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Travel journal - page 2

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Vidnoe baby home

Tuesday, 17 June, 2003

"Our first day with Noah"

After our stressful day yesterday we were ready to get started today! We were more than ready to go see our little Noah again. Nadia picked us up bright and early and we headed on our way to the baby home. Traffic was crazy and it took us about 90 minutes. Lena met us there and we headed in to talk with Natalia, the director, and see Noah.

Noah was brought in to us. He broke into a huge smile when he was handed to us. He seems like such a happy baby. After holding him for a bit while Lena looked over his records I gave him to her to examine. Alyona arrived around that time.

Lena ran through the Denver Developmental Tests as Rich videotaped it. This time Lena told us what she was doing while she did the exam. Noah seemed to pass all the appropriate tests for a four month old with flying colors. After the developmental tests Lena did a basic physical exam on Noah and said that he was “excellent.” Of course we knew that already!

Noah started to get a little fussy as we put his clothes back on him and one of the baby nurses brought a bottle in for me to feed him. My first chance to feed him! A very interesting looking bottle too. It looked more like a coke bottle with the finger of a rubber glove put on it as a nipple. Noah sure didn’t seem to care because he sucked it down.

While I was holding Noah, Alyona and I were talking. I told her that I hoped we would come back in a couple years and adopt an older girl. I also told her that a friend of ours was hoping to adopt a toddler age boy, and that they were only a few weeks behind us in our paperwork. Alyona said she was always happy to hear that because so many people wanted infant girls it was hard to place the older kids.

Alyona went out for a little bit and a few minutes later Natalia came in to her office with a young boy with her. He sat on her lap and drew at her desk. When Alyona came back in I asked her if the boy was Natalia’s son. She said no, he was one of the orphans, and was her favorite. His name was Dimitri. Apparently they brought him in to show him off to us, either to tempt us or to have us tell our friends. I asked if we could take some pictures of him, which of course they agreed to.

Rich took pictures of Dimitri while Noah fell asleep in my arms (it sure felt good). Then the two of them played with the video camera. Dimitri really took to Rich. Not surprising though since most kids do. After playing with the camera for a while they played with some of the toys that we had brought. He was a darling boy! Even with the language barrier he and Rich were able to communicate very well. He was very bright and friendly. Of course I wanted to adopt him too!

I tried to convince Rich that adopting two wouldn’t be that much harder than one, but he was thinking with his head, while I was thinking with my heart.

After spending several hours at the baby home it was time to leave. I reluctantly handed Noah back to one of the nurses. Back to the car and Nadia drove us to our hotel.

Once back at the hotel we started to compile the medical information we had on Noah and reviewed the video Rich had taken. We had to send the medical information and our thoughts to Dr. Aronson in NYC. Dr. Aronson is an International Adoption specialist. After getting everything ready on the laptop we saved it on a CD and went to the hotel’s “business center” to log on to their Internet connection. Although only a 56k connection, we managed to send what we needed to to Dr. Aronson, as well as check our email. We were also able to send our first picture of Noah to our friends and family. After sending everything we called Dr. Aronson to arrange for a time to call her back and talk with her. Imagine our surprise when she told us to call her at 8pm her time, 4am our time! Oh well, what ever it took.

Personally I didn’t feel we needed to have Dr. Aronson evaluate Noah, but Rich wanted to make sure we covered all our bases.

After that we went to the hotel restaurant and had some dinner. This time the waiters spoke a bit of English so it was a little easier to try some new things.

Back in our room we looked at the pictures of Noah some more, then went to bed. We were up at 4am to call Dr. Aronson. She said everything looked good with Noah. Exactly as we thought, but wonderful to have confirmed!

After the 4am call I decided to call home and talk to my parents. I had called them Monday night to let them know about Noah, but only spoke for a few minutes. It was nice to talk with them and have even a short connection with home. Of course they are thrilled!

 

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Check out this bottle!

 

Wednesday, 18 June, 2003 

"First steps to making Noah ours"

This morning Nadia picked us up at 9:30 and we went to the notaries’ office. This time Katya met us there. Katya works with Alyona and we had met her briefly yesterday at the baby home. I like Katya. She seems a little better at telling us what is going on as it is happening than Alyona is at times.

