Saturday, December 27, 2008

In sickness & in health

Our little warrier baby, little miss healthy, little miss independent, has just had a week of quite a change in her personal health fortunes. And acquired a host of new nicknames in the process. Here are some of them to give a general picture:
Stinky pants
Smelly bum
Super Sooky Baby
While they may all sound rather derogatory, they're all said in the most loving fashion! She also attracted the following nicknames, to counterbalance:

About a week ago, Maya started to get diarrhea. On day three, rather than just getting better, as I'd hoped, she almost completely lost her appetite, and what little formula she drank got vomited up, all over herself, carseat, back seat of car and her blanket. I drove this charming mess to the pediatrician in Playas. He prescribed a medicine Unamol, a lactose-free formula for a week & lots of fluids. Easier said than done. All of the above. Trying to get a rather fussy eater and a definitely fussy drinker to take liquid medicine involved screaming and lots of arm-flailing. Similar results with attempts to get her drink fluids. Even the novelty of drinking out of a cup was extremely short-lived when Maya realised that she was actually supposed to swallow the stuff inside it.

Anyhow, the little amounts of the medicine that actually made it into her body and the lactose-free formula eventually did the trick, and we went back to being able to survive the day with one outfit, not four or five, which would be soaked through by watery poos every hour or two. Maya went back onto lactose formula with gusto. I breathed a sigh of relief. That same day she started to cough. Which then developed into the worst cold she's had so far. Super snotty, lots of phlegmy coughs, and the strangest one: extremely clingy and unable to be put down for a second without fits of tears and rage. My active, independent little miss was suddenly this little cuddly, inconsolable cling-on. This might normally just mean me sticking close to Maya all day, but it happened at precisely the time we moved from Brisas del Mar back to our old house in Playas - on one of the wettest days yet - and over Christmas with all its cooking needs. Phew! So Maya in the frontpack was my cooking assistant for the Christmas baking, salad preparation, roasted fish and various other dishes.

This morning Maya woke up to her normal self, and instead of looking forlorn and bawling when I put her down with her toy box, she took off in the opposite direction to explore her new (old) space. She still stops and looks back at me with a big cheeky grin, to check that I'm watching her, and let me know that she's planning her next mischief. All's well, and long may that last.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Christmas all round

Maya and I were kindly invited to spend Christmas Eve and Day with Anna's in-laws, Hector's parents and family. We had our small, stress-free Christmas celebration with Ahmed back in early December, but of course Christmas isn't the same without a bit of last-minute present buying, frantic wrapping, and lots of cooking. All in due time, and the day before Christmas Eve found me still trying to unpack our stuff from the move, lugging a clingy baby around in the front pack, baking, and tying ribbons. No doubt a sign of things to come in our future.

On Christmas Eve, Hector and Anna came and whisked us off to Hector's parents' house for a gigantic Christmas Eve dinner. We had: Romeritos (Nopal cactus in mole - very strong and not for the faint-hearted), smoked salmon, lobster (absolutely the best lobster I've ever eaten, blows Puerto Nuevo and all it's lobster-touting restaurants out of the water, pardon the pun), five different salads: potato salad, carrot salad, tuna salad, corn salad, and my contribution, a cous cous salad, which was eaten with curiousity, more than gusto! Nobody had heard of cous cous before. Followed up by flan and cheesecake. Phew. We were all wobbling afterwards.

Hector's parents have an enormous collection of Christmas paraphenalia, and Maya and Yara spent ages watching a swinging reindeer sing Frank Sinatra, a pot-bellied Santa swinging his beer gut, a house of elves busily churning out toys, a series of singing, dancing, drum-playing reindeer belting out Jingle Bells, and a whole host of other great Christmas kitsch. Even themed toilet seat covers! How's that for dedication?

Late at night, we all toddled off to bed, and Maya proceeded to keep the household awake most of the night with regularly intervalled waking up, crying and coughing. Poor thing was coming down with what ended up being one gigantic, never-ending cold.

On Christmas morning, we had a lovely huge breakfast, and then more family arrived, and a few prayers were said at the Nativity scene, and then it was chow-down-and-open-present time. All under-fives were suitably excited!

Later in the afternoon, we were kindly dropped back in Playas - poor Hector, it's about at 45 minute round trip - and then we had a lovely afternoon and evening, including another big meal, with the twins from next door and their parents. Yes, that's another family adopting here in Mexico, shoring themselves up for the rollercoaster ride that this process is, and going at it gung-ho, full steam ahead. If I ever get the feeling that, phew, the baby business is tiring, just have to think of Fiona next door with two seven-month old babies. She's a powerhouse.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Unlike New Zealand, a day of rain in Tijuana (and Abu Dhabi for that matter) makes the front page news. It poured yesterday and we had no plans or places to be. I figured we could walk down to San Antonio del Mar and visit our latest discovery: a cafe that has just installed an espresso machine (yay!). When the rain was light enough, I bundled Maya up in the front pack under my raincoat and we trundled off down the road. She was happy as a flea all swaddled up with just her face poking out:

Unfortunately, the power cut in our street extended as far as San Antonio del Mar, across the highway, so after just two days of use, the espresso machine was out of action until the electricity came back on. So no coffee and not much of a walk either.

Here's Popeye baby after her spinach dinner. She was quite a fan!

Monday, December 15, 2008

Sunny side up

A few days ago, yes, I did feel like I never wanted to write anything here again. Other thoughts going through my mind were: how can I even get up in the morning? What's the point? Etc, etc. All those wallowing, depressed ideas one gets when something once again doesn't go as planned. Luckily, having a nine-month old relying on me for her love, entertainment, food, clothing and sleeping quickly puts an end to any lengthy form of indulgent self-pitying.

So a day or two after our latest piece of bad news, and Ahmed had left for Abu Dhabi after an all-out tearful, clingy farewell from me, we were back to focusing all our energy on remaining positive, looking forward to a happy end to this crazy year, and how to deal with the all-important need for the birth mother's signature. That's the beauty of being married to Mr Glass Half Full, he's always looking on the sunny side of life, and with that infectious attitude, how can I do otherwise?

So no six weeks of misery and moping. There is loads of good in our little world. We have such an amazingly supportive network of family and friends. Ahmed's parents are now planning a trip down here to stay with us (third trip for Ahmed's mum!). Ahmed's booked his next flights (sixth trip!) back here, over his next set of holidays in January. Christmas is going to be spent with Anna's family, who've invited Maya and me to stay with them. That'll be my first Mexican-Russian Christmas experience.

What's the best music to wallow to? You can't beat the seventies. Led Zeppelin, Leonard Cohen & Nick Drake are my fellow wallowers. Try saying those last two words ten times in quick succession. That'll lift your mood.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

No title

No posts for a while, and I don't know that there'll be any more. Not for a while at least. Too tired. Too down. These last couple of weeks have been tougher than usual. There are lots of new confusing issues that I can't write about, and therefore nothing that's going on (which is nothing, as we're now sitting waiting till the courts reopen on 12th January) will make any sense to anyone.

I know that one day, this will all just be looked back on as a slow, drawn-out nightmare of a year, with some beautiful bright patches, but many, many low moments. Right now, in the thick of it, I'm just too exhausted to think or write about it any more.

Have a lovely holiday, Eid, Christmas, New Year.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

For want of a crystal ball

The courts close this week on Friday, for one month. Our judge's secretary, Lic. Carolina has done everything she can to help us get our final decree before they close, and the last box that needs to be ticked is getting Maya's birth mother to sign the adoption. She signed custody over to us back in March, but now has to sign over all parental rights.

Our lawyer Aida once again moved all sorts of obstacles to get an appointment for Lic. Carolina to see the birth mother today. The absolute last possible time that would enable Lic. Carolina to get our case out before the court holidays begin. Since the debacle of last Monday, Aida wasn't taking any chances this time, and had spoken to the birth mother who said of course she'd sign the decree this time.

