Peace Like A River

It was a wide river, mistakable for a lake or even an ocean unless you'd been wading and knew its current. Somehow I'd crossed it... Now I saw the stream regrouped below, flowing on through what might've been vineyards, pastures, orhards... It flowed between and alongside the rivers of people; from here it was no more than a silver wire winding toward the city. - Leif Enger, Peace Like A River

Monday, April 14, 2003

Change in population of the US: +1. Change in population of Russa: -1. Net change in difference between population of US and Russia: +2. The Hanna Factor.

Ahhh, is it ever so good to be home. As with John, we got home late on Saturday night, and I carried Hanna through the front door of her new home around 11:30 pm. Here is an account of our long, rather tiring week.

Left Saturday, April 5, on the 11 am United flight to Chicago. We were traveling on the same planes as another couple that was heading there on their first trip. They were also going through the same agency we were. (Another single lady, also with the same agency, had gone on ahead the day before, and was also making her first trip.) So, was nice to chat with them, and have traveling companions. The flight from Chicago to Frankfurt was late in leaving Chicago, so we got into Frankfurt late, and were in a different terminal than our connecting flight to Moscow, so had to make haste down hallways, catch a tram, etc.. and walked up to the next gate as they were in the middle of boarding. We didn't know it yet, but probably because of the short time between flights, each of us couples had one suitcase that didn't make it onto the plane to Moscow. (But our other luggage did, which was strange.) When we got into the Moscow airport and discovered this, we saw one or two other adopting couples that had also come from Chicago on the same flight, and they too had a bag missing. Almost like gremlins went through and removed one bag from everybody.

Since we were heading straight to Kostroma, we had to wait for the bags to come in on the next flight, so we just sat around the airport for 3 hours. The (Russian) rep that was handling our situation said we could get some snacks and refreshments and they would pay for them, for the inconvenience. So, we had some pop and some good chicken burritos. The single lady I mentioned arrived at the airport. We were going to take two vehicles to Kostroma, both for space, and because the other people would be coming back before us, as we had to stay for court and whatnot. Katya also was there to collect our fee, and she and our translator had a good laugh, cuz we were all wondering how we were going to handle the payment. $2000 is a lot of money here, but it is a fortune in Russia, so didn't want to be flinging bills out in the open in the airport. Katya mentioned the restrooms, and Inna asked which one, and Katya said either, and Inna thought ok, whatever, as Katya was tomboyish enough to maybe pass for a male, but then they laughed when Inna realized Katya meant for just one of us to take an envelope into the restroom and put the money in there. So I did.

When the bags arrived, we piled into the vans and headed off another bumping, jarring, long drive to Kostroma. The weather was wet, rainy, some snow, and actually the trip was faster than expected as Sergey was leaning on the gas pedal. We stopped at that little cafe again and had some good soup. The couple with us had some chicken noodle, but didn't eat it. This was their first trip out of the country, and seemed a little wowed by the culture change, and Russia is a tough country to make your first foreign trip to. As we saw later, they weren't real wild about trying new foods and whatnot. On the drive, we hit one big bump that I though was going to break the van in two. You could lose cattle in some of those potholes. Later found it caused some tire damage, and might have broken the outside latch on the van's side door.

We got to Kostroma a little before 10. We went to a different one than the one we stayed at on our first trip. This one was more on the edge of town, and I saw that this one catered to foreign visitors. The hotel sign was in English, and restaurant and other signs in the hotel were in English. Inna later said many foreign tourists (not necessarily native English speakers, but English is a language in common) come there to visit the city's historical sites and buildings. This hotel didn't get the BBC though, so we went a few days without hearing any news. Breakfasts in this hotel weren't great, but did the job. A couple days we had this hot rice porridge with butter. One day we had blini, which some of you may know as "Curtains"! (Again, the couple with us didn't eat too much of the food.) The single gal had gotten to the hotel about an hour before us. She was generous and had bought a bunch of water for us.

The next day was Monday (it seemed like we totally skipped Sunday). We made a trip to the orphanage, and got to spend some time with Hanna. How nice to see her again. She seemed to recognize and remember us, as she had a nice smile when she us. That little sandbagger. Like with John, she was very quiet on our first visits, but this time, she jabbered and wanted to wander all over and play. She was this cute way of pointing at something she wants. She was very long fingers. She'll make a good piano player.

We had lunch in a restaurant in the hotel called the Russian Hunt. It was a small room, just three tables, but it was done up like a hunting cabin. All wood planking, with various stuffed animals, like a bear, wolf, weasel, some birds of prey. Also had some live parakeets. And, a glassed off room with some trees in it, and some squirrels were chasing around in there. Oh my, the food was so good there. All the meals we had in that restaurant were delicious. I had borscht there for one meal!

