Every time a new official gets elected, the first thing they do is change policy – to prove they have power, of course. There’s no “grandfathering” generally… every pending file gets to go back and pick up whatever random step they’ve just added.
Since we’ve been in this Land of Eternal Wait, we’ve seen families start after us and come home before us. Just today, I found out about a family (different agency and different orphanage) that came out of IBESR in August (that’s the office we were finally done with in May of this year) and they now have passports and they’re coming home. HOME! They flew out of Parquet (which is where we’ve been since May, essentially) in 20 days. TWENTY!
So a few months back we started to hear rumblings that there was a new process for Haitian Adoption. I first read about this during the summer. It sounded like they were going to start to require adoptive parents to attend a court date in Port-au-Prince. Supposedly, this new process would allow the judge to assure himself that the parents really want the child they’re trying to adopt (cause nothing else we do apparently gives that impression).
This caused some concern, as Haitians aren’t exactly known for keeping appointments. Everything kinda of runs on “Haitian Standard Time” which means “they get to it when they get to it”. It’s kind of hard to book flights with that sort of organization.
So during this last trip, they made arrangements for our group to meet with a judge and take care of this new step. We were excited that they were able to work this out while we were already in Haiti so that we didn’t have to make a special visit just for this. We were all very excited and our coordinator told us that she hoped this would speed up our files since we would have this new step completed.
So the day of our appointment comes. We load into the back of a tap-tap and off we go. I kind of had an idea of what I was expecting. I mean, when we went to the Embassy in Haiti; you go to a clearly marked building; you’re met at the door by a guard and they check you in and check your bags and you leave your cell phone at the desk. Of course, that’s a US office in Haiti, so of course it’s closer to US standards but I thought I could imagine how this might go.
You’ve never really seen garbage until you’ve been to Port-au-Prince. We passed piles of garbage in the middle of streets the size of Volkswagens. Wherever the rain carries the trash it where it goes and it piles and builds and rots.
Every low point gathers trash….
This picture is a CANAL. It’s completely filled with garbage. Somewhere below it is water and I don’t really want to know how they’re using that water….
We end up on this strange little side street with so much gunk on the road that it just smelled like an open sewer. The road was wet and rutted and I remember thinking that I really wished I was wearing something besides sandals because I didn’t want whatever THAT was on my feet.
I also remember saying outloud, “THIS is where we’re going?” There wasn’t really anything about the building or the area or the street that let you feel like you were in an “official” location for anything. It seemed like we were in a back alley somewhere.
We wove our way through a makeshift market that had apparently sprung up as people realized that the Americans were going to have to come to this place for the new process. People were thronging around us and begging for money or pleading that we would buy whatever it was they had. Our agency representative had told us to focus straight ahead and just head for the door, so that’s what we did.
We entered the building. It was tiny – a large room and 4 offices off the side of it. The entire room was under some sort of renovation. There were paint cans and glass and wood and various tools everywhere. There weren’t light bulbs in the sockets in the ceilings. There were also stacks of obviously used filing cabinets, piled at odd angles on top of each other on one side of the big room. One of the other moms leaned over to me and said, “You think our files are in one of those cabinets and that’s why we aren’t moving anywhere in this process?” We both laughed nervously while secretly hoping it wasn’t true.
What the building did NOT have was workers. There were no government employees. There was no judge. The only people there were the men painting the walls a vivid shade of fluorescent peach. (I don’t think Home Depot carries that color and I think I know why.)
We had been told to bring two copies of our passport pictures and two copies of the stamps from our passports showing that we had entered Haiti. Our agency rep handed our papers to the lawyer that works with our orphanage and our orphanage director. They shuffled through them and arranged them and animatedly discussed things in Kreyol. We just waited… standing around this room while trying to not step on any of the materials on the floor and stay out of the painters’ way.
I remember thinking it was a bit like a “People Zoo”. There were people milling about outside the small building and it seemed everyone was watching the group of Americans standing inside looking lost. We tried harder to look like we knew what we were doing and what was going on.
About 20 minutes later a man walked into the building. He and our lawyer discussed something in Kreyol and then the man headed down the hall to one of the offices. We were told this was the judge we’d been waiting to see and that we were to follow him.
He led us to the 4th office. It was a small room with just a small metal desk and one chair. He sat in the chair and the group filed into the room. He started gesturing rapidly with his hands and saying something very sternly in Kreyol. Our translator said, ‘He doesn’t want you to stand in front of his desk” so we all squished closer together on the sides and waited.
The judge set down the books he was carrying. I looked at the top one and noticed it was a notebook. Someone had made the cover out of an American bra ad. You read that right- an advertisement for brassieres. It had a busty, white woman on it and in big text across the top it said, “Maidenform - $3.99 - Limited Time Only”.
That has all sorts of class and all of it “low”.
Meanwhile, back at the ranch, the orphanage director placed the photocopied passport pages of the first couple in front of “Judge Maidenform”. The judge pulled out another notebook. It was your basic Mead spiral bound notebook like you’d use in Jr. High for taking notes. You know… like this:
When we all finished signing, our orphanage director carefully counted out 4 $100 dollar US bills and handed them to the judge. He folded them up and put them in his pocket. I heard later that he said he’d get them a receipt when they brought the rest of our group (the next 4 couples) the next day. I didn’t bother to find out if that actually happened.
This, ladies and gentlemen, is the new official record for this new process they’ve instituted. This new signature that supposedly has been “holding up” our paperwork. I can see how that’s possible. I’m sure the first thing Judge Maidenform is going to do with his little spiral notebook is go to the various offices where our papers are stuck and carefully explain to them that we’ve completed their requirement and our papers can proceed.
Yeah… I’m sure that’s what will happen…..