Sunday, September 14, 2014

A Trip to the Mall on the Metro (9/11/14)

Today’s big adventure was a trip to the Mall of Sofia.  Rather than taking a walk to the mall or a taxi, we (again, myself, Soshko, and the Clauses) took the Sofia Metro.

But first, the number of smoke breaks for yesterday's hospital trip – I honestly cannot tell.  Dani was in the hospital the entire time and therefore could not/would not smoke.  Marty was not in the hospital so he probably had more freedom as to his smoking.  However, before we came back, they both had a smoke.  I would contend that before I came down, they probably both had a smoke, and I would guess that Marty could have had two smokes while we were in there, so that means that….six could have been reasonable.  But in the end I cannot say, so unfortunately, we all lose.  Thanks for playing!
OK, so the metro is probably familiar to many folks who live in a big city, but it is a little scary considering that you can’t read the Bulgarian and have a very loose (at best) concept of where everything is.  So, with some research and careful planning, I was able to find the route on the metro to go from the closest metro station to the metro station outside of the mall.

Now that’s great….but you have to do it, not just plan it.  Ah….that’s the tricky part.

First issue to deal with is that Soshko was not feeling cooperative and to be honest a little on the tired side.  The last couple of mornings, he had awoken at 5:00 or so and was not napping or going to bed in a commensurately appropriate hour in the evening.  So, feeling a lucky, I strapped the Ergo (our little person carrier) to my back sans Soshko in the hopes that he would prefer to ride on my back rather than walking.

Yeah, that didn’t work out.

Soshko was fantastically rebellious all the way from the hotel to the local metro station.  It was to the point that I had said that if he didn’t get better by the metro station, I would abort my end of the deal.  So, once I saw that he was still rebelling a little at the station, I decided to go anyway.  Way to make a plan and stick with it!  You get a golden star by your name!

One thing that was a pain in the rear was that Soshko insisted on holding this plastic container of mostly empty water (yeah – I’m going to leave that misplaced modifier…really wonder what empty, or mostly empty, water tastes like).  He would have a grip on the container for about 25 steps before it would start to slip from his hands at which point Soshko would let go of my hand and then readjust the water bottle before moving onward.

Another thing is that Soshko insisted on pillaging Levi’s toy music box again.  The Clauses agreed to relinquish the toy in the hopes of a peaceful trip; Levi was doing awesome.

So anyway, here we are where Soshko insists on me holding his wrists while we walk.  And most importantly, hold the wrist with the water so that he could operate the toy with his other hand.  Every few steps he needed to adjust his water hand and it made walking slow going.  Every five minutes or so we had to slow down for tantrum meltdowns.  So, I just wanted to let you know what is going on the background as we got through this next part.

The metro station that we were at was one stop away from the main hub, the crossroads of the two lines.  Oh yeah, I guess it would be helpful to explain that there are two lines.  Oh, you know what, you can see what its like for yourself:

OK, so we started at the Lavov Most station (probably translates to Lions’ Bridge station) and we needed to go to the Opalchenska station.  So, the route we needed to take was to go one stop to Serdika and then change lines and go one stop over to Opalchenska.

One difficulty was that the signs for the trains did not show what was the next exit (e.g. Serdika).  Rather, they showed two other places that I guess was to show the two extremes.  Kind of like if you were in Kansas City and you were at a train station.  You wanted to go to Denver and the two trains to choose from were Washington DC or San Francisco.  You would choose San Francisco.

Well anyway, we fumbled through it and figured it out.  The signs were very easy to follow when it came to switching lines in Serdika.  We figured which train to wait for, took it, and arrived at the Opalchenska stop which is approximately one block from the Mall of Sofia.

“Blah blah blah,” a girl said to us.  It was in Bulgarian.

“I don’t understand,” one of us responded.  I think that it was Josh, but I could be wrong.

“Oh, uhm.  Do you know where the mall is?” she asked.  Obviously in English since I knew what to write.  At this point Soshko collapsed onto the floor into a fit and I couldn’t keep up with what happened next.  But I was amused that even the locals had issues trying to find this thing.  Eventually we figured out where the mall was.

The mall itself was quite interesting.  There were three levels with stores and a couple of lower levels for parking.  Overall, it was quite large and quite busy.  At least in my neck of the woods, malls tend to be dying out, so this was a pleasant surprise considering that I wanted this to be the stop for our metro mission.

We spent the first 15 minutes or so trying to get a feel for the place.  We all agreed that it was much larger than any of the malls that were around us.  Soshko had his first ride on an escalator and his first meltdown in the middle of a mall.  Once he calmed down a bit, we got him strapped to my back where he went to sleep for about 10-15 minutes.

