Sunday, December 30, 2012

court day...

After we returned home from our safari, there wasn't much going on... we did a lot of sitting and waiting.  Uganda celebrated their 50th Jubilee, we watched some soccer, did some shopping, slept well, and just enjoyed being where we were.

Fast forward to October 16:
Today was a good day. A funny and off kilter today. We headed to our court appointment around 1pm. We arrived around 1:45 for our 2:30 court time.  We took the elevator up to the 3rd floor. Then took a half flight stairs up to the 3 1/2 floor. Yes, 3.5.  We went to the waiting room that we had spent so many hours in a couple of weeks ago.  We sat down and our driver called our attorney to let him know that we were there.  Ken talked for a moment then handed the phone to Ryan.  Our attorney told Ryan that we had indeed passed court and received a favorable/positive ruling. Deacon is officially ours.  Our attorney was in court this morning with another family and had gotten the news then.  Ryan hung up the phone and shared the news.  We were definitely caught off guard (why had he not called us?).  So we left and decided to go get some items that we need from Deacon's file to start his medicals.  

Before travel and even last week, we were told we were not able to start the medicals until after we had a written ruling (which we don't have yet, just the verbal).  But I wanted to try anyway. I have followed the rules for over 3 weeks and it hasn't gotten me anywhere yet :).  So we got the documents then headed to do the medical center.  I prayed the entire way for God to soften the doctor's heart and see us today.  I may have pleaded with him a little bit as well.  We got to the medical center and at first the receptionist told us no, but we could come back on Friday. After I gave her the paperwork that she needed, she then said that she wanted to go check to see if maybe the doctor could see us today. She came back and said, yes, the doctor could see us today.  We waited just a few minutes and then were taken back to an exam room that was actually kinda nice by African standards.  She then said to Deacon "we are about to become enemies."  She gave us some instructions then gave him his TB test. He screamed of course but he did okay afterward.  We go back on Friday to have the test read and to have the rest of his medical work done for our visa. This is a huge step! It is 3 days that we won't have to do next week.  Huge!

We are finishing up today and I am a tad (just a tad) more hopeful.  We knew the process would be long but the judge thing really set us back.  So I am asking you to keep praying for the rest of our time here to be quick and all of the work be done quickly by those Ugandans who are doing it.

eating out at a food court... all of the workers assault you with their menus. 

hanging on the porch

Saturday, December 29, 2012

everything but the lion

We woke up at 5:50am to go on our safari at 6:30.  We had breakfast then met our guide, Drago.  He showed us around the African savannah and we were pleased to see elephants, hippos, wart hogs, giraffes, kobs (like a deer, one of Ugandans symbols), hartebeasts (like another kind of deer but with a horse like face), african buffalo and cranes.  We were also on the hunt for lions.  Though we didn't find any, we did see some fresh tracks.  We tried to read the tracks to figure out where they were but alas no lions were spotted. 

We were able to lounge by the pool after our morning drive. What a treat this was.  Deacon does not like the pool yet but he will learn by next summer to love it.  Then we headed out on a boat tour of the Victoria Nile.  This part of the nile was full of hippos. Everywhere you looked there was a cluster of hippos. Man, are the huge. There were old hippos, mama hippos and even baby hippos.  They were every where you looked.  We also spotted a couple of nile alligators. Our boat got so close to one that he could have jumped on board if he wanted too.  We saw so many birds as well, beautifully colored and in their natural habitat.

One thing that Ryan and I both commented on is how the safari and boat ride are within the animals natural habitat. There were not fences or gates or concrete barriers keeping them in. We were in their home.  We are fond of zoos and it made us hurt for those animals in captivity.   Though most of those animals have never known anything different it is a reality check to see what they come from and how freely they roam on the vast african plain.

After our morning and afternoon fun, we set out to our next destination, Choebe Safari Lodge.  Since the royals were coming to Paraa there was no room for us at the inn.  On that note, we heard it was Charles and Camilla but we didn't see them.  It ended up being the Queen's brother here for the Ugandan Jubilee celebration. 

