Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Visa Update #3

Click here for Visa Update #1 and here for Visa Update #2.

Great news! I received my visa today!! The Consulate's website says you should expect to wait at least 2-3 weeks after sending off the paperwork before hearing anything, so when I tracked my return address label and saw that it had been mailed back after only 2 days, I was very worried that there was a problem. Then I had the absolute torture of the envelope not arriving when the tracking showed it would arrive and had to wait an extra day… It was horrible! I was imagining all of the worst case scenarios.

So what's next? I think I could technically go back because I just need the visa to enter the country. However, because I don't have any of the paperwork back to start the one-year residency process with the lawyer, I wouldn't be able to start that process within the 30 days the visa is good for. Extensions are granted sometimes, but because it could still take awhile for the other documents to be completed, it'd probably be better not to risk it. So, I'll still be home for a bit longer.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Exciting times at Casa de Amor!

I'm still waiting to receive my background check, but I thought I'd give you a little update on life at the baby home…

Feliz cumpleaños to M., one of our silly toddlers! Today, he turns 2 years old! As a side note… Keep him in your thoughts and prayers, please. He was assigned adoptive parents and met them a few days after I left. From what I've been told, the adoption won't be finalized as planned, and he should be assigned new adoptive parents. Hopefully this next year will be a big one for him :)

Two year old R.'s adoption was completed recently! Her parents have been desperate to pick her up for awhile now, so I was very excited to hear that she was finally able to go with them! To give you a bit of background, her birthmother gave her up as a newborn to a childless couple, and they cared for her until she was a year and a half. When the police found out the couple was caring for a child that was not legally theirs, they took R. away, and she came to Casa de Amor. Her dedicated parents visited her several times a week as they went through the process to legally make her their daughter. The tías appreciated the help her mother provided on her visits, and the other kids (and tías and volunteers, too!) always enjoyed the snacks and other sweet treats her parents brought along for everyone! As excited as we are for her and her parents, we'll definitely miss her feisty, fun personality! It's not going to be the same without her!

This sweet girl went home with her new FAMILY today! I saw several adoptions over the past 6 months, and there have been a couple families who have been absolutely adored by the tías. Baby S.'s parents are loved by all! We can't wait to watch their lives together unfold!

And there's going to be another adoption before the end of the year! Tío Jake and Tía Jenny (Jennifer is the founder/director of CDA) are adopting the three oldest boys from Casa 2! We think this adoption may have been the best kept secret in Casa de Amor's history. When the process was pretty far along, a few key clues about the new family leaked and at least one of the boys guessed who the parents were, but for the most part, they had no idea! If all goes well, the boys should spend their first night with their new family on Christmas Eve. Can you imagine a better Christmas morning than waking up in your new house with new parents and a baby sister?! Of course we're very excited for them, too!

Monday, December 16, 2013

Visa Update #2

If you want to see pictures, this won't be your favorite update… I don't have any new ones! Cochabamba friends, if you're at the baby home, take some pictures and send them to me, please :)

If you want to read Visa Update #1, click here

My fingerprint cards arrived in Baton Rouge on the 10th, and I (wrongly) assumed they'd be processed and the background checks would be sent back to me by the end of the week. I mean really, how long should a background check take?! I don't have a criminal history, and I'm not that old so it doesn't have to check very far back! When it didn't arrive, I called and was told it could take anywhere from 15-28 DAYS. I was shocked it could take almost a month and not very happy either. As of today, I'm still waiting… The worst part is, they said they can't check the status because all are processed in the order they're received. I don't really have any way of knowing when it might possibly be returned.

The other big update is that I mailed off all of the documents for the actual visa that'll go in my passport. There are two processes to the Objeto Determinado Visa, and the above process (with fingerprints and background checks) is part of the paperwork that I need to have with me when I arrive in Bolivia and work with the lawyer for the year-long residency. The "actual visa" as I referred to it refers to the sticker/stamp that will be placed in my passport. It will allow me to enter Bolivia, and it gives me 30 days to begin the process to establish the year-long residency (the process for which I'll need all of the other paperwork). It's confusing, I know. 

There are 4 Bolivian consulates in the USA (Washington D.C., Los Angeles, Miami, and New York City), and you can use any of the four to process the paperwork. I decided to use the Washington, D.C. office. The website has a lot of helpful information, and it says exactly what you need to mail for the visa. For this particular visa, it's the completed application form, one passport-sized photo, your passport, a copy of your airline tickets or itinerary (itinerary is what I sent), a letter of introduction from the organization, and an $85 money order.  The consulate website says it could take 2-3 weeks to be processed, and although I'm wanting to get it sent back quickly, it's not as much of a rush as the other paperwork (because the other paperwork all requires several steps). So for now, I wait. 

Hopefully I'll be able to update in the next few days about the status of my background check. I think I may have a few more pictures to post too, so check back for a post with those! I tried again to post videos, and they wouldn't play, so you might not get to see those after all.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Friday, December 13, 2013

Jugando Afuera (Playing Outside)

The seasons in Bolivia are opposite to those in the USA, so right now it's summer! When I left, the temperatures were reaching close to 90*F every afternoon. Cochabamba is also known as the "City of Eternal Spring," so it's always warm. 

Every morning, we took the kids outside to play and enjoy some sunshine, and it was one of my favorite parts of the day! 

