I can tell you where I was 10 years ago today...vividly!!! I spent most of the day pacing in a hotel room over looking this view of Guatemala City fielding calls from the U.S. State Department's Director of Children's Affairs and the Ambassador to Guatemala!!!
Only two days earlier these same people had directed me to abandon the plan to have Mari escorted back to the United States by the director of our adoption agency. In the days when adoptions from Guatemala were only taking 3-5 months to complete, ours was going on TWELVE!! Both of these officials had given me every assurance that if my husband and I presented IN PERSON to the U.S. Embassy in Guatemala City that we would be given the all important VISA needed to finally bring Mari home. Less than 24 hours after being given those directions we were standing at the infamous 'window' only to be informed that somewhere in the bowels of the embassy our new daughter's Guatemalan passport had been....um....misplaced!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Oh, and by the way, "the embassy will be closed tomorrow" so even if by some miracle of bribery you do get a replacement passport from your attorney we won't be issuing any visas until Monday morning when we reopen after having picked our noses all weekend long. Yes, 10 years later I can still feel the full rage I felt that day!!! They lose the passport but we get to replace and then wait around for the same bunch of incompetents to enjoy a long weekend off?!?!?
Needless to say I was on the phone to EVERYONE within minutes. Thanks to a very well connected sibling who was the highest ranking naval officer in England at that time, we received a personal call from the ambassador to England who was looking for the details of our case. He then took that information and personally called the ambassador to Guatemala...and suddenly there seemed to be one employee who would be working on Friday?!?!?! Nice to have connections sometimes (:
So here I am pacing, while Patrick sits on the floor playing with Mari, waiting for the suddenly available employee to call and tell us the plan. In a whirlwind, we are collected from the hotel and driven into a very dicey neighborhood where we are trooped up some dark and foul smelling stairs to sit in front of a clearly annoyed Guatemalan Imagracion employee who grills us for several minutes. During this time he goes from annoyed to accusatory! Suddenly we are being told that our attorney did not obtain a legal passport?!?! My heart just about stopped and I hugged the squirming toddler on my lap even tighter. My mind raced as it tried to keep up with his Spanish tirade and I was, for the first time of the trip, thankful that Patrick did not understand Spanish! In some adept linguistic maneuver, that I missed in my time delayed translations going on in my head, the embassy employee gets the man who turns out to be the HEAD of Imagracion in Guatemala to make a phone call. Whoosh!!! We are hurried back down the stairs and into the waiting taxi and flew through traffic across the width of the city because as Mr. Embassy informed us...not only had our attorney gotten a VALID passport but he had been smart enough to get it at one of the only sites that was fully computerized! We were now on our way to the police station located at the airport (because that was the location assigned to the embassy) to make out a police report?????
Sigh, yes, in one of those ludicrous Catch-22 scenarios we had to go the police and report her passport as being 'missing and assumed lost' and obtain a certificate. This certificate was the only way the Imagracion people would reissue Mari's passport.
One thing to say...Mari was an absolute trooper through this whole ordeal!! Can you imagine leaving the only people you have known for more than two years to be handed over to these pasty white strangers...who are clearly stressed about something?? Can you imagine going from a quiet life where you rarely left the four walls of the foster family's home to multiple taxi rides in this strange woman's lap as the adults around you talked in tones that were clearly not joyous?!? In all of her innocent youth all she did was watch everything with studious intensity with an occasional happy exclamation of, "Mira Mommy! Puedo ver muchos motos!!!" Later that night in the hotel room, Mari also told us she did not like the policemen. I was surprised because I had not found them particularly nice either so I asked her why? She said, "Ellos son malos porque los ojos no tienen sonrisas" which means "They are bad because their eyes do not have smiles".....very perceptive! You see, the police men were the first people I ever met in Guatemala who not only didn't smile at Mari and wish her good luck in America but there was a racist quality to the way they discussed how her physical description should be listed!! "Tipico Indigeno' said with scrunched noses and curled lips...
and so I am very grateful that we got that passport and visa so she could get out of that place where her future was limited by her 'tipico indigeno' label!! This was my beautiful daughter that I had waited so long to hold in my arms and the world is her oyster!!