Tuesday, June 20, 2006
Talk about being delinquent blogging! I’m going to have to refer to the journal I kept to get this up to date. Brace yourself – this will be a long one.
In our days of souvenir shopping Olga, our Translator, brought us to a craft store. Very interesting things and very good prices. We’ve discovered that the typical US type souvenirs, t-shirts, postcards, etc…, don’t exist here. We finally did find some nice Kazakhstan t-shirts in a bizarre type place (bizarre meaning shops not strange or odd) behind the Tsum mall – sort of near the skating rink for those coming after us. It was a warren of very small booths of merchandise, which seemed to have reasonable prices – more interesting than the mall in my opinion. We found the t-shirt and Din found some cool CCCP shirts with the hammer and sickle on them. We also had to purchase some more gifts for the people here who have been involved in our adoption. This is an interesting tradition they have here but I must say it’s incredibly stressful for us! What on earth do you buy for people you don’t know at all!? Our gifts have to be not too expensive for the Caregivers (we think they should get the most expensive but it’s not up to us) then increase in cost for those “above” them in the process. We had to buy 8 for the Caregivers (all similar), one for Tristan’s doctor at the orphanage, one for the Director of the orphanage, one for the Lawyer who was with us in court, one for the Social Worker who spoke on our behalf (the one from the Ministry who was in on our questioning there) and then for our Facilitator and our Translator. Our Facilitator Larissa had come to our apartment to review what we planned to give and let us know if it was ok. Luckily we only had to add some chocolates to what we had and buy gift bags. Whew. Incidentally, cash is not an approved of option. They feel it rewards the workers who get to work with the kids who are adoptable. The workers who work with special needs children or who do the laundry or other behind the scenes work would never get cash like this so they believe it’s not fair. We could see their point. For ROTIA families, I’m putting together a list of suggestions and more details on this.
Our final court date was Monday the 12th. We found out from Larissa that we had to bring photos of us with Tristan to the judge. Yet another surprise in this process! Luckily, the mall had a one-hour photo processing place. Should be easy right? Well let’s just say that the language barrier was a bit of a problem here and that sure enough, Din wound up behind the counter hitting buttons on their machines! Somehow, this was not a surprise.
Sunday was a busy day. Olga and our driver Vladimir took us on a tour to see the Maternity hospital, the coal mines (just a stop on top of a hill and pointing to smokestacks in the distance), a huge Mosque, a huge Russian Orthodox Church, which was really beautiful, and a very interesting Muslim cemetery. We also saw a bit of the countryside where there were – what they call - summer cottages. Everyone has a garden in these places and they are very neat and orderly. Near these cottages was a large lake that was originally an area where they mined coal. All the locals were in swimming and having a good time. It was a really hot day so we were jealous but we had a party to go to!
Back to the O where we had our little party with the Caregivers. This is a wonderful tradition. Olga went out and shopped for the food and drinks, and we all sat around together (the 8 CG’s, Olga, Geoff and Laura and us) and tried to chat. There were interesting meats and cheese (all really tasty) and 2 anchovy-like dishes in oil, good bread and a bottle of vodka and one of wine. Geoff was asked to pour (these ladies drink their vodka straight) and then make a toast. I think this was one of the most emotional moments of my life. Geoff spoke for all of us (through Olga) and said how we couldn’t even begin to thank them all enough for the care and love they’ve given our children and that words could never express our appreciation. I immediately started crying, as did Laura. (big surprise) Then several of the women spoke up and said that they believed we were kind people who would give these children wonderful homes and lots of love. I cried harder. Then one said that they had been especially worried about Nickolasha (Tristan), because he was so tiny when he came to them, but they feel that he’s in good and loving hands. Now I was sobbing. I threw back my vodka, went to blow my nose, grabbed my baby and thought, “Wow. What could be better than this?” After cake and tea we took photos and there were lots of hugs all around. It was very anticlimactic to go home to pack.
Court was scheduled for 9 the next morning. We were all dressed up and ready to go early - we were anxious to get this over with. Vladimir took us to the court building where we met Larissa outside and she introduced us to George our lawyer. The judge was late so we wound up waiting around a while. The Doctor and Social Worker showed up as did the other American families that had court that day. It surprised me that most of the other families were rather casually dressed. Aside from the fact that our agency coached us on wearing the appropriate thing, it was important in our minds to put our absolute best face forward as representatives of the US. Especially in a country which seems to be more and more dubious about American adoptions.
We were finally ushered into the Judge’s office. We sat against the wall with Larissa, George, the Social Worker and the Doctor. Opposite us were the Judge, the Prosecutor and someone who took notes. Larissa poked Din, told him to stand and address the court. He introduced us, said where we worked, our salaries, how long we’ve been married and why we were here. He was standing in my line of vision to the judge so I had to lean forward the whole time and sort of peer around him to see and appear engaged. I was afraid I’d fall off my chair but we were told eye contact was important. The judge asked if Din was a citizen of the US and what age was he when his family came over. The judge said to Larissa that Tristan would be about the same age his father was when he immigrated. I thought that was neat. A few more questions, then statements from the Social Worker and Doctor and Prosecutor and we were ushered back out. A few minutes later, we were brought back in, with Geoff and Laura, and were all told that we were approved by the State of Kazakhstan to adopt our children. With that and a few spaciba’s (thank you) from us, we were out. We said hey to the other Americans who were still waiting, accepted their congratulations, took a few photos and then handed out gifts to the lawyer. Crazy.
Off to the Orphanage for our party with the doctors and good bye to the babies.
Our party with the doctors was a much different affair from the one the day before. This was very formal. We sat around a small table and had a quiet lunch of meats, cheese and wine. Din and Geoff were daring and tried the smoked horsemeat. They said it was quite good.
A word about horsemeat for future traveling families. We were told that it is very desirable but rather pricey and hard to find. Very lean but needs to be cooked for a very long time. You probably would not find in the meat pies that you buy on the street or in the grocery store. It’s too expensive.
This party usually includes the Orphanage Director but she was away on business. Our doctor should have been there too but she was still in court so it was: a small group of 3 doctors whom we had never met, the four of us and Larissa to translate. Din gave the toast this time and reiterated what Geoff had said the day before. Even though we didn’t know these women, I think our words were appreciated. We also mentioned how impressed we were with the O and they thanked us especially for that.
It was time to leave and so we had to go say good-bye to the babies. You can imagine how hard this was. I’m tearing up now just writing about it.
We had to rush back to the apartment, finish packing and then head off for a 3-hour drive to Astana where we would catch a plane to Almaty. The luggage in one car (remember, Geoff and Laura do not travel light) and we 4 were in another car with Vladimir. We traveled through the Steppe. Interesting flat green landscape with the occasional cow in a field.
We got to Astana and were amazed at the building that is going on there. There is a crane on every corner and the buildings all look incredibly modern and sleek. VERY different from the other cities we had seen. They are moving the capital here from Almaty so this is all done with a view to the future. Quite something.
Plane rides home were thankfully uneventful. It was another emotional moment in the Almaty airport saying good-bye to Geoff and Laura. We’d become quite a team in this whole crazy process. We will be eternally grateful to them for the help, support, fun (and photos) they gave us on this trip. We think we’ll be friends for a very long time.
Now we wait.
Hopefully we head back around July 10 but that’s a guess. I’ll start writing this again when we know we’re heading back. Until then – paka!