Sunday, January 16, 2011

Yes we're home!

So we finally made it home and are slowly adjusting to being a family of 5 (gotta count the animals, ya know!) Our Visas arrived on the Monday flight in from Manila and we were able to pick them up from the Embassy on Tuesday. We were able to catch the Wednesday flight home and we arrived safely on Thursday!
Rosita and Peter accompanied us to the airport and that ride to the airport, sitting in silence next to Rosita who was holding Emita, was the most painful ride of my life. We both cried quietly in our thoughts. I prayed for God to give me the strength to go through with what was about to happen. I prayed that He would comfort her and help her cope with what was about to happen too. It was a heart wrenching 20 minute ride to the airport. Once we got there however, it was go,go,go. I think with all the people and the other families and babies it distracted us from the pain. Then it was time to go. Rosita walked us to the gate, and as she handed me Emi I grabbed her hands and thanked her again. She pulled away, turned around and walked away with Peter. I could tell she was crying. I know labor is painful but I think this was just as emotionally painful. It literally made my heart ache with the deepest sorrow.
The plane ride was good although we had HORRIBLE turbulence the closer we got to Hawaii. Once we arrived in Hawaii we got shuttled to Immigration. We had to go threw the American Citizen line (no one pulled us out like the Embassy expected they would) but once we were processed, we were directed to a small waiting area behind a wall. From there Emi's visa and paperwork was processed and she officially became an American! We hurried along to grab our bags, go threw Customs, and check back in only to find out that our connecting flight was delayed 3 hours! We didn't even get a chance to say goodbye to the other families =( We found a semi-quiet area and slept for an hour since we had been up at that point for about 36 hours since Emi hardly slept the night before we left. We made it to San Fransisco, slept and flew out again at 10am on Thursday.
When we arrived, we were greeted at the gate by Jan-Olof (Shawn's dad) and down at Baggage Claim by our whole family (Shawn's and Mine)! It was great to see everyone and Emi did really well. I kept talking to her and letting her know that I was holding her and it was safe. We then went to my parent house and had a tostada dinner and cake. We were all so tried at the end. We came home, slept and laid Emi down in her bassinet for the first time.
It was perfect.

Ok well I need to sleep since she'll be waking up pretty soon here for her bottle.
Thanks for reading =)

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Hopefully one of our last posts from RMI =)

The days all blend together. I don’t know if it’s Tuesday or Thursday anymore. All I know is that I’m on a 3-4 hour continuous cycle of feedings, baths, naps and diaper changes!

We had a bit of excitement around here in the last few days. We first heard that our papers were approved on Dec. 30th and just waiting to get a stamp from the consular and that it’d be on its way. Then a few days later we heard Nope- it’s stilling on someone’s desk in Manila! We were all so mad and frustrated because everyone kept giving us different stories but no one would give us details. So what does a good secretary do?? Shawn and I decided to make a few calls ourselves and we found out that it only took 27 hours for our package to arrive in Manila, not 1-2 weeks like we had been told, and that our papers were done being processed and in the mailroom waiting to get picked up by DHL. Hey-We followed the rules and did not bother Eric at the Embassy like we were instructed. It was very frustrating because they decided that for our group they were not going to give us any information unlike the prior groups. No tracking numbers, no Yes it has been received… nothing. Come on now, I think you’re causing more work for yourself and more stressed families by not giving us ANY information on our case! Eric told us not to call him asking for status updates and that if we did, he wouldn’t give us info. because when he had in the past, families got upset if the package didn’t arrive when expected. I completely understand that but when you have a flight leaving in 1 day and you still don’t know if you need to rebook, that costs US money, not them. That’s the feeling we got from the Embassy, kind of like, “oh well, you’ll need to rebook your flight, big deal”. It’s not the fact that we want it to be here tomorrow, it’s that we wouldn’t even know when to expect it! We can’t plan anything with our birthmom for our going away and we can’t call Emi’s birthgrandpa and grandma to come from Arno to say goodbye because they want to see us off to the airport and we don’t know for sure when that would be.

(((heavy breathing ))) Sorry for the rant, but as you can imagine, it’s frustrating. So the point is that if it left Manila on Friday we should still be able to make our Wednesday flight back home. I think a couple families will have to reschedule their flights to Wednesday too.

Anywho…. The weather has been raining and windy but hot and humid also. I love my Guam dresses because they’re so cool and refreshing. The dresses are called Guams because the come from Guam and they decided to not think of a different name for them! True story! Oh, I’ve also learned that Guams are for everyday use but the mumus are for church and special occasions. The mumus have ruffles and puffy sleeves.

