And so it was when we landed in Frankfurt, Germany a couple of hours later...this time I think I cried a little because it just all looked so beautiful and so normal to me - like confirmation that I was back in the "real" world instead of bleak otherworldly Eastern Europe.
Meanwhile, Bella was handling all the travel extremely well! I had to purchase two airplane seats for her since she cannot tolerate sitting up yet. Our next flight was from Frankfurt to San Fransisco - 11 hours and 40 minutes, and she was so good. I know adults who can't behave on a flight that long! We met some neat people along the way - for example, there was a Russian-speaking missionary on our long flight who had actually lived in Ukraine for two years. He happened to be standing behind us as we were waiting in line to get on the plane and we struck up a conversation. He was able to help me out some. Once we cleared customs in San Francisco (and I said I had no prohibited items!) and were waiting to get our bags and recheck them, an airport dog made a hit on my carry-on bag. The agent asked me if I had produce and I discovered that I'd accidentally carried a banana from Europe. He was nice about it, and as he wrote on my customs form, he asked me about what I had been doing in Ukraine. When I told him, his eyes lit up and he told me that he and his wife had adopted one child internationally and were in the process of adopting another :) After our layover we boarded our last flight to Honolulu. Unlike the other flights, Bella slept for the entire time but I was too excited to do anything except watch the minutes tick by.
When we arrived in home sweet Honolulu, there were no tears for me. I was soaring with excitement and relief. We were greeted by many of our friends (some of whom are adoptive families) - it was very special to have some of the people who supported us and prayed for us throughout this process there to see it all come to fruition.
Saturday morning we headed to the hospital where Bella spent the next five days being monitored for refeeding syndrome and getting everything else she needed. She was a champ! She only cried a few times during the entire stay, when she was afraid or hurting. Her emotional responses were appropriate and when it was over she recovered quickly. That was very encouraging for us to see! It went better than we could have ever hoped for. She has a long, long road ahead of her but we know that she will persevere.
So I'll close with a video and couple of photos from her first official outing with her new family, to watch her sister's Christmas hula performance. Bella LOVED it - the music, the children, the socialization - she just soaked it up and the smile never left her face.
I added the video for a few reasons: the song is beautiful, the hula is beautiful, Bou is in it (angel in the center), and you can see Bella's reaction at the end of it :)