We’re in Astrakhan

After a nerve-wracking trip to the airport and getting through the airport security we finally made it to our plane. We were told that our Rep, Galina, would be flying with us. We never saw her until we were already on the plane. She was one of the last passengers on the plane, she saw us and gestured to Bill. He figured it was Galina. Her seat was actually next to ours. That would have been great, except, Galina does not speak English. So, it was a quiet trip for the 3 of us. We didn’t meet the translator until we got off the plane. Things got better after that.

It was already dark when we landed so we could not see much on our way to the hotel. But it appears that Astrakhan traffic is better than Moscow (nothing could be worse). The entire town of Astrakhan is under construction. They are celebrating a big anniversary next year and are making big plans.

Our hotel is also under construction. But it’s nice and clean. The staff seems friendly and some speak English.

The plan for tomorrow is that Galina and Vika (our translator) will take all the new, updated documents to be translated and notarized (again? I guess they need a Russian notary?) then they will call us and make plans to meet us at the hotel around 11:00am. We will then go to the Minister of Education and submit our dossier and formally receive our referral. After that, I think we get to go to the orphanage to see the child and get his medical and history. I say “I think” because, we asked Galina a couple of times about when we get to meet him and she was vague in her reply. I think she is just being vague in case we run into problems at the Minister of Ed and we get delayed going to the orphanage by a day. But, of course I hope that is not the case and we will finally get what we came for — THE CHILD!

Bill and I both feel like we’ve been in Russia for a month already. It’s really only been a day and a half.

Pictures of Astrakhan and our hotel room will come later! We are using the lobby computer tonight until we are able to purchase a calling card to use the internet in our room.


UPDATE: See more pictures

Check-out time

We check out in an hour. We got a nice free breakfast this morning. We then went back to that grocery store and managed to pay the right amount for the right kind of water (not sparkling, which is hard to find). Security guard work is apparently a large part of the workforce here, because every single business establishment we’ve been to has had a security guard at every exit. I figured out the word for “cashier” and I can type it here because it uses our usual characters, “KACCA,” but it’s pronounced “casa.” They don’t have lowercase and uppercase here.

We ended up not having enough time to see any sights this morning because, even though we were both up by 4 a.m. local time and ready to go, there was nowhere to go then. After blogging and emailing a little bit, we went back to sleep and just barely got up in time for the breakfast. The menus on the tables showed their usual breakfast prices, something like $10 for a glass of orange juice.

Moscow

Well, we made it to Moscow!

After a long plane trip, we managed to get through passport control and customs with no problems. And all of our luggage made it!

Our CHI Rep and driver were late getting to the airport and we were worried, but they did eventually show up. We got our first taste of traffic, and let me go on record to say — I will never complain about Nashville traffic again. These people are nuts when they get behind a wheel! And you have NO rights as a pedestrian! They’d sooner run over you than slow down.

We are staying at the Holiday Inn while in Moscow. It’s very nice. It’s a high-rise and very modern. It’s brand new, only been open for a year. They have staff that speak English – that’s a very good thing. And there is a bank in the lobby where we were able to exchange our money. Our Rep said that they have the best rates right now. But it’s 24 rubles = $1.00. So, we’re trying to do quick math everytime we buy something. We just tried to buy a couple of bottles of water and a coke at a nearby grocery store and we mis-calculated how much it would be, when Bill underpaid the clerk, she started yelling at him in Russian. Of course, we had no idea what she was saying. We finally figured it out when she pointed to the screen on the cash register.

We met another couple that are adopting from Kemerervo. They are on their first trip too. They were able to get another flight out tonight to Kemerevo but had about 8 hours to kill. So, we all went to lunch together and walked around a little. They left their luggage with us in our room and they went out again to check out more. The hotel was going to charge them to store it for a few hours. Bill and I are pooped. I figure we still have a chunk of tomorrow to see more of because our flight to Astrakhan doesn’t leave until 4:30pm. Below are some pictures I took while out today. Hopefully better pictures are to come!

