Friday, January 30, 2009

Last Day in Delhi

We can' t believe we've been here for 10 days. Our experience in India has forever changed our lives and outlooks, and not just because of Manu. India is a country of glorious contrasts. At once it is the dirtiest and most beautiful place on earth. At times it seems cold and cruel, at others it is warm and friendly. Indians are very proud of their country, but at the same time recognize that they have problems and are working through them. India has been good to us, and while we're ready to come home and begin forever with Manu, we leave here a little sad to say goodbye. We're going to try our best to keep Manu familiar with the life he's leaving behind, and we hope to bring him back one day to experience it for himself.

We started today by sleeping in a little. By that I mean, waking up at 5am to feed Manu, and then getting him back to sleep. It figures that after 2 weeks we are finally acclimated to the time and climate, just in time to head home go through it again! We woke around 8am, got ready and headed to breakfast for the last time in the hotel. Again Manu attracted attention, but this was nothing compared to later. After a savory and spicy breakfast of Indian curries, breads, exotic fruits and juices, we headed back to the room to pack a little, and then we went downstairs to hire a car for a last few hours of site-seeing. We began at the Lotus Temple. This is a multi-faith place of meditation and worship, named for it's resemblance to the lotus flower. This is what we've been looking at out out hotel window for 7 days, and it's even more magnificent and beautiful at ground level with its wonderful flower gardens and reflecting ponds.

After a few minutes there, we headed for Humayun's Tomb. The beautiful sandstone tomb houses the remains of Emperor Humayun, a Mughal leader, and was built by his wife after his death. The style of architecture is in the same style as the Taj Mahal we saw yesterday. The grounds here were also quite beautiful with a series of irrigation channels running throughout the complex. As usual Manu was a hit and Leslie found him and herself several times surrounded by curious admirers.

Next we headed to the Qu'tb Minar, the world's tallest brick minaret. This is the site of an ancient mosque, built upon be three different Emperors beginning almost a thousand years ago, and like Humayun's Tomb, it is a World Heritage site. It was fascinating to see the ruins and imagine what it must have been like back then. While we were there, so were many groups of school children, many of which took an interest in us and Manu. Some of the young boys also seemed to take an interest in Leslie. At one time I believe we were surrounded on all sides by at least a hundred young boys and men, all wanting to shake our hands and touch Manu on the cheek, apparently an Indian tradition. They were all very friendly and genuinely curious about us and Manu, but they kept coming and I thought this would never stop. At one point an older man, say mid-twenties, had others take his picture with Leslie and Manu, not interested in me at all, LOL. I had one young man ask me to say hello to President Obama for him, when we get back home. I told him I would and we parted friends. Eventually we had to say goodbye and walk rather quickly to lose the mob. Several small groups followed us around the entire complex until we left. While we have been approached by many people throughout our visit, this was the most overwhelming reception we have had yet. This must be what living with the paparazzi is like.

Afterwards we headed back to the hotel, stopping at a pharmacy to buy a little more food that we will use to transition Manu with to a product available in the US. Once home we fed him and then ourselves, and started to pack for our 3am flight tomorrow morning. We're still nervous about how Manu will do on the long flight, but we're about to find out. We'll try to keep him up a bit later tonight so that he might sleep a little more during the flights.

We'll see you all soon, our flight lands at 9:05pm tomorrow night. Thanks for following and participating in our adventure. We'll post an update after we get back. Take care.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

On the road to Agra

This morning began at 5:00am as usual, but this time we were staying up. We had a car scheduled for 6:30am to take us to Agra and the Taj Mahal. We gave Manu a bottle and carried him around while we got ready, and we changed him and put on his outfit right before heading out the door. We were hoping that Manu would have a dirty diaper before we left, so that we could change it in the hotel, but alas he did not, and we set out on our little pilgrimage expecting to have to perform that task in the back-seat of the car. We met our driver and took off. He told us his name, but it was obvious that he spoke little English. When asked he said that it should take 4 hours maximum to get there, and he was right. This trip would probably be cut in half with any decent interstate system, but I digress. For almost the first 2 hours Manu slept soundly. As he woke we fed him some cereal that we had portioned out in advance in the hotel. This got him through until after we left the Taj. He only had one wet diaper along the way there, very unusual for him, but this is his first day off of antibiotics, so that could be altering his system too. The traffic wasn't too bad during the early morning hours, but as we got closer to Agra, and thus later in the morning, it became a three-ring circus on the road. I do not have the words that could ever adequately explain the traffic, roads and driving conditions in India. Let's just say that the worst day in New York or Los Angeles would be a lite day in Agra. About two hours into our trip, our driver pulls over in a sort of truck-stop and says he has to go pay somebody for something. So there we are, without a driver, and suddenly every peddler in the area is knocking at our windows wanting to sell us something. One guy wanted us to take a picture with one of his monkeys. Eventually a crowd gathered at Leslie's window and 4 Indian truckers were infatuated with Manu, making faces and waving at him. One asked if he was an Indian baby, and then nodded in approval when this was confirmed. Eventually our driver came back and we were off.

