Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Ukranian Egg Fight?!

Zenon just found this article...I wish I brought eggs to court that one day! And one big smoke bomb. Next time....

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20100427/ap_on_re_eu/eu_ukraine_russia_fleet

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Volcano


Seriously, how did we miss this?

Friday, April 16, 2010

The Long Trip Home

Wednesday morning wasn’t unlike some of the others. He refused basically everything I asked of him. He even tried slamming his bedroom door and locking me out. Unfortunately this didn’t work out for him because the other day when he disassembled and reassembled the door knob he broke it (I had asked him not to but he didn’t listen ;-)). I needed to check email so I decided not to dig in. We were at the internet cafĂ© by 9.

Vitaly called at around 10 am. The passport was ready. Yay! We were in a cab headed for the train station to buy train tickets for that night by 10:30. I made an error in judgment in hindsight. I agreed with Vitaly that we could take a bus to Zaparozhe to get the passport to save some $$. Unfortunately I was stressing the entire day. We were on the bus by 11 am but needed to get the passport, fax it into Kiev, and be back to Melitopol for our 7 pm train. Not to mention finish packing and pay the apartment owner. Considering the trip to Zaparozhe was 2 hours alone it wasn’t worth the stress (worry about cab to passport agency from bus stop, and finding a bus back to Melitopol in time) to save what amounted to $20 when taking a cab would have been reassuring. …but for once everything went off without a hitch (except the part where Ruslan got mad at me for not buying him a pepsi. You see, I started to explain to him that if he was good all day that he could have a pepsi later. Since I was explaining this to him in the cab he told me to stop talking because he was embarrassed about my Russian. He missed the part about all day and expected the pepsi when we got to Zap).

I decided on taking 2 beds in a 4-bed sleeper room on the train gambling that we would have tolerable roommates. It was not a good sign when drunken sailors poured out of the train and started yelling when we went to board. It turns out that one of our roommates was a passed out sailor and 3 others were using our room as the drinking room. They continued after we arrived, drinking and yelling and offering us homemade wine, even though Ruslan, me and our other roommate (a nice lady who just wanted them to leave) were resting on our beds. They just sat on the edges of our beds and kept on like it was normal. One of the sailors gave Ruslan a bullet from his gun as a souvenir. (Ruslan wasn’t about to let me have it so I had to ask Dima the next day to have Ruslan give it up. Dima just threw it onto the lawn at the medical office!) The sailors left at about midnight and we got some sleep before our 7 am arrival in Kiev.

The apartment owner, Constantine, was waiting outside of the train and drove us to the apartment which was just a stone’s throw from Independence square for $50 per night. It figures that the best apartment with the best price and location was found on the last night and without time to take advantage of it! Dima met us 30 minutes later and we spent the next 8 hours completing the medical exam and acquiring the passport at the US embassy. Ruslan was tired. I am sure the finality of the situation was sinking in. 5 minutes before our interview at the embassy Ruslan says “I’m leaving”. What? He says I don’t want to wait anymore, just take me back to the orphanage and won’t stop walking towards the exit. Wow. What do I do? So I stand in front of him and explain that he is our son now, there is no going back, and if we miss our interview then we may be in Kiev for another few more days waiting instead of a few more hours. He doesn’t care and continues to walk outside. I see Dima out there and quickly explain what is going on. I ask Dima to bribe Ruslan that we will go skating afterwards, we just need to finish. We it seemed to work because Ruslan came back in and we finished our interview. Crisis averted. I felt for him. The past 48 hours were nothing but traveling, waiting, paperwork, and examinations with little sleep. We walked out of the embassy with the last piece of the puzzle at about 4 pm.

Dima sent us to a mall with indoor skating, arcades, trampolines, etc, and Ruslan blew off some steam for a few hours. We made it back to the apartment for a few hours of sleep and headed off to the airport for our 5:30 am flight. It all over and we are going home! Not so fast. The Lufthansa agent told us to step aside as he was printing our tickets. No explanation, he just said that he needed to talk with his supervisor. 20 minutes later we are still standing there watching everyone else walk away with their boarding passes. Finally he explains that we need to leave the secure area and go back outside to talk with the Lufthansa agents. Of course I am waiting for the next letdown. Fortunately the agent over there explained that the system was not processing the ticket properly but she had a fix. We were on our way. This was just Ukraine’s way of saying goodbye to us. It was a fitting end to our long adventure.

I am pretty sure that it was more of a relief to leave Ukraine than it was to arrive in the US. Our entire trip was long, probably 24 hours, but Ruslan was great the entire trip. In fact, on our last 1.5 hr leg from San Fran to San Diego he was practically jumping out of his seat. Every 5 minutes he would ask “Is that San Diego” from the moment we got in the air.

Cindy and Voss met us in San Diego at 7pm. It was great to see them. It’s now Friday and I am back at work. I left this morning and everyone was in good spirits. Baba is here, she just got in on Tuesday, and it’s great to see her as well.

Just for the record Cindy made chicken Osso Buco for dinner last night. We traded in the bread for Tortillas and made burritos. It's good to be back!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

GREAT NEWS!!

Yes! Zenon got the passport and they left immediately on the train to Kiev!!! They are finally on their way home! They are on the 10 hour ride on the train (overnight), will go to get the medical done, get the Visa in the American Embassy and take off on Thursday morning. We can hardly believe that they will be home in just two sleeps (Voss's way of counting the time until he gets to see his dad and new brother.) I almost don't want to relax yet. I mean, the Embassy could always blow up or somethi...OK, I won't even finish that sentence.

I think it is almost over. I think we are picking them up at the airport on Thursday. I forgot to ask the time they come in. Marty came into town today and we have already begun to plan the welcome home dinner and it WILL NOT be ANYTHING Ukranian!!

Anyone have any suggestions?

I wonder if he ever got to return the power cord?(ha)

Monday, April 12, 2010

Good News, Bad News

The good news is that we searched some more, with the help of Ruslan's friend Artom (whom he met at the internet cafe), and found a power supply for my laptop. This was saturday. I was excited to have the internet back at home and get some work done. The bad news is that it was the wrong model of power supply and I could not use it.

OK, so there is more bad news. The guy at the store promised that I could return it, no questions asked, if it did not work. It was $30. I tried to return yesterday and he asked me for my passport. Um, ok, yes I just walk around with a pasport. He also said that they did not have any money in the register to refund me if I did have a passport. Sounds promising!

Ok, so there is more bad news. We are still in Ukraine. It turns out that the passport authority in Kiev decided not to issue any passports last week. Good thing we paid the expediting fee! Actually, from what I understand the expediting fee is just so that it does not take 1 month.

OK, not finished. The passport authority is not issuing passports again today (Monday). For a week now we have been told tomorrow, tomorrow. Well, we have been told again tomorrow (tuesday). We were hopefull to have been home last Saturday but at this point we are in danger of missing our primary flight date on Thursday.

....oh ya, Ruslan spent 10 minutes swearing at me this morning. He didn't like that I ask him to brush his teeth and make his bed.

Other than that, and the weather being 50 degrees again, we are doing well ;-)

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Internet Cafe

....is our 2nd home. 3 hours on Monday. 3 hours yesterday. Almost at 3 hours today. At least we are getting out of the apartment!

I have to give Ruslan credit, he has been great since he let me have it. Everything I say registers with him. Almost always he immediately refuses to do as I ask but it almost like a routine where he will do it when i turn my back.

Saturday after everything happened and the internet cafe I received a call from Tamara and Nikolai, our friends from the last trip. They came and picked us up and the plan was to go for pizza (or so I thought). They drove us out to "Stone Grave" (http://www.panoramio.com/photo/18496941) and told us all about it. Ruslan had a blast and spent an hour climbing all over the site. Afterwards we went to gorky park to meet their 1 yr old daughter who was there with Tamara's mom. We spent a better part of an hour looking for the 2 squirrels that inhabit gorky park (really? 2 squirrels?). Not surprising that we did not see them since the park is about 2 square miles big! They dropped us off at home soon after at which point we scrambled to find something to eat since we did not go for dinner.

