The LaBatt family welcomes Savina Grace!

The LaBatt family welcomes Savina Grace!

Visa Application complete

Wednesday, June 29, 2011
We went to the US Embassy on Tuesday afternoon to submit papers for Savina's travel visa. The visit was uneventful just as we hoped it would be! The agent said the papers were in order and the visa can be picked up Thursday afternoon. Hooray! That was the last step in this long process.

We are thankful that everything has happened on schedule. It has taken the entire time our agent predicted. For most it would be shorter but retrieving the birth certificate was time consuming. We later found out that another family had to use "Plan B" to get a birth certificate from the jungle and it took two years. Thanks again to Pastor Roberto for making it happen!

Following are some pictures from our trip over the weekend to Paracas and Ica, about 4 hours south of Lima by bus. We had a great time at the beach, taking a boat tour to the Ballestas Islands and an afternoon in the dunes of Ica.

In front of the harbor in Paracas
Friends we met on the beach

Savina's first boat ride

Ballestas Islands
Nat'l Geographic scenery

Enjoying the boat ride

Savina isn't sure she likes being close to a large animal.

At the bell tower of Tacama Vineyard in Ica.

Passport and Embassy Medical

Friday, June 24, 2011

Wednesday morning we went to get Savina's passport in downtown Lima....a potentially complicated process. There are even people on the street outside the office offering to help locals through the process for a price. We took 2 cabs and went with Karina (our guide) and her mom (the one with connections!). Normally a several hour process, they talked to the right people and were able to get it down to one hour. There was only one tense moment when an agent was not sure he could accept the copy of the birth certificate. But, thank God, he passed us through and Savina has a passport!

Karina was then able to schedule Savina's US Embassy medical checkup. They were adamant that there were no appointments available before the third week of July. It took some convincing and throwing around some case numbers (to make it sound more official) to get us in end of day today.

Savina is a very brave girl. Even though she has lived here for 6 years almost everything we do is a first for her. You don't get exposed to much in an orphanage. It's a little hard for us to comprehend....choosing when and how much you eat, walking in public among people you don't know, being outside after dark. She is adapting more each day. We are very proud of her.
The Museum of Electricity

Thursday was a lazy day. Since there wasn't any adoption business we went grocery shopping and took a cab a few miles down the coast to Barranco. It is a city with much character. Once the summer vacation destination for the wealthy, it has many ornate homes and a terrific ocean view. We walked around a bit, toured a museum and ate pizza at an italian restaurant.

Tomorrow morning we are going to catch a bus south for our first trip out of the city. We only have three days so we are going down the coast to Paracas. We are looking forward to sunshine and sandy beaches!

Overlooking Barranco

Walking down to the coast

Street artist working with chalk

Birth Certificate!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011
It's been awhile since we gave you an update. We have good news.

The Pastor has returned from the jungle with Savina's birth certificate. Wow! What a story he told! We have been told that Americans are not to travel to this region. You hear those warnings and think big deal, there's a greater chance you might get robbed if you're not careful or get stung by some nasty bug. Turns out it's a bit riskier than that.

Savina and Pastor Santiago with Savina's birth certificate
He had to make two trips into the jungle during heavy rains...Spanish is a second language for some there, many only speak their native tongue...heard machine gun fire from drug stopped and had to explain his mission to officials that are fighting drug traffickers....hired a 4x4 for some of the journey because of so much standing water and mud....hired a ride on the back of a motorcycle for 3 hours during heavy downpour, mud and a beginning stuck in a town with no lodging or restaurant and ended up staying with a to the tribe that maintains the records and everyone was drunk and the record official gone for several days....he ran out of money....when his sister wired more money the line at the bank was several hours long....when he finally tracked down the official, the man didn't understand what adoption is....after explaining it, it took three hours to fill out the birth certificate you see in the photo.

Whew! And there's more to the story than that. The Pastor is an amazing man that truly displays the heart of Christ for others. He makes three trips each year to visit the tribe where Savina was born and has promised to send us photos from future trips. We also want Savina to have the opportunity to maintain that connection.

Savina and Emily play in the back yard
Savina is an amazing girl. Already I can't imagine our family without her. She laughs all the time, loves to play with the girls and has many questions about life in the US. She keeps wanting to know why we're waiting so long to travel....can't wait to be in the US among "gringos" as she calls us.

Tomorrow we are going to get Savina's Peruvian passport. After that we can schedule her embassy medical check and last, the travel visa. We're getting down to the end but have plenty of time to do everything before our return flights. Thanks everyone for your prayers and thoughtful words. They mean very much to us!

Beach visit on Saturday afternoon

Dinner in Barranco for Father's Day

Reading stories
Fashion shoot!