We had to wait about 45 minutes at the notaries’ before we could get our papers signed. Katya explained everything that we were signing. While we were waiting, we met a couple from Texas that was adopting an eight-year-old boy. This was their second visit and they were going home in a couple days. I have to admit I was a bit jealous. I want to take Noah home today!

After the notary we went to see Noah. We were able to stay with him until about 2:30. This time we were without an interpreter. Nadia took us in and we were able to spend time alone with Noah. They put us in one of their playrooms. We had to take our shoes off and pull out a mat to play with him on.

Noah started to get fussy after about 30 minutes so Rich got brave and went to go search out a bottle. He was successful and one of the nurses brought it to us. It is apparently some mixture of formula and porridge. Thicker than the formula I am used to. Noah seemed to love it though, because once again he sucked it down.

After some more fussing, where I have to admit I felt a little helpless, Noah fell asleep in my arms. It still feels great!

Nadia came to get us when our time was up and we headed back to the hotel. We napped for a bit and had dinner.

Thursday, 19 June, 2003

"The day I lost my cool"

According to Rich, today I went psycho. I’m afraid he is right. I think everything just caught up with me. I’m really frustrated with the lack of control we have over this process!

This morning we went to see Noah again, without an interpreter. I thought we would always have an interpreter with us when it was adoption related. It is frustrating that we can’t communicate with anyone at the orphanage. Noah was very fussy today. He has conjunctivitis in his left eye and it seems to be getting worse. It looks like they are putting some type of ointment in it, but it’s very goopy. He also sounds congested and I think he probably has a cold. Rich went to get a bottle again, but this time they wouldn’t give it to him. Apparently it was too early. They are pretty strict about schedules. I walked him and jiggled him and eventually he went to sleep for a little bit. Finally they brought us a bottle. Noah sucked it down and was not happy when it was gone. The poor baby is hungry! I know he’s not seriously malnourished, but he so clearly wants/needs more. I can’t wait to get him home! I keep telling him when we get home he can eat whenever he is hungry.

Nadia came in to get us and we headed back into Moscow. This afternoon we were taking the papers that we had notarized yesterday to drop off at the court. I’m not quite sure what hit me but I started to cry as we were walking into the courthouse. I felt like an idiot, but I couldn’t stop. I couldn’t even really tell Alyona what was bothering me when she asked because I was afraid to offend her. I really hate feeling so out of control! Alyona was very nice, but clearly she just wanted to finish this and get the weepy woman out of her hair.

After a short wait we went in to see the secretary of the court and gave her the papers. We had to sign a logbook and that was it. We headed back to meet Nadia at the car. Rich asked Alyona if we could stop some where to get some lunch. She suggested Nadia take us to Pizza Hut. So much for trying to get some true Russian food.

Nadia took us to a pizza place and Rich went in with her to get carryout to take back to the hotel. Rich was a sweetie and picked up some ice cream cones to try and make me feel better. Nadia brought out the pizza and we headed back to the hotel.

We were supposed to meet Dasha today after she finished taking an exam. I think one of the things that was upsetting me was that I was having a hard time getting Alyona to help us make the arrangements for today, as well as help us figure out how to do some things later in the week. I thought we were going to meet Dasha in the city, but Alyona wanted us to go back to the hotel and wait for her there. Again…all the control is taken from us.

Back at the hotel we ate the pizza (not Pizza Hut, and not all that good). At least I had some Diet Coke that Nadia had helped us get at a supermarket on Tuesday. After the pizza I took a nap. By then of course my head was pounding. Dasha finally called us about 4pm, but Rich told her I wasn’t feeling well. We arranged to meet her on Friday. We were supposed to tour the Kremlin with a guide that either Katya or Alyona had set up.

We spent the rest of the afternoon and evening in our room napping and watching a DVD on the laptop.

 

 

Friday, 20 June, 2003 

"Playing tourist"

(excerpted from Rich's written travel journal)

We spent the morning touring the Kremlin with a guide named Alyona (not our facilitator). It was interesting but the place was too crowded, her English was not easy to understand, and we felt rushed. Another time perhaps we’ll explore at our own pace. After the tour we met Dasha and Nadia and went to the Bolshoi to get tickets for Saturday night. That was an interesting experience. We couldn’t get tickets from the box office, but had to get them from scalpers just outside. Of course being stupid Americans we ended up paying $100 for $40 tickets. We decided to take Dasha as a thank you for all her help, since she wouldn’t let us pay her.