Yesterday Henry picked us up and we went for the sports equipment. The selection wasn't great but we bought some good sports equipment and games. I have a few extra dollars remaining so I bought a bunch or socks for the boys and hair accessories for the girls.

We arrived at the orphanage and it looked like a ghost town. Within minutes the parking lot was buzzing with kids who were excited about their new equipment. After a few group shots with about 50 kids (I was told that the orphanage currently has 110 kids) Valerie ushered me into his office and said sit. Henry came following a few minutes later which was great because the two of them were able to talk for the next 2 hours. Valerie ordered the 3 of us a filling lunch of boiled chicken legs, mashed potatoes, and beet salad. The chaser was homemade wine, lesser of all evils (I adamantlt declined any alcohol, but after refusing cognac, vodka, and beer Valerie finally talked me into his wine). It was a nice lunch, Valerie has been one of most hospitable people I have ever met. I think he really does good by the kids at Nova Nikolaiev.

I spent the last half hour with Ruslan and his friends watching them skateboard andthen the final goodbyes. It was very anticlimactic. Ruslan just gave a few handshakes and a few hugs and we were off.

Henry droppped us off and had plenty to say when I gave him a platform on the video camera. I swear it was a 10 minute monologue! When I called him for a ride I was reading for whatever price he threw at me, it would just be nice to say bye and thank. Henry only charged half his normal rate which was a nice gesture.

Like I was saying we have filled the rest of our time with the internet cafe and television with a few breaks to eat. Ruslan is happy. I am happy, nothing to complain about.

We were hoping to travel to Zaparozhe today but it did not happen. Looks like tomorrow we will travel there which means we will have to travel home next week. What's a few extra days at this point?

Monday, April 5, 2010

Monday Blowup

Today has been tough. I have been fairly lax on Ruslan and decided I needed to take a stand on at least one issue. I had asked that he use sheets on the bed to sleep last night and he declined. I gave him the option of sheets and tv tomorrow, or no sheets and no tv. He decided no sheets.

Monday morning we wake up and he goes straight for the tv. I ask that he turn it off and he declined. I turn it off myself. Battle lines are drawn. Ruslan digs in. For the next 2 hours he locks himslef in his room. I realize after a while that he has the tv back on. I pursuade him to unlock his door. He does. I take the television out of his room. As he closes the door I say please dont close. He tells me not to worry because he wont lock it. I decide ok. Guess what, he locks it!

The response I wanted to say "fine, no internet for the rest of the day". Instead I take a different road and ask him to talk. After a half hour he comes out and says fine. We act like nothing happenned, but later I tell him that we need to listen to each other, etc,etc.

We needed to go downtown, exchange some money, and pay for the computer and internet for the orphanage (Part of the gift from people who donated!). Ruslan was impatient the entire time, complaining that his knees hurt (but he was jumping all over things) and saying we need to take a taxi. After paying for the computer stuff we hit the sports store for some other things for the orphanage. The situation was getting worse and Ruslan was very impatient. He hit his tipping point when I declined to buy him something. Let's just say that he has a lot on his mind and maybe a little nervous/apprehensive/confused/mad/sad/etc,etc about everything. He is in a very tough spot right now and I need to work hard not to let him get closer to the edge. It's been tough. At this point a better strategy maybe just to get him home to california then put my foot down.

Wish me luck.

Easter Sunday

Saturday was a fun day for us. Since Vitaly left Ruslan and I in Zaparozhe and went home to Nikolaiev from there, this was our first day on own. We had laid the groundwork earlier and went to the orphanage to pick up Adol, Ruslan's friend. It was a quick trip and Henry droppped us off near the skating rink. I was hoping that Henry wouldn't overcharge like he seems to be doing but he did, asking for 250 grivna. I paid and made a mental note.

We went skating for a few hours then onto City Cafe for pizza. Now Ruslan hates pizza, so he says, so I finally made him eat some for dinner. City cafe pizza isn't half bad. Ruslan ate half the pizza all the while saying it wasn't good. I think we have a new pizza lover ;-). ALong those same lines I have discovered that Ruslan's standard answer to every question and comment is either 1 of 2 things: "I know" or "no". This can be frustrating.

When we were all finished I decided to ask a different cab what he woul charge for the trip back. 100 grivna = 12 bucks. Henry was waiting for my call and was surprised when I called him back from the orphanage saying that we didn't need a ride. He asked why and I quickly said I didn't know how to explain but I would tell him tomorrow. This was especially aukward because the plan was for him to pick us up at 9 am to go to church with his family for easter sunday.

The next Morning Henry arrived to pick us up. He quickly asked Ruslan how we got to the orphanage and Ruslan said by taxi. That was the end of the story. Henry didn't seem to care. I like Henry very much as a friend but think his taxi is far too expensive.

We walked to church from Henry's apartment. People were lined up outside where the priest was blessing the easter baskets. We stepped inside the church for 10 minutes, lit some candles, and were on our way. I like this Ukrainian church, only 10 minutes compared to the 2 hour Ukrainian church I remember!

Back at Henry's apartment his wife made us a nice spread including plenty of different fish (none of which I could stomach) and a bunch of other things like eggs, pork, mashed potatoes, and salads. We polished a bottle of Ukrainian wine (between Henry, Olga, and myself) while Ruslan and Melisa had juice. After a few hours Henry told me he couldn't drive and we had to take the bus home.

The rest of the afternoon Ruslan and I played basketball and watched tv. Unfortunately we cannot use the computer since the power supply broke. This has been heartbreaking for both of us!

Picking Ruslan Up - For the Final Time

After applying for the tax id in Melitopol, which went super smooth, we had to pick up Svetlana for the final paperwork in Nova Nikoliev. Henry let us out and Valerie ushered Vitaly, Svetlana and me into his office. He quickly assembled an assortment of pickled tomatoes, fish and cream cheese, cookies, mayonaisse pizza, liverworst, coffee, tea, beer, vodka, juice, and of course cognac. I wondered who the heck was going to eat all of this.

Yanna jioned us in the office and everyone made quick work of the food. You'd be surprised how much you can eat after a few vodka shots. I decided to take my poison today so that I would not have to do it on our last visit to the orphanage next week. I had promised Valerie 3 more shots before I leave.

The next morning we arose early to catch a bus to Zaparozhe. I very much appreciate the concious effort Vitaly has made to do everything quickly and cheaply. We had the option to take a cab but Vitaly recommended the bus - really no difference expect at least $100 dollars savings. I enjoy the bus experience. It's like being part of a group where everyone is in it together. I notice people are always helping others with their bags, with their kids, etc. It's great.

We arrived in Zaparozhe and applied for the passport with absolutely no problems. What's going on? It was straight back to Melitopol for 2 hours on the bus. Ruslan did good as well with hardly any complaints. The entire day took 8 hours.

This was great news that we were able to execute the birth certificate, the tax id, and the passport all within 2 days and finish on Friday. If we had to wait for the weekend, with Monday being a holiday, then this could have set us back almost a week!

Friday, April 2, 2010

Sasha

There wasn’t enough time to finish off the story with Sasha. Ever wonder if things happen for a reason? Do you think there is a chance that Ruslan may have never seen Sasha again?

Ruslan just dropped the news on me. I was dumbfounded. On one hand this was amazing, on the other hand it was disturbing to me. Although we were granted pending legal status by the court nothing was finalized until after the 10 day waiting period and the paperwork was in hand. What that really meant was that there was an opportunity for someone to petition to the court against the finalized adoption.

Ruslan continued to say that he made plans to meet up with Sasha later in the day at Gorky Park where we had just finished skating. I said “Ruslan, are you sure you know what you are doing? I don’t feel comfortable with this.” I never at any point want to burden Ruslan with any of the pressure or understanding of the gravity of every single step but in this case I felt it was important. “Ruslan, you know that there is still the possibility someone could petition the courts. I would rather we wait until after Tuesday to meet up with Sasha.” Ruslan actually had a good answer. He said Sasha already gave his written consent so there was nothing to worry about. I agreed to think about it and let him know my decision.

After a consultation with Vitaly we agreed that it shouldn’t be something I need to worry about. With that we waited until 6 and went back to gorky park to meet up with Sasha. I don’t want to get into the details but I will say that things went great. They skated together and we left our contact info for Sasha so we can hopefully stay in touch (Sasha did not have any contact info to share).

