While we were waiting for the Dossier to get to Holt and then onto Ethiopia, we were also working on getting the I600-A (Petition to adopt an orphan) completed with USCIS (Department of Immigration). Liam and I were gone to Chicago from 6/11-13 for the Yellow Ribbon Event which is held for returning service members and their families. We had a great time and it was all FREE. Liam was in meetings most of the time, but we got to explore the city a bit with Shams and his wife, Catherine. We were supposed to fly home to Springfield and then get up bright and early the next morning (Monday) to drive into St. Louis for our fingerprinting appt. with USCIS. It didn't work out that way.
Our plane got delayed in Chicago due to rain. This, of course made us miss our connecting flight in Memphis. In fact, we're pretty sure that we saw the plane that we should have been on take-off as we were waiting to get off our plane. So, we scrambled around and stood in a LOOOOOONG line to try and catch another plane to Springfield. When it was clear that there were no other flights flying into Springfield, we asked to be put on a flight to St. Louis instead. We figured that we could rent a car in St.Louis, make our fingerprinting appts. (Liam's was on Monday, mine was on Tuesday) and then either have Jason (my brother-in-law) come get us or catch a greyhound down to Springfield. Long story short, we flew into St. Louis around 1am, got up for our appt. (luckily, they let both Liam and I get fingerprinted, so that saved us on a second night in a hotel) and then made plans to catch the greyhound, so that Jason wouldn't have to drive the 4 hours up, followed by another 4 hours back and then get up to go to work the next morning.
Apparently, the Greyhound bus has become a very popular way to travel. We went and ate, thinking that as long as we arrived about an hour early to catch the bus, we would find a good seat. WRONG! We arrived an hour early to the sight of line that would rival a Stephanie Myers' book signing. Luckily (still not sure how it happened), we found seats close to the front sitting across the aisle from each other. I was sitting next to a very nice Kenyan man, while Liam found a seat next to an older man from...I can't remember now. We struck up a conversation with the Nigerian man, told his that we were adopting from Ethiopia and started asking about the language and climate in that part of Africa. His advice was to try and learn Swahili, in addition to Amharic, since the language is nearly as common. Our bus driver was hilarious. She was one tough gal, and was not going to take any crap off of anyone. She ran a tight ship and would make random statements towards the whole bus about conversation that she could hear from somewhere in the bus (not quite sure how) or music that was playing too loud, though I didn't hear it. I wouldn't mind her skills in my classroom. About an hour into the busride, we noticed that there was no air coming from the vents. Babies started crying and people began flapping papers violently in front of their faces. Finally, a very small lady with a newborn baby made her way up the aisle to tell the bus driver that we were all melting. The bus driver pulled over to the side of the road to announce that there was a problem with the bus and she had to turn off the air. She said she was going to have to call another bus to take its place, but that this could take up to 3-4 hours, of which we would be stranded on the side of the road. She was desperate to make a connection in Joplin, since if she couldn't, those people would be stranded in Joplin overnight. So, we pressed on, this time with the hatches open at the top of the bus. Let me try to paint you a lovely olfacation portrait. Picture it, 80+ people on a crowed bus (many of which had been riding the greyhound for a couple of days by the time that they picked us up), no air and it's a sweltering June night. Lovely!
We made it as far as Rolla, when the bus' emergency lights all lit up. So, we pulled into the McDonald's (which we were told if we went to for ANYTHING, we would risk the chance of getting left behind). Now that we were further from St.Louis, we were told that it would likely take 5-6 hours for a replacement bus. It was decided that we should keep going. We arrived in Springfield more than an hour late, but Jason was there to greet us. Isn't he the greatest?!?! We felt such a sense of companionship with our fellow traveler's that we gave our Kenyan friend a ride to his hotel.
We waited anxiously to hear if our I600-A paperwork had been approved. Around the beginning of July, we got a letter in the mail saying that they needed more information. We were told that this might happen. A new agency had taken over the process and apparently, their guidelines are more stringent. We gathered the appropriate paperwork, and mailed it off on July 8th. We waited for a month, but still no word. Finally, I broke down and emailed that first of 3 emails requesting information. No response! Emailed again. No response! Tried to call, just to be told that I needed to email instead. Tried again. No response! Finally, I took to the Holt Forum on Yahoo (a wonderful group of people going through the Ethiopian adoption process with Holt, as well). Within 20 minutes, I had a direct phone number. I called the next day (8/16) and was told that our agent would contact us that day with information. Finally, I received an email....our I600-A had been approved and was waiting on the supervisor's desk. Yay! I emailed Holt to let them know that we would have the 171H paperwork within a couple of days, and discovered that we had moved from #21 on the list to #12.
The funny thing about infertility is that any fantastic news is always met with a bit of skeptism. We've been SO excited SO many times, that it's hard to bring ourselves to allow our hearts to go there anymore. There's always this fear of the other shoe falling, and being heartbroken again. So, we had told only a few people that we were adopting- our families, pastor, and assistant pastor, their families, the Horton's and Baker's (both of which have adopted as well), a few other people from church and my principal and a few teachers, who have been there with us during the years that we tried desperately to get pregnant, and then the miscarriages that followed. With this new information, we finally felt like we could announce to the world that we were going to be parents, and that's exactly what we began to do.