Well, once again, she didn't. I melted down. Ahmed packed his suitcases. And we prepared ourselves for another 6 weeks of uncertainty until the courts reopen. It feels like an eternity, after the eternity we've already passed here. How many more eternities before we can finally jigsaw our wee family together? Oh for a crystal ball.

The uncertainty kills more than anything. Actually, no, it's missing Ahmed. Well, I guess it's both.

Monday, December 8, 2008

24 hour party people

Maya & Yara hanging out

Bite that bottle

Party's getting into full swing


Sunday, December 7, 2008

If the stocking fits...

Here's Maya's first adventure with a Christmas stocking:

1. She crawled straight past it and headed for the coffee table instead. Much more interesting, clearly.

2. Obviously if we'd put the stocking on the coffee table in the first place...

3. Oh, stuff inside this big bag! This could be fun.

4. She started to get the hang of it.

5. And look at that - the stocking fits perfectly.

6. Why do babies all prefer the wrapping? Are they pre-programmed?

7. Phew. That was fun.

8. Yep, oodles of fun.

Christmas in Mexico

This year in the UAE, Eid & National Day celebrations are within a week of each other. In a rare display of forward planning, ZU (where Ahmed works) announced that the university would be closed from the 2nd until the 14th of December. Once upon a time, in another dream, we pictured going to New Zealand during that break. That was the dream where Maya and I were already back living in the UAE. Anyway, that didn't happen, and since Ahmed would have gone crazy sitting alone in Abu Dhabi while we're still in Mexico, he booked his fifth flight out to Tijuana for this year.

So with Christmas preparations in full swing around us - carols in the supermarkets, Christmas trees for sale, the general red and white theme - we set the date for our family Christmas: Sunday the 7th.

This was probably the easiest, most stress-free Christmas I've ever experienced. We just stopped and bought a tree from the side of the road, and I'd seen some beautiful tin tree ornaments a few weeks earlier. The Red Cross thrift shop produced a stocking. The supermarket was nothing like the crazed events of pre-Christmas madness in NZ. I guess celebrating on the 7th December has its huge benefits.

Menu: Croissants & fruit for breakfast. Maya enjoyed sucking on pieces of melon too. Dinner was baked salmon, roasted beets, sweet potatoes, pumpkin & carrots, green beans, peas & coriander. A walnut praline cake and icecream for dessert. Yum!

Monday, December 1, 2008

False alarm

Monday December 1st. The day when finally Aida and the judge's secretary went to get the signature from Maya's birth mother. After various delays, hiccups, holdups (how many other synonyms for delay do I know? Well this is my year for learning them) they were able to actually go and get this final signature, that would allow the judge's secretary to push our case through the court as fast as possible to get it out of their system before they close for their month vacation on the December 12th.

I finally allowed myself to believe that we were getting to the end of our process, and had mental lists of what to pack, what to leave at Red Cross, what to give to whom. I kept finding myself fiddling around on trying out different flight variations for the flight home, with stopover in Canada, and different possible dates, and had penciled them in on my calendar. I was picturing us spending Christmas in Toronto with Ahmed's family, and wow, Maya in the snow, below zero temperatures!

Aida called in the afternoon and told me that they hadn't got the signature. Maya's birth mother had refused to sign. Aida now says that the following Tuesday is the only other day that Carolina, the judge's secretary, is available to try again, and after talking to the birth mother, Aida says she has promised to sign next Tuesday.

Well. That was the most devastating, confusing, frightening phone call I've had from Aida yet. We have no idea why she didn't sign, and why would she not sign, then promise to sign a week later? All of my worst fears started to surface. That perhaps after all this time, the adoption won't in fact go through. On a technicality. Maya's birth mother doesn't want to look after Maya. Her three older children have all either left home or are living with her parents, who can barely support her children. We feel like we have moved heaven and earth to get to this point, and all we need now is that signature. She's promised Aida one minute that she'll sign, then turns around the next minute and refuses. I wish I had more strength to deal with this, but I don't.

The person who meets Ahmed at the airport on the 2nd December, is a puffy-eyed bawling wreck, from 24 hours of tossing the what-if, what-if worst case scenarios around in my horribly fatalistic imagination.

Friday, November 28, 2008

One Day

That's how long it took for the tears to come back. Pathetic I know. Our lawyer and judge's secretary couldn't go to get Maya's birth mother's signature today. It was supposed to be the 29th October. Then the 11th November. Then the 20th November. Then the 28th November (today). Now it's supposed to be next Monday. The saga goes on. And on. And on. One positive thing I note is that each time it gets postponed, it gets postponed to a sooner date. First 13 days later. Then 9, then 8, now 3. That has to mean something, right?

It's not the fault of Maya's birth mother, or our lawyer, or the judge, or the secretary, or anyone in particular that we're stuck at this final stage, it's really the entire court system that is working against us now. Anyway. All we have left is some hope. As usual. So, we continue to hope that we'll get to the finish post. Otherwise, I think we'll have to look for jobs in Mexico and move here permanently. I'm kidding. But I do wonder.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

After the flood

Well, car is back. Anna and Jose (?) who works for Anna's husband spent the afternoon driving back and forth to sort out car stuff, and then turned up at my door at 3pm to go and pick it up, so off we went. Never have I been so happy to see Pepi's trashy old dunger of a car.

Today is Thanksgiving Day in the US, something we kiwis don't celebrate, but my goodness, I'm giving thanks to have Anna as my friend.

Let's see now how many days can go by without the tears. Time to buck up missy!

Floods of rain and tears

Woke up this morning to pouring rain, which is a rare sight in this dry land. Also to no car and no internet connection. My world is getting smaller and smaller by the day. Maya and I are now restricted to walking distance journeys. We live on one of those suburban complexes, gated community, I think it's called, and the options for walking are pretty slim. Anyway. How did we get ourselves into this pickle? Or how did I get us into this pickle, Maya does nothing but smile and charm her way through life!!

Yesterday, we were in Playas for the afternoon, going to Gymboree and then lunch with Anna and Yara. When we went back to the car, it wasn't there, and the tow truck was busy towing another badly parked car away too. In my defence, (ah, there's always an excuse, and I bet those pick-up truck guys have heard them all, not that it makes a fig of difference) I parked correctly, then noticed all the other cars behind slightly up on the kerb (one of those slightly raised kerbs, not a sharp step kind) since the street is so narrow. So I moved the car (duh!!! never again) in line with the other cars. Of course, being the first car in the row, mine got towed.

I'm thanking my lucky stars (though I'm not really 100% sure that I actually have any lucky stars. I'd like to swap my unlucky stars for some lucky ones) that Anna was with me. She leapt into action, insisting on driving with me to the tow yard with the guy who was coming to pick her up from Playas. A fellow from her husband's work. Then, when we got the unpleasant news that the car owner (Pepi) has to pick up the car, she got on the phone to her husband to find out what to do. Pepi is away communing with his spirituality in India for the next two months. Hector promised to sort it all out the next day, so I've left all the car documents, etc, etc with Anna. Now just waiting on tenterhooks to find out if Hector can use his charm and influence to get the car back.

I'm coming to realise that it's not the end of the world to accept people's help. I'm such a stubbornly independent type. No doubt in my old age I will struggle across streets with fifteen bursting-at-the-seams shopping bags refusing help from some kind soul who's offering. And yet, I'll jump at the chance to help out someone else in need. Silly girl.

Anyway, all this latest nonsense, on top of an unbelievably up and down week in our adoption story (more about that another time) has reduced me to an emotional train wreck. My kind neighbour Marco, who's been persistently trying to help solve the internet connection issues, simply asked me how I was yesterday, when I was outside trying again to connect. This produced a flood of tears and now he's lent me his laptop to use. The signal's still weak, but just strong enough to not constantly cut out at least. I went to pick up the letter to take to the phone company to set up the phone line, so in theory, all these internet woes will end. The guy in the office asked me how I was, in the way you ask strangers or customers or the person on the street how they are. Another flood of tears. Hearing the kind and familiar voice of my mother-in-law this morning on the phone: another flood of tears.

