Journey to Kazakhstan

All about my international adoption from Kazakhstan

Archive for February, 2008

Kim Update !!!!

daughter-219small.jpgdaughter-212small.jpgdaughter-208small.jpgdaughter-207small.jpgdaughter-206small.jpgdaughter-202small.jpgdaughter-205small.jpgdaughter-199small.jpgdaughter-198small.jpgdaughter-197small.jpgKim got her Visa and she is leaving tomorrow!!!  She will be going to Karaganda!!!  Will try and keep you posted about her progress but since she is in Karaganda and I am in Ust it may be tricky!!!  But will do my best!!!!

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Today was another great day of visits!!!  It is officially day 12 of  bonding and I can hardly believe it!  Tomorrow we only get to visit one time to the baby house because we need to go and do some paperwork in the AM.  I am officially about 1/2 way through the time for the first trip.  I am worried that Karina will forget me when I go home and wait for the appeal process to be over and the final paperwork to be prepared.  My friend Dana who is here said she would give pictures that I have printed to Karina every few days to remind her and little treats (hair ribbons, stickers, that I leave for her) while I am gone.  I hope that she is excited to go and not afraid – I so much more understand how difficult it must be for these little brave ones to leave the only home they have ever known and follow a near stranger across the world to a new home.  I imagine it is bravery like soldiers must have.  They are so small and vulnerable and have to be so brave.  To be asked so much at such a young age….it really makes me want to protect her from all hardship and disappointment for many many years because she has already had to deal with more of it then most of us will in our entire lives.  It makes me realize that each and every one of these pint sized rugrats is basically a survivor.  Independent, tough and strong they have all endured and it makes me grateful for all the wonderful things we have in the West that we take for granted umpteen times every single day. 

Yesterday, when I arrived at the baby house I saw that Karina had a nice chunk of surface skin missing from her index finger.  I asked what had happened and found out she had caught her finger in the zipper of her new pink skirt!!!  It looked like it must have hurt like crazy when it happened.  When Karina saw me asking about it she stuck it out to show me and I kissed it several times (after putting half a gallon of antibacterial neosporin on it) and said “Poor Baby!”  She liked the babying so much I was asked to kiss her booboo about 40 more times throughout the visit.  I think she liked the attention and babying and it felt very good to give her it even if her finger didn’t hurt at that point anymore.  Then today she was packing up to go and accidentally packed away part of one toy she wanted to take back to her group.  When she realized that half of the toy was missing she flopped down on the floor and began to cry in frustration.  I called her to me (she is just barely beginning to realize that she can come to me to solve her problems) and after about 10 seconds she made her way over to me and I hugged her and said we will find it, we will find it….I could tell that she understood me and we went and looked in her backpack that she had packed up where I knew it would be…when I found it and gave it to her she leaned over to me and kissed me on the cheek unencouraged.  It was very sweet.  I imagine she will eventually figure out that Mama is a good person to help her with problems/frustrations/booboos, and as I see that understanding slowly dawn it is very very rewarding.  I know, as an adult, that it is nice to have friends and family to count on, and that when she figures out that she has someone she can always always count on she will blossom even further…..if that is possible since she is already like a beautiful flower in the sun to me. 

Yesterday, the head doctor / orphanage director was walking through our playroom and I was showing Karina picture cards that had a picture and the english word for them. I would show her the card and say the word …..Moon…..car……….bird………….hat……..etc.  To show off for the head doctor/orphanage director (which they call Big Mama) Karina repeated every card /word I read…..and I read about 30 of them.  IT WAS INCREDIBLE!!!!!!   My daughter is a genius!!!  Harvard here we come!!!!  Anyway, it made me realize that she is very very smart and very very capable when she wants to be …… I intend on encouraging her with raisins when we get home and other healthy snacks as she is very much ready to eat when the food comes in …… in the morning visit she is ready to pack up when she sees the food arrive….. she doesn’t want to miss a meal……and I am very glad she is this way since she is one of the healthiest children I have seen at the baby house.  Well fed, well loved and very well adjusted.  I have added more pictues as I am sure you have seen.  Next post I will add a map of Ust that I have drawn out for APs coming here with a write up of the good restaurants, malls, shops, and a basic description of the town and how long it takes to get from one point to another by walking.   

