By the time the second Monday rolled around, we were ready to hit it. We applied for Laina's passport early, and spent the rest of the day trying to get the To Whom letter, the one that would let us keep Laina with us all the time, and travel out of the country with her. It was a long day of waiting. Laina didn't seem to mind.
Tuesday we waited some more, and then we got the To Whom and rejoiced!
We took one last visit to the orphanage to say goodbye. That was good and sad too. Adoption is a beautiful but painful answer to a broken world. Laina was loved and cared for by the people at her orphanage, and they had to say goodbye to her and she to them. She was gaining a family who loves her dearly, but she was losing something too. And the dear, faithful people who care for her and the other orphans under their watch, they say goodbye to these little ones so often. They are happy to see them being united with their families, but it's got to be hard to say goodbye.
(Laina in the arms of one of the sisters who cared for her)
But we were joyous too. We were taking Laina out of those blue gates for the last time. We were closer to being home and back with our boys. We had made a huge step in the paperwork process.
(Laina and I, and our dear friends Alison and Avivah)
(one of my favorite pictures from the whole trip!)
Wednesday through Friday we spent waiting for Laina's passport, getting her visa, etc. We took a trip to the place she was born. That part of the story is hers; I won't be posting details of it. We got to know our little girl better, and we spent time with the other families on our trip.
(Laina on the bus the day we heard the kids' stories)
(Jeb and Laina playing on the bed)
On Friday, we went to the Embassy to try to get Laina's visa. God moved mountains, and miraculously every single child in our group, plus a few others (other families who were adopting) got their visa. Our flight out to Ethiopia left that night (well, really the next morning at 1am), so we had to leave Chez Lando at 10-ish. We packed furiously (actually, we had started packing by faith before we actually had the visas in hand!), and tried to get our paperwork in order.
(Jeremy and Laina went to go get one last round of water bottles at the Joint Supermarket--yes, that's its real name--while I finished up the packing)
We walked to Sole Luna one last time for pizza for dinner (along with Dillon and Jeff). While the men waited for the pizza, I carried Laina to the big open part of the restaurant that overlooks the city of Kigali. We watched night fall on Rwanda, and I whispered to her to say goodbye to her homeland. More heaviness in the midst of joy. It was a sweet moment to share with my daughter in the twilight of our last night in Rwanda. I treasure it.
(the courtyard of Chez Lando, right before we left)
We said goodbye to our home in Rwanda, where we had stayed for 17 incredible days. We woke Laina up from her brief sleep, packed onto the bus one last time, and drove to the airport. Tearful goodbyes to our two POAs (whom we love and miss, and who did such an amazing job getting us through, whom we are so thankful for). Waiting endlessly to get through ticket counters, customs, security. Climbing the steps to the plane, with Laina in the ergo, in the balmy night. Breathing deeply of Rwanda's air one last time.
We were tired and sad and happy and excited. Laina cried and fussed until the plane engines got loud and then she stopped to listen to them, and fell immediately asleep and slept, albeit fitfully, through the whole flight. We landed in Ethiopia early the next morning. A chapter of the trip closed. Another opened.
Seventeen days in Rwanda.
Note: Thanks to Stephan Sharp and Alison McLennan for some of the pictures on this post.