After we hit Agra we kept driving for what felt like forever, but was probably just 20 minutes. We pulled into the Mughal Hotel, a beautifully upscale hotel completely out of place with its surroundings. There we met up with our guide Afzal Ahmad Khan. This also allowed us a pleasant minute to freshen up ourselves and Manu, who had a wet diaper, but nothing more. We hopped back in the car and headed for the Taj. Along the way he dealt out little bits of Agra history, and some advice for dealing with the throngs of peddlers and beggars outside the gate. He said we shouldn't buy anything from them, and that we would have a better opportunity later. He also volunteered to purchase our entrance fee and bus ticket for us so that we wouldn't have to pull out any money in front of the locals. I figured the guy was just angling for a nice tip, so we let him and before long we were on a shuttle to the Taj. We had to walk the last 100 yards or so, and he was right, we were surrounded by multiple men and young boys trying to sell us books, snow globes, or other memorabilia, and they don't take no for an answer, and they hung on to us until we entered the security line. Once inside it was a short walk around a corner until the Taj came into view. I don't know if anyone can understand how moving and beautiful this place is until you see it in person; pictures cannot do it justice. Inside Afzal is giving us the history and legend of the Taj. As we got closer, he kept mentioning the white marble, inlayed with semi-precious gemstones, and how that was accomplished and how it was a dying art form. It was truly an impressive sight to behold. Not only the Taj, but the grounds and the side buildings make you feel like you could have been there hundreds of years ago when they were constructed. Afzal told us he was going to show us a demonstration of the art of inlay-work, so that we could truly appreciate it. Hmmm. After about an hour we left and headed back through the peddlers, more intent than before as this is their last chance to make a sale. We took a shuttle back to the car, and then found ourselves pulling into a marble factory or sorts. Here he said he would show us artisans at work. As we entered the building we noticed lots of inlayed marble for sale, and now it all begins to makes perfect sense: he comments all throughout the tour about the quality of the Taj marble-work, how we shouldn't spend our money with other vendors, and then brings us to a marble store! Once inside we were given an impressive demonstration by 4 workers creating inlayed marble table tops. There was a bench and we used this opportunity to feed Manu as we were getting the spiel. Then we got up and looked around. Eventually we found a small, round table with inlayed jeweled elephants. Well, I had to have it until I heard the price. So we walked away, and the further we got the better the price became, figure that. Eventually it seemed reasonable and we bought it, to be shipped home in a few weeks. We had the back chiseled with "Manu, Leslie and Jeff. Together 1/21/09" It was still a little pricey, but it seemed like the perfect way to remember this trip. After finishing up there we decided to forgo Agra Fort nearby, as we were worried that this day would be too much for Manu, and us. We headed back to the Hotel in Agra to drop off our guide, and to freshen up and grab some lunch before the long trip back to Delhi. The guide thanked me and offered to help again in the future or if we knew of anyone coming to Agra. He gave me his card. As he walked away I looked at the card and chuckled. On it was his name and his business "Marble Cottage Industries." So that's how our hotel arranged for a "complimentary" guide! Oh well, live and learn, but we are happy with our little table.

The way back was far worse with traffic than the morning trip. At one point there were thousands of cars on small roads with even more people on the streets. It was interesting though, getting to see a bit of rural India, away from the cities. Whereas we saw a working elephant on Sunday, we saw several working camel sharing the streets with the rest of us. This seemed almost surreal, but pretty cool too. The trip home took about 4.5 hours with all of the traffic, and Manu finally had his dirty diaper about 1/2 hour before getting back, but it wasn't bothering him, so we waited until we got back to the room to change it. Soon after it was bath time again, and he took it even worse than the last one, screaming the whole time and not letting up, even afterwords when we has being fed he continued to whimper between bites. Daddy tried to calm him, but Manu seems to blame daddy for all of this, and only finally stopped crying when Leslie took him from me. The day had been a long one and he was frustrated and fighting sleep. Finally, with tear-stained cheeks, he fell asleep. Leslie and I ordered some dinner and are now ready for bed. Tomorrow is our last day in India, can you believe it? We plan on going out the first half of the day to see a couple more sites, and then retire to the room to pack and relax before our 3am flight out. Neither of us can believe it's almost time to go home.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Embassy Day 2

Today is the day. Today is the day that Manu becomes eligible to enter the United States as a legal resident; assuming he passes his citizenship test, LOL. This morning started off like the last few mornings: Manu cries at 5am, daddy and mommy cry too! This morning we were actually better prepared, so things went smoothly. Instead of eating in the hotel restaurant we decided to order coffee from room service and eat some power bars that we brought with us. Manu was getting along fine, even allowing us to dress him without too much of a fuss. We headed out to meet our driver at 8am and headed to the Embassy.

This time we knew the routine, so we went through security (the guard made me open two sealed power bars that were in our backpack; they were there yesterday and got by him with no problems.) We took our sealed medical information back to window 16 where we left off yesterday. They asked us to take a seat and wait to be called back. A few minutes goes by and we are called back to Window 17 (lots and lots of windows in this place) where we are asked for some more paperwork. We are then sent to Window 6, the cashier, to pay for his Visa, another $400...this kid better like me! Then we take our receipt back to Window 16 and are then told to go wait again. After about 15 minutes we hear over the intercom, "Manu, please bring your parents to Window 14." There a nice gentleman performed our Visa interview, basically wanting to know how the process went for us and if we had any concerns with either our agency or Ashraya. We had none. He told us there would be about a half-hour wait for the Visa, and to go wait in a different waiting room. Finally we were called to Window 21 where we were given back Manu's passport, now containing his US Visa, and a large envelope that says in no uncertain terms, "Do not Open. To be opened only by the US consular at the point of entry," Chicago I assume. It also says, "do not pack, hand carry only." Probably another fraud control measure, but if that envelope gets opened before we get back to the States, we have to begin the whole Visa process again, so it won't get opened! So that was it, Manu is now legal and we can leave the country with him whenever we want. The process was really quite painless, if a little confusing with all of the windows and different forms. We left the Embassy, relieved that the real work was now behind us, and that we can concentrate on enjoying our last few days in India. We called the driver and headed back to hotel to deposit this information in the room safe, change Manu, and we were back out with the driver in 20 minutes.

First we headed for the historic Red Fort, built by the 5th Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan in 1648, the same Emperor who also built the Taj Mahal. This is located in what is know an Old Delhi, the portion of Delhi that wasn't as influenced by the British during their control of the city. Bustling streets and shops, street vendors and traffic like you have never seen in your life. Our driver dropped us off about 2 blocks from the entrance to the Fort, so we walked through the people, along side donkeys and cows, and finally found our way to the entrance. Inside this fort are beautiful examples of ancient Indian architecture, with what would have been elaborate fountains, buildings, and grounds in their day. We walked around the complex for about an hour taking it all in. Of course like all attractions in India, someone is always trying to sell you something. I was approached by a man who handed me a "guide book" and then asked me for 100 rupees. Knowing that the first rule of street negotiation is, "you touch it, you bought it" I figured I would give in and take it. He also had a pack of pictorial postcards for 50 rupees. I told him I would take them and he said "200 for both." I told him I would give him the 150 that he quoted, and he smiled, as if he was impressed that I wasn't that stupid. I figure it was $3 well spent just for the experience. After we were finished we headed back to the streets of old Delhi and called our driver. Traffic was terrible, and it took him about 15 minutes to get back to us, meanwhile we patiently observed all that was going on around us. It's a strange feeling being on a foreign street surrounded by thousands of people knowing that if something happened to our driver, we would have know way of getting back or knowing anything about our surroundings. It is unnerving and exhilarating at the same time.