Tips for Future Families ==HOTEL REVIEW EDITION! (OOOoooo)

Well there are 3 main hotels on the island and a few apartment options. Please remember that this is strictly our humble opinions and we do not mean to offend anyone who has stayed at these hotels! That being said, here is our rundown:

RRE(Robert Reimers Enterprises Hotel) - Very American. If you want to be surrounded by Americans and Westerners and want the “motel” type setting, then this is the place for you. I think it completely works for people whose spouses have to return to the US because it’s small and everybody gets to know you. Water is available in the hallway and internet access is good. They have a back up generator that kicks in if the power goes out which I hear has happened a few times since we’ve been here. They also have bungalows, which are basically little houses, on the premises and I believe they run at $120/night. The hallway rooms I think are $79/night. It is centrally located and you can walk to the Courthouse, Gordon’s office and shops. The restaurant at RRE is the Tide Table and frankly we do not like it there! We join the other families for lunch or dinner on occasion but the food is NEVER consistent (other restaurants are)and they really have a roach problem! We feel it is over priced and very blah. Shawn placed our backpack on the floor once for a few minutes and that night we found roaches in our room and we saw none until that night. We also hear they have a bug guy who comes by to the rooms daily to spray for bugs and the rooms kinda smell funny. The bathrooms are smaller than the MIR and from the rooms we’ve seen, one had 2 twin beds and the other has one twin one full. But they do have a loveseat area and round table with chairs. You need to request a room with a balcony because they do have rooms known lovingly as “dungeon rooms” that have no windows. The RRE laundry is located out of the hotel and it is the only laundry in the area so all the locals also do their laundry there. I hear it can take up to 5 hours to do 2 loads. There are those who love this hotel but we don’t think we would have.

MIR (Marshall Islands Resort)- MIR is a cross between a hotel, an apartment building and condos. It has open access to the public but it also has Security Guards walking up and down the halls all day and night. From the lobby facing out, the left wing seems to be the apartments and condos, while the right is hotel room and more condos. We feel it’s a happy median between an apartment and a hotel. The rooms are comparable to a Super 8 and both of our rooms have had 2 queen size beds and a large bathroom with counter space. If you say you’re staying for 4 weeks or more they’ll move in a larger fridge, microwave, and coffee pot. Oh yeah, the RRE does not have microwaves. We have only had the power go out once for about 5 minutes and we were out of water once or twice when we first arrived, the longest was 1 day but the toilet still flushed. The only roaches we’ve seen are near the restaurant but not an infestation and like I said a couple in the room but few and far between. We do get tiny lizards out on the balcony sometimes. It seems to be the Asian tourist hotel and this is where they put up the WorldTeach people and new teachers for Majuro until thye find housing. I think the restaurant is one of the nicest on the island and like we’ve said before the food is good but can be very pricey for dinner ($10-27/plate). We’ve never had dinner there =) It can get a little noisy in the evenings on the lagoon side because everyone comes out at night but it quiets down at about 8-9pm. MIR has laundry on every floor for $3-$4 a load. We’ve never had to wait to use the washing machine but the dryer has been busy a couple times. If you don’t pick up your laundry on time, it will be taken out if someone else wants to use the machines as we’ve found out. All rooms face the lagoon and have pretty views. It has beach access but iys rocky and you should swim in the lagoon anyway but it’s nice to go for a walk sometimes. We could go on and on about the MIR and we’ll definitely recommend it to other families. It’s not for everyone but for $40/night, it’s a steal!

Long Island Hotel – We don’t know a whole lot about the Long Island Hotel but we’ve heard from the other families and the one current staying there that they have the nicest rooms. It sounds like they also have a sofa and a couple beds in there. The Embassy put up their visitors there so you know it has to be decent. They say they have not seen roaches in their room but they do have a slight mouse problem. They fixed it by placing duct tape on the door frame. They do not recommend the restaurant and they are located far away from everything. It is easy to get a taxi to there, but a lot more difficult to get one from there to the central area. It is a necessity to rent a car if you plan on staying at the LIH. There is laundry on site which is readily available. The US Embassy is located within walking distance. We have heard that internet availability there is very sketchy. It doesn’t always have connection although there is an internet tower next to the hotel. The LIH would probably the best hotel if you don’t want to be near the “action” and if you could rent a car at Hertz at Pay Less Motors for the whole trip for around $40 a day and are able to negotiate a good rate at the hotel. If you could get all that for around $100 that would be a great location to stay at. Otherwise, it is pretty far off from everything and staying RRE or MIR makes a lot more sense.