Had another visit that afternoon. The couple with us though, the boy they came to see looked like one side of his head was slightly pushed forward. I think he had some kind of neck constriction, so a brace was put on to turn his head, and that brace may have slid his soft bones out of place a bit. For instance, one ear appeared to be closer to the eye than the other. The couple was distressed by this, and in the end, they decided not to take the boy. They didn't go with us on this second trip that Monday. If they were going to have doubts and regrets, that wouldn't be good for the child, so I suppose it is best. But, it may be correctable, and at 7 months, there should be other people interested in that boy, so hopefully someone will take him soon and get some medical help before his bones become too set in place.

A couple of times while walking in the orphanage, some gaggles of kids would come walking by with their workers. What sweet little children. Oh, if only they could all be given good homes.

The next day was our court day, and I was surprised to find myself a tad nervous. Don't know why, as it was mostly a formality. Still. We had to get some papers notarized, so we stopped by a notary public. I went in with the translator. That was rather different. Here, a notary basically stamps and signs, bang you're done. Here, Inna showed two different ids, one gal was logging something in a book. The other gal threaded gold thread through the papers, tied them and stuck something over the knot and signed and stamped that. Rather elaborate.

When we got the court building, we found we'd have to redo the papers, as we weren't going to be able to change her birthdate. We had thought we would change it from Sept 8 to Aug 31 just to avoid hassles with school registration, but apparently she was too old to do that. So, later we would have to go back and get something notarized again. Actually, I'm kinda glad we're leaving the date the way it is. It seems more natural. Plus, the day she was born is the day we left on our first trip to go see John, so there's that nice symmetry. (another nice connection is that Kostroma, like Astrakhan, is on the Volga River. So, both of our kids come from the banks of the Volga. Hanna in the north, and John in the south. The Volga is a long, important river.)

The court building was like most others in Russia. Older, not in the best of shape. Everything had a dingy feel to it. The walls were merely painted. On one floor as we went up the stairs there was some work being done, and a worker was standing ankle deep in masonry and rubble in what here would be dress shoes! They were brown slip-ons, and certainly dirty and dusty, but seemed to odd for a work shoe.

Court was quick. They didn't ask us too many questions. They went through the legal requirements, and presto, she was ours! Yay! Later saw that the court agreement didn't include her middle name of Emily, so all her papers just said Hanna. When we adopt her here though, we can have Emily added to the birth certificate.

The rest of that day was spent getting paperwork taken care of. In Astrakhan, Marina went around and did most of that on her own. But here, we just sat in the van all afteroon as we drove around from place to place.

We went back to that notary, and just Inna went in this time. Apparently there was a long line, so Inna brought in a "gift", and came out a little later without it. Apparently she greased some skids and went to the front of the line. It is a different culture.

We saw a lot of the city. Sure, we didn't see it at its best, with all the spring mud and dirt and water around, but it had the feel of a rundown place. Inna said the mayor wasn't going to be reelected, so wasn't doing anything to fix the roads, which were in bad shape.

It was interesting to watch people. Saw older people slowly shuffling around. Saw one old man walking, he saw a cigarette butt on the sidewalk, and so he stooped to pick it up and kept it. Hmm, hard to imagine a life where people have to pick up used smokes. The young people seemed to like wearing track suits, and tennis shoes. Otherwise, most people wear black. Either all black, or at least most people have on at least black shoes and black jackets. Maybe that's a relic of the Soviet era, where with the constant fear and oppression you didn't want to stick out and get noticed, so everyone dressed alike so as to blend in. Black seemed an appropriate color. Most people carried around plastic shopping bags. Not cuz they were shopping I think, but that's how they carried things around.

We didn't get to see Hanna that day, and the next day had a quick visit in the morning. Then, had to go get her passport. Again, "gifts" greased the way. I guess normally it takes a month for the passports to be made, but for adoptions, they make them in a day. "Connections", Inna said. Whatever that means. We did bring in some gifts for the workers, but I don't know what else is done behind the scenes. Maybe people do that out of the goodness of their hearts to help the orphans, but maybe not.

So, late Wednesday we went back to the orphanage to get Hanna. They took the bag of clothes Rhonda brought in, and they went away and dressed her. Andrew gave us an envelope to give to the orphanage along with our bag of clothes and other things for our gifts to the orphange. I'm sure the money came out of our fees, but it came to $200. The orphanage director congratulated us, and wished us a pleasant trip home.

