Thursday, May 27, 2010

The objects of Sammy's culinary attentions

- a bar of soap
- a cigarette butt
- a piece of garlic
- a bay leaf
- uncooked leek
- Maya's toes
- a small wooden chicken
- a piece of green chalk
- an earplug
- various stickers
- substantial amounts of paper, cardboard and tissue

These are all items that Sammy has attempted to eat over the past couple of months that got scooped back out before they went down. What inept parents. Or... what a super speedy 11-month old who needs to chew on everything. He was even caught on video taking a nibble of Ahmed's heel today.

Here's Sammy attempting to eat the wall.

Sammy trying to decide if the ball will fit in his mouth.

Maya reading a book and Sammy wondering how it will taste.

Sammy sizing up the piñata and preparing to put all the small choking hazards that fall out of it into his mouth.

Ah yes, life is fun. This time in a week I'll have finished my masters degree and will finally be able to actually write about the past month of our crazy new lives as the parents of two amazing kids. A barrel of laughs apart from the late nights writing about vocabulary acquisition, blah de blah.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Don't let your guard down, part 2 or: All our mañanas have finally come

Ok, here's the story of how a mad dash across Mexico City actually did produce a miracle.

Tuesday, 13th April. Sammy is now exactly 10 months old. Today's the day we get to leave Mexico for the last time in our adoption process(es).

Schedule for today:

8am: breakfast
9am: pick up passport - scan and send to Francesca immediately and cross fingers for a miracle
11am: pick up laundry from laundromat
12pm: check out of hotel
1pm: last-minute gift shopping
3pm: taxi to airport
6pm: leave!

Phone call at 8am reveals that passport won't be ready until 12pm, so the weekend plans are thoroughly out the window. I skype with Ahmed and he alerts the translator. After picking up laundry and quickly packing (and Sammy unpacking, and me repacking, and Sammy unpacking, and me repacking, etc etc) and checking out, which took forrrrrreeeeeevvvvveeeeerrrrr, we finally got to the passport office at 12.30pm.

As we walked into the building, I checked my phone and had a text message from Ahmed saying: Francesca is in office for next half hour, if she doesn't get it tonight, it'll be another 24 hours, as she's really busy. In a panic, I raced upstairs, grabbed the passport off 'legalization man' and flew down the street to the internet cafe across the road to get scanned copy before 10pm in UAE. After 15 agonizing minutes of trying, the cafe owner declared his scanner to be broken, so he directed me to the next cafe. I flew again, with Sammy enjoying (or not) the bumpiest pushchair ride of his life. No scanner at internet cafe. This part of town is completely unfamiliar to me. I'd checked that there was an internet cafe with scanner the day before, and had relaxed. Ha, not knowing their dumb machine was broken. It was now 9.55pm in Abu Dhabi, and I had no hope of making it. I couldn't risk running around this crazy suburb with no idea of whether there were any more internet cafes.

Called Ahmed in a panic as I sprinted down the street to grab a taxi, saying I was going to make it and please call Francesca and beg her to wait. Miraculously, a taxi appeared, and I urged him to run all the orange lights, which he very nicely did, all the way to Zona Rosa - a 10 minute drive in good traffic - where we leapt out as we struck a traffic jam, threw Sammy's pushchair together, flew across the street, and into the internet cafe that I knew had a working scanner. At 10.05pm (UAE time), scanned copy of passport was sent. Nothing more I could do now except wait.

Bought some gifts, went to airport, flew to Madrid, we were picked up by my lovely friend's equally lovely mother and taken away to be looked after for the next five days as we waited for Sammy's visit visa to be ready, so we could go home!

Or so we thought.

In the fifteen hours since I'd scanned and sent that passport, it had been translated into English, translated into Arabic, sent to Abu Dhabi, Ahmed had sent all documents to his PRO, texted him, and finally, gone to see him, to discover he was sick. Only to be told he could go to immigration himself. Went to immigration, applied for visa and was told there was an urgent 1-hour service for an extra 100 dirhams. What!!!??? So he walked out of immigration with the visit visa in his hand, went to Turkish airlines and rebooked our flights home for the following day, and then went back to his afternoon class, and then let me know that we were not waiting for three or five days as we'd thought, but would be on the very next flight. Then drove the visa to the airport.

