Asiana has generously put us up in a luxury hotel in downtown Seoul, so we are taking in the city and enjoying all the freebies (meals, transportation, etc.). The Royal Hotel is pish-posh and one block off the shopping strip where all the young'uns hang out to see and be seen. There is a Starbucks half a block up the street.
The internet room closes in one minute, so I must go.
edited to add that there is a Lush store -- actually several -- in Seoul. :)
We apply to the Federal Databank for a Release Letter. We did this today.
The Release Letter arrives, slowly.
The Children's dossiers are assembled for court.
Our dossier and the children's dossiers are filed with court and we request a court date.
We get a court date (usually 10-14 days notice).
We come back to Russia for court.
We visit the orphanage and confirm our intentions.
We go to court (see imposing courthouse in pic).
Court says yes (we hope and pray).
We wait 10 days for the decision to become firm.
We may or may not have the children with us at the hotel during these 10 days.
On the 11th day, the children's Russian passports are issued.
We travel to Moscow.
The kids get a medical exam from US people.
We get US Visas for the kids.
We fly home.
They are overjoyed to have a Mama and Papa, and here is the tear-jerker. To them, this only means that they have nice people to visit them and bring presents: presents for all the kids and special presents just for them. That is what Mama y Papa means. The care-givers tried to explain that we will take them with us. They understood field-trip, as they get field-trips twice a year. So, nice visitors, presents, and field trips = Mama y Papa. We tried to show them the house and the furbabies, but they only want to look at pictures of people.
The second half of the little book I wrote, which I did not bring as I need to add their pictures to it, shows the voyage home. I will mail this to the care-givers and I hope they can help the kids begin to understand this.
There are other children in the groupa that have legal parents who neither visit nor relenquish. They are tugging at our hearts. We got the orphanage address and the other kid's names and hope to send care packages.
I made myself do my tasks today and traced their feet and measured them for clothes and took a lot of pictures and videos. We got to put new clothes on everyone and they were all thrilled. Lil'Girl carefully collected and hoarded all the tags.
They are very self-disciplined about putting away one activity before starting another. I hope we are not a bad influence on them!
I wept as we left the orphanage and their social worker came to comfort me. It is clear that the director, the social worker, and the care-givers are all happy for the kids and they are all very friendly and nice to us.
Today is the celebration of the orphanage's founding in 1933. They are having a big celebration with dignataries and supporters, so they had cleaned and decorated the halls.
It is sunny and pleasant outside. Jamie is napping. We are waiting for our facilitator for one last round of signatures. We leave tomorrow at two and then have an overnight in Seoul and home late late Sunday night.
Welcome, Tim, to blogland!
edited to add concert report and pics.
Father Joseph McCabe, the sole Catholic priest in Khabarovsk region (which is huge) graciously invited us to the Friday night Easter music concert, even calling a taxi for us and helping us navigate the taxi pricing system. The concert was fabulous. Ave Maria, Exultate Jubilate, and a host of other wonderful pieces. The program was printed in Russia of course, so I can only list what I recognized and remembered. We were so blessed by such a evening of beauty.
We are still settling on a name, so she is Lil'Girl now. I think we are sure, but I want to check with Jamie one last time and he was too groggy when I left the room. No decisions before coffee.
Today we go to the notary at 9:00 and sign the legal documents for both kids and then back to the orphanage to tell the children and sign the CPS papers for her. We are both rather awe-struck.
I showed the little book I made to the orphanage director and she was very pleased and got a bit moist in the eyes. This is the book that tells the story of the lonely Mama and Papa in search of children.
Today we are leaving for the children, our kids (!), two stuffed animals that have been hanging around our bed for a year and smell like us, in a nice way of course, and two little books of photos of family. I will send more pictures every week, so I need the Bob Holmes clan to get your pictures sent to me so I can send them on. The caregivers will add them to the photo books. Just email them to me. These stuffed animals and photo books will be the first and only things that they will privately own. They own nothing, though they seem to have the same bed each night.
