Wednesday, December 30, 2009
Tuesday, December 29, 2009
Saturday, December 26, 2009
Every day, we wake up to put on our layers: First the baby oil, then the lotion, our underwear, long underwear, our thin layers and then the wool layers, our socks, boots, coats, scarves, hats, Vaseline (on the face for wind protection), chapstick, gloves and finally we are ready to face the outside world. Some days, these layers are not enough protection. Some days, parts of us needed protection and we forgot to put on that layer. Today is Christmas. We are worn out in every way. We are trying celebrate the holiday and make it fun for Voss, but it is difficult. Celebrating is something we don't feel like doing right now. Please pray, meditate, visualize good things for us. We really need it.
Have you ever watched someone's heart get ripped out of their body and then be the one left holding it? Let me tell you what it feels like... Your own feelings completely evaporate and you can only feel that person's pain. It shoots straight into your own heart and you are completely connected to their sadness and fear at that moment. It is the most intense feeling of empathy that you will ever experience.
This is what happened to us two days ago. We had to meet with Ruslan's brother and ask for permission to adopt Ruslan. He would not give his consent nor would he give us a reason for not giving it.
Our hearts were broken.
of things brought from home that we never could have lived without in Ukraine
10. moisturizing things: body lotion, baby oil, hair conditioner, chapstick
9. Spices (Italian seasoning, green Zatar mix, basil)
8. English magazines brought from home
7. An IPOD with music and downloaded movies
6. Warm flannel pajamas for hanging out at the apartment (no one expects a woman giving birth to look sexy)
5. Ziplock bags
4. Boogey Wipes (moist towels you can get in the baby section of Walgreens)
3. LIQUID HAND SANITIZER!!!!! We brought the mini ones you can get at Bath and Body Works. You CAN NOT buy these here. Not even on the black market.
2. Love and support from our friends and family near and far.
1. Patience (or sanity)
Here are some honorable mentions. These are pretty much for someone who is high maintainence in these areas (which we can be).
-Starbuck's Via instant coffee packets
- deck of cards (Someone with a full deck is hard to find here. No pun intended)
- Thank you cards
- A Blackberry...this would have been near the top of our list, but we HAD to live without ours since it froze on us. Don't get the Blackberry Tour. There is no hard re-set!! Try to find a cell store anywhere in Ukraine who can fix that problem!
Friday, December 25, 2009
We had plans for the driver to pick us up at 10. We made it to the orphanage at 11. Ruslan and his friends were outside waiting for us. All the boys immediately ran off with the sled. His close friends are Kirin 14, Sasha 13, and Vadine 13. They would not let Voss fall behind for the 4 hours we were with them. In fact all of the kids treated Voss really well the entire time and included him in everything. He loved every second.
The kids from the windows yesterday all came out for lunch at noon today. The sled was the hit of the party and all 20 of them were standing around watching, some taking turns. We were celebrities as well and all were trying their few words of english on us.
Ruslan was told a few times that he needed to go inside for some chores or something. He kept saying neh hachu (I don't want to). Well, he sure changed his mind when an orphanage lady came outside screaming for him to get in there. He dissappeared for 15 minutes.
Closer to us leaving, I made the mistake of throwing a snowball at one of the boys. Before I knew it there were 10 boys throwing snowballs at me. I was holding my own but one flanked my position- unbeknownced to me. I turned around and got hit square in the face. I had to call mercy and they all laughed.
Just before leaving, Ruslan came back out and joined the group of boys surrounding us. Up to this point, he seemed a little intimidated by the older boys- or maybe any attention -but he made an effort to be by us in front of everyone. Every boy had to shake mine and Cindy's hands as we left and help Voss into the car. They we all proudly saying good-bye in English. Ruslan hugged Cindy in front of everyone and we left.
Tomorrow was supposed to be a drive to Berdansk to talk with one of Ruslan's brothers, but instead it is back to the orphanage to talk with Ruslan's other brother and obtain his signed permission. We also have a plan to have internet installed tomorrow. If we do then you will know because you will finally be reading this.
Sledding at Orphanage
Cindy and Voss woke at their usual time, 6:15. The cab driver was coming at the previously scheduled 8 a.m. so their was not enough time for Voss to do schoolwork this morning. After I showered with lukewarm water (not comfortable when the apartment only heats up to about 60) we received a call stating that the cab would arrive at 8:30. Voss helped me with the daily exercise program I have imposed on myself, 100 pushups, 50 situps, and 20 Voss curls. If I miss any then I make them up the next day. I am only behind 250 pushups right now ;-).