Keep telling myself: one day, you'll look back at this time with fond memories and smile. Can't wait, can't wait. Bring on that day. Bring it on. We're ready for it!!!

Monday, November 24, 2008


Time to stop the grumbling and focus on the good stuff - photos!

Little miss flexible showing off her stuff.
This is one of Maya's latest tricks. It's not easy to pin her down and change her nappy, and this is the result of one such adventure. As soon as the nappy was on, she was up and off before I could finish dressing her and then trying out the downward dog - my least favourite yoga position, by the way.

This was at the first birthday party of one of the boys from Maya's music class as Gymboree. This is Maya with a couple of her wee friends, Nicolas and Yaroslava

Maya checking out the playground at the birthday party.

If only I could figure out how to rotate photos... Any hints?

Maya helping the birthday boy, Jahek, drive his car.

Wow. Have you ever seen such an enormous piñata? Maya looks suitably impressed.

This was one of the possibilities for Halloween night. I went with the pink hat, but we couldn't keep the wig on Maya for more than 2 seconds so it was a resounding 'no'.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Li-ittle Things

According to Trinity Roots, it's the little things that really matter. This has been a week of little things that have all added up to create one gigantic headache, and phew, I'm ready to curl up in a ball and just sob. In fact, I've done that a bit this week, hate to admit. Am tired, at the end of my patience, and daydreaming more than ever of the hundred different ways to smuggle a small baby back to Abu Dhabi. Actually there aren't a hundred different ways. There isn't even one way. We're waiting out the official way. That's the problem, as this never-ending waiting feels literally, never-ending.

Our enemy for this week has been technology. Our weak internet connection - through the neighbour's wireless - seemed to be fixed by the installation of a booster thingamigiggy. But once again, that was a short-lived victory, and once again, I'm sitting out by the neighbour's front door trying to connect. It's not the end of the world, as I can still hear Maya (if she really yells) from out there, so I go out once she's gone to bed at night. It's a bit chilly, but nothing a jersey and scarf can't fix. So I was willing to accept this less-than-ideal internet connection, until all our bankcard woes began. And the neighbour's extended family have come to visit and the father-in-law was looking askance at me this morning, as I was sitting in their garden desperately trying for a signal.

Turns out every single bank or credit card we have, between the two of us, has had some kind of block or cancellation put on it, due to some dodgy withdrawals in Russia, goodness knows where else, and as it turns out Mexico. Have been using my bankcard here with no issues for months, and suddenly the bank decides that hello, someone is withdrawing money in Tijuana - better block it. Weirdly, apparently I called our bank in Abu Dhabi to tell them about fraudulent use, so they cancelled it on my behalf. Huh???

Even my emergency bankcard has been blocked, apparently for quite some time, and I didn't know because I never use it, until in desperation, I tried yesterday. And apparently all these banks (all two of them!) have been trying to let us know this, but because I'm here, I'm not getting my mail. Ahhh, one thing leads to another and until things fall apart, we blithely march on, totally unaware.

So, Ahmed and I have been trying to sort all this out with gmail chat that dies every time I step more than a few feet away from the neighbour's house, or the wind blows in the wrong direction, or a bird flies past, or something, I don't know how these things work...

I would probably be dealing with all this nonsense better if we didn't have the frightening prospect of the whole adoption process coming to a standstill for a month while the court closes for Christmas holidays. We are still waiting for Maya's biological mother to sign off the adoption (that's a whole other story), after which there are ten working days of... something? until the final decree is issued. And with a total of fifteen working days left until the court's holiday, I'm getting nervous. So far none of the times we've been desperately hoping against hope that something will go our way has it actually worked in our favour. So my gut feeling is a whole extra month of sitting and waiting until court reopens.

Ok, finish off with a little nice news: Ahmed is coming back over here for a week from the 2nd December. He has a holiday then, and can't bear to sit around Abu Dhabi while we're still here, so once again, crazy long flight, a week to get over the jetlag, and then he's off again! He'll be bringing my replacement bankcard, and the next stage of Maya's clothing - 9 -12 months - and some cold weather clothes, and we can't wait!!! It's the prospect of visits that make this crazy process bearable.

Perhaps our bankcards/credit cards have all died from exhaustion after overuse on all these crazy flights back and forth...

Sunday, November 16, 2008

A Mighty Wind

The Santa Ana winds have been blowing hot air down from the Californian deserts for three days now, causing all sorts of destruction in California, and we were woken up again by the creaking doors this morning. Not just that, but no electricity, and a gigantic dark cloud of smoke billowing up over the hill at the end of our street.

I actually looked around the house and mentally calculated a bunch of different scenarios:

1. We decide it's safer to leave, and I have an hour or so to pack the car - take Maya (!), passport, her birth certificate, FM3 visa, custody papers, laptop, Maya's food, bottles, our clothes, her cot, toiletries, baby book, some novels, shoes, etc etc.

2. We get asked to evacuate and have 20 minutes to pack - take the first ten or so items

3. The house is on fire and we're running -grab the baby!

I find all the important documents listed above, and stick them in the car in any case. You never know. We went out for the rest of the day and came back to no wind, no billowing cloud of smoke, no burnt down house but yes electricity, so all's right with our little world again.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Nannie Prue

For the past couple of weeks Maya’s Nannie Prue has been here and what a bottle-washing, baby-bathing, vacuum-cleaning, coffee-drinking whirlwind she’s been!

Maya and I arrived back from Ixtapa on Saturday evening. Early the next morning I dropped Maya off with Guadalupe and went to San Diego to pick up mum, who had cleverly negotiated the Southern California transport system to make her way from LAX to San Diego central train station. She arrived fresh as a daisy, all in one piece, and with her luggage. In April, mum’s suitcases decided to break loose and have some solo time and arrived two days later, spitting out her camera somewhere along the way. Just like my suitcases spat out my two crappy cellphones in Mexico City on the way back from Abu Dhabi. I think those techno-thieving baggage handlers will be disappointed with my $15 phones that don’t take photos, don’t have internet access, can’t do anything much other than phone and text.

Since my mum’s last visit, I’ve discovered a number of great little cafes, so I wrote a list and we gradually made our way down it during mum’s stay. If you ever happen to be in search of a good coffee (and cake, not to forget the cake!) in the Tijuana area, here are my recommendations:

½ Naranja Café – my all time favourite. Mario is the friendliest guy ever, and makes an iced coffee that I’ll gladly drive across town for. Comfy sofas, great food, funky bathrooms, wacky artworks and magazines in English (some of which I donated).
Saverios Caffe – Yummiest Italian food in town, and a very dangerous cake cabinet with panna cotta, tiramisu, divine chocolate cakes and more…
Café de la Flor – Again, killer cakes.

Ross Café – an old favourite, with the super friendly waiter, Mario. Seems to be a café name. Walnut and fig cake. Java coffee. That devilish combo was my lunch for about three weeks straight, till I started to feel a bit revolting.
Lat 32 – supremely unfriendly service from two very nonchalant girls, whose job is sit around looking surly. But with gorgeous big leather sofas that take half the morning just to climb back out of, an ocean front setting, and its crazy décor, I can’t resist. The coffee’s not half bad, either.

Cha Cha’s Café – Run by the lovely Cha Cha, whose jalapeño jelly proceeds go towards the upkeep of one of Sister Clare’s orphanages. Her apple pies are hit and miss. If you hit, it’s a light, fluffy, appley mouthful of heaven. If you miss, it’s a tough crust and the ice cream’s run out.

