My sister, Ann, and I traveled to Romania from New York on March 17. Vivi and Dan met us at the airport. They took us to our apartment in Bucharest. After the long trip, it was nice to unpack and rest for the remainder of the day.

Early the next morning, it was off to Craiova where we would finally meet Alina. While traveling through the countryside, it was impossible not to notice that spring was just beginning. The Romania countryside was lovely, and the new green of spring made it truly lovely. We arrived at the orphanage at about noon and met the director. After a bit of conversation and espresso, it was time to meet Alina. Her traveling outfit was given to Monica, her primary caregiver, and we waited for her debut.

She was a little shy, but beautiful and so pleasant. What a feeling to have my new daughter handed to me and to spend a little time getting to know her. We were able to tour the orphanage and see her crib, the playroom, and lunchroom where she spent her time. We took videos of the rooms and the solarium where the rest of the children in her section were playing. Then it was time to get Alina’s passport picture and return to Bucharest.

Over the next week, Ann, Alina, and I went to the Colentina Hospital Clinic and, with the help of Vivi and Dan, completed all the necessary paperwork for Alina to become my daughter and obtain a Romanian passport. Although the paperwork was tedious, Dan and Vivi’s help made everything go very smoothly. In fact, we had the tremendous experience of going to the Peasants’ Museum with Vivi. I recommend a visit here for all visitors to Bucharest. It’s a collection of old homes from all over Romania transported and reconstructed in a park-like setting just outside of the city. The gift shop is a treasure of Romanian handiwork—pottery, linens, and woodcraft—all at very good prices.

What a joy to begin to discover the person my daughter is and her likes and dislikes. She is 21-months-old, has big brown eyes, and light brown hair with red highlights. She has a happy personality and is so curious about all the new things to which she was and is being exposed.

My sister was wonderful. She helped to make me the focus for Alina, which helped establish a bond between us. Within a few days, Alina was partial to me, wanting only me to feed and care for her. She was like a flower blossoming in front of our eyes. She learned to clap, play peek-a-boo, “read” books, and throw a ball. What joy she took in all her new achievements! The only thing she didn’t like was bathing. According to Vivi, this seems to be common.

The next Saturday, my sister, Wilma, arrived to share our second week. Once again, Vivi and Dan took us to and from the airport. The next day, we took a tour of the Romanian countryside. Our driver, Adrian, took us to a wonderful old church and King Carl’s castle. It was fabulous! It had just been restored and had rooms created in the styles of many European countries. Having seen many castles, my sister told me this one was the most beautiful and, because of the variety of styles, eliminated the need to see any in Germany, Austria, and Italy. We also drove to Transylvania to see Bran Castle, which sits on top of a hill. It was so lovely and the view from its ramparts was fabulous. We then saw the Black Church in Brasov. After a long day of sightseeing, we arrived back at our apartment.

Wilma was determined to show Alina that baths were fun. We started with a basin of water. She taught Alina how to splash with her hands and feet. It became a great game. We played this game for several days, and finally Alina sat in the basin to get a fun bath. Bathing is now one of the things she really enjoys, thanks to the creative approach of Wilma and the patience of both she and Ann. Sharing the first two weeks with Alina with them was wonderful. They were very supportive and helpful. There is a lot to learn about being a mother, and I feel I had help from two of the best.

More paperwork. We visited the American and German embassies to get visas for Alina, once again with Vivi and Dan’s help. After our last approval, Vivi took all of us out to dinner with her daughter to celebrate. We ate at the Bucharest Hotel and even saw singers and dancers. Over the next few days, we walked to the parks and museums of Bucharest. Spring had arrived, and the city was green and beautiful. It reminded me of Paris, although in need of repairs. If their economy improves, I bet in ten years it will have regained its historic title of “Little Paris.”

We also walked to the Lipscani district, an old shopping area with many artesian shops and art galleries. We were eager to obtain Romanian eggs, both wooden and real. These became the presents for Alina’s new cousins and “sisters.” We stopped at a wonderful place, Cafe’ Roma, for a snack and had sour cream capers and espresso. The market right outside our apartment building provided a variety of shops, fruit stands, and a great bakery, the Patisserie. The bread and cakes were wonderful. Baby food was available at Nics Grocery, but the variety was limited. Diapers and wipes were available at the grocery store on the first floor of the apartment building. There was a wonderful baby store on the block before the Hotel Bucharest. It had beautiful clothes and was inexpensive by American standards. We found jewelry and leather goods, which were nice and very reasonably priced.

We enjoyed our stay. It gave us time to begin to know Alina and her to know us. I recommend touring the city and countryside. It was an experience we will never forget. I also have pictures and memories to share with Alina when she is older. The most difficult part was eating out. For the American palate, Romanian food is a little heavy—mostly breaded and fried. Finding restaurants was especially tough for me because I don’t eat red meat. We ate a wonderful meal at the new Hilton, and the Hotel Bucharest had wonderful pizza at the Cafe’ Veche, which was within walking distance of the apartment. We also cooked in the apartment quite a bit, which made our stay very inexpensive. We flew through Frankfurt and stayed overnight at the Sheraton by the airport. It is a five-star hotel and we reveled in the luxury. The restaurants were great too. We flew to New York and where we met Jim, Alina’s new dad, and much of our family. It was quite a party. A few days later, we returned to Los Angeles.

I am glad to report that Alina is thriving. She has received a clean bill of health. She and Jim are bonding. She continues to make giant strides in mobility and obviously understands me although she doesn’t talk much yet. She does say “Mama” and “Dada” and “ball” and “up.” She has changed and improved my life with her presence.

I want to thank Hemlada, Francis, Barbara, Vivi, and Dan for my lovely daughter. The orphanage may not be luxurious or have all it needs, but based upon the gentle and trusting nature of my daughter, I think it is obvious that the staff there cares about the children and provides a good environment.