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Kahleah gets a promised trip to her birth country


Leceta Chisholm Guibault
March 2005

The story so far:

Kahleah Guibault was adopted from Guatemala in 1991 at five months of age. Shortly after birth she was placed into the loving care of her foster family, the Guzmans. They always occupied a special place in Kahleah's heart. After failing to make contact with them through the Guatemalan lawyer, Kahleah's mom Leceta finally made direct contact in 1996. In 2000 Leceta visited Guatemala and met the Guzman family. But she felt guilty; she didn't take her daughter, then 9, on the trip. (See Loving Links, Part 1.) At the time she made a promise to return with Kahleah for a visit with the Guzmans.

Fast forward to 2003, as Leceta and Kahleah step off the plane in Guatemala City ...

February 8, 2003

Kahleah and Leceta Kahleah and I arrived in Guatemala City this evening. As excited and prepared as she was she appeared a little shell shocked at first, especially at the airport after we arrived. Guatemala City airport, not unlike most airports in Third World countries, can be pretty overwhelming! We held hands as we dodged offers to carry our luggage, transportation, purchase handicrafts and requests for charity.

We quickly found our bus to take us to the beautiful town of Antigua. I sat across the aisle from my daughter. I watched her face, trying to read it. I was dying to pick her brain. How did it feel to set foot in your country of birth close to twelve years after adoption? Gazing at Kahleah she did look like my little girl but she also looked like a stranger. She was Guatemalan. Her bus window was rolled down and the warm breeze blew her gorgeous black hair off her face as she observed serenely her surroundings. My girl was silent, deep in her own private thoughts.

Day 1, February 9, 2003

This morning (Sunday) we were awakened by church bells starting at 5 a.m.! By 5:30 we decided we might as well get up and start our day. We ventured up a spiral staircase to the rooftop of our hotel and were greeted by the beauty of three large volcanoes. They looked like they were painted against the sky! Too large and beautiful to be real. One is active! Big puffs of smoke escape every few minutes! I was told you could see flames at night. Will check later ...

My friend Caroline who visits Guatemala regularly offered to give Kahleah and I our first taste of Guatemala together. The day was full of adventure and emotions. We visited a few small Mayan towns, a highlight being San Antonio de Calentes. We met a group of wonderful Mayan weavers who dressed Kahleah up in various traditional outfits. They had her pose for photos with a basket balanced on her head and then with a water pitcher. Not an easy feat! Kahleah was head to toe Mayan, with the exception of her funky prescription glasses and Nike sneakers. A group of little children gathered around her to watch and they all gave her a hug. We also drove back into Guatemala City to a WalMart type place called Hiper Piaz. We bought donations (powdered milk, rice, soups ... ) for a nutritional centre. Later we visited the centre and met and played with its residents ... very sick and malnourished children. We played and hugged and sang and cuddled. Kahleah was ... Kahleah. The children loved her.

The best part of the day and most memorable is the look on the Guatemalan children's faces when you give them a little trinket. They are so loving and affectionate. One little one this evening at the centre was very attached to me and would not let me put her down to leave. She wrapped her little body around my leg and wouldn't let go ... A little attention and affection can go a long way.

Day 2, February 10, 2003

Last night Kahleah and I had a wonderful dinner at an Italian restaurant called Da Vinci's. We sat out under the moon and stars and discussed the day's adventures. What's with my little Guatemalteca? She is living on PIZZA!!!! Anyway ... this is a dream-come-true trip. Just as I had hoped, I am seeing Guatemala through Kahleah's eyes. Her biggest thrill so far is that she is TALL in Guatemala! At 4 foot 10 inches my girl is TALL! She is taller than some of the men she has met. She can't wipe the proud smile off her face.

Kahleah and Leceta and Gregory This morning we were picked up at the hotel by Gregory from the in-country medical mission Hands of Hope, Gregory and his wife Anita are totally devoted to the people they serve. The drive to the clinic was as disturbing as it was spectacular. It is one thing to watch a World Vision segment on TV and to actually drive into a segment ... I am having a hard time putting my thoughts together as I am still a little overwhelmed. We drove up and down dirty and dusty mountain roads towards the clinic. It is hard to describe the poverty. Homes were tiny and made of corn- or bamboo-type stalks. Some were made out of clay/mud blocks. Thank God it is the dry season! The better homes reminded me of simple homes my son would make out of Lego ... but they were concrete blocks.