Our next stop was to be the State Emporium, where merchants sell Indian goods at government controlled prices, so no haggling. But on our way to the Emporium we were driving past the India Gate, India's answer to the Arc de Triumph in Paris. This one is to commemorate the Indian lives lost during WWI. We decided to drive up to it and get out. It was really impressive, and when viewed through one side, perfectly framed the President's house down the road. It was quite massive in size, and attracted lots of visitors. After we left we finally headed to the State Emporium where we bought a few things and headed back to the hotel. Traffic was unbelievable, and it took a long time to get back. Manu had about had it and was quite fussy. We discovered a wet diaper and changed him in the back seat of the car, and that seemed to settle him a bit. We returned to the hotel, unpacked our things, fed Manu, changed yet another dirty diaper and ordered a late lunch. Afterwords we headed down to the Lobby to inquire about a trip to Agra tomorrow to visit the Taj Mahal and other monuments in the area. We're planning for all Manu-related contingencies, and we think he'll handle the drive OK. The trip should take about 3 hours each way, and probably 3-4 hours while there. We'll have a driver take us, and a private guide for a tour. It turned out to be a little more expensive than we thought, but how many times are you in Delhi, and people spend a lot more planning vacations centered around the Taj, so that's what we'll be doing tomorrow. We're getting up at 5am, as if we haven't been anyway, so we're calling it a night!

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Embassy Day 1

As I was in the Hotel Business Center last night, the lady who was making copies for me noticed our son's name on his passport, and we began a conversation about when, where, why and all of that. The gentleman watching the door was listening in and came over to me and thanked me for adopting one of India's children. He said something to the affect of "God bless the good people of the world like you." And while I know his words were sincere, I don't really know how to feel about such a statement of which we are surely not worthy. If anything Leslie and I strongly feel that we are the lucky ones to have been allowed the opportunity to find Manu, and any noble intent would be second or third to our simple desire to have a baby. But, after visiting India and the Children's Home, we are happy now that we were able to do our very small part to help a very large problem. I don't think anyone can grasp truly the enormity of the situation here until you see it for yourself.

We set the alarm for 6am, so of course Manu wakes up hungry at 5:30. I made a bottle and Leslie fed him while I tried to get a little more sleep. Truthfully I think I got about 5 1/2 hours of sleep last night, which is the most so far. At least 2 nights during the past week I think I have only got about 1 solid hour. Not because of Manu, just too many thoughts swimming through my head to fall asleep. Well this morning I decided to start taking some antibiotics that we brought with us. For a couple of days I have had a stuffy head and a sore throat, but this morning I could barely breath and my throat was on fire. We started Manu on some a few days ago for an infection he brought with him from Ashraya, and now I think I've got it too. I tried laying back down, but to no avail, so we all got up and started getting ourselves ready. Manu was in a pretty good mood this morning, I think he got more sleep last night too, so changing and dressing him went smoothly. At about 7am we headed downstairs for breakfast. Manu didn't want to go in the high-chair this time, so we took turns holding him while the other ate. Back to the room to collect our things before our driver was to pick us up at 8. About halfway to the room I realized that I had developed a case of "Delhi Belly", I think from some pickles I ate last night against my better judgement, and I was suddenly worried that I would be dealing with this while we were far from the hotel. Luckily I had taken the azithromycin a few hours earlier for my throat, and it can do double duty for this too. So I popped a couple of Imodium and we headed out.

Driving through the streets I begin to notice a contradiction of sorts. All along the way there were ads and billboards for luxury and leisure items, "Green Delhi" campaign signs, and other trappings of a stable, affluent economy. The problem is, looking around, beside, or below any of these signs and you are bound to see half-dressed and/or filthy children, homeless beggars or other indications that real life in Delhi is not how they want it to be portrayed. There surely is a priveledged class here, but you have to look hard to find them.

We arrived at the Embassy at about 8:30 to long lines of Indian nationals applying for American Visas. After we passed through security we headed to line 4, for the USCIS. It looked at first as though we would wait for hours, but soon a guard pulled us out of line and escorted us directly into the USCIS office. Apparently the idea is that Americans shouldn't have to wait to utilize the services of their own embassy. Me and my irritable stomach were happy to hear that! Once in the waiting room I noticed the picture of President Bush still hanging on the wall. President Obama is so admired here that I guess I thought that picture would have been changed on day 1. But this is the government we're dealing with. After a short interview with Mr. Patel, our I-600 was approved and we were sent to the Visa office. Once there we were given a list of local doctors, from which we should choose one to take Manu for his clearance exam. Not being given any opinion as to which we should choose, we let the driver take us to the closest one. This was a little 3 room clinic apparently run by a husband and wife Physician team, and appparently they do this all of the time. The female doctor basically looked over all of the previous medical information we had on Manu, gave him a quick looking-over and left the room. The nurse fingerprinted Manu on a 2x2 passport-style photo that was attached to the front form, and to a couple of the forms themselves. We think this is to prevent someone from fraudulently using one child's exam for another child's Visa. We were given a sealed envelope and told not to open it, but to give it to the USCIS office; another fraud control measure. We did notice that Manu is now 15.6 lbs. We'll head back to the Embassy tomorrow morning to return the envelope and to finish his Visa process, at which time he will be officially able to enter the United States. We called the driver and headed back to the hotel, stopping at a pharmacy along the way for more diapers and some ibuprofen, 600mg, no Rx required, for this or anything else I think. I notice I could buy 10 cipro tablets for about $5 and considered it, but I think we have enough to last the rest of the trip now, even if we both manage to get sick.

Back in the room we feed Manu, order room service and take a little nap. Well we wanted to take a little nap, but Manu had slept enough during the car rides and wouldn't go down without a fight. So, instead of sleep we headed back down to the pool area where we sat on a swing and enjoyed the mild weather. After a couple of minutes Manu was out cold, so we carefully brought him back to the room and we all took a little nap. After waking, we decided that we would just stay put for the evening, so we played with Manu and organized more paperwork for the Embassy tomorrow. It's about 10pm local time now, and I'm headed to bed for what will hopefully be a full night's sleep. Take care.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Bath Time for Baby.

