Thursday, January 31, 2008

In Frankfurt now...luggage back in Moscow

After arriving in Moscow from Perm, we were guided to a waiting room where we had to wait for about three hours before getting picked up by a van which took us to a different terminal to catch our flight to Frankfurt. We were not sure why we, along with another five passengers, were waiting in this isolated part of the airport instead of a normal waiting area. A van picked us up and took us for a long ride along the perimeter of the airport and dropped us off at the international terminal where yet another person was waiting for the five us to take us to the gate to Frankfurt. None of this guidance was planned by us or our agency. The other five passengers and us just kept being 'handed' out to another person until we finally ended up at our gate.

The Moscow airport was amazingly impressive. Lots and lots of fancy shops, top notch Italian and French clothing and perfume stores, restaurants, commotion and lots of people everywhere. We had to go through several security lines before being allowed in our gate but made our flight without any issues. That is until we got to Frankfurt and our luggage along with the luggage of the other five passengers we were with in Moscow never made it to Frankfurt. We made our way to the luggage tracking desk, along with the other five passengers, waited until one person took about 15 minutes with each person and filled out the paperwork for our bags. We figured we would probably never see the bags again, especially since we were leaving to the US the following morning and this was a Russian airline.

Getting to the hotel using the subway was a breeze since we had done the trial run on our way there, and since we didn't have all the bags to deal with. We had already planned that we would use the airport storage for the bags so we didn't have to drag them trhought the airport, train and streets, and just picked them up the following morning when we checked in for our flight to Philadelphia. Chris warned the woman at the hotel's front desk that Aeroflot had our hotel information and that they could be calling...if the bags showed up. Two hours later they got delivered!!!!

So it actually all worked out to our benefit. We didn't have to pay for the storage which would have been at least 50 Euros, we didn't need to drag them with us to the hotel and the next morning we had clean clothes to wear for the third part of our trip. The Frankfurt hotel was wonderful, we had a very restful night AND the best breakfast buffet the following morning, all-inclusive. During breakfast I realized that this was the first real breakfast I've had in a week. In Russia Chris ate almost everything on the hotel buffet which had some really interesting items. I wasn't that daring and ate only their bread and the almonds and granola bars I brought with us.

Leaving Perm

Perm Hotel.

We left Perm, the snow and the brutal cold this morning. Roma picked us up at 10:00 am to take us to the airport but we didn't leave the hotel until 11:00. He had to drive a bit faster than usual to make sure we got to the airport with plenty of time to check our luggage and go through the Passport Control line. Just about ten minutes before getting to the airport the police stopped us at an improvised checkpoint. I panicked for two reasons. One, I thought they were going to start questioning us or asking for our visas (which was one of the possible things the agency had warned us it could happen)and second, I thought that if this took too long we would miss our flight.
Roma didn't seem to concerned, he stopped at the command, got out of the car in a real hurry and talked to the cops for about a minute; he handed them two pieces of documents, then jumped back in the car and took off. We asked what that was all about and he assured us nothing was wrong. I asked him about the fact that he handed his documents to the cops and didn't get them back. He said that he had told the cops that he had two American guests with him and was running late to the airport.
He also asked the cop if he could leave his documents while they ckecked them out on some database, and picked them up on the way back from the airport. I guess the cop said yes because we did take off without them. They were going to check to make sure his driver's license was good and make sure his car wasn't stolen. Weird! Like that would ever happen in the US...getting out of the car to be face-to-face with a cop, let you leave to go deliver people at the airport and wait for you to get back. Ha!

Meeting Aleksei (...Soon-to-be Alex )

Two of his caretakers and a doctor from the orphanage brought him over to us. Our jaws dropped and we both teared-up when we saw this beautiful bundle of joy. He was all wrapped up and we could tell he had just been woken-up from his nap. He was looking at us as the primary caretaker walked towards us and started to cry as soon as he was handed to me. The scared look in his little face broke my heart. I tried hugging, kissing and talking to him but he would not calm down. The three women rushed out of the room in a big hurry. Now it was just Chris, little crying Alex and me. My instincts switched into gear right away and I worked hard at consoling him while I was trying not to cry.