The road to Choebe was dark.  We traveled through the park and I just knew a lioness was going to jump through my window and eat me.  After 2 hours on a dark savannah dirt road, we finally hit pavement.  Another hour of driving in darkness and we arrived at 9:30. I have never been so happy to arrive some where. I don't like driving at night and add in the fact that there were absolutely no street lights or other car lights around it made for an interesting drive.

Friday, December 28, 2012

on our way to the safari

This morning we woke up with some excitement in the air.  We packed our bags and headed out the door.  After an hour to get out of the city of Kampala, we went on the northern bypass up to Murchsion Falls.  We drove for 5 hours on roads better than those back at home.  We passed by village after village after village winding our way up to the north eastern part of the country.  Once we made it to our turn, the road became dirt.  We drove for 2 hours on a red African dirt (not to different than OK) one lane road.  We were greeted by troops of baboons and about a half dozen wart hogs (think pumba from lion king).  The baboons are the red butt kind and it made me think of my kids :).  

We decided to take a run up to the top of the falls. I have never seen a dirt road with so many rocks, pot holes (natural of course) or bumps.  It was a bit nail biting at times but we made it to our destination.  We hoped out of our van and walked to where the Victoria Nile plummets to the bottom in a magnificent roaring fashion.  It was so loud and the rapids were so intense.  All that water funneled down... tomorrow we will get to see the bottom of the falls.  

We made our way back to the main road and headed for the ferry. The ferry looked small and not able but it somehow took 4 vans and a very large army truck over the nile.  I just knew we were going to sink when they centered the army truck on the back of the boat.  But God was with us and we made our way across the 3/4 mile wide waterway.  And thank goodness we didn't sink because the waters were filled with hippos! I spotted at least six that came up for air then went back down.  As we reached the shore, we saw another troop of baboons. They were milling around with the people waiting to take the ferry back to the other side.  When we were getting settled in our room, the man told us not to leave our doors open otherwise the baboons would come in and go wild.  

Tomorrow we will go on the actual safari and drive around the grasslands.  I told Ryan today that I think the nature shows must come here to film!  It is absolutely amazing. Beautiful and breathtaking and that was only the road and the falls.  

Deacon did great again. The bumps in the road helped him choose to stay seated.  Our main issue with him has been when he needs to go potty. Thank goodness that Ugandans just go on the side of the road.  We just pull over, hop out and let it fly.  This will not be an easy habit to break when we get home.... I know Cannon will be all in for this but the girls, not so much.  

Tomorrow we should get to see the choice African animals: elephants, lions, more hippos, giraffes, zebras. I am hoping we don't get eaten or caught in a stampede.  We did see some water buffalo today as well. They were totally covered in mud and relaxing in their mud hole while some wart hogs looked for some bugs that taste like chicken. I swear the Lion King and Madagascar have me thinking that we will see a dance number tomorrow while we drive. 

Oh, one other thing, we heard tonight that the soldiers are here because someone from the British royal family will be here tomorrow. I'll let you know if I spot anyone.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

We woke up really early this morning and left the house at 7:30. We arrived at the court house at 8:30 for our 9:30 appointment time.  One hour went by, then almost two.  The first case was heard around 11am (there were 4 families).  The first case did not go well with the background investigations.  This seemed to set the tone for the rest of us.  We were the last case from our group.  We heard from the other families that the judge asked them to provide more information for each of their cases. So we were mentally prepared that he would do the same for us.  We went in at 12:54.  Our attorney presented Deacon's family information as well as his history.  The judge did not feel that due diligence had been done in this case and requested that more information be provided.  We were done at 1:27 feeling defeated.  The upside to this is that we were given a date to come back and we would receive our ruling, October 16.  Two weeks away.  The background information will hopefully be done by Monday according to our adoption worker. We are hoping that this will not effect our return date.

Deacon is doing great and was a champ during everything today! He waited patiently (or as patiently as a 4 year old can wait).  He said many more words today.  He rode in his own seat in the car (he has been a lap rider which is hot for his parents!).  

waiting for court to start

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas from us to you!

oldest and youngest 

all 4 

middle two

Sunday, December 23, 2012

a lazy Saturday and food!