Today is Republic Day, the day India declared its independence and became a republic. As such, most of the shoppes and tourist attractions are closed, as are many roads in and around Delhi. Since we didn't want to get out in the mess of things, we opted for a rather leisurely day at the hotel. We started by waking Manu for his morning bottle. As soon as his eyes were open the nipple was in his time for fussiness! No wait, that wasn't how it went at all. Actually he woke up crying at about 5:30am, and was not too patient while I stumbled around in the dark without my glasses trying to make a bottle. After feeding him I rocked him for about 30 minutes before he would return to sleep. So back in bed I go, only to repeat this episode again at 8:30 when he wanted his cereal. So we feed him and he turns back into happy baby, and we are groaning from lack of sleep. We spend the next hour getting ready before heading down to the bufett. He was a little more squirmy than yesterday, so I took him for a walk around the lobby while Leslie finished her breakfast. Back upstairs Manu falls asleep as soon as we get in the door. This allows Leslie and I time to watch some news coverage of the Republic Day parade, as well as other current events around India. Eventually we drifted off to sleep too. Later, after we all woke, we went outside and relaxed by the pool for a bit. The water was a bit too cold to let Manu put his feet in, but he seemed to enjoy being outside in the sun for a bit. Back to the room for lunch, and then we set out on foot to find Manu some more cereal and diapers.

The area across from the hotel is called Nehru Place. From our hotel vantage point, we can see a multiplex and a McDonalds. The sign on the building also advertises a 24/7 convenience store. So we walk across the street and around the corner only to discover a rather run-down alley of shoppes, most of which were closed, with lots of trash blowing about and people gathering in different spots. It looked harmless enough though, so after discovering that the convenience store did not have baby items, we decided to walk down the alley and around the block looking for a pharmacy or another shop for Manu. About 3 steps down the road we are met with two small, rather neglected looking children who are asking for money or food; a little boy who looked blind in one eye, and a little girl maybe 8yrs old. We told then we had nothing, but they wouldn't take that. The little girl suddenly saw Manu and got excited and started grabbing at his legs. This made Leslie, and myself frankly, a little uncomfortable and we quickened the pace and they finally gave up. Now from our position it seemed like we could take a left at the end of the street and simply go around the block, but when we made the turn the conditions of the street got worse and there was no clear way out. But rather than go back down the previous path we continued on in this direction. Now if we didn't stick out enough at the Temple, we must really been a sight to behold in the back-alleys of Delhi. People stared at us from the time they first saw us until we were out of sight. While there were people around, there weren't enough to make us feel comfortable. After running into several dead ends, we finally found our way back to the main road and headed back to the hotel, without anything for Manu. Just to be clear, at no time did anyone threaten us or say anything unkind, we were simply out of our comfort zone, and were ready to get back to our room. Funny thing is, we were very comfortable on the streets of Bangalore, but there were always hundreds of people at any given time. I think it was the setting, and the lack of many people, that made us feel vulnerable. Don't worry about Manu, he took it all in stride, and when we got back to the hotel, we discovered that the concierge could send someone out for our needs, and now he has plenty to eat!

Back in the room it was time to give Manu a bath. We have done this twice before, once in a sink in Bangalore, and once in the tub here, both times being a pleasant experience. So Leslie draws the bath and asks me to test the water; it was just slightly warm, so it was perfect for Manu. We undressed him easily enough, and then I picked him up to place him in the water. Manu had been a happy baby most of the afternoon, but from the moment his toe touched the water he screamed. And screamed. And screamed. He started flailing about so much that we was turning himself over, face-down in the water, all with us trying to hold him in place the whole time. Leslie decides to get in with him to try and soothe him, but it didn't work. All she could do was hold him in place as I washed him down. Tears were pouring out of his eyes, and I was waiting for a knock on the door from the management wanting to know why we were beating the child! We finished as quickly as possible and wrapped him in a towel. He stopped crying instantly, only to start again as we dressed him in his sleep outfit (FYI, Manu HATES to be dressed. He doesn't mind wearing clothes, but the act of putting them on sends him straight to the third level of the dark side.) After the dressing was over he stopped almost immediately as Leslie held him. I think he blamed me for his pain and suffering, because every time I'd try and touch him, he would turn his head and look the other way. Luckily this silent treatment was short lived and he was back to his old self again.

Tonight we fed Manu and ordered in room service for us; spicy dal in gravy and curried spinach puree with bread! Have I said I love this country? We have spent the rest of the evening organizing our paperwork for our first visit to the Embassy tomorrow. Leslie and Manu are in bed, and I'm headed there shortly. Take care everyone.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

"Out on the Town" or "Everbody Loves Manu"

Today began pretty well. We had Manu's bottle prepared, his diaper changed and his outfit on him before he woke; This boy sleeps hard! He's still sleeping with us, as even though we have a crib in the room at this hotel, it's not really deep enough to be safe, and the first time we put Manu in it, he stood up, threw his leg over the side and would have fallen to the ground if I wasn't watching him. Safety standards in India seem well behind those of the west. After then getting ourselves cleaned up we headed downstairs to have breakfast. This was a complimentary Indian buffet. No western omlettes or biscuits and gravy here, but rather spicy indian curries and breads, exotic fruits and juices, and even smoked salmon with capers; I love this country! After taking turns watching Manu while the other went to the buffet, we sat down to eat. An unusually complacent Manu sat quietly taking in the experience. We tried him on a little home-made bananna yogurt. He liked it and it didn't seem to upset his stomach. After a few moments another couple sat down beside us, and we imeediately hit it off; Manu has that effect on people. They were Eleo and Maria from Venezuela. They were completing the second half of an around-the-world trip to 15 countries. After a few minutes of pleasant conversation, Eleo asked if we would like to join them and split a private car to visit the Akshardham Temple. Since we had wanted to go anyway, and a group is always more fun, we took them up on their offer, and 10 minutes later we were on the road.

The traffic here still continues to amaze me. I'm not sure how anyone survives a trip across town. It took us about 25 minutes to reach the temple. We parked, checked our bags and electronics (almost nothing is allowed on premisis) and approached the again-segregated security queue. But before we could enter we were informed that all admission to the Temple had been halted due to the arrival of a foreign President. We were told that things should resume in about an hour. No one wanted to waste that time, so we headed for Humayun's Tomb. Unfortunately it didn't open to the public until 2pm, so still nothing. All of this worked out for the best, as we were near the Birla House where Muhatma Gandhi lived out his last days and it is also the site of his assassination. This was a very informative and moving tribute to the man who changed India. Afterwords, Eleo and Maria wanted to visit the Oberoi Hotel, so we stopped in for refreshments in the lounge. Did I say WE were staying at a luxury hotel? This place makes the Intercontinental look like a Super 8 Motel. This must be how the other half lives. It was here at the Oberoi Hotel, New Delhi, on January 25th, 2009 that Jeff made his first solo attempt at changing a dirty diaper. We'll almost solo, as the bathroom atendant did help me place him on the black marble changing table...can you believe it! All in all it was a sucess, with Manu only squirming a little bit. I think he's getting more used to us now. Back to the table: Turns out that our new friends are wine and food lovers too, so we visited the kitchen and the wine cellar. The Sunday buffet being served was something out of a gourmet's fantasy. But we didn't have time for that, and soon we were headed back to Akshardham Temple.