It was such an intense and emotional moment…impossible to describe. He calmed down a bit about ten minutes later but the scared and sad look on his face would not go away and that was heartbreaking. We had been warned that the baby had never been close to any males so Chris stayed in the room but far enough to not cause the baby to cry again. What an honor for Chris to be the first male to hug and kiss him!!! We sat on the carpet and he quickly discovered the little baby table with all the toys, but he would still cry on and off, especially when he heard the voice of the caretakers but was not able to see them.

The lady doctor came by to check on us and the baby started to cry again, and extended his arms out reaching for her. It was really easy to see he had a strong attachment to her and the main caretaker. She came to tell us that we only had another twenty minutes before he had to go back. Why? We don’t know. I think they told Roma he needed to go back and finish-up his nap. They keep a very strict schedule on meals and nap time, all for a good reason. There are so many babies to take care of that these women are occupied every minute of their day. We were so happy, overwhelmed with emotions about meeting, hugging, smelling and kissing this precious baby boy that I did not want to leave in twenty minutes but we knew they really meant well. As soon as his main caretaker came for him he completely calmed down and seemed to really enjoy her voice and cuddling. She stood there for a few minutes and told us to we could come back to see him from four to six.

We were there right on time and spent two awesome hours with him. Monday afternoon he was still a bit apprehensive about us and preferred it when Chris stayed a few feet away and didn’t make any fast moves towards him, but by our Tuesday afternoon visit he had started to play with us, he was hugging us and liking the attention he was getting. Every day our visits got better and the difference was huge from that first encounter on Monday at noon. By the time of our last visit on Wednesday afternoon he would get fuzzy when the caretaker would drop him off but within a couple of minutes he was playing with us, bursting bubbles, playing with the toys we brought him, pulling my hair and laughing when we would make funny faces. The caretakers arrived and let us change his clothes to one of the outfits we had brought for him. We also got to feed him, meet some of his little roommates and do lots of cuddling before it was time to say good-bye.

May God have mercy and bless all these little children and the wonderful people caring for them. It is so heartbreaking to imagine them without a family to call their own and sadly but true, that will be the case for many of them. I couldn't stand the thought of leaving Aleksei behind and kissing him good-bye instead of good night. Chris and I marveled if he would wonder why we didn’t come back on Thursday. That was not a good moment; even Roma showed his soft side when it was time to say good-bye. By then Chris and I were on first name basis with the caretakers and they kept telling us that they would take really good care of him until we came back to get him. We have no doubts.

If anything was comforting to us it was to see the care and attention he is being given by these three wonderful women. The ride back to the hotel was a very quiet one other than my crying. How cruel can this feel? Even knowing that they follow all these rules for the right reasons it is so hard to know this precious little creature, that you know in your heart is your child, then have to leave for God knows how long and wait for a judge to review your entire life history and make sure we are worthy of him. But, it is what it is. We have fallen in love with this little boy, and we have to bite the bullet, go with the flow and do whatever it takes, no matter what or how hard it is so we can bring him home with us very soon.

Waiting for the baby

I can tell they have a genuine interest in keeping the place looking good for the kids. There were some upgrades to the floor going on, the staircase was decorated with some colorful, hand painted murals and the hallways were very clean, quiet and isolated. They escorted us to a waiting area where we had to take off our shoes before we moved into the very small room where we would meet the baby. The room was filled with toys, a small kids table and chairs and a small loveseat. There was so much anticipation we could hardly control ourselves. We could hear some crying here and there but for the most part it was very quiet. We later learned that nap time goes on until 2:00 PM thus the quietness of the place…

Monday visit to the orphanage

The ride to the orphanage seemed to take forever even though we were trying to stay focused on the town and all the interesting things we were seeing in this poor and very old part of Perm. The entire area just before getting to the orphanage looked like a nativity; small wooden homes with about 2 feet of snow on the roofs. There seemed to be people walking everywhere and a lot of them congregated on street corners and bus stops. Roma commented that a lot of the people are too poor to afford a car yet the traffic was also very heavy. I noticed that the majority of the people at the bus stops and walking really fast all over the place were mainly woman and we rarely saw woman at the wheel.

We arrived at the orphanage right on time for our 11:30 appointment. Roma showed the guard the permit from the MOE to visit the orphanage and we were let through about a minute later. For just a moment we joked as we wondered out loud if the writing at the gate sign read some sort of warning such as: Americans: Keep-Out. I waived at the little guard man but he gave me the “who the heck are you” look and just stared back; I decided to assume that he was probably just tired of waving back at all the foreigners that passed through those gates.

