Well folks, it’s official…the Colombian government has decreed that Miguel is OURS!
With great joy, we present to you Miguel Ángel William Unger-Sutz!!!!
As you can see, he’s a pretty happy little guy. He also has a pretty happy big sister:
We found out last Tuesday that we would receive Sentencia (the final adoption decree) the following day, the last day the courts would be open before closing for the month-long holiday break. For us, signing Sentencia came both after an eternity (two long, difficult years of paper-chasing and waiting) and incredibly quickly (our adoption was finalized just under a month after we arrived; we were told to expect nearly 2 months, and came prepared to spend 3.)
We woke up on Wednesday morning excited and a little nervous. I ironed our best clothes and Michael got all his camera gear ready. Then our agency’s representative Cecilia called and said she just wanted one of us to go, which honestly shouldn’t have come as a surprise because the family who received Sentencia just before us was told the same thing. We decided that I would go and Michael would stay with the kids.
Cecilia came to pick me up just before 7:45 am. We drove through the mountains, affording us a beautiful (though smog-marred) view of the city. We made miraculously good time to downtown Bogota and were able to make a stop at the bank to pay for copies of documents. Then we went to the office building housing the special “decongestion” court to which our case had been submitted. (Our case was processed so quickly because of this special court. Normally, the entire process takes 6-8 weeks, but since the courts have been on strike for so long, several decongestion courts were opened, and this turned out to be our saving grace.)
The actual process of signing Sentencia was ridiculously anti-climatic. In fact, I didn’t even realize that I had signed it until our lawyer said, “Well, that’s it!” Basically, we all stood in the hallway outside the little office window, checked and re-checked passport numbers, names, and dates, I signed one piece of paper, and we were done. We found out that our case was the last one processed before the court shut down for the month-long holiday break. In under the wire…it seems incredibly fitting for Michael and me!
Then it was off to the civil registry office where Miguel’s original birth certificate had been filed. We applied for a new one, which actually lists us as the birth parents. This seems strange (if not downright dishonest) to both of us – it seems like there should be room in the process to recognize both sets of parents.
By then it was lunchtime, so I went back to the hotel and filled Michael in on the events of the morning. In the afternoon, we all returned to the civil registry office to pick up the new birth certificate. When we got back to the hotel, we paid the taxi driver, who had been with us all day. I was stunned when she told us we owed her for nine and a half hours! It was a long day, but one for the Unger-Sutz history books for sure.
We celebrated our big day with a special dinner of ajiaco, a delicious Colombian chicken and potato soup that in this case was prepared by the wonderful Nancy at our hotel. YUM!
And then we were off to our favorite park to enjoy the lights and the story-telling tree.
The rest of the week was spent taking care of the myriad tasks that need to be done before we can go home. On Thursday morning, Cecilia picked up Miguel and me and we went to the passport office to apply for Miguel’s Colombian passport. The office was already packed when we got there at 8:30, but we were seen quite quickly and I think we would have finished in no time had it not been for my recalcitrant fingerprints – I had to re-do my fingerprint (an identification tool) four times before they finally gave up on me and just let me apply.
Then we headed back to Ayúdame (Miguel’s orphanage) for a tour and to drop off the lawyer’s fees. All the rooms are sunny and cheerful, painted bright colors. We saw where he slept, a room filled with little bassinets and bouncy chairs. We toured the rooms where the older babies, toddlers, and older children sleep; saw the laundry room, with clothes hanging from lines and folded in little piles on every surface; and visited the playroom, a large, sunny space with toys and plenty of room to run. Though many of the children were at Ayúdame’s new location outside of Bogota that day, there were still plenty of kids around. Knowing how many families have been waiting so long for their little ones, it’s hard to see so many children in that institutional setting, cheerful as it may be.
After Ayúdame, we went back to the passport office to see if Miguel’s passport was ready. The office was even more busy than before, but mercifully, many offices in Colombia have special “priority” lines for the elderly and for people with small children. So even though the number on our ticket was some 60 numbers from the one being served at the time, we waited a scant 10 minutes before the number on the “currently serving” screen magically changed to ours. And the passport was ready!
As a huge added bonus, while we were at the passport office we ran into our friend Ger getting a passport for her daughter Sofia. Ger has been in Colombia since JUNE and got sentencia the same day we did (and was gracious enough to be genuinely excited for us!). We had a wonderful lunch with them and then played at a nearby park.
That evening we joined our hosts’ extended family for an amazing dinner at the beautiful restaurant El Pórtico. It’s is a colonial-style restaurant set on a huge piece of land, complete with cobblestone sidewalks and a bullfighting ring. There was plenty of traditional Colombian food and drink, and we were welcomed warmly as part of the family.
Finally, on Friday we had Miguel’s medical check-up with a U.S. Embassy-approved doctor. This doctor was one of the nicest physicians we have ever encountered (Drs. Clay and Lupei excepted, of course!) He looked Miguel over and pronounced him in perfect health. No slime was detected! Before we left, he hugged us and told us we were angels…we, of course, said the angel is our little Miguel. Unfortunately, Miguel did need a couple vaccinations, but the nursing staff was also exceptionally kind and made the shots as painless as possible.
That evening, we had the pleasure of attending a novena, a traditional Colombian Christmas gathering where people eat, sing, play instruments, and pray. This one was held at the house of Giacobbe’s best friend’s family, in a lovely neighborhood outside of Bogota. We had heard that Angelita, the host and Giacobbe’s friend’s mother, had done some volunteering at Ayúdame. As soon as we got out of the car with Miguel, she cried, “It’s him!” She had worked with Miguel at the orphanage! No one could believe the coincidence…in fact, Catalina said it wasn’t a “coincidencia”, it was a “dios-idencia” (a God-i-dence)! Angelita said she had never run into one of “her kids” after they were adopted, and she was overjoyed to see Miguel again. She even had photos of him and told us that he had been the special charge of a volunteer who had just had surgery and couldn’t lift much – since he was the littlest baby, he had been assigned to her. Since we weren’t with Miguel for the first four months of his life, these stories are like gold for us.
That about sums up our last week or so…stay tuned for a special holiday post!!