December 17, 2007 Day 40 in Ukraine
40 days and 40 nights, and three somewhat sunny days among them…I miss the sunshine of Arizona
12:30 pm Congratulations Kristina, you are going home!
Well day one of the embassy is over; I filled out the paperwork and paid $380. Tomorrow I go at 2:00 to pick up Kara’s visa, and we are that much closer to being home.
Alex picked me up around 7ish and drove like a race car driver to get me to the embassy on time, it reminded me of the way my father used to pass cars going to northern AZ. I think it made him chuckle to see me grab the headrest of the seat in front of him. It was the second time I have seen Alex, I have not seen him since our SDA appointment.
I had to go through a security check where they took my cell phone, camera, and all my lip gloss and hand sanitizer. I know Burt’s Bees lip balm has hurt a lot of people before, I kept thinking about James Bond and his gadgets! HA HA, They gave me a plastic disc with the number 18 on it...from there I went up an icy ramp with Kara in her stroller and entered the building. The guard led me to a room where there was a little table with books and toys. A place for American’s to sit with their kids (Probably the majority of them are adopted kids) It was not where I was supposed to be for the visa however. I had to walk out, turn left and left again to get to that room.
There was a couple in there with a baby and a young girl around age 11 or so. It looked like they were adopting her, but also him? I did not ask. They have been in Kiev for 8 weeks and looked as exhausted as I felt.
I was next and a woman asked for my documents, Alex had handed me a satchel full of papers and I had no idea which ones she was supposed to have, but of course she did, and we rifled through each pile until we found the original copies of everything. She also needed the translations of the documents, and I had to find those as well. She sent me away to fill everything out, and I returned with them, asked questions about some things I was confused by, and then went to window #9 where I paid my money for the visa.
I took the receipts back to the woman who had helped me and she said I would get my copy back tomorrow when I had my consultation.
Alex told me to wait for Anatoly in the warm room and we did wait, I fed Karina her breakfast, which she ate without begging for more food, she had a banana, an 8 oz yogurt, and a juice. She then went to the bathroom and I took her into a private area to change her. With her all clean and happy and time ticking forward with no sign of Anatoly, I decided to leave the embassy; I was not sure how Anatoly would know we were done and know when he was supposed to pick us up when i could not call him, my cellphone was in the guardhouse.
We had to get a guard to let us out of the embassy, they was a tent like structure to the left that was full of people, I assumed they were Ukrainians trying to get exit visas to America, and there were hundreds of them, laughing, talking, and not looking as miserable as I would have supposed in the freezing weather. Americans just walk in, no waiting, it bothered me a little that Ukrainians had to wait outside.
I went to exchange my disc for my camera and phone and other things and could not find it. After pouring out the baby’s bag I realized I put it in my money pouch, so I pulled it out and gave it to the men in the security area. I got back my things and walked out to the street to see if there were any Ukrainian souvenirs around there, I want to get a few more matroshkas for some friends who had donated towards our adoption. There was nothing, we called Alex after we waited for 15 minutes, still no Anatoly. I called Alex again and Anatoly was there in 10 minutes or so.
On the way back to Vorzel I got language lessons from Anatoly, I hope I remember some of it, but I was glad he was helping me. It made the time go faster, and he was not driving as quickly as usual. I wish someone would have helped me during my long stay, I feel so bad I cannot speak better.
We got a call on the way back from Alex saying we needed to get to the bank to get Kara’s money for the orphanage, her disability money (SS). That $600 reverts back to the orphanage, in reality it should come home with her, but I bet 99% of the time people leave it in Ukraine. We went to the same bank where I exchanged money and I had to show my passport and the adoption decree, after some paperwork, we waited in the teller line and I was given the money for the orphanage. I handed it to Anatoly who would take it to the orphanage director later on.
While I was at the embassy a woman entered with her two adopted children and her mother. She had adopted siblings and said she was literally forced to leave the disability money with the orphanage, and she was also made to pay $1,500 to the orphanage as a donation (She said it was because she was adopting 2). Seems it is just the thing to do, I was told $200 was the going rate for an orphanage donation, at least in Vorzel and the towns surrounding Kyiv, that is incorrect.