A nurse standing in the vicinity of the front door guided Roma, Tatiana the social worker and us to the Director’s office upstairs. We had to wait for a single American woman to come out then Tatiana went in first. Ten minutes later we were called in. The Director had a large book open and started to flip pages and tell us – or tell Roma – this little child’s history, or as much as she knew about it. She would only pause for seconds while she flipped through page after page. Poor Roma, he was translating like crazy. This is the first time I actually saw him somewhat apprehensive but I figured it was due to all the medical terminology been discussed. As Roma translated my frown kept getting tighter. The director explained that the mother’s rights were legally terminated – God only knows why…the director didn’t speculate on this one. This poor little angel was in the hospital the first four month of his life, then transferred to the orphanage where he had been since. The story of his first twelve months only took her about forty minutes to relate. It was extremely sad for us to think that this was all there was to say about the first year of his life. God bless him!

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Entrance to the Orphanage

Heading to the orphanage...

The road to the baby orphanage that didn't get plowed!

Armed with the MOE's signed permission to meet the baby and accompanied now by Tatiana, our excitement and emotions were very evident. I kept thinking that in just a few minutes we were going to have the honor of meeting our son; the ride seemed to take forever and the farther we drove from the city, the more concern I was getting about his car making it in this blanket of snow. Of course I had no reason to worry - for him am sure it was a breeze; at least that's how it looked. The road to the orphanage is not a main road so it doesn't get plowed as early and when they do it, they only remove the snow from one of the lanes.

Meeting the MOE

The series of events during the day on Monday were very difficult to deal with for both of us. It’s a mean world out there... How much more intense and emotional can it get? I was trying hard all day to keep my composure, in front of all these different people talking to us prior to going to the orphanage, and that was not easy. The day started out getting picked up at our hotel around 9:00 in the morning. We had an appointment with Tatiana, the Ministry of Education (MOE) to get permission to go see the baby. She is a very elegant looking and really professional, but again, very serious woman who I thought was reading us our rights (as is we have any here…) while we were sitting there, hoping that our representative was translating everything she was saying and not just making-up stuff. I know he wouldn’t but it felt like it at times.

The visit was only about forty-five minutes long but still a bit nerve-racking. There was a third person in the room making notes in Russian, and who later asked us to sign this record-keeping looking book. I am sure she said what it was and my rep translated it, but we didn’t care; we just signed it, waived our heads, and asked our rep if we could shake her hand on the way out. Once she was done with her Russian spill, she did offer to shake hands and wished us good luck.

From the MOE’s office we left to pick up a Social Worker that is supposed to be present at the visit with the orphanage director and the first encounter with the baby. Her name was also Tatiana. She lives in an area that reminded me of Seattle, with hills, older neighborhood and older wood homes. I have no idea how my rep made it up this hill – he has a small car called the Number 17. Here in Russia they don’t name their cars like we do, they just number them; his is simply a 17! Nice little car that looks a bit larger than the VW Golf.

Tatiana came out a few minutes later with fur from top to bottom while Chris and I were outside the car, without our coats trying to catch some pictures of a Russian monastery across her house. PETA would have a field day here. Everyone, and I mean everyone, wears fur hats, scarfs, boots and gloves that are made out of fur. Tatiana was very pleasant but all business. They take these adoptions here extremely serious, as they should and which we really appreciate. Except, this is our baby and we just wanted to pick him up and take him home, now!!

Monday, January 28, 2008

Our adoption representative

Ever since getting to Perm and meeting our representative and other people in the hotel, the Ministry of Education and everyone at the orphanage,we feel so much more comfortable and at ease about being here. Our Rep, as well as everyone we have met these last couple of days, has been great. Our rep is a really nice 30 year old guy who really knows his stuff. He has been very accomodating, helpful and on top of everything regarding the adoption. He really knows his away around, knows the right people, is very confident when talking to the different officials, and great at translating simultaneouly when the officials were talking to us in Russian. Thanks goodnes for that! Yesterday the orphanage director was talking a hundred miles an hour and it seemed as if she was repeating the same word over and over. He stay right on top of it had to be exhausting for him having to do this all day but he seems to enjoy what he does and is genuinely concern about us, the baby and the adoption. I don't think I could say enough good things about him. We are so blessed to have someone like him guiding us through this process, especially being so far away from home. I think I will be asking him today if I can take his picture to post it here. I want my little man to see the person responsible for bringing him to us.

