Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Safe & Sound!

Wow, where do I begin? What an experience. We left on April 20th headed to Russia to meet our children for the first time. If I am going to be completely transparent I will tell you that the first half of the trip was extremely trying and difficult and the second half was wonderful. The Lord saw us through it all and answered all of our prayers. We met our children which has forever changed us in the best way possible and our home now does not feel home without them.

The first plane rides were very difficult. I don't know what is wrong with me but in the last few years I have developed quite a little fear of flying. I prayed and breathed my way through the beginning of each flight as my heart pounded rapidly through my chest. I continued to ask myself and anyone that was nearby, "What is my problem?!" Never did I figure it out but regardless the Lord provided us with safe flights. We took off from Portland and flew to Los Angeles and then Los Angeles to Moscow. This is where the problems arose. NO ONE spoke english but acted like they did. There was a customs and passport control line that we were told to stand in. We stood for almost an hour knowing we would probably miss our flight which was set to take off two hours within our landing in Moscow. When we arrived at the front of the line, the lady seemed annoyed with us and told us to go to baggage. We didn't need to be in that line! At this point we were looking for a guy- Alex with our names on a sign. There were others with signs but not ours. We waited and collected our baggage and then began to panic. When I finally saw Joey get to that point then I really started freaking out. I just wanted to use a phone! We couldn't read the signs, no one spoke english and we didn't know our way out! Finally I saw the line to claim what you are bringing into the country, we were told there that we could just go through because we were not bringing in over $10,000. Whew. We walked out and there was our sign. It was not Alex but Pasha. Pasha said "What happened?" He had been waiting over two hours. I tried to explain the situation but we had to hurry to catch our back-up flight to St. Petersburg after missing our first flight. The domestic terminal is in a different location so we drove there and ran in literally running, injuries obtained. They wouldn't accept us, they said check-in was closed. Then they made an exception and sent us running upstairs without Pasha (couldn't go past security) and when we went upstairs they said "No, go downstairs" in broken english. There was no use explaining. The communication was not working. We missed the flight. Pasha then toted us all around the airport to different counters to figure out what to do. we could either buy $600 tickets to leave that night on another airline or stay the night in Moscow and fly for no additional cost. Well, we felt $600 was way too much and we didn't feel we could bear another flight after flying for 15 hours. Pasha booked our new morning flight and we ended up receiving a free hotel stay at the Holiday Inn in Moscow because our flight had been delayed about 10 minutes or so coming in! Thank you Jesus! Pasha took us to the hotel and we had a late night dinner that we were told was free but was not. Oh, well. The room was free. Then the melt down occured. I was so disturbed. I really need to calm down. I'm trying. Actually just talking about it is helping. Anyway that night I was shaking and crying and soooooo homesick. I thought, if something happened to us, no one would no where we are. We are not on our schedule. I just wanted to touch base with home. (I didn't realize that I actually had severe underlying anxiety about meeting our children that would disappear once we met.) I tried to call home but I did not have the country code which I though might be 1 but Russia is 077 or something so I didn't think 1 could possibly be it. I called the front desk and asked and they said "We don't know, it's your country." The next morning Pasha picked us up and we took off to St. Petersburg. When we arrived Alex (female) & Igor picked us up. They were right there which was a huge relief. We had a few hours before our flight to Kaliningrad so she took us to the hotel that we were supposed to be at the night before to rest for a few hours because we had to pay for it anyway because we didn't cancel in time. This was fine with us, we felt like we were in heaven. We plugged in the laptop and emailed home and it was a very comfortable room and large hotel. They picked us up a few hours later and we hopped our flight to Kaliningrad.

Our flight arrived early but Tatiana (our AAI contact) and her father Alexander arrived shortly. It was a very small airport with military looking men allowing us off the plane into the airport. Tatiana introduced herself and we drove to the hotel. On the way, we saw this park full of families, and trees, and ponies with pink hair. It was crazy, very idyllic, like a fantasy. It was a children's park. The city of Kaliningrad is much larger than I expected. She took us to the Hotel Chaika which has 24 rooms. It was fairly simple but in a nice neighborhood and very clean. She left us and let us know she would pick us up in the morning to visit the Department of Education. Since no agencies are accredited in Russia we have to attend every meeting and complete our adoption independantly (with AAI by our side assisting us at every turn.) She showed us a couple stores and restaurants with English speaking menus within walking distance and then left us to settle in. We were celebrating. No more flying for 5 days!!! We get to meet our children!!!

On Tuesday we met with the Ministry of Education and told him what we were looking for. He had them check the files and of course they brought in the files on our children. Mollie (Masha/Marya) looked totally different. I questioned whether it was the same child. He gave us some background information on their family and circumstances and we agreed to meet them. He said he would have approval in the morning. We went back to the hotel for the rest of the day. I was sick all these days. A little physically but mostly mentally. Again I repeat- I don't know what was wrong with me. Maybe part jet lag and part nerves. Wow, I was a mess. I think we walked to a restaurant that day called 12 Chairs. It was really cool down below an old theatre. After awhile it got a little claustrophobic. It would never pass code in the USA but it was good food and a good experience none the less. I forgot to mention that the first night in Kaliningrad Tatiana ordered us pizza to our room. We ordered half canadian bacon with pineapples and it also came with bananas- ewhh! We also found out that none of the converters we brought worked so again we were disconnected from the world and all our modern conveniences we brought (computer, DVD's, hot pot, hair straightener, etc.) would be of no use.

In the afternoon Tatiana took us to meet our children. (This is a picture of our hotel and our pizza.)

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