in the back of the car. He was happy to be going, and would go back and forth on our laps to play. We drove them back to the house he lives in right now…in a village about 20 minutes away. More on that later……
Visit two took place at 5PM. It was (suprisingly) arranged that all of our evening meetings with him would not take place with a social service worker. This was actually a relief because, although they were very nice, it was easier to just relax a little more and focus on him. We went to his village for our 2nd visit. It was decided that we would go for a walk through the village to a small playground for a few hours.
We strolled through the village taking in all the sights and sounds and people that are so familiar to him. We quickly came to realize that he is well-liked in this small village by many. He knows which chickens belong to “Grandpa Maunie,” and enjoyed watching the little neighbor girl play. We were able to meet Alina’s sister and her son–2 and a half year old, Soshko. It was very beautiful. He didn’t stay busy on any one thing in the playground,but enjoyed picking grass and throwing it over the fence with me, or rattling the fence with Andy, but mostly he just wanted to walk in circles around the attached cafe. One lap nearly resulted in a stampede, as a local shepherd was driving his bull and goats home. They brushed right by us.
We were able to have many more conversations with Alina, and learn much about her life in the village. In many ways, so much is the same. She asked Andy if we ate meals at home much , and he told her that I make almost all our meals from scratch (which she seemed relieved by). We have the same things in our gardens, we both can jellies and vegetables, the climate is similar, the pets we have are similar (chickens, dog, cats, ducks, ect)….and on and on. As my brother-in-law said, it is as though God has used Alina and her family to prepare Isus for us in more than one way.
The time spent in the village was good, but it resulted in a very over-stimulated Isus (understandable, of course!) He had a major meltdown, and we all knew he just needed to get settled back in to his normal routine, and get ready for bed, but I think we all wanted to be kind to each other by not saying anything. Our translator wanted us to spend as much time with him as possible, Alina wanted to be kind and not take him away, and we didn’t want to appear that we didn’t want to spend any more time with him……so we all waited a bit too long. We left him in tears, and I think we all felt a little frazzled.
At that point sleep deprivation was beginning to kick in, we had eaten at strange times during the day…..and, frankly, we had just spent our first moments with our new son. It was A LOT. We decided after getting to the hotel, that we would not do this to Isus again. We wanted to spend as much time with him as we could….but not at his expense. We articulated this to our translator the next day, and from then on, we just let Zoosy’s schedule lead our visits, which was more peaceful for everyone.
We skipped supper, tried to process all that had happened, Skyped with the kids at home, and crashed. It was a very hard day and very beautiful day.