There was a question as to if we already met Sasha. It was actually Andrei, the oldest brother that we met initially in December.

The next day Henry drove us back to the orphanage. Ruslan disappeared into the woodwork with his friends after I told him I would be back after Sumi. I don’t think he even waited for me to finish.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

The Amazing Race

We boarded the train at 5. I was curious about our roommates since we were only able to get the top 2 bunks in the 4 person compartment. Good news was that we only had one roommate. The bad news: He was Bellarussian, 300 lbs, and had the smell of something I never want to encounter again. Seriously, Vitaly scrunched up his face and opened the window without saying hello. We were joined by another passenger a few stops later. Since we had the top 2 bunks we did not have access to the table in between the bottom 2 bunks. No problem, when Vitaly ordered a few coffees he just made the new passenger get up off his bunk while we sat there and had our drinks. Smelly Bellarussian just slept the whole time while his belly hung out from his undershirt and sagged off the bed.

We arrived in Sumi at 2 a.m.. Lucky for us there was a room at the makeshift train hotel where we could rest and wait for morning. Unlucky for Vitaly there was only 1 bed. He is always making sure I am comfortable which is nice. He slept on the chair.

We were up and on the move at 8 a.m., arriving in the Sumi city office soon after because Vitaly was told we required authorization from Sumi offices to visit Lebedyn offices (a town in the Sumi district). All we got at the Sumi office was a blank stare and told that there was nothing they needed to do. OK, so onto Lebedyn and hope for the best?

We caught a taxi and showed him a map. He drove us the hour to Lebedyn. After talking with approx 10 pedestrians, and walking into a few different unmarked buildings, we finally located the office in question. We were actually met with a smile from the lone lady working in the office, a good sign of things to come, right? She gave us a few simple directions, go pay the small fee and go get a paper notarized, and she could update the birth records and issue a new birth certificate. Easy! So far so good. We left her office at 10 a.m.. We were both in good spirits. This was about the time I joked and said to Vitaly that it felt like we were participants in the amazing race. I should know better by now!

The first bank was closed and we could not pay the bill there. The notary was there. He took 1 look at the paper, smiled, and said I cannot notarize this without a tax id#. You need to go back to Sumi and apply for one. This is when Vitaly’s demeanor changed, he said let’s find another notary who will do this. We got back in the cab and found another bank where we could pay the bill. 1 out of 2 down. Now to just find another notary in this town. Easier said than done. Apparently there was another notary. His building was even harder to find then the city office but we finally found it at about 11. He actually spent more than a minute looking at the document. Unfortunately his answer was the same, we need a tax id #.

Vitaly decides that we can track down the local authority and apply for a tax id there. After 15 minutes of searching we arrive at the office. In applications the secretary shows a chart of how it takes 1 week to process a tax id #. At this point I get that sick feeling again. It was at this point that I crossed the line of tolerating Ukraine to understanding why people here are so unhopeful.

We get in the cab and drive the hour back to Sumi. We find another notary. Great news, she signs the documents and we are back on the road to Lebedyn at 1:00. An extra week avoided! I start to get the wind back in my sails and think we may even get the paperwork and make it back to Sumi for the 3:00 pm train back to Melitopol! Unfortunately I shared this with Vitaly and he set me straight – this is Ukraine.

We made it back to the office in plenty of time. The woman sat us down and said Vitaly, Zenon, you are the first to arrive. Just kidding. She actually said her grandparents used to live in Salt Lake City, and that they were famous. Half an hour later after we were finally issues the new birth certificate Vitaly said “ya sure your grandparents were famous. Just give me the paperwork”. It was really funny.

There was a bus station next to the office. Unfortunately no buses went from there to anywhere helpful. The new plan was to make it to Kharkov, a main “regional center” where the train options should be plenty. It was 3 pm so our kamikaze taxi driver floored it south to Akhtyrka. The drive was about an hour. Not joke, we pulled into the bus station just as a bus was leaving. Vitaly made it stop, asked where it was going, andthen grabbed me out of the cab and threw me on the bus.

The going was slow. Our plan the whole time, come hell or high water, was to make it back to Melitopol to apply for Ruslan’s tax id # on Thursday which we need to apply for the passport. There is a 1 day waiting for the tax id, and applying for the passport on Friday could say a lot of time especially since Monday is a holiday. The bus seemed to stop for every pothole and there were plenty of potholes. At this point it was 4:00 and all we had eaten all day was a bun early in the morning. Vitaly was tired and hungry and not in the best of moods. That is why the bus pulled over with an apparently mechanical failure Vitaly started complaining and pacing. Our slow bus had taken 2 hours to get us where we were, but not that close yet. “we need to do something” he said. I said “no problem. Let’s just walk down the road a little and ask a local to call a cab for us”. Again, Vitaly laughed and said “this is Ukraine, people don’t just call cabs for people”. With that he walked outside and flagged down the second car he waved at. I saw him talk with the driver andthen quickly start walking back to the bus. I knew it was on so I grabbed the bags and got ready to jump into my first ever hitchhike.

It was strange. There wasn’t much conversation. Actually it was dead silent and the driver drove like a maniac. Vitaly thought nothing of it. He was actually happy because we made it to the train station in about 30 minutes from there. He tipped the driver 50 grivna. I asked Vitaly if hitch hiking was normal here. He said sure.

So it’s just before 7 and we are at a major train station and everything will be fine, right? Sold out. Both trains leaving that night are sold out. ….but we were able to put our names in on the wait list for 3rd class. Luckily some beds opened up and we made it on the 11 pm train. Phew. With that we had a chance to grab a big Ukrainian dinner and relax for a bit.

3rd class turned out to be better than 2nd class. Although the smell was bad, and you are crammed into a train car sleeping amongst strangers, I was so tired that I fell asleep in no time. We made it back to Melitopol at 5 am. To this point it all proved worthwhile because we received the tax id # today without a hitch. In fact it has been the easiest thing we have done so far, 5 minutes in and out. Did I just let down my guard again? Wish us luck with the passport tomorrow!

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Gotcha Day

Yesterday was officially Ruslan's Gotcha day!!! We are finally his legal parents!!!....now we just to get him out of that country. Another problem. Zenon calls home almost every day to let me know the 411 on all the usual drama in the South of Ukraine. Fortunately, with the time change, I am able to hear what all the problems were for the day and the final resolution within 5 minutes (or sometimes a little more) so that I don't have to ride on that emotional roller coaster.
Here was Zenon's e-mail from Gotcha Day;


Decree came into effect today, Tuesday March 30th.

So, we went to the court at 11 am to pick it up. They promised it would be ready. After an hour of just sitting there waiting, Vitali finally flagged the girl down and she said just wait. A few minutes later she appeared with the decree. Unfortunately it was not signed by the county inspector like they promised it would be. So, we had 2 hours to track down 2 signatures, buy train tickets, and meet the apartment owner to pay her.

Vitali called a cab and he was driving around like he was in the Melitopol 500. Luckily, both signatures, in 2 different places, only took 5 minutes each. That left of plenty of time to rush and get the tickets for the 2:30 departure. Only, it turns out the train didn't leave at 2:30 like they promised. It leaves at 5. No problem, we get in a little later than 4 am now, right, which is good? Nope, we get in at 2 am. great.

Anyway, hope you guys have fun at the zoo.
Love you.
Wish us luck in Sumi!

by the way, Vitali called on Sunday night at 11 pm and said his apartment that he just arrived to was already occupied. I said no problem, come on over here. He did. He slept in Voss's room. The next day i said Vitali, why dont you just stay with me if you need. He said sure and hasn't looked back.

He is always clearing his throat, and stops after climbing a few stairs and just stares into space. His eyes have a yellow tinge. I hope he holds up! ;-)


Humm...life is so much easier when I get to read about the days happenings and don't have to officially be there to live through all the grueling seconds of the adoption process. Zenon called this morning at 5AM to update us. I had a bit of a Zoo hangover, but me and Voss were able to wake up enough to talk. Zenon told us about the trip to Sumi and the story just keeps getting better and better! I don't think we could MAKE this stuff up!