As we drove up and down the winding narrow roads, families would rush to their doorways to stare, smile, wave or push their children forward in hopes that we would stop with an offering. I saw three rather pathetic little souls looking at me sadly and asked Gregory if I could stop to give them a little something from our sacks. In this case the pencils, pens, erasers, crayons and paper were absolutely useless. The children could not read or write and may have never held a pencil in their short lives. Kahleah and I dug a little deeper for some matchbox cars and McDonald's toys. Gregory told me to act quickly and I soon found out why. More children and their mothers came out of their homes running towards us all in hopes of a little trinket. Mom's were pushing tiny and scared children towards me hoping they would not be missed.

We finally made it to the clinic. The clinic is under construction in an area that I am sure that until Gregory and Anita arrived, God had forgotten ...

Kahleah and Leceta and Gregory We met the staff and the families quietly waiting in the waiting room. There was complete silence except for the odd whimper from an extremely ill child. Every donation was obviously appreciated and the need was blatantly obvious. Anita invited Kahleah and I to observe her working with the patients and told us a little about each person. Where I found the strength not to cry ... I don't know. It was obvious that these people needed more than my tears. Kahleah and I gave each child in the clinic a small sticker that we stuck to their hand. The smiles of appreciation, for something so small, were bigger than most of our kids smiles on Christmas morning. One little guy with Down Syndrome was particularly a sad sight. He was around five years old and filthy. No shoes, torn clothing and rotting teeth. We were told that he hangs out at the clinic daily. His mother locks him out of the house every morning and is not allowed back until dark. He is left to roam and beg. He tried many times to open my fanny pack and could not take no for an answer. It was so difficult! I tried to give him a toy but he became very frightened!

Another child arrived, about one year old but the same size as a newborn. His mother was distraught. The child was obviously dying, could hardly breathe. I was told that she could not understand his condition. I think she was hoping that if she kept coming back ... there might be good news. Gregory told me that most mothers just let these kids die because they have so many more to care for. This Mom was not going to give up.

We met one mother who had ten children. She looked quite old to me ... ill and hardened by life. She was holding a ten-month-old baby boy. He was covered in a red and itchy-looking rash. At the next examining table was a young woman with a nine-month-old baby girl. The first mother told me that the young mother was her oldest child. She was 19 years old, there with her nine-month-old and was five months pregnant! The mother of ten, grandmother of God knows how many, was 37 years old!! I couldn't believe my eyes or ears. Anita let Kahleah and I watch as she examined the 19-year-old who was pregnant with her second baby. She even let us listen to the baby's heart beat. For now ... everything was going okay with the pregnancy except that her milk had dried up, so no milk for the nine-month-old AND both mother and baby were suffering from scabies.

I guess after hearing Gregory and I chat for a long time Kahleah let out a big sigh and nudged me saying, "Aren't we here to work?" We were put to work counting pills (Advil and Aspirin) from large bottles and placing them in smaller quantities into small plastic bags, ready to give to patients. Tedious work but it gave the staff valuable time to tend to patients. Kahleah was only happy if she was doing something. She wanted to be busy. I wanted to observe and learn more about the people and the work of the clinic.

After we left the clinic, Gregory wanted to show me the village school. He wanted to show us where the donations of school supplies would be going. Presently the school was deserted. The teachers are on strike. The school was on the crest of a hill overlooking a valley and a mountain on the other side. Little hut-like homes scattered everywhere. No running water.

The school was built in a U-shape. The "playground" was in the middle. It looked like it had been bombed! It was dusty and dry, no grass ... just dirt with big craters. Most of the windows were broken and what remained was jagged glass. I almost cut myself peeking through the broken glass to take a photo of a classroom. Once again ... dusty and dirty. There was a chalkboard ... but no chalk or any other type of supplies. Skinny wild dogs ran freely.

Gregory told me it was worth going to the back of the school to see the washrooms. Oh-my-God. I cannot describe what I saw. No wonder these children are sick and dying.

One common thread amongst the women and children we met today (no men ... they were all off working the fields) ... their eyes were so sad, tired, old ... yet they all greeted us with a smile and a "buenos dias". Most of the women carrying babies six to nine months of age were already pregnant again. Their babies were sick and malnourished yet there was another on the way. Anita told me that when they become pregnant while breastfeeding their milk quickly dries up. The powdered milk that we brought with us was more than worth its weight in gold.

