Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Day 19.3--Dr. Appointments and US Embassy

We were picked up at 7:30 this morning which was MUCH too early for a bunch of teens and preteens...especially when they don't go to bed on time.  Honestly, it's like a slumber party here every night and I have a harder time getting them to go to sleep than I do with my toddlers.  It's 10pm here right now and they are still wrestling and goofing off in the dark.  The Mom tone of voice is already being used ("Para spaht!" which means "Time to sleep!") so people are getting the idea that they'd better toe the mark.  After the catastrophic morning (okay, that's an exaggeration but wait 'til you hear the story), I would think they would be all over the idea of getting to bed on time.  I guess we're just too young to relate choices and consequences when goofing off is so tempting...

So, people crankily rolled out of bed at about 7:05, some choked down a little cereal, others inhaled it (give you one guess who that was) and Ruslan didn't get anything to eat at all.  He's had a little cold and I'm guessing that getting up early and being a little under the weather didn't lend itself to much of an appetite.  We were five minutes late getting out the door and I was trying to convince him to at least take a banana or yogurt but, like any Ukrainian, he stubbornly refused.  If I'd pushed it, he would have relented but he insisted he wasn't hungry.  I don't know why I didn't just take it with me anyway, but I didn't.  I was too concerned about the money I needed to make sure I had with me and the fact that we were already late.

The drive was silent.  No one spoke, no one wanted to be there.  Everyone was exhausted and kept to themselves.

The traffic was crazy.  The moment we parked and I set my foot on the ground, I had the horrible realization that I had left all the paperwork at the apartment...everything Marsh had signed and notarized so we could get their visas at the embassy.  What was I thinking???  Oh, yeah...money, breakfast, Ruslan, late cranky kids.  As a matter of fact, the night before when I was setting out the money I would need, it never even occurred to me that I needed those papers.  I sheepishly called the female facilitator because, honestly, the man intimidates me and told her what I'd done.  It had taken us almost an hour to get to the medical center and I knew my forgetfulness had to be costly in time and money.  However, she acted like it was okay and we'd be able to take care of it.  It was decided that Chris would go back with our driver and pick up the documents while I was in the embassy so we could keep our appointment.  Hooray for big, responsible kids!  They are literally like having another adult around.

We got to the medical center about 20 minutes late, but I determined that it wouldn't have mattered if we had been there on time because the person we were there to see didn't show up until after we had arrived. 

We sat in a long hallway, lined with chairs, that had doors all down one side.  It was like something out of a movie about the Soviet time.  The soul-draining flourescent lights flickered at one end of the long hall and women in white coats went in and out of doors, locking them as they came out and unlocking them as they went in.  The only thing that called us back to 2012 was the TV blaring an American infomercial that had been voiced over in Russian.  Since it was advertising ladies undergarments, I took it upon myself to brave the long hallway and go turn it off.

We were in there for almost two hours.  During that time, Ruslan had x-rays done and people were going from door or door and knocking and entering and leaving and speaking in hushed tones and through doors cracked part way open.  It was really uncomfortable for me because I didn't know what was going on, the kids were all exhausted, the papers were still at home and I realized that I hadn't mentally prepared for any of this.  It had taken so long to get to this point and the concerns about so many things were so long and so deep and it's just been so many days that I suddenly realized I was overwhelmed...and tired and homesick for my babies.

Later, I was called in to talk to the doctor and be present during the kids' examinations.  Nastia was first, all was well.  He filled out paperwork and explained a lot of things in English, for which I was grateful. 

Then, it was Ruslan's turn.  He came in with a bandage on his arm.  I realized he'd had his blood drawn and talked to him about it.  In his characteristically calm, "no problem" way he acted like it was no big deal and gave me a smile.  He was then examined and the doctor made the poor kid drop his pants right in front of me.  When I realized the doctor was going to request that, I hurried and carefully examined Nastia's paperwork on the desk and made it really obvious that I wasn't looking.  Like these kids haven't been through enough.  Sheesh.