Then, they brought in Hanna! How nice to know she was finally ours, and that we could bring the lloooooong process of heading home. She smiled when she see us, and the director said she was glad to see that Hanna seemed to like us. With that, we left for the drive back to Moscow. The others had left the day before, and there was some kind of train accident that blocked the road, so they had to go another route that made the trip 3 hours longer. So, we were happy that the road was open for us. Hanna did well on the drive. She was just looking wide-eyed at everything. I suppose quite an experience for her, to be taken out of her familiar surroundings. She was asleep by the time we got to Moscow.

We got to Moscow around 10 pm. There were some exhibitions going in the city, so all the hotels were full, and the only room in the Ukraina was a more expensive one. It was smaller than the cheaper one we had before, but because it had been renovated, we had to pay more. Oh well, we were happy to have a room and a chance to rest. Hanna liked walking around the room and exploring. When it came time for bed though, she had some troubles. I suppose she was scared by the newness of it all, and wouldn't go to sleep on her own. (We had a crib brought to the room.) We held her, and that comforted her. In general, she likes to be held. We rocked her to sleep and after while got her into her crib. Those first few nights seemed to have a pattern. She would sleep for 3 or 4 hours, then wake up and get fussy and cry till we held her. At that point, it took a couple hours to get her to sleep again, so we didn't get as much sleep our last few nights in Moscow.

Then, the next day, Thursday, we went to the US Embassy. I went first with Hanna, along with Inna, as she took our papers, and we needed to get Hanna a photo for the visa. A nice Russian lady helped me get the photos in a little kiosk. She put a sheet all the way over my head, and I held Hanna. There was a vending machine next to the kiosk, and the sign on it said if the vending machine didn't work to call Joe. Ha, call Joe. I knew I was around Americans then.

Went back to the hotel until the afternoon, when we went back for our appointment to get Hanna's immigration visa. (She was a Russian citizen till she reached US soil.) The day before there was a large demonstration outside the Embassy. (One story I saw said 30,000 people). It blocked the roads in front of the embassy, and so adopting couples couldn't drive there. They had to go the nearest subway stop and walk 20 minutes. Then, when they got there the police wouldn't let them in. Yikes, that was too bad. So, presumably those people came the day we were there. So, the place was hopping with kids and families. The Consular people were very nice. It was a treat to be around Americans again. One family was adopting what looked to be sisters, around 10 years old or so. How nice that older children are adopted too. It is rare. When the family was called to the window, the girls held hands and ran up to the window. We were the absolute last family called. So, we didn't get out in time to get the Russian Consulate.

I'm never sure why Moscow has a Russian Consulate. But, we go there so we didn't have to register her here in the US with a Russian Consulate. So, Katya kept our stuff and she went alone the next day. So, we just hung out in the hotel. Had some good breakfasts at the buffet. The hotel was full of people for the exhibitions, so breakfast was always quite busy.

That was Friday, and Deb called to say we had our tickets changed to come home Saturday! Yay! Such relief to be in the end stages of a long process.

So, got up at 3:45 am (after another restless night of being up with Hanna, but joy to be going home kept me juiced up.) Headed to airport, got there at 5 am, went to the Lufthansa window to get our tickets changed and..........GONK. They tell us the date had indeed been changed to Saturday, but we were on the 2:30 flight, not the 7 am. flight. What? You gotta be kidding me. At this point, I'm still not sure where the screwup occurred. Anyway, because all the exhibition people were also leaving town, the 7 am flight was completely full. She did get us on a 1:30 flight. Anyway, because we technically still had the hotel room till noon, we went all the way back to the hotel and hung out there till 11. Actually, that was a blessing, because it did let us get a good breakfast, and a shower and some rest. (Well, Hanna walked around the room and played with things.)

So, finally got on the plane and were wheels up by 1:30, the beginning our long journey home. Hanna did so well the entire trip home. On the 3 hour flight to Frankfurt, Hanna did start to get antsy, so Rhonda walked up and down the aisle with her, and that helped. The landing was a bit woozy though. The plane kinda bucked up and down, and it was hot in there, I could feel bit nausous myself. So, I suppose it was no surprise that after we landed and were taxiing to the gate, I suddenly a warm feeling on my leg and saw that Hanna had urped all over my pants leg and our baby bag. Ick. Well, John had gotten runs on our way home, so we were prepared for messes at that end, but not urping, so I didn't have a change of clothes, so just cleaned up as best I could and spent the rest of the trip with an urp stain.