Savina Grace LaBatt

Saturday, June 11, 2011
Savina now is officially ours according to Peru!  We have been here two weeks, although it feels much longer to all of us.  The down side is that we still have three weeks until we can come home.  We are trying to enjoy ourselves as much as we can, but our little one isn't really much for site-seeing yet.(understandably)  Yesterday we spent a good long while at the notary to get a power of attorney for our pastor friend to go to the jungle to retrieve Savina's original birth certificate. It was quite an ordeal... I will leave it at that!  Monday is the legal "day of silence" on the adoption, during which nothing is allowed to happen, so he will travel after that. 
Today will be a lazy day at home.  Maybe I will get the chance to translate some more Disney channel for Anna and Emily.  Let's just say that if you haven't seen High School Musical in Spanish, you really haven't lived.  :)

Monday, June 6, 2011
It's just incredible that we have been here a complete week...and just a week.  It feels like so much longer.  To describe all of the individual moments and memories would take an entire book to describe.  It has been beautiful.  Because this is such a public blog, and I want to protect our new daughter's privacy and identity, I won't go into too much detail.  But know that, nearly everything we do is a first for her.  The orphanage has limited resources, so the children stay there and go to school.  That is about all.  Our new little girl could not remember ever having gone out at night. Ever.  The dark sky, the lights on the was all new.  She has some fears, but she is resilient and adjusting well.  She also gives great tight hugs.  :) 

We are part-way through what is called our home placement week.  It lasts until Thursday.  We will receive two official visits during this time of observations.  Also, Savina will have a doctor check-up.  Then, on Thursday, they will release the adoption decree.  That will be notarized the next day.  Then the pastor who is helping us will travel to the jungle for her official birth certificate.  Every day is one day closer!

Having three daughters is wonderful

Friday, June 3, 2011
This morning three girls climbed in bed with me to snuggle.  How did I get to be so blessed?  Savina is so wonderful, sweet, and affectionate. 
Leaving the orphanage yesterday, she had a good sob.  To let go of everything known...that is hard.  She received so much love and care step into the big unknown world with (almost) strangers...that is not easy.  We cried with her, held her, and comforted her. 
By the time the taxi arrived at the office where we signed more papers, she was again smiling.  By the time we arrived to the apartment, she was again laughing and playing.
She loved her dinner, eating her hamburger and rice, and even having seconds.  She offered to help with the dishes and cleaned up her spot at the table.  The girls played more, and then at bedtime she wanted a story.  By the time I finished reading, she was fast asleep.
What an amazing thing it is to adopt!  My mind can barely comprehend what is happening...I haven't been able to just sit and process what is happening since we arrived.  It's just beyond what I can believe. 

Good bye party (a day early)

Thursday, June 2, 2011
Yesterday we celebrated Savina's last day in the orphanage.  It was hard to say what she was feeling, as she gets quiet at times.  I asked her if she would be sad leaving, and she said that no, she was ready to go!  It was bittersweet, though, seeing her saying goodbye to all of her caretakers. 
In the morning we went with Karina and her mother to buy the items for the "fiesta."  We bought six "queques" or cakes and a number of 3-liters of soda.  They recommended "Kola Inglesa," which is a strawberry soda, Sprite, and orange Crush.  Then we loaded everything into a taxi for the thirty minute drive to the orphanage.
Originally we were going to have the goodbye party today, but as we have to meet with the national secretary of adoptions, they thought it would be better yesterday.
They had all of the orphans get dressed in their nicer clothes, and then brought them to the auditorium.  They all just patiently sat and waited for the party to begin.  We set up the cakes and sodas, and then the director made some opening remarks about how the party was for Savina and how happy they were that she was leaving to live with her new family.  I thought it would be very emotional, but I didn't see one tear shed by anyone.  All of the workers hugged and kissed Savina, and told her how much they would miss her and that she should be a good girl for her new family. 
After the table was set up, they had everyone come behind it for photos.  Then they turned on music and told everyone to dance. So about five kids started dancing.  Through all of this, Savina was dreadfully shy and clung to my waist, hiding her face.  Although she is funny and outgoing once you know her, she sure didn't like being the center of attention!  Once I told her that the kids were only looking at the cakes, and not her, she did much better.  :)
All of the workers and kids formed a circle and they brought Savina to the middle.  One by one the workers took turns "dancing" with her and hugging her goodbye.  Then Anna, Emily, and Savina passed out the cake, soda, and little gift bags to the kids.  They loved everything.  Savina then gave gifts to the workers and house moms.  They were very happy.
After the party we had some free time to do what we wanted with Savina.  Each day a social worker from the orphanage has accompanied us.  They asked Savina where she would like to go:  the zoo, the mall, or back to our apartment.  She really wanted to come back to the apartment, but it was much farther, so we ended up at the mall.  It amazed us that she would think the apartment is so amazing, when we find it just okay.  So we ended up at the mall.  I didn't know how many "firsts" Savina would experience.  first time at a big store, first time in a restaurant, first time on an escalator, first time with a good dad, first time seeing toys for sale...  For me it's a bit overwhelming.  The orphanage does its best with its sparse resources.  They have taken the kids to the beach, the zoo, and the movie theater.  So aside from school, Savina has maybe been ten places.  Unknowingly, the home is like a little jail.  That for me has been the saddest part.  The kids have been given lots of love and care, but as for experiences, they are completely lacking.  The world is so beautiful, yet Lima is so gray, polluted, crowded and full of honking horns.  The people of Lima are the thing of beauty here.  They are kind, respectful, open, and helpful.
Now today we leave in a few minutes to take Savina from the orphanage for the last time.  Yesterday we had to bring her clothes to change into, so she could leave everything else at the hogar.  She will have the clothes we gave her, the bear we gave her (that she named Anna), and a barbie doll. Her worldly possessions.