After 4 days in Zanzibar, we headed back to Dar Es Salaam, straight to the embassy to pick up Laia’s passport, and then flew home the next day.
Back at the hotel in Dar Es Salaam this was our celebration dinner with visa in hand and plane tickets to head home the next day. What a wonderful feeling!!
I was so ready and happy to be heading home.
Our last glimpse of Tanzania from the air.
We had no idea how Laia would do on the plane, and judging by how the week had gone, we were prepping for the worst. She shocked us and did incredibly well on both flights. She was fascinated with all the buttons and tv screens and loved the headphones. She was calm, made lots of friends, slept some, didnt scream at all, and only cried a few times.
And after 21 hours of flying we made it home. Just like that. A family of 4.
The ocean in Zanzibar was incredible. We arrived in the afternoon and went down to catch a glimpse around 3pm and saw a beautiful ocean with waves crashing at our feet. To be expected.
The next morning we got up and headed down to the water around 10am and were shocked. It was low tide and the waves were crashing about a mile from shore. I have never witnessed such drastic tides.
The same boats from above.
Because the tide was so low, you could walk a mile out and basically see life at the bottom of the ocean. As exhausting as it was carrying Laia two miles in the hot sun, it was one of the most incredible experiences.
On the left is a clown fish in a pool of water a foot deep. It had three baby clown fish about the size of my pinky fingernail with it. The cutest! And on the right is Josh holding a stone fish.
A sea urchin. We saw about 6 different kinds.
Taking a break in a little pool.
You can see how far away from shore we are.
A gathering of starfish.
Two of my favorites.
Local women would spend the morning out in the ocean gathering seaweed and creating these seaweed farms. They use the seaweed for making lotions and other things I dont remember, as well as eating it.
They were working and singing all morning and then as the tide came back in they would head back to shore.
Such an incredible experience. There was a reef near to where the waves were breaking where they said you could see many other fish and large octopus. I ran out of energy and we never made it back out there. We will have to go back again sans kids or at lease when Laia will let Josh carry her too.
After 4 days in Dar Es Salaam, and a successful visa interview at the US Embassy, we headed to Zanzibar for a change of scenery while we waited for the printed visa from the embassy. I was so happy to leave that hotel room in Dar Es Salaam and all the stares and questions from the people there (since our child was screaming the whole time we were there), even if it just meant we were going to a new hotel room and more stares.
We rode on a teeny tiny plane to get there.
Each day in Zanzibar was easier and easier with Laia. She still screamed often and threw big fits, would only eat sitting on my lap, and did not sleep very well but we were all getting more used to each other and she was starting to walk around and play more and more.
This girl loved taking over the whole bed. Josh and I ended up squished together at the edge by morning:)
We stayed at Diamonds Dream of Zanzibar and it was great. The hotel was very nice, the grounds were beautiful, and the ocean was just incredible.
Laia loved playing in the sand and water.
And I loved the view.
One afternoon after I got Laia to sleep and managed to shift her off of me and onto the bed and she stayed asleep, I snuck down to the pool, got a nutella crepe, passionfruit mojito and read for an hour. It was wonderful.
Josh’s view the whole trip. Laia was comfortable with me immediately but wouldn’t have anything to do with Josh, she did not want him close to her and would not let him touch her. Throughout the week she slowly warmed up to him and would play with him a little, let him change her diaper a few times, would sit next to him and hold his hand but still wouldn’t let him hold her. So I carried her.
By the time we left Zanzibar, I felt a bit more rested, not so overwhelmed, and more hopeful as we headed towards home. I really just wanted to get home. Thankfully they had the visa ready a few days early so we were able to head back a bit sooner than expected.
We arrived in Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania on Sunday evening. The orphanage director and his wife had already been in town for about 3 days with Laia. They graciously meet us there and took her to her first medical appointment so that Josh did not have to miss so much work. It was so exciting seeing her for the first time there knowing that she would be with us from then on. That we were actually taking her home. She was so cute and tiny and greeted us with warm smiles. She took to me immediately and was pretty laid back and sweet that whole evening. I was relieved since we were pretty worn out from our long flight.
First night together.
The beautiful view from our hotel window.
We all got a pretty good night sleep and then woke up early the next morning to take her to her second medical appointment. And then began one of the hardest weeks of my life. Its hard to know what to expect and I did expect it to be hard but it was so much harder then I had imagined. She screamed for three days. And would not let me put her down at all. She would only sleep laying fully on top of me and was up for hours every night. I was so overwhelmed and felt so stuck in that hotel room. The two pictures below where the only two Josh managed to snap that first day. We were in serious survival mode.
The second day was a teeny tiny bit better and I managed to snap the two pictures below.