One little guy I will never forget. He was around six years old and last week he has stepped on an open burning fire. A plastic soda pop bottle has been tossed into the fire and when he accidentally stepped on it the melting plastic wrapped around his foot and continued to burn. He had to get himself to the clinic (down a steep mountainside!) because his parents could not leave the fields. He has been visiting the clinic daily ever since because no one at home will change the bandages. Anita told us that his pain was horrific today when she cleaned the wound and she was amazed at his bravery. As a "reward" for his bravery ... he left the clinic today with a pair of donated Sketcher sneakers that used to be Kahleah's. They are obviously girls' sneakers and were sling backs but this little guy didn't care. They may be his first pair of shoes.

Tomorrow we are taking a tour of a Mayan music museum and coffee plantation. It will be a little down time, which we truly need after the last two days.

Day 2: Evening

Kahleah and I had a delicious meal at the Posada del Rodrigo Restaurant over looking the courtyard, flower and vine covered stone wall and a church steeple and volcano in the background. It was picture perfect.

We had been advised not to drink the water, milk or fresh fruit juices so Kahleah has been drinking Coca-Cola with her meals. I don't know what they put in it but this child breaks into uncontrollable giggles after her second glass! She is so funny. It is good to see her laugh after such emotional experiences.

I have been watching her every expression. She was a little nervous yesterday, our first day, and hurt my finger because she was holding on so tight! This evening she was in control of choosing a restaurant and the walking map and she acted like she owned the town! Such confidence! She laughs and says, "After all! I was born here!"

Day 3, Evening, February 11, 2003

It is almost 7 p.m. here in Antigua. It is dark. Not much to do after dark when we are alone. We don't want to stray far from the hotel after dark ... just to be safe. Our hotel room is quaint. There is a fireplace. I tried to start a fire last night but it just smoked. A fire isn't really necessary anyway. It is cozy in the room and our beds are covered with thick woven Guatemalan blankets.

After I last wrote, Kahleah and I visited Nim Po't, She was very impressed with the vast array of handicrafts BUT Kahleah prefers to purchase items from street vendors, especially children and older ladies. She exchanged some of her own money for Quetzals (Guatemalan currency) but I could not help but notice that she has not spent a dime (or the Guatemalan equivalent!). Kahleah is quite content to spend my money! She also told me that she likes to barter!

Over dinner I decided it was time to try once again to pick her soon-to-be 12-year-old brain. She is normally so profound! I asked her what she thinks so far ... is it what she expected. Not as profound as usual she said, with a mischievous grin, " I didn't know what to expect. I am just happy to be here." WHAT????" Happy to be here". Ya gotta love pre-teens! She knows I am hanging on every word and she is leaving me dangling.

I wondered if she was looking for her birthmother's face in the crowds. She said, "Not really". She said that the photo she has at home of her birthmother is not very clear and she did not imagine her living in this part of the country anyway. Good point I guess! I asked what she is enjoying the most and she said seeing the way people dress and live. She told me that it is really hard to imagine herself growing up here in Guatemala because she feels she is where she is supposed to be. It's interesting ... I know she is not saying this just because she thinks it is what I might like to hear. (I don't!) It appears to be straight from her heart. (She is typing frantically on the computer beside me, to her friends at home, wanting to know what she missed at school!) I thought she would be more affected but right now she appears to be a "visitor" who is observing and learning with each experience. A "visitor" who racially fits in totally even if her clothing and footwear don't! Besides being "tall" she is also enjoying the fact that "I" am the foreigner. Everyone recognizes me as a "foreigner". She also loves the fact that she is addressed in Spanish ... even if she hardly speaks a word. She doesn't appear to be embarrassed by this fact and seems proud that she is at least bilingual English/French and proud to say she lives in Canada AND is a good skier!

On our way down the street towards Nim Po't late this afternoon we were stopped in our tracks due to a passing funeral. Right down the middle of the street and sidewalks. We had to stand flat against a wall not to be caught in the middle. Three little girls dressed in private school uniforms led the procession carrying huge wreaths. Behind them walked the pallbearers carrying the casket. Just behind the casket was what I assume was the immediate family followed by "everyone else". Everyone was dressed in black and they walked very slowly, swaying right and left. An older lady carried a string of prayer beads, lead everyone in prayer. It sounded like she may have been reciting the Rosary, but I am not sure. There were a lot of tears. It was another one of those experiences on our journey that we will not soon forget.