Zu Taza – Great coffees and sandwiches. Sofas. What’s not to love?
Café – That’s the only name on the sign of this funny little hole in the wall. Which, in fact, doesn’t have the best coffee in town, but is full of atmosphere and art, all kinds of insects and creatures sculpted out of iron all over the walls.

Ok, tourist guide is over.

Maya and her Nana had a ball getting to know each other and the cafes of Tijuana are sad and lonely without my partner in coffee. We miss you Nannie Prue!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008


Today was our witnessing day at the First Family Court of Tijuana. Finally. Finally. Finally. Only seven months after we’d expected it to be. Mum, Maya and I trundled down to the courthouse, met my friend Anna, her daughter Yara, her mother-in-law who drove her, and Yara’s cousin Sophia.

Mum and Anna went in separately to the judge’s secretary and answered questions such as:
How do you know Emma? (My mother laughed)
How long have you known Emma? (My mother laughed again)
Do you think Emma & Ahmed will make good parents? (My mother cried at that one, kind of emotional I guess!) How do you know? Will they treat Maya as their own daughter? Will this adoption be beneficial for the minor? Why? Do Emma or Ahmed abuse alcohol or drugs? Etc, etc.

The next step is to get Maya’s biological mother to sign off her relinquishment of all parental rights, which is to take place next Thursday, and then wait ten working days for … something official, publishing the decree, typing up a letter, twiddling thumbs, etc, and then we can move onto the new birth certificate stage, then the passport application, then the visa application, then… so the theory goes: the trip home. Still many, many weeks away, but it’s starting to almost feel like we might, actually, in fact, perhaps, one day, go home.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

New digs

Maya and I got back from Ixtapa on Saturday night and moved to our new place at around 8pm. Crazy time of day to move house, I know, but circumstances...

My first conundrum was where to put our increasingly mobile girl to sleep? The wee crib got left behind by mistake, so couldn't be picked up till the following day. I considered my bed first. But it was too heavy to move against the wall by myself, so that was out. Then the built-in wardrobe (contained - there'd be no escaping!), but that just seemed a bit absurd. Then a duvet and bunch of pillows on the floor, but I could see her taking off on a tour of the house in the middle of the night. I eventually settled for moving one of the lighter beds against the wall, and building a massive wall of pillows and duvets to keep her in, and sleeping on the other side of her. So that was sorted out. Energy was spent after the bedding issue, so I went to bed myself...

Our new place is 10 minutes down the coastline toll road from Playas, in a fairly new housing development. Main incentive for moving: no beasties or creepy crawlies (we hope!), moving away from Pepi and his disturbing mental health issues, and hopefully moving to less stressful living circumstances.

After a week here, there are some definite pros of the move:
- Extremely friendly neighbours, who've invited us trick or treating & to a street party already. Marco across the street has been trying his best to get our wireless working all week.

Maya ready to collect bags of sweets she can't eat in her dino outfit.

- Julia from Red Cross is two streets down and has lent me her vacuum cleaner to vacuum the place which was extremely dusty. And offered babysitting any time. She adores Maya.
- There's a pool and jacuzzi, that get heated at the weekend. And very fast wireless internet up by the pool.

- There's a big lawn and playground. Maya thinks the swing is pretty cool. And the grass. And the sand.

- A working washing machine and dryer right in the kitchen!!
- A great rug (even greater after a thorough vacuum from Julia's vacuum cleaner) for Maya to crawl around on and play.

After giving the whole place a thorough clean - Guadalupe on bathrooms, floors, Mum on fridge, floors, rugs, Ahmed on floors and dusting and me on vacuuming, stove and microwave - and stocking the kitchen with a few more utensils, we're pretty much set, except for one major problem that our combined computer knowledge just can't figure out. (Mine and mum's admittedly very flimsy knowledge, but I judge Ahmed to be the expert and even he couldn't work this one out).

We just cannot get the internet to work. The signal from Marco's across the way is strong enough, and Ahmed brought his booster to help it, but we just cannot connect. It connected twice, so both times we relaxed and thought we were away laughing, but alas, no. Every time we open up the internet it tells us: This page cannot be loaded. Please check your internet connection. Not sure what to do, as bringing Maya up to the pool every time I use the computer is impossible. Little wriggler gets bored after 5 minutes. I'm not really feeling up to the task of working it out, am just a bit tired of making decisions and struggling to get anything done. Right now one of us looks after scallywags in the house while the other goes up to the pool to use internet. Once mum goes home...???

I remember thinking back in Pepi's palace of weirdness: oh well, despite all the madness here, at least the internet works. My escape valve. Perhaps I'll ask someone in the office here if they know a computer expert who can come and take a look.

Friday, October 31, 2008

The Court Jester

Maya with the judge - looking scared, with the judge's secretary - looking serious, with her Papa - looking happy and relieved (yay, you got me out of those crazy offices!!)

By the way, this is the finickity judge, who's tardiness has cost us an extra month in Mexico and about $2,500 of extra expenses. Should send her and our friend Solis a bill for financial and emotional distress...

Plan B. If all else fails.

Ahmed flew back to Tijuana (via US secondary inspection, same old questions, but wow, this time he didn't miss any flights!) for exactly 48 hours to make our much-longed-for court appearance. My mum has also just arrived from NZ for almost three weeks to make the stay here in Mexico more fun, be one of our witnesses, and hang out with our wee scallywag.

Ha ha. Our great court day turned out to be a farce, and found us (mum, Ahmed, Maya and me) driving away in various states of shock, disillusionment, anger. Actually Maya was just thinking:"Hmmm, where are these big people taking me now in this stinky hot car?? Get me out of here, let me play!!"

Due to our previous experience at the court hearings with other adopting families here, we believed that we trundled into court, with two witnesses and birth family, went into the judge's secretary's office to testify that we are who we say we are, we love our baby, we're ready to roll, all's well, let's get this show on the road. And an hour or so later, we all leave, and basically wait a week or so, and then get the final decree - the precious document that finalizes the adoption. That's how it's been for everybody else.

Aida had told us that our witnesses couldn't come in on the same day, so we'd have to ask the judge when we saw her. We imagined asking, and her saying, oh yeah, they can come tomorrow? Or something like that. Never assume.

So, we arrived and went into the judge's office, with mum as well. She would be the symbol of our loving extended family. She interviewed us and decided that Ahmed was a fit father as he was able to figure out how to get Maya out of the stroller. Yeah, that's a sure sign of decent parenting... She also commented on how important it was for grandparents and extended family to be part of family life. Yes, we agreed, and mentioned all the other extended family who'd visited already and for whom Maya was already a part of their lives. And then onto the question of witnesses and how much it meant to my mother to be one, and how she had to leave on the 12th November, so of course she would be able to witness for us. Ha ha, sticking point. Turns out court closes from 12th Dec - 5th Jan, and they're full up. Too busy, how about the witnesses and birth mother come in January??? Shocked silence.

We begged, Aida begged, and we now have a tentative date booked for mum to come in on 11th November, along with our friend Anna as the second witness. That will be if the petition is published in time, and if the secretary can squeeze us in among the hundreds of other hearings that day, and if the birth mother can come in then, and if, if, if.... All feels very precarious and iffy. Watch this space.

Friday, October 24, 2008


In 48 hours, I packed all our belongings into six boxes and two suitcases. We overslept our alarm and raced off to the airport for our next adventure. Maya thought flying was a great lark, and proceeded to smile at everybody on the plane, even poking her head between the seats to smile at the people in the seats behind, to make sure they didn't miss out on one of her charming grins. Little coquette!

Maya's first plane trip

Ixtapa: Sticky 35 degrees, lush palm trees, and Club Med. We settled in for a week of blissful laziness and forgetting all our woes. Maya had a ball at the Baby Club, meeting lots of other wee babies and kids, and exhausting herself with all their amazing toys and lovely carers. I had a ball, just sitting by the beach or pool, reading, eating, and feeling human again. Every evening at about 5pm, Maya and I would go for a swim, then she'd settle in on the day bed for a big nap. By 7pm, it would be getting dark, everyone else would have gone for dinner, the beach towel attendants would have packed up their booth and gone, and I would still be sitting by the pool waiting for snoozy baby to wake up!