Yesterday when I was shopping, someone asked me, in English no less, how old my daughter was. I answered 4 and burst into tears. When I told her my daughter was in the detsky dom (orphanage), everyone around got all helpful and excited. It was a lovely experience.
It is really really rare to hear English or to interact with anyone who speaks it, other than our traveling companions and translator. We did our shopping by drawing pictures and asking "where" in Russian (Jamie had studied, thank goodness). They would often walk us to the street and point.
There are dark-suited men in EVERY, and I mean this literally, EVERY building. They stand by the door and inspect you as you arrive and depart and talk in their walkie-talkies. If you were on the outs with whatever organization the dark-suits belong to, you wouldn't stand a chance of moving through the city undetected.
On a perkier note, Khabarovsk is covered in snow this morning. It is so pretty.
It is very heart-warming to read your comments. Welcome Aunt Donna and Uncle Bob, and Randy and Kristi to Blog-land! Your prayers are so appreciated. Other than the really long trip to get here, it has been a glitch- and trouble-free time.
To answer some of your blog questions:
Joe, we will come back in the summer to fetch the kids up. We will be gone for three weeks probably in July and may be needing a house/goat sitter. Our regular sitters are getting awfully booked up! When we come home, we fly Russian domestic from here (FarEast Russia) to Moscow, and then from Moscow to home, which amounts to round-the-world.
Papa, Yes we eagerly and happily read every comment and feel very loved and cared for by them. We are doing okay with money. Spent the most on orphanage donations yesterday. Lots of bright colored t-shirts, a little boom box for their music time, soccer and volleyballs, a really cool Lego set of a house, more Legos and an indoor (over the door) basketball hoop and some balls, poster paints. This is what the director asked for.
Carol, Lisa and Derik's blog is alive and well. Maybe it was down for maintenance. Here is the link again to their lovely blog.
Babushkas and Dadushkas will get emails again with more info. If you call them they can tell you, but no forwarding please.
Today we met with the doctor who gave us all the medical history and some of the personal history. She seemed very fond of both kids. Then we met with the director who gave us the personal history and showed us the artifacts she had. Andy has some pictures, a baptismal record, a baptismal cross, a hand-print. We will get all these for him when we are legally his parents.
We took them each a book of pictures of family and us and the furbabies and our home. They LOVED them. They looked at them over and over again, finding Jamie and I each and every time and showing us ourselves. We had a picture of the four of us taken, which I will print and mail back and the caregivers can add to the book.
We are sure that Andy has noticed that we spent time today with only he and Lil'Girl. We get to tell them tomorrow. Today we played tea party and Lil'Girl served Mama and then Papa. She was play-acting, so she thought.
The heart-break is that the whole time we played, the five other children watched from the next room. They sought out eye contact and smiled plaintively. Just breaks our hearts. Think of going to the humane society and having to walk past all the ones you can't help, and then magnify that a zillion-fold.
We prepared gift bags for all the children, puppets, bubbles, chocolate, matchbox cars, etc. which we got to give them right before lunch. They were told they could not open them until after lunch, which they complied with without a fuss. They were just thrilled to hold the bags and peer through the cello-wrap and guess at the contents.
Andy is a Tigger. He is go go go and do do do. He is very bright. Both of them wanted all of both of our attention all the time.
In other news, we got a nice phone call from Father Joe, the local Catholic priest, last night. He invited us to the Friday night concert of their Easter Season Music fest, held this coming weekend as most of the musicians were over extended during the long Easter Holy weeks, as they participate in both the Catholic and the Orthodox. Fr. Joe dropped off a map and directions in Russia, as well as an estimate of a fair price for the taxi (negotiated before you get in the car). I hope we can go.
Off to lunch and donation shopping. I hope to post again later, though I won't have any fresh news. You can post questions and I can answer them, as long as they are not about personal kid details.
So very happy to see Greg and Christy and Jenny made it to blog-land. :)
edited to add random city pictures. I know you want kid pictures, but I can't. Here are some other pics. Poor consolation, I know.