Unfortunately, anyone interested in pictures of this place will have to visit their website, as we had to once again surrender our bags and cameras, and that means all of our baby supplies as well. I did grab the tube of orajel and a diaper just in case (see, we're learning) and went in. This place is enormous! It was built as a tribute to Bhagwan Swaminarayan, a respected Hindu teacher. The temple was built in a mere 5 years and opened in 2005. The intricate marble carvings are a sight to behold. Unfortunately, the newness of the Temple, along with the touristy-ness of the place makes it seem more like a Hindu Disneyworld rather than a holy site. But it is spectacular to behold nonetheless. Throughout this visit we discovered what a spectacle to behold we really were. Two white American's with an Indian baby is bound to draw attention. Many people stopped to ask us about Manu, and almost universally the comments were positive regarding our adoption. Also, both Leslie and I had families of Indians come up to us just to say hello, or to shake our hand, especially the younger kids. As we were ready to leave and Eleo and I were returning from the baggage claim, I noticed that Leslie and Manu were surrounded by at least a dozen curious Indian women, all playing and making faces at Manu. Everyone said he was a most beautiful child. I have never felt as much like a minority as I did today, the only white male surrounded closely by tens of thousands of Indians. This type of experience forces you to reevaluate your perspective on the world. BTW, did you know that there are more Indian children than the entire population of the United States? By the time we finished, we had walked probably 3 miles throughout the complex. At this point Manu was heading back to the dark side, so we all hurried back to the Hotel. Maria had said that one of the things she wanted to see in India was an Elephant. We'll, on their last day in India, and on our way back, we saw a work elephant sharing the road with all of the vehicles. It was a pretty amazing site. I had been hit in the face with a roaming cow's tail back in Bangalore, but I never thought I would be passing an elephant on the highway! After returning, feeding and changing Manu, we went back to the restaurant from this morning for dinner, and Eleo and Maria were also there. They must have noticed Manu's need or constant attention and, after they had finished their meal they offered to hold Manu so we could finish ours. They are our first babysitters! Too bad they live in Venezuela. Also, the all-male wait staff at the restaurant got a big kick out of Manu, and they gathered around me as I was walking him about and admired him. They too passed him around for a bit, and he loved every minute of it!

Well now we're back in the room. Manu has had another bottle and has proceeded to spit up much of it. No article of clothing was exempt from the abuse, including Leslie's night gown that we just got back from the cleaners about 2 hours earlier. The little guy seems to not be bothered by it, and insists on our attention every moment. As I write this, Leslie has just got him into bed after about 45 minutes of rocking him to sleep. Luckily we don't have any hard plans for tomorrow, and plan to sleep in a bit, or whenever Manu decides to get up; 5:30 this morning!

Mom, regarding sizes, he's a little guy, 15.5lbs but he's long. 3 month just barely fits, 6 months is about right so 9-12 would probably be the best sizes to buy right now. He looks really good in bright colors.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

They gave US a baby?

Well we're here safe in Delhi, though getting here was a little challenging, and I think we learned some lessons along the way!

We were awakened at 4:00am by the front desk informing us that our ride to the airport would be ready to go by 4:30. Any plans we had for not waking Manu were now history. All we had to do was get dressed and go, but we still managed to take the whole half-hour, and the manager at the front desk was still half asleep, so checkout took a few extra minutes, but we were soon on our way. The air quality was noticeably better than the morning we arrived, but traffic was heavier and a couple of times I though our driver might fall asleep at the wheel. Although we were nearly run off the road a couple of times, we managed to make it to the terminal unscathed. We paid our airport tax and headed to check-in and security. Indian airports segregate men and women during security, with the women entering a concealed area for searching. Leslie said nothing different happened to her and Manu in there than happened to me (wanding and patting down), but I think Indian culture is more sensitive to women's privacy and take extra precautions to prevent an invasion of such. A quick cup of coffee and it was time to board.

Up until this time Manu had either been asleep or mesmerized by all of the commotion. It wasn't until we loaded on the bus to take us to our plane that he became fussy. After we boarded and found our seats, Manu started to cry. We had planned on feeding him during the take-off, but we decided to go ahead and calm him down, so I made a bottle. This is where the comedy of errors begins. First, it turns out Daddy packed the wrong nipple in the carry on. This one was a slow-flow, and we have a hungry baby with a big appetite. As he was turning red trying to get the formula out, his eyes began to tear up and he started screaming. After it was apparent this wasn't working we got desperate. In an attempt to get things going Leslie, lacking any sharp instruments, tried to bite off a little hole in the nipple to increase the flow. Did it ever. Now formula was gushing out all over his face and he WASN'T happy. An Indian Lady in the next row was all but shaking her head in disbelief of this child-rearing circus. After a few more minutes he cried himself to sleep, surely to the delight of all around. Instead of bothering him, the roar of the engines during take-off seemed to sooth him a bit, but we knew that a hungry baby wouldn't stay asleep the whole trip. Then we remembered that we had packed a partial box of cereal in the bag in the overhead compartment. Luckily the airline had a cup and plastic spoon to give us, so we mixed up a bowl and as soon as he awoke he was fed and happy, for a moment. He remained restless throughout the duration, insisting on being entertained the whole time. As the plane landed he became happy baby again and everyone around seemed to enjoy him. As we departed the plane for the bus to take us to the terminal, he fell asleep hard...of course. All of this does not bode well for us next week. We collected our bags, found our driver and headed for the hotel.