Here is how is went...

(edited by Zenon and added to next post)

Monday, March 29, 2010

Monday Morning

Vitaly called last night at 11 pm. "Zenon, I have a problem". "I just arrived in Melitopol and cannot find my apartment". Phew. Stop doing that Vitaly, you keep scaring me to death! Vitaly ended up staying the night at my apartment which is not a problem because there is an empty room anyway.

I picked Ruslan up on Friday. Up to that point I had spent the days mostly working on the computer, Learning how to use Dreamweaver to build websites, and spending some time each day to jog and work out at the park across the street. I told Henry to drop us off downtown so we could get some groceries and maybe walk home but Henry translated that Ruslan wanted to go back to the apartment to sleep. It was 1 pm. Of course as soon as we got back to the apartment Ruslan asked if he could use the computer to play games. There must have been a translation error in the car because Ruslan was in no mood to sleep

I talked Ruslan into going to the market to grab a few things for dinner. He obliged but was very impatient the entire time. I try to get him involved and I constantly ask him to either buy things or find things. He always says "ya zniyou" (I know!) as he rushes off to do something. Inevitably I have to step in clarify things more often than not. He was happy to get back and hit the Computer and Television and relax.

The next day we ate a big breakfast and gave it some time to settle before going out to the hockey rink.

We made it to the rink at about 11. Not sure if it was Ruslan's first time but he sure was shaky starting out:

He was having a blast and didn't want to leave. We were there for 2 hours and he sure picked it up pretty quick:



From there the plan was to head over to the outdoor market to get some gifts for Ruslan's friends for when he leaves. So we are walking down a side street on the way. As we pass a bus stop Ruslan walks up to this teenager who standing waiting for the bus and starts shooting the breeze. They talk for a few minutes and I really don't understand a thing but obviously Ruslan knows him. It's strange because this is not a small town, population 160,000 people, so the probability of Ruslan stumbling across someone he knows is not very high. They finish the conversation and we start walking away. I ask who was that. Ruslan responds "that was my brother Sasha".

Monday, March 22, 2010

Thursday March 19th Circus

Didn't have a chance to share. Last thursday Cindy, Ruslan and I went to the circus. Very interesting.

Getting Settled into a Routine

Saturday morning was rough. The cognac surely made my head swell because it hurt. It was a lazy morning and we watched about 5 episodes of dexter (chris burned me the first 4 seasons to keep busy). We went out for pizza and groceries. Cindy wanted to make me some food to make sure I would be ok after she left.

Henry came and we saw Cindy to the train Saturday evening. She was in a sleeper car and had a ticket for 1 bed. She was hoping to have the car to herself but apparently no such luck. From what little she has shared I understand her bunk mate was an older Ukrainian gentleman sporting Dill scented cologne. Nice.

Cindy spent the next day in Kiev then caught her flight this morning at 7. She arrives in San Diego at 9 pm.

I started into some semblance of a routine Sunday with a jog around the track (a soccer field across from the apartment complex) then met Vitaly for lunch. Yep, it was pizza. After wards he showed me an outdoor market that we had never come across. It is huge and I am looking forward to spending an afternoon there.

Henry had been talking about meeting up for drinks since out last trip. With Cindy gone he invited me out Sunday afternoon. He parked the car and we walked to the billiard bar. There they had these tables that are bigger than anything else I have ever played on. Apparently it is Russian billiards. The balls are larger than normal and the pockets are just big enough to fit a ball into. The real interesting part is that you can use any ball as the cue ball and sink any ball on the table you’d like. The object of the game is first one to sink 7 balls wins. Sounds easy. It wasn’t. Each game took an hour and I managed to win all 3 games. The best strategy is to hit all the balls as hard as you can and hope one goes in. Sloppy pool counts!

Henry ordered 2 beers (huge beers) and a bottle of vodka. No problem, I will only do a few shots right? Wrong. After we polished the vodka and beers it was off to the grocery store for more beer and more vodka. I was already in trouble at this point. We went to Henry’s apartment and I met his wife, Oyla. She was nice enough to make us a spread of lard slices and boiled shrimp to go with the beer and vodka. The lard looked especially appetizing last night. This morning my memory of last nights celebration has hazy enough that I thankfully couldn’t fully remember how much lard and shrimp I really ate. I made a pact with myself today – no more shots.

I finally made it out at 10 am for some pizza. It helped my condition enough. The plan was for Henry to pick me up at noon so I could visit Ruslan. After calling a few times to postpone he finally picked me up at 5:30. I have learned patience here and just went with the flow.

Ruslan was happy to see me and gave me a big hug. I brought some of the clothes and sporting goods we lugged from san diego to the orphanage and the boys were happy to see some fresh entertainment. We went across the street for some gum with his friends andthen I left. I told Ruslan I would be back in a few days and asked if he wanted to come stay for a night. He said absolutely. The problem is that he was so bored over the Christmas break staying with us in the apartment. I would rather he not get too bored right now since we will have plenty of time for that coming up soon. It’s best for him to spend some of his last days here with his close friends whom he will not see for a long time, if ever again.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Friday Court

We went in to court hoping to adopt Ruslan. We came out with a girl as well:


Just Kidding, this was Yanna jumping into our first family shot together.
Ruslan was happy with the outcome:


We went out to celebrate afterwards at a fancy Melitopol Restaurant ;-):



Then back at the orphanage Valerie brought us in to celebrate some more:



These started full. The one on the right is the tincture disguised in the cognac bottle:



That's when things started getting blurry. I am a little foggy on what happened after that:



It's now 8:30 sat night, it's quiet and I am turning in. Cindy's train left just over an hour ago.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Ruslan to stay with us for a few days

The next morning we rose early. Part of the battle these days is balancing the right amount of caffeine to offset the feeling of being tired.

We planned to pick up Ruslan at 2. This gave us a chance to walk around and grab some lunch. They had been building a new restaurant on our last visit and it is complete now, Mama Mia's. You guessed it, another pizza place. The decor is surprisingly Western and very hip. The pizza was dissappointly unremarkable. I had high hopes because it is located within a 10 minute walk and would be a great place to set up the laptop and do some work.

We continued our walk downtown and counted that we stopped 4 times for coffee in 3 hours. Oddly enough we bumped into Vitaly walking downtown. He acted as if it was planned and said "Hi, Henry will be right here". Sure enough Henry drove right up and he went for the 1/2 hr. drive to get Ruslan.

Valrie was excited to see us as usual. Not that I mind but Vitaly intervened and told Valerie that we needed to leave promptly so shots were out of the question. Valerie was dissappointed but upbeat when he learned I would not be travelling home with Cindy and the future held more opportunities ;-)

Ruslan was waiting in the taxi with 3 friends. Apparently he was ready to go! The friends got out and we got in. Henry drove us to the supermarket on the way home and we picked up Ruslan's favorite, a whole chicken. On the way home we passed a circus. It turned out that the ciscus had just come to town so we picked up tickets for the 3 of us for Thursday. Voss would have loved to see the circus!

Ruslan was happy to see I brought the pc instead of the mac this time. We already had a few racing games and movies waiting for him that we purchased earlier in the day. Needless to say he took over the computer for the night. This could be a problem fighting for computer time moving forward! ...but it's good to see him happy with something instead of sitting in front of the tv watching nothing.

Tuesday Court

The train pulled into melitopol at the scheduled 12:45. As we waited with our luggage for the train to stop the older lady who attended to all the passengers and kept the fir stoked asked us what we were doing in melitopol. We told her what we were doing and how we got to where we are. She soaked it in and her curiosity and preconceived notions got the best of her. She asked " do you beat the kids?". It's the same thing every time you explain what we are doing to those here who aren't involved with the process, they have been told these terrible things about foreigners adopting ukrainian kids and they need to find out for themselves if we are as bad as they have been told.

Henry was there on the platform when the train door opened. It was nice to see a familiar face and I am sure he had other things he could be doing at 1 am. Henry drove us to the apartment where we were met by the apartment owner. It was straight to bed after that.

The next morning we were picked up by henry and vitaly. Vitaly gave me a big hug and shook cindy's hand. Isn't that backwards? We went straight to the orphanage.