In Perm...At Last!

WOW, WOW, WOW, is the best way to describe it. First of all we have never seen such a spectacular sunrise. This happened about 45 minutes before landing into Perm. It was so bright that I couldn’t even look at it through the camera lense to take a picture of it. It didn’t last long. Once we started to descend, it was overcast all over Perm and we haven’t seen the sun since. It was evident to us while we were landing that they had just had a big snow fall and we later confirmed that with our representative.
We have never seen so much snow in our lives; not even when living in Idaho or the mid-west. It was so amazing; I have no idea how the pilots that come here manage to land in these conditions; our landing was pretty smooth but the whole time approaching the airport I thought we would run right into the gate. How do they brake on ice like this is what I kept wondering. Well, there was no gate to run into. The airplanes lands out in the field, about a hundred and fifty feet away from the building. A bus picked us up, and Oh Boy … are we glad they did. The wind was so strong when we got off that plane that we had to hang to each other really hard to make it to the bus. The wind chill factor had to be quite a few degrees below zero. Bitter, bitter cold I have never experienced before until we got inside the building, which they keep around 90 degrees just about everywhere. I wondered again…What the heck we are doing in the so called “Gateway to Siberia” city. What a better reason than a baby boy huh???
I was able to take a picture of this plane which almost landed simultaneously to ours. Like landing in these way below freezing conditions wasn’t scary enough. Imagine turning your head to your right to see another plane doing it just a few hundred feet away taking the same crazy chance. Here it didn’t take long either to get our luggage. Chris and I wondered what it would be like to be a baggage handler under these brutal conditions…You gotta do what you gotta do…Thank God for Wells Fargo!!!
The ride to the airport was just as amazing. There is so much white, so much snow, yet everyone drives so fast. The roads were kept pretty good but still, you would think that they would slow down. I guess they are just so used to it here…everyone drives on the defensive so, according to our rep, there aren’t really that many accidents due to the snow. I don’t get it! It’s a good thing we are not doing the driving…talk about being a back-seat driver!!! Arriving to the hotel alone felt like such as accomplishment after driving in this much snow. The roofs tops we can see from our hotel have several feet of snow and the icicles are huge. The room is great and has all the comforts of home, including the Arizona 90 degrees! We have to leave the windows open a bit in order to make it comfortable inside and be able to access our newly designed refrigerating system. I will let the picture above speak for itself. The accommodations are much better than we imagined but ironically enough there is no ice available for consumption anywhere. Go figure! We just keep scooping it off the window ledge.

What a weird feeling...