So we got picked up and drove about a half an hour to the outskirts of town to an orphanage that houses many kids. Our groupa (the seven kids) have to themselves a groupa room (toys, craft and game table, mini tea table and tea sets etc., a sleeping room with about a dozen little beds (all neatly made) and one big person bed, and a lavatory (two toilets, a stand & and spray tub, a sink, and seven little toothbrushes lined up in cups on the shelf above seven little towel sets: hand towels and leg & foot towels.) But I am getting ahead of ourselves.
We arrived and approached the entryway just as the director was also entering (see pic). We followed her to her office where we were introduced and joined by a care-giver. We asked lots of questions and got a general idea of the children's daily routines and meals. It is obvious that the care-giver at this meeting, as well as the other ones we interacted with, are fond of the children and look after them well.
Then we were escorted down a short hallway and into the groupa room. We saw Andy immediately, playing on the floor in the center of the room. There were six other kids in the room, also all playing alone as they had done group things all day and this was "free play" time. Andy jumped up and gathered up chairs for us. When he noticed the discrepancy between the chair size (wee) and Jamie's size (giant), he went down the hall to fetch a big person chair for him. The care-givers say that this is typical of him, to see and meet needs.
We brought a puzzle which we all assembled together, the seven kids and Irena our translator, and Jamie and I. Here we got to interact with the little girl that we hope to gain a referral for. She is delightful and that is all I can say. Sorry.
We also brought a weird set a toys that we found here that was like an erector set made of that soft noodle material that summer floaties are made of. They loved it. We loved it. The other grown-ups loved it. We all had fun.
Towards the end of the visit, I took a look at the books to gauge what proportion of text to pictures would be appropriate as we select books to bring on Friday's visit. Andy was very keen on picking out books with me (gotta love that) and we tried to read one. It was during this that I think he figured out that we have different words for things. Previously, he had been looking at us with an expression of puzzled concern. He pointed to things and waited. I said it in English, he repeated. He said it in Russian. I repeated. Then he went ahead a few pages to look for more instances; I think he was checking to see if the word I gave was consistent or random. One of these "test" words was mouse. About 15 minutes later we finished the book and found a mouse on the last page. He remembered it in English! He seems to be quick and curious and is a delight to spend time with.
Tomorrow we will be picked up at 9:30 and visit until noon. Then we will go shopping for all the things the director mentioned, at our urging, would be useful. They appreciated the socks and undies that we took today.
The orphanage is sparkling clean and has lots of healthy plants growing inside which the kids are taught to care for. The play yard is dreary, but that is the season here. I'm sure in summer it is better. Everything needs paint.
edited to add pics
We had breakfast at the end of town (by the Blue Church) this morning and then walked and shopped our way home very slowly to try to use up the day. We bought all your presents in this distracted state so we will all be curious to see what random things you end up with. :)
Forgot to say that it snowed yesterday morning and stuck and allowed us some pretty pictures. It snowed again this morning, but did not stick, and by noon the sun was peeking out.
We will probably not get to update this until late tonight our time, which is early early morning your time, so check first thing in the morning for our news. Remember that we are not permitted to post specifics about the child/children until they are legally ours, but we can tell you general things about our day. Grandparents will receive emails with more details (as this is allowed), so if you are quite curious, call a Babushka or Dedushka tomorrow.
No bad experiences at all, though people really stare at us. The only other place we have experienced such unfriendly staring was in a wee village on the heel of the boot of Italy.
Yes, we see Derik and Lisa everyday, usually sharing a meal, and they have been helpful and fun to be with. We had a game night the other evening and taught them Sequence and they taught Jamie Yahtzee.
Joe, yes we are enjoying the local cuisine: cabbage rolls for lunch, borscht, bilinis. Yum Yum. We did pass on the Squid and Apple salad and the Seasoned Lard. We so appreciate your prayers.
Diana, Thank you so much for taking Holly out. It means a lot to her and of course to us. We are in the FarEast part of Russia, near the Chinese border. If you look at Russia Webpage, there is a map down the page on the right.
