Monday, July 14, 2008

More reflections on Russian adoption.....

More descriptions of our adoption experience with Hannah. I sent this to a prospective adoptive family who was thinking of going to Russia to adopt a child, so the following is written with that receiver in mind:

We went to St. Petersburg. Our first trip over, we went straight there. We arrived on a Sunday night, and spent the day Monday waiting to hear about our appointment with the Minster of Education to meet the kids.

We spent the day with Oskana, our interpreter. She took us around the city, which is beautiful. We were there first before spring, and the city was rather bleak. It is much more pretty in summer. We stayed at the hotel there. "4 star" in Russia does not equate to "4 star" in the US. They had no washclothes in the bathrooms, and the toliet paper was like cardboard. Be sure and take plenty of kleenex, because the public restrooms have NO toliet paper. The room smelled like stale cigarette smoke. I took a solid air freshener with me to help the room air. The breakfast there left a lot to be desired, too. We were told to avoid beef while traveling overseas, so we did. We also made sure to only drink bottled water and brush our teeth with the bottled water. Fortunately, they sell "Pepsi Light" (diet) everywhere! Both the hotel in St. Petersburg and Moscow had internet access in their business center, so we were able to keep in touch. We made several long distance calls the second trip, and our telephone bill was over $250! So I really recommend the internet if possible.

Back to the first trip - we went to the Minister of Education's office (after buying her a dozen roses), and met with her. She "told" us about the children (you are not supposed to know in advance who you are looking at) and we signed a book saying we wanted to look at them. The next day (Tuesday), we drove to the orphanage in Luga (a two hour drive) with a fast, scary driver and Natasha, the main lady in charge. She is young, but knows what she is doing, and who to deal with. We got to see the kids for almost two hours, and took a lot of video and photos. When we got home, we sent the video to the University of Minnesota for review by Dr. Dana Johnson, and also had our pediatrician look at it. We had them review for fetal alcohol syndrome, attachment disorder, developmental delays, etc. We also sent them a copy of the medical report that we had received.

After visiting at the orphanage, we went to the notary's office to sign some paperwork. Everything has to be notarized over there, and there was a crowd! Oskana helped us with everything. They never leave your side while you are away from the hotel. Early the next morning, Oskana picked us up at the hotel and took us to the airport. We got home that evening (Wednesday). We made a final decision on the adoption on Friday, and an adoption petition was filed for our daughter on Monday. We then had to get the rest of our paperwork in, since we went over with only a mini-dossier completed. Unfortunately, the next several weeks included the May day holidays, so our court date was scheduled two months after our first visit. That was the hardest part, waiting to go back after seeing her, holding her, smelling her and loving her. We got word finally on a Monday that we were scheduled for the following Monday, so we left that Friday. We used (again) the travel agency in Texas (Emaly is GREAT!), and got our visas back o.k. Be sure and read your travel packet several times to make sure you take all the necessary paperwork with you. I even took extra copies of stuff, just in case.

We left then on the second trip on Friday, arrived there on the next day, and went to the orphanage on Sunday to see the baby again. Earlier that morning (Sunday), we met with Natasha and Oskana to go over the baby's medical history and social background. You will be expected to know all of this, and may be asked about it in court by the judge. We were questioned thoroughly about the baby's medical history and social background (parents, grandparents). Monday morning was our court date, and I had prepared a letter (notarized of course) stating our reasons why we wanted the judge to waive the ten day waiting period. Be sure and sent a copy early so that it can be translated. We cited the medical reasons for the child, wanting her to be seen by specialists, etc., as our need to come on home, and already had appointments with doctors lined up.

On Monday we went to court. It is in an old building (aren't they all), and we climbed the stairs to the third floor. We waited a while, and then they called us in. Be sure and listen to your translator, not the judge or people talking. However, you will need to look at the judge or whoever is talking, so as to appear respectful. When you speak, talk in short sentances or phrases, so that the interpreter can keep up. If you panic, just tell the translator that you're not sure you understand the question. That will give you more time to think of a good response. You will do fine - don't panic. They won't deny the adoption - they just are good government workers who need to justify their jobs! We went for a light lunch after the court hearing (the judge waived our waiting period), and then went and had some paperwork done.

The next day, we drove out to Luga again, went to a government building and signed new birth certificates. We then waited a while and picked up some cakes, champagne, etc. for the going away party (which didn't happen; at least in our presence). We met again with the director of the orphanage, and finally got our baby! Both Oskana and Natasha was with us that day, and since their were two families, we took a small bus (a large mini-van) out there. The kids did great on the ride back, and it was strange not using car seats! The next day was a wasted day, it being the Independence Day holiday. So I called Oskana, and she took us shopping for a couple of hours. The other family stayed at the hotel, but I wanted to get out.

The baby did great. Oskana took us to buy baby food. I highly recommend taking disposible bottles and enough clean nipples to get you through until you get home. It is next to impossible to get anything boiled there, and our baby got diareaah. I think it may have been stress-related, but who knows. We bought bottled water to mix the formula. We got our documents on Thursday, and we went to the airport that night to travel to Moscow. Oskana settled up our bill before we left, and she was very precise and very fair about costs.

When we got to Moscow, Max was there to meet us. He's great! We went the next morning to get visa photos taken of the kids. Then we went to the doctor, and Hannah got a checkup. The doctor was very fluent in English and seemed to be good. We then went by the Embassy and got an appointment. We went back to the hotel to wait for the appointment for a couple of hours. The Embassy interview was a breeze! We went into the Embassy, went through security, and talked with a lady at the window for a minute or two. Then we signed a big book, and that was it! We had to go one more place and sign ONE MORE FORM (you'll get used to that), and we were finished. We went out to eat that night at TGI Fridays, and had a great meal.

We left the next day for the airport. I had asked Max to pick us up early so that we could go through Red Square and see the Kremlin, etc., so he picked us up about 2 hours early. Then we left for the airport and came home! YEA! God Bless America! There were about 8 other adoptive families on our plane, and I ran out of diapers and had to borrow some! The baby was great on the plane, and we were glad to be home.

The mix of emotions as I read this......the waiting, the paperwork, the money, the anxiety of being in a foreign country with our baby AND the children we had waiting for us here at home. We had wonderful prayer warriors, that's all I can say.

There's a lot more I can tell, PLUS another trip to Russia for another child (the last one....that's it....nada, no more.....I really, really mean it!!). So stay tuned!

1 comment:

Belle-ah said...

We want some baby pictures of the Diva!!!!