Saturday, September 29
Even in Africa, Saturdays are for laying around and relaxing. Since we have spent the last 8 days either in an airplane or driving in a car for hours, we decided to stay at the guest house and just be.  We cook our meals here so that has been fun exploring what I can make with the food I brought and pairing it with the local flavors.  By local, I mean we have had eggs (brown!), chicken breast, ground beef and bananas.  We bought apples too but I don't think they are native :).  Tonight we had ramen and chicken for dinner. I haven't had ramen since our early married college days.  It tasted so good!

Deacon had another great day.  He played and played and played.  He pushed around luggage, stacked chairs, drove his trains, talked on his phone, sported his sunglasses and napped.  

Couple of exciting things that happened today:
1) He got to Skype with Kaylee, Cannon & Grace. They were are 3 so excited to talk to him.  He was good for about 10 minutes then he started to get a little nervous and was done with the whole people talking through the computer thing. It was so good to see the kids though! First time since we left!  Africa time and OK time are hard to match up!

2) He said more words!!!  He said good-bye a few more times.  He also said "I love you" after we said it to him.  Ryan got him to say "mama" as well but I didn't hear that one. So he is really starting to improve. 

Monday, October 2Today was a fun day.  We had the pleasure of experiencing traditional Uganda food.  I will give you the plate tour.... starting at 12 o'clock...
1) Green: this was some kind of greens. They were bitter and just okay.
2) Tan: this was some kind of stew meat. Beef simmered in a tomato/veggie broth.  Pretty tasty!
3) Yellow: Matooke, this is a type of banana. It is wrapped in banana leaf then steamed. It taste a lot like spaghetti squash to me. Pretty good.
4) White: Maize, this is a lot like really thick grits.  You pick it up and eat it with your hands and use it like bread to soak up broth. Pretty good.
5) Tortilla Like thing: Chapate. It is wheat flour mixed with oil then fried. This is quite tasty~
6) Rice: this was like fried rice with carrots and peas. Basic and it tasted good.
7) Brown paste: this is a peanut paste. You can put it on your chapate. It tasted like a light peanut butter.
8) Beans: these are like our pinto beans cooked with some onions and tomatoes. This was my favorite part.

All in all this meal was very good. Not extremely filling but I was proud of myself for trying it all.  True Ugandan fashion is to pile everything on the plate and have the broth float all on the bottom. I, of course, stuck with my usual plating method, making sure nothing touched :). Though I did use the maize and chapate to soak up some broth from a separate bowl :).  It may not look very good but I was pleasantly surprised that it was!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Amazima, Katie Davis Visit

September 28

We just arrived back at the guest house after spending 3 hours in a Kampala traffic jam. Yuck.  Nothing like sitting in a van with the windows down (no a/c) and breathing in all the other cars exhaust.  Deacon did great though and was very patient.

We had another great day today. I have been surprised at how well the trip has gone so far.  Kinda makes me hope it doesn't turn the other direction in the weeks to come!  This morning was easy and around noon we headed out to Jinja and Amazima Ministries. It is supposed to be about a 1.5 hour drive but it ended up being around 2.5 due to traffic. On Fridays, everyone uses the same road to either go to Kenya or to go to Kampala for the weekend.  It was a lot of time in the car but so worth it.

We arrived at Amazima around 4pm after a ride through Jinja and then a backtrack to where we were supposed to go.  We passed over the Nile River dam.  I kept thinking I wonder how many crocodiles were in there! The river was really pretty and very lush and green on the banks.  

When we arrived we met Brad Lang who is Amazima's operations director. He spoke with us for about 30-45 minutes on the history of Amazima and Katie Davis.  He is from Iowa and his family operates s soy bean farms.  It is a way for them to reach out to others missionally as well.  Who would of thought a soy bean can help someone come to Jesus!

After our talk, we got a tour of the grounds. There is a large place where the 581 kids come to worship every Saturday.  They get a meal and then food to take home for the week. There is a large playground and they are building a soccer field.  Our family has talked so much about Katie and her ministry that it was great to actually be able to see it. 

Here are a few pictures...

Where they do the Saturday morning worship  

the kitchen that makes all of the food for hundreds on Saturdays

Franko, Katie's pet monkey

An up close of Franko. He loves to be touched. Trying to take my ring off here.