Even though it was much larger and livelier than other American malls, it also was very much the same as any other mall.  There wasn’t anything that set it apart from other malls other than the size.
While Soshko slept, I hit a bookstore and picked up some goodies for the kids.  I also picked up, on recommendation from the store clerk, two Bulgarian metal albums.  When I read through the lyrics later though, I realized why – again – that I chose to listen to Christian metal.  Overall, the sound is enjoyable (for those that like metal) and is well done, but I’m just not a secular metal kind of a guy.  These may turn into souvenirs….

Oh well, Soshko woke up just as I was checking out.  He was loud.

We then tried some of the Italian gelato, in the hopes that Soshko would enjoy it.  He is the first kid that I know of who would turn down ice cream…really!  It probably was that the temperature threw him for a loop and that he probably did not get much sweet/cold stuff at the orphanage.

After that we went to the Happy Grill, a chain restaurant in Bulgaria that has pretty nifty menus with pictures of the dishes.  I think that the menus also are in Bulgarian and in English.  Anyway, Soshko was more than happy to oblige in a sit down at a restaurant because he knew that he was getting food.
Unfortunately for me, I did not have any food for Soshko, so I was hoping that they would have some yogurt or something that he would like to eat at the Happy Grill.  I did pack a yogurt (and honey), but when I tried to feed him at the subway in an attempt to diffuse his tantrum, he refused to eat it.  Not having any other option to store it, I had to toss it.

Well anyway, just for further background, most of the sauces in Bulgaria are yogurt based.  So, in other words, I was pretty certain that they had some yogurt in the kitchen, so I felt pretty comfortable in ordering some yogurt for Soshko.  Here comes Ms. Sunshine, our waitress and….

What?  No yogurt?  No really, I can’t order yogurt?  I was in a pickle.  Considering that he had been eating bread all along, I reasoned that I might be able to get by feeding him bits and bobs from my plate.

Once everyone’s food arrived, Soshko started to pipe up in anticipation of some nice yummies.  I offered him some fries from my plate, and he wouldn’t have anything to do with them.  I offered him water and he wouldn’t take it.  He was starting to get restless and I started to give up hope.


He started to grab towards the sauce ramekins on Chelsea's and Josh’s plates. 

“He can have them.”

Score!  I gave him the first forkful and he liked it.  Between forkfuls of the sauce I wolfed down my lunch.

After lunch, the Clauses needed to go shoe shopping for Levi so Soshko and I joined along in their hunt for some better fitting kicks.  Once found, we headed back to the hotel the same way we came.
One thing that I figured out about the little guy is that his tantrums do not last forever.  If I can just stick with him and wait it out, he usually comes around.

Well, off to bed for me!

St. Christopher, Pray for us!
God bless,

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

T-Minus One Week

In one week we will be gracing the halls of the Sofia Airport and begin our return home.  Until then, I have one more week in single parenthood with Soshko in a foreign land.

Today, we have the next step in our immigration process.  Actually steps.  We have to go pick up Soshko’s and Levi's passports and then subject them to the medicals.  Marty and Dani will be our guides (and mind you, I am in this journey as well with the Clauses – so in more than one way I am not alone in this journey).  

So, I am opening the betting window for number of smoke breaks for Marty and/or Dani.  I’ll set 6 as the line for both of them and tell me if you want to go over or under.  Well, by the time that I send it out, I’ll have an answer, but I’ll give the answer in the next post.

A couple things that I am learning about Soshko:

-          Likes to sleep with a light on.  Drives me nuts, but if that is how he rolls, I’ll work with it.
-          Totally fascinated with playing in the sink water.
-          Insists on changing a diaper if he is even the slightest bit wet.
-          Lives off of yogurt currently.
-          Break dances in his sleep.
-          Loves all things to do with food from implements and containers to the actual food stuff.
-          Really wants to go in a car, but I have to keep telling him that I don’t have one.
-          Exceptionally careful for a four year-old.
-          Thinks it hilarious when I throw a diaper at the bin and miss.
-          Has good hearing.
-          Loves music.

Well, the first order of business is exercise, both will and lungs.  Soshko had the most strange form of exercise where he yells at the top of his lungs while simultaneously squirting water out of his eyes and riding an imaginary bicycle.  I had to help him with the bicycle part.  He loved it so much that we did that until lunch!  He will be one fit little dude.

Obviously we were dealing with a tantrum, and I expected to run across several of these along the way.  Even though, it still wasn’t easy.

Well, we had some lunch down in the PECTOPAHT around 12:30ish, an hour away from when we had to meet Marty and Dani for our next steps.  After wolfing down some tarator and some bread we got ready to meet Marty and Dani.