The traffic in Delhi is simply breathtaking. Cars, buses, motorcycles and bicycles all share the same congested roads. And the people. All of the people! Delhi is a city of 22 million with a relatively poor infrastructure by western standards, so everywhere along the route was severely congested. Our driver told us that, because this was a Saturday, the traffic was pretty light. Sheesh! As we waited at the stop lights, young children hawking cheap souvenirs would knock on the window and call to us, persistent until the light changed and we drove away, with them still in the middle of the traffic. Soon we reached the the hotel, and this is where the disparity between wealth and poverty in India could not be more apparent. Although we were traveling in a hotel car, we were stopped and inspected before being allowed to enter the parking area. The Mumbai attacks have heightened security throughout the city, especially at luxury hotels. Leslie and I decided when planning this trip to spend a little more on the hotel in Delhi to ensure a clean and safe environment for us and Manu. What we found was truly amazing. Upon entering the lobby we were impressed by the up-scale nature of the place. And because we are "long stay" guests, our room was upgraded and extra amenities included. Cool! A concierge showed us to our room; as opulent a room as you could expect to find in a US 5-star hotel. Fine furniture, linens, marble bathroom and a beautiful view of the Lotus Temple; quite a departure from Manu's previous diggs. Initially a welcome relief from the harsh realities of Bangalore and Delhi, I can't help contemplating the ridiculousness of such a place, only minutes from the abject poverty that plagues most of the country. Nonetheless, we got settled in, fed Manu and headed down to the lobby to check the place out. As we walked down a hall that contained several shoppes of fine rugs, silk and artifacts, we were implored by the proprietors of each shop to enter and take a look. Interesting the persuasive techniques similarly used by street vendors being practiced in a 5-star hotel. We were "convinced" to take a look in a couple of them, Leslie buying a Kashmir Pashmina in one, and we picked up a couple of elephants for Manu in another, haggling the price at each. But as soon as the other shop-keepers saw that we bought from one, they just upped the intensity of their attempts to get us into their's. We promised profusely to visit them all at a later time. Afterwords we headed to a tea lounge for tea and coffee, then back to the room to order dinner, bath Manu and wind down.

Did we mention that Manu had been fussy lately? Well as it turns out, he now has 4 little teeth just breaking the gum line. He'd been slobbering a lot and chewing on anything he can get his little hands on. Luckily we packed some baby Orajel, which seemed to help instantly, putting a smile back on his face. Ruth had also given us a pack of teething tablets for him, so we gave him a couple of those too, and he finished off the evening just fine, finally asleep! Poor little fellow has had a rough couple of days. I'd be fussy too!

We have a couple of days before we have to head to the Embassy, so tonight we're deciding on what to do. Before we close we want to thank everyone for the nice comments. It really helps to have your support, and it makes us too feel like you are here with us.

Friday, January 23, 2009


After nearly 48 hours as the perfect child, last night Manu began his transition to the dark side. Although he kept his cereal down with minimal spit-ups, the excitement of a new surrounding and new parents were too much for him to fall asleep gracefully. Instead of his usual 9pm bedtime, he held on stubbornly until about 10:30. The hotel here is unequipped with a crib, so he had to sleep between us. This wasn't a problem until about 1am when he decided to become a helicopter and sleepily spin around and around restlessly dreaming. This kept us up, ensuring he didn't spin right off the bed! Trying to keep him on some sort of normal schedule, we finally woke the little sleepyhead up at around 7am to give him a bottle. After that and throughout the morning he smiled less and cried more, a little grumpy from too little sleep. Shortly after his morning bottle we started to smell something. The moment had finally come to change a "dirty" diaper. We decided to tag-team the little guy, but it was apparent we do not yet know what we are doing, at the least we aren't fast enough. Growing irritated with all of this, Manu was flailing around trying to escape. At one point, while I was holding his legs up, he arched his back until he was literally standing on his head! That task finally completed, we played a little more until it was time for his lunch. After his cereal and a little water, he drifted back to sleep, where we joined him a short while later. After a two hour nap he awoke as a new little baby, as fun and friendly as ever.

After we got him changed again and dressed, we all headed out into Bangalore to shop for a few items that we would need for him to see us through the rest of the trip at a baby store. Manu attracted lots of attention from the ladies working in the shop. After that we headed to Cafe Coffee Day, an Indian version of Starbucks. There we lunched on sandwiches and espresso, as Leslie and I are both suffering caffeine withdrawls. We walked around a little more, dodging the traffic, found an ATM and got more rupees, then headed back to the room and got ready to head back to Ashraya for tea and final goodbyes.

Immediately upon entering the facility, Manu was taken from us and passed around by the Aunties. We took this opportunity to say goodbye to some of the children. We had a little gathering with some of the ladies in the office and then headed to the upstairs, outdoor classroom where we were treated to tea, chocolate cake and Samosa with sweet and hot chutneys. We talked about the weather, politics and child rearing, and they gave us some good advice on adapting Manu to our routine. After that was over we headed back downstairs where we and Manu said our final goodbyes. Everyone was very happy to see Manu go, now a part of a loving family. But as we walked away, we both were saddened that Manu would never see his school, or his loving caregivers again; and the visit to the Children's home that had been the focus of our thoughts for almost a year, was now over. It's difficult to explain this mix of emotions, we're more happy than sad, but we're sure that time will see to it that the memory of this moment will be nothing but a joyous one.

Back to the room for dinner, more diapers and packing. We fly out at 7am tomorrow morning for Delhi, and must be on the road by 4:30. We're hoping that the Manu takes the flight in stride. This one is only 2.5 hours, the next flights are brutal.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Me You and Manu Day Two.

Well we finally got some sleep! We turned in around 9pm, set the alarm for 8am but couldn't sleep past 6:30. But we feel remarkably better today. We started getting ready and had breakfast at the hotel; a grit-like mashed grain with onions, herbs and spices and spicy cucumber yogurt. Very tasty! At 10:00am we headed back to Ashraya to see Manu. We played again all morning. At one point while Leslie had Manu, I started playing "catch" with an older boy and a little plastic ball. Well, after seeing that all of the other older children wanted to play too, simultaneously! Suddenly I found myself playing with 5 children, all throwing stuff at me at the same time. Around 11:30 we met with the directors regarding his paperwork. We also talked for a while about Ashraya and all of its children and women's projects throughout the area. We picked up a few souvenirs made by the older children there and watched a short documentary that was made in December for their 25th Anniversary. We continue to be touched be this organization and their mission.

