For those of you that still have an interest, I wanted to share about the end of our time in Uganda.
The last blog I wrote in Uganda was on October 9th while we were in Masaka, waiting to get our written ruling from the judge. Well, we finally got the written ruling on October 15th, nearly 6 weeks after our court-date.
We were so happy to head to Kampala, the capital city of Uganda. That is where we would need to go to retrieve our son’s birth certificate, passport, and visa. At that point, we were hopeful that the rest of our process would go smoothly and efficiently, but we’d soon discover that it wouldn’t happen that way.
We were blessed to stay with a lovely family in Kampala—the Harding family. They had a beautiful home and were generous to share space with us for many weeks. Liam loved playing with their son, Emmanuel. We even got to go to a special pool with him one day.
Many of our days in Kampala were spent in waiting. We would fill our days with visits to the various malls in town (Garden City, Acacia Mall, and the Nakumatt Oasis Mall), where we would eat lunch and spend hours on the playground.
Step 1: PASSPORT
As we continued along in the adoption process, we were thankful to learn that we were able to use Liam’s original, long-form birth certificate to start the passport processing.
This process should usually take no more than one week, but we ran into some unforeseen issues.
The passport office was always busy, packed with people. We had to sit on benches under a white tent (because it was usually raining) for sometimes hours, while we waited to file paperwork or find out the status of the passport. Keeping an active toddler occupied during the wait was often a challenge. When we learned that Liam’s passport was going to be delayed, we decided to do something fun to lift our spirits.
A WEEKEND AWAY IN JINJA
To help keep our mind off waiting on the passport, we decided to spend a weekend in Jinja. We stayed at a great little guest house and pizzeria called Surjio’s. Our room had a beautiful view of the Nile River, there was internet, and a pool that Liam enjoyed splashing around in all weekend.
We also took a boat ride to the source of the Nile. It was a beautiful place to get away and relax together.
After 2 weeks and several (4) return visits to the passport office, we FINALLY got his passport on October 29th, 2014. As soon as we had the passport in hand, we sped over to the IOM (International Organization of Immigration) office to see if we could get Liam in to get his medical exam (the next step), but they were closing for the day and told us to come back on October 31st.
Step 2: IOM MEDICAL EXAM
After Liam’s medical exam was completed, we went back on November 3rd to get his TB test read (thankfully, it was negative). We thought that his medical information would be sent immediately to the US Embassy, but we learned that the process had recently been changed. Instead, it would take a week to ten days to process his paperwork. This was bad news for us because it meant that we would have to change our return flights a second time.
Step 3: VISA FILING
We got a visa filing appointment at the Embassy on November 10th. We were so happy! They told us to be prepared to come back in two days (November 12th) to pick up Liam’s visa. Once we got that news, we changed our return flight to the night of November 12th because we were ready to get home.
LIAM’S 4TH BIRTHDAY
The next day was Liam’s fourth birthday! We were excited to celebrate together!!
We spent the day with some dear friends in Entebbe at the Uganda Wildlife Education Centre.
It was a special day.
Final Step: PICK-UP VISA
On the morning of November 12th, we got an email from the embassy notifying us of a problem uploading Liam’s visa file. They were unsure if his visa would be ready in time. We forgot that Liam’s birthday was also Veteran’s Day (November 11th). The US Embassy observed this holiday which meant the office was closed and they were unable to rectify the issue in time.
We were sick. After nearly 3 months in country, we were becoming tired of the constant disappointments.
WOULD THIS BE ANOTHER ONE?
They asked us to keep our original appointment and come to the embassy that afternoon. We packed our bags, loaded them into the car, said “goodbye” to the Harding family, and headed to the embassy with the hope that we could fly home that night.
While we were waiting at the embassy, we watched as 2 families rejoiced over getting their visas. They were flying out that night. Then, we were called into the room where we were told that Liam’s visa wasn’t ready. We were gutted. I was fighting back tears. Rich was frustrated. He began asking questions. The answer to all our questions was, “I’m sorry, there was a glitch in the system.”
As I watched my husband’s emotions flare up, tears started streaming out of my eyes. I was holding Liam and didn’t want him to see me upset. He was caressing my face with concern in his eyes and repeating, “Mommy… airplane!” I was broken-hearted. How were we going to explain to Liam that we couldn’t fly home that night?
We had to deliver the sad news to our families and friends and change our flights a fourth time!
The next day, November 13th, we received word that the visa was FINALLY ready. We had to wait a few days before heading home because there were no flights available until Saturday, November 15th. We were excited and relieved to be heading home!
I will write about our travel and return home in a later post, but I wanted to share one more thing….
We were warned that this process could be unpredictable. When we left the US, we thought we’d be coming back home with our son in 6 weeks. We ended up staying for nearly 3 months. During that time, we experienced many disappointments because things rarely went as promised or expected. Things were totally out of our control. After time, we struggled to trust anyone and wondered if/when we would get to go home. Don’t get me wrong. We had many beautiful moments together, too. We were thrilled to spend so much time bonding with our son in his home country, but at times, we really missed our family and community. It was challenging to make the transition into parenthood so far away from our support network and for that length of time. It was one of the most difficult things we have ever been through, but oh, so worth it.
Thank you to those of you who supported us while we were away.
We are incredibly grateful for God’s strength, grace, and patience during our time in Uganda.
When I watch our son soaking up the love that surrounds him now, it makes all the struggles and frustrations that we experienced seem small. We are very blessed.
“Adoption is not for the faint of heart. But SO worth it!” – Unknown