Never in our wildest dreams did we ever think we would be going to Russia at any point in our lives. We do have a list of places we want to visit and Russia was never a consideration. Our agency had an English-speaking representative and a driver meet us right outside Customs. We got in about fifteen minutes earlier than scheduled so there was no one there yet. Nobody spoke English but let me tell you, there is one common word in our lexicons’…TAXI. Really nice guys but a bit persistent. Fortunately our driver and representative showed up about ten minutes later. It was snowing and really wet; they transported us in a van to the domestic airport about 20 minutes away.
The road from the international to the domestic airport was isolated and really creepy. I thought that any minute we were going to have a bunch of cars with men in black and machine guns come out of nowhere and attacked us after all, the driver and rep knew we had quiete a bit of cash on us and it was very isolated at 1:00 in the morning. I kept my thoughts to myself because I also knew I was wrong to think what I was thinking, and I defenetely didn’t want to say anything that would offend them. I was dying to ask them if we were safe though. I kept telling myself that I wasn't in Colombia and there was probably nothing to worry about but that really wasn't helping me much.
Once at the domestic airport we found a place to crash (no pun intended). The representative showed us where we would be spending that night...two very small chairs right by the security guard station. It was now around 1:30 and our plane was not leaving until 7:30 AM. She showed us how to interpret the screens, what to do and not to do, then she took off. By the way, one of the ‘not to do’ items was not to fall asleep because we 'could get robbed'. That was enough for me not to close my eyes for longer than a few minutes at a time. On the other hand, Chris set-up camp in no time at all and slept while I kept guard.
The airport was pretty small and isolated during this time. At first I couldn't understand why no one smiles. but as I became more aware of my surroundings I understood. Everyone has such a serious, almost bitter look in their faces and never say Hi. The bathrooms were the worst part. I have never gone so fast and gotten out of a bathroom as I did in this place. I don’t think that the time of day plus her ‘being robbed’ comments helped me any. I did see some interesting stuff while I was keeping guard. Not by coincidence, we were sitting about 30 feet from the security checkpoint. There were always three or four guards by it, one checking people with the gizmo they use to see why you the machine is beeping when you walk through it, the other one sort of looked at the television screen as the bags went through it, and the other two just stood around and stared at the people around, including us. I caught one of them looking at us with the corner of his eyes several times. I was listening to Shakira on my IPod and I wished I could have him listened to ‘My hips don’t Lie” just to see if he would smile for a few seconds. I didn’t dare do anything of course. The place was so darn hot that I wanted to go outside for a minute to cool off but was terrified that, for some odd reason, he would stop me and not let me back in. All in my head I’m sure. He didn’t speak a word of English. No one did. In fact, the few times I approached several people at counters and asked something in English, I got the ‘stay-away, I don’t have a clue and I don’t want to talk to you' look.
A guy sitting right behind us was evidently really bored after he woke-up from his three hour nap and started serenading everyone with his guitar. It sounded as if he was playing Do Re Mi over and over. It was bad enough to make Chris get up and pack-up the all the camping gear he had out and head for the Perm gate. At least he was happy and seemed to be enjoying himself. We had so much junk that we thought they would not let us through to the gates. Not the case this time though. There were all women at this security checkpoint and again, not a bit friendly. To top it all off, the woman at the checkpoint wouldn't talk; she would just point at all we had to take off or the bags we had to open. I kept thinking that our money belts were going to set-off all the machines but not a beep thank goodness. Unlike us, the money belts kept incognito during the whole trip. All these money they told us we had to take did us no good in Moscow. No one takes dollars and our agency had warned us not to exchange currency at the airport. I did anyway so we could pay to have our luggage shrink-wrapped... I guess this is typical on flights there as it makes it less likely to have items stolen from suitcases. All the Rubbles I got were not enough to also get coffee, and they are sure not happy to have to accept a credit card. No coffee didn't help my morning...

Arriving at the Moscow International Airport

You wouldn’t think so. There seemed to be people from everywhere in the world at the Frankfurt airport but when we got to the Moscow gate, everyone was Russian except us. Although Chris could mix right-in, it was rather obvious that everyone else thought I probably didn’t look like I belong in this group. No dirty looks or anything like that, just curiosity looks I think. That was until we got to Moscow.
Our luggage didn’t take long to come out and we were out of the baggage area in about 30 minutes. The passport control wait was about five minutes which is quite different than what everyone had told us to expect. We were prepared to spend a few hours in the passport control and Customs line but from getting our bags to getting through Customs it was less than 30 minutes. After gathering our luggage we took what they call The Green Channel Line; this is the line you take if you are not carrying anything to declare; there were five, very serious looking Custom officers, KGB probablye, in green and red uniforms. They were letting everyone get through until it was our turn. One of them, really serious looking asked us for our passports as soon as he saw us. He looked at the pictures and looked at us but did not say much other than asking if all what was in the luggage was personal. His expression alone was enough to scare the life out of me! I got to thinking that he was probably just upset to be working the midnight shift and figured he could pass some time scaring the life out of the tired, dishelved confused Americans.