Looking out from the kitchen

Deacon had a good day. He even talked, twice! He has this phone that sings a song. At the end of the song, it says "good-bye."  So this morning while we were getting ready, he was listening to the phone sing and at the end after it was done he goes "good-bye."  Then a few hours later in the van, the same thing happened. He was listening to the phone and after the song was over, he said "good-bye" in the sweetest little high pitched voice.  We also got lots of laughter today thanks to him being ticklish.  I heard him laugh in his sleep the first night but that has been it. So more vocalizations today which is great!  Maybe tomorrow he will let it all out.

Ryan and I are both feeling pretty good.  We are getting sleep and eating well. No sickness yet.  Tomorrow we are going to take the day to just relax at the guest house. We have been in the car for at least 3+ hours everyday since we arrived. Deacon won't know what to do when we don't get ready to go somewhere.

Monday, December 10, 2012

back to Kampala

September 27

Day 3 with Deacon was another great day.  We woke this morning and made the 5 hour trek back to Kampala from Mbarara.  Deacon is a great lap rider and loves to look out the window at all of the other cars and boda boda's (motorcycles).  There are a lot of vehicles on road and they like to drive really close to each other.  He spent some time up front with Ryan as well which he really liked because he could see out the windshield. The Chinese are putting in new roads so there was lots of construction equipment that he could watch as well.  

The road from Mbarara to Kampala is filled with strips of "shops."  Most of these strips are in little villages and are made of concrete. They sell everything from live chickens to popcorn to internet minute sticks.  There are carpenters that are making beds, dressers and caskets with just hand tools.  There are welders making doors and gates.  There are people all around and lots of children running around as well.  We have seen lots of goats, cows, dogs, and a few cats.  The only exciting animal we have seen is the Crested Crane. The Crested Crane is Uganda's national animal. Our driver said that there aren't many around but I have seen 3 in the last day.  

In more of the rural area of the road, we stopped at a drum shop. It was a stick hut on the side of the road.  Drums were tied to the sides as well as all around the inside.  The drum is made/carved from wood then it is wrapped in cow hide. The hide is a dark chocolate brown and then is wrapped again in some kind of twine. We saw where they were drying out hide or tanning it.  It was up off the ground a little bit and all spread out.  There were some "fresh" drums too that weren't for sale yet. They smelled a bit...  

For our Georgia Tech alum friends, while driving in Kampala today I saw a Ugandan sporting a GT hat.  So know that GT is represented here!  It was fun to see a bit of home walking down the street!

Deacon is starting to open up a bit. He smiled a lot today and seems comfortable with hugs, kisses, tickles.  Still no words from our sweet boy but we know that they are in there.  Maybe tomorrow! He likes to stick out his tongue while he is playing or looking at a book or concentrating.  Imagine Michael Jordan when he dunked a basketball.  Long, pink and all the way down his chin.  Ryan loves it :).

Friday, December 7, 2012

what a day...

September 26, 2012

Today we woke up with a beautiful little boy sandwiched between us.  I opened my eyes and looked over and he was just staring at me.  We got up and he played with his toys while we got ready. He did great at breakfast and is getting the hang of using the fork.

After breakfast, we headed back to his home.  Well, first we stopped off at a medical clinic because his eyes were gunky and he has a blister thing on this leg. He got checked and we got some medicine so back on the road. One funny thing is that the visit and the medicine only cost $4 US dollars.  Wow.

We drove the hour and a half back to his home. When we arrived it was lunch time and all of the little ones were having fish.  We waited in the waiting area and one by one the caregivers came to say their goodbyes to Deacon.  

After our visit there, we headed out to Deacon's family's village.  We drove on a paved road, then were on a dirt road.  Then we headed up the side of a large hill/small mountain on a typical African road.  We could only go so far and had to walk the last little bit.  The head Sister was with us. I have never ridden in a car with a nun before!  So there is a nun, 2 Americans/Muzungus and 2 Ugandans trudging our way up this dirt pathway.  What a site we were...