After the cab picked us up we went on to get Vitali. There was more paperwork to get at the orphanage and take to the local inspector. Vitali shared that the region were are in just happens to be the strictest region in Ukraine now, and toughest to adopt from. This is a recent development. A couple from Italy was adopting a child and after the courts waived the mandatory 10 day waiting period the child's bio grandmother protested after she was told the child's body parts would be sold. The Italian couple ran into snags as a result and wrote letters to anyone and everyone in Ukraine. Of course the result of letters isn't positive change in a country like this! So the point of this is that we cannot submit our paperwork to the court now until January 11th. From there we get an initial court date, wait the 10 working day wait period, andthen have the last court date. This all pushes our trip out a few weeks. This trip is different, we take it all in stride. Shoh toh boodeh, boodeh.
We arrived at the orphanage with a bottle of brandy and some cookies to give to the orphanage director. This was partly for entertainment and partly to grease the skids. We are asking to have Ruslan stay with us for the weekend. The director laughed and promised we would drink more but he was in a rush to leave. He also said there was another bottle to finish. He looked appreciative. The question was never asked about Ruslan so hopefully it is asked soon.
Word spread around the orphanage fast that we were there. Within about 5 minutes Ruslan popped his head around the corner. He was in school and I am sure didn't need much of an excuse to leave. We brought the sled, the one we got for Voss the previous day, so that Ruslan and Voss could play. One of Ruslan's friends joined them and they had a good time. There was a layer of ice on the snow so it made for good conditions. It was cute to see in the building across the field kid's faces pressed against the windows watching what was going on outside.
It's a mix of emotions visiting all these kids at the orphanage and you can't help them all. Most of them are beautiful kids and they seem to be so well behaved. I don't understand how these kids stay in the system for many years when they would be great candidates to get adopted. Something doesn't add up. ...but it seems like through experiences like the hosting program we were involved with (frontier horizons) these kids do get exposure and We heard the follow up adoption rate on these kids is something like 30-40 percent which is good to hear.
We couldn't stay long because the paperwork had to be back at the inspectors so we left after 15 minutes with Ruslan. Hurry up and wait is the name of the game. Ruslan gave us all a hug, he just loves hugging Cindy and saying bye to Voss. He does so well with Voss. We were talking afterwards about how he really helped Voss to "keep him in line" when Ruslan came to visit.
After we dropped off Vitali we took advantage of the taxi and went to the supermarket to stock up again. After shopping we asked the driver to take us to a place with something that resembled American food. We ended up at the same pizza chain that we frequented last trip. How can you beat a full pizza, a small coleslaw, 2 beers and a juice all for 50 grivna (6 bucks). Our experiences here in Melitopil are far different then what we saw on the last trip to Cherkassy. The people are friendly and helpful and they actually smile. For instance when I went to order the pizza I had no idea what to ask for since there were no pictures and I cannot read cyrillic. 3 girls behind the counter came to help and started laughing and poking fun at my mixture of English and Ruskrainian. The girl actually started talking to me in Ukrainian which seemed to be something out of the ordinary for her.
After lunch we walked through the outdoor market back towards where we are staying (about a 3 mile walk). We came across an old woman who commented that our girl's hair was nice. She was confused when we said his(her) name was Vosya. She said Vasylli? Who names a girl Vasylli? So she spoke to us in Russian for 15 minutes..... I returned in Ukrainian. It's amazing how you can have a conversation by just picking out every third word. She gave Voss Walnuts which he ate. So we bought a bag. Nearing the end there was a point where she started crossing herself like in church when she realized Voss was adopted from Ukrain but did not understand anything. We promised that Ruslan would reteach Voss to speak Ruslan and she seemed satisfied.
I was in bad need of a haircut so we stopped at a salon looking place. After waiting 10 minutes I received one of the best haircuts ever for $2.50. When I tipped her $1 she looked confused and probably though I was crazy.
After doubling back a mile to reach an internet cafe with dial up speed we made it home after dark.
Wednesday, December 23, 2009
We just wanted to write a quick blog to let you guys know that it will be a couple days before we can write something good. We are in the middle of some travel, some paperwork, and some technical challenges so we can't write our normal blogs.
A quick update...today was our third visit with Ruslan. We were able to visit for a long time since Vitale was traveling to meet with one of Ruslan's brothers. We are going to meet another brother tomorrow at the orphanage. It is a bit scary. We will just hope for the best.
Tomorrow is Voss's birthday. We will celebrate with all of our new friends at the orphanage.