For some odd reason, we tend to be late meeting Marty and Dani.  For almost anything else, we are totally on time.  I wonder why (here’s looking at you Soshko!).  Anyway, they had the passports already, which were, guess what, Bulgarian passports!  I wonder if we get to keep them…that would be kind of cool.  Well, we’ll see.

Anyway, on to the adopt-o-mobile to go pull blood and some other stuff.  Our transport for today (and also on Monday) was a van that had, oddly enough, seven seats.  That isn’t the odd part – the odd part was the configuration of those seven seats: 2-3-2.  Soshko and I were in the caboose, Clauses in the middle, and Marty and Dani up in the front.

The hospital was very inconspicuous; it looked like a store front.  It was like a hammer-space (example for Dr. Who fans: the Tardis).  Once inside, it was suffocatingly antiseptic.  Hospitals must have universal standards on how to make it feel like this is a place for sick people or make you feel sick if you are not.

First step was the poking of the kids for blood.  This is a “surer” test for TB than the often used skin test.  The US requires that all adoptees must be tested for TB and, I believe, be negative.  However, because the skin test can show a false positive for those vaccinated against TB, the blood test is preferred to reduce the chance of false positive readings.  For you statisticians out there, which test has a higher power?

Anyway, Levi and the Clauses went first.  I’m pretty sure they just got Levi, but not sure, so I was a little nervous for myself.  It went really quick, like less than five minutes.  Then it was Soshko’s and my turn.  I took a deep breath….I hate needles.

We sat in a chair while this doctor/nurse/hospital worker (but probably not janitor) readied the needle.  I held Soshko and hoped that they were only going to stick him.  They applied a tourniquet above the arm and proceeded to stick him in his arm.  He squirmed and screamed.  And then he stopped.

“Is that it?” I asked.

“No, we didn’t get enough,” Dani replied.  Oh yeah, Dani was in there to translate.

That meant they probably needed a juicier vein.  I began to sweat.  I held onto Soshko just hoping that they would go for his other arm (“hey guys, he has two arms!”).  They must have read my sign language well, so they applied the tourniquet to the other arm.  I held him tight as the need approached.  Again he screamed and squirmed.  But this time when it was done, they had a vile of his blood ready for testing.  Those vampires.

Slightly reminds me of a scene from Johnny English.

Playing with Levi's musical toy
But hyperbole aside, I felt sorry for the little guy and a little miffed in the lack of communication to me during the process.  To cheer up Soshko, the Clauses gave him a musical toy to play with while we went to our next stop.

Which was the pediatrician.  There was no waiting room like in the USA.  It was a waiting corridor and was shared with other doctors in the hall.  Actually, there was a waiting room for the pediatrician, but it was more like a bullpen; the next kid and family hung out while the rest of us hung out in the hall.  Actually Soshko and I were in the stairwell.  

It took a while before Soshko was seen to, but he did fantastic waiting.  He would press the button on the little musical toy and would intently listen.  At the cadence of a piece, without missing a beat, he would push the button again.  It was as if he knew what the end of the piece of music was on the little toy.  

Oh, and by the way, that toy is one of the better “music” toys that I have ever run across.  The pieces were standard classical pieces with rather accurate harmonies and rhythms.  Not only that, but there were several pieces, not the standard two or three.  I just might need to track down one of my own.  You know, for the kids….not like I’m going to take it to work…really….I….wouldn’t....

Another amusing incident was while the Clauses and Levi were with the pediatrician.  Soshko and I were in the bullpen ready to head in to the pediatrician.  There were a few kids there that were also waiting, but there was one in particular that caught Soshko’s attention.  A girl of about 3 or 4 was there playing with some of the pediatrician supplied toys.  Soshko was spellbound; a smile would periodically grace his angelic face.  I think that he likes girls and women in general because he was taken care of by mostly women at the orphanage.  But I think that it was more than gender – I think that it was that she was his size.  I really wanted him to know that he will have many little people to play with at home.  And not just the Fisher Price toys.

The pediatrician exam was pretty quick.  The doctor, who was very nice, just looked at him and said, “He looks fine.”  They measured him and weighed him to get a better look at his current health.  The last time he was measured was around December of last year.  According to the charts, he was around the size of an average 4 year old.  Granted, an average Bulgarian 4 year old and he is actually closer to 5 than 4.  So, he is probably still on the shrimpy side, but I’m working on that everyday.  It looks like he's gained about 6 lbs in weight and an inch in height in the last 9 months.

After a little downtime which consisted of Soshko running water in the sink and waving his hands in it, we were finally able to go to the Billa grocery store.  I wanted to go earlier which is what spawned the temper tantrum earlier.  Specifically, I wanted him on my back or in the stroller, and he didn’t want either in the morning.  He accepted the stroller for the afternoon walk.