They called for ruslan when we arrived. He walked in with kiril and a huge smile. He had no idea we were coming. It was reassuring to see and even more so that he has no problem showing his love for us. We have really come a long way together.

There wasn't much to talk about so we went outside with a soccer ball. Soon all the kids were outside and we were kicking the ball around. I am sure they all were impressed with my kicking, I could tell because they would laugh whenever I kicked the ball. We were dressed for court but you can't pass up moments like these to save your outfit from a few scuffs. Cindy was dressed to impress and the cold was getting to her. She was in a spot blocked by the wind and commanding the attention of a dozen kids using her best russian (by the way she was all proud when she came back from the store earlier in the morning with some groceries. She said I bought some butter, eggs, and yogurt. I remembered to ask for myasoh (it's really supossed to be maslo). Since she really asked for meat I wasn't surprised that the butter was actually cheese blintz filling.)

After an hour of soccer we asked ruslan to take us across the street to the store for a soda. Kiril, vadim and another boy joined us. The store turned out to be a little restaurant with a bar. The boys were excited to order little bottles of pepsi. In fact they asked if they could order chips too. The lady offered that they had little pizzas and porogie looking things and the boys asked if that was ok. Sure. They ordered 6 mini pizzas, a dozen perogies, and 6 mini sweet loafs. That food was gone in no time at all! I was full after just one pizza (crust with ketchup, grated bologna, cheese, and mayonnaise), mmmmmm - not really.

It was noon when we walked back to the orphanage and court was 2 hours away. After I schooled the boys in ping pong we were summoned to the lunch room for a special lunch for cindy and me with valerie, vitaly, and henry. Glad we didn't just eat! A huge bowl of vegetable soup followed by beef and buckwheat. The portions were huge and we left a few pounds heavier than when we arrived. Valerie kept talking about cognac shots but apparently there wasn't enough time to fit them in before we left for court.

6 of us crammed into henry's small machina (yanna joined us for court) and we made it to the court house for 1:30. The wait wasn't long. We were summoned into an empty court room. The mood went from great anticipation to devastation in a heartbeat when vitaly explained that the judge is sick today, court has been rescheduled for march 30th.

Numbness set in.
What?

Let's just talk this through. We have waited months and just traveled 2 days specifically for this 1 appointment and just like that we were rescheduled for a date 2 weeks out? Well don't I feel silly for booking cindy's return trip to begin 6 hrs after the start time for court. What was I thinking? This is ukraine!

Cindy was devastated to say the least. This process has us away from ruslan and now voss! Poor ruslan just sat there emotionless. What now? Well we talked more and vitaly made a few calls. He managed to arrange a new court date for friday. Not the end of the world. Now to just break the news to voss and grandma and reschedule cindy's ticket to leave saturday. Also how to get cindy to the kiev airport for early sat morn when the new court appointment would end approx noon on friday? It'll all work out, right?

On the drive back to the orphanage vitaly shared a few words of wisdom and shed some light on ukraine.
1. Humor is the best way to try and deal with situations like this. Easier said than done.
2. Ukrainian's are used to disappointment. This is why no-one is surprised and why ruslan is not that upset. Disappointment is almost an expectation.

Valerie summoned us into his office upon arrival back at the orphanage. We weren't getting away without a birthday celebration of sorts regardless of what just happened. Needless to say that the tincture (a alcohol cure-all that valerie now stores in an old cognac bottle) went down like poison, but the pickled tomatoes help. It was a special occasion so valerie shared a plate of coleslaw that looked like it had been sitting uncovered in his fridge for the last month. What made the coleslaw even more special was it's contents: red cabbage, creamy wonderful mayonnaise, and herring. Cindy and I did our best to not offend our host. In fact, the coleslaw made me want to take another shot of tincture to drown the flavor! Needless to say this all helped put us in a little better mood. Valerie was excited to show us how the tincture would light on fire because the alcohol content was so high.

We got back home at 4:30 and cindy crashed. I spent the next 4 hours communicating with the travel agent. Deju vu set in when he explained that it is spring break. No tickets available for saturday or sunday. In fact he was skeptical about the next while. He left me to worry about the fallout and how to break the news to cindy. It was a good thing she was sleeping.

The good news arrived in the form of an email explaining that a seat had been found for a monday return. This was a small victory considering the alternatives of waiting another week like I was imagining.

So the adventure continues. We have once again come to terms with the news. Now to occupy our time with other thing like picking ruslan up today (wednesday) and having him with us for the next few days! :-)

I also have to mention that we are blessed with amazing family and friends. I know we can count on more than who are helping right now but it was nice to have jennifer and grandma ardith reassure us that voss was in good hands and everything will be ok (although poor vossy has to wait a few more days for mom to come home). Baba is also ready to fly out and take care of voss at the drop of a hat. Thank you everyone!

Monday, March 15, 2010

Road Back to Melitopol

2-4-2 was the pattern of seating on the lufthansa flight from LA to Munich. This was far more comfortable than the 2-5-2 we flew last time, especially when I was the one sardined into the 3rd seat in the middle group of 5. The day started with our 6:45 flight from san diego to LA being delayed. No problem because they booked us onto the earlier flight and we made it without any hitches. We actually needed the extra time because we ate up 1.5 hours of our 2 hour layover in LA just waiting to clear what seemed to be the slowest security line ever. It's great when things all seem to work out well and I am sure a sign of a great trip to come. It all started when they waived our extra bag fee of $35 when I mentioned the bag was filled with gifts for orphans. To top it off lufthansa was serving free alcohol on the flight. I ordered a 2nd glass of wine and didn't even want it. It's hard to turn down free.

We made it to Kiev just a little late and our ukrainian cell phone was ringing from the minute it was turned on. It's amazing it still held a charge after over a month considering it seems to only stay charged for a half a day when I actually need it. Dima was calling to explain that the taxi driver's name was Jyroslaw and he was waiting for us.

We made it to the hotel Lybid at just after midnight and decided on a beer at the 70's era lounge before turning in. We realized after a little while that the 6 ladies scattered throughout the almost empty lounge were actually working girls. By the time we left at 2 am it was just them and us. Apparently it was a slow night.

We got to bed at 2 and I for one was exhausted and looking forward to sleep. This plan was derailed when 4 am came knocking and wouldn't let me back to sleep. Cindy was up at 5 and we just read till breakfast opened at 7.

After meeting Dima to notarize some docs we headed for our train departing at 1 pm. It's 3:30 now and cindy has been passed out for over an hour. We get in at 1 am and I will try my best to stay awake and try to get over the jetlag.

Tomorrow we shall visit the orphanage and bring Yanna (the orphanage attorney) and Ruslan with us for the 2 pm court appointment. It will be great to see him.

Not that I am looking for acknowledgment but tomorrow is my birthday. Isn't it interesting that we received our approval to adopt on Cindy's birthday and are having court on my birthday?

***update: I fell asleep probably 2 minutes into my plan to stay awake for the rest of the day. We were awakened at 6:30 by a loud knocking at the cabin door. I thought it would be the train ticketer telling us some news but instead it was a priest all decked out in priest clothes with a long red beard. He was talking in russian and I cut him off saying "I don't understand russian". He was annoyed and responded "orthodox?". How does one respond to that. A little louder he demanded "Orthodox or catholic?". Um, I don't know what the right answer is. I chose one and said "catholic". Wrong answer but apparently not a problem. He said "toh nechoho" as he splashed holy water at both cindy and me, some right in my mouth, and walked away. What he said translates into "that's nothing" as if to say "I'll fix that" as he passive aggressively doused us with a paintbrush full of holy water.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Ukraine's Got Talent

My neighbor sent this video from the show "Ukraine's Got Talent" and I thought it would be good to post on the blog. The emotion people display in the audience shows how they feel about their country's history. It has been a tumultuous one.

This video shows the winner of "Ukraine's Got Talent." Kseniya Simonova, 24, drawing a series of pictures on an illuminated sand table showing how ordinary people were affected by the German invasion during World War II.

Her talent, which admittedly is a unique one, is mesmeric to watch.

The images, projected onto a large screen, moved many in the audience to tears, and
she won the top prize of about £75,000.