Monday, December 21, 2009
So, we have been here a few nights already (right? I have lost track of time) and have gone for long walks in the neighborhood. We found the local gym (see pictures later), an outdoor farmer's market, a really big supermarket, and a christmas tree lot. There really isn't much here and we have been getting stared at a lot. It may be because I stop to take photos of strange things like cow's tails and pig's feet, but I just can't believe what I see sometimes! I mean, what do they do with the cow tail (in meat photo on metal part next to meat)? Marty?
We were able to visit Ruslan at the orphanage today. He looks really cute and was all smiles when he saw us. We were a little nervous about our first meeting. Maybe he changed his mind? He signed the official paper that says he will change his name to Ruslan Moon Issel. What's up with the hippie middle name you say? Well my grandmother had a saying, if you can't beat em then join 'em. I have never been one to pass on sage advice, so Ruslan will now have an opportunity to fit in more in some California circles. Actually, that was his nickname when he came to visit. We used it as our "code word" when we didn't want him to know we were talking about him (his head looked like a giant moon). People seem to ask a couple of times to see if they heard the name right, "Moon?"
Even Ruslan asked twice. It is the same reaction we get when people look at Voss's long hair... A.k.a. The creepy Ukranian Santa said he was going to bring Voss a doll which led us to believe that he thought Voss was a girl.
The orphanage was out in the middle of farmland. The grounds were pretty barren- not a lot of trees or bushes, just a bunch of plain buildings. Several boys were just sort of standing around.
We entered one of the buildings to talk to the director. A rumor was going around that he always serves coffee and cognac to all the parents. We were hoping he was out of the cognac. He was very nice and everyone seemed to respond to him with laughter so I guess he is pretty funny. Two kids walked through the door. One was our Ruslan. He looked bigger already. His hair was the same strange mauve color that Voss's was when we got him. All the blonde was gone. Several comments were made about the length of Voss's hair (again) and Voss threw his arms around his head to protect his blonde locks. He knew well what was being said. I think they were discussing the buzz cut with long bangs style. Oy!
Both children began to write the paper to change their names. Our family was then sent out to wait in the other room. We tried out our new Russian words with Ruslan and he didn't laugh. I guess it was understandable then. Voss began to climb all over Ruslan and kiss him. Ruslan just smiled.
Some coffee and shotglasses showed up with some cookies. The director came in with the bottle of cognac and we all had to drink. Blah!
We are on our way back today for a longer visit. We need to find the internet to download some pictures.
Sunday, December 20, 2009
We have made it to what will be our residence for the next month in Melitopol. It is Russian speaking here, so Zenon needs to learn Russian quickly. He still tries to speak Ukranian, but only gets blank stares in response. We had an entourage meet us at 5:20 am at the train station and bring us to the apartment. It is a 4 room apartment with a long hallway. Basically, two bedrooms, a kitchen, bathroom and a livingroom. Not bad for $13.25 a night!! We signed a month's lease and finally got to unpack our things. When we enterd the kitchen, a full breakfast was waiting for us with sandwiches, chocolate cookies, coffee, cognac, meats and cheeses, and a basket of special chocolates for Voss. He was a bit freaked out by all the people so early in the morning, so he hid in the hallway. It was kind of crazy. Extreemly nice, but not how we are used to being treated at 6am. We asked if they did this with everyone and they said no, we are just the most exciting guests they have ever had. So, on that note, we all drank a shot of the cognac.
The owner of the apartment came by later to drive us around the neighborhood. It is really nice and there seems to be a lot of shops around and we are close to the bus stop. It will be bearable enough. The people are really nice, so it will be fine.
Yesterday was Saint Nicholas day. It's for the kids where they get lots of chocolate. Ukrainian Christmas is January 7th which means we will have to celebrate two christmases for the rest of our lives. After the 7th, all government offices close for two weeks so we get to just hang out. I guess we will have time to go to a few shows and see the local sights- riiight.
Tomorrow we see Ruslan at the orphange. I guess he has the flu right now so hopefully we will get to visit him. Then we get our permission from the city to adopt and try to get our court date. Court won't happen until after the holiday which is around the 10th.
Happy birthday Dido and Special Ed! Voss misses both of you. And his grandmas too.
Friday, December 18, 2009
Today Voss dragged me outside for an hour to build an "igloo" in the 6 inches of fresh snow. I couldn't last any longer. Cindy welcomed the break after an hour of homework with him.
