Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Maybe We Should Have Stayed in Bed...

I was so excited about today...and nervous...that I could hardly sleep last night! Today we were headed to Philadelphia to submit our immigration paperwork...we would be another step closer to bringing Sophia home!

I must back up a moment and let everyone know that Philly and my family do not get along well. Almost every time we have gone there, we have gotten lost. We just can't figure that city out! So I made sure I had my Mapquest directions for getting there AND getting back...because getting out of the city is always our problem!

Back to my story...we left the house this morning ALMOST on time, but still with plenty of time to spare. Our trip to Philadelphia was uneventful. The two older boys were at school, so only the two younger boys were along. They kept themselves busy watching movies and listening to music. I checked and double checked my folder with all of the paperwork, and when we arrived in Philadelphia a half an hour before our appointment, I was ready to go...literally. I had drunk a travel thermos full of coffee on the trip as well as quite a bit of water before we left the house, and I really had to pee...badly!

Now I don't mean to get graphic here, and I have no idea how men feel when they really have to pee, but there are probably some women out there who can relate when I say I had to pee so badly that it hurt! And after having two babies, my bladder control is not what it used to be. So, I was EXTREMELY anxious to find a restroom. Since we had a half an hour before our appointment at the immigration office, I figured we would head in that direction and stop along the way at a restaurant or something and use the restroom. The only problem was, there was no restaurant along the way. We were in an area of Philly with lots of hospitals and medical facilities and such, but no restaurants. We walked the two blocks or so to the building we needed and found no place to go along the way. AND when we got to the building we needed, there was a line all the way down the block! I thanked God that we WERE early, got in line, and figured by the time we got to the security guard checking ID's at the door, it would be time to go in and I could just use the restroom there. I could hold it that much longer...but not much more!

If I didn't have to go so badly, I would have enjoyed people watching in our line a bit more, as there really were people from all over the world in line. In listening to their conversations, I realized that at 11 a.m. there was going to be a swearing in of new citizens. Our appointment was at 11:15 a.m. Thus the long line. When we finally got to the security guard, he looked at our ID's and asked the usual question that you get at government buildings anymore, "Do you have any knives, sharp objects, recording devices...cameras?" Well, as it would turn out, I did have my little digital camera in my purse...I carry it quite often when we go out. And, as it would turn out, we were not allowed to carry cameras into the building. The guard's instructions: since the document we were submitting was in Dave's name, he could go in the building and check in, while I WALKED BACK TO THE CAR AND DEPOSITED THE CAMERA! By this point, my poor bladder is about to burst, and this guy wants me to walk back the two city blocks, go up to the 11th floor of the parking garage, walk the level down to my van, deposit my camera, and reverse my route--all in a matter of minutes so that we don't lose our appointment time? Is he nuts? Of course all I could do was meekly agree and head off, all the while repeating in my head, "I don't have to go; I don't have to go..."

Long story short, I made it to the van and back, although I took the elevator to the wrong level and couldn't find the van right away. Ugh! But I made it back to the building (barely!) and found that the line was gone (it was past 11 a.m.!) A different guard was right inside the door so I explained that my husband was somewhere with our paperwork and I needed to find him. While I was talking the original guard showed up and told the new guard that I had gone back to the car to deposit my which she, and the other guards doing the metal detection responded, "Oh, they can bring cameras into the building now!!!!!" I should have known the right hand didn't know what the left hand was doing---it was a U.S. government building after all!

Dave was close by, and when I found him, he was at a little window, giving a lady our paperwork. We signed the last document, and she told us that we would get our fingerprinting instructions in the mail. At this I was confused, because all along I thought that we were going to be fingerprinted today--thus the personal trip to Philly to bring our paperwork in person. Another man had stepped up to the window, so I politely waited to ask the lady about this, although by now my bladder was screaming, as was our 1-year old, and I was sweating bullets from having raced (as fast as one can race with a full bladder!) two city blocks, 11 parking garage levels, and back in record time (for me, anyway!). The man was paying for something, but when he noticed me waiting, he said I could talk to the lady, so I asked her to clarify the whole fingerprinting thing. She did, and then I said I had been "misguided" as I thought that the fingerprinting would occur today. As I walked away, I heard the man and the lady commenting on my "misguidance" and how "don't you just love the way people say 'they told me thus and so'? Who are 'they' anyway...certainly the 800 number wouldn't have told her that!" Now first of all, perhaps that lady has to deal with people who don't speak English very well on a regular basis, but I do speak English and I didn't take too keenly to be talked about. Secondly, I am an American citizen, unlike many of the people who come to her window, and I pay her salary with my taxes. Therefore, I should be treated with respect, right? Well, apparently not! I made it to the bathroom, fuming inwardly all the way, and then fumed all the way back to the parking garage aloud to my poor hubby. And to think--I could have just MAILED the paperwork!