I was not the only one to be cheated by the airlines; those of us still here after the 16th were hit hard by Delta Airlines. The woman adopting two kids said that she had the changeable adoption rate tickets, and it made no difference, she lost what she paid for them because she is leaving now, during the holiday block days, and she had already bought the kids return tickets with hers. So she spent over $3,000 to get one way tickets back home. What is more, her mother just arrived in Ukraine to help her with the kids a couple of weeks ago and even though the travel agent told her she would not have an issue; her return ticket is also no good and she had to buy another one. Seems like a major scam to me and I think we should have someone investigate this.
It was so good to talk to the families and I see that the children seem to share similar issues; eating too fast, not being able to fall asleep, and pulling hair, pinching, and generally being too rough. I know Kara is confused, but all in all she has adjusted well to being here with me. Once we get home she and Meghan can get to know each other better.
Kara is asleep, and I am starving, but I guess we skip lunch today, I am not waking her up to eat again; she is a monster when you do that.
Doesn’t Kara look so sweet here, beside her is the road to the orphanage. I wanted to walk down there and take pictures, but I resisted, plus we were getting chilled, it is cold today. I would bet the staff would have mixed feelings about seeing us again. I would love to say goodbye, but I won’t.
Today is visa pick up day, PTL
I slept on the floor padded with the wool blankets, even hard and somewhat cold, it was more comfortable than the bed I have been sleeping on since November 13th! I also constantly worry Kara will roll off the bed and break her little neck, but she will not stay on the floor with me. So I slept beside her bed so she would fall on me if she fell off. Around 4:30 she did fall head first, and I caught her before she fell on her head. She is back to sleep, but the scare awakened me. I wish I were a kid, they sleep so peacefully.
Kara was much happier yesterday, even though her tummy bug seems to have traveled to her intestines; she had diarrhea yesterday, even getting it on the carpet here. Ugh, I used a lot of soap to clean that up. She was laughing, playful, and curious about where we were going in the car, and loves being in her stroller. She was also playful at dinner, even though I stupidly fed her food that was too hot, poor baby. She cried as I held her and I felt hundreds of pairs of eyes on me, I hate eating with her in the dining hall, it is like having 300 mother-in-laws watching and judging you the entire time and it stinks. Still she calmed down and the food cooled off and she ate all of her meat, some beets, and the some of the grains served with the meat. She did not want water to drink. I took our rolls back with me and plan to eat one on the way to the embassy. We miss lunch today again.
I think today may be our last day eating here, I will be a little sad to leave my home of 1 month, and I will also be extremely relieved to get out of here. Mixed feelings, there are times here when it is dusting snow that this entire place looks like a Christmas card. All the people in their fur hats and coats, the children bundled up in scarves and gloves. I just love waking in the snow, and Kara thinks it is pretty cool to as long as the wind is not blowing in her face. I have tried to take pictures, but my camera cannot capture that moment in time. I suppose I need a slower lens and a tripod to get everything.
I arrived back to Vorzel with Anatoly yesterday and my heart said “Home again” so it has been a tolerable place besides the loneliness (and the missing my kids, and driving, and, and), I have done OK. Yelena told me I would arrive home and settle in but after a time would miss Ukraine. She wants Kara and I to come back in the summer to visit, but I don’t think she realizes how amazing it was I got here in the first place. We live such different lives than most people; international flying is not part of it. Of course we did not get here alone, we had quite a few people helping us, especially Kathy and our kids. I will never forget Daria either, she was one of the children who brought us to Ukraine. Tom said she is still listed as available with the caption; “I lost my family” and her description is much less sunny. My heart was aching and my throat constricted with threatening tears as he read that to me. Daria deserves a family; but that family will have to be committed to round the clock care of her, though I still believe love and attention would have helped her. The doctors all adamantly refused to concede that point to me; they said she would never walk or progress past the point of where she is. I still have dreams of her walking and playing with her blonde hair blowing in the wind. Doctors don't know everything!
Despite all my ponderings; I am excited about today, we pick up Karina’s visa today, and that means we go home Thursday; WE GO HOME THURSDAY! (I am knocking on wood)
Well Kara finally woke up around 8:45 this morning, man do I wish I could sleep like she does.
Breakfast was good, I had the traditional Cole slaw, they gave Kara some sort of noodle breakfast dish; I also brought her a yogurt. They brought us a meat patty and the grains we seem to get every day. Finally we got the sweet cheese ravioli with sweet cream poured over them. I love those things. I had two cups of tea. We both ate well because I know we are not going to get to eat lunch here today. I am bringing food for Karina and myself however.
