For those not planning to adopt, please go beyond the list for pictures and accounts of our experiences on Day 1.
For the flight:
- CLOSE QUARTERS! Bring very few things to do so you don't have much to carry. The ipod/ipad/Nook/Kindle things are a REALLY good idea. You can take a bunch of books and movies and are carrying almost nothing.
- Pack some snack bars/meal bars for when you need a little something extra to eat.
- Overseas flights are now equipped with movie screens, blankets and pillows free of charge. We were really happy to have our neck pillows, though. Those little pillows they give you aren't quite enough padding for a 10 hour flight. :)
- Check that your bags do not weigh more than the limit imposed by your airline. Luggage scales are available at Walmart and other stores for around $10. Take the scale with you so when you have purchased souvenirs, etc. you can still make sure your weight is correct.
- Pack lightly. Unlike a couple of decades ago, the stores in Kiev are very well stocked. You can find anything you need here except your prescription medications. You will not want to be hauling a lot of stuff around because...
- Everything is small here! The cars are small, the elevators are TINY, the apartments are small...like being in a large motor home. Be as simplistic as you can in your packing...bring matching clothes that can be interchanged rather than several different outfits.
- Clothing can be washed, but will need to be hung to dry. Consider how often you will wash your clothes and plan accordingly for drying times and needs for clean clothes.
- In your carry-on, bring pain killers or other OTC medicines you might need in flight. Long flights and lack of sleep can cause headaches, etc.
- If you like your technological devices, here is a list for you! (Thanks, Dad! It has all been SO necessary!)
- Bring a convertor that has different converting capabilities. They are little attachments that go onto the outlet portion and can be used in different countries. Though the one we had was correct, we needed the matching attachment to extend the length of the converter so it could plug in.
- Bring an extension cord. If you only bring one convertor, you will only be able to plug in one thing at a time. An extension cord allows you to plug in three devices.
- Bring the grounding converter pieces. Your convertor will not allow you to plug in some devices...like my computer!..that have a grounder (the third prong). There are little attachments that will convert your three prong plug into a two prong plug. Check the plugs on your devices...you may need these!
- Hair dryers and curling irons have melted converters. Buy those things here if you end up needing them. They are available for about the same price you'd find in the States.
- If you are staying in someone's apartment, they probably have a hairdryer already.
- If you have an ipad/iphone/ipod, a remote keyboard is the best thing to use for typing. You can even avoid bringing a laptop if you have the keyboard and device to go with it.
- If you are staying in someone's apartment, be ready with an idea of what you will cook. We were taken to a store today to purchase what we needed for meals for the next few days. We had to stand there and figure out what we were going to eat, then find the right ingredients (which can be challenging labels are in another language). Planning ahead of time will help you save time.
Luckily, I didn't wear makeup today...or was that yesterday? I knew I shouldn't because I had already been shedding tears off and on so it wasn't any use. Boy, am I glad I didn't bother.
Remember when I thought I had reached my Gethsemane? I was wrong. It was the first night away from the kids that was rock bottom for me. It was as if I needed to come to the realization that it was literally THE hardest thing I had ever been through (and I have been through some REALLY hard things) that made it possible to start working my way back up. The Lord was waiting there with outstretched arms, waiting for me to get to the point that I realized I couldn't be strong anymore and that I was at the mercy of His grace. Everything I thought I already knew in anticipation of the sacrifice, but didn't fully comprehend. And I realize now that I probably still don't comprehend it, but that's okay. It's all to be learned line upon line and precept upon precept, here a little and there a little until we are all we can become.