The only apartments we were able to find info on was the Shoreline apartments next to RRE. These apartments are occupied by RRE employees and we heard are pretty decent. You can negotiate a monthly rate for around $750 that comes furnished with beds, a couch, a kitchenette and one bedroom. There is no tv (which you might not think is a big deal, but when you have a month with absolutely nothing to do, it matters). You have to buy everything you would need for a month; pots, pans, garbage bags, sheets, pillowcases, etc, etc. You would have to make sure you clean daily and take out the trash daily because you will find critters living in your room with you if you don’t. If you stay at a hotel; they clean, they change you sheets, the make sure you room is spotless. We really wanted to get an apartment for ourselves, but when you have a new born and are up all night making bottles and singing lullabies, it’s nice to not have to worry about cleaning too.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Our week and tips, tips, and tips!!!

So it seems that I’ll be doing weekly updates instead of daily =P It’s amazing how busy you can be doing nothing all day! This last week has been very laid back, very “island” time. Things happen when they happen and you just lay back and go with the flow.

Monday= Us and two of the other adoptive families rented a car and drove from tip to tip. We went to Laura Beach but did not really go in the water, we just dipped our feet. You can go in the water but there wasn’t the time to sit in the water. And with 3 babies under 5 months, it was interesting =) We came back to Uliga and ate at the RRE. That was our Monday.

Tuesday we hung out all day in the room with Rosita while it rained outside. We ordered stuffed crust pizza from MIRs restaurant and it was pretty good! Well I liked it, Shawn the pizza expert thought it was just alright.

Wednesday Shawn and I rented a car and drove around to every store we every wanted to stop in. We’re making it our goal to visit every store on the atoll. We need goals to get us excited about the next day otherwise we’d just sit around and watch tv. The whole point is to experience the culture. Get out there and learn the language, talk to the old people, try the local food! We definitely are trying to get out there more. We’re recording and taking tons of pictures to try to absorb as much as we can while we’re here. We hope to bring Emi back soon but she needs to know where she comes from and we need to be prepared for any questions she may have about her birth country. On Wednesday we also met with Kim because she had info. for us regarding Emita’s birth family! Kim is from Cincinnati and is in the Marshalls with World Teach. Apparently she is Peters “sister” in Marshallese culture because her host mother in Arno (an outer atoll) is Peter sister. Reminder- Peter is Emita’s grandpa. So she was just with all of them in Arno for Christmas. She told us that Emi’s oldest brothers name is Mario and he is 22 years old. Her other siblings, 3 more brothers and a sister, are all on the Jaluit atoll in High School. There is a “sister” and cousin who are in high school here in Majuro and they want to meet us so we’re very excited about that!

**Ok so this is what we know of Marshallese family culture: the word for father and uncle is the same. The men are there to provide for everyone’s children in the clan not just their own biological children. If your mother has a sister, her children are your siblings. If your mother has a brother, his children are your cousins. You are free to date and marry your cousins but never your “siblings”.

Wednesday night we came home to a party out by the pool, complete with DJ and a Pig Roast. It did not end until 1:30am! And the speakers were literally right under our window! Poor Emi kept waking up every 20 minutes and crying with such anguish…. Shawn was so mad at the partiers because they kept waking up his little girl! It was really cute J.

After our rough Weds. night, we were woken up by Rosita at about 10am on Thursday. She ran into the room (she literally runs in!) and woke up Emi to play with her. She played for an hour or so then went into our restroom to freshen up. She then took Emi outside for a few more minutes and when she was done with that she came in handed Emi to Shawn asked for .50 for taxi and ran out! She’s so funny!

Friday was New Years Eve and we went down to breakfast at the MIR restaurant. It was really good! I had a ham and cheese omelet with hashbrowns and really good coffee and Shawn had Banana Pancakes and fried rice =) It was relatively cheap and very filling. The short stack is plenty- Shawn ordered the full stack and only ate half.

Friday night was the Block Party. They closed down the street in front of the RRE for about six blocks. We got there at 6:30 and went and hung out in another adopting family’s room. At 7:30 we headed out. They had four different bands playing with street food and alcohol stands everywhere. Shawn bought me and the other adopting mom Jell-O shots for a dollar. They were yummy =) Every half hour it rained for about 5-10 minutes, but other than that it wasn’t too hot. There were also little kids running around everywhere alone! They ran in packs. Then at 11:54 the band was ready to start the New Year and started counting down. So we rang in the New Year 5 minutes early and they played “Auld Lang Syne” Island style. It was interesting. Then Shawn and I, with the other adopting parent, counted down the real count-down off of Shawn’s watch. It was so funny! Then after we left the party we started walking back in the rain trying to catch a taxi but all of them were full. Then a car pulled up and asked us if we wanted a ride. Shawn of course said yes right away, but I was freaking out all the way back home if they were going to kidnap us or rob us or something. Then after we got home I was still paranoid they were going to somehow find our room and rob us. But, it turned out they were just being nice =)

On Saturday, I did not change out of my pajamas all day. There was a non-stop party outside our window poolside all night and day and we just sat on our Lanai(balcony) and pretended we were part of the party.