Which was somewhat problematic.  In order to get to the Billa, there are several flights of stairs to get there.  Elevators were available but not always operational.  Luckily, with the use of two elevators, I only had to manage one set of stairs to the Billa.

Afterwards, the trip back was somewhat perilous: I had two bags of groceries a kid in a stroller and my now quite sizeable man-purse.  Taking it slow we made it back just in time to Skype a bit with the family before going to supper.
This is Soshko's position of choice when he finishes eating.
Although the day started really stressful, we found a good end to the day.  Supper was good – I got a tip from the waiter that there was a secret dish not on the menu, curry chicken with rice.  Not only that, it was at a good price (6.90 BGN).   Sam has been a tremendous and wonderful support as I’ve been exploring the adventure of taking care of Soshko.  I miss her and all the family.  I am consoled knowing that there is only one more week before we are home.

St. Christopher, Pray for us!
God bless,

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Sofia Walking Tour

Sean had another action-packed day with Alexander today.  Alexander learned how to give Sean a high five and is starting to understand some English words.  On Skype Sean even had to spell some words so as not to give Alexander the wrong idea (for instance, O-U-T).

Sean and Alexander went on the Sofia Walking Tour with Josh, Chelsea, and Levi today and ended up walking for a solid 4+ hours!  Here are some pictures of the adventure, courtesy of Chelsea's fantastic photography skills.  THANK YOU Chelsea!

 And we got to Skype for a good long while after Soshko went to sleep for the night.  Here's hoping they both sleep through the night tonight and wake up ready for their big day of appointments tomorrow.  They will be picking up Alexander's passport and then going for his medical exam to clear him to enter the United States.  Never mind they're letting people with Ebola into the country, but... one more step closer to being able to come HOME!

Fast asleep on Skype

Monday, September 8, 2014

Second Day Back on the Job

Today was passport picture day!  That means, we (because my friends Chelsea and Josh are here for their son Levi at the same time) had to finagle our way into getting passable pictures of our boys for their passports.  It really does not take long, but then again, we are dealing with government.  That means that there has got to be some waiting in there somewhere.

So at 9:30am our driver and translator, Marty and Dani, picked us all up at the hotel to go to the passport place.  It was literally a block or two away from the hotel, but because there was construction on the lion’s bridge (or is that Lions’ Bridge?) we had to take the long way around.  We were about five minutes away from Marty’s smoke break before we made it to the passport place.

We stepped in and it was a whole mess of people and counters and these little closet cubicle thingies that apparently were used for taking the passport photos.  Soshko and I stood in line for a grand total of 3 minutes before we had enough.  Yeah, that’s right – even though Soshko was the one falling down and whining and fussing, I was the grand orchestrator.  One word: Ventriloquism.  Dani said that we could step outside.

After hunting rapidly disappearing rain puddles on the sidewalk for about five minutes, Soshko and I were summoned to go take Soshko’s picture.
We were taken into one of those cubicle closets to do the picture.  Really, the whole place was so busy that the only thing I remember was busyness.  That and that it reeked of Old World government buildings; very stately.
I don’t remember much because there wasn’t much to remember.  Besides the busyness, there was a whole bunch of Bulgarian and someone trying to force Soshko to look into the camera.  I have a feeling that I could have helped, but maybe not in that environment.
After that funfest, Chelsea and Josh were going to go for a walk.  Knowing that I needed to get some stuff as well, I volunteered to tag along.

First off, I want to simultaneously apologize and express deep thanks to Chelsea, Josh and Levi.  I want to apologize for stepping in on their plans to do the walking tour of Sofia.  Soshko was not in the mood for walking that long, and he was definitely not in much of a mood for much of anything.  So I had that wet blanket feeling going on.
But also goes out a huge thanks for the moral support for shopping.  I have to admit that I am intimidated by shopping in Bulgaria because it is assumed, by many, that you speak Bulgarian.  And even though I know a little bit, enough to ask if they speak English, I’m still a little shy of it.  Just having other Americans doing the shopping in the same boat as me is inspirational.

Anyway, we managed to hit a couple of shops, and that's as far as I got in writing a blog post about our adventures before Soshko made it known that he had other plans, such as learning how to raid the hotel room's mini bar/fridge.  He's needed a lot of attention today, and in lieu of finishing this blog post tonight after the little guy went to sleep, Sam convinced me to hit the hay early instead.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Fast Forward a Couple of Days

Wow, that has a tough couple of days, but well worth it!  First of all, a huge thanks to Sam for taking up the blogging while I was busy.  Not that she doesn’t have anything to do with five kids at home!  I only have one to keep track of, and it just can’t be that hard, right?

