What a Day!

Where to begin…

The original plan was for us to go to the Minister of Education and submit our dossier and then formally receive our referral. What really happened:

Galina called the ministry this morning only to find out that they were closed in the morning supposedly because there had been a death within the ministry (I'm assuming a natural death, but after what we've been through, it could have been some other adoptive parents that decided to just kill the representative they were working with). They told her to call back in the afternoon because the department head would be in. She told us to be ready to go at 1:30. So, at 1:30 our interpreter, Vika, picked us up and we thought we were going to the Minister of Ed. We were dressed for that. What we didn't know until it was too late, was that Galina was still waiting to get an appointment for us and had instructed Vika to take us on a walking tour of the city.

I definitely wanted to see Astrakhan and its historical sites, just not in business clothes and dress shoes! We walked around for over an hour waiting to hear from Galina. Finally, Vika called Galina and we were informed that we had an appointment to see the department head's assistant at 4:00. Now the story was that the department head was sick and out of the office all day. At first we were told that all we would do today was literally walk in and hand over our dossier, they would review and call tomorrow with an appointment time to come back to receive the referral. About 10 minutes before entering the building Vika mentioned that we might be asked some questions by the assistant, but she was not sure and kinda doubted that they would ask us anything. But, at least we had about 10 minutes to think about it.

We got to the office and they quickly ushered us into a small room where the assistant came in and immediately asked to see our passports (everyone wants to see your passport here). She thoroughly reviewed each passport and visa. Still not sure what she was looking for. Then she started asking questions: “Why do you want to adopt?” “Why Russia?” “Are you aware of problems that orphaned children have?” “Are you aware that many kids in Astrakhan have Asian features?” “Would you accept a child with Asian features?” I was so flustered and exhausted from the day's events that suddenly I could not remember why we wanted to adopt and certainly adopt from Russia! Why would anyone put themselves through this? But, I managed to get out that we were unsuccessful at having biological children and decided to adopt instead of pursuing the more expensive and more invasive fertility treatments (although IVF doesn't sound so bad right now); that we chose Russia after investigating adoption in the US and found the US to be a very long wait with a high risk of the birth-mom changing her mind.

After that, Bill took over answering the questions and was much more composed than I was. After the questions, she informed us that they would take our dossier and, by law, they have 10 days to review and decide to give us a referral. At some point she told Vika that we could call them at 4:00 tomorrow and they would tell us if they had a chance to review and had any questions. Vika did not tell us that until we got back in the car. Galina went back to the office and did manage to negotiate an earlier time, 11 am.

So, now we wait. Hopefully, we will receive the referral and get to go to the orphanage tomorrow. However, it seems to take twice as long as expected to do everything here. I'm really concerned that we will not get to meet the child until Wednesday or Thursday and then be pressured to make a decision too quickly. We're supposed to leave Astrakhan on Friday. The most confusing and disconcerting thing about this whole freakin' goat rope is that the Minister of Ed already knows us, knew we were coming, has already matched us with a child, everything. But we have go through the formality of it and they act like we just walked in off the street.


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Tuesday (10/2/2007)

Just some random notes this morning

There's a real stray dog problem in Russian cities; or, at least Moscow and Astrakhan. A lot of people even apparently let their dogs run loose. They're almost all large dogs. The small ones don't survive.

There's a real “man purse” problem, too. Many men have what amounts to a small purse that they carry by hand, not over the shoulder. People probably thought that's what my camera bag was when I was carrying it through airports.

We were watching television last night, even though there's absolutely nothing in English. Well, that's not quite accurate. There was a CSI rerun, but it was voiced-over in Russian. I wonder why they use dubbing instead of subtitles. I could almost watch and hear it normally, ignoring the subtitles, if they used them. Maybe they don't use subtitles because they don't want to assume that their audience is literate? I'm not saying that they are illiterate, I'm just guessing that the television stations think they are.

The entire town of Astrakhan is apparently under construction. We thought it was in preparation for next year's 150th anniversary of the city's founding, but apparently they're preparing now for the 450th anniversary that takes place in six years. Next year's is “only” the 444th anniversary.

Anyway, the Ministry of Education was under construction; to the point that their office inside the building was not even marked, adding just that much more to our experience. Our hotel is under construction, with scaffolding partially blocking our otherwise nice view of the Volga river. If you turn left coming out of the hotel and walk that way, even the riverfront is under construction though mostly finished. They haven't finished much of the riverfront in front of the hotel yet, but the rock breaker is out there on the levee every morning making sure that no one sleeps in. If you turn right coming out of the hotel and go less than a block, you're immediately in the slums. There are some scary and depressing neighborhoods between us and “downtown” Astrakhan, but that's like any big city.

Everyone stares at everyone here. It's not a stare-down. It's just that when they look at you, they're actually looking at you. But only for a second or two. It reminds me of L.A. where everyone checks everyone else out without being creepy or obnoxious. Of course, here in Russia, when they hear us or our interpreter speaking English, they look and listen.


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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.

See more pictures


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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.


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It’s Only Monday?

