On Thursday morning, Rob and I got up early to pack our bags as we knew we would be leaving the town in which our son was located in Bulgaria and heading back to Sofia after lunch that day. Both of us seemed to be dragging our feet by the time we made it downstairs to the hotel restaurant for breakfast. I know a great deal of this had to do with lack of sleep the night before, but part of it was dreading what was about to happen that day. It was hard to tell over my cold crepe with jam that morning which was the more prominent reason. Lack of sleep can affect one's cognitive abilities as well as physical response time, and basically, my brain was a little fuzzy that morning.
Rob and I had a difficult time trying to get to sleep the night before as I was missing our daughter in the states terribly, and there was a great deal of noise on the street outside our hotel room for most of the night. We had been told by our translator that the town where we were staying was having a big festival over the weekend, but apparently, the locals had decided to start celebrating a little early. People were laughing and talking loudly on the street below and an incessant car alarm kept going off on the street below as well. One would think that being on the seventh floor of the hotel would shield a person from such street noise, but we had no such luck. Neither did our new friends, Paul and CeAnne, in the hotel room down the hall. We would find out later that they were also up until about 4:00 a.m. because of the street noise, and at one time, they counted over 20 cabs lining the one-way street in front of our hotel, picking up and dropping off new fares.
At any rate, by 9:00 a.m. all four of us were down in the hotel lobby with our luggage ready to check out of the hotel and head to our last visit with our children at the orphanages. Our driver and translator, Ettie, then asked us to pay for any charges that we had acquired in addition to our room rate as Vesta had already paid for our rooms. Rob and I had drank a large (32 or 48 oz) water from our fridge and a box of green apple juice (yes, it was green in color and made from Granny Smith apples), which ended up being about $2.00 USD. The water alone would have been about $10.00 USD in many American hotels. What a bargain!
After settling up with the front desk at the hotel, we headed out to the car to cram all of our luggage in the small compact sedan that we had been traveling in all week. The car also had a luggage carrier on top, but on this day it did not want to completely close or lock. Rob and Paul climbed up to get a better look and finally managed to get it closed and locked after rearranging the luggage several times. Then, we were off to drop CeAnne and Paul off at the orphanage where their little girl was, and by 9:30, Ettie was dropping us off at our son's orphanage across town.
Ettie came in only for a few minutes that morning before our son was brought into the room, and then she left to take pictures and get information of other children available for adoption in the orphanage where Paul and CeAnne's little girl was located. This was the first time all week that we had been left with our son at his orphanage without a translator for the whole visit, and this was our last visit with him on this trip.
I am not sure if he sensed that we would be leaving that day or if for some reason he too had not gotten a good night's sleep, but his demeanor was different that day. He did not interact with Rob and I as much as he had in the previous visits and gave us very little eye contact. He did not seemed interested in playing with any of the toys and items that on previous days had made him burst into laughter. He seemed mostly interested in opening and closing the doors to the social worker's office that day, and Rob and I could not seem to change his mind about that.
And, then as quickly as it had begun, our visit ended abruptly without any warning. A teacher from downstairs came to take our son away for lunch before we could even try and hug him goodbye. Our translator had not returned yet from the other orphanage so we were unable to stop the teacher or make her understand that we were not coming back later that afternoon. There we sat in stunned silence.
Ten minutes or so after son disappeared with the teacher, the social worker for the orphanage came back up to her office. She knew only a few words of English, and we knew even less Bulgarian. However, she was doing her best to try and communicate with us. Finally, she looked at me and said "Four o'clock?" I knew then that she was asking if we were coming back later for our usual afternoon visit, and I also realized that the staff had not known that this visit was our last. I said, "No." She then said, "Sofia?" and, I knew that she was asking if we were going back to Sofia that day, and I said "Yes." She then motioned for Rob and I to follow her downstairs toward the door where we would wait outside for Ettie. Rob handed her the gifts that we had brought originally for the director of the orphanage, but we had decided the night before that we would give them to the social worker since she was so kind and we had not met or seen the director of the orphanage while were were there. We also handed her the toys and blanket for our son. We then proceeded down the long hallway leading to the stairs and eventually to outside.
After we were standing at the bottom of the steps outside the orphanage, the social worker turned to us and said in broken English, "Bulgaria and back to United States. United States and back to Bulgaria." Rob and I nodded to tell her that we would be back. She then disappeared inside the orphanage, and Rob and I stood in the cold waiting for Ettie.
Ettie arrived a few minutes later with Paul and CeAnne and then she drove us back into the town to have lunch at the the Vanilla restaurant in the mall again before we headed back to Sofia. For whatever reason (maybe stress relief), we all decided that today would be a perfect day to have dessert. Ettie had creme brulee, Rob had strawberry ice cream, Paul had a fruit plate, CeAnne had a dessert crepe with fruit and chocolate, and I decided on apple pie with ice cream. Now the name of the restaurant was Vanilla and the picture of my dessert showed a white colored ice cream with the apple pie so one would assume it was vanilla. In Bulgaria, never assume anything. It was pistachio!
After stuffing ourselves on dessert, our weary band of travelers got back in the car and began making the three hour journey back to Sofia. We were all full and exhausted so no one talked. The guys napped, CeAnne snapped some great photos of the countryside as the car sped down the highway, and I just stared out at the scenery trying to take it all in and wondering when our next trip to Bulgaria would be. The trip seemed to go much faster this time, and we arrived back in Sofia before nightfall.
We were all staying in the same apartment building as we had been in during the earlier part of the week, but we were in different apartments. The four of us decided to meet up after an hour or so of rest and to do a little exploration of Sofia and grab some dinner. The weather had gotten much colder that day, and our translator had told us that the weatherman was forecasting snow for Friday or Saturday so we all bundled up for our little outing.
We headed around the corner from our apartment building and down Vistosha Boulevard. Rob and I were amazed at all the high end clothing stores and other boutiques on this street, including Versace, Emporio Armani, Boss and LaCoste. Every now and then these posh stores would be accented by a small currency exchange place or a small liquor store on one side.
As we traveled down the boulevard, CeAnne and I spied a delicious looking bakery and made a mental note to come back and find some yummy things for dessert tonight or breakfast in the morning. We then began looking for a restaurant for dinner, and finally spied a sign for a place called Pizza Roma down a side street. The sign led us through a small alley and into a courtyard where we found the restaurant at the far side of the courtyard. To our delight, the restaurant had English menus and the staff spoke very good English. We spent dinner in deep conversation about our experiences at the two orphanages and the challenges that we knew we and our children would face together in the future.