This morning (Monday) we packed up to leave the apartment and head to Varna! We had a fairly good night sleep, considering our anticipation of the big day ahead. We walked around the streets of Sophia around 7am trying and find breakfast but nothing was really open (not even Dunkin Donuts!) so we just stopped into a little 24 hr corner market and bought some interesting yogurt, bread and cheese - no coffee to be found! There were only a few people scattered around, which gave us good access to more pictures of Sofia, including a pack of random city dogs (wild dogs we've noticed are not uncommon here).
Our VESTA agent, Rosi, met us outside the apartment at 7:45am where a taxi took us (after many attempts to figure out how to cram all of our luggage into a very small car) to the airport! We found out on the way that the drive to Varna was about 7 hours and that the orphanage policy was to only allow us to visit in the morning from 9am – noon, so we were very thankful that we were flying, otherwise today would be a no-go! We had a momentary scare when the flight was canceled but later found out it was just combined with a flight going to another city along the coast and Varna as just added a layover now. The flight was only about 50 minutes, but still included a shot of coffee and a yummy crème filled croissant. It was still so unreal that we were actually on our way to the city where our children were born!
Again, because of our American super-sized amount of luggage, we had to take a taxi as opposed to sharing a car with another family :-) . We went straight to the orphanage and the 30-minuted trip on the way there now seems like only a blur. We kept looking around, anticipating a stop around every corner. Once there we rushed in with a couple suitcases and proceeded to madly pile all the donated clothes in the Directors office and make up a quick gift bag for the staff (the bonus is we were now on our way to reducing 5 suitcases to 3). We sat down to ask some questions when the door open - OUR KIDS WERE COMING IN!! We didn't even have time to think (for the 789th time) "will they like us, will they be scared, cry, be happy? They were here!!
Antoaneta (nicknamed, "Toni") was in a cute pink little dress with white stockings and black shoes and immediately spotted the doll Myra was holding. She came and grabbed it and promptly walked away. Petar, in a yellow jumper, laughed and smiled at Joe as he walked in holding the hands of the social worker. Immediately without thinking we both dove right for the floor and sat down at their level in front of the Director desk (feeling bad now, we may have seemed a little rude!). Myra went and placed Toni on her lap and quickly found out that Antoaneta was more of a "shape stacker " than a "doll girl " and she sat contently on her lap to play (future engineer or architect?) . Petar sat on Joes lap for most of the time but instead of pushing the dump trunk back and forth it mainly just became a plastic projectile. He laughs and giggles so much and loves to be held. They are adorable! We spent about 15 minutes in the directors office just talking to the kids and asking her some questions about their daily routines (Rosi was our translator the entire time). We then picked up our kids and headed upstairs to the family play room. We had another 25 minutes to play with them (she graciously extended our stay 15 minutes past the visitation time). Antoaneta was very shy with Joe (they don't see many men), but happily took the toys he gave her and directly handed them over to Myra. Petar continued to laugh and enjoy playing with Joe and a light up toy (which really grabbed both of their attention). Joe was thrilled to see that one of Antoanetas favorite activities is to pick up all the toys and put them all away in a bucket . A girl after his own obsessive-compulsive heart :-)!! Myra FINALLY got a big smile and little laugh from the typically very serious-faced Antoaneta when she tossed her up a little and laughed with her. Petar enjoyed any toy put in front of him, as long as he was being held. Petar then enjoyed playing with Myra's hair and Joe turned on his 'baby whisperer' charm towards Antoaneta . She started to warm up to him just in time for us to give them back to the social worker. She picked Petar up and we brought Antoaneta to her side. As soon as the social worker opened the door, Antoaneta went darting out of the room (with people running after her before she reached the stairs!). The end happened just as fast as the beginning! BUT it was a WONDERFUL first visit, the best we could realistically hope for - thank you everyone for your prayers!! As you can imagine, children are often very scared and unsure about these visits, but their 'grandmother' and social worker really prepared them for today. While they don't really understand the concept of "Mom and Dad" they were well aware that someone was coming today just to see them, and only them. This played a huge part in how receptive they were to us. They didn't cringe or pull away when we kissed them (but tomorrow is another day and attachment will be a long process – much much longer than a few hours, days, weeks, or months!!). The only part we regret is it all happened so fast that we didn't have the camera ready. It stayed in the Directors office will all of our bags when we quickly left there and went to the family room. Really the world was a blur from the moment they came into the room and we dropped everything where it was (we're actually still missing some things!) and devoted the next short but precious 45 minutes to our kids. Honestly not having the camera was probably good because it was short and we were able to just concentrate on them. Tomorrow the camera and video camera come out to capture the pictures and video that will help us through the next ~4 months!!
We left in another whirlwind off to check into our hotel in downtown Varna. Our hotel is very nice and right in the middle of this big pedestrian-only square. It is only one block from the beach of the Black Sea (though it is a chilly 50 degrees here now). After a short break and talk about our morning we had lunch with Rosi and asked her lots of questions about Bulgarian culture, customs, and holidays. Rosi then offered to walk us around the city square of Varna and took us to a beautiful "Church of Assumption'. She purchased us two candles and we went into the church and decided to light them in honor and prayer of our two children. We are certain that all the Vesta personal are great- but we have found Rosi to be wonderful and feel quite lucky to have been assigned her!
After our walk we went back to the hotel to do some rearranging, but Myra prevented Joe from napping by rearranging some suitcases (and him (see picture)- yes, she's so mean) and then took a walk along a road by the Black Sea.
Dinner was at a nice Spanish restaurant with Rosi, another VESTA coordinator, and a case worker from Italy. Tomorrow we leave at 8:30am to go to orphanage and are able to stay until ~12:30, we are going to be allowed to feed them lunch this time! We are bringing a whole new bag of toys for tomorrow… it is fun learning what they enjoy! We will have normal visitation hours tomorrow and Wednesday but Thursday will be shorter as our place leaves for Sofia at 12:30pm. We thought we would be there through Friday, but it turns out the notary (to complete the paperwork) is not there past 1pm so they like to get us there early to make sure nothing goes wrong with the paperwork. The bright side is we now have some time in Sofia to purchase gifts for them to bring back home and give later as they grow up to educate them about Bulgaria. We'll make the most of the hours we have and can't wait for the morning to come.