Sorry it's taken me a while to post to the blog...but we've had minor technical difficulties. Let me catch you all up on our progress since we left home on Thursday night, 10/9.
Aunt Donna, Uncle Woody and the kids took us to the airport on Thursday evening; the trip was a bittersweet one. Our kids were trying hard to be brave but when the moment was upon us, it was a struggle to say goodbye. Max announced he wasn't excited about brothers after all, even told me he was mad at me for leaving...then he tried to convince me to take him with us...then tried to bargain down our trip from the expected 4 weeks to one week...always the wheeler-dealer, my boy! The girls walked ahead of us into the terminal, arm-in-arm and comforting each other...it reminded me of the summer day in 2003 when we first met Tanya in that very same airline terminal when she arrived with her Kidsave group. That day, our girls walked out of the terminal hand-in-hand, Kate shepherding a shy and withdrawn Tanya who didn't know us at all but who was willing to trust Kate and come home with us for a summer of fun...fast-forward 5 years and here we were watching our beautiful daughters hug each other, then run back to squeeze us tight. When it was time for them to go home, we gave them final hugs and our solemn promise that we would return to them. I told them each how proud I was of them, then let them know that they would find a little “bravery bonus” hidden in their beds at home...it was only a few dollars spending money for each of them and a note from Mom...but I'm hopeful that as they settled down in bed for the night, it eased their sadness...and if I know my kids, it wouldn't surprise if those notes were still tucked under their pillows as they fell asleep. (Can you tell that I really love these incredible children of ours? I am one lucky mom!)
As for us, we had a very good trip. We made the long trek across the big water and landed in Frankfurt. Our 2 hour layover was spent grabbing some coffee and emailing home; we wanted the kids to hear from us when they got up in the morning...and then there was the little matter of the special cell phone that Craig had bought to use here in KZ which we left plugged into the charger in our dining room at home...sigh...we're working on a plan to get it reunited with us. Then we boarded our next flight and flew over a whole lot of land to get to Almaty at 11:50pm Friday night. Our adoption coordinator, Oleg, picked us up at the airport and brought us to the Hotel Berkana. We were happy to have a shower and a few hours of sleep followed by a wonderful breakfast served by the hotel. We walked to Silk Way City, a large shopping center where we knew we would find internet access. We had just enough time to email our kids once more and get back to the hotel; Oleg picked us up at 10:30 on Saturday and we headed to the airport again for our 12:35 flight. We enjoyed chatting with Oleg and hearing about all the changes here in KZ. We even noted changes in the Almaty airport; we were happy to see that the airport now has several coffee shops including an American chain that's in many malls back home (Gloria Jean's Coffee). We laughed when we saw it...and bought large iced lattes from a young Kazakh entrepreneur wearing a Washington, DC t-shirt. How long before Starbucks shows up here to train Kazakh baristas? Anyway, we had a great flight on Air Astana (we were surprised to discover that our pilot was American!) and arrived in Ust at 2pm on Saturday. We were met by Alma, the adoption coordinator who will help us here in Ust; she and our driver brought us to our dear friend, Yuliya. We are now safely settled here in Ust-Kamenogorsk, Kazakhstan in Yuliya's mother's apartment.
Here's the news on the adoption front. Alma left us with Yuliya for the weekend and told us she would return for us on Monday at 8:45am. We will first go to the notary to draw up a power of attorney which allows her to file papers with the court for us, then we're off to the orphanage in Ridder. The ministry of education has already given Alma permission for us to see the boys...so while you are all sleeping on Sunday night, we will have our first bonding visit with Aniyar and Madiyar! Did you notice I said we'll be going to Ridder? Yes, the news regarding our bonding process has changed twice since we arrived in Almaty (this is Kazakhstan, after all!). When we first arrived, Oleg said they were not able to transfer the boys to Ust-K and we would be going to Ridder for the bonding period and court. That meant we would be in Ust-K for 2 days but moving to Ridder on Monday. We weren't too bothered by this news...we liked the idea of visiting with the boys in Ridder and thought of it as a new adventure. Then we arrived in Ust-K and our news changed again, now it seems that we will stay here in Ust and drive to Ridder each day to see the boys. Alma tells us that there are a few hotels but no apartments available in Ridder and she is concerned that we would be alone a lot there. They are now giving us the choice of staying in Ridder or here; we think we would rather drive each day but return to familiar ground each night. Since we have friends and know our way around in Ust, we will most likely stay right here unless something changes once we've seen the boys. Actually, I think we'll have the best of both worlds...a chance to see the boys in Ridder, meet their friends and teachers and learn a bit about the town they have lived in for the past few years...also a chance to return to a place where we feel very comfortable each night.
Yuliya is spoiling us as usual even though she and her husband, Jenya are as jet lagged as we are...they returned from a vacation in Russia only a few hours before we arrived here. Yuliya invited us to her apartment to eat dinner last night; she served us her mother's solyanka (a delicious Russian soup---note to self: Get the recipe from Yuliya's mom so we can make both borscht and solyanka at home!). We also had variety of Russian salads and an eggplant and tomato dish that was to die for, also a tasty pot pie filled with bits of fish and rice. We had fresh cucumbers and tomatoes from Jenya's mother's garden and Yuliya also served us spicy carrot salad which she knows is my favorite. We waddled home after our meal counting our blessings to have such good friends here on the other side of the earth.
It's Sunday morning now and I've been up off and on since about 2am. I couldn't sleep well because my body still isn't adjusted to the time change...I've whiled away the time writing emails and this blog entry to post later today. We don't have internet access yet here in Ust but will buy our internet card as soon as the store opens later today; then we can email more often and post to the blog. Kids, Dad feels really bad that he forgot the phone...we are sorry we haven't been able to call you like we promised but we'll get everything worked out soon.
Speaking of Craig, he woke up once in the night, complained of being hot...it's warm here, in the the 70's yesterday and very nice...but the heat is already on in the apartment and no way to turn it off. He looked in on me as I was typing away, then went back to bed. I did doze a bit more before dawn, too, then got up again about 5:30 and made a nice cup of Russian tea. Later on, we'll wander over to our favorite market to stock up on juice, eggs, cheese, etc. It's supposed to be nice and sunny again today with cooler temperatures coming in the next day or two. It's more like late fall here than we have in early/mid October at home, almost all of the leaves are off the trees and they've already had a frost or two so we'll try to enjoy the last of the warmth while we can.
Oleg tells us that Aniyar and Madiyar know we are coming and are waiting for us. Oleg also says he doesn't expect any problems with the adoption in court. We'll post tomorrow after we've seen the boys...be looking for pictures and lots of excitement. Don't forget to write to us! You can post to the blog or use our email address: email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org
Late breaking news...we have been to town and now have our internet card so we can email and blog from the apt. More news and also some pics tomorrow!