He loves splashing his feet in the tub!
Well…. I don’t think that it is as hard as dealing with the other five, but it is hard in a different way.  First is that there is a communication barrier – Soshko (the diminutive Bulgarian nickname for Alexander, and the name the orphanage staff used for him) has only known Bulgarian spoken to him.  Here I am, predominantly English (subdominant mumbler) trying to communicate with him.  I think that we are slowly getting there…. I think that he understands when I say “want to go outside”.  He seems to be on par with Felix, my two year old at home.  But, on top of that and unlike Felix, Soshko does not verbally communicate besides through the use of grunts, groans, and, I have to say, marvelous facial expressions.  So that I think is the first difficulty that we are working through.

The second is that he has a strong will.  This is a tough subject considering that we are dealing with an adopted child – this is a common characteristic of children from an orphanage.  They are just given what they want so that the workers don’t have to deal with it.  We have had at least a couple of grade A tantrums just because we were staying in the room and not going out.  

I wanted to throw that in to just justify my absence.  See, two reasons and two days I’ve been off.  So, as long as everything goes according to plan, I will be your guide for the remainder of the trip!
I think that Sam did a good job of providing the highlights of the last couple of days; we’ve skyped and she has had pictures to put in the blog courtesy of Chelsea and Josh, who are picking up their son Levi.  It is actually quite refreshing having another family here at the same time; it is making it easier.

Wow, this is a lot of fluff before the meat, hey?  OK, today we are going to attempt mass.  Not only that, I am shooting for Mass in English.  Now, Mass will not be offered at the church, but in some tucked away part of the city on the other side of St. Alexander Nevsky Cathedral that apparently is owned by the Diocese of St. Joseph (I guess the diocese of Sofia).  So that is where I will pick up when I am back.
Soshko riding in the Ergo.  This camera doesn't do well in low light, unfortunately.
Adventure time!  As I am writing this, Soshko is working on falling asleep and my ankles are KILLING me!  So there should be some goodness to go with that, right?  WRONG!  Unless you mean by goodness, the fact that everything conceivable could be thrown at me to keep me from going.

First: Soshko was having an incontinent…ummm…rear end.  He was pooping like a wild thing!  He did not seem upset or disturbed by it, just that he was not able to hold that stuff in.  I was on the fence at that point thinking that it is either diarrhea or his body is just adjusting to a new diet and eating routine.  I changed his diaper at 10 and thought that if he poops one more time, that was it – no go.  By the way this was number 3 or 4 at the time.

Then I strapped him to my back, packed extra clothes (a shirt for me and a new shirt and pants for Soshko) and headed out on my 1.25 mile walk to the English Mass.  Soshko was a real fan of using the Ergo and seemed to almost be lulled to sleep.

At 10:50, I made it to the site for mass, and I saw no one.  Save a lone Bulgarian that was hanging outside.  I asked him and he said that there was Mass but it is at 11:00.  Well, usually it takes a couple of minutes (actually several) for a priest to prepare, so I wasn’t feeling optimistic.  At about 11:00, a German dude pulled up on his bike.  For a second I thought he was the priest, but he apparently wasn’t.  We all three looked around and concluded the obvious – there was no Mass.  Oh joy.
But not giving up, I decided, “What they hey, lets try the Latin mass at St. Joseph’s Cathedral about another mile or so away!"  Soshko was up for it (at that point – he didn’t have to walk!) so we buckled down and went for it.

At this point, this is lesson number one for folks about to embark on this journey.  Verify anything that you want to do that might be out of the ordinary.  In hindsight, I wish I could have asked the receptionist to check to see if Mass would be offered in English at the chapel instead of assuming that it would.  So more pithy:  Assume nothing.

Alright…so we made it to St. Joseph’s about 12 minutes ahead of time.  At this point I thought that it would be prudent to go on check Soshko’s Diaper situation.  So, we went to the bathroom and what do you know, he had peed through his pants and onto his shirt.  By and by, this is a common occurrence for all little people that hang out in the Ergo: they pee on me.  Thank goodness, no poop! 
Lucky that I actually brought a change of clothes.  So I changed my shirt and I changed Soshko’s shirt, but then I ran into a problem when I attempted to change Soshko’s pants.  Soshko hated them!  He would not wear them.  Knowing that the probability of surviving Mass with an upset toddler at T minus five minutes or so, I tried to reason a solution.

The solution?  Put the original pants back on.  1) they were dark pants and 2) they were not totally drenched.  I figured that I just needed to do what needed to be done at that point.

So, lesson number 2: pack more clothes for your little one – (much) more than you think that you need.  Not only because they pee and poop and have other messy accidents, but because your little one could be fashion conscious.  Soshko does not like overalls, end of story.  So, if you can glean clothing preferences, if they exist, on the first trip, capitalize on them.

At that point, Soshko behaved about about as well as could be expected for a first time at Mass.  We made it through just fine till right after the homily.  That’s when Soshko had pretty much had enough and wanted to be outside of the Church.

