She’s back!

She’s back!

It might have been after midnight, but we didn’t feel a bit tired any more! We chatted excitedly with M, surprised by the amount of English she had learned since last time we saw her–5 1/2 months ago. (A time period long in the waiting and missing her, but short for language acquisition.) We joked about the first time she had traveled home with us, when she got car sick: “BLECH!!” On the way to the hotel, every single person in our car had a huge smile on his or her face :)

M gave all of us presents when we got to our hotel room. We had a special one for her–a photo book made from the pictures from her last visit. Being the photo-loving girl that she is, M sat down and immediately looked at each page, exclaiming over each memory. We all crowded around, wanting to see what she saw, wanting to catch everything she said. Even though it had seemed so long since we had seen her, now that she was here, it felt almost as if she had never left. She was still the same lovely, fun-loving M. I expected to see something different in her, based on what she had experienced–and we did see some struggles later on–but that first night was just full of joy.

We put the other girls to bed so we could spend a little more time with M. To have a conversation with her without having to use Google Translate was really fun! And freeing! Even though we like to joke that “M is never tired!” we knew she had been traveling over 20 hours and had to be exhausted.

The next morning, I was up with the sun. I don’t know if it was my excitement or the fact that I was sleeping with four other family members in the same room, but I was unable to fall back asleep. Through a quick check on Facebook, I saw that my fellow host mama, Catrina, was awake, so I texted her to see if she would meet me downstairs for breakfast. We met and shared our hearts. She was hosting for the first time and was still navigating the language barrier and the awkwardness of having her host son here, finally, after all of the work, prayers, and plans. But she had already fallen in love with him, and it was so exciting to be sharing in these first sweet moments with her.

After the rest of our families and the other host families woke up, we all made our way down to the pool for lesson #1 in host family bonding–have fun and be silly, preferably in a swimming pool! We had a blast jumping, splashing, swimming, and playing keep-away. A total of four host families took over the hotel pool that morning, and I’m sure the sounds of squeals, giggles, and broken English in foreign accents caused other to wonder. But it was a joyous Tower of Babel moment.

Our plan for the day included visiting the St. Louis Zoo, so we checked out of the hotel and made our way to the zoo. When asked what her favorite animal was, M responded, “All!” That made it easy to narrow down our areas to visit…

 

Ready to see the zoo! Photo by M

Ready to see the zoo! Photo by M

In my experience, there is one character trait that all of these special children seem to share; every host mom I have ever talked to would say the same thing–their host kids are IMPATIENT. Knowing this, my wise husband splurged on renting a “two seater” touring-type stroller, something we never do. And we were off–seeing the zoo at 100 miles an hour!

I believe M was determined to see every single animal in that zoo. She had Chris’ phone, and she would run up to an animal, snap a picture, and be off to the next critter before we could catch up to the last one. We kept saying, “M, wait! Slow down! We need to stay with you!” It was as if she had suddenly forgotten all English.

Well, it was a pretty hot and humid day, and we knew she would eventually tire out. A person can’t run around in 90 degree/60% humidity heat after traveling 20 hours and crossing eight time zones without starting to feel the effects. Poor Chris ended up pushing the three biggest girls to the exit while I carried Ali.

But as soon as we arrived home, after dozing in the car for three hours, M was ready to dive into the pool. Because that is the kind of girl she is–always ready for an adventure!