Oh ... my ... God. Do not EVER lose that document they have you fill out on the plane before you land! Stapling it to your forehead would be less painful than what Galina, Liena and I went through today. Vika was tending to the other couple, Nancy and Joel today. Anyway, we just spent ALL afternoon standing and sitting in line at the Immigration department. I'm not the one who had to do the hard work, though. I hope CHI pays Galina very well because she jumped through some hoops today, smiling the entire time. She knows how to get things done.
But first, some news about Elizabeth, the whole reason we're here. We saw her in the orphanage for the first time in two months. She actually looked a little taller, and her hair was a little longer. She immediately let me pick her up and we both kissed her. But then she was suddenly not very friendly. We think she remembered that she was mad at us for leaving her the last time. She WAS very sad that last day last time. She warmed up to us by the end of the visit, though. Tara pushed her around on the three-wheeler as they tried to run me down, just like old times! :) Still, it was tough having her being not terribly friendly with either of us until the end. It didn't phase Tara. She said it was just a 2-year-old being a 2-year-old.
After the orphanage, we shopped for groceries, then dropped Tara off at the hotel. Liena and I picked up Galina at her apartment and got to the Immigration office just before 2. The office is only open from 2 to 6. We put our name on the list (WAY down the list), and ran some errands such as getting things notarized, etc. We returned to Immigration around 3:30 and spent the rest of the afternoon there. Thank God there's no smoking allowed. Not that anyone here normally honors those signs elsewhere, they do when there are armed guards nearby, probably happy to shoot anyone who acts up, out of sheer boredom. They did actually escort an irate woman out shortly after we got there.
By the time we finally got in to see the "document minister" (or whatever she's called) at 5:55, she spoke for about 30 seconds, signed something and sent us down the hall to see some other guy. Galina went in there to see him, only to come out a second later, unhappy. I asked Liena what happened. Galina had just been told by this man that the only days he "accepts visitors" was on Fridays. Today's Wednesday. Galina marched down the hall to the original woman for a few minutes, returned to the second man's office, came back out a minute later and went into another office. Liena and I just stayed in the hall, out of the way at this point. Liena guessed that Galina must have made a call to someone important to get this man to agree to see her. She then went in and out of several more offices, trying to talk to people before they left at 6pm SHARP. She finally came out of one office, set all of her things down, and started to go out the front door. What? I asked Liena. Galina was told she had to go make a copy of my passport. Now, you know those people have photocopiers somewhere in those offices, they just wouldn't let Galina use one. Before she went outside, however, she turned back around and went into another office and talked them into letting her use the copy machine. She then returned to the previous office and came out a few minutes later with a sigh of relief. She set her things down with a smile on her face and handed me the passports. Then she looked up and crossed herself, and we all laughed and got the hell out of there.
I told Liena to tell Galina "please forgive me" for losing that stupid form in the first place. Galina just laughed and acted like it was nothing.
The moral of this story is, don't ever visit Russia! No, wait, I mean, don't ever lose your "papers." After today, the court appearance suddenly doesn't look so bad in comparison.