After we finished with that is was feeding and nap time, so we left little Manu for the last time to head out in search of food and batteries! After about a 10 minute walk we found FabIndia, India's version of Pottery Barn plus clothing. We bought Leslie a bracelet, a few souvenirs for the house and 4 Indian-styled shirts for Manu; all sizes larger than he is (and he is a tiny little fellow) so that he can wear them in stages for several years. After that we found the batteries and lunch at a little place that served all foods on a banana leaf and you eat with your hand, your right hand only that is; if you don't know why, I'll explain it to you later.

Back at the Orphanage we said goodbye to the Aunties with the promise to return tomorrow at 3:30 for tea and so that they can see him one more time before he goes. We carried him back to our room, changed his diaper and his outfit. We mixed up a bottle of Lactogen and attempted to feed him. We finally got him to finish it after trying 2 bottles and 4 different nipples, none of them really to his liking. After cleaning up a small mess, we put him in the baby carrier and took a walk in the park adjacent to Ashraya. He took it all in stride, mesmerized by the sights and sounds that were foreign to him. Back to the room for more play and bonding, the baby formula made it's second appearance of the afternoon, only this time not in a bottle. As we expected, the change in diet isn't sitting well with his system: he spit up probably a third of the bottle over about an hour, soiling several outfits, his included. But through all of that his spirit wasn't dampened; he continued to smile, laugh and crawl around on the floor. About 3 hours later it was time for cereal, so we mixed it up and hoped for the best. He seemed to really like it and it's been 2 hours and no spitting up. Tomorrow morning we'll try again with the Similac to see if we get better results, and after that we're off to a local baby store for more nipples and a different sippy cup.

Bath time for baby! We stripped him down and plopped him into the sink in our room. We thought this might actually make him fuss, but not yet as he seemed to enjoy the bath and attention. It was only after Leslie and I fumbled with dressing him in a new outfit that he put up any fuss at all. But now he smells more like baby and less like sour milk, so it was worth it!

As I'm writing this we are trying to get him to sleep, but the new setting and parents are just too distracting and he's fighting it. Wish us luck!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009


It's hard to put into words what Leslie and I are feeling right now, but we'll do our best. As it turns out, the Ashraya Children's Home is only a block and a half from our hotel, so after the longest and most anxious hour of our lives, we set out on foot to meet our little boy. We were greeted as we entered and asked to have a seat in the office. While seated there we had several youngsters come up and say hello. They all called me Uncle. Auntie and Uncle are the titles taken by the cargivers at Ashraya. Many of these little ones have never known anything other than that, so they naturally assume that all men are "uncles." After a short wait and a few greatings by other staff members we were asked to remove our shoes and come back into the nursery. And there he was, placed on the mat in the center of the floor with several other children and lots of toys. We had to control ourselves and ease into introducing ourselves to him, but as it turns out, Manu loves everybody and he took to playing with us after only a few minutes. He has the most beautiful smile and cute little laugh. We were told many times by the staff just how loved he is there, and on a couple of occasions, we noticed some of the Aunties crying a little at the thought of him leaving.

After playing for about an hour, he drifted off to sleep in my arms, and we placed him in his crib for a well deserved nap. Usually the children don't nap before lunch, but these were extenuating circumstances! This turned out to be a blessing as it gave us time to play with the other little ones in the room for a while. They are all so cute, and though their circumstances are unfortunate, and a children's home is less than an ideal situation for a child, they are looked after as if they were the Staff's own children. Many special needs abound, but Ashraya finds most of them a loving family somewhere in the world.

Manu awoke at feeding time. One of the aunties brought a bowl of cereal made from a combination of rice, dal, ghee and a small amount of indian spice,plus a sippy-cup of water, and layed it down in front of Leslie. This is when we realized that we were unprepared for the type of food he would already be eating. And though he does take a bottle of milk at night, it's solid food the rest of the time. Guess what we didn't bring? More on that later.

After eating what looked like an insurmountable bowl of food and finishing with a whole cup of water we played for a few minutes more, then put him down again so Leslie and I could get something to eat. On a recommendation from one of the Aunties, we walked about 5 blocks to a vegetarian Indian restaurant. The food was fantastic, and after eating more than we needed, the bill for both came up to 180 Rupees (about 3 and a half dollars.) After lunch we headed back to Ashraya where we played with Manu for the rest of the afternoon. We said goodbye around 4:30pm with plans to be back there at 10:00am tomorrow morning, where we'll play some more and then be given his passport and paperwork to take with us to the Embassy in Delhi. And though we hated to leave him after finally holding him, we understand it's best for his adjustment, and to allow us to recover a bit from a now-severe case of jet-lag.

But before we could rest, we ventured out into the bustling city, risking our lives on several occasions attempting to cross the road (traffic rules here are completely optional apparently, but horns are manditory). We happened upon one of several "pharmacies" that sold boxed infant cereals, formulas and general baby food. And though we got some good ideas for preparing his meals upon returning home, we bought a little of each to get us through the rest of the trip (We found some Lactogen Nancy!)

After that we found an elevated coffee shop and stopped for a cappuccino and watched the hustle and bustle below while reflecting on the days events. The more we think about it, the more emotional we become, as it grows more real in our minds.

Landing in Bangalore

Sorry for the delay, the internet connection was down at our hotel until now. Well we landed in Bangalore around 1:30am local time as expected. This flight was a little worse than the first, as this time we flew an older 747 that wasn't equipped with the technology of the Airbus. Only 1 in-flight movie for the entire cabin, and it was one I had watched at my seat during the first flight; and Leslie's personal space was invaded by an extra-large Spanish businessman seated between her and the isle.

After landing we proceeded to Immigration: 15 lines, 12-15 persons deep each. After getting our visas stamped we headed to baggage claim, and in typical dramatic fashion for us, our's were the last bags to appear after waiting for about 30 minutes. We exchanged some money then headed for customs, where they basically took our word for it that we had nothing to declare (we didn't) and let us pass.

Now exiting the airport through a squadron of Uzi toting security guards we found our driver. He said he'd be back in 2 minutes with the car, but he finally appeared after about 15 and after we were accosted by the gang of other waiting drivers eager to help. Now begins the 30 minute drive to our hotel. The area of Bangalore we traversed reminded me more of downtown Beirut than the revered "Silicon Valley" of India. By the time we reached our hotel it was nearly 3:30am by the time we tried to sleep it was 4:30, and after we got up because we couldn't sleep it was 6:30. At 9:00am I placed a call to Ashraya to inquire about when to show up; I was told 10:00am...