Getting to Perm

We left Phoenix and flew to Charlotte, NC at noon on Friday January 25th. Of course it was chaotic before we left, trying to get the final things packed and taking care of last minute stuff before leaving . The trip from Charlotte to Frankfurt was pretty long by bearable. Of course we were on the world's biggest, most technically advanced airship and guess who had the only two in-flight entertainment systems that didn't work? We were so excited when the pilot announced that we were only sixty miles so we started putting our pillows, blankets, books, IPod and laptop away. This last sixty miles felt like the longest part of the trip but we did enjoy the amazing views of the quaint German countryside. I couldn’t take my eyes off what seemed to be like never-ending hills of bright green land and sparsely inhabited hamlets. Once in Frankfurt it was easy to find our way around.
First we figured out where our gate to Moscow was going to be, then found a shady luggage storage operation, which we used anyway as to not lug all our stuff around the whole day. After getting ripped off exchanging dollars for euros we decided to ride the train downtown and find the hotel where we will be staying for one night on the way back. Chris thought this would be a good idea since we will be getting back to Frankfurt late on Thursday night. We spent about five hours in the downtown area of Offenbach, checked out the hotel where we were able to clean-up a bit, then spent a few hours walking around a pretty neat marketplace in the center of town. We had lunch at what appeared to be a popular hang-out and had a real authentic meal. Chris of course had to try the local cuisine so he had some German sausage and schnitzel. I was a bit more conservative and didn’t want to take any chance of getting sick before we got to Perm so I stuck to the good ole loaded bake potato. We got back to the airport with enough time to check out some duty-free shops, get through the really long security lines and still get to our gate about an hour ahead of our flight. Funny thing now that were on the Russian airline is that they boarded everyone five minutes before our scheduled departure time and still left on time. Everyone was still milling around stowing their stuff and the plane just backed up and started to taxi to the runway. Guess they want to maintain their #1 standing as Russia's top on-time performer!

Monday, January 21, 2008

Russian Visas and Travel Itinerary

We received our Russian visas last Friday and can now say with certainty that we are living to Perm this Friday January 25th. We our route is Phoenix - Charlotte - Frankfurt - Moscow then Perm. We leave at mid-day on Friday at noon and get to Perm mid-day Sunday ( which is really 12 hours earlier here). In any case, it is 20+ hours flying and the rest is transfers, customs and waiting around airports. I am sure Sunday afternoon will be to catch-up on all the missed sleep and more important, get ready for our big meeting the following morning with the Ministry of Education ( they run their orphanages ) and our adoption representative in Perm...who am dying to meet. I hear he is wonderful!

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Long Time No Post...

Last week flew. Chris and I were very busy with work, home, school and adoption errands. It was a good week as far as the adoption was concerned. Russia was celebrating the Christmas holiday on January 7th but it sounds like the party started before then, and lasted a few days after the fact. In any case, our agency was very diligent getting in touch with the Moscow representatives and had them review our trip schedules.

We now have the trip to Perm approved. Chris contacted the travel agency that our agency recommended, purchased the tickets yesterday and we got them today. I guess we are supposed to have paper tickets instead of electronic ones - not sure why, but we are just going with the flow. Last week we also received a package from the agency with lots of information about the first trip. They sure walk you through everything, step by step - there were lots of pages about traveling tips, do's and don'ts while in Russia and information on what to, and not to, bring on our trip.

We sent our passports with the Russian Visa applications and expect to get those back next Monday or Tuesday. We were a bit concerned about having to send our passports but there was no other way. The visas have to be stamped on one of the pages of the passport so we just have to cross our fingers and hope UPS gets those back to us in one piece.
Other than that, we are pretty much ready to go; we even have our wardrove picked-out and our warmest clothes dusted-off and ready to just be packed. We were told to travel light but that's hard to do when we are bringing winter clothes, gifts, laptop and some food.

We leave home on a Friday around mid-day and get to Perm at noon on Sunday. We will be meeting with Perm officials on Monday morning but don't know much after that. We are assuming we will be able to visit the orphanage every day but we are not sure about any of the rules or details just yet. I'm sure we'll know shortly after we get in. We know now the true meaning of 'going with the flow' :)
The agency here has been phenomenal, and sounds like the people in Russia are very well prepared for our visit. Our agency tells us that they will have a driver and an interpreter waiting for us in Moscow. They will help us through Customs and will transport us from the international airport to the local one to catch our flight from Moscow to Perm. This was a nice surprise as we thought we were on our own; the bad part is on their end; we get into Moscow at midnight and don't leave to Perm for six hours - that means they too, will be up all night to ensure we make our flight. There will be another representative waiting for us in Perm and the agency also told us he was wonderful!

We are so excited and so ready!!! And...Oh boy! Are we going to have some stories to tell our little one?

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Santa is Back!

