A Guest Post by Kate Buckley – Advisory Committee Member
Originally posted in Pop City Media by KATE BUCKLEY | WEDNESDAY, JULY 31, 2013
In the world of adoption, you wait for ‘the call.’ In the spring of 2011, after almost three and a half years of waiting, my husband and I finally got ‘the call.’ Actually it was an email that arrived from the US Embassy in Kathmandu, Nepal. We were given permission to travel to Kathmandu to complete our son’s adoption.After a grueling 24 hours of travel, my husband Bret, our five-year-old daughter Leah, and I arrived in Kathmandu. We then took a life-altering taxi ride to our apartment. There’s no way to prepare yourself, or completely describe, the sights and sounds of Kathmandu. Motorcycles, cars and taxis all jockey for position, constantly on their horns in hopes of moving forward. Our taxi driver joined right in, dodging sacred cows that wandered freely and calmly in the middle of the roads.
By the third day, we were taken to the orphanage to meet our son, Wynn. The orphanage sat at the bottom of a long winding road, surrounded by lush green fields and beautiful mountains. After a short wait, a young girl entered the room where we were waiting holding the hand of the most beautiful little boy with thick dark hair and sparkling brown eyes. Before traveling to Nepal, we were asked to write Wynn a letter and to put together a small photo album of his new family and home. As he entered the room, we noticed that he was clutching his letter and photo album.
We all sat on the floor as he silently flipped through the pages of his photo album while Leah explained each picture. We were told that Wynn could go with us in two days. This secretly made me very nervous. Would there be lengthy written instructions that came with this three-year-old boy who didn’t speak a word of English, who didn’t know us, and who had spent his entire life in an orphanage? The answer appeared to be ‘no.’
When we returned two days later, his didi (which means nanny or big sister in Nepali) sat on the floor with Wynn, wrapped a large towel around his neck and fed him a bowl of noodles and vegetables. Then we all went to the room where he had lived his entire life to say goodbye to his roommates. As the boys and girls waved goodbye, there wasn’t a bit of sadness. It was if they were wishing him well. Then we gently took Wynn by the hand as he walked out the front door, with only the clothes on his back and carrying his photo album and letter.
He never looked back. He sat in the van and looked out the window saying nothing. The rest of that first evening was ordinary to any parents with young children – dinner, baths and play time. By nightfall Leah and Wynn were asleep together on a mattress on the floor.
As the days unfolded we were amazed just how well we could communicate with one another despite the difference in language. Each day Wynn taught us a few Nepali words and he picked up a bit of English. Over time we also learned to accept the chaos that exists daily in Nepal. On average, we had fourteen hours of electricity a day. Rolling blackouts gave selected neighborhoods electricity at certain times of the day to conserve this limited resource.
I soon discovered that a gas stove, a wok, some olive oil and leftovers saved many a meal as our neighborhood blackout always seemed to coincide with meal time. Long lines of motorcycles and cars were common sites at ‘petro stations’ as they waited for gas which was rationed. Yet despite all of these challenges, we were constantly amazed at the kind, gentle nature of the Nepali people.
When we didn’t have an appointment, we spent our time as tourists. Eager to escape the confines of our apartment and the crowds of the city, one weekend we went to the mountain resort town of Nargarkot. A 90 minute drive lead us to an entirely different world, where enormous mountains were lush and green, covered with terraced hill-side planting fields and roaming sheep. We saw women with huge bushels of freshly cut wheat strapped to their backs carrying it out of the fields and thrashing it along the side of the road. We saw water buffalo grazing in the fields with birds perched on their backs. . .a scene right out of The Lion King. We heard birds singing that sounded exactly like a coo-coo clock. We met people from around the world, including Bangladesh, Greece and India.
But the greatest encounter happened as we were checking in the hotel and started chatting with an American couple. We mentioned that we were from Pittsburgh. Suddenly the gentleman smiled brightly, pulled out his wallet and presented a photo of Mr. Rogers. Now only a true Pittsburgh native would carry a such a thing! I marveled at how the world keeps getting smaller.
While we had an adventure of a lifetime while in Nepal, we were actually doing the waiting thing again. But one day, almost a month after that wild taxi ride, the wait was over. We were handed a travel visa that permitted us to leave Nepal with Wynn. My last searing memory of our journey was of Wynn and Bret walking hand-in-hand out onto the runway of the Kathmandu Airport to a huge jet. It was 11:00 in the evening and the dark sky was brightly lit by the airport lights. They climbed the long steps up to the jet’s entry door. Wynn was leaving his homeland and starting a new life thousands of miles away. He walked through the jet door and never looked back.
WYNN WITH HIS SISTER LEAH
Kate Buckley is a Pittsburgh-based documentary photographer and writer who is available for freelance work and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
All photos by Kate Buckley.
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