DAYS 3 & 4
Day 3, Thursday, (SDA) appointment day. Today we had our “official” appointment to get our referral at the Ministry. We met the main facilitator, S, and got a kick out of him. He lived in America for many years and considers himself American, but he is definitely a decent mix of both American and Ukrainian. S, a short, plump little man, with seemingly mob-like contacts, was amazing with Andrew and Catherine. He tried so hard to get Catherine to “break” her silence and he basically forced a pastry on Andrew, who happily obliged :-)
We arrived at the Ministry about an hour before our appointment and S and our guide/translator in Kiev, E, took us to this little pizza place across the street. Catherine had a cheese pizza (seriously, the best pizza I’ve ever had!), Andrew had a blintz (super flat pancake!), and I had an espresso shot with cream that came with this amazing little truffle. Stephen sipped on some bottled water. (Crazy, it only came out to be about $6 for all of it!). S explained how our appointment would go… very different than how we were originally told back home in the States. He laughed with us and spoke some amazing words of wisdom.
He began to lovingly speak of the kids in the orphanages and he said that he hates that agencies call only the children with medical issues “Special needs”. You could really see his heart as he told us that “all children in orphanages, who have been abandoned or lost their families, are special needs”. Oh S, how much we agree with you!!! He said that he didn’t worry about us and our contacts with our daughter because he knew we already had experience with young children (seeing as Andrew and Catherine were sitting with us) and he could see how we interacted with them. It was a sweet moment.
When it was time for our appointment, we went across the street to the Ministry and went up to a little room within a room. The process was quick and then S hands us a picture of our adorable daughter. She’s precious. Absolutely precious! We actually saw two pictures, one that was from when she was about a year old and then a recent one. He asked if we wanted her, we said yes, and he asked which picture we wanted. (I, of course, wanted both!) We took the newer picture and that was our appointment.
As we were leaving, there were other families in various stages of their adoptions there. A very young couple from Texas, an older couple from South Carolina, and another family from Kentucky that appeared to be adopting older girls from Crimea. Everyone was very nice and laughed at S and his abruptness. He came down and said to us “Why you still here. You are done. Get out!” Sounds rude, but he is very sarcastic and he was being so at this time.
When we left, we went back to the little pizza café and had some drinks while we waited to go back home. This was pretty much our day… but we walked out with a picture of a beautiful little girl who will very soon call us Mommy and Daddy!
Day 4, Friday, Intent letter. Today was not very exciting. We spent some time walking up and down the sidewalk in front of our apartment trying to get the lay of the land. We went up a few blocks and found another little supermarket that had a larger selection than the one in our building. We walked back home and left a bit later to get our letter of intent, the official documents stating that we are interested in meeting our daughter and giving us permission to do so.
In Ukraine, you cannot proceed with your adoption plans until you have met the child face to face at the orphanage, spoken to their director, and formally agreed to adopt. We got our documents and our translator, E, went to work getting train tickets for us to go visit her.
We spent the night repacking and tidying up. That was pretty much it.
Day, 5, Saturday, Zoo and Train. Today, E took us to the Kiev Zoo Park. It was a dreary day, as they all seem to be in Kiev this time of year, but the zoo was exciting. It was fairly empty and only cost about $15 for us all to go.
The kids had a lot of fun seeing different types of animals that we don’t get to see at our zoo in Houston. There were a lot of cattle type animals, from special cattle deer, to yaks, to bison. While the conditions weren’t what we are used to, it was neat being able to be so close to the animals. (Very 1970’s type zoo… with nothing newer or cleaner than that). We got to see various types of Eagles, one of which was very vocal as we left him. Actually, all of the animals were very vocal. E even commented on that because usually they are pretty quiet. Anyway, we saw many birds, a bunch of different turtles, including one that was bigger than us, and the kids favorite: the big cats. One tiger meowed and cried at us almost non-stop (of course until I turned on the video mode on my camera!) One tiger was fairly thin and looked pretty sick. My heart broke for him. In the lion den there was a beautiful male lion and three lionesses. (These kids are so their momma’s with their love for cats!). Speaking of cats, there were probably 10 or more strays just walking around the zoo. That wouldn’t fly back at home.
When we left the zoo, we asked E and our cabby to take us to McDonalds. Our poor kids have been eating cold ham sandwiches and cereal since we got here! Not that I was excited to feed them McDonalds, but they needed some full and happy tummies! I was surprised to find that the McDonalds here has a caprese salad on the menu. Very nice, very nice indeed. The kids ate chicken nuggets until they were stuffed and we piled back into the tiny taxi and headed home one last time. We left the apartment and headed to the train station in yet another tiny taxi. (I guess people don’t travel with kids here!). E helped us get checked in on the train and said his goodbyes and we headed off into the afternoon sunset.
As I’m typing this, we have been on the train for 15 hours. We were expecting a 10 hour train ride, but this thing has taken us all over Eastern Ukraine! The kids have been sleeping, so I think we will make it tomorrow without too much drama. The trains are old style sleeper cars, with carpets and window coverings from the 1960s. Trust me, they smell like it too! PEEEE YEWWWWWW! The bathrooms are a germophobe’s (like me) worst nightmare. They smell and are literally a toilet that is open to the ground under the train. I’m quite thankful we have an ample supply of wet wipes with us! I almost threw up on my second trip to the bathroom! The kids have enjoyed the train ride. If it weren’t so smelly, it wouldn’t be too bad. Ah, the best part so far of the ride is the steaming cup of hot tea they brought us. I am not usually a hot tea drinker, but this tea was superb!!! . Well, we are basically in day 6 now, so I suppose I will write more once the day has started and we know a little more. We expect to be in region around 10:36am. More later…
After 19 hours on the train, our translator and facilitator here in region came and got us off the train :-) She is so sweet and it brought us a ton of comfort having her there since we weren’t even sure 100% we were in the right city! (The train didn’t have any notifications and if it hadn’t been for Stephen’s iphone tracking our whereabouts, we wouldn’t have had a clue! We did a crazy route all around Ukraine). Anyway, she brought us to our apartment right in the heart of the city. It’s beautiful!!! We walked in and felt so much relief! We have a fridge (necessary for Andrew’s insulin), a full bedroom and bathroom, a table for doing school, a washing machine, a wardrobe…. It’s perfect. Except, when we went to wash the stink off from the train, the shower (using a tank heater) went hot and cold every minute or two! It was quite the shocker! But, hey, I’ll take it!
We got a quick tour around the city’s center (which we are in the middle of) and then went to grab a bite to eat. We found a great restaurant that was English friendly and even though the staff didn’t speak English, their menu was printed in both Russian and English and the manager gave the kids Ukrainian candy when we finished our meal.
So, now we are just relaxing and I’m making the kids mac and cheese and looking forward to sleeping well tonight!
(Andrew says “Amen to everything!”