After breakfast we took a long walk and Mommy took pictures of Kara’s old home. I guess I am feeling slightly melancholy over leaving here, I want to be home in the worst way, but I don’t think I will ever return to Vorzel. It makes me so sad, I have memorized the streets here, the faces are becomming familiar too, and will I ever hear Ukrainian again?
8:15 pm WE HAVE THE VISA, DANCING, SINGING, AND PRAISING THE LORD!
We drove to Kyiv with Sergey, he cannot speak English at all, so it was a quiet ride, I kept dozing off, but was afraid to lest he slam on the brakes and I drop Kara. I was happy to see that I recognized all the places to turn on the way to the Embassy, I guess I really can learn a foreign city, and there are no street signs here, so you just have to know where to go. Those signs that are present are the size of a bumper sticker. Who doesn’t put street signs up?
I arrived at the Embassy at 1:00, an entire hour early, and I was unsure as to what to do. First I stood in the back of the line because why not, I had an hour, but the wind picked up and I knew Kara could not be out an hour. I went to the front of the line and walked to the area leading to the door of the guardhouse. One of the embassy officials asked me why I was there and I said I was adopting. He looked smug and said in an important tone; “Americans can only come between 6 and 12, you must leave and come back tomorrow” I am sorry to say it, but I think he liked telling me to leave my embassy. I said “I have a two o’clock appointment to pick up my child’s visa.” He then began to look through his clipboard but my name was not on it. After a time he told me to go up the stairs and push 4422. I told him I needed help with Kara’s stroller; he rolled his eyes and reluctantly helped me. I called the number and the lines we all busy, so I called again and got through. The woman I talked to said she would inform the guards that I was to be let through.
I went in again with Kara’s bag, my purse, and leather document folder. Now I know that all I am supposed to bring in is a clear folder with my documents, but Kara has to eat, and my purse? Well what can I do with it? They let me bring them in yesterday too. I tried to take the clear document holders out of the leather binder and the guard snapped at me to “Ugh, just leave them there” he ran the wand over me and told me to go, but was upset he had to walk to the ramp with me (Why do Ukrainians guard the American Embassy anyway?)…Another embassy worker let me in and told me to walk to the back. I was met by a young woman who told me someone would talk to me in an hour, which is what I expected being an hour early.
I waited in the children’s room and fed Kara her lunch; then I ate something. The official called me back and went over my papers with me. He returned the original birth certificates and the court decree, the other folks showed up too and he told all of us that the gal doing the visa went to lunch and our visa would not be ready for 1 ½ hours. I can’t begin to tell you how many officials were at lunch when Yelena and I needed help.
The other parents and I talked and we each said why we chose Ukraine. There was a Mennonite woman there with her new son, he looked like he may have FAE, the mom with her mother and her two new children, ages 2 and 3, the little boy had finger anomalies, and a woman adopting a teenager she had hosted this summer. All of them met the criteria for children available to adopt at this time, of course Kara has Down syndrome, and so she also fit.
I was the first called to get Kara’s visa, and then the others were called to the window, I asked them if they could watch Kara while I went to the bathroom, and then one by one we exited the building. We have what we need to go home on Thursday, and I thank God I will finally be going home. The consulate officer told me the average adoption was taking 4 weeks, and mine was one of the longer ones he had seen this month.
I left the embassy and found a sleeping Sergey in his car. He drove Kara and I back to Vorzel in silence; he was a friendly man, but he could not communicate with me at all. He did talk to Kara though.
Kara and I were both glad to be going home. I got the usually funny looks as I pushed Kara in her stroller up the path covered in new snow.
Well Kara woke up at 3:30 full of spunk and wanting to play. I was not feeling her vigor. However, because she continues to get hurt if I do not watch her, I got up too. I have spent the last few hours getting everything situated for our trip and fixing the mess the jump drive was in. I finally got my journal put on there, now for the rest of the pictures if I have room.
Kara is asleep again, imagine that!
10:30 am all packed and ready to go? Where?
Nowhere, that’s where. Alex does not have time to move me somewhere else apparently.
