Bulgaria: Part 1

In December, 2013, I got a facebook message from my friend, JL,  which said “I need someone to help me get my girls home from Bulgaria, and I’d like this person to have a nursing or medical background. Would you be interested and able to help?”

I had a million reasons for saying “I can’t!”

But, when I told Dr. P and the Wielhouwer Bunch crew about the opportunity, they had a million reasons for why I should say “I CAN!


Everyone should have my fan club.

We left in late January, 2014 for Frankfurt, Germany, and then for Sofia, Bulgaria to begin the final two weeks of the process of getting JL’s new daughters home. That was the primary point for going to Bulgaria. However, I won’t share the details of these beautiful children’s story and their wonderful family or their photos. Theirs is not my story to tell. Even when/if I do share their progress, I do so having gained permission. They were and are babies who also happened to have Down syndrome, and who were given up for adoption.

I’m proud of the girls. I’m proud of their hard work in healing from their difficult past and in their progress. They have a strength adults should covet. They are survivors.

That is all I will say about them.

I will share some photos and observations during my trip, though.

Pardon my photos. I had gotten a smart phone for the trip so that I could communicate with Dr P and the children for free with a wonderful app called Viber. I wasn’t so adept at using the camera on the phone.

Of course, it was winter when we were scheduled to leave. Where we live, with winter comes unpredictable weather and snow. I was headed for southern Ohio during a blizzard. I ended up stuck in a Chicago airport. JL’s husband retrieved me in the middle of the night and we drove straight through to OH in that storm.

Without my luggage except my carry on.

My luggage had orphanage donations (and two weeks of toiletries).

I was super bummed about that, but there was a God story there. I will share that eventually.

We took off for the airport for Washington D.C. an hour after I arrived in OH which I used to re-group myself for the flight. In DC, we had an hour or two to re-group before heading to Frankfurt, Germany.

I hate flying, and flying over the Atlantic really scared me.

I was officially out of my comfort zone.

WAY out.


On board trip progress for our viewing pleasure.


More on board entertainment.

Amazingly, I slept…and crocheted.

I couldn’t get my on board movie thing to work, and since everyone was sleeping. I needed to control my anxiety by creating.


I spent a lot of time untangling the yarn mess before I could crochet this.

Frankfurt was interesting.

And unnerving.

First, we left our flight and wound our way out of the terminal, caught a bus that drove us around the airport, wound ourselves back through the terminal and through security. I got yelled at in security for not understanding that the red strip of tape at the security gate did NOT mean stop in Germany. The security agent basically muttered through the entire “Do you have liquids” interrogation about how dumb I must be. Ultimately he let me through without completing his search for my liquids that I couldn’t find, and instead, searched JL who had found her liquids with ease.

We then went to our gate. We sat down, looked out, and realized that we were in front of the plane in which we had just landed an hour before. It had taken us an hour to get to this new gate on the other side of the airstrip that resembled a parking lot for airplanes. There is some incredible airport design and planning needing to be redone there! How inefficient!

Finally, we were on our last leg to Sofia, Bulgaria. Once we de-planed, we went through some sort of international inquest in Bulgarian about why I needed to be let into the country. I had been separated from JL and the other companion.  They made me sign something, stamped my passport, and we were on our way to baggage claim and to meet the translator/driver.

This was my first sight of Bulgaria:


I was intrigued that there were all international forms of money in this “piggy bank” for the welfare of dogs and cats. Even here in the US, there often appears to be more sympathy for the plight of dogs and cats and horses and goldfish.

And less sympathy for the plight of neglected or orphaned children.

What a parallel, given the reason we were in the country at all, and for the health and well being for many of the children with special needs adopted out of Bulgaria. Or the situations that the children who age out of Bulgarian orphanages find themselves.

And so my life lessons on this trip began…

I learned about my personal 〈lack of〉 courage.

I saw first hand how hard it would be to care for a child with special needs given the standards of living and conditions.

I saw first hand non US standard medical care-and the consequences of the lack of that medical care.

I learned how difficult and frightening it is to not be able to understand the language, to not be able to read the signs in an alphabet I’ve not learned, to get lost on the subway system, to be stared at for being different, and to be misunderstood.

How the children must feel when taken out of the only “home” (the orphanage) they’ve ever known into this big, real, loud world.

I heard the silence in an orphanage filled with children.

Let that sink in.

Silence. Orphanage. Filled with children.



Oh, the contrasts…

Stay tuned. More to come…