24 hours after arriving, we went back to Madrid airport to discover all northern European flights had been cancelled, but lovely, wonderful southern European Spain was not affected, neither was Turkey, and so we flew home. Just like that.

Don't let your guard down, part 1

That's right, you can't just sit back and relax. Never forget that in an adoption process.

Monday morning, we had a sleep in, after our energetic weekend. Had a lovely chat to Ahmed & Maya on Skype, a nice relaxing breakfast, then sauntered down to the passport office, which also houses the Secretaria de Relaciones Exteriores (Foreign Affairs) - or should I say, the other way around. The plan was to get the third stamp on Sammy's birth certificate, which is needed for his residence visa, and find out if perhaps the passport was already there. This all happens from the same tiny office. With Maya's case, they'd told me two working days and it only took one. So I just assumed it would be the case this time.

The translator in Dubai had the scanned birth certificate already and was just waiting to receive the scanned copy of Sammy's passport, to translate into English and Arabic for his visit visa, which we'd been told would take 3-4 working days. With the weekend looming in the UAE, I'd had a hopeful timeline: get passport Monday afternoon (Tue morning in UAE), translations to Ahmed's PRO in Abu Dhabi by Wed morning, and maybe, maybe, he could apply on the same day and by some miracle, get it on Thur afternoon (only 2 working days, but hope springs eternal), so we could fly from Madrid on Thur afternoon (late Thur in UAE) and be home in time for weekend which starts on Friday.

So, at 11.30am, we rocked up to SRE (Foreign Affairs), to be told that the legalization office was only open for submissions from 8 - 11am. So we couldn't go past security. Then I mentioned that we were also waiting for Sammy's passport, so she called the person in charge of that who said that yes it was ready! I was now actually picturing us at home for the weekend. A very jubilant me took Sammy up the lift, and discovered that the person doing legalizations was sitting in his office, so I just asked if perhaps he could accept our submission even though we were late. Sure thing, he said. Wow, all too good to be true. Indeed it was.

He then went to get our passport, but no, whoever had spoken on the phone didn't know what they were talking about, and it wasn't ready. I had to come back to pick up the legalized birth cert at 2pm, so asked if perhaps it might be ready then. He said, yes, probably, just ask again.

So off we went, quite confident in the knowledge that I'd be getting this passport to the translator later that day, and we'd be going home for the weekend.

2pm: Birth certificate was now legalized to the hilt, but no passport, and the relevant people had left for the day, so "Come back tomorrow" Ha, there went the weekend plans.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Wonderful weekend

The weeks in Tijuana all run along a fairly similar theme, it seems. Monday morning, you wake up hopeful that this week, finally, that final decree/birth certificate/miscellaneous-document-that-is-holding-up-our-process/report/visa is going to be ready and we can move to the next step of the interminable process. As the week slides by, that precious document doesn't materialize. By Friday afternoon, more often than not, the despair has set in and you resign yourself to enjoying your weekend, since all the document-producing offices are closed, and you figure: "Oh well, there's always next week..."

Well, for our little family, those weeks are now over, and this weekend was my very last in this country during this process. I knew we were leaving on Tuesday evening - oh the joy of having some certainty! So we proceeded to enjoy ourselves very much over the weekend.

On Saturday morning, my lovely former Abu Dhabi British Council student Maricarmen, along with her husband and son, Guillermo and Bernardo, picked Sammy and me up and gave us a brilliant weekend of their company, lots of delicious food, and insider knowledge of the city and its plentiful offerings.

Three very keen and loving new baby-entertainers kept Sammy in his happiest mood (and he's a super happy wee charming lad). We saw Polanco, Bosque de Chapultepec, Museo de las Bellas Artes, Museo del Arte Moderno, Zocaló, The Parliament buildings (where Sammy showed off his wobbly walking skills through the ancient house of representatives until we were told off by the security guard), Torre Latinamericano, Palacio de los Correos, gorgeous old cafes, churches, streets, and we ate our way around the city. We saw Rivera's, Orozco's, Siquieros' murals - something I'd vowed to see before leaving Mexico. Guillermo took loads of photos, which he's going to send me, so watch this space for photographic evidence of this incredible tour.

