Friday November 20
The day started early: 3:00 AM Bulgaria time, which is 7 hours ahead of the time here in Maine. I got up, dressed, and then proceeded to dress 2 extremely sleepy and limp children. Then pack what remained.
We were out the door by 4:15.
The drive across the city was quiet. No one is really up in Sofia at that time of the day. It took about 15 minutes to get to the airport in our transfer van.
We checked in all the way to Boston at the Lufthansa desk. We checked the stroller this time.
Through passport check number 1, no problem. Through security no problem. Upon the advice of customs and immigration when I entered the country I handed over both of Jude’s passports and Gabriel’s Bulgarian one. When asked I handed over the birth certificate and adoption decree for Gabriel. Immigration took about 5 minutes.
Then onto our gate where we had some breakfast.
Jude was sleepy but excited for “3 AIRPLANES!” Gabriel was obviously nervous. She wouldn’t eat anything. We boarded our Lufthansa flight and got both children into the CARES harnesses. Gabriel was not a fan of take-off but spent the rest of the 2+ hour flight passed out on my Dad until we had to buckle her back in for landing. Again, pissed off. But we made Frankfurt on time at 8:30 AM local time.
This time in Frankfurt was very much like the first time we went. Only no flat tire on landing and we were brought into the proper area. As such we went through 3, possibly 4 passport checks but no security and from the time we landed to the time we were seated at our next gate was about 30 minutes. Frankfurt, for this reason, just moved up to one of the airports that I recommend. It was very well organized.
Everyone had a snack and chilled/woke up while seated at the gate.
We also had an excellent view of the rather large aircraft that we would be resident to for the next 7 hours.
Just after 10 AM they started boarding and because we were family with 2 children we took advantage of the early boarding. For this flight we had an entire middle section in addition to an additional aisle seat across. We put the 3 adults in the aisle seats and the two girls in the middle.
I have had my share of long flights over the Atlantic but this one took the gold medal. Both girls were pumped right up. Gabriel elected to have an hour long tantrum right at take-off. The two of them actually got into one large and several small physical altercations. And Gabriel’s favorite pastime was changing the language setting on everyone’s TV to Chinese.
Jude finally passed out for about 2 hours somewhere south of Iceland. Gabriel never ever slept a single wink the entire flippin flight.
By the time we hit the coast of Canada I swore before God and everyone in Economy class that after that day I wouldn’t take the two of them on an airplane again until they were old enough to potentially fly all by themselves. And I mean it.
We landed in Boston 20 minutes early. Which was good because I was ready to jump out over the Gulf of Maine. We got in the Blue Line for Visas, thanks to Madame no-nap where we waited for about 45 minutes to make it to the front.
And then we got the nicest officer in the history of Ever. I think his name was Emmett. I really wish I could remember but at that point I was surviving on Coca-Cola and airplane food so my mental skills were not the sharpest. We went downstairs for “secondary processing” in the little room again and I fully expected not to see my family again for hours.
Then something wonderful happened.
Madame no-nap threw a sippy cup full of formula at a CBP officer. And said a few select swear words in Bulgarian.
And we were out of the room inside of 15 minutes.
My parents were so shocked that they thought something was horribly wrong.
All of our luggage had made it, so we proceeded on our merry way out of terminal E and onto terminal C. We found the Cape Air desk without difficulty and not surprisingly were greeted with no lines. Everything, including us got weighed. Then we went through security again.
Actually the most thorough security of the entire trip. Gabriel’s amoxicillin got flagged for explosives and the baby wipes and powered formula sent another TSA agent into another frenzy.
But we made it through with all of out belongings.
Gabriel had another meltdown in Johnny Rockets and then just suddenly sat up when she was done and started chowing down on some fries.
Jude’s meltdown came at the gate. When I wouldn’t let her attempt to board the other flights and confined her to her stroller for a mini-nap.
Then we were called for our flight. And learned that there were 2 unfortunate souls who innocently enough booked a Friday evening flight to Central Maine with US! The 7 of us were escorted to the Tarmac, where the lady looked us over then assigned our seats to balance the plane. Mom got next to Jude, I got next to Gabriel in the exit row.
We strapped the kids in. The co-pilot gave us the safety briefing from his seat. And the airplane started up.
And both kids promptly passed out before liftoff.
The flight was the smoothest, most visually beautiful flight of the entire trip. The skies were clear and it was amazing to see up the coast of Maine at night. The flight took 45 minutes. A trip that given the day of the week and the time of day would have likely taken us 5-6 hours to drive. We arrived in our hometown at 6:30 and luggage was off the plane in mere minutes. We stopped by to say Hi to little Tristan before bringing Gabriel to her new home.
Where everyone was in bed by the normal 8:00 bedtime. Go me.
Dos for this trip: Apartment again saved us, setting up airport transfers before we even got to Bulgaria, paying the extra $350 to have the pickup trip shortened down to technically less than a week (only an option because NGO and orphanage were willing and because Gabriel was in Sofia), Lufthansa, flying all the way home, the double stroller.
Don’ts for this trip: Paris. I had heard not so great things about it before. We saw them on the worst day ever, but it is really a non-awesome airport. Delta, our plane was nice, our flight attendant was stellar but their ground crew just plane sucks. The “ship” restaurant on Denkoglu street. I am not sure what happened, I think the waitress said the cook had quit earlier in the evening.
The big question seems to be, was this our last trip to Bulgaria? No. We won’t be adopting again. And we certainly won’t be travelling for many years, but I definitely have plans to bring both girls back to Bulgaria in the future. It is a beautiful country with some of the nicest people I have ever had the pleasure of meeting. I couldn’t be more proud that both of my daughters come from such a rich place.
How are we doing now?
We arrived home and are horribly jet lagged. The worst that it has ever been. We have been sleeping around 14 hours a day since we arrived which is interesting given how active both girls are. Jude, for the first time ever, has been asking to go to bed around 6:30 at night. Gabriel is also exhausted by that time. Nights are touch and go for her right now. I always knew that I would be co-sleeping those first few days in Bulgaria, and would then make a decision to continue after. She is set up in my bed now. She has a few things to learn about nighttime sleep in order to be able to sleep successfully on her own. Every single night she does better and better. She just seems to need to settle down and feel a sense of permanency and find some order and peace to life.