Frankfurt is a nice clean airport, so found a deserted gate and hung out there. Hanna had fun walking around. While sitting there, some other people wandered in. Apparently they were waiting for a flight to London that ended up being moved to another gate. One guy was an Oriental man, but he spoke with some kind of British accent, and said things like "Aye". Sounded a bit incongruous!

On the flight to Chicago, the Good Lord was watching out for us. We had a bulkhead seat, so were able to get a bassinet, and plus lots more legroom. Since the plane left at around what was her bedtime, we got Hanna fed and changed and rocked her a bit, and she fell asleep, and we put her in the bassinet, and she ended up sleeping most of the way to Chicago! Praise be. Believe me, adoption is the only reason I'd travel by plane halfway around the planet with a baby, where the only things you have are what you can carry, but bulkhead seats and bassinets make it a whole lot easier. Thank you Lufthansa. (And let it be said that Rhonda did a *great* job planning out what to bring and what to pack where and in what bags, so we always had what we needed to take care of Hanna on that long trip.)

Took awhile to get through the customs line in Chicago. The visitors had more available lines than we as citizens did. Erk. Had to go through a secondary immigration line where we handed over Hanna's visa. They pronounced her a US citizen, and voila, we were back in our country!.

We had come into the international terminal, so had to take a tram over to the terminal where we'd catch the United flight to MSP. The tram stopped at one point for a short while with some kind of mechanical difficulty. Great. By then I was dead tired and wasn't keen on other delays. Just wanted to get home. The short plane ride home was jammed packed. I suppose the airlines really are having some troubles these days, but I never saw sign of it. All the flights we were on were so full. (Also, once we left the country, it never really felt like we were threatened. here, with coverage of the war so prevalent, traveling seemed to rather risky, but felt so much better once we were overseas.)

Got to a rather deserted MSP airport after 10:30, got our luggage, and headed home. Brenda stayed with John for the first days. She was a great big help in getting wallpaper up, and she even caulked our shower! Then, Mom came, and she was there to welcome Hanna to her new home! At last, the end of a long, stressful process, but a great weight lifted to be in our own home.

Now, comes the adjustment. Was sooooo good to see John. I missed him so much. His face just lit up when he saw us. I think our being away affected him a bit, even though he had fun bonding with Grandma. He does seem to have a bit of jealousy over Hanna, or at least is not quite sure what to think. A couple times I asked him for a kiss, and he just leaned his forehead in, whereas he always gives me a peck on the lips. So, maybe having some feelings. Hard to think that he is not quite himself, so will just have to try extra hard to love and reassure him, and make sure he feels he is as special as ever. At the same time, have to spend time with Hanna and help her through her adjustment to her new surroundings. With John we had the luxury of having only him, so could give all the time to him, now have to juggle. Change is hard for anyone, and things won't be exactly the same as the way they were before, and so that is a loss of sorts that will be grieved.

I did make sure to have some time just with him, and we got in some happy joy joy jumping on the bed, which he greatly enjoyed. At one point we were there by the bed and someone came in to talk to me and distracted me, and I didn't even notice at first that he had turned on the reading lamp above our bed. He likes to try to turn it on and I'll say "I'll stop you!", and sometimes I'll go in the other room to let him turn it on, cuz he'll just stand there with this adorable grin on his face, as he pulled a tricky fast one on me and got the light on when I wasn't looking, so I make a big show of being surprised and he laughs and laughs. So here, he got the light on right in front of me and I didn't notice, and he was standing there with this grin, so that made me look at the light, and it was on and we had a good laugh.

Already Hanna is someone who was to do whatever her brother does. We had our suitcases out on the floor, and John crawled up on one and slid off. And immediately, Hanna wanted up and wanted to slide down too! Last night John was putting away his blocks, and Hanna saw that and came right over wanting to play with blocks too. We had her outside yesterday, and she squawked when we brought her in. Apparently she will be someone who loves to play outside, like John. She laughs easily, and loves affection and attention. She just giggles and giggles when I give her kisses. What a sweetie. Her long wait is over, she has a mommy and daddy now.

She has been eating like a horse, too. Just gobbles and gobbles food. That is common though with orphanage kids. It's like they figure they have to eat all they can while the food is there, cuz it might not be there later. But, once they figure out food will always be there for them, they get to a normal eating routine. And with toys, she'll go get what she wants, and she's not above giving you what for if you take something away from her.

Am fighting jet lag. Was awake at 4 this morning. But, God has blessed us again, and am ready to enjoy this next new stage! Thanks for all your prayers!


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