Maya conked out after a hard day's playing at Baby Club

By about day four, I was able to venture slightly beyond pure, simple relaxing and try a few of the activities. Plans were: yoga, aqua aerobics, volleyball, trapeze, kayaking and perhaps sailing. In fact, I never made it beyond trapeze, which become a new addiction. Sadly cut short by the resulting callouses after about 5 swings, which also got ripped off. And bruises behind my knees. And pulled calf muscle. And sore everything. Very painful! Ahhh, but so much fun.

The trapeze!!!

Typical Club Med conversation
Person: Oh what a beautiful baby. How old is she?
Me: Thank you, she's 8 months old.
Person: Oh, are you from Australia?
Me: No, New Zealand - pretty close!
Person: Wow, you've travelled a long way to come here.
Me: Well, actually, we live in Tijuana, so it's not too far.
Person: Oh...Tijuana? (I can now see person thinking: huh??! Why on earth would a seemingly sane New Zealand woman & baby be living in Tijuana? I can't help it, I have to put them out of their misery)
Me: Well, actually I've been there for nearly 8 months, and my husband and I are adopting Maya, and until the end of the process, she can't leave the country, which is why we've come here, and my husband's on the other side of the world at the moment, unfortunately, in Abu Dhabi, so it's just the two of us.
Person: Wow.

I could just not say anything and have people constantly wander around wondering what on earth we're doing in Tijuana. Especially since it's in the news a lot at the moment with dead drug-lord bodies and shoot outs.

Or just say: Yeah, it is a long way to travel to come here from NZ!

We had a wonderful week. Club Med is definitely a kid-friendly place, Maya made a tonne of wee baby friends, I did a back flip into a net, we swam in the sea, saw iguanas, ate new food (peaches for Maya and lots of variations on chocolate cake for me), Maya learned to crawl forwards, and we came back to Tijuana ready for the final stages of the adoption. Bring it on!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

We're off a-courting...

Exactly 8 months and 12 hours after Maya was born, at 1.30pm on Wed 29th October, Ahmed and I will finally present ourselves before our judge (or more likely, her secretary) at Tijuana Family Court #1 for our ratification.

This crazy, longed-for court appearance is all of a sudden happening. About six and a half months after we thought it would, but, phew, here we are at last.

Basically it will involve us signing our names on our adoption petition to say we are who we say we are. It's about that simple. Ahmed's flying back to Tijuana for 48 hours to do that, sign another document to say that he gives permission for me to apply for Maya's passport on my own, kiss Maya and see her crawl forwards - new development, as of today - and then jump back on a plane for the 30-hour trip home, for the last time!! Then it's just a case of about 25 more official bits and pieces (un tartuffe!!) before Maya and I jump on a plane ourselves and come home too.

I'm starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel, and it's like a giant weight slowly lifting. I almost feel like taking stabs at when we might jump on our homeward-bound plane. Right now, I'll say: 25th November. Wild guess, but who knows?

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Whirlwind day

Cute wee girl!

Cute wee, semi-mobile girl! She's crawling backwards now.

24 hours ago, I was sitting here at the computer, still in a quandary over what to do. The rent at Pepi's is due on Sunday 19th, as well as another month's rent for the car. We're at that stage now where we might be here another month, maybe more, maybe less. The yucky beasties have been getting to me, and Pepi's been a bit strange lately. He doesn't seem as happy to have us here as he was before, and I think he'd like to be able to rent out his houses at a higher nightly, or weekly rate, rather than the long term rate we've been paying.

As I was pondering these issues, I was chatting online to Ahmed:
ahmed: then 100 minutes of supervised grammar practice
then the WEEKEND!!!!!!!!
11:25 PM me: yay!!!! bet you're so looking forward to it. aaaaaaah, a mouse just ran past!!!!!!
can't wait to leave!!!!!!
aaargh, it's in the kitchen
under where the water cooler is, and i've put a towel under the door
it's now under the fridge!!! far out!!!!
11:26 PM ahmed: stop typing, get it out, then come back
me: aaaaaahhh!@!!!
i can't move!!!!
i'm too scared!!!!!!
and laughing hysterically
oh my god
it's under the stove now
11:27 PM ahmed: mouses are better than ratses
me: thank god it's not a rat
great minds
i want to get the towel away from the door to the garage, but can't, am too scared to move
ahmed: my girls are finishing up
have to go
me: heh heh, this is so funny! i can't stop laughing, i have tears pouring down my face!!!!
ok, bye love
Ahmed was teaching his class (naughty thing chatting...!) so had to go, and just at that moment, mousie ran up from behind the stove onto the bench, and straight towards me and I really screamed. (Wuss...!) This woke up Maya, who started her own screaming, albiet the: my-dummy-fell-out-come-and-feed-me-and-what's-all-that-racket-out-in-the-kitchen? kind. So I took refuge in the bedroom with her, shut the door with a towel under the crack and went to bed.

Anyway, mousie was my tipping point. Two rats (oh, found another dead one outside my door) and a mouse, still no respite from the fleas, and a grumpy landlord. On top of the adoption stresses, I can't be bothered with these things anymore.

So, I jumped online and booked:
1) a holiday for a week in Ixtapa for Maya and me from Saturday 18th
2) flights to Ixtapa
3) a month rental in another furnished house in Brisas del Mar from Saturday 25th

So, that's it. We're off the day after tomorrow. I'm packing up suitcases to take on holiday with us and boxes to store until we move into Brisas del Mar. The rats & fleas win. I will miss our beautiful courtyard. And this crazy, wacky house, with its weird furniture and ornaments (the ceramic life-size dalmation under the TV, for example). But I also won't miss it, and it's time for us to move away from some of the stresses we've had living here. And a holiday, bliss....the decision is definitely the right one, as I'm suddenly feeling alive again.

And, as a happy postscript, the rumour mill says that our dearest friend Solis is about to release our report to the court. Our lawyer Aida says that her secretary says that (I heard it through the grapevine...) she'll release it this week. Which in Mexico could mean sometime next week. Or whenever. But at least it sounds like it will soon be free from her menacing influence...

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Paperchase # 254 (lost count somewhere back in May)

Scungebag (she's lost her licenciada title in my eyes, and will furthermore be known as Scungebag) Solis still has her sticky fingers on our report and is not releasing it to the judge. On Thursday, Lic. Sanchez - the very nice adoption coordinator from Tijuana - had a meeting with her and Lic. Hugo Castillo, the big, big boss, in Mexicali. She was hoping to be able to bring the report back to Tijuana with her, and deliver it to the court. On Friday, Aida heard that no, Solis was holding onto it.

Ahmed has now contacted the extremely helpful Dubai consular chap, Lic. Torres, who is equally unimpressed with Solis' behaviour, and has decided to give her a personal call on Monday morning! Aida is also pulling out all stops to get hold of Lic. Hugo Castillo, who seems to be the only person who can override Solis' wacky decisions. He's very tricky to get hold of. We feel that with this mounting pressure building against Scungebag Solis, something's gotta give.

Ahmed's once again ready to drop everything and fly here at the end of this week, but only if we get news of our report making it to court, and the judge having time to read it.

In the meantime, Maya's very, very close to crawling. She sticks her bum up in the air, lunges forward, then goes splat onto her tummy. Or flops over sideways. Then gets up and tries again. Very funny to watch.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

The Year of the Rat

Maya was born in the Chinese Year of the Rat - industrious, ambitious, loyal & loving.