Back out into the long hall, then into the cashier's office where we were barked at to wait.  I suddenly realized I needed the money I had brought and had just a little more than was needed.  I realized how unprepared I was for the experience because, though I had come with the money, I hadn't actually thought through paying it.  It felt like I was in a dream.

Out the door we went and back into the car.  It wasn't long before we were off the highway and onto a more private road.  My facilitator (the intimidating man...who is really very efficient and knowledgeable, he's just an Ukrainian man in every respect) called to ask me if Chris and Patty had their passports.  Oh yeah, those too.  When I looked back to ask the kids about their passports, I saw Ruslan.  His face was this weird yellow color, his eyes were dark as was the area surrounding his mouth, but his lips were white and his eyes were half-mast.  He looked like he was going to die.  I was shocked enough to warrant an "I fine, I sleep" from him.  My brain was putting it all together...no food, no drink, blood drawn...and my next question to my driver was, "Is there a store nearby?"  All I could think of was to get some juice into the kid. 

One ear on the phone, two eyes on the kid getting ready to pass out and Nastia yells, "Mom!" and grabs her throat.  I asked the driver to pull over and just in time, she's out of the car before she throws up on the dirt.  I asked my facilitator to wait because I had carsick kids...and does he know where a store is???  His response:  "There is nothing around there.  You'll just have to wait.  Yes, she's throwing up.  That happens."

Okey dokey, thanks.

My driver pulls out some paper towels for Nastia which she leaves on the ground, Ukrainian-style.  I pick them up, American-style, and off we go again.

Ruslan is bound and determined to be a man and won't let this little blood sugar issue lick him so he decides to look a little perkier, but I'm scared to death the kid is going to die on me.  As I exit the car I asked Chris to get Ruslan a banana and some bread or something when he goes back to get the papers and passports, but it turns out that you can't take food in the Embassy, even for kids on the brink of death.  Great.  I'm 0 for, like, 4 at this point.


The kids and I are the only ones who could go into the Embassy.  No driver, no facilitators, nobody but us.  Oh, and no purse, no bag, no cell phone, no electronics...just passports and bodies and paperwork in hand.

I don't know what I was thinking, but I was really disappointed to find out that everyone working at the US Embassy with their American police uniforms with little American flags on their shoulders are not American.  I think I was hoping there would be some kind of party...you know, "Hey, welcome home!  We know you are just dying to get back to The States so we thought you could use a nice, friendly American-style welcome!  We're so glad you're here!" and no one would scowl or bark or look irritated at me and wish I'd go home.  Just a little piece of American heaven for a few minutes. Nope.

We're called up very quickly and we stand at the window while the papers are reviewed and forms are filled out.  Both kids insisted on standing with me, even though I was sure Ruslan wouldn't be able to stand much longer.  His color was better, but he was blowing his nose and shifting his weight.  I never could get him to sit down.  I thought maybe it was because he wanted to be a part of what was going on.

After forms were filled out and we had kind of come to a stand-still until the other papers arrived, the person helping me sent me to the cashier's window to pay.  My facilitator had said to come back out of the Embassy about 25 minutes after being dropped off so I could get the papers from the kids.  However, just as I had received my receipt and was heading back to my helper's window, a security guard escorts Patty and Chris to me and they hand me the papers.  It was the most perfect timing of anything that had happened that morning!  It was a relief, too...everyone was safely with me again and I had everything I needed.  (sigh)

I will just step aside from my story for a minute (which is almost done, don't worry) to say something about my facilitators and agency.  I don't know how to emphasize enough that there is NO WAY I could have done this without them.  I don't have any idea how anyone could do this without people who know exactly what needs to be done, when it needs to be done, what is going to be required, when it is required, where to go, how to get there...really, it's mind boggling. 

