Adoption Journey — Day 107
This was a week where we hit some of the bumps in the road we knew would be waiting for us on our adoption journey.
We were cruising along so well, it was inevitable that things would eventually be a bit rough. I don’t much like it, I can tell you, but you just grin and bear it sometimes. Because in this process, you are at everyone’s mercy. It’s one of the hardest things about adoption, really.
On Friday, we went to the Japanese Consulate to get a police report ordered for my time in Japan. This is part of the standard paperwork for adoption — you get police reports done for every country you’ve lived in since the age of 18. A few months ago, I called all the offices I needed to for police reports — the local police station, the State Police for my time in the U.S., and the consulate. I wrote notes on what I needed for each, and I got everything prepared for each office on that day. For Canada and the U.S., you need fingerprints and money. Not for Japan. For all of them, you need to write a letter saying what it is you need and why and where to send it. And for Canada and the U.S., you need a money order — for Japan I would assume so as well, although they did not say so.
So BDH took Friday off, and we made plans to go down and get this done, the last of our “official”-type documents from some sort of government office. We thought we’d take the GO train to Toronto, get the paperwork done, and make a little outing of it. Although we almost missed the train (BDH left his wallet at the ticket counter, and we were running late), everything worked out fine and we got on the train and got to downtown Toronto. We got a little confused trying to find the building among all the many skyscraper office buildings, but we did. Up we went.
We got to the wicket and told Mr. Japanese Civil Servant what we needed and why. He asked for the paperwork. I gave it to him. And then he said, No. You need a different letter.
I told him, no, when I called, this was exactly what the woman on the phone told me. He insisted, No. You need a letter from the agency. Then he changed his mind. No, the social worker. It was clear he did not know WHAT I needed. We argued that we had called and checked, AND checked with the agency, and this is what we were told to do, and we had spend money and taken time off work to do this. No, he repeated. Social worker. Or agency. No, social worker.
In fact, he actually had to go look in a book. And even THEN he was not sure.
So, very angry, we decided to walk away.
I had forgotten just how annoying Japanese bureaucracy can be sometimes. I had dealt with civil servants in Japan and this sort of scenario was commonplace. Unwritten and even written rules that changed from day to day. Rules that changed depending on who you dealt with. Misinformation.
So we left, and went down and called both our agency and our social worker. We asked them if they could do up a letter on short notice and maybe fax it to us. They were both so wonderful and willing to do so. Whatever they had to do to get this sorted. It was comforting.
We went back to the Consulate. BDH asked in VERY. CLEAR. LANGUAGE. exactly what we needed. Mr. Japanese Civial Servant still did not seem to know, but we clarified as best we could. And once we found out, we left again. And went for lunch.
Our lunch was in a cafe of sorts on street level of an office building. The food was excellent. Our waitress was lovely, and I said to BDH, “I recognize that accent. I bet she is from Ethiopia.” We chatted with her a bit, and as it turns out, she was from Eritrea (so I was close in my guess). We mentioned the adoption, and she told us how much we would love visiting Ethiopia. It was really nice to chat with her, and reminded us why we were putting up with the stupidity of bureaucracy upstairs.
Over lunch we cooled off, and decided that we would get letters from BOTH our agency and our social worker, just to be safe. And then we decided to just have lunch and go home, and try again on Monday.
On the way home, we emailed a sample letter to our agency, and drove directly there from the train. Now at this point, I must mention that our dealings with the agency have been minimal. We are not far enough into the process yet where we work a lot with the staff there, and we don’t want to be one of those couples who is always calling them about everything and annoying them and taking time away from someone else’s file with endless questions. At this point in the process, that’s what our social worker is for — she is guiding us through what we need and answering our questions. So this is really the first time that we had dealt with the staff at our agency directly for anything.
We got to the office and met several of the staff, since our file has been sort of passed around a bit. (It’s part of a reallocation of workload, but they like to tell us they are fighting over who gets to work with us, which made us laugh and really helped make us feel so much better about bugging them!) I have to tell you, they were all so knowledgeable and friendly and just really lovely people. Right then and there, they helped us write up a letter, they chatted with us about the process, and they spent a fair bit of time just talking with us and explaining things. It made us feel so much better about what has been happening, especially after the frustrating day we had just had.
We learned, however, that some of what we’d learned and what we’d been told was wrong. We’d been given misinformation. For example, the document that tells us that we must hold our passports for 6 months before we can apply for a VISA to Ethiopia is wrong. It SHOULD say that we have to have at least 6 months left on our passports — which, you’ll admit, is a hugely different thing. Also, when we were told at our adoption course that the Ministry has hired new staff and is getting their file turnaround time down to 1-3 weeks? Wrong. Currently, it’s taking 6-8 weeks, and the agency staff don’t see it getting any shorter. So, these and a few other things that we thought we knew turned out to be false.
But the biggest disappointment, I think, is that we probably won’t have Mystery Baby until the new year. With all the misinformation we’d been given, our rough timeline that we’d made for ourselves had us hopefully travelling to Ethiopia before Christmas. And that just won’t happen. It’s fine — it is what it is — and we’re not that upset by it. Just a little disappointed, is all. We had had some hopes of a really magical Christmas. We’ll just reset our expectations, is all. It just feels like we could sort of see the little light at the end of the tunnel, and now it’s just further away again. The misinformation we’ve been given is costly in terms of time.
So, it was a day of frustration. A day of relearning what we thought we knew. A day of chasing paper. A day of disappointments. And tomorrow, we have to head right back down to Toronto and fight with the stupid consulate staff again. Who, we hope, will not come up with some other new and novel way to screw us up.
But, on the positive side, we met some wonderful people who assured us we are making good progress. They restored our faith and our optimism a bit. They made us feel connected to the process again.
And we got to eat some Cinnabons, as a reward for surviving the day.