In Russia, Santa Claus is known as Father Frost. He is usually illustrated with his granddaughter, the snow maiden, Snegurochka riding with an evergreen tree and presents in a traditional Russian troika. A troika is a sleigh drawn by 3 horses yoked abreast. The banner reads, "Happy New Year!" Christmas is now celebrated in Russia on January 7. After the Russian October Revolution in 1917, the calendar was changed to place Christmas after New Year's Day. This was done in order to place more emphasis on the non-religious New Year's Day. For this reason, the Russian Father Frost is associated with New Year's Day rather than with Christmas.

(extracted from

What happened today...

Nowadays we are constantly checking emails assuming we are going to get information or instructions from the agency, the INS, the travel agencies, and so on. Well, today we heard from every single one of them.

The INS news were good. The one specific form required to bring an orphan to the US, and which has to be approved by the INS, was approved just a few days ago. The INS office advised us that we could either pick-it up or they would put it in the mail today so Chris went downtown and got it, just to be on the safe side and no risk getting it lost in the mail. The same authorization form was already sent to Moscow letting them know we are approved to bring a foreign orphan into the US.

We should have gotten this form a while ago but I "overpaid" the INS when I sent the request. Instead of them processing the form anyway and refunding the twenty bucks later, I got my check and original form back about ten days later letting me know that due to the overpayment they could not process my request. Crazy!!! Not that I want to complain about anything, after all things in general have gone pretty smooth for us since we decided to embark on this journey.

We also purchased our tickets to Germany; the portion from Germany to Moscow then to Perm is reserved but we are not supposed to pay for the tickets until we get word from the Moscow representatives that our itinerary is approved by them. Today we were told that we may not hear from Moscow until the 8th since Russia is celebrating holidays in anticipation for their Christmas day on January 7th. - Can't blame them! we all know how that goes :)

It sounds like there is more than just a layover in Moscow. Supposedly we need to go through Customs in Moscow, get our luggage and transfer by bus to another terminal to catch the flight to Perm. The word is that we need to spend about five hours in Moscow to be able to do this. I heard today that you can see the other terminal but it can take up to an hour to get to it because the Moscow airport area is really busy with traffic and travelers. I am crossing my fingers that the immigration line is not an issue. I have read that some people have experienced up to three hours in line.

Tomorrow we are getting instructions to start preparing Part II of the dossier. That means lots more paperwork, paying fees, trips downtown, but on the bright side tomorrow is one day closer to meeting this precious baby :)

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

We are going to Perm!!!

So far so good this week. Yesterday we received an email from the agency to let us know our schedule for Perm. After several calls back and forth we finaly got a specific time for our appointments while in Russia. Yesterday afternoon Chris was off and was able to get our trip booked. We will be flying from Phoenix to Charlotte, then to Frankfurt and Moscow. In Moscow we have a long layover before we catch another flight to Perm. It will be a long trip...we leave on a Friday at noon and get to Perm 30 hours later!

Yesterday during the lunch hour I was able to take off from work to go shopping at a little scrapbooking store that 's going out of business. I got some really great deals on the book and all the goodies I need to start putting together the Adoption Lifebook. I can't wait to get that started but unfortunately I have to put it off until this coming weekend. For the next few days I have a lot of school homework.

Chris is just as busy making sure everything at the office is up-to-date before we leave and helping with all the trip preparations, dealing with the airlines, figuring out hotels in Frankfurt, and so on. It is going to be an exciting month...that's for sure!!!

It was great having today off - we were able to catch-up on a lot of stuff that otherwise we would do in the evenings. We got all the technology stuff tested and ready to go. We are supposed to take lots of pictures and make a video of the baby to submit it to the International Adoption Clinic in MN from Perm. That will help the doctors here determine if there are specific medical issues to be aware and for which we would need to prepare.

Trying to figure out the recording from our camera and downloading was not that difficult but it was a good thing we tested it today. We discovered that our email server has a very little limit on the size of files we can send. We also found out that we are only able to record for about four minutes and the doctor's request is to send at least a 15 minute video. The chore tomorrow is to upgrade emails so we don't have issues sending out these videos. We are also thinking about investing on a video recorder and not using the digital camera we have but we'll have to wait and see. For now, it is great to have our dates figured out, trip booked and most of the stuff we are taking figured out. Great way to start out 2008!