On Sunday, Rosita came over at 8:30am. She hung out until about 3:30. We were watching a movie she was really into, a Chinese epic, and we let her stay until the end. But little did we know the movie was like 3 and half hours long! But it was nice though. During that time we called and Skyped with family. After Rosita left we went shopping for crafts and souvenirs. The store next to the Formosa by RRE has the best deal on crafts that we have found so far. We ate at Dar for lunch, where Shawn got a Loco Moco, hehe! It’s a hamburger patty on white rice with brown soy sauce gravy with two fried eggs on top for only $3.75! Shawn says it’s the best deal for food in town. The prices at Dar are very reasonable and the restaurant is pretty clean, it’s only 1 of 2 places on the island to find actual Marshallese food. We ordered some pumpkin rice to try some, but it never came and the waitress giggled at Shawn when she saw that the check had the rice on it, but she never brought it. This is not unusual for any restaurant. Later that night we hooked up with the other adopting families at RRE and had pizza at the Tide Table. It’s not that great, tasted like frozen pizza with extra cheese. Mmm.

Monday we went to La Bodgie, a Filipino restaurant across from the Catholic church. The food was good and they have really good deals. We ordered off the big menu, but you can order combo special dishes which include rice, noodles, and choice of meat for only $2.50. We figured that out after we ordered. But next time we’ll definitely do that. It looked good.

Tips for future families: (we have a whole bunch. I finally got my notepad!!!!)

If you’re not staying out RRE you’ll need to get water. You can get water of Do it Best Hardware across from MIR and EZ Price Mart for $.50 a gallon. Pay Less has 6 liter jugs of water for 2.59. You can buy one or two of those, then get your refills at these stores.

You can get single burner hot plates for $12.00 at EZ Price. That’s the cheapest we’ve seen. The locals buy a lot of they stuff there and they have really good deals on things. It’s like a mini mini Wal-Mart type store.

Car Rental: There are like 6 places to rent cars. If you stay at RRE you can rent one of their cars for a half day, until 9pm, for $35 or 24hours for $70. The Hertz at Pay Less Motors has 24hour rentals for as low as $35 but they never have cars available because they’re booked out weeks or months ahead of time. So if you know where you’re coming, you could book in advance. The MIR will also find you a car for $60. They shop around the different spots to find you one, but you’re at the mercy of their finding one. We called to ask them if they could find one and they said they would have one available tomorrow. When Shawn went to pick it up they said that it had transmission problems and might be ready tomorrow. So we went to MGAS. It’s a car repair shop that rents cars. You can rent a relatively “nice” for 24hours for $52.00. The key is shopping around to find the best deal. But it seems MGAS always has one available.

The Chinese stores have the best deals on most things. For grocery type things they have the same products as the Marshallese and American stores, but it’s almost always 25-50% cheaper. But they also have some things that are just plain cheap quality. It’s really hit or miss but it’s definitely worth it to check it out. The Wei Wei store just passed the MIR is the best Chinese store we’ve come across. They have the cheapest pop(that’s soda where we come from!) for $8.00 a 12pk. The Marshallese are not happy the Chinese have taken over the stores. They tell you not to go to them. But it’s impossible because most of the stores are Chinese. It’s like Chinatown. The majority of products sold are Chinese and Japanese and really are cheaper. For that reason it’s really hard to find any Marshallese souvenirs. Pay Less however, is 20-30% more expensive on most things, but they have everything. It’s truly an American grocery store. So if you need medicine, Doritos, or Stove Top, that’s where you’ll get it. It does have its advantage in that way. Pay Less is also where you’ll find Western Family brand which is West Coast store brand , we think it’s Safeway. It is way cheaper then the name brand stuff and it’s quality is good and cheaper in many ways than the Chinese stores in certain products.

There are two ATMs; One at the RRE and one next to Pay Less.

Entertainment Center and Office Supply store have video discs for camcorders and also memory cards. Entertainment Center has the best prices.

The cheapest Marshall Islands shirts we have found are next to the Flame Tree on right for $7.99. Not the Formosa.

The Urban area with shops/restaurants is Between the RRE and MIR. Passing the MIR is the bridge, which is where the US Embassy, Long Island Hotel and other shops and restaurants, but it’s a ways out and you will be charged at least $3.00 to cross the bridge in a taxi. On the other side of RRE are very local type stores and mainly local people. It’s not scary it’s just that there really isn’t much passed there for a non-local.

Momotaro BBQ is very good. You get a to go container with 2 scoops of rice, kimchee, noodle salad, and two pieces of grilled chicken and one pork spare rib for $4.00. It is worth it!

A clarification on taxi prices: Taxis are 50 cents unless marked. Otherwise they will be marked for 75 cents. If you cross the bridge you will be charged at least $3.00. It varies on the taxi and how far you go.