Day 4, February 12, 2003

We had a wonderful afternoon with our friend Marco. Marco is an adult Guatemalan adoptee in his early 30's. He moved back to Guatemala three years ago to live and work. He practices in natural medicine. He and Kahleah really hit it off. He found her very comical. He told me that with her very strong sense of self and equality ... she would have had a hard time living in macho Guatemala! She enjoyed listening to his stories of cultural differences in this country although she did not agree with any! Marco's wife Caty joined us for dinner and we learned more about her experiences trying to live a traditional Mayan life while going to university in Guatemala City. NOT an easy feat! It was such a cultural treat to spend the afternoon and evening with this extremely engaging and warm couple. They took a special interest in Kahleah and I could tell she was loving and appreciating every moment ...

Day 5, February 13, 2003. "Arrived in Panajachel"

Greetings from sunny and HOT Panajachel on the shores of Lake Atitlan! We arrived this morning. We were picked up at our hotel at 7 a.m. and shared transportation with two surgical nurses from Vancouver. Lovely ladies. Almost every foreigner we meet here in Guatemala is here on some sort of a "mission" to help the people of Guatemala. I am beginning to understand their callings. I am not sure that I will be able to just walk away on the 22nd and say to Kahleah, "Well ... that was a nice trip, now wasn't it?" Even Kahleah's career plans are starting to change. She had planned to be a teacher, now she is talking about being a civil rights lawyer!

The drive from Antigua to Pana is treacherous. Poor Kahleah was exhausted and even managed to fall asleep even though I was holding on for dear life.

We actually feel like we are now on "vacation". Panajachel is actually TOO touristy after everything that we had experienced earlier in the week.

Kahleah is having her first taste of Latino boys! It has been hilarious! (from my point of view!) It is literally the first experiences I have had having young boys HIT on my daughter! She is quite uncomfortable with all the attention! One young guy, age 14, approached us selling jewellery. He spoke near perfect English and was very charming (at least Mommy thought so! But ... I always hated the guys MY mom liked!). He would speak to me but could not take his eyes off of Kahleah. Never once looked at me ... but probably assumed I was the one with the money! He asked me if I wanted to buy a Jade necklace. I said no ... then he said, "One for your very beautiful daughter?" She shook her head ... no. He then, with a sparkle in his eyes, said to her, "Maybe one for your BOYFRIEND?" She fell for the line hook, line and sinker! She said honestly, "I don't have a boyfriend!" Well ... in this Casanova's eyes ... SHE DOES NOW! Later in the day he saw me on the street and remembered seeing Kahleah with me earlier. He asked about her and when he learned she lived in Canada he said he was now saving up for a plane ticket!

After two days of relaxation we are anxious to get to Guatemala City (Sunday) and see what Morena and the rest of Kahleah's foster family has planned for us. We are in search of adventure!

Day 9, February 17, 2003. Guatemala City

Here I am, Monday morning, just around the corner from Kahleah's foster families' home at an internet cafe. Where do I begin? I had been dreaming about the moment I would reintroduce Kahleah to her foster family for years!

We left Panajachel early yesterday morning for the treacherous ride through the mountains (volcanoes!) to Guatemala City. I had forgotten just how dirty and polluted the city was ... after just a few minutes sitting in traffic the exhaust from the diesel buses and trucks filled my lungs, eyes and once-clean hair! Oh well ... small price to pay for what was to come.

When our driver FINALLY found the Guzman family home everyone was on the street waiting for our arrival. Kahleah was a little overwhelmed but it was obvious that she immediately felt their warmth and love. Everyone seemed to let out a little gasp as they took turns hugging and kissing her and I could hear each one whisper ... "Ahhhhhhhhhh ... Kahleah".

Kahleah and Leceta and Gregory We were invited into the home and we sat on their couch as everyone looked at us and beamed (Morena, Benjamin, foster brothers Flavio and Juan Pablo, foster sister Carla, her husband Ronaldo and their three-year-old son Diego). On the coffee table was a large album of photos filled with photos of Kahleah growing up. I had forgotten that I had sent so many photos over the years! I had even sent a clipping of her first major haircut ... and there it was, preserved in the album.