At this point we had lots of time to spare, so we debated whether to leave the city or find something to eat. We decided to walk towards Chinatown. I had seen the sign for it as we entered Philly, so we figured it couldn't be too far away. It wasn't, and the sights and sounds were all new to the boys, who enjoyed seeing a Life Lion helicopter take off from the medical center, the Philadelphia Convention Center building site (it's being expanded), a fire truck, and noisy motorcycles. Dave and I noticed the homeless men waiting at the Catholic rescue center for lunch, the "free stress tests" at the Church of Scientology we passed, and the great diversity of people all around. Cities are so interesting for people watching!

We made it to Chinatown and Dave chose a restaurant. Now, although we were in the middle of Philadelphia, nothing related to the restaurant was in English. We walked in, were seated relatively quickly, but soon realized that we were definitely in the minority in the restaurant. I had to ask for a high chair several times before getting one, and even once we were seated, no one came to take our order. As I glanced around, I realized that ladies were walking around with carts of food, and people were choosing items off of the cart. That's a bit scary when you have no idea what you are choosing, and the ladies don't speak English! I think Dave had chosen a dim sum restaurant, and didn't know it.

Finally a woman with a cart came to our table. By this time, Nathaniel is playing the drums on the table with his chopsticks (did I mention there was no western silverware to be found?) and Benjamin had to go to the bathroom...again. (Did I mention that he went when I did back at the immigration office?) Dave tried out the two Chinese words he can say fairly well...they are both for food items, go figure! At this the lady responded in a flurry of Chinese that Dave didn't understand at all, and he lamely pointed at two items on her tray and said, "Pork?" to which she nodded, so he nodded. She put them on our table and then asked about some other weird looking items, but we said no thank you. We quickly prayed for the food (all eight little pieces of it) and Dave picked one up with his chopstick and took a bite. (I figured if he liked it, I would at least give it a try! I wasn't feeling too adventurous at this point!) He cut off a piece for Benjamin who ended up spitting it out in the bathroom (more on that in a minute) and I tried one. Now I usually like Chinese food, but this was fatty and chewy and not too palatable. Dave got up to take Benjamin to the bathroom, so I tried to get my little drummer boy to try a no avail.
(For those of you who know Nathaniel, this is VERY odd, as he usually eats ANYTHING!)

By this time, we were quickly becoming the object of intense stares and not-so-hushed comments from the tables around us. Dave was still in the bathroom with Benjamin, and I was trying, quite unsuccessfully, to get Nathaniel to eat what neither of us really wanted to eat. He threw his chopsticks on the floor while playing with the bite I had put on his plate, and then wanted my chopsticks. I was trying desperately to use my chopsticks properly so as to not look too dumb to the people across the way who were staring and whispering. Inwardly I was dying of embarrassment and couldn't figure out what was taking Dave and Benjamin so long in the bathroom. (Come to find out that Benjamin carried his one bite of food in his mouth all the way to the bathroom and ended up spitting it out in the toilet!) When I finally saw them coming, I was more than ready to leave the restaurant and Philadelphia. Dave took a few more bites, decided he really didn't like the food either, and went to pay the bill while I gathered up the stroller and Nathaniel. Since we had not ordered much, he found out that he couldn't use our credit/debit card, so I had to use the cash I had. I told him to wait outside with the ever increasingly agitated boys, and I paid. I was so relieved to get out of that place! As we started down the sidewalk, all of a sudden we heard, "Hey, hey!" We turned around to see a little old Chinese man, whom we had not seen before, coming after us. "Tip, tip!" he hollered. My first thought was to tell him that A) I didn't even see you in the restaurant, let alone serving my table, and B) In this country we tip for good service, not mediocre, and C) No one really served our table at all! But instead I handed him a couple of bucks, tried not to melt of embarrassment, and we headed back to the car. See...I told you we should have stayed in bed!

To make a long story short (again!), we ultimately ate at a T.G.I. Friday's outside of the city, and even that wasn't by choice, but because a semi-truck blocked our path to the restaurant we really wanted to go to, but with everything that had happened thus far, we figured we might as well quit while we were ahead! It was a lovely meal, though, with an EXCELLENT waitress, and the kids behaved pretty well. The rest of our trip was uneventful, although we tempted fate a bit with low gas on the have to live on the wild side every once and awhile!

The only photos I got of our adventures today were these:

But after writing this post, I think they are most appropriate, don't you? Let's hope our trip to Taiwan to adopt Sophia is less eventful than today!


LizzieJane said...

Oh my goodness Terri, what an ordeal! I must confess I did giggle a couple of times when I read your post, not about you having to "go" though. There is nothing worse than that. I think you start to get a little panicky when you have to go that badly and it can be downright painful. I am glad that you all made it homne safely in the end, but what an adventure. The pic's of the boys are wonderful, it must have been a long day for them and you both.
I look forward to the next installment where you finally get to bring Sophia home, I can hardly wait.

Kathy S said...

Great story telling.
I can think of two times when I had to go so badly -- and one of them was with you! We ate at (I think her name was) Linda's house and then rode to church in Chile. I had to go before we left her house, but she had a great calling plan to the US. I took my turn on the phone and felt like I shouldn't take anymore time at her house. Thinking the church was only a few minutes away, I waited... I think it was a half an hour away and I thought I'd burst. Almost forgot about that story until I read your post. :-)

stephanie garcia said...

Definitely a day to remember!!