Yesterday I was ecstatic to get the visa, today I was looking forward to a good nights sleep in a comfortable bed, and maybe a real shower, showering with a sprayer and no shower curtain is hard, and the floor gets drenched no matter how careful I am. I have had to sleep on the floor because the beds are so bad and my back was killing me. I was also hoping for an internet connection at long last to say hi to my friends, I am so disappointed I have to stay here one more day. Victoria told me the other day that she would tell Alex to take Kara and I to a hotel for our last night, but Alex said “You just stay there Kristina, a room is a room, you pay money either way, and you are only 20 minutes away from the airport where you are”, well he has a point, BUT Tom was late getting to the airport and he really had to hustle to get on the plane on time. I hope we do not hit bad traffic.
It is not a big surprise that Kara is sleeping, it is normal for her to sleep right now with her old orphanage schedule, and she was awake so early; she was a such a grump.
Natasha came in and played with Kara and Kara took right to her. I could tell she really missed her native language being spoken to her and every time Natasha put her down, she crawled back to her. I saw the same look the orphanage staff used to give me from Natasha, a quiet look of triumph. I can see that her adjustment will not begin in earnest until she forgets Russian and Ukrainian and begins to understand English; and yet another reason to want to be home. I could feel her sadness when Natasha left, she is grieving her old life; it is just so hard to tell with her being non-verbal, poor sweetie.
It was snowing a lot earlier, and I wanted to take a walk, I put the rain cover over Kara’s stroller and boy did I get funny looks. Of course it was the misty almost not there snow, but Kara hates snow in her face, and wind, so I wanted to make her comfy. She fell asleep in the stroller not 10 minutes into our walk, and that ended my idea to go to the store. I am nearly out of water, and wanted to get a small bottle. It is not like I have someone here who can get it for me.
I don’t think we are going to lunch either, as Kara will likely sleep until 3 or so. I think I will take a nap with her.
Well, my nap is over, Kara is still sleeping. She has on her snow suit bottoms and every time she moves she sounds like sand paper, so it woke me up. It is funny how we used to roast in here and now it remains chilly all the time. Wearing her pants keeps her warm enough to sleep.
It stopped snowing and I am hoping we can go to the Chek Market one more time and pick up chocolates for the kids stockings. I can’t carry much more, and worry the one suitcase is already too heavy. I hate that I missed so much while I was here, I know I sound like I am complaining a lot, but all of our family traditions mean so much to me, and missing even one opportunity to be with my family for special get-togethers is heart breaking.
Each little thing we do keeps us closer, and each we miss allows us to move farther away from each other. Life moves much too fast in America, having Meghan helped me to slow down, but the world continues at that frantic pace regardless, and my kids live in that world. Before I know it they will be scattered across the United States and I will only see them once or twice a year. So I cherish every single moment I spend with them.
Yelena always looked askance when I would mention I missed another special family day, even Thursday’s were hard to miss, the day we see Fred and Eric. After I explained to her that I believe each day I am alive and healthy as being a miracle and how much I missed my family, she began to cry, she misses her kids in America as well. It is hard to let go when the chances of seeing them are few. I am happy she is with her daughter right now, now to get me home!
I also miss my on-line friends, especially the Angelsisters, my sisters at BCSN, and Stephanie, as well as many others. Not talking to them daily has been a challenge. I miss Becky so very much, our daily talks were something I cherish; and I wonder how she is doing. I miss talking to my sisters and Kathy G, and just living my normal life. I thought 5-6 weeks away from home would be an adventure, but I also believed I would have contact with friends via internet. When it became apparent that would not be occurring; I had a few days of adjustment before I was on an even keel (for the most part).
If you, my friends and family, read through this, you can see the bad days. Was it worth it, well of course, we found Kara, and after the journey that began with a little girl named Oksana, and took many detours, I feel I am where I am supposed to be. Yelena told me that Kara’s grandmother came to the orphanage while we were there to visit her and watched us with her. She began to cry (I think I remember that day, I wondered if that woman was her) because she was so grateful someone wanted to love Karina and give her a home to live in, but so sad she would never see her again. I worried the entire 10 day wait that Kara's grandma would object, but she never did, and I am grateful to her for trusting our family to give Kara a life she never could have had in Ukraine.
She has completely claimed my pink travel pillow and blanket as her own, and uses them to help her fall asleep. I guess when we get home they go in her room. We have to be up at 3:30 and ready to go at 4:00. We will likely arrive at the airport at 5:00 and have 3 hours to wait before we board the flight. I hope everything goes well at the airport; I do not have good memories from there at all.