Finally the day had arrived, you know the one that we’ve all been waiting for. I could hardly believe that it was really here; I was going to Romania to bring our son home. It was Tuesday, March 2, 2004 and as I drove north on I-95 to pick up Jillian from the UAC Office, who thankfully, was accompanying me on the trip, I thought about the many months, and yes, years that had gone by, waiting patiently for this day to arrive. Now it had, and it almost seemed surreal, should I pinch myself, was this just a dream? I was leaving a woman, and would come back a Mother, it would never be the same again, and I knew that I was ready.
At the UAC Office, Jill and I sat for a while chatting with Lorri, reminiscing about her many prior trips to Bucharest, in excess of 30, and getting some last minute tips from this well-seasoned traveler. Soon we were on our way, heading south to catch our 6:00 PM flight out of Miami, bound to Bucharest via Paris. We were excited, and I was filled with anticipation
We were thoroughly impressed by the size of the Air France aircraft, a Boeing 747- 400. We had left on Tuesday evening and arrived in Paris on Wednesday morning. Jill skillfully navigated through the airport to catch the connecting flight to Bucharest, and I remember thinking how glad I was that she was here with me. The entire trip going, was pleasant, I just couldn’t sleep on the plane, perhaps just from the excitement of finally being able to meet our little boy.
We landed right on time at the Otopeni Airport, it was daylight, on Wednesday March 3, we had traveled 25 plus hours and I wasnt even feeling the jet lag. There to meet us at the airport was Lidia and her father-in-law, Costin. He efficiently loaded our belongings into the Jeep and soon we were heading to the apartment. I was soon to discover that it was these wonderful people, Costin and his wife, Mama Vicki, the parents of Mac, who were the guardian angels of our son during the final week, while he was waiting for me to arrive.
As the Jeep whizzed through the traffic, all I could think about was meeting my son for the first time, what would it be like. The day was just beautiful, the temperature cool and comfortable, I noticed the blending of the old and the new buildings, I remember thinking to myself how happy I was to have come to this country, the land of the birth of our son.
We arrived at the apartment; it was across from the Parliament House, and upon opening the door and entering the bedroom, there on the red velveteen couch sat the most angelic little face I had ever seen. Mama Vicki was with him, he was so excited to see Costin when he came through the door he was squealing with delight, Ta-Ta, Ta- Ta (Daddy).
We had a visa appointment for the following day, and Lidia briefed me on the questions that would very likely be asked at the US Embassy. Lidia picked us up the following day, March 4 and we headed to the US Embassy. We arrived a few minutes before 1:00PM, there were two other families already in line, standing outside the Embassy gates. At 1:00PM sharp the gates were opened, there was a thorough search of each person entering the building. Lidia went to pay for the visa and we sat and waited for my name to be called. We waited for no more than about 15 minutes as there were only two other families waiting for apparently the same purpose accompanied by their children. When I was called, as instructed I held up my son so that the he could be compared to the photograph in his file. I was asked a series of questions, as Lidia told me I would and it was over within minutes. I was asked to come back later for the visa. We visited a Greek Orthodox Church, with its ornate sculptures, there was healing service, which I found to be fascinating.
That night we attended a performance at the Opera House, being put on by a religious group from the US entitled Dare to Dream. While we didnt stay for the entire performance, Panchi sat quietly and was beautifully behaved.
That night we celebrated in the apartment, it was just magical. Panchi got his US visa, it was finally over. We made a small home video, shared a bottle of champagne over a take-out from Spring Time ( a great fast food place) that we ate from more than once and finally felt as if I could relax and start to enjoy my visit.
The last two days of our visit, Lidia took us shopping, and we saw some of the picturesque sites as we were driving by, including, the University of Bucharest, the House of Parliament, the second largest building in the world, the largest being the Pentagon, ( located across the street from Lidias apartment), numerous statues, hotels, casinos, and multiple new construction that was underway. Bucharest I found to be a bustling city, where the old meets the new and lives harmoniously in a unique balance.
I would say that everyone in the city drives defensively, it was incredible, and the cars are small and able to dart in an out of traffic. My favorite part however was the snow, it was so beautiful, and we took pictures as well as some video. It was perfect. We visited the only Catholic Church in Bucharest, and later visited the school Lidia attended and the church in which she got married. The sight seeing was absolutely wonderful, the city was certainly impressive. We visited a big park, it was beautiful, enjoyed Romanian hamburgers at a typical Romanian restaurant and did a bit more sight seeing.
We seemed to have spent a lot of time dining at various restaurants. By far, my favorite was Restaruantele Burebista, where we ate twice. We visited a great German restaurant where beer was served on long paddles, the place was packed solid with people celebrating the beginning of the weekend on Friday night. It was fun. We came out to see the entire place covered with snow. Lidia is a great driver, in any weather! She navigated her Jeep with confidence through the driving snow. We even stopped, got out of the car to take pictures.
I’m so happy that I had the opportunity to visit this incredible city, the county of our sons birth. It gave me a sense of connection that I could not have otherwise discovered, and it was a marvelous experience.
Thanks to Lidia for being such a wonderful host and to Jillian for accompanying me on my Romanian adventure!