She begins by creating a scene showing a couple sitting holding hands on a bench under a starry sky, but then warplanes appear, and the happy scene is obliterated.

It is replaced by a woman's face crying, but then a baby arrives, and the woman smiles again. Once again, war returns, and Miss Simonova throws the sand into chaos from which a young woman's face appears.


She quickly becomes an old widow, her face wrinkled, and sad, before the image turns into a monument to an 'Unknown Soldier.' This outdoor scene becomes framed by a window as if the viewer were looking out on the monument from within a house.

In the final scene, a mother and child appear inside, and a man standing outside, with his hands pressed against the glass, saying goodbye.

The 'Great Patriotic War,' as it is called in Ukraine , resulted in one in four of the population being killed with 8 to 11 million deaths out of a population of (42) million.

Paste the link below to google to watch the video.


http://www.youtube.com/watch_popup?v=vOhf3OvRXKg#t=00

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Plans Are Set

After a week of making plans we have everything in place. Looking back it would have been crazy trying to plan to leave last week, 5 days after learning the approval was in hand, I feel comfortable that everything is in place now.

We leave Saturday Evening flying into LA then onto Frankfurt finally arriving in Kiev 11pm Sunday evening. A cab takes us to the Lybid hotel just up the street from the train station. Our train leaves Monday at 1 pm and we arrive in Melitopol close to 1 am. Henry will pick us up and drop us off at the apartment where the apartment owner will meet us.

Checking the weather report nothing has really changed. Melitopol is a brisk 32 deg F and is set to fluctuate between that and the mid 20's. Rain and snow in the forcast. I can already picture the warm kitchen oven flame to keep me warm.

Hopefully we have a chance to visit with Ruslan on Tuesday morning before the 2 pm court date. Cindy's train back to Kiev leaves at 7 pm the same day so things are tight!!!! She arrives in Kiev Wednesday morning and will have to stay to cathc her flight at 5:30 am Thursday morning. Crazy travel for Cindy.

So we are all set. We also have $300 and a whole suitcase full of clothes for the orphanage! Thanks for the help!

Wish us luck.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Meditation

We have been waiting at home now for almost two months and it is really getting on my nerves. My chiropractor told me that I have a lot of tension in my neck and my legs are uneven and my hips are off and my lower back is getting crinked and my cranial sacrial test came back as distressed. Man, stress can do a lot of things to the body!

So, I decided that I should try to take care of myself a little and do some meditation or yoga. I signed up for a vibrational meditation class that I kept getting e-mails about when we were in Ukraine. I thought, ok, maybe if I go, I can start to think positive thoughts and get somethin happenin over here.

It was at a yoga studio that I have only been to once. It is nice and quiet. Ahhh, the stress was already starting to dissappate as soon as I walked into the door. They said to bring a blanket to lay on since it is an hour and a half. I was thinking that it was a bit long for meditation and that I may fall asleep since it is Friday night and I usually can't last past 9PM...the party animal that I am. There were about 30 of us smooshed into this room with green starry sparkels floating all over the room projected from a funky lamp. There were lots of bongo drums, gongs, xylephones and larger drums scattered around the room. Ok, this will be interesting. He asks if we have any questions and the guys next to me speaks up, "Um, are we going to work within the OM frequency? (teacher looks at him funny)"Because last time I went to one of these things we worked on the Om frequency and afterwards I couldn't drive for like...three hours I was so blissed out."
(Ok, THAT guy needs more space and I just neeeed to moooove over a tad...)

He let's us know that the sound frequencies that we are going to hear are supposed to unlock different parts of our brain and open up areas of our body that may be blocked (that guy next to me has some work to do). I just want to meditate.

He tells us to lay down and close our eyes and just listen to the music. A really big drum noise starts and it feels cool because I can feel the vibrations on the floor. I try to meditate. It is going OK and I already feel like I am getting somewhere and then I hear, "Beeeerrrrwwwwwwmmmmm. beeeeeerrrrrrwwwwmmmmmmm." What the hell is that noise? What instrument is that? OK, get back to meditating. [picture my family all together smiling and as happ...."beeerrrrwwwmmmmm. beeeerrrwwwwmmm." Ok, what is that noise? Could it be him doing that with his lips? "Mmmmeeeerrrrrruuuummm. Mmmmeeeeerrrrruuuummm." Holy crap! He HAS to be making that noise with his lips! I have to open my eyes to see if it is true! Is this why he makes us close our eyes? So we can't figure out if it is his mouth or not? If I look, he will definately see me and...who knows? maybe he will stop the class or something? I amost start to crack up. I have to focus on my meditation [going to Ukraine and picking up Rusla..."bbbrrrruuuuummmmm. brruuuuuuummmmm." Seriously, if this guy is going to make these noises the whole time, there won't be any meditating going on! I will just lay here and wonder what his face looks like while he is making that noise. It HAS to look funny. I almost start to crack up again.

Mouth instrument is quiet and I think I am starting to picture our family together happy... and then I notice that the drum is right over my head!! All I could think was that he better not drop that thing because it sounded big. The drum stopped and a bunch of gongs and symbols followed. At this point, I am totally done meditating now and just wondering about the instruments he is using...the tunes he is playing. I swear one sounded like the theme song from Charlies' Angels. Funny, that was the same song that was going through my head for a month straight when we were in Ukraine. Woman next to me is snoring. Mr. Blissed-out is snoring.

I know I live in a hippy town ....and I love it. I am kindof a hippy myself, but this experience was not one I will repeat. It is really hard for me to find something that is too "Far out" for me, but that was way too far out for me. I was thinking how funny it would have been to have Marty in there with me!!! She would have gotten up and left to go laugh in the lobby.

Hey, maybe my bit of meditation did something because we are getting ready to leave soon. I am sure it also has a lot to do with prayers and good thoughts from all of our friends and family as well. Thanks everyone!

Monday, March 1, 2010

Canadian Clearance Finally!

It’s finally here. One of the last pieces to the puzzle. Dima has my Canadian clearance in hand and now I will work with Vitaly to co-ordinate a court date. It’s interesting because I recently got in touch with the Canadian Interpol department. They shared that I should expect to wait 120 days to receive clearance. Sometimes it’s hard to get a straight answer!

I can imagine that we will be leaving in about a week and a half but that is just a guess (UPDATE: I just got off the phone with Vitali and he has asked for a next Tuesday court date – he’s waiting on an answer!). I believe Cindy’s trip will be about 5 days and mine will be about a month. I better make sure I have some things to keep me busy! The plan is for Voss to split time between grandma and with our good friends around the corner, Jennifer, Noah and David (thanks!). Baba might even make the trip out here very soon but right now she is siestaing in Baja with Dido!

All this time back was very much needed to get bills back in order, to prepare for taxes, and get HeatLab back up to top shape. It’s amazing how far a month and a half will put a person behind. It’s good to have things organized again.

I must also say that I have been very fortunate from a work perspective. My immediate Boss has been very supportive and understanding. Up till now I have been living off of Holidays and Vacation. With some supporting paperwork I will be covered for the rest of my time by the FMLA (family medical leave act) which pays a certain percentage of my wages for up to 6 weeks. Normally I wouldn’t be covered until the adoption is finalized but in my case they were able to consider some paperwork from the Orphanage Director which stated that I was spending our time there bonding with Ruslan before the Adoption was finalized.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Waiting

Tuesday Feb 23rd.

There isn’t much to post at this point. Cindy’s clearance has been at the SDA for quite some time now and mine is???? Apparently the US government is much more efficient than the Canadian government.

I talked with Vitaly yesterday and he is concerned about changing the court date once again. This will be the second time he has had to change the court date (our latest appointment was for Feb 26th which we cannot make now). I asked him not to reschedule an appointment for now. Hopefully it will not be a problem to schedule a new court date once my clearance arrives.

I also voiced my concern about how Ruslan may be dealing with the delays. Vitaly said he had a conversation with Ruslan and he is fine with everything. It’s like our boy is with other people and we have no real way to communicate with him.

All this time back at home has been great to get things back in order. Between taxes and work there has been no time to do much. I for one haven’t had a chance to notice that we no longer have cable at home! Hopefully Ruslan feels the same way ;-). Voss sure has done a great job finding others things to occupy his time. Not that he was a couch potato but now he plays with his toys and acts like Peter Pan far more.