We just had our Night of the Rat. I was sitting at my computer in the kitchen (the only place in the house where the wireless reception picks up), pleasantly minding my own business, while Ahmed was catching up on his latest TV series. A big, fat rat casually walked straight past my feet. I screamed. Rat jumped for his life and took off under the kitchen door out into the garage. We think. We hope. He could be still holed up behind the fridge. In the oven. Under the sink.

Mr. Rat is the latest in a string of unwelcome guests here. The minor ones: spiders and flying red ants. The pesky ones: mosquitoes and flies. The downright disgusting and hard-to-get-rid-of ones: fleas. Pepi's dog is covered in fleas and parades around outside, so as soon as I've vacuumed and washed everything, I think they're just jumping off Keefie the dog, back into our house.

Ah, we're looking forward to life in sterile Abu Dhabi and our hermetically sealed apartment. I guess the trade-off is no garden.

Monday, October 6, 2008

No crazy rush this week

Maya's eying up my hair, waiting for a chance to give it a good pull! Scallywag. This photo has no link thematically to this entry, it's just a cute picture. Who can resist putting the cute ones in?

If the DIF report had been ready today to go to court and our judge had given us the thumbs up, Ahmed was going to take this Thursday off work (pre-arranged with his boss, who really is very sympathetic to our crazy case). He would have jumped on a plane in Abu Dhabi at 6pm on Wed night, arrived 24 hours or so later in San Diego at 11am (though with his track record of being 'inspected' through the US, we were allowing for his arrival on the later flight from Washington DC at 2.30pm), made a mad dash to the border, raced to court for our hearing on Thursday afternoon, given Maya and me a quick peck on the cheek, before turning around to fly out of San Diego on Friday midday back to Abu Dhabi, arriving at midnight Saturday there, ready to teach a full day and evening classes on Sunday. Phew. Poor bloke is still battling the jetlag from this previous trip.

Turns out our report is ready (yay!), but... scungebag (I might remove this insult in a day or two when I'm no longer so mad at her) Solis, the yukky lady from Mexicali DIF who's been putting her spanner in our works since June, has requested all the reports go to her before they get released from DIF. She'll probably sit on it, painting her toenails, making us sweat, for a week or two. Better not, or we'll get our hound dogs onto her!! In real life, that means our poor, stressed out lawyer Aida and her human rights lawyer friends calling her up and harrassing her to release it.

Ah well. Our next window of opportunity is the last week of October, when Ahmed has a few non-teaching days, which are meant to be spent marking students' essays. Another round of calling on a bunch of favours from his wonderful colleagues. We'll have a lot of making up to do when we're back to normal life to assuage our guilty consciences. Or mine at least. Ahmed is blessed with a much healthier conscience. Enough rambling from me.

Friday, October 3, 2008

El otro lado

San Diego. The other side. It's so completely the other side, like entering a different world. A rich and plentiful world, where shops have aisles and aisles of things you never knew you needed, but they're so nice and bright and pretty and they'd look good in your house/on your body/in your fridge. And you find yourself leaving each shop with several of these items in your possession, wondering how that happened and marvelling at how much lighter your wallet is. I bought four pairs of shoes in less than an hour today, and am still reeling. I think being on a strict budget at the moment made me just go: aaaargh, stuff it, today I'm going to indulge! They were all cheap shoes, sandals and the like. So that's how I'll justify it to myself.

Speaking of shoes, whose tiny shoes are those on the right???

The other day Ahmed, Maya and I went for a walk down to the sea, and the tide was a long way out, so that the end of the US-Mexico border fence, which is usually quite a way out to sea, was sitting rather dejectedly halfway up the beach, with a good 20 metres of sandy beach below it. Was tempted to just go and stick a foot on 'el otro lado' and poke my tongue out at the beach on the other side, but I'm sure some hidden border control guard wouldn't have found that funny.

Ahmed's flight from San Diego left at 10.50am on Friday morning, so to avoid any complications and delays at the border, we left Maya with Guadalupe on Thursday night and stayed the night in San Diego. Wow, crossing at 5.30pm took us exactly 15 minutes!!! Such a short queue, and no questions from border control. Wow.

We had a lovely evening, mainly spent at Borders and Barnes & Noble, two huge bookstores, and then had one of those rare, uninterrupted sleeps that all new parents dream of.

When I got back to Playas on Friday, Maya was happy as a flea. She's always very relaxed after Guadalupe has been, and always seems to sleep better afterwards. Must find out what Guadalupe's trick is... Ahmed tries to tell me she just wakes up in the night more with me because she wants to chat, but I don't buy that theory! Actually I can't complain. She goes to sleep every night at 7pm and wakes up at 7am, with one or two calls for room service in between.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Our best case scenario week in retrospect

Saturday, 27th Sept:
We did have a super Saturday. Our interviews were great (see Licenciado Bugs Bunny post), and we had a celebratory meal at the 1/2 Naranja Cafe. It was an all-round good day, about the best here so far.

We came out of the interviews feeling that the "slightly possible" chance of getting the court hearing done within the week was becoming a "quite possible".

Sunday, 28th Sept:
We did relax and catch up on sleep in Playas. We were all too tired to meet up with our friends, so stayed around Playas. Very nice lazy day.

Monday, 29th Sept:
We had our final interview with Lic. Sanchez, which was great. She's very sympathetic to our case, and said she and the other two would do everything they could to get the report written in the least possible time. She didn't say the report would be ready on Tuesday, rather Thursday evening or Friday morning. So, we started to think about Ahmed changing his flights to leave on Saturday, instead of Friday morning, from San Diego. And started to pin our hopes on a court appearance on Friday.

At Gobernacion, my FM3 visa was sorted out, with a $100 fine, for entering the country. Tecate Gobernacion decided that yes, we do need to pay for the visas again, but only $100 each, so not the full $350 each like the first time. So that's good (ish), I guess.

Two quick drives back to Playas de Tijuana for forgotten documents during the day, and finally at about 7pm, we got home, exhausted from all the driving around and time spent in government offices to find a beautiful big bunch of flowers on the doorstep. Thanks again Heike!! A really lovely end to a long but fruitful day.

Tuesday, 30th Sept: Aida went to Tecate today to renew Ahmed's FM3 visa today. So that's done, thankfully. We are so grateful that we didn't need to do that long, hot trip again, with a poor sweaty baby in the back seat.

Ahmed called American Airlines to see if he could change his flights. He also emailed his boss to request one day of leave next week. American Airlines was totally full, and there were no flights until the following Monday. So, we were looking at buying another one-way ticket for the Saturday, but decided to wait until we heard from the court.

Wednesday, 1st Oct: Today was unfortunately not quite the crazy, loud, dancing-in-the-streets celebration we had in mind. Ahmed's feeling terribly guilty, as although he's been granted an extra day of leave next week, he's been told it's the last time. He has not felt comfortable constantly asking for all these favours, but we've been at the mercy of all the government officials processing our case. But then, it turned out he didn't need to request the day off, as the judge has said even if the report arrives on Thur or Fri, the earliest she can review the report and see us is Tuesday next week. So, no need to change flights, no need to take a day off work. No need to scrape together our witnesses here.

We did go to Gymboree and had a ball, as always. We had a nice lunch with Anna & Yara afterwards, so that part came true!

Thursday, 2nd Oct: Today. This morning at 9.30am, the social worker from DIF showed up unexpectedly to see where we are living. Luckily we were dressed and despite the suitcases being prepared, the house isn't too much of a tip and looks very baby-friendly. We are off to San Diego tonight, for Ahmed's early morning flight tomorrow. With his border crossing woes, we're not taking any chances, and Guadalupe's coming over tonight.

Ahmed's next possibility of coming over here is for just a day or two around the 29th October, four weeks away. Again, many favours from his work, boss, colleagues. Ah well. At least the end is almost in sight, and having these interviews from DIF completed is a huge relief.