Now, this is the first time, I think, that Soshko had ever been in an organized religious anything, so I know that there was a lot that he didn’t understand (and likewise, a lot that I didn’t understand), but I do believe that it was worth it.

After reception of Holy Communion, I had to head out.  Soshko was not handling the situation well at all: it was 1:00 and we needed lunch and my ankles were beyond shot.

I do have to say that I was greatly impressed with the German guy who came to the Latin Mass after missing the English Mass.  He looked after my man-purse and tried to help with Soshko when he went into full meltdown mode.  He even lifted Soshko to the priest for a blessing.  I don’t know if I will see him again, but he was a blessing to have for those few moments.

The rest of the day was beginning to look like what our routine would be.  We had lunch, we went out for a walk, we played in the room a little bit (well Soshko did).  But one thing is that Soshko began to slow down a whole lot more at the end of the day.  He went to bed around 7:45pm, at least 20 minutes earlier than yesterday and plenty earlier than the crazy 10:00pm bedtime the day before.
Thank you all so much for your prayers and following along.  Please continue to pray for both Soshko and I as well as Sammy and kiddles.

Winding down for bed this evening
St. Christopher, pray for us!
God bless,

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Unification Day

Today is a national holiday in Bulgaria--Unification Day.  What a fitting holiday for Sean and Alexander's first full day together! 

Sean hopes he can return to blogging soon, but as you can imagine, Alexander keeps him very busy.  So for now, you get the Cliffs Notes version in pictures.

Alexander fell asleep around 10 pm last night and woke up at 7 am.  The two of them went to breakfast and Alexander ate for a solid hour and a half.  The little guy really enjoyed eating his fill!

Around mid-morning, Sean and Alexander met up with their new friends Josh, Chelsea, and little Levi for an exploratory walk around Sofia. 

They walked for about two and a half hours, during which time they found a playground (with a surprisingly slick concrete slide in the shape of an elephant), explored the underground walkways and excavation sites, and braved a Bulgarian supermarket called BILLA to stock up on hotel snacks. 

 Back at the hotel restaurant for lunch, Alexander heartily enjoyed his tarator (cold yogurt-based soup) and bread rolls dipped in apple juice.  He really enjoys this dish, so we're extra glad that we have experience preparing tarator at home!

 Sean, on the other hand, ordered the enormous Budapest Burger.  Alexander couldn't believe his eyes! 

After lunch we Skyped, and then Sean put Alexander on his back in the Ergo carrier and hit the streets again, this time going to the St. Joseph Cathedral.  They stopped at the church for a little while before heading off to find a chapel where Sean heard that English Mass is offered.  He wants to go there for Mass tomorrow so that Alexander will be at least a little familiar with hearing the Mass in English when he gets home.

And on the way to the chapel, he found the St. Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, one of the iconic landmarks of Sofia.

The guys made it back to the hotel just in time to meet up with Josh, Chelsea, and Levi for dinner.  And unlike last night's 10 o'clock bedtime, Alexander was fast asleep around 8-8:30 pm this evening, right after his bath.  All in all, it was a great first full day together for my guys across the sea, praise be to God!

Friday, September 5, 2014

Gotcha Alexander!

Today was the day!  Sean picked Alexander up from the orphanage, once and for all!  They spent most of the day on the road, and they're both wiped out!  So no blog from Sean today, but here are some pictures to show how the day went.

Daddy and son reunited at last!
Sean used the Goldfish crackers as an ice breaker.  Alexander remembered
them and Sean from the previous visit and was most impressed!
This boy likes lollipops!  But he hates car seats and fussed during most of
the trip from his region to Sofia.  No carsickness though, thank goodness!

Isn't he handsome?!  We're not sure why he has a scab in one nostril, but
it didn't seem to bother him much.  Alexander was happy to be able to
walk around outside for a bit during breaks on the long drive back to Sofia.
When they got to their hotel this afternoon we Skyped for the first time!

Sean and Alexander met up with another adopting family who picked up
their son today, too, and they all enjoyed dinner together.  Alexander didn't eat
his soup, but instead systematically broke up pieces of bread to dip in his apple juice.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Mad Fumble Across the Globe

"When we last left you, Sean was just about to hop a plane to Germany and he forgot his restless legs meds.  Will this be the end of the line for our intrepid traveler?  Can he stave off insomnia and insanity?  Can he make it through the night?  Stay tuned….”

Ok, yeah, I know that you all are not really reading this thing for me.  But at the moment, it is all about what happens to me.  Wow, this is rather self-centered.  Maybe I should rather write this thing in third person to avoid stroking my ego.  It’ll read like a novel….yeah check it out, this is what it would be like:

Sean walked down the bridge that led to his vessel to overseas.  Every few seconds he would look down at the ticket in his hand.  38F.  All of a sudden, like it was like the I-285.  A traffic jam appeared.  Slowly the line of humanity made its way onto the plane.