On another note, Voss is back to his self again! Between the uncertainty of our situation, deviation from his regular schedule, and spending all that time non-stop with his parents, he really wasn’t acting like himself. It’s amazing how sweet he is now that we have been back and settled for a month! He’s been an angel lately.

This morning Voss woke up with me before 6. We had breakfast together. He asked me why I was up so early. I told him that I am busy at work. He asked if I was working on the adoption to bring Ruslan home. Cute!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Back for 2 weeks now

.

It's been 2 weeks that we have been back now. We spent 45 days away from home and none of us were sick once. Since we have been back Voss has a cough for a week and I picked up a stubborn sinus infection. Strange.

We are all caught up now it seems. Well, not way behind anyway. The lights still come on at night and the shower is warm in the morning. Best of all the internet still works. It felt like we were gone forever. Grandma really kept things in shape, especially Bessel who looks like she lost 5 lbs. It's amazing what a few walks will do for a dog ;-)

Some intersting developments as of late. Turns out that Ukraine has not paid it's passport book bill. The passport issueing company has ceased to send the books. All people in Ukraine waiting for passports are stuck. Imagine this, the interpol requirement did not happen and we finish the legal process. We go to get a passport for Ruslan and there are none availible. Ruslan and I are stuck in Ukraine, with nothing to do, for weeks on end. I am not sure that it would have been a good. So you see, everything does happen for a reason ;-)

Some good news I think. Dima emailed today and said that Cindy's clearance came in today. Mne did not. He said that Americans were processed first. Not sure if this means that mine will come in tomorrow or in 2 weeks. It's nice not to have these types of things consuming every waking minute! I am sure it will come soon.

Now we must cover the other bases: make sure that passports are availible, make sure that official paperwork is availible for the birth certificate, and find out if there are any other hurdles anyone sees on the horizon before we plan the trip back.

Lastly, we posted how we were able to buy some great things for the kids before we left. Well I have been given some more clothes, etc to take with us when we return. Additionally we have $200 more in donations to spend on the kids. We would really like to see if we can't keep this effort going and collect more donations. Once we have a good idea of what the total is then we will talk to the director to see what the kids need and go from there. Really, anything helps. The money goes so much further in Ukraine and anything little is much more than the nothing these kids have now.

You can send the money by clicking on the following link (you do not need an account to send $$, only a credit card - just click the link on the bottom left of the paypal page):





Thanks for all the prayers and support.

.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

The Big Fat Ukrainian Wedding

When we went out with our Ukrainian friends a week ago, they gave us their wedding disc so we could watch it. Since we are leaving tomorrow, we felt obligated to watch it today. I am telling you, it looked like the funnest- and longest- wedding reception ever! They told us it was very traditional so I feel like we got a good glimpse of what the weddings are like here.

This is how it went....
Bride and groom drive up to the front of the resturant. When they get out of the car, everyone throws rose petals and pops balloons.
The parents are waiting near the door with two glasses of wine, fancy bread with salt on top and a long embroidered Ukranian cloth (we had this at our wedding for those of you who went). Some speech in Russian...Bride and Groom take a big piece of bread and dip it in the salt (I tried to eat our bread and Marty told me it was like 20 years old). They feed each other and wash it down with the wine. I think I remember Marty telling me it was a parent blessing and it was to give you health and prosperity?
They go in the resturant and everyone sits on long tables. You go up to the bride and groom and say something to them and put money and a card into the giant jar with the "$" sign on it.

No speeches, you just start to drink. There was a lot of footage of shots being poured, bottles being opened.

Then there is the feast! I have never seen so much food on one table in my life! Pickles, fruit, whole grilled fish, meat, salad, meat and more meat.

The auction starts. There are several bottles of alcohol on the table and people bid on them. The money goes to the bride and groom and the alcohol goes to the highest bidder.

Then the games start. The best man and maid of honor did not get off easy with no speech. They don't have time, they have to start drinking in order to endure what they are forced to do next. They are the ones who have to entertain the guests for the next hour playing the games.

The bride's shoes were taken from her (not sure why) and the games begin.

Game #1- The BM (best man) and the MOH (maid of honor) sit on a bag filled with marbles. They have to move their bums around to try and guess how many are in there. The MOH won this one.

Game #2- the BM got on the dance floor with two other guys. They all had to put on blindfolds and start to dance. They told the two guys to leave the dance floor and the BM is dancing alone the whole song. He lifts his blindfold and sees he is alone and everyone laughs.

Game #3- Three people put as many suckers in their mouth as possible and try to say something.

Game #4- MOH has to wear the blindfold and give the BM a lap dance. She starts to dance and they switch him up with an old guy. Blindfold comes off...everyone laughs.

Game #5- The MOH has to lie down on some chairs and they place chocolates all the way down her body. The BM has to put the blindfold on, find the chocolates and eat them off of her body. They switch the MOH with a guy so the BM is eating chocolates off of his friend. A few times, he almost kisses his friend. Blindfold off...big laughs!

Game #6- BM dresses up like a girl, MOH dresses up like a guy. They have to dance together.

Then the groom and four of his friends come out with no shirt on and tutus and tiaras. They dance to Swan Lake.

Bride gets her shoes back.

Everyone then goes outside for the fireworks show. It is a serious show of fireworks that lasts about 5 minutes on the video.

Game #7- Grandmas have to dress two full grown men in baby clothes. They have to feed them a baby bottle full of alcohol. The first one done wins.

A couple more games were played and then there is the bouquet toss and garter throw.
Then there is a very serious candle dance. Everyone gets in a circle and holds a candle and the bride and groom dance in the middle. It was very serious. Then it is all over.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

We are home






We got home late Thursday night. It was sad to go through customs with just three people. Every hour that passed during our trip home felt like we were getting farther and farther away from our son- emotionally and physically.

We took the night train from Melitopel on Monday night, arrived in Kiev to finish the paper to the SDA and get the American Embassy papers taken care of. Then, we took the 3 hour journey to Voss's orphanage to visit for an hour. He doesn't really remember anything except what he saw in the old videos. When we walked in, we noticed a lot of new construction. The doors throughout the whole place were new and all the hallways were recovered with paneling. When we went up to the director's office, we ran into the nurses. They looked at Voss for a second and had to say his name a few times before they realized it was really him! They kept talking about how his face has nice color (I thought he was pretty pale since we have not seen the son for SEVEN WEEKS!) how healthy he was and the dark circles under his eyes were gone. His dark circles are a side effect of his kidney disease and he needs to drink a lot of water and take his vitamin sprays to get them under control. They were happy to see him and talked about how big his belly used to be and were making jestures like he used to be quite the serious one (no translator so we had a hard time understanding). Ha! Look at him now! At times, we can't get him to stop laughing. Love heals.

We were brought down to his classroom next. I was hoping his favorite teacher was going to be there so I could thank her for taking good care of him and nuturing him all that time. She was there!! She came out and looked at him for a moment with a confused look on her face. Then she recognized him. "Vasyl!" She was smiling and a bit teary eyed. At least, that is what it looked like through my teary eyes. She was amazed at how good he looked and how healthy he was. She kept grabbing for him, but Voss allowed only a short hug.

We went in and all the memories came crashing back to us. It was all pretty much the same layout, but there was all new furniture, paint on the walls, bright yellow wallpaper, a new kitchen with a stove, and TV. Wow, how is there this fancy orphanage here and Ruslan's is such a rundown mess? This must be where all the Ukrainian Nationals are brought to adopt babies. Another one of his old teachers were there and she showed me a photo of Voss that she still had on her cell phone! Over two years and she still had his photo in there! They showed us old photos from a few Christmases ago- right before we adopted Voss. He was not smiling in one of those pictures. He looked so tiny and sad and alone. Voss did not like living in the orphanage and it was detremental to his health. He is more emotional and living there was very stressful for him. The stress caused him to get sick which landed him in the hospital every 4 to 6 weeks. So, when looking at the old photos, I noticed that he was just not there some of the time. I figured he was in the hospital.