P.S. Thanks for all the best wishes from so many people this week. We really feel so lucky to have such a supportive family and great friends all over the world sending us their love and hopes for a day when we can finally come home. Cheers!

Sunday, September 28, 2008

We love you Licenciado Bugs Bunny!!

Yesterday morning at the crack of dawn, Ahmed, Maya and I got up, prepared ourselves with all kinds of equipment (baby gym, front pack, bottles, formula, nappies, breakfast & lunch for us, spare clothes, magazines for the long waits, and untold other bits and pieces) and drove to DIF for our 8am interview with the psychologist. We were ready to draw pictures of ourselves (it's been done before, so we practised beforehand!), had written out all our birthdates and those of all our immediate family and their immediate families, had our one word to describe our daughter ready, had practised the pages of interview questions from other adopting families who've kindly provided them.

The psychologist came out to meet us for our interview and we both breathed huge internal sighs of relief. He was just wonderful. Wonderful. Wonderful. Wearing a t-shirt with 'Estar Guars' on it - try saying that with your best Spanish accent to see which film that might relate to. Ahmed was instantly smitten. He basically told us he hardly needed to interview us as he could see we were clearly Maya's parents and ready to be a family. He could see she was so happy with us. No scary pictures to draw or wacky one word answers, thankfully. He was deeply embarrassed and apologetic about the huge delays we'd had up till this point. He ranted for a full five minutes about the crazy bureaucracy we'd had to deal with, and how the development of the baby is obviously best when she's surrounded by both parents, and how could the bureaucrats stopping us not see that? He promised to type like a crazed 'bugs bunny' - his words, not mine - to get the report written and to his supervisor by Tuesday, straight after he'd interviewed the biological mother. We both fell madly, deeply, truly in love with this guy.

We then had our interview with the social worker. Again, a lovely, lovely, sympathetic woman, who had unfortunately lost her voice, so conducted the interview in a whisper. Again, she promised to get the report written as quickly as possible. One wee hitch: her meeting with the biological mother isn't until Wednesday, which means a very tight margin. (Tight margin? Small margin? My collocations are out of whack today)

We had our celebratory coffee and smoothies at the 1/2 Naranja Cafe and felt the beginnings of our perma-grins.

Friday, September 26, 2008

The best case scenario, aka Ahmed & Emma's dream week

I'm taking a leaf from Ahmed's book ('The Secret') and going to create our reality, so here it is. Our week from today:

Saturday, 27th Sept: We are going for the first two of our three DIF interviews, with the psychologist at 8am and the social worker at 11am. They are both going to be super sympathetic about the length of time we've been in this game, and will do everything they can to speed our report through. They'll both agree that we are a fantastic family and will write a glowing report. We'll go out for a celebratory lunch in our favourite cafe in Tijuana: 1/2 Naranja Cafe, and just have an all-round good day.

Sunday, 28th Sept: Relax and catch up on sleep in Playas. Meet Anna, Hector & Yara for a movie in the afternoon and some lunch.

Monday, 29th Sept: We will have the third and final DIF interview, with Lic. Sanchez, the adoption coordinator, who we already know loves Maya, and is doing everything she can to speed our case through. She'll tell us that our report will be ready on Tuesday, as they're going to work like crazy to get it done in time for us to squeeze in the court appearance before Ahmed leaves.
We'll go to Gobernacion to sort out our FM3 visas, which have expired after only 90 days, and they'll agree that it was crazy to make us pay the same for that 3 month visa in Tecate as everyone else has paid for a year-long one in Tijuana, so will extend our visas free-of-charge. Plus they'll refund us the other $700 for the visas we didn't get in Tijuana. Nice...

Tuesday, 30th Sept: Aida the lawyer will call us in the afternoon to say that the DIF report is ready, and she's going to take it to the court and our judge that afternoon. We'll have a relaxing day in Playas and go to the Gymboree music class, so Maya's papa can see her playing the bongo, dancing and shaking her booty to the tunes.

Wednesday, 1st Oct: Aida will call us to say that the judge has reviewed the (glowing) report from DIF, and we can go in for our court hearing on Thursday morning. We will breathe a gigantic sigh of relief and dance like fools around the living room, out in the courtyard and down the street. We won't need to email anyone to tell them, as we'll be celebrating so loudly, they'll hear us in Canada, New Zealand, UAE, etc... We'll go to Gymboree in the afternoon, so Ahmed can see Maya in her new level 2 class, and have lunch with Anna and Yara afterwards, all relaxed & happy.

Thursday, 2nd Oct: We'll go to court and have our hearing, and then two of our biggest hurdles so far will be over. Our teeth will be visible for weeks afterwards as the grinning just won't stop.

Friday, 3rd Oct: We will still be grinning when we cross the border to take Ahmed back to San Diego airport to fly back to Abu Dhabi. The border guard won't know what to do with two crazy people, so he'll shrug his shoulders and wave us through. Though it will be sad to say goodbye to Ahmed again, we knew we'll be seeing him again so, so soon. Our guess: 6 more weeks.

Flying Via the USA

To get to Tijuana, the quickest, cheapest and most convenient route is to fly into San Diego and then drive over to TJ. The drive back takes about 20 minutes from San Diego airport, a short time by any city's standards.

So Ahmed booked his flights to San Diego, flying American Airlines, arriving at 5.25pm on Friday 26th September. I drove to San Diego to pick him up, via the two hour border queue and Whole Foods to stock up on yummy goodies.

The Dallas/Fort Worth flight arrived, everyone got off the plane, picked up their luggage, but no Ahmed. I sat at the airport crying - this is the end of a super stressful couple of weeks (make that: months), and I couldn't think how he could contact me, and frankly, I couldn't deal with yet another setback. Turns out he was on the following flight, having missed his connection, due to yet another two hour 'Welcome to the USA' interview. Lucky guy gets to have chats with the charming US immigration officials every time he enters that precious country.

Odd how the only two other people being interrogated were from the Middle East. Nothing random in that selection, I believe. No blue-eyed blondies frequenting the secondary inspection office. Ironically part of Ahmed's hold-up was thanks to another blue-eyed blondie. Many months ago, when Ahmed took his parents back to the airport, he offered a lift to a shopping mall across the border to a blond, blue-eyed Norwegian, Nikolai. He and his wife are also in the process of adopting here. In Nikolai's position at a shipping company, he frequently travels to such scary nations as Saudi Arabia, Iran and Pakistan. With those visas in his passport, their simple trip to the airport/shopping mall turned into a six-hour nightmare of interrogation at the border. The repercussions of that trip are that now Ahmed has to answer questions about Nikolai on his entrance into the USA. Where was he born? What's his job? etc, etc. About a guy who Ahmed has spent maybe one hour with aside from that border crossing.

Moral of the story: don't offer to take people you don't really know to the USA in your car.

We do not intend to visit the USA or fly American Airlines after this adoption, if there is any possible way to avoid it.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Meeting the Big Big Boss

We met Licenciado Hugo Castillo, the big big DIF boss of Baja California this evening, and came away with an interview date for Saturday 27th September. As simple as that. Why were we bothering all the people doing the actual day to day work, when really, all it required was a word in the ear of the biggest boss of them all?

In contrast to his subordinate Lic. Solis, Lic Castillo clearly liked babies, and asked Maya's name, age and seemed charmed by her. Who couldn't be, I ask?? He said that once Mr Torres in Dubai sent the details of his home visit, they would review the situation. If everything matched up and made sense, they would confirm our interview dates on Monday 22nd.

Getting an interview date felt like an anticlimax. The past four months of intense struggle, frustration, lack of information, and tears was cleared up in a 20-minute meeting. Why, oh why, could this not have been decided back in May???

Anyhow, it's time to look forward, not back. Ahmed's flight is booked to arrive on Friday, 26th, and he will have a precious week with us.

We start to discuss the possibility of begging our judge to accept us doing our court hearing in that same week. The struggle goes on...

