I'm hoping she will stay settled in front of the DVD player so I can finally catch up! This may be very boring to read, as I'm going to try to get as many details down as I can, so I won't forget in the future!
And by the way, I am able to use Matilda's name because it is not her given name and therefore it isn't sharing identifying info. It won't be her legal name until about March/April.
So, I left last Sunday and cried all the way to the airport. It was a thousand times harder to leave Nastia than I thought. I didn't even have the courage to tell her how long I'd actually be away (28 days) because she was already heartbroken when I told her a few months ago that it would be three weeks. So, lots of gut-wrenching crying, including on the plane. I flew to London first and had a few hours there before heading to Helsinki, Finland. I WISH I had had more time in Helsinki since it is honestly one of my favorite cities in the world - but alas - our plane arrived late and I had literally 15 minutes after getting off the plane to make it through passport control and to my next flight. I raced like I've never raced before, computer, backpack, and carry-on in tow, with my legs buckling under me from exhaustion! I passed an arrival/departure sign that said my gate had already closed 10 minutes ago, but I was determined to get there and BEG to get on the flight. (There were no other flights to Riga that night, and I'd miss my court date.) I got to the gate and the attendant asked if I was 'Kiri Caw-heel' I nodded yes, out of breath, and he grabbed my bags and ran me down to a bus to get me out to the plane. Thankfully the plane was delayed as the runway was being de-iced or something....so, I made it!
The airport in Riga is very small. I called Nastia the moment I landed, and then I got my bags, exchanged some dollars for lats, and took a taxi to the hotel. At this point I hadn't slept more than 3 fitful hours in the almost 24 hours of traveling and 3 separate flights, so I was incoherent, I think. I got my key and went up to the room, fell fast asleep.... for 18 hours. ( Yes, eighteen!)
My attorney's assistant Dace (pronounced DAT-say) came to pick me up at 3pm Tuesday. I hadn't even eaten, but thought showering was more important. We drove to the Orphan Court and she filled me in on what would happen at our appointment. It was much more informal than I thought. She said we'd first meet with Matilda's social worker and go over her history and answer any of my questions. Then we would go to our court session, where I would be given guardianship of Matilda for the next month. What she didnt tell me was that I'd see Matilda upon arriving at the Social Worker's office! I turned a corner and there she was! She was VERY shy, and hid behind her Fostermom. I went to her and hugged her, told her how happy I was to be with her again, and then gave her the space to adjust. Everyone there could see how nervous she was. I met the amazing E, her fostermom, and one of her foster sisters K. It was so wonderful to meet E.
Next I was ushered into the SW's office with the translator, the SW and E. They read Matilda's whole file to me. Most of it I already knew, but more details were given about the day she and her sisters arrived into state care and what occured afterwards. Matilda had already recounted much of that day to me, because she remembers it so vividly. It was surprisingly very much as she remembered it.
Next, the SW answered my questions and then they allowed Matilda to join us. Soon we were told it was time for court. We walked down a long hallway into a little office, nit much bigger than my livingroom. At a long table opposite me sat the judge, Social worker, another SW, the transcriber, and someone else. Next to me on one side was the translator and on the other was Matilda. E sat to the left of us. They asked about my life and home, then asked how I came to the decision to adopt her, and then a few more questions. Did I understand the legal and moral obligations inherent in adoption? (Yes) Was I ready to commit to Matilda and be her mother for the rest of her life? (Yes) Was I prepared for the inevitable difficult times? (Yes.) Then they turned to Matilda. 'Do you want this woman to be your mother? (yes). Are you prepared to follow her rules and accept her authority as your parent ? (yes.)
They sent us out of the room for their deliberation. As they all had smiles ear to ear, we knew it wouldn't be long. Not even 90 seconds later, they called us back in and read their verdict. They congratulated us, and we were free to go!
We went back to the hotel, unpacked her small suitcase, and then she spent a good 45 minutes examining every inch of the hotel room. 'This is like a castle!' And later 'I think i am a princess! I want to stay here forever!' I gave her the small gifts I brought for her and then she opened the care package that Nastia had made for her. She lingered over every little item. It was so sweet. We looked over her childhood photos (just a handful) and she showed me her school papers and every little thing she had packed to bring with her. She was pretty anxious after we went through everything and was already missing her fostermom, so we called her for a quick chat. Then we headed to the restaurant across the street that our attorney had recommended. Little did I know I'd be eating there every night this week! (huge salad buffet for 3.5 lats -cant beat that!)
WEDNESDAY - SUNDAY
I honestly already cant remember the next few days, so I'll have to check my facebook statuses and build a record from that! I do know that over the past 5 days we have fed the ducks at the park 3 times, visited the Christmas Market, wandered thru Old Riga, read books and watched movies, visited the Art Nouveau Museum, attended a Latvia vs Russia Hockey game, and eaten FAR too much. At least we're eating healthy! Latvian food is great. We've had salad for lunch and dinner every day, and a free buffet breakfast every morning!
Here are some photos from this week. I can't post any showing Matilda's face, so most of these are buildings:
|Very cool yarn shop in Old Riga|
|Our favorite restaurant (KID) is in this building, right across from our hotel.|
|Painting in 20 degree weather!|
|First day of the Christmas Market|
|Beautiful cobblestoned streets at every turn.|
Riga is beautiful, by the way! Why isn't this a prime tourist destination? I have no idea! It's like Prague meets Germany, with just a pinch of Russia thrown in!