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Long Lost Pictures

Now that I'm home and have lots of free time, I'm going to upload some pictures that weren't posted to the blog for whatever reason. Some of them made it onto Facebook though, so if you're a Facebook friend, you might recognize them!

Monday, December 9, 2013

Made it home and visa update #1!

After more than 48 hours of travel, 7 airports, 4 flight changes, and a couple cancelled flights, I finally made it home around 1am on Sunday (I left Cochabamba Thursday at 7pm)… with no luggage! The airline tells me they'll deliver it to my house tonight, so we'll see. It's been fun to catch-up with family and friends, but I'm missing Bolivia so much! I found out that right after I left, the baby home received 4 (yes, FOUR!) new kids! You can read about then on Jennifer's blog, here. I can't even imagine the trauma the two youngest have been through. They're at by far the best baby home in the city though, so I know they're getting lots of love and help from the tías. I can't wait to meet them when I get back!

As many of you know, I came home to work on visa paperwork. I thought I'd update my blog as that progresses along for those of you who might be going through this process in the future.

I'm going back on an Objeto Determinado (Specific Purpose) Visa. It's a year-long visa that leads to residency. I have to enter the country with the visa already in my passport, but I have 30 days once I've arrived to actually start the process for the year-long residency. *In case you don't realize… You can't enter Bolivia on a tourist (90 day) visa and switch it to an Objeto Determinado Visa. Whatever visa you enter with is the visa you have… no switching while in the country.

The first step to everything is getting fingerprints. I had to go to my local police station to get that done. I don't know what the average cost for that is, but I had to pay $20 for one original fingerprint card. I then had to mail that to my state police department in Baton Rouge. They'll send the background check back to me, hopefully by the end of the week, although that may be a bit too quick. For now, I'm waiting to receive the state background check.

Most of the things I need must be completed in a specific order, but there are a few things I can do while I wait. For example, I need to receive a "Letter of Introduction" from Casa de Amor, and I need to complete the application form for the Objeto Determinado Visa. I did both of these things this afternoon, so they'll be ready as soon as I need them. 

That's all to report for now. I have some pictures of the kids that never got posted while I was in Bolivia, so I'll make a post with those later on this week. Maybe now that I have fast internet, I'll be able to post some videos, too!

Jennifer sent me the picture below to show me the horrible outfit my baby was wearing the other day! HA! We always laugh at how the kids are dressed (all patterns/color combos are just fine by Bolivian standards), and Jennifer knew I'd be horrified by this combination. I didn't leave any of C.'s cute clothes with the tías (most will still fit by the time I get back and if they were sent upstairs with her, they'd be shared with the bigger babies and stretched out), so I had to expect some interesting clothes on her. My response was that at least they put her skirt on her (she wore it to the airport which is why it was upstairs), and I'll tell myself they chose that onesie because she's missing me (of course the tías don't understand what the onesie actually says though… and it's definitely lost in translation)! No matter what she's wearing, she's still just as cute as ever! Can't wait to see her sweet face again!

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Mi Despedida

Although I've been trying to prepare myself for this day, I've been absolutely dreading saying goodbye to everyone. Even though I know I'm coming back, it doesn't make it any easier. It's been a whirlwind few days with packing up every thing (and even that wasn't finished until an hour before I was supposed to leave), and it didn't really hit me that today's the day until this morning. 

Emotionally, I've been a bit of a wreck. As long as my impending departure wasn't mentioned, I was fine. It was certainly not on my list of things I wanted to talk about today. 

It was a good last day though... spent with some of my favorite kids and tías! 

The goodbyes actually started last night with the other group of tías!

There's not much space in our room to organize and pack up every thing, so I moved all of my stuff into the physical therapy room... This is what it still looked like this morning. Can you spot the kids?

 It's a bit of a joke how often I go to this restaurant down the street called "El Pollo Sabroso" ("The Tasty Chicken"). It was only appropriate that that was my going-away lunch at the baby home!

This afternoon I went to the girls' house to say goodbye, and the tías surprised me with a little despedida snack! We had ice cream, popcorn, bread, and coca cola. It was fun to spend a few last minutes with the Casa 3 tías! They're a fun group!

 Casa 3, y'all.

Now that school is out, the girls are spending quite a bit of time at home. Every afternoon, they have a "rest time," and today, nearly all of them slept. They weren't thrilled that we woke them up to take a group picture before I left!

Loading up the trufi to head to the airport! Rudi and Carla Booher offered to take me to the airport, but the baby home tías wanted all of the babies to accompany me! Rudi and Carla agreed to take all of us in their trufi. I'm not sure they realized what they were getting in to when making that agreement ;)

Heading out!

All of us at the airport! We probably looked a bit crazy with so many toddlers running all over the place, but it certainly made for an unforgettable send-off!  

Leaving her is the hardest thing I've ever done. I cry every time I think about it. She's been spending some time with the tías over the past few weeks to make the transition easier on her, but I know it'll still be hard. I know she's in great hands, but it's not the same as basically having a mother. 

Mis 2 hijitas! Love these two so much! M. (on the right) will be going back to live with her mother some time in the next few weeks, so she won't be here when I get back. Luckily, I'll still have baby C. here! 

Saying our final goodbyes :(

Truly, all of the tías are wonderful, but these two are some of the best. I can't thank them enough for all of their help and friendship over the past 6 months. I'll miss them just as much as the kids!

Chau for now, babies! I'll miss you more than you'll ever know, and I'm already counting down the days until I can see you again!