Incredibly, my two trips to Mexico City have both been without camera. With Maya, the camera I'd given to the foster family came back broken. With Sammy, I'd forgotten to bring the charger, so the battery was dead. What was I thinking?

Anyway, Sunday evening saw us both exhausted, one of us with incredibly sore feet - I don't think Sammy's jaunt through the houses of parliament qualified him to have incredibly sore feet - and ready for two more days of paper-chasing in this fine city.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Cheeky chops

Am I not just the cleverest little scallywag that lived?

Note my makeshift cupboard door protectors (a hairband) on the far left. Not applicable for the one single cupboard, which of course is the one Sammy climbed into.

Friday, April 9, 2010


Yeah, wow.

Last few days have been go, go, go. It's like something 'gives' and suddenly, after sitting about twiddling your thumbs wondering how on earth to fill your time, you have to be in three different places at once, and everything is so efficient.

The boring details of the past 72 hours are... boring, so won't go into it. But in that time the following happened:
- Got final decree from court
- Got Sammy's new birth certificates - he now has a new surname!
- Attended Gabrielle's piñata-bashing birthday party
- Bought some paintings and somehow squeezed them into an already overloaded suitcase
- Got one birth cert legalized and one apostilled
- Said goodbye to Sammy's (and Maya's) foster family
- Packed in about 5 minutes flat
- Said goodbye to some lovely people we've met over past few weeks in a bit of a mad rush
- Took car back to rental agency
- Flew to Mexico City
- Applied for Sammy's passport
- Paid for all the legalizing of docos after a big long bank queue
- Got birth cert legalized again at another govt office
- Ate a whole Lindt chocolate easter egg and the better part of a Green and Black's block of chocolate
- Felt pretty sick

Sammy has been a trooper throughout, though he's been stuck in pushchair almost all day, just to try and avoid adding to his growing list of bumps, cuts and bruises from all his adventuring. Phew... he really is a 10-month old hurricane, and I think he needs to wear a helmet and cotton wool suit.

So... I've left Tijuana for good. Never have to go back to that place unless I want to! That is a wonderful feeling, and I spent a lot of yesterday thinking back over the past two years, all that madness.

I was reminded of some of the incredible, kind, generous people I've met in Tijuana, Playas, Rosarito during this time - and at the other end of the scale, some real scumbags! Ha ha, those postings shall remain unpublished...maybe ;-)

Weekend now: relax, catch up on sleep, explore Mexico City, go out with some friends living here. And home soon!!

Thursday, April 1, 2010

April Fool!

Back in Abu Dhabi when I was booking flights out here, I thought I'd be generous and allow almost three weeks for the final bits and pieces of stamping to get Sammy home.

Return flight from Mexico City - Madrid was duly booked for 1st April and Madrid - Abu Dhabi for the 4th (includes a few days of sitting around in Madrid waiting for UAE visit visa to be ready). I even secretly harboured visions of being able to change my flights and come home a few days earlier...

Well, who's an April fool then? Did I momentarily forget the sluggish Tijuana Family Court and the endless sitting around waiting as the days tick past and nothing seems to happen?

Here's the new timeline, and what the heck, I'm going to actually write it down. Let's actually, for the first time ever since we started this whole adoption shenanigan, be confident that something in the Tijuana court system will just work when it is supposed to.

Tue, 6th April: Aida picks up Sammy's final decree at 2pm.
Wed, 7th April: We apply for Sammy's new birth certs with us as his parents!
Thur, 8th April: Drive to Mexicali to get one of his birth certs certified and legalised for the UAE visa
Thur, 8th April (PM): Catch the last flight to Mexico City & get very little sleep
Fri, 9th April: Apply for Sammy's passport, if we can only figure out which office to apply at - it keeps changing!
Mon, 12th April: Pick up Sammy's passport. Run around government offices getting more stamps on his birth cert.
Tue, 13th April: Fly to Madrid, 6pm. Twiddle our thumbs in Madrid waiting for Sammy's visit visa to be processed.
Sat, 17th April: Fly home to Maya and Papa!