It feels like we've been packing and preparing for the last two weeks. How much can you really pack you ask? Well, the answer is 3 checked bags, 2 carry-ons, and 2 briefcases. Granted only one suitcase and some of the carry-on luggage is for us, but I guess this is just preparing us for future travels with the twins! In a way it still doesn't feel real. Maybe that's because we travel a lot so sitting in the airport isn't really a new experience. We left the house at 5:30am Saturday, all our luggage in tow and after the first leg of our flight (Tampa to DC) Joe's brother picked us up at the airport so we could spend our 7 hour layover with his family and Joe parents who drove down for the day. It was great seeing everyone and we filled up at Olive Garden hoping that a full tummy would put us to sleep on the log leg from DC to Munich. So much for that plan! Really the flights were on-time and uneventful but lacked any significant sleep.
We arrived in Sofia at about noon on Sunday and were met by Petko who works for a sister agency to All God's Children International (our adoption agency in Portland). Surprisingly when waiting in line at customs we ran into another family that was on our flight who is from the U.S. and is on their second trip to Bulgaria…picking up their twins! Congrats to Stephanie and Josh! Petko drove us to our apartment in Sofia for the night. More than we could have asked for, a two bedroom apartment with full kitchen and equipped with some toys and child potty seats (we'll appreciate all that on our second trip!). I must admit though we learned early on not to judge a book (a building in this case) by its cover. From the outside we weren't sure exactly what we were going to think of the place we were staying but the apartment inside is AMAZING. VESTA (the sister agency) is really taking incredible care of us (the inside pictures aren’t very good because they are screenshots from a video). Petko oriented us to the city from our apartment and then sat down with us at a restaurant for lunch. While he wasn't able to stay, he just wanted to make 100% sure we were comfortable and oriented before he left.
We couldn't let our first meal go by without trying some authentic shopska salad (we've made this for some of you at our house but I can tell you….ours doesn't hold a candle to the real thing). This, paired with a beer and some Bulgarian wine set the mood for a great lunch. While we debated over the menu, the waiter stopped and asked if we wanted to try something traditional from Bulgaria, to which we of course answered yes. He quickly chose two nice dishes (one lamb, one chicken) and sent them our way. The restaurant was in an outside courtyard and with the sun shining and temp rising into the 60's, we had a wonderful introduction to Sofia.
Even though our eyes could barely remain open we were determined to stay awake and try to put our bodies into the local time zone (7 hours ahead of East coast US). We started walking around the city and found an extensive park and shopping area (after a quick shot of coffee (yes, literally 'coffee' is about a shot worth of liquid) from the Bulgarian McDonalds! A large mountain range provides an awesome backdrop to Sophia, especially from the airport (so the picture here doesn't do it justice!). We walked for a couple hours, thinking we were heading to this outdoor market which we unfortunately never found (skipping ahead…Monday, after resting for the night, we realized that the right we made should definitely have been a left!!).
Throughout the whole day we would have flashes reminding us that, yes tomorrow we will meet our children and yet it seemed so unreal. Our eyes barely remained open long enough to head back to the apartment at about 5:30pm. We took a nice 2 hour catnap and then got up and decided to find something to eat close to the apartment. Not much was open but we found a couple of quick chicken wraps. Our suitcases seemed to have exploded in the apartment so we needed to get them in order because Monday morning we needed to head out for Varna (city on the Black Sea where our children's orphanage is). We were told upfront to be flexible during this trip. So taking that to heart, when they said we would be flying to Varna in the morning instead of driving, we just respond with, 'OK'! Really it is the best choice. Varna is a 6-7 hour drive from Sophia and would have REALLY cut into our visitation time at the orphanage.
Myra spent some time wrapping bows on the presents we brought for the caretakers at the orphanage and we rearranged the suitcases with the expectation we would be heading straight from the airport to the orphanage. Thanks to help from friends and family we filled one suitcase with clothes to donate to the orphanage (who lost much of what they had in fire about a month ago…). We wanted to have these, the gifts, and some toys for the kids easily accessible. We finished up about 10:30pm, set the alarm, said a prolonged, "Oh my gosh, we are meeting our kids tomorrow" and then headed off to bed….finally. A big day awaits….now where is that needed sleep?