Julie, I just cherish knowing that you and your kids pray for us. I love you!
Carol, Isn't it fun? 12 years ago this week we became one sort of family, now we become another sort. :)
First, we will meet all the children in Andy's group tomorrow at 4:00. If then we are still quite sure that we want to adopt two, we will ask for and presumably receive official permission to officially meet a little girl (who we would have informally interacted with as we play with all the kids in the group). There is no point asking for official permission unless we are dead certain that we will follow through. We will visit the orphanage (#4) from 4-6 on Wednesday and again from 10-12 on Thursday. On the Thursday visit we will meet with the physician, who will share the medical history and the social worker who will share the family history. We learned that Andy's group has seven kids and they are the little kids in a very large orphanage of school-age children.
Second, Yeah Dad, you're blogging now! and Yeah Tim as I assume Dad meant now passed instead of not passed.
Third, we had a fabulous dinner at the Ruskie for our Anniversary. If you are Khab-bound, I will post the address and a picture of the restaurant on the FERA list when I get back, as it is a bit hard to find otherwise, even if you are standing right in front of it.
Fourth, we had our medical exams today and agreed that the doctor was friendly and personable. It was a bit weird, but tolerable. We apparently passed. Here is a lovely shot of the hallway window in the otherwise dreary clinic.
edited to add pics, including these pics of military exercises in Lenin Square.
Tonight we will go out for a nice dinner and try to not worry about Wednesday. Our greatest concern is the kid(s). This has got to be weird/scary/stressful for them. What can we do to help them feel safe? How can we create a good beginning? We are so curious to know what they will be told about their visitors. We were told that we can leave pictures of our home and family, surely for that to make any sense the kids are told we are their future mom and dad. How bizarre this must be for them: here's some nice people who smile a lot but are too dumb to speak Russian with you; they are going to go away and come back later and be your parents.
Tomorrow we will meet with the woman who (we hope) will know if we have a second referral. We also have six more areas of medical specialties to get stamped on our official form and some shopping to do. We'd want to augment our stash of goodies to take to the orphanage.
On a more personal note, and in response to Dad's emails (come on, Papa, try to blog -- it's fun!): yes, we are sleeping well. No one is ill or damaged. We are very very happy to spend time together as a couple, not as worker-bees. We are well and very grateful to be here.
edited to add lovely picture of Anniversary festivities and to add that we were a bit surprised to find a cube of lard served with our complimentary shot of vodka. We also found the price list of flatware, dishes, and fixtures at the back of our menu rather intriguing. "How rowdy do they get?" we wondered. If you click the picture, you will get a bigger version and can read the prices.
We also found a restaurant that serves yummy borscht. MMMMmmmm.
edited to ponder how I failed to mention the Harry Potter display that we found!
Greetings from Khabarovsk. We arrived safely on Saturday night, checked in, walked a long way to dinner (pizza and bilinies – a.k.a. crepes or Swedish pancakes) and a long way home. With the help of eye masks and ear plugs we slept. The parties outside kept Jamie up more than they did me. At about 7 am the parties stopped and the church bells started.
It is Easter here: Christ is Risen! We have not yet gone to church, though we may later. Apparently services go all day and people come and go as they can. I brought my shawl to cover my head when we go.
We got up early (7:00ish) showered (great water pressure) and had breakfast. Porridge for me (not quite as good as Scottish, but that is a high standard to meet) and Jamie had an omelet. No comment on the omelet. Then we went to market and what fun we had there.
Most of the vendors are Asian and seemed very eager to practice their English on us. Usually they didn't work up their nerve till we had passed, so our market stroll was punctuated with "Herlo how are you today" tossed at our backs. I'd turn and answer and they would beam at us. There is something really fun about exchanging real smiles with people from whom we are otherwise so very distanced. We bought a few things, a cap, a scarf, some fruit -- only the sort you peal -- and best of all, found a cobbler to mend my shoe. He used a hand-crank machine to stitch the offending piece back on and charged me 100 rubles for it, which I think is about 4 dollars.