It's literally embarassing that I forgot the papers.  They handed me the packet which included all major adoption documents, originals and copies, birth certificates (which I didn't have to do anything with but put on my John Hancock on a few papers...didn't even have to figure out where to go or to get a driver to take me there), even two copies of headshots of Ruslan and Nastia (which I had no idea would be requested at the Embassy), all put together neatly in plastic sleeves and I LEAVE THEM AT THE APARTMENT??  I can't even be trusted to bring them where they needed to be with them perfectly complete, let alone complete them myself. 

Because of these capable people (whom I have determined work 24 hours a day/seven days a week), I am able to focus on being a mom in a totally new situation, in a forgein culture, and just make sure everyone is fed and safe and happy (if I have any control over that)...which, honestly, is probably more than I could handle without the Lord's help anyway.  So, kudos to my facilitators and coordinator and all the behind-the-scenes people who make my life easy so I can make it complicated by leaving things in places I shouldn't leave them...and then call them and beg their advice about my mistakes in the early morning hours!  You all should have a big "S" on your shirt!

Now, back to our regularly scheduled story...

We left the Embassy knowing that we needed to bring back the doctor's paperwork tomorrow afternoon (the blood work will be done and recorded by then) and finish out the process.  At that point, we're done and ready to go home.

Even though Chris and Patty brought food, Ruslan wouldn't eat.  But, instead of silence in the car, the kids were goofing off on the way home.  There was a tangible, literally physically tangible, difference in the feeling in the car.  On the way there, it was heavy and sad...on the way back, it was obvious burdens had been lifted.  Nothing changed, no one ate or had something fun or new to do...I think the big hurdle was over for everyone.

We got home and most of us napped, which helped a lot for the rest of the day.  The girls and I made olivye (Ukrainian potato salad) and there was much rejoicing (and eating) when the boys got up.
The boys on their bed.  The foot on the right is Nastia's...she was threatening to wake them up with her spoon.  Patty is crouched down in the back there because she was using the fan and paper pieces to make "snow" on the boys.  So, this shot is just before the awakening ensued, all instigated by the sisters who were anxious to have olivye!

The kitchen helpers proud of their work...and really glad to eat it!
My brother, Dave, called me during the afternoon, too, which was a very welcome connection with home.  I needed it right then because a wave of homesickness just came over me not long before.  Thanks, Dave. 

I can't imagine what it would be like to be forced to be separated from family members for long periods of time, especially one's little children.  I can't help but mourn over the things that have gone on in this part of the world that had excruciating consequences in so many lives.

Later, while grocery shopping yet again, we were picking out treats to take home to the little ones and I decided this was a party night.  We needed to celebrate that we did it all...sure, we still have to go back to the Embassy tomorrow, but that's just a follow up.  The big hurdles ended today!

So, everyone one chose a candy and we headed home to make dinner.  They all pitched in.  Ruslan requested that we make the apartment look like "a restauran" where we move the table into the center of the room and eat there.  Of course, we did and Patty made it look pretty.  We are counting our kopecks so we made the Ukrainain version of Ramen Noodles, opened cans of fruit and put out the olivye.  The candy was, of course, dessert...everyone chose some kind of chocolate.

The "restauran".  The word in Russian looks like this:  PECTOPAH which, if read phonetically, says "restoran".  Learn something new everyday, right?  :)
It was a great ending to a day that really didn't start out all that promising.  We are all counting the hours until we are on a plane headed for home. 


  1. Alisa,
    I just love reading about all of your adventures. Can't wait to see you again and meet your new children. Have a safe flight home.

  2. I am tired just reading this! Will you ever have a boring day? An un-eventful, crazy day? Probably not, just a different crazy the min. you get home!

  3. Your stamina is amazing Alisa! I'm so inspired by your story of faith and miracles. I'm looking forward to hearing more first hand! Almost home is great news!! Congratulations to you all!

  4. Oh the anxiety! What a woman you are! Thanks for sharing your story.