We are in Almaty, one small step closer to home. We arrived here Thursday afternoon and are staying in an apartment. The weather has been mild, mostly in the 30's during the day and sunny. The apartment is big and quite nice; the fact that it's a fourth floor walk up just gives us all a little more much needed exercise. A big supermarket is just a few blocks away and the boys are pretty pleased with the food we've been able to get there...roast chicken, varyeniki, pelmeni, salami...nope, eating isn't a problem.
We completed the boys' medical appointments on Friday so at least that is done. Unfortunately, we won't be going home on Sunday as originally planned due to the absent police official who needs to stamp the boys' travel visas...no remedy for that so we wait until his return on Sunday or Monday to get the visa applications stamped. Once we have the stamped applications, they have to be sent with the boys' passports to Astana for registration, then returned to Almaty so we can have our US Embassy interview which will allow the boys to enter the US. Of course, the US Embassy is closed on Monday for the MLK holiday and the first appointment we can get for our interview is on Wednesday...so here's the current plan. The visas/passports will registered in Astana on Monday and returned to Almaty on Tuesday morning, our docs here will be dropped at the embassy for preparation on Tuesday and we'll have our interview on Wednesday, then we'll fly out of Almaty at 2:35AM on Thursday to finally head home...phew!
We miss our friends in Ust and are longing for our family at home. Time is hanging a bit heavy for all of us; the boys are getting bored and Craig and I are feeling the stress but we're hanging in there as best we can. We celebrated Aniyar's birthday on Thursday with a few small gifts including two small remote control cars and both boys had fun playing with them in the apartment...at least until the batteries ran out. The boys have watched too much TV and played too many videogames; we've tried to get out of the apartment and walk around but that presents its own set of problems right now due to the overstimulation it presents to the boys; they get pretty wound up and don't have the best impulse control; they will run into the street without looking or wander away to look at something that attracts them which makes us somewhat nervous (that's code for it drives us crazy/scares us half to death). We've seen all these behaviors before with our other KZ kids and we know in time, it'll pass...but Tanya and Max were younger and easier to control when we adopted them; dealing with this behavior with an 11 and a 13 year old is a lot tougher.
Our moody Madiyar is the one who is testing us in ways that wouldn't be a big deal at home but are of concern here. For example, he got mad yesterday when we went out to buy new batteries for the little cars. He wanted us to buy Duracells (he's smart enough to know that Duracells have a much better life than the cheap Chinese batteries that are common around here) but the store only had 3 of them, enough for Aniyar's car but not his; we bought another brand of batteries for his car and this made him mad. (I know, I know...it's more the reaction you'd expect from a 3 year old than a 13 year old...and therein lies our dilemma.) We've quickly seen that when Madiyar's upset, his reaction is to distance himself from whatever is upsetting him. He tried to walk back to the apartment by himself...from the local grocery store at home once he knows his way around, this wouldn't be as big a deal and we'd probably let him walk to blow off steam and cool down...but in a big city like Almaty where he knows no one and doesn't even know which direction the apartment is in, it's a safety issue. Craig had to run him down to get him going in the right direction which didn't make Madiyar happy...but he did turn around and come with us. Once home, he went in the bedroom and sulked for a while, then I talked with him about the unsafe choices he had made. I gave him a consequence...no new batteries at all until he apologized to us for his behavior...and left him to sulk. It didn't last long; when he heard Aniyar happily running his car on the new battery power, he came to us and apologized, earning his new batteries. (Yeah, we know...he only apologized to get what he wanted....but for now, we'll take it.) Of course, Craig and I don't have any illusions that this problem is totally resolved. Just to be safe, we'll limit our shopping trips from now on. Last night, Craig stayed with the boys and I went to the store for groceries..it was less stressful for all of us, I think...except for the part where I had to carry all the bags home by myself!
Here's the good news...when I got back from the store, I was exhausted and in tears. How is this good news, you ask? Because when Craig opened the door for me and I stood in the doorway laden with heavy bags and crying, my 2 new sons jumped up to help me. I got much needed hugs from everyone first, then Craig helped me out of my coat and the boys took the bags from me. By the time I calmed down, the boys had put away the groceries and gotten me some water. I kept hearing them say to each other, “Mama's tired.” and “Help Mama with that!” These boys have good hearts and they're already bonding with us...everything else will work out over time.
I'll close with this...yesterday, Aniyar and Madiyar were shyly trying out their English, mostly counting and a few phrases like “Thank you” and “Good morning”. We went through sister, brother, mother, father...and I praised the boys for their efforts which pleased them both. Then all of a sudden, Madiyar said, “My family...” and broke into a huge grin. It touched me to hear those words from him and to see that smile...it's the smile I remember from the 8 year old boy we met in the summer of 2003. Whatever else we'll deal with as the boys adjust to their new life in America, especially with our teenage boy, we'll be OK.