On the plane, taxiing down the runway, the tears started again. I went through a series of emotions that I only share because I think there may be others who will need to know that someone else has been through it. See, every time I started to think of Ruslan and Nastia, I felt better. I didn't cry anymore and I was not only at peace, but full of purpose and anticipation. That should have been a clue to me that that is what the Lord wanted me to be focused on. The fruits of the Spirit are peace, joy and love, all emotions I felt when I focused on Ruslan and Nastia. But, when I could start to feel that peace I suddenly felt guilty. I felt like I was betraying my other children...as if I needed to be sad to honor their sacrifice for this process. As if, by missing them and feeling badly about leaving them, I was taking the pain of our absence away. And if I wasn't sad, then I wasn't feeling what I should feel and I wasn't doing my duty as their mother.
I know, it all sounds crazy. I still have some thinking to do on this, but I do know one thing: the Lord wants us to be happy. Anything that keeps us from true joy and happiness is not of Him. My sorrow in leaving my children doesn't help any of us. Marsh wisely told me as I was tearing up for the millionth time, "Isn't it great that love is spiritual and not physical? Your love doesn't go with you when you leave. It isn't confined to physical presence. It's a spiritual gift you leave behind to bless them while you're gone. And anyway, Heavenly Father is there taking care of them." What a man.
Okay, enough about my emotions. Here are some pictures to give you an idea of what we've experienced during the last...well...however many hours it's been since we left home. :)
Bye, bye, USA! We flew Delta, which has a special adoption perk...they waive the flight change fee that you would otherwise have to pay if you change the date of the return trip. They apparently understand that you may need to return on a different day than you had originally planned. So, enjoy buying the round trip tickets and know you can come back whenever you need to!
The airport in Paris is so big, you need a tram to get you to your next gate! I can now say that I set foot on French soil...well, concrete anyway.
I had to have Marsh take a picture of me in the chandeliered perfume counter. It was the most French thing I saw! Oh, besides the little chocolate pastries and the chocolate vending machines EVERY WHERE. I wonder...is the chocolate everywhere because they actually take pride in their chocolate or because they think Americans expect it of them?
When we arrived in Ukraine, I made the mistake of trying to take a picture of the sign that read "Check In" in Russian. I know, how dare I! This angry female security guard, hit my camera and said, "Erase it!" in Russian. Marsh had to translate for me, of course. The people around me were laughing...as was I. I remembered reading the blog of someone who did essentially the same thing. I should have had my wits about me, but NO. I did as she asked. I turned to Marsh and said, "We're not in Kansas anymore!" Just outside the passport check was our driver with a sign with our name in it. Marsh whispered that I should say something in Russian, which I obediently did and our driver smiled and shook our hands. Good thing I can trust my husband to make less of a fool of me than I make of myself!
By the way, it's true what they say...people don't smile here. They kind of scowl all the time and don't look at each other. What a relief! I don't have to act happy and bubbly when I'm completely exhausted from flying across the pond! :)
People live in apartments here. I wish I had the patience to upload all the pictures I took of these, but this will have to do. These are EVERYWHERE. As a matter of fact, this is all there is here...with a store or two sprinkled in between. They all look like this, too...ju st rows and rows and rows of these apartment buildings. The schools are non-descript brick buildings in between them. There are children and stray dogs about everywhere in some areas. Thickly forested areas (one with a pet cemetery in it) are broken up only by the vastness of these apartment building areas. It took me a while to realize that this is what the residential district of Kiev looks like. It looks so much like our downtown/ghetto areas that I had to make a shift in the way I think. We are staying in an apartment on the third floor of a building just like this one. You'd never know from the outside that it was so nice on the inside. Can't judge a book by its cover.
The front door to our building. Marsh said we are staying in one of the nicer ones because this door stays locked from the outside.
Kitchen is behind Marsh, the dining room in front. :)
This is one way down the one hall. The toilet is on the left, the shower/sink/washing machine on the right. To the right is the kitchen/dining and to the left is the refrigerator...which can't be open without the toilet door being shut. And vice versa. To my right is the bedroom and behind me is the living room. To my left is the front door. And that, my friends, is what people live in here. Which explains why so few children are adopted within the country of Ukraine. It is smaller than the dorms I stayed in at college.
More of Kiev tomorrow!