We quickly ate lunch, as a SURPRISE birthday party was about to start in San Lucas, a town 25 minutes away. Kahleah had no idea!

We drove in a convoy of cars as our group grew larger at every turn.

As we arrived at Morena's sister's home Kahleah began to catch on as the outside of the home was decorated with balloons and a large pinata hung from a tree! At first I think she thought it was a party for both of us until people came pouring out of the house into the front yard clapping their hands and singing Happy Birthday in Spanish. Then they loudly counted to 12 while clapping even louder! Kahleah beamed. She was then hugged and introduced to everyone including aunts, uncles, cousins and Morena's elderly mother ... Kahleah's Guatemala abuela. They all had stories to tell of love and memories of Kahleah. The stories that touched me the most, shared later, was how much Morena and family had grieved Kahleah when she left them. They all congratulated ME on doing such a wonderful job with Kahleah. I had to laugh as we all know, Kahleah is KAHLEAH! I had nothing to do with it!

The whole extended family participated in breaking the pinata. We laughed so hard as young and old took a swat at the swinging pinata! Later they served the cake and sang Happy Birthday again ... this time in English! Kahleah was a little timid as they explained to her the tradition of "marking" your piece of cake by taking a bite out of the cake before it was cut. She did it. Later we found out that the true tradition is to then have your head pushed into the cake! Thankfully they didn't take it that far!

Kahleah was given presents and more hugs, kisses and sharing of memories were to follow. We were FAMILY.

Morena and Benjamin have taken this week off work to spend time with us and show us the country. Benjamin is a dentist so he cancelled all of his appointments. They have bent over backwards to make us feel at home. They even gave us their bedroom. As suspected, we do play Charades! We had some great laughs last night at home after the party as we tried to understand each other. Our Spanish is as limited as their English. So far though communication really has not been a problem. We speak through our hearts.

Day 12, February 20, 2003. Thursday in Guatemala City

I have been sick! Hadn't felt great for days but yesterday was the worst. Thank God I had visited the travel clinic before we left home because I started taking the antibiotics the doctor gave me yesterday. I think I felt even worse because I felt like I was ruining everyone's plans. Morena and Benjamin were hoping to take Kahleah and I to TIKAL, Mayan ruins in the jungle, for a couple of days. It's a 12-hour-drive ONE WAY! I was not up for it and Kahleah was actually relieved because she hates being in the car that long. Anyway ... I am feeling better.

We went out to lunch Monday with Benjamin and Morena. Morena shared with us more about her five months raising Kahleah. She speaks of Kahleah with such passion and love. I already knew from my visit two years ago that Morena and her family had wanted to adopt Kahleah so that makes our trip even more special because Kahleah truly can get a feel for what her life might have been like here in Guatemala. We already got a sense of what it might have been like with her birthfamily, now we can see what it might have been like with her foster family if they had adopted her. Let's just say it would have been a good life. She couldn't have been loved more. Okay ... maybe just a little more ... by us!

Morena also told us that when they agreed to foster Kahleah it was with the idea of NOT being financially compensated. The lawyer offered many times to give them the fees due them but they always refused. Never took a penny. I also learned that the whole family grieved for months and months and years ... actually they still grieve. Morena became sick after Kahleah left and lost a lot of weight. Her family worried about her. They contacted the lawyer for news and was told that we refused any contact. Not true. They were also told that if they agreed to foster another child they would be given ONE photo of Kahleah! In desperation ... they agreed. They never fostered again. It hurt too much. As you can imagine, I was very upset by this news as I had always wanted this connection for Kahleah.

Morena told me that she turned to prayer when the lawyer would not give her news. She said she prayed to God to ask him to speak directly to my heart. You know ... I heard Him. All she wanted was news ... to hear if Kahleah was happy, healthy and loved more than anything.

She told me Kahleah was a VERY happy baby and loved to eat everything. Morena also told me that Kahleah received constant attention. They brought her everywhere and her foster sibs never put her down. The foster brothers would have been in their late teens when she left but they collapsed in tears. Foster sister Carla is now 25. She was 12 when Kahleah lived here. She now is married with a three-year-old named Diego and pregnant with her second. Carla is enjoying every moment with Kahleah and you can tell she sees her as a little sister. Diego calls her Tia Kahleah (Aunt Kahleah) and Kahleah loves it!!!!