We are disappointed to learn that we won’t visit the orphanage until Wednesday. I am feeling very sad about this, but am trying to be flexible. This, as you may know, is not easy for me.
Tomorrow we get picked up at 12:30 for blood draws and a visit to the psychiatrist. I feel as if I am in a novel.
I’m going to start a new post, labeled questions and answers. If you are dying to know something I have not mentioned, ask it there.
edited to add that the blog program has labeled this as Saturday, but it is indeed Sunday here.
edited for random acts of spelling
edited to add pics
Our flight to Seoul was lovely, as much as an 11 hour flight can be. The plane was only about half full, so -- even though we had exit row seats -- we were persuaded by the stewardesses to move to empty center rows where we could stretch out. I think we each got about 5 or 6 hours of sleep.
Later today we will fly to Khabarovsk, check in, walk to dinner, and then to bed. We have tomorrow free I believe, and will visit the orphanage on Monday.
Lisa and Derik have been coaching us on pronunciation: Har Bar arsk is the preferred way.
Much too sleepy to be amusing. More later,
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- bags are packed (one little one for each of us, another one full of orphanage donations, and two little in-flight bags)
- visas, tickets, and money are procurred
- house/pet sitters manifesto is printed and distributed
- fridge and freezer are stocked
Still to do:
- learn Russia
- pick up copies of pics for little booklets we will leave behind with the kid(s)
- set out towels etc. for house/pet sitters
What am I forgetting? My brain is either whirling madly or frozen solid.
I still don't really believe that we are actually getting to go. Last night the rumor-mill that serves Russian Adoption Families produced more alarming news. Will it impact us? Probably not. Did I burst into tears at the very thought? Absolutely.
It is as if I'm a person who is just pretending to believe that we are actually leaving. This is what a dream deferred
Please do us the kind favor of clicking on Comments below and posting a quick howdy just to ease our curiousity.
So, just to clarify for those that got a bit lost in all the changes of the last year:
- December 04 - started mountain of paperwork
- April 05 - sent paperwork to Russia
- May 05 - received pictures of two kids and made plans to travel in June
- June 05 - plans canceled due to bureaucratic complications in Russia, rescheduled for July
- July 05 - plans cancelled again, no re-scheduling
- August 05 - October 05 - prepared and submitted 'just in case' paperwork to China
- March 06 - receive whispers of hope from Russia
- April 06 - go to Russia to meet two kids (one from last May referral, one new referral)
- July 06 - go back to Russia for court hearing
- August 06 - arrive home, we hope, with two brand new Chandlers.
May 07 - receive referral of China-born baby sister
- July 07 - go to China and pick up little sister
Waiting on Visas now.
In other news, I got all my subs lined up (I have such nice colleagues), and we almost have the pet-sitting covered.
- sent off for Visa applications
- bought airline tickets
- reviewed homestudy draft which just needs a few tweaks and signatures
- get dossier apostilled in Olympia
- do 1,237 necessary things to prepare for departure.
20 APR 06 - Thursday Leave SEATTLE at 7:17PM on United Flight 794 and arrive in SAN FRANCISCO at 9:14PM
21 APR 06 - Friday Leave SAN FRANCISCO at 1:00AM on Asiana Air Flight 213 and arrive in INCHEON/SEOUL at 5:30AM on Saturday the 22nd as we cross the date-line.
22 APR 06 - Saturday Leave INCHEON/SEOUL at 10:10 AM on Asiana Air Flight 572 and arrive in KHABAROVSK at 3:10PM
29 APR 06 - Saturday Leave KHABAROVSK at 4:20PM on Asiana Air Flight 571 and arrive in INCHEON/SEOUL at 5:20PM Overnight in Seoul Airport Hotel
30 APR 06 - Sunday Leave INCHEON/SEOUL at 7:40PM on Asiana Air Flight 214 and arrive in SAN FRANCISCO at 2:10PM
30 APR 06 - Sunday Leave SAN FRANCISCO at 7:15PM on United Flight 1155 and arrive in SEATTLE at 9:12PM