Thursday, September 18, 2008

The Sluggish System Gets an Oil Change

In the 36 hours it took me to fly from Abu Dhabi to Tijuana (yes, 36 hours!!), the wheels of the bureaucracy machine were slowly turning. Stuff was happening!

All the steps that were taking place:

1. Lic. Solis from DIF Mexicali or Lic. Sanchez from DIF Tijuana wrote to the Mexican consulate in Dubai and made contact with the very efficient and helpful Luis Torres.

2. Mr Torres visited the clinic where we did our home study, wrote a report stating that it was in fact licensed, above board, good to go, and emailed it to DIF.

3. DIF responded that they needed the original copy delivered to them.

4. Mr Torres put his original report in the post. Aida reminded Lic. Solis that she had said she'd accept an email or phone verification of the clinic.

5. DIF responded that they needed Mr Torres to go to our residence in Abu Dhabi (and those of other families from Dubai adopting in Mexico) to confirm that it does in fact really exist. No, we live in a box on the side of the street... Why would we make stuff like this up...? I don't know.

6. Mr Torres got the names of two of our friends and neighbours who could vouch for us.

7. Aida the lawyer discovered that Lic. Hugo Castillo, the big, big boss from DIF Mexicali (bigger even than Lic. Solis) would be in town on Thursday 19th September, and arranged a meeting.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Maya's room

One of our projects for the six days I'm back in Abu Dhabi was to turn our spare bedroom into Maya's bedroom. So we blithely set about moving the spare bed into the study, the bookcase from the hallway to the study and the sofa from the study to Maya's room. At 1am. We suddenly realized that moving heavy furniture around in the middle of the night was probably not endearing us to the people living in the apartment below us. So went to sleep with books, pillows, bits of sofa, bed and shelves strewn between all our rooms.
One trip to Ikea later, and of course lots of help from Pickles the cat, here's what Maya's room looks like:

A wonderful paint job done by Tia Dawn and Tio Shawn too, by the way.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Modes of transport

On Monday 8th September, Guadalupe the babysitter moved into our house to stay with Maya for ten nights.

I gave her a cuddle and understood what Ahmed must feel every time he's left Maya. Very sad!

One Way of Getting from Tijuana to Abu Dhabi (not recommended, too long):

Car #1:
Drove to the San Ysidro border.
Foot: Walked across to the other side (El otro lado - in Spanish. It took me several weeks of hearing people refer to 'el otro lado', before I realized they meant San Diego. Makes it sound very alluring...which it is).
Trolley: (No, not a shopping trolley, a tram for us non-Americans) to San Diego centre.
Train #1: San Diego to Oceanside. Amazing views along the way of the coast, and at times, the train was practically on the beach. Beautiful with the sun setting.
Train #2: Caught another commuter train to Los Angeles centre. Incidentally, a Metrolink train, which three days later had a horrific crash, killing more than 25 people.
Bus: Airport shuttle to LAX.
Plane #1:Los Angeles to Toronto. Sat in the lounge for four hours, because all those connections were so amazingly efficient. The flight before mine was an Air New Zealand to Auckland, so sat eavesdropping on all these strong keewee accents. Wishing that Maya and I were taking the same plane.
Plane #2: Toronto to Abu Dhabi.
Car #2: Ahmed came to pick me up!
Bed: Not a mode of transport, but very welcome at the end of all those planes, trains and automobiles. Literally.

I think the only modes of transport missing there are horse, hot air balloon and spaceship.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Going home sans bébé

The emotional meltdown didn't happen this time. Ahmed went back to Abu Dhabi and I kept it together. Knowing that DIF is finally doing something to move our case forward definitely helps to keep the despair at bay. Also, I have to go back to Abu Dhabi next week. The consequences of letting my residence visa expire and applying for a new one are potentially just too complicated for even us bureaucracy old-hands to consider. Even though I'm feeling horribly guilty and sad about leaving Maya behind with the babysitter for a week, the prospect of having a break back in our real life (ha ha) feels good.
Back in March, when the end of the process was an unguessable date, I plucked 9th September out of thin air to return to Abu Dhabi. I thought I was being generous, and would most likely be bringing that date forward to August, or even July, if lucky. Another sarcastic ha ha.
I decided to keep that original flight (plus side: don't have to pay for changing dates - always look on the bright side of life). But now I have to book return flights back from Abu Dhabi - Mexico City, which is where Maya and I will end this odyssey (at least in Mexico) when we finally get to the point of applying for her passport. So I jumped online to my favourite flight booking website: travelocity or yahoo travel and proceeded to book my flights. Piece of cake. Another sarcastic ha ha. Nine hours, ten automatically cancelled bookings, three heated arguments with several automatons from off-shore call centres, about $100 in phone calls to same call centres, one frustrated argument with Ahmed over Skype, and hopefully not thousands and thousands of dollars of credit bills later...we finally get the flights booked. Actually Ahmed did, bless his patient, resilient socks, as I gave up in anger and frustration and finally went to bed at about 2am.
I would still, however, recommend that website for booking flights. Hint: make sure your billing address is 100% correct, the phone number you put has someone at the end to contact, and you include a ZIP code. UAE doesn't have ZIP codes. Hence our downfall on the ten cancelled bookings... 0000 didn't work. Neither did 90210.

Friday, August 29, 2008

The six month dilemma

With Maya hitting the age of six months, I find we're facing a bunch of issues that hadn't been anticipated.

She's just now started eating solids, and while it's sweet for her to be sitting on my knee, it's not practical, and we both end up with orange sweet potato (or whatever) everywhere. Buying a high chair for two (three? four?) months is just silly.

Maya helping herself to rice cereal

She's almost too big for the little crib that we have for her, and so I have started putting her on the other side of my bed, surrounded by pillows. But, she's now discovered she can move the pillows, and likes to roll, very quickly, in any direction. I have managed to catch her before she gets dangerously close to the edge so far. But this has also brought another problem with it. She used to put herself to sleep quite well, but I can't let her anymore, in case in my absence from the room she shifts a pillow, wriggles away and plops over the edge of a very high bed for a tiny baby. So I now have to lie beside her, holding her hand or patting her till she drops off. Which is exactly what we shouldn't be doing at this age if we ever want to her be an independent sleeper... Again, buying a cot for two (three? four?) months is just silly. She's back in the crib in the meantime, though she's looking very big in there.

Little punky baby now eyes up other parts of the room, and I'm sure she's thinking: hmmm, if I could only lift my bum up a bit, move these little legs a bit, and coordinate my hands, I'd be able to get there. Hmmm, that plug socket looks tasty. Hmm, that life size ceramic Dalmation under the TV looks like a good bongo drum. Ooh, dead fly on the ground, yum yum. I'm praying she doesn't figure out how to crawl till we're back in Abu Dhabi, and living in a more manageable environment.

Maya trying her hardest to get from her spot to all the tasty goodies around the room.

If I am out of the UAE for more than six months, my residence visa will expire. So I'm now facing the prospect of leaving Maya behind with the babysitter, who'll live in our place while I'm gone, and flying back there to say: hi, I'm here, don't cancel my visa, then flying back. It's almost become our commute: Abu Dhabi - Mexico. 28 hours or so, at $2,000 a pop. Madness.

I have six months' leave at work, and that's due to end soon. I will still have a job to go back to, but the end of the salaried months is going to be tough. And not having any idea when I might possibly be back doesn't help anyone at the Council.

Our adoption permit - that hard won document that came with our FM3 visas - also has a six month expiry date on it. That's not going to expire until December, but if it does, I hate to think what hoops we'll have to jump through to get another one. (Ha ha, little note added on 28th Sept: turns out it was only valid for 3 months, so actually expired in early September. Another flipping hoop to jump through to get that one renewed...)

The general weariness of being in a place you don't want to be for too long
That one was just added, because sometimes I feel like this.