We would like to tell the story of our trip to Romania and introduce you to our new son, Nicolae. The beginning of this story is not unusual. After nine years of marriage, we decided that our family needed to include a child. During the next five years, we suffered through a series of infertility treatments. What inevitably followed was a cycle of bitter disappointment, feelings of failure, and guilt.
When we made the decision to stop infertility treatment, a huge weight was taken off of our shoulders. A new possibility for forming a family appeared on the horizon when we realized that a baby could already be waiting for us somewhere else on this earth. A friend of ours introduced us to an adoptive parent, Joan Conway, who recommended Bal Jagat and the Romanian program. (We sincerely wish to thank Joan who showed us the way to find Nicolae.)
The adoption process took us approximately nine months. We started preparing our file immediately. When we met with Barbara Kappos, the only criteria we were concerned about were health and happiness. We did not care about gender and other physical attributes such as hair or eye color. We simply wanted a happy and healthy baby.
Nicolae was referred to us at the end of February 1998. When we got the call from Barbara Kappos, we were excited and nervous but quickly realized that he was the child we had been waiting for all these years. After looking at his photo, it took us less than one minute to make the decision. The adoption process started immediately, and after a few months of further paperwork, we left for Romania on May 26, 1998.
We crammed our suitcases with a variety of items that Barbara and other parents had suggested we bring along. We unloaded everything in the parking lot at LAX and tried to get on the shuttle bus. The driver almost left one of us and two of the six suitcases on the curb! After yelling and pounding on the moving bus door, he stopped and let us finish loading our stuff. We finally checked our assortment of suitcases and cardboard boxes at the Swissair counter. The rest of the trip was uneventful, although we were both too excited to sleep on the plane.
Vivi and Dan were waiting for us at Otopeni International Airport, which is in a suburb of Bucharest. Vivi, with her charming smile, looked at us and announced that we were going to pick up Nicolae from the orphanage right away. We stopped at the apartment for five minutes so we could unpack a set of clothes for Nicolae. We were sleepy and a little jet-lagged, but we succeeded in getting everything together.
We arrived at Bucharest Orphanage #5 and were guided to the director’s office. The caregivers took the set of clothes and, like magic, brought them back quickly with an adorable little boy wearing them. He looked at us with a serious expression, as if he wondered who we were. We spent some time with him in the director’s office so he would be comfortable leaving with us.
After this, we met the other orphanage staff and had a tour of the premises. It was clear that the staff cared very much for the children and were doing the best they could under difficult circumstances. We finally said good-bye to his social mother; Nicolae seemed at home and happy in her arms. As we left the orphanage, we felt sad to take Nicolae away from his friends, environment, culture, and country. Vivi dropped us off at the apartment and told us it was time to begin our family life as parents. We were in shock!
Nicolae left the orphanage with a bad cold that included a fever and diarrhea. We strongly advise that inexperienced parents (like us) bring a copy of “What to Expect the Toddler Years” with them, which includes an excellent section on basic health care. This turned out to be indispensable to us during the first few days. Nicolae quickly recovered, but then both of us came down with the virus. Fortunately, there were English-speaking employees in some of the pharmacies, and the U.S. Embassy provided a list of English-speaking doctors. Prospective parents traveling to Bucharest should bring along some basic medications. (Explaining your symptoms to pharmacy staff can be difficult.) By the end of the first week, we were all feeling much better and started to explore Bucharest.
We stayed in Bucharest for a total of 16 days.
The various official duties to complete the adoption took very little time, so there was plenty of opportunity for touring the city. Our apartment, located in the center of town near Piata Universitatii, was very clean and functional. The time we spent there as a new family will always be special to us. There was a market close by that included a bakery with excellent bread– always fresh, tasty, and inexpensive. Compared to what we find in supermarkets in the U.S., it was quite a treat. Nicolae has not really enjoyed eating bread in his new homeland as much as he did in Romania.
We spent our days walking the city streets and exploring parks, museums, stores, and restaurants. Bucharest, “The Little Paris,” is a charming city with a lot to offer tourists. Many of the older historic buildings are currently undergoing renovation and renewal. During the summer months, it can be quite warm due to the high humidity. As Californians, we were used to a drier climate and wished we had brought more summer clothes than we did. When we were too tired and hot to walk further, we took a taxi back to our apartment. This was not expensive, and the drivers were always very friendly and helpful. They all wanted to point out the various sights of Bucharest as we drove home.
One of our most pleasant days was spent walking through Parcul de Cultura si Odihna and sitting by the water of Lake Herastrau. We decided to take the boat tour around the lake. The boat would not leave the dock until they sold at least 5 or 6 tickets. After waiting on the boat for a while, we contemplated buying four more tickets. Just then, a large group of school children arrived with their teacher and off we went. We enjoyed watching the children and wondered if Nicolae would grow up to look like them. Another day was spent walking through the village Museum (Muzeul Satului) that gave us a glimpse of Romanian village life. The museum had a very nice shop where we bought some Romanian handicrafts.
Vivi was always ready to help us and was very efficient in getting things done on schedule. She kept her sense of humor and was a warm, wonderful person. She was always there to guide us through each step of the adoption procedure. We enjoyed spending time with her and her family and especially appreciated the good-bye party at her home on our last night in Bucharest.
When Nicolae first left the orphanage, he was eighteen months old. He could walk, feed himself, and was already using his own jargon that may have included some Romanian words. He learned English rapidly and began speaking a few basic English words after two months in our home. Nicolae delights in playing with his toys and all kinds of outdoor activities, including running in the surf. This is in contrast to when he first arrived here and just being outdoors seemed threatening to him.
At first, Nicolae did not like prolonged physical contact. After a short hug, he wanted to be left alone. Things have changed considerably. Now he loves to climb up on our laps and be held for extended periods. He loves to sit close to us on the couch and snuggle. He has also learned how to kiss, which seems to amuse him tremendously. Each day, we feel the bonds of our family strengthening. Nicolae has truly become the sunshine of our lives. We look forward to the future– watching him continue to grow and change through the coming years.