We've had a bunch of people begging for an update now that we're home! So I'll try to fill everyone in!
Travel on Thursday was very uneventful, thankfully. The taxi driver was so wonderful and stayed with us as we checked in the airport and all the way up to immigration where he wasn't allowed further. He was extremely kind and even got teary-eyed when we said goodbye. I was so thankful for him as it took a LONG time to get through check in. I guess 9 people, with a bunch of legal paperwork and 11 bags to check is a lot to get done. I was glad we allowed the full 3 hours ahead of time.
For families awaiting travel from the Bogota airport here's how it happened for us. We flew Avianca, so I don't know how other airlines are...
We got a Porter to help us carry all our luggage in on a cart and then while Brent and the taxi driver waited in line with the kids, the Porter took me to a window to get an exit tax-exempt stamp since we had been there less than a month. It was not for the chicos, but the rest of us. Then I got back in line with the rest of the group!
First you get into the Avianca line that says to go to the US. (There is another line for Europe and South American Countries.) When we got to the first set of people who were checking us in, I had to give all our passports and show (not give) a copy of each of their new birth certificates and sentencia. Our attorney had already prepared an envelope with those things for us, so I wasn't scrambling to find them. They gave us baggage tickets to stick to our luggage with our address- so filling out 11 of them took a while. Then we were sent to the real check in desk where we again showed the passports, birth certs, and sentencia. Keep them handy! LOL! The lady asked for the "permissions" and I didnt' know what she wanted but thankfully the taxi driver explained that they needed our documents. We left all our checked baggage with her and got our boarding passes.
The taxi driver then took us up the escalators (to the right of the check in desk). Upstairs we went to the left toward immigration. It is smack in the middle of the huge corridor so you can't miss it. First you go through security and then wait in line for immigration. We didn't have to wait for more than 5 minutes in line before we got to the immigration officer. There are about 10 counters set up and there was someone directing us to which one to go to. I think we had to go to the one specifically for people traveling with minors. This was a good 20 minute procedure. He had to look at each person and compare it to the passport (actually both times before they did that too, so don't send someone to the bathroom!). Then I gave him the copy of the birth certificate and sentencia (authenticated!) to keep. He was doing some kind of paperwork on his side of the counter so I'm not sure what that was all about. We were quite the spectacle with 7 kids sprawled all over the floor listening to music on their Mp3's or resting their heads on their backpacks! We got quite a lot of stares and a few of the other immigration officers just couldn't resist asking about all our details! LOL
Once you are through immigration, you head toward your gate. There are lots of stores for shopping or restaurants. There is security again at the actual gate. There are NO bathrooms or drinks allowed past the security. We asked about taking water in for the children and they allowed us to if it was unopened water. But I would check first before doing so. We were allowed snacks also. Thankfully we only had a short 15 minute wait before boarding the plane, but if your wait is going to be longer, you might consider delaying going through the gate security until just before boarding so you still have food/drink/bathroom facilities!
Flying home was easy with the on board entertainment system. I don't even think they had to get in their bags for toys!
Once in Washington DC, we followed the masses of people to a shuttle that took us to immigration where we waited in another long line. It moved pretty quickly though. Our immigration officer took our big, fat Top Secret Envelopes and opened them. I was so curious about what was in them! It is only just photocopies of all the documents that were given at the Embassy! How anticlimactic! I had a handful of the same things in my backpack! LOL!
After going through another security for agricultural products (apparently coffee beans count!) with a grumpy officer, we were finally free! As soon as we passed through the doors we heard the screams and clapping of all our family and friends there to welcome us home! The kids clung to us for the first 20 minutes or so, but then the ice got broken when someone pulled out an uno game and crayons and coloring books. All the cousins crowded around and played! We stayed there for a while and since the kids were doing so well, we decided to all drive to a McDonalds with a playground for dinner. Gotta introduce these kids to the most American food, right! LOL!
The playground at McD's was perfect and it really allowed the chicos to get comfortable with their cousins and new family members. By the end of the evening they were hugging and kissing on everyone! I'm so glad we did it even though we ended up getting home late.
At home they were so excited to see everything! They went from room to room squealing and oohing and ahhing over each little thing. Then, we introduced them to the playroom in the basement. Oh, boy! You'd have thought they were in heaven. Dress ups were the ultimate hit! We told them they could either have a bath or play- and they chose to play! Of course! Finally around 12:30am everyone headed to bed.
The first two days home were like another honeymoon. The kids were doing amazingly well. Luisa and Jonathan both learned to ride a bike by the 2nd day!
On Sunday we felt confident to brave going back to church. They did well, although it was totally overwhelming for them. So many people chattering in English and wanting to touch and hug them. Cindy wouldn't leave Brent's arms but Luisa and Jonathan did a good job saying Hola to people. I stayed with them in Children's Church and I think one of us will have to alternate each week until they get comfortable.
The next few days have proven to be a little more challenging as they try to figure out if the rules in the US are the same as in Colombia. A few more tantrums, but NOTHING as bad as they were in Col. Ultimately the kids are doing phenomenal. When I step back and consider what they have gone through I am absolutely floored at the progress they have made.
I am definitely finding that we need to speak more English. Believe it or not, but we've gotten pretty good at getting our point across in Spanish but I feel like it might be holding us back from progressing with them. So for now we are trying to say every phrase in both Spanish and English. They are very interested in learning, thankfully. They especially love it when a word in Spanish is the same or very similar in English! LOL!
They love Sadie, our dog. She is loving life with all their attention and with how often they spill their food! LOL! Brent and I are completely exhausted at the end of each day (thus the delay in posting on the blog!). It is mentally draining to keep up with their activity and be 100% on top of everything all day long. I'm sure that will slow down once we get into a better routine, but for now we are crashing into bed each day!
Ok, that's enough for now! Thank you all again for all the wonderful support you have been and the encouragement you have given. We have been humbled by how greatly you all have loved on us. You have blessed us immeasurably. We love you. Thank you for being on this journey with us.