Then off to the orphanage. It was nice to have Dasha with us to help us ask some questions. We got there about 3pm and went into the playroom as usual. A caregiver brought Noah in and his face seemed glowing today. With Dasha’s help we found out a little about his routine. We spent a couple of hours with him today. We actually had the nerve to remove the silly hat they always have on him. He seemed more content today. I think they had just fed him.

About an hour into our visit Natalia came in and said one of us could go with her to see where Noah sleeps. I’m not sure why only one of us could go. I went while Kris stayed with Noah. Natalia wouldn’t even let Dasha go with me to help interpret. Odd.

I was able to see his crib and the room he played. His crib was in a room with seven others, all full. The room was dark and warm. The playroom was larger and bright with two very large playpens meant to hold several babies. The playpens had toys attached and in them. I wonder if he knows what kind of surroundings we have set for him… a room of his own, fresh new clothes, toys, cats, a dog and a whole lot of love.


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Noah's playroom in the orphanage.

Saturday, 21 June, 2003

"adventures in hitchhiking and the ballet"

(from Rich’s written journal with excerpts added in by Kris)

This morning started with a visit to see Noah. Dasha was with us again, and would be spending the entire day with us.

On the way to the orphanage Nadia's car broke down.  She flagged down another driver for us by waving around some rubles.  A very nice gentleman took us the rest of the way to the orphanage.  Our first adventure in hitchhiking!

We spent about 2 hours with Noah. He smiles when they hand him to us (I think he is beginning to recognize us). He did the usual things – play, cry, sleep, cry, eat. He’s adorable, but I must say a little fussy. I think he has a cold, which may be why he’s fussy.

We took more pictures and video. Some day Noah, when you are older I’m going to make you sit and watch all the pictures and video when you are bad.

We left the orphanage at about 1pm and Nadia took us to a local marketplace to do some shopping. Kris was as excited as a girl going to her first prom. While Kris sent to the chachka store (souvenirs), I went to the vodka store. So many choices! Thankfully, Dasha asked her father to recommend a good brand. I bought a big bottle fo the best brand and it was less than $20. Kris bought many gifts that we will give to Noah on “gotcha day” for years to come. Thank goodness they took credit cards! Actually, it wasn’t that bad, lots of stuff for about $120.
We also went to a children’s store and bought a few toys and books. 

After that it was back to the hotel to change for dinner and the theatre. Nadia took us to Moscow University to see the view on the way back to the hotel. It was amazing. From the top of the hill you can see the entire Moscow skyline, very impressive. The area was filled with couples who had just married and were there for pictures and to celebrate. We went back to the hotel and changed while Nadia and Dasha waited for us. I must say, we did look good.   

Nadia drove us to a Georgian restaurant in the center of Moscow. It had authentic Georgian décor and music – very nice. Dasha recommended a few dishes, which we shared and enjoyed immensely. After filling our bellies, it was off to the Bolshoi. The Royal Academy was performing Swan Lake. Unfortunately, we were told once we were in the theatre that our seats were not together. I guess we didn’t check out the tickets very well when we bought them. Dasha was by herself in another box.

We thought we had great seats in the first row of the box, but a few moments later, a stately English gentleman (Lord La-de-da) and his French wife/girlfriend (Kris thinks new girlfriend) informed us we were in their seats. Typically I checked all my pockets and could not find the tickets. After a few panicked moments, Kris found them in her purse. For a few moments we both thought maybe we had bought forged tickets the day before from the scalper. We did find the tickets and realized we were in the 2nd row, not the 1st.

The performance was wonderful – magnificent staging, costumes, and performances. At one point during the performance Kris leaned over and said “can you believe we are in Moscow, at the Bolshoi, watching Swan Lake?” It is amazing where life takes you.

After the performance we were able to see Moscow at night. It is very beautiful…lot’s of neon. We returned to the hotel and packed for our departure the next day. After a very full and wonderful day we turned out the lights at about 12:30 am. We were exhausted!