After lunch on Monday we visited Guatemala City. The National Palace, Cathedral, Central Park and a park that included a relief map of Guatemala. It was spectacular! You could get a real visual sense of the layout of the country and the size of the volcanoes! We could "see" where Kahleah was born, how close it was to her birthfather's town in Mexico and that she was born in a town at the foot of a large volcano.

Tonight I invited everyone out to dinner to a restaurant called Hacienda Real. As it turned out ... it was perfect!!!! We had such a wonderful and memorable time. We were joined by Morena, Benjamin, Carla, hubby Rolando, baby Diego, foster brothers Flavio and Juan Pablo, Marco and Caty. We all were brought together in one way or another by Kahleah and we were all FAMILY! It was beautiful! We had a private room in the restaurant and for most of the evening we were entertained by a trio of musicians playing typical Spanish love songs. The best part was when the foster family joined in! They are all very talented musically, especially Benjamin. Before he became a dentist he was a member of a similar trio. We also learned that when he was courting Morena he used to serenade her under her bedroom window! We all had a delightful time. I must add that the Guzman Family has now unofficially adopted Marco. Marco savoured his new connection. Marco does not know his birthfamily, he did not have a foster family and his former orphanage was torn down a number of years ago. Kahleah was now his "sister" and he now belonged to her foster family.

Yesterday I was still too ill for any outings. I know that the family hated to leave me alone but I insisted. They took Kahleah to the Guatemala City Zoo. I was so happy to have Morena and Benjamin spend quality time alone with Kahleah ... and vice versa. I am so glad that Kahleah is an affectionate child because you could just see Morena's arms ache to hold her and touch her the first few days. Kahleah was staying very close to me at first but it did my heart good to see her holding Morena's hand while walking in the park on Monday. They are getting closer and closer. I have been going to bed before Kahleah and she has been spending time in the kitchen helping Morena. They made flan the other night! Even the simple things are so special.

Last night was a quiet evening. Kahleah and I played UNO ... a card game, with Carla and Benjamin for close to three hours while we listened to the stereo. All music from the late 70's and early 80's! High school music while playing cards in Guatemala! TWILIGHT ZONE in Zona 21!

Friday and Home. February 20, 21 and 22, 2003

Yesterday afternoon Morena, Benjamin, foster sister Carla and little Diego took us shopping at an artisan market in the city. Kahleah had a blast spending her last Quetzals that had been burning a hole in her pocket since we arrived! It was also a lesson in bartering from her experienced foster mother! As a test, I... the "foreign tourist" was sent into the different kiosks to inquire about prices. I obviously was quoted the inflated tourist prices each and every time even though I was assured it was the "special price ... just for YOU, lady". Well ... consistently Morena, with Kahleah in tow, was offered lower prices and was then able to barter down to a price a third of what I was able to get. Kahleah was impressed! She was very content with her purchases!

We had a nice dinner at a restaurant in the city and finished off the evening with a tournament of UNO with the foster family at home. The family was not lost on Kahleah's obvious competitive nature! I could tell that they were enjoying her spirit.

Friday morning I woke up dreading our last day. Like any good thing, you hate to see it come to an end.

Morena and Benjamin had a full day planned for us. We started off by visiting the museum, "Museo Nacional de Arqueologia y Etnologia", which holds the most important pre-Columbian collection in Central America. I really enjoyed it! I knew Kahleah lost interest after an hour but she was never obvious. Morena regained her interest by searching for and pointing out artifacts from Kahleah's birth town including a mannequin wearing traditional clothing from the area of Malacatan, San Marcos.

After lunch we visited the Guatemala City Children's Museum. Kahleah and nephew Diego really enjoyed themselves. Kahleah threw herself into all of the educational activities and particularly enjoyed and area that consisted of brainteasing puzzles. I couldn't figure out any of them but my little "superior intelligent Maya" impressed all of us! She loved showing off!

For dinner we all (all the foster family) met at a restaurant called "Nais". I was feeling sad again as I noticed that Benjamin and Morena had become quiet. I knew they too were not looking forward to saying goodbye ... We still managed to have a few laughs as Rolando, Carla's husband is hysterical. Always the life of the party.

After dinner we were invited to an outdoor Christian Rock concert in downtown Guatemala City. I wasn't sure what to expect, especially when all the warnings I have read were to NEVER be out in Guatemala City after dark. Oh well ... it WAS "Christian" rock after all!