We passed several little mud houses and hundreds of matoke trees (kind like a banana but green and much sweeter).   We finally came upon his village. We were able to meet some of his extended family and spend some time with them.  We were able to ask lots of questions and have some important things to share with Deacon some day.  It started to rain while we were there.  We sat in a mud hut and talked while water dripped in the tiny tin holes.  We stayed surprisingly dry.

We made our way back down the muddy rainy dirt path.  We got back in the van and headed back to his home.  We spent time with Deacon's friends and were able to take pictures of him with them.

One thing that was another surprise today.... Deacon hasn't talked at all. He has cried once but other than that, no verbal communication.  Today while we were at his home we were standing in a doorway and all of his friends where surrounding us.  He took a little girl by the hand, looked right at me, and said a full sentence in the sweetest little voice. Of course, I have no idea what he was saying... Then we were told that this little girl is his best friend. He watches after her.  So I think he was telling me that this was his friend.  So incredibly sweet and what a way to end our visit there. 

We then made the trek back to Mbarara.  It was a long day but so full of joy and grace.  What a God to love us the way he does and give us such experiences.

Tomorrow we head back to Kampala. We are going to do some touristy things the next few days. Then our court date is scheduled for next Wednesday at 9:30am (2:30am Stillwater time).

Ryan and Deacon leaving his family village surrounded by Matooke trees.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Meeting Deacon

September 25, 2012

What a day we have had!  This morning we traveled out to Deacon's home and met him.  He was very responsive to us and didn't cry at all.  He let us hold him almost the whole time we were there.  He is very quite and shy. We have yet to hear him say anything.  We remember this with Grace. She was so quiet the first few days....but then look out!

Ryan and I both have had so many memories of Grace's trip.  It is fun to think back on it then look at where Deacon is coming from.  

His favorite toys are anything with wheels. He loves his cars and his plane.  He has a couple of books that he is loving as well.  We have traveled with him back to Mbarara to stay the night.  We were able to bring him with us but we plan to go back out to the home tomorrow to spend some more time.  

He is smaller than we expected as well. Probably the size of a 2ish yr old back in the US. His clothes are a tad big but he will start growing. He is eating well and had beef, chicken, french fries, almonds, granola bar, trail mix and puffs today!

One bummer of the day, court has been delayed again (7th time!). But it is only until next week. Our original judge is sick and the new judge hasn't had time or won't have time to review the files before Thursday. So next week it is.  This should not delay us in getting home thank goodness.

First time we met Deacon.

Monday, December 3, 2012

the first few days....

Let's go back to the beginning.  Well, the beginning of the trip anyway. I am going to post the updates that I sent to our close friends and family.  That will be the best way to remember.  After many, many, many delays and court date changes, we had tickets for September 22.  I doubted we would board that plane but that morning I started to believe a little.

September 22, 2012
Hello all!
Well, after many, many delays, the day has finally come!  We are on our way to Uganda this morning!  We fly out of OKC and go to Atlanta. Then we head to Amsterdam at 5pm and then finally land in Entebbe on Sunday night.  The time difference is 8 hours so around 3pm Stillwater time on Sunday we will be getting off of the plane.

Here is our schedule for this week:
Saturday: leave for Uganda
Sunday night: arrive in Uganda
Monday: errands around Kampala, visit the embassy
Tuesday: drive to where Deacon is which is about a days drive
Wednesday: meet Deacon!
Thursday: court date where we will go in front of the judge to say we want to be Deacon's parents, then we wait for the judge's ruling, this could take one day or up to a week.
Once we get the positive ruling, we will head back to Kampala to start all of the medical and visa paperwork.

I hope to be able to update often. The first week our internet will be hard to find but when we are back in Kampala it will be much easier.

September 24, 2012
Hello all!
We made it safely to Mbarara today. We were able to run all of our errands this morning and then set off for the 4.5 hour drive.  We get to meet Deacon tomorrow! We will head to his home at 8am. It is around a 1.5 hour drive.  We are feeling good and getting sleep! Our big kids are doing great too!

And guess what, we had ANOTHER court change!  However, this one is okay. Our judge is sick so now we will have court in Kampala instead of Mbarara. I can handle that change!  We will meet Deacon tomorrow (Tuesday) then head back to Kampala on Wednesday for court on Thursday.