Monday – 1 Oct 07 – 6:37PM

zzzDRAHST-vueet-ya, DRAHST-ya, BREEV-yet ee DO-bree-dyen from Astrakhan! I just (phonetically) said “Hello, hey, hi and good afternoon” (even though it’s now evening here) in Russian. I couldn’t remember how to say “evening.”

We visited the Ministry of Education today, the people who decide who lives and dies, I mean, if/when we get to adopt a child. The department head we were supposed to speak to today was out sick. Of course. So, we spoke with her assistant, who gave no indication whatsoever that she had ever heard of us or that we had in fact already been given a “referral” for a specific child. It was our “good luck” that because she was filling in for her boss, she covered herself by putting us through a complete interview which they don’t normally do. It was very nerve-wracking for Tara. I just found it interesting to be interviewed by a woman in a tight skirt, no bra and fishnet stockings. I was not going to mention the “no bra” part, but Tara brought it up later. I told her that the only reason I even noticed was because, when someone stands up and says “hello,” it’s only polite to at least acknowledge them. 🙂

Our interpreter, Vika, “held our hand” through it all. Vika, by the way, dresses very modestly; not the usual tight pants, belly shirt and spike heels that most young women here wear. 🙂 She’s a very sweet person. She’s also been a lifesaver because she speaks English and, having recently spent a year in Louisiana going to LSU, knows that it’s rude to look at us like we’re retarded when we don’t understand something, like so many clerks have. Galina, our official agency representative, has helped a lot, too, behind the scenes; but she doesn’t speak English, so we can’t interact with her much.


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Links to All Holmes Family Adoption Posts


This time next week….PreparationThe day beforeTravel dayIn the airWe're in MoscowMoscowCheck out timeWe're in AstrakhanIt's only Monday?What a day…Tuesday ()It's a girl! It's a girl!WednesdayThursdayGreat visitSights of AstrakhanAnother great visitLast visit for a whileAtlanta!We're home! (10/06)Round twoSkora mweh tam boojumInternet accessElizabeth's roomMweh yeddum v aeroport eta ootraIn the air againBack in Moscow (11/26)Tuesday (2007-11-26)Back in AstrakhanRussian adoption consultantComments welcomeShowtime!And the judge says……Success!The day afterSaturday morningMuch better visit todayBeet saladWent for a walk …Its going to be a good weekShe's warming up to usLight at the end of the tunnelPicture of us before courtMore picturesShe's ours!The first hours of parenthoodBowel movementSleep, what a conceptUpdateNothing much to update about51-1/2 hoursJust another week to goPictures of our life in AstrakhanBack in Moscow (12/18)Moscow update continuedUpdate to the update's updateTo the embassyCan't leave earlyStill in MoscowRiding the MetroRiding the Metro, part deuxWe're home! (12/23)A few picturesAirport arrivalStay tunedMore picsSummaryDoctors say she's normalAdoption videoHolmes Russian adoption videosAdoption videos updatedOur Russian adoption story


Adoption Videos

OK, so it took a year, but here they are, finally:
Part 1   Part 2

You'll see all of our videos of Elizabeth, including the updated versions of these, on the right side on the above linked page.


To download the songs from the videos, click on any or all of the following:

Raúl Di Blasio – AndinoDima Bilan – Eto bila LiubovDjango Reinhardt – Russian Songs MedleyStevie Wonder – Isn't She LovelyAmy Grant – Children of the WorldBlue Man Group – Rods and ConesBela Fleck – Foggy Mountain SpecialAlla Pugacheva – Osennie List'ya (Autumn Leaves)Electric Light Orchestra – Hold on TightIggy Pop – Real Wild ChildYannick Noah – Un Jour (Le Combat)Bryan Adams – Here I Am


Here is the complete blog of the adoption experience in paperback form, “Russian Adoption: From Nashville to Astrakhan and back”. And here is the fictionalized, future “homeland tour” (action adventure) version in various forms: on Kindle, various electronic formats, and in paperback.

This time next week….PreparationThe day beforeTravel dayIn the airWe're in MoscowMoscowCheck out timeWe're in AstrakhanIt's only Monday?What a day…Tuesday ()It's a girl! It's a girl!WednesdayThursdayGreat visitSights of AstrakhanAnother great visitLast visit for a whileAtlanta!We're home! (10/06)Round twoSkora mweh tam boojumInternet accessElizabeth's roomMweh yeddum v aeroport eta ootraIn the air againBack in Moscow (11/26)Tuesday (2007-11-26)Back in AstrakhanRussian adoption consultantComments welcomeShowtime!And the judge says……Success!The day afterSaturday morningMuch better visit todayBeet saladWent for a walk …Its going to be a good weekShe's warming up to usLight at the end of the tunnelPicture of us before courtMore picturesShe's ours!The first hours of parenthoodBowel movementSleep, what a conceptUpdateNothing much to update about51-1/2 hoursJust another week to goPictures of our life in AstrakhanBack in Moscow (12/18)Moscow update continuedUpdate to the update's updateTo the embassyCan't leave earlyStill in MoscowRiding the MetroRiding the Metro, part deuxWe're home! (12/23)A few picturesAirport arrivalStay tunedMore picsSummaryDoctors say she's normalHolmes Russian adoption videoss updatedOur Russian adoption story

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


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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).


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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.


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