We found ourselves on a beautiful long street which was luckily closed to traffic. It was populated by quaint cafes and bookstores. It was tree-lined and the trees were decorated with thousands of small white Christmas-like lights. The band was from Mexico and because I did not understand the lyrics I never would have guessed it was Christian rock as one of the singers was a very entertaining Rapper! Kahleah spent her last Quetzals to purchase the group's latest CD so we will have music at home to enhance our memories.

After the concert we returned to the Guzman home. To top off our last evening in Guatemala, we were serenaded by Benjamin. He sings and plays the guitar beautifully. The foster brothers sang backup and harmonized. It was so touching. Kahleah sat snuggled between Morena and I on the couch as we BOTH stroked her hair.

We went to bed at mid-night ... but I couldn't sleep. I tossed and turned until wake-up time, 5:30 a.m. When we made our way downstairs everyone was waiting for us, dressed and ready to take us to the airport. It was 6 a.m.! I told them it wasn't necessary, especially for EVERYONE to come to the airport but I was told politely that, "When FAMILY that we love visits from far away, we ALWAYS give them a family send-off at the airport ... ALL of us". Who's to argue?

Before we left, Morena presented Kahleah and I with a pair of earrings each. Kahleah's have Guatemalan black jade stones in them and mine are silver Quetzals (national bird). They also had BEAUTIFUL silver key chains for Kahleah's Dad and brother representing a Quetzal on one and the Mayan ruins Tikal on the other.

When we arrived (convoy style once again!) at the airport we were immediately separated from our family in the security confusion. As we stood in a two-hour line-up to check in, our family could only watch from the balcony above us! We had not yet truly said goodbye! I stood with Kahleah and cried as I looked up at all of them. They looked so sad. Although older, they had the same look on their faces that they had almost 12 years ago in the photo taken at the airport in 1991 when they said goodbye to their "baby daughter and sister" the first time.

Two hours later, Kahleah and I had our boarding passes in hand and ran off to try to find our family. They were waiting patiently for us near our last security checkpoint. The minute we reached their waiting arms we heard the last boarding call for our flight. We all kissed, hugged and cried. We received our final blessings from Morena and Benjamin. We made our way through security, for as far as we could see, every time we turned around, they were still there waving and blowing kisses. They were not going to leave until we were no longer in sight ...

Kahleah and I held hands on the plane and sat quietly for a LONG time. She had the window seat and she didn't take her eyes off the volcanoes and landscape until we were high above the clouds of her birth country. Today ... we are both missing our Guzman family.


The kids are off to school this morning ... Back to Life in Quebec and its realities ... oh so different than life in Guatemala. My heart is heavy as I think of everyone who touched us in the last two weeks. It was a trip of a lifetime.

This morning my 9-year-old son Tristan said, "So Mom ... when are we going to MY Colombia?"

Can I get some sleep first?

The story continues:

In July 2004 Leceta, Jean, Kahleah and Tristan travelled to Colombia and Guatemala as a family. They reunited with Tristan's birthfamily and Kahleah's foster family. In June 2005 Kahleah will be off once more to visit her beloved country of birth and foster family.

88 photos from the 2003 trip may be viewed at

Read more ... get Kahleah's point of view. See Loving Links, Part 3: Kahleah Answers Your Questions on Guatemala.


Leceta is mother to Kahleah (Guatemala, 1991) and Tristan (Colombia, 1994). Leceta and husband Jean and family live in Joliette, near Montreal.

Leceta Chisholm Guibault is a board member of the Adoption Council of Canada and the Federation of Quebec Adoptive Parents, and moderator of the email list Canadians-Adopting (

Copyright 2005 Leceta Chisholm Guibault,

First published online on Mar. 3, 2005 at



Day 1
Leceta and Kahleah in Guatemala. "One of my favourite photos. It was taken in a restaurant with all of the foster family present as they sang along with a trio. Kahleah and I were so content."

Day 2
Leceta, Kahleah and Gregory in Antigua.

Day 2
Kahleah gave out stickers to all of the children waiting. "The children were so happy to receive a sticker! I wanted to cry..."

Day 9
On the sofa, Benjamin, Leceta, Kahleah and Morena. "Everyone looked at us and beamed."

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Copyright 2009 Robin R. Hilborn
Updated Aug. 7, 2006

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