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Noah and Daddy

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Noah and Mommy

Sunday, 22 June, 2003

"The Trip Home"

It’s Sunday and we are headed home today. A bittersweet farewell. We are very glad to be going home, we miss all that we are comfortable with, but are very sad to be leaving Noah. It seems so unfair that we should come all this way and then have to leave him, even if only for a few weeks. Of course we knew this was how it worked, but you can never really anticipate the feelings until you are experiencing them.

Nadia picked us up at the hotel about 9am. Rich checked us out and we packed the bags into the car. Off to the orphanage for our last visit with Noah for a while. I woke up with a cold, which in a way may have been a good thing. I was also very tired as we were up at 7am. I don’t do well with six hours sleep. Being very tired and not feeling well made the goodbyes easier for me I think. It was a little easier to “step outside of the zone” and not get as emotional as I had feared I might be.

Noah is still not feeling well and his eye does not look any better. This time we were in a different room. It looked more like a clinic room, with some antiquated medical devices (we couldn’t even guess what they were, but looked to me like they involved electricity, I was too afraid to ask). Noah fussed in my arms again but I was able to walk him to sleep. About 20 minutes after he feel asleep one of the caretakers came in and asked (in mime) if he was sleeping. I said yes, and she came over and nudged him…then pointed to my watch. I think she was trying to tell me it was not his naptime. It found that very irritating. Fortunately I was able to get him to go back to sleep and he slept for about an hour total. I keep telling him that when he is home with us he will be able to eat when he is hungry and sleep when he is tired. And be loved all the time!

About 11:45am the nurse came in to get him. As we were getting ready to leave one of the other nurses came out (she spoke a little English and was very nice!). She took us back to see the youngest babies. I think there were six or seven cribs in the room, all lined up around the wall. The babies were so cute, so very young. One of them had hydrocephalus and her poor head was very large. I wasn’t able to ask if they were doing anything for her. I don’t think her head would have been that big if a shunt had been in place. It was very hard to see, but you have to kind of separate yourself from it or you will drive yourself crazy. I wish I could take all of the babies home to help, but the reality is that we can’t, so we will do our best to provide Noah with all the love we can, and hope someday we will be able to come back and help another child.

We left the baby home about noon and headed to the airport. Nadia dropped us off out front, but did not go in with us. I was under the impression that someone would be with us until we got to passport control. In fact, the papers from our agency said that the rep or driver would go in with us and get us through customs. I was really pissed off when I realized that we were just being left there. Of course by then it was too late.

We went in and our flight was not yet posted. We started to go through customs (after debating whether or not we had stuff to declare) but a security guard came up to us and asked us where we were going. We told him NYC and he said we were on the wrong side. It must have been pretty obvious we were Americans. So we headed over to the other side and then had to wait because they had not posted our flight yet. I was definitely feeling overwhelmed by then. Combine that with being sick and tired, not a good combination. Can you say “Kris is bitchy”? Anyway, Rich took over and sat me down while he went to find out what to do. About that time they called our flight to go through customs. We waited in the nothing to declare line with a couple hundred Russians and were basically continually pushed to the back of the line. It is every  man for yourself in lines in Russia, and of course the polite Americans who believe in queuing up nice and orderly did not get very far. Finally it was our turn to send our bags through the x-ray machine. First I had a little argument with the woman running the machine because I wanted her to hand check our film. She kept saying “film safe” and I kept saying “but our babies first pictures.” She won. All the bags went through just fine, including the bag with the scissors that I had problems with in JFK, until it came to my carry on bag. They pulled me aside to hand check that bag. That took a good 10 minutes as it has multiple pockets. They were very interested in the tiny handheld battery operated fan that I had. What a hoot watching the woman’s expression as we tried to pantomime what things were for. They weren’t quite sure what to do with my crochet hook for the blanket I was working on either. That was a silly thing to bring since I worked on it once while I was there.

Finally we got through and then had to go to the ticket counter to get our seat assignments. At least Rich was already in line for that and was able to jump towards the start of a new line that was forming. We got our seat assignments and fortunately we were aisle – window next to each other.