Holiday Inn in Moscow Holiday Inn view from the pedestrian mall Our room at Holiday Inn The Mexican Restaurant where we ate lunch The skyline from our balcony Typical apartment high-rise

We’re in Moscow

We’ll be spending the night in Moscow, after all, and flying down to Astrakhan tomorrow afternoon.

I was stressed out without an internet or even a usable power connection. But I’m obviously connected now. I had the power converters, but not the three-prong-to-two-prong adapter that I have plenty of at home.

We ran into another couple from Nashville doing an adoption, but they’re flying to the Kemerova region tonight. We had lunch with them at a Mexican restaurant of all places. “Only” $45 (1100 rubles).

In the air

28 Sept – 3:55pm CDT — We’re in the air on our way to Moscow. A little bit of good news is that it’s “only” a 10 hour flight instead of 12 as we had thought.

Travel day

We fly out today. It would’ve been nice to have gotten one last good night’s sleep, but the cat made sure that didn’t happen. Stupid cat. Anyone want one? Seriously. She’s very pretty; and sweet when she’s not keeping you from sleeping. I’ll miss the pugs while we’re gone, but if one of our pet sitters happens to “lose” the cat, it wouldn’t kill me.

Gotta go. I’ll be adding to this on my laptop then uploading it once we land and get re-connected.

The day before

Sounds like a movie title. Anyway, it’s Thursday morning. Grey’s Anatomy season premier tonight. Tara says woo-hoo!

Flying halfway around the world tomorrow morning. In the meantime, I think I figured out that I can take the SD memory card out of the video camera, pop it into the still camera, and download its data to the computer that way if necessary. Woo-hoo!

I was worried because I couldn’t get the computer to “recognize” the camcorder, but it already “knows” the still cam. I’d also like to figure out how to download onto the computer the shows that were recorded by our DVR. But not the Oprah shows! 🙂

OK, enough technology. Time again to get ready for work. Who was it who decided we all had to work for a living?

Preparation

Tuesday morning. Everyone’s still asleep except for me, the pug Joey and the cat Sunny. I’m trying to reacquaint myself with the digital cameras, video and still. I would’ve put Joey’s and Sunny’s pictures here, but the camera is connected to Tara’s computer, which is off, and I don’t feel like waiting for it to come on. Very exciting! D’oh! Time to get ready for work. More on my struggles with technology later.

This time next week….

I’m happy to say that this time next week, we will be in Astrakhan, Russia! We leave the States on Friday, September 28 and arrive in Moscow on the 29th. Depending upon the schedule of the flights to Astrakhan, we may have to stay in Moscow one night or we will board another plane on Saturday and fly straight to Astrakhan. We’re kinda hoping we can fly straight on to Astrakhan simply because the hotels are so outrageous in Moscow — $400 a night for a room at the Marriott! That will also put us closer to the little boy we are going to see. Right now all we know is that he’s 4 years old, Caucasian and has brown eyes. We’ll get a medical report and history on him when we reach the orphanage.

Being that we are going to arrive during the weekend, I imagine that we will go to the Minister of Education (they oversee the orphanage system in Russia) on Monday to formally submit our dossier and receive our referral. We will then go to the orphanage to get his medical, his life history, and finally meet the child! One of the first things we will do after that first meeting is send all his medical information, pictures and other pertinent information to an international adoption pediatrician at Vanderbilt Medical Center. They will review the information and tell us if there are any red flags that we should worry about. We will then spend the next couple of days getting to know the child and making a final decision as to whether or not we want to adopt him. IF we decide we cannot adopt him for medical reasons, we are allowed another referral while we are there. Of course, this could mean we have to stay in-country for a couple of extra days. I pray that this does not happen. We’ve already had to turn down 2 other referrals whose medical information we received ahead of time and it was very difficult. I can’t imagine turning down a child after we’ve met him face to face. But, I’ve been warned that it does happen from time to time and I should be prepared for it.Daisy

We’ll keep you posted on how things progress… we’ve been told that our hotels have good internet connections!