Our check-out from the apt was at 1 so we went to the corner pizza bar and ate 3 little pizzas. The best was the last one with bacon and eggs on it. (Not really). Our appointment to collect the paperwork referral was at 3 so I scheduled a cab to pick us up from the pizza bar at 2:30. In classic Ukie fashion the cab driver went to the wrong end of the block. After 15 minutes of searching I found the cab and we made it right on time!
No hick-ups at the sda. Dima came with us in the cab to the train station to make sure we got off ok. Trains from western ukraine were 12 hours delayed because of the big snow storm but we departed on time.
We had another dinner with bread, cheese, and sausage. As much as I like it I am looking forward to some healthy food.
It is 1:30 am right now and cindy and voss are sleeping. The compartment is really comfortable but really warm and dry. Voss went to sleep at 7:30 but woke at 10. He was incoragably restless until he finally bored himself back to sleep at 12:30. Cindy seems to sleep well but I am starting to wonder if this jetlag is a permanent thing. Maybe I should start reading a book instead of wandering aimlessly on this blackberry. I'd probably fall asleep in 5 minutes.
We arrive in 4 hours at the train station. The plan is for someone to meet us, a translator named Vitali.
Thursday, December 17, 2009
Wednesday, December 16, 2009
Tuesday, December 15, 2009
The 3 day immersion into the German language has effected Voss immensely. He has lost all his understanding of the English language. At least, that is what we would like to think. We have been calling him "Wild Monkey" between the two of us, but keep telling him he is doing well and there are lots of changes coming. Oyvay!
While we were on the plane over here, I just kept thinking to myself, "Why am I going there again? Why. Why!?!" Then, once again, we get to the city center with all the Christmas decorations and it begins to snow! "OK, this will be nice. We can do this!
Focus on Ruslan."
We already had guests to our new place by a couple locals who were picking up the ginormous goody bag from one of Zenon's Ukranian friend's back home. We are ready to go back to some of our favorite places in Kiev. We ODed on Glue Wine and gingerbread and already had pierogies for dinner. Thank God we brought our own spices from home! Ukranian food gets old super quick.
Monday, December 14, 2009
We were looking forward to some good beer and some bratwurst.
We made it over to the center of town where the Christmas village is located. Christmas decorations are everywhere. Every store has an elaborate christmas display in the window. Hundreds of little booths are set up with giant cookies, chocolates, Christmas ornaments, sausages and Gluhwein (hot spiced wine we were calling glue wine) were for sale.
Back at the Hotel, we were all passed out at 5:30 PM only to wake-up at 11:30 PM. For some reason, Zenon thought it was 5AM and started to get ready. So, we put on some meditation music and tried to go back to sleep. By the way Voss was jumping on the bed, you would have thought I just put in a workout video. After a couple hours, we were all asleep again.
We finally woke up at 10AM and we are now on the "Polar Express" going to the North Pole(a.k.a. Nuremburg). It is supposed to be a very Christmasy town with a bif wall allthe way around it and decorations
Voss is hoping to see Santa and a few reindeer. He knows he won't see any elves since they are very busy this time of year.
Friday, December 11, 2009
My friend Dima at work has been a great help to put us in touch with some contacts in Kiev for help as well as find a place to stay in Melitopil. I am excited because the cost of the apartment is $400 for a month which will be the best price we have ever come across. That has helped to ease some of the "unknowns." A big thanks to Grandma who will take care of Bessel and our place while we are gone!
Voss is doing really well and he is looking forward to the trip. He keeps saying "My brother" this and "my Brother" that. He is also talking about a sister now....maybe he knows something we don't? His count down to take off is done by counting how many sleeps. Today he will say, " 1 more sleep 'till we leave." Having met Ruslan I am sure Voss understands a little better what is actually happening and what to expect. The only concern he has voiced so far is that he hopes Ruslan will share toys. I am sure there are plenty of other underlying emotions for Voss. I can imagine he is wondering what to expect from our family dynamic once this is all complete, what to expect in Ukraine, and also what to expect if we have a chance to visit his orphanage. He is resilient for sure and handles everything really well.
Grandma is scheduled to pick us up tomorrow morning at 5:00 for our 8:20 flight. Ever since we missed our flight back from Florida because I forgot to account the time change in my phone’s calendar, I am a little extra sensitive to being early for flights (not to mention the magnitude of this flight).
Wednesday, December 2, 2009
INSTRUCTIONS REMOVED BECAUSE THEY WERE STOLEN AND USED TO CALL NIGERIA, SLOVAKIA, PHILIPPINES, ETC.
ACCOUNT HAD TO BE SHUT DOWN!