Next stop passport control. That line wasn’t too bad and we had no problems getting through. Then we hit the duty free shops and bought some cigarettes to take back for Nadia the next time we go (much cheaper there than in the US). We also got some throat lozenges since my throat was really starting to hurt. Rich was hungry by then so we wandered all over trying to find a restaurant. While we were eating I heard a page that our gate was opening up so we finished up and headed there. While I was finding a bathroom Rich stood in line. Turns out it wasn’t a real line, because by the time I came out he was at the end of another line? I’m still a bit perplexed as to how he ended up at the very end of this long line! We were in line about an hour. You have to go through another security check before you can get on the plane. This one was more thorough than the first one. Again, my carry on was flagged so I had to have it checked. More funny looks at all the stuff I had in there. Ok…so I learned my lesson! This time I was wand'd and my shoes were taken off and put through the machine. By this time I think even Rich was nervous about admitting he was with me. I’m relieved to know they take security seriously though.

Finally we were on the plane and settled into our very tight space. How lucky (insert irony here) for us that the plane was full of teenagers headed over to the US for various summer work trips. And how wonderful that as soon as I sat down all I could smell was stinky feet! By then the filter from my brain to my mouth was not working very well and I said that I smelled stinky feet rather loudly. Fortunately (or unfortunately?) I don’t think they were able to translate it very well.

I snoozed most of the trip, in between a couple trips to the toilet where I had to wait 20 to 30 minutes while the teenage girls lined up in front of me primped (probably showered and shaved too), and some teenage boy’s bowels were not cooperating with the journey. This was a very long trip home! Almost 10 hours on the plane, and since we weren’t flying at night, not as easy to sleep. They showed three movies, two Russian with English subtitles, but the seats in front of us were to high to actually be able to see the subtitles at the bottom of the screen, and then the same American film that they showed on the trip over. Did I mention yet that it was a very long trip? I can’t imagine how it will be when we have Noah with us! I’m really going to have to dig deep for patience.

Finally we arrived at JFK. It felt very good to be back in the USA. We had just about an hour to make it for the 7pm pickup by Dave’s Limo. We prayed that we would get through customs etc in time, because the next pickup wasn’t until 10pm.

The great thing about being on a Russian flight was there were very few Americans. We breezed through passport control. Well a little frustration because the Russian girl and her mother in front of us (with green cards?) didn’t have something they were supposed to have. They wanted to wait at the counter while the girl went to go get something or fill something out, but the guy wouldn’t let them. We approached the counter and I told the guy how happy I was to see him. He laughed and said he hears that all the time, and he’s pretty sure it wasn’t his good looks. He was really nice and it only took us a couple minutes to have our passports stamped.

While I went to wait for our luggage, Rich called Dave’s Limo. It turned out they were about an hour behind schedule so would pick us up about 8pm. That gave us plenty of time. Our luggage arrived without trouble and we headed through customs. Some Russian chickette tried to push her way in front of Rich but I was having nothing to do with that. She was on our turf now! Rich held his own and we were on our way. Now we just had to wait for Dave. An hour and a half later, waiting in a very warm terminal, the driver arrived. Uhoh…he was an old man in a cap…and you know what that means! It took over an hour to round everyone up at all the terminals, including three trips through the same terminal for someone who never did show up. About 9:30 we were on our way back to Philly. Fortunately we were the second stop. I snoozed most of the way, which was good, because Rich said his driving was scary! Apparently he had a hard time staying between the lines and keeping a constant speed.

Finally we were back at the hotel where Karen B had left our car. Ten minutes later we were in our own driveway. All four cats met us at the door, it was so sweet! Jen, our house sitter, had left the place in perfect condition, as well as leaving us fresh milk, eggs, juice and some pastries. What a sweetie. She also put clean sheets on our bed so after a little snack we were ready to hit the bed. It felt so good to sleep in our own bed!! Of course I had to mention that on our trip home we weren’t going to be able to fall in to bed like that, as we would have our sweet little Noah home with us and his comfort would come first. A small price to pay for having our baby home!

The kitties cuddled in with us and we fell asleep. Rich was awake very early, and I was up about 8am. Jetlag was hitting us hard, as well as the time change. It still felt good to be home, although we desperately miss Noah.