We finally left our hotel room for more than a quick meal on the third day and I managed to get Laia bathed. Baby steps.
The evening of the third day was the first time we saw a glimpse of a happy toddler when she played on the bed for a few minutes before bed. It gave me the hope I needed to keep plugging along.
Its so much easier to write about that first week now that we have been home for several weeks and have seen so much progress with Laia. Even though its still hard, I can look back and know that it has gotten so much better and will only continue to improve. Its wonderful to watch this little girl begin to grow as she finds comfort in her new home.
On our way to Tanzania on this last trip we had a long overnight layover in Dubai. Since it was just Josh and I we decided to take advantage and see a bit of the city.
About to take off in SFO. Headed straight to Dubai. Once we landed and had some dinner we grabbed a taxi and headed to the biggest mall in Dubai. I mean where else would we go? The mall had an enormous fish tank/mini aquarium, ice skating rink, fountain show, and every store ever. No, Im serious.
Wait, Shake Shake and Laduree? This place it too good to be true.
Right next tot he mall is the Burj Khalifa (aka the tallest building in the world). Its seriously so tall. There were clouds passing over it. And there are balconies up there. Whaaaat??
After the mall we drove around the city some more and before heading back to the hotel we caught a glimpse of the Burj Al Arab and dipped our feet in the Persian Gulf.
It was the perfect beginning to a pretty crazy trip. More to come!
We are home. Our trips was wonderful, difficult, exciting, and exhausting. Its so good to be home. I had high ambitions of updating more but have been more worn out than expected. Ill update more soon but for now here are some photos of our welcome home. Many sweet friends were at the airport and welcomed us home with banners, balloons, and so much love. It was wonderful!
My sweet friends in California threw us a send of baby shower for Laia. It was perfect timing right before our trip and really helped us get excited and feel more at peace. I am so thankful for our wonderful community and how supportive they have been through this entire journey. I can’t wait to bring Laia home where she will get to grow and thrive not only in our family but in our community. There are already so many people that love that little girl and so many people ready to support us, it makes coming home with her feel a lot less scary.
The wonderful hosts
We are at the airport now ready to leave. I can’t wait to continue this journey and share it with you all. Keep us in your thoughts and prayers!
This little girl is the sweetest. And I cant believe how grown up she is. She just started preschool two mornings a week. She has been looking forward to it for a long time and is only a couple weeks in but loves it so much. She has been wanting to do projects and “school work” at home every day and keeps talking about how much she loves school. She must get that from her father. Cant wait to see how much she learns and grows over this year.
At home after her first day of school I asked her what she did and she said ” Drove to soccer practice and swimming and I had a baby in my belly and its name was Laia and Charlotte had a baby in her belly too and its name was Laia too.” This girl loves to pretend play and boss her friends around:)
We decided last minute to take a trip to Birg Sur over the long weekend. It was our last chance for a little road trip and some quality time as a family of just 3. We were only gone two days. We hopped in the car Sunday morning around 10am and headed south on highway 1. The drive was incredible and since it was last minute we didn’t actually stay in Big Sur but ended up in San Luis Obispo.
Neither of us had ever been to the central coast at all so it was fun to see many parts of it. The whole drive is breathtaking. We stopped in Big Sur for lunch and explored there a bit. And of course we made many stops along highway 1 at overlooks. We saw whales and elephant seals. We spent the night in San Luis Obispo and got to explore that area some. We visited Avila beach, a really cute little beach town and drove around a bit in Paseo Robles, wine country. It was a perfect little getaway and a great way for us to spend some good time together before we head to Tanzania.
A did amazing in the car. After about 6 hours of driving we stopped for a lunch break at Roadhouse. The food was great and I think A was pretty happy to get a break from her car seat.
I knew I wanted to make a quilt for my brother and his new wife as a wedding gift and also one for baby Laia. Adelaide, being the first born, received so many hand made blankets. Myself, being the second born, did not receive so many hand made blankets. I got one as a hand me down from my sister that I still have today. So I wanted to make sure that Laia, my second “born”, had at least one blanket that was made especially for her.
I came across this tutorial and decided to follow its basic structure. For the first one, the one for Danny and Paige, I lined the triangles up like in the tutorial. It was a little tricky to get it just right but overall it turned out pretty good. The final result is smaller than I imagined. My brother is 6’4″ so we were joking about it only covering his feet. Oh well.
On the second quilt, I decided not to line the triangles up but to off center them. I cant decide which one I like better. Overall, they turned out pretty good. Just the right size for tiny Laia:) Right now I am just quilting straight lines with a walking foot. And I still have a hard time getting my quilts to not bunch at all in the back. Any tips out there?