38F.  Is that a window seat?  As Sean walked down one of the aisles he noticed the letter assignments.  F is smack dab in the middle; flanked by strangers.  Sean exhaled in resignation.  Boy is this going to be a long night.

Sean managed to make it to his seat on the 38th row right in the middle of the plane.  What is this?  A pillow, a blanket, and what probably looks like headphones.  Oh that’s nice.  Well, Sean, being as suave as he is, decided that he could do without the headphones and proceeded to knock them into the foot space of his neighbor.  Even if he wanted to watch a movie or listen to that smooth jazz station, there is no way that he could get those headphones cause his neighbors feet were occupying that space.

Sean settled in and took out some reading for the flight: “Road to Gandolfo” by Robert Ludlum and “Rome Sweet Home” by Scott Hahn.  Once everyone was buckled in, the plane took off into the sky, off to the magical land of chocolate: Germany.

 After a couple of hours, the smell of dinner came wafting through the cabin.  Sean’s stomach began to grumble.

“Would you like the Chicken or the Alfredo?” the attendant asked.

“Chicken, please,” Sean replied.

A tray filled with portions of the most miniature sizes landed in front of him.  There were some utensils on the tray as well.  Sean, being the master of suave, apparently didn’t need his knife.  So, he dropped it into the foot space of his other neighbor.  It very well might have been a bottomless pit because even if he had second guessed on the knife, there was no way that he could get it.

After a surprisingly filling dinner, some wine and a Bailey’s night cap (the alcohol really flows on these Euro flights), Sean settled in to attempt the impossible: sleep.  The cabin lights were turned down so that everyone could get the idea that it would be time to sleep.  He gently reclined his chair and tossed and turned for the next 5-6 hours, sleeping in spells of 45 minutes to 1.5 hours at a time.  Not bad.

Where is everyone?  At least the camera is working now.
At about 2 hours remaining of the flight, the lights came back on and the breakfast service commenced.  There would be no choices on this one, a tray of pure carbohydrates landed in front of Sean.  A muffin, a granola bar and a fruit cup.  Oh, and a spoon to eat the fruit, which apparently was attracted to the headphones in Sean’s neighbors foot space.  Away went the spoon into the bottomless pit.  Sean was not one to use superfluous instruments.

Sean had about six hours to kill in the Munich airport before he flew to Sofia, so he decided to try to find a place to rest his computer and write.  Or study.  Or e-mail.  Just something with him and the computer.  He wandered around the terminal until he found this strange “establishment” alongside one of the many moving sidewalks in the terminal.  It was mint green and had wavy looking walls so that you couldn’t look into it.  Chocolate colored writing on the wall advertised, “Work.  Rest.  Sleep,” and other wonderful words.  Curious as Sean was, he checked it out.

Ah ha!  He found an international refugee camp.  Folks were all sprawled out on the floor and on these sun chairs that would never see sun.  There were some nice looking fake trees that gave a good vibe to the place, but they could not outdo the raw disorganized humanity.  

In the corner was a desk with two chairs and a power outlet access for both seats.  Under one chair was a sleeping dude, so Sean sat in the other chair.  For the next hour or so, Sean and the compy communed (more importantly, he knocked out his morning prayers on the Universalis website).

Around 13:00, it was time for lunch.  Considering that it was Germany, Sean wanted to partake of some of the local cuisine if he could.  And only now as he writes this blog post does he remember, he did not see a McDonald’s at all in Munich, which makes him smile on the inside.

Anyway, the Sean at 13:00 on September 3 walked around aimlessly surveying restaurants, trying to find a place to eat.  Most places were terribly expensive, but he managed to find someplace that did not cost an arm and a leg.  Only his big toes.

“I’ll have the special,” Sean requested of the dude behind the counter.

Blank stare.

“The three sausage special that I saw back there”

Blank stare.

“You know the one for twelve…”

“Eighty,” said the lady who was beside the dude and doing fifteen other things at the same time.

“Yeah, that one.”  Having had water recently and considering the price, he didn’t want to ask about a drink.

“Do you want white or a lager?”  The dude awoken from a state of comatose enquired of our traveler.

Blank stare.

“Do you want a white wheat beer or a lager?”

Not knowing much about beer except that it makes things a little more amusing, Sean replied, ”Uhhhmm, lager.”  Isn’t Budweiser a lager?  That’ll do, I’m sure, Sean thought.

Not only did the meal come with a drink, but apparently it was imperative that it was a beer!  That’s Germany for you!