Voss sat down and had a snack with the kids. Of course, it was very dairy based, but he had the rice pudding and pushed the milk away. We took lots of pictures and played on the floor a bit. It was a really strange feeling being there again. The good news was that there were only 9 babies there. They all looked really healthy except for one.

With all of the improvements, we hope that Voss remembers the orphange with good feelings in his heart.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Monday Update

We have come to terms with everything. Better yet, Ruslan was not upset with the news. It was actually excellent timing bringing the gifts (report in a later blog) to the orphanage with us. Ruslan was happy to to have his family bring things to the orphanage. He was telling the kids that we have to finish some paperwork and he will be leaving in about a month.

Here is where we are now. Tonight we ride the overnight from Melitopol to Kiev. This was already booked on friday before we heard the news. Our return ticket was cancelled. We fly out of Kiev Wednesday morning at 7 a.m. on our way back to San Diego. Tomorrow is a packed day. We start with signing the paperwork at the american consulate so that I can complete the adoption process as a Canadian. We also go to our good friends at the SDA and ensure our paperwork for the interpol clearance is signed and submitted. Right after that we take a 3 hr ride to Cherkassy to visit Voss's old orphanage. 3 hours back to Kiev to the apartment and prepare to leave at 4 a.m. the next morning to the airport.

How did this happen? Well we had been receiving emails from the consulate on a new interpol requirement to be implemented for any NEW dossiers submitted after Feb 1st. Somehow the Ukrainian government instituted this requirement early AND included all prior submitted applications. We have since talked to a few people and with DIMA and have attempted to understand if there is a way around this. He has assurred us that there is not. ....until we made him disucss the situation today with the SDA. Apparently they will be discussing how this is affecting current adopting families and will issue an official statement later today. It is possible, although remotely, that current dossiers may be allowed to continue without this requirement. We keep our fingers crossed, and ask for your prayers, in hoping for good news. With that being said we are all packed and ready to leave tonight.

One last note. The previously communicated 40 days may in actuality be only 10 days. All rumors and speculation so we will see how the chips fall.

So please don't worry that we are not ok. We are. ...although I am not sure Voss would like to hear the news if we are going to stay here any longer past Wednesday ;-).

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Donations put to good use


We went to the orphanage yesterday to break the news to Ruslan that we were going to have to go home without him. The smile left his face and he looked a bit sad. His friends started to ask questions and I heard him say something about documents and then it looked like he was telling them that it was going to be OK. He was comforting them! He is probably used to being let down by life all the time, so he bounced back pretty quickly and told us to come with them to play ping-pong ball.

A month ago, we asked the boys what they had to do here besides TV and they said they have a ping-pong table but no raquets or balls. Thanks to an early donator (who gave me $ before we left to go get the kids at the orphanage something) they now have ping-pong balls and raquets. The room was packed with kids watching and playing.

Today, we were really excited to go to the sports store and pick up the basketball net and all the balls. Since we had gotten a lot of donations, we were able to get a whole lot more than we originally planned. Here is what we were able to purchase; the basketball net set-up, 6 basketballs, 4 soccer balls, 2 volley balls, a couple of cat's cradles for the girls, a gymnastics mat, a couple domino games, a chess set, 4 more ping pong paddles with balls, socks (lots of wool socks), tights for the girls (they wear them under their pants for warmth, and a birthday cake for Vadeem, one of Ruslan's best friends. The kids were not just excited they were in SHOCK! They could not believe they had just gotten all of this good stuff! Kids were similing everywhere!

Thank you all very much for helping us do that today! It was a fun day!



Due to the recent developments, we will be leaving for San Diego in the next few days. We will not be able to allocate any more donations between now and then. We just want to say thank-you for all the support and if you would like to donate either clothes or money then we can put them all to good use when we return.

Friday, January 22, 2010

News

The SDA has issued a new requirement to all adopting families. No exceptions. An Interpol clearance is needed to continue. This clearance is rumored to accompany a 40 day waiting period. We found out a few hours ago.

Bad luck? Maybe.

What this means is that our court date has been cancelled until our paper has cleared. We have made it through the initial shock and are trying to piece together our next steps. Foremost is considering how Ruslan will feel about the delay.

Most likely we will be traveling back to San Diego very soon and regrouping. We feel like our family is being torn apart. We will post more when we know more.

Donate to the Orphans

**Update**
We quickly reached our goal andthen some. THANK-YOU! Please see the Newer post. Please don't feel obligated to donate, but if you do know that it will be put to good use upon our return.

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Our initial plan was grand. We thought we could put together a plan to build a full playground. After a little research and some unreturned emails we decided to scale back a little bit. We talked with the director and he was ecstatic at the thought of installing an outdoor basketball net. Furthermore we noticed that a lot of the orphans clothes are old and could use replacing. We deicided a focus on the basics would be the best way to start: socks and underwear.

So in response to everyone's reply to help out we have the following goal(buying the equipment is better than donating $$ because you never really know where it goes):

Basketball net, backboard, balls and pump - including installation (director mentioned he can get it installed) est $200

Socks and Underwear: $100

....and depending on how things go we have seen a few other things that would be great for the kids (they have absolutely nothing to do but watch tv). There is a contraption that would be great for exercise including chinup bar, benchpress, etc, etc. Also mats, heavy bag, boxing gloves would be a possibility (maybe not). We'll see how things go.

So our initial goal is $300. Please donate what you can, even if it is $5. You can send the money by clicking on the following link (you do not need an account to send $$, only a credit card - just click the link on the bottom left of the paypal page):

We will keep a running total in the blog and also take pictures of the equipment once it is purchased.

Thanks!

Friday Jan 22nd Weather Forcast

Weather Forcast:


Friday
Overcast. High: -6 °C . Wind NE 28 km/h . Windchill: -16 °C .
Friday Night
Overcast. Low: -11 °C . Wind NE 28 km/h . Windchill: -19 °C .
Saturday
Overcast. High: -9 °C . Wind NE 32 km/h . Windchill: -21 °C .
Saturday Night
Overcast. Low: -16 °C . Wind NNE 32 km/h . Windchill: -25 °C .
Sunday
Overcast. High: -14 °C . Wind NNE 28 km/h . Windchill: -27 °C .
Sunday Night
Scattered Clouds. Low: -20 °C . Wind North 25 km/h . Windchill: -29 °C .
Monday
Clear. High: -15 °C . Wind North 21 km/h . Windchill: -30 °C .
Monday Night
Clear. Low: -19 °C . Wind NNW 14 km/h . Windchill: -27 °C .
Tuesday
Clear. High: -14 °C . Wind NW 14 km/h . Windchill: -26 °C .

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Going Native



1. go native35 up, 2 down love it hate it
Used humorously, to go native means to take on some (or all) of the culture traits of the people around you, often said of people who go to foreign countries or far away cities. These traits may include dress, language, accent, etiquette, religion, etc.

Important: The common use of the phrase does not have anything to do Native Americans.
1: When he visited China he loved the culture so much that he disappeared and went native.

2: Better keep her away from the village. She might just go native on you.

(Copied from the Urban Dicionary)
The other day, I was joking with Zenon that we are going to "go native" soon and, well, it has actually happened. Today, we all resembeled the locals; Voss walked around talking as loudly as possible on the cell phone, Zenon (the jean snob) actually bought a pair of Ukrainian jeans and was sporting them all over town (he was
forced to buy a pair since one of his two pairs was completely ripped after the snowball fight at the orphanage), and I bought a pair of fur-lined high boots.
I even stopped by the fur supply store to pick up some fur bling for family and
friends back home. I considered pimping out Zenon's Northface coat with a fur
collar, but they just didn't go together. Zenon thought it would be fun to give
Voss the "Ukrainian mullet" haircut, but I will never go THAT native. Let me explain the Ukrainian Mullet....totally shaved with the half inch clippers with the exception
of a thin row of long hair at the nape of the neck and thin bangs about to the mid-forehead. It is the same haircut Voss had when we first met him (you can check
out our old posts from his adoption to see what I am talking about.) We walk
around with serious looks on our faces. And when someone stares at us, we stare right back and don't look away. We even get excited to go out for meat pockets!
Ugh! Get us out of here before it is too late!