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Half-way there

We'll we've made it half way, landing in Frankfurt a little while ago. The trip so far has been uneventful, if a little tedious. We were stuck in the middle of the center row for the 7.5 hour flight. I couldn't feel my legs for at least half of that time. Now we're just biding our time until our next flight. Luckily these larger flights are equipped with movie monitors at every seat, with a variety of choices, plus a trip monitor that told us exactly where we were, our speed and even the temperature outside the cabin. At 37,000 feet it was -94F! Our next leg is supposed to be even longer; I might poke my eye out with a pencil just to have something to do.

Next stop, Bangalore.

Monday, January 19, 2009

We're off!

I half expected to wake up this morning, look at the calender and discover it was still December '07, and the events of the past year a dream. Instead I awoke to find our bedrooms in the condition of a military staging ground in preparation for a long deployment, so I know it's real; that, and Leslie pinched me! That's how we feel anyway. What to take, what to leave behind? What we do want to do before we ship off is to thank all of you for your support and encouragement along the way. This has been a trying process, and we couldn't have done it without you.

I guess we're as ready as we can be, so we'll head out, calm but slightly anxious. Though it will be a long and tiring adventure, it will be worth it knowing that we'll be bringing back the best souvenir ever.

We'll report back as soon as we can.

Take care.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009


While Leslie is away at our second baby shower, I thought I would detail our itinerary for those interested in such things. We leave early next week from Lexington Bluegrass Airport. We'll take a short flight to Chicago O'Hare where we'll begin the international leg of our journey. From here we'll fly eight and a half hours to Frankfurt Germany. After a six hour layover, we'll head for India. Bangalore is a mere eight hours away! We'll be pulling into the Bangalore airport at around 1:30am local time. At first I thought that would be an inconvenient time, but we have come to understand that a majority of international flights from the west land during the late night hours. With any luck we'll pass through customs unscathed, exchange some money and locate our driver who will take us to our hotel.

After hopefully getting a little more sleep and relaxation it's time to head to Ashraya Children's Home, where we'll meet Manu for the first time. This will forever be celebrated by us as our "gotacha" day, the day we finally became a family. In many cases, the Children's home will require a few visits to the orphanage before releasing the child to the adoptive parents. This is to allow the child time to adjust to his/her new parents. We're hoping, however, because of Manu's young age-he'll be just over nine months when we meet him-that they will allow us to take him that day. It will be hard if we have to leave him, but we understand why this is necessary.

We'll be staying three days in Bangalore, which is located in south-central India. We hope to have some time to get out and about with Manu and see the city, but that will depend on the requirements of Ashraya. On Saturday we'll take a short inter-country flight due north to New Delhi, the Capital of India and the location of the US Embassy where we'll process his paperwork for his Visa to enter this country.

Monday, January 26th is Republic Day, one of India's most celebrated holidays, and New Delhi is central to the festivities. This should be fun to experience with Manu. Unfortunately, this means the Embassy is closed, so we'll have to wait until Tuesday to get started. We've been told that it takes 2 days to process all of the information needed to grant him clearance into the US, but we've added a few extra days to the trip just in case, and to site-see. We're looking forward to experiencing the bazaars and temples of Delhi, but we're really hoping to be able to travel to Agra, about 3 hours east, to visit the Taj Mahal. I know thats a lot to expect of a little boy, but if he's up to it we're definitely going!

We'll begin to trace our steps back home on Saturday the 31st. We'll arrive back in Lexington on, you guessed it, the 31st. Three days to get there and 18 hours to get home, LOL.

At that point we'll begin the best part of our journey.

Monday, January 12, 2009

On blogging

As we traversed the complex adoption process we came to appreciate the accounts of others who have gone before us. There is a vast amount of information on adoption to be mined from the internet in many forms, but for us the most comforting and encouraging have been the blogs of other families as they documented their stories- from their first agency visit to the day the met their child and beyond. Time and an internet connection permitting, we 're hoping to let friends and family share in our experience. We'll try and post a few paragraphs of the day's activities, along with a picture or two. Don't worry (moms) if we miss a day, we probably were just exhausted and went to bed, LOL.

Thursday, January 8, 2009


Well here we are, just a few short days before our adventure begins; a journey to India that will bring together a family separated by half a world. Well, that's not completely true, our adventure began in the fall of '07 when we decided that international adoption was the path that we would follow. What began as the simple desire by a couple for a more complete family quickly turned into a world-class paper chase. Home studies, background checks, financial forms, fingerprints, and homeland security; we were under a microscope, and this was just the beginning. After an exhausting first few weeks our home study was approved. The hardest part was over, or so we thought. All that was left was to wait for that phone call that would bring us word of our future child. So we waited.

The adoption process is a bitter sweet one. There are moments you feel on top of the world, followed by periods of isolation, when you haven't heard anything for months, and you're sure you are all alone and nobody else understands. It was like that for us; a roller coaster ride of emotions with spectacular highs and immense lows that taught us a lot about ourselves and our relationship. We're not the same people we were a year ago, and we look forward to what we will become in the future.

And we waited. For over 7 months we waited for that call that would change our lives. A call that came on July 10th, 2008. Julie, the director of our local adoption agency called with news of a little boy in India. A beautiful little boy that we knew instantly we belonged to. In fact he would later be certified by the Indian government as the cutest little boy ever to be born there...well, he should be anyway ;-)

After an initial wave of euphoria, it became clear that the paperwork wasn't over. In two weeks we notarized over twenty documents, had them certified by the County Clerk of Fayette County and then apostilled by the Secretary of State of Kentucky. All of this to begin a long, slow, bureaucratic , court-driven Indian adoption process. Finally the paperwork was done. And we waited.

Fast forward to December. Close to noon on a busy work day I took a call from Suzanne, our liaison with AIAA, our foreign adoption agency. He had cleared the Indian courts almost two months ahead of schedule and he would be ready to travel mid-January. We probably should have taken the rest of that day off, because we were useless; all we could think about was him and our pending adventure. After another wave of excitement, the reality of planning such a trip to the other side of the world sank in. Plane tickets, hotel reservations, packing lists and a nursery occupied most of our waking hours; not to mention figuring out what to pack for a nine month old we have only met in pictures, but feel like we've known forever. Most of that is squared away. Not much left to do now but count the days until we travel. So little time remaining for our old lives, but just the beginning of a new family with Manu, our son.

Jeff and Leslie