Then the dude sprung to life pouring a pint of lager, pulling three sausages out of a crazy-looking container that holds sausages and putting them into a ceramic pot, and adding a large pretzel.  The lady poured some hot water in with the sausages and covered with a plate.  Some mustard packets (nice, NICE, mustard packets mind you) got added to the jumble on the tray before it was presented to the king of suave.  Or swooft.

Hello Sofia!
The flight to Sofia was rather uneventful.  Except for the announcement that there was white smoke coming from somewhere that had everyone’s undies in a bunch.  The captain later explained that it had to do with the air conditioning and that there was nothing to worry about.  Although the captain said nothing about the gremlins chewing on the wings of the plane.

Sean deplaned and proceeded to acquire all of the luggage that followed him to Sofia.  As he walked towards the exit, he expected to see his new best bud, Yavor, to pick him up.  Sean was all ready to riff on him if he was holding a sign with Sean’s name.  

But that would not be.  There was some guy from the hotel, the BudaPest, with a sign, “Sean Patrick Bailey.”  Yavor must show up later in the story.  The flight to Sofia was severely delayed which might have had something to do with it.

Once back at the hotel, it was time to settle in, eat some tarator and head to bed.  Sean had a long ride ahead of him the following day to the town that still held his little boy.  The one who is the purpose of this entire trip.  The missing piece of this guy’s family.  Not long now until little Soshko would be home.

OK, so it was probably a little more muddled than I expected.  There are just so many little things that are different, but I just can’t write them ALL down.

Anyway, thank you to all of the folks who have been praying, I can feel that God is looking after us.  Oh, and unfortunately, the camera that I have is not that terribly great and I’ve had a couple of problems with getting it to work.  The fantastic and large camera from last go around stayed safely at home to take pictures of that adorable Mr. Sweet, Leo.  [Pssst….Sam, put a picture of “Mr. Sweet” in the blog S’il vous plait!].  So I don’t have many pictures at the moment, but I have the camera working now and we will have some nice Bulgarian pictures soon.

St. Christopher, pray for us
God bless,

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Just Picking the Kid Up from Daycare...

...I’ll be back in two weeks!  Yeah its that time again, time to let this fool back on the computer to type up some blog posts as he busts his kid out of the orphanage on the other side of the world.  Come along for the ride – it will never be the same afterwards.

Well, not much for the first leg of the journey.  I managed to make it through the security area without getting the 5th degree from Inspector Gadget, which is a good sign. 

The most interesting change from the last go around is that I have left my beloved companion at home.  That’s right my brown jacket!  So, I am trying to work out a whole new system rather than strapping all of my personal belongs to me disguised as a jacket.  That’s because I just now figured out the joy of….a personal item for flights.  That’s right, I gots myself a man purse to tote all of those personal goodies AND MORE without the weight of a flak jacket (not to mention the constant, “where’s this; where’s that” nonsense I ran into last go around).

First, there is a small story about my man purse.  A long time ago, in a state not so far away, I had to go to a business trip on Father’s day.  I think that it was 2008….but it could have been 2009.  Well the year doesn’t matter.  All that does matter is that I did not want to be there.  I was with my boss and we were trying to find clients at a governmental finance officers convention.  Sounds exciting right?  WRONG!  I spent most of my time working on a report for another (non-governmental bottling company) client.  Those few days I spent there was hell for this introvert.

But, the one nice thing was that the conference gave a nice, NICE, messenger bag for all of the vendors who participated.  The bag was so nice that I decided not to throw it away.  Heck, one day it would make one fine diaper bag.  That’s what Sam thought.

Well the years waned and waxed and….nothing happened with the bag.  It collected dust and sat tucked away forgotten amongst the insulation of our obnoxiously hot attic in Georgia.  Come November of 2012, I refind it in the attic:

“Wow, this is a nice, NICE, messenger bag,” I says to myself.  I threw it through the attic door for Sam to load into a box that will be going to South Carolina.  And then it was forgetten again.

“So, what are you going to do for a diaper bag in Bulgaria,” Sam asks.

Joey snapped this photo of us loading the luggage into the van.
“I dunno,” I replied, distracted by 1 million other less important things.  “Maybe there’s something out in the garage.”  I know, it sounded just as lame at the time.

A few minutes later, Sam emerges with this nice, NICE messenger bag.  “How about this?”
“Wow!”  Then it was like Divine Providence hit me in the face, here it is, this nice bag will finally meet its destiny.  Well, not before I use it as my personal item to carry many books and a computer into Germany.

Well, they are about to board us onto our night-flight to Munich any minute, so I am going to hang up now.

Dang it….I forgot my restless legs medicine….this might be a long night.  But not before I get some nice Lufthansa din-din!  Wonder what movies they’ll have on the plane….

St. Christopher, pray for us!
God bless,