I got an “I love you” in Russian!!!!!!!

daughter-174small.jpgdaughter-173small.jpgdaughter-172small.jpgdaughter-171small.jpgdaughter-169small.jpgdaughter-168small.jpgdaughter-165small.jpgdaughter-164small.jpgdaughter-163small.jpgdaughter-162small.jpgdaughter-161small.jpgdaughter-159small.jpgdaughter-156small.jpgdaughter-155small.jpgdaughter-154small.jpgdaughter-153small.jpgdaughter-151small.jpgdaughter-150small.jpgdaughter-149small.jpgdaughter-146small.jpgOkay, I am walking on cloud 9.  I have gotten at least a dozen sweet little girl kisses over the last three days and yesterday I got an I love you in Russian.  When I leave at the end of the day I had been telling Karina that I was coming back soon.  Yesterday and today she told me that she would be waiting for me there.  Today we were playing and Karina leaned over and smacked her head on the green tables that we sit at…..it sounded like it hurt.  She started to cry and I don’t blame her.  I soothed her and she actually calmed down a bit in a short amount of time.  We gave the table a smack and told it it was a bad table several times.  I thought that it would leave a bruise but at the second visit of the day I could see that there was only a bit of a red mark there.  She is so active I am sure that this won’t be the first or the last time she has a booboo.  She really needs to be in gymnastics or dance or both classes to work off some of that energy.  I have a feeling the local parks are going to get a good workout from Karina.  I can’t wait till the first time she sees a good old fashioned American park with swirly slide and swings and seesaws, etc.  She is so overjoyed with the hair ribbons I bring her or the hat and scarf set or the pink girly girl sweater.  She loves to be outside and is generally such a joy to be around.  I am amazed at her good nature….amazed.  Such personality plus she has.  I find her fascinating!  She has taken to repeating the closing phrase of Cookie Monster on the toy cellphone that she plays with….she has a very good imitation of him saying, “After a while crocodile!”  She says it all low and growly.  I laugh like a crazy person each time she does it.  She is funnier than Robin Williams to me these days.  And whenever she is being funny her eyes just twinkle!!  She gave kisses to the picture of her grandfather today and kisses to her Nonie!  She kept asking me to go outside today …. I think she wanted to test run her new hat and scarf.  As I was putting on her new things I thought how lucky I am going to be to get to experience her life and how some day she will be a grown woman ….maybe getting married…maybe starting a family of her own.  All of that wonderfulness between now and then lay in front of me and for once it makes me feel like life has a real and meaningful purpose.  Here are some pictures that you have not seen.  I am still trying to get video to upload.  The Internet access isn’t what I had hoped and have to take what I can get!  Still will try though!

Take care from Kazakhstan!!! 

Day Five of Bonding – Friday, February 22nd, 2008

daughter-131small.jpgdaughter-126small.jpgdaughter-121small.jpgdaughter-119small.jpgdaughter-122small.jpgOne month from today will be Karina’s 4th birthday!  I really wish I would be able to be here but I figure when she comes home I can have a party for her and she will for the most part not know the difference.  Today was again a great day of visits.  We have started to develop a pattern in that I arrive and Karina comes to me and we unload all the gear out of her cubby.  First comes out the play dough, then the coloring book, then the crayons, then the doll, then the teddy bear, then the backpack filled with other items. Then I get down the balloon.  Today we had a slight variation as the children in Karina’s group were led out into the entry room where we are at to get their coats on.  I asked if Karina could go outside too.  I was told yes and we spent the next ten minutes pulling on snow pants and big coats and mittens and boots onto the 8 or so little munchkins.  By the time we were ready to go I had broken out into a sweat.  Those caregivers are hard working ladies that obviously so obviously care about the children.  What an impressive group of human beings they are.  Just goes to show you that in the US we do not have the market cornered on goodness.  It is everywhere there are human beings.  So much that is the same and really not all that much that is different. 

 We followed the children downstairs and out the door and our little group of eight or so short people dressed in heavy coats with double hats and scarves and mittens (no I did not get a picture—-AAAARGH!!!  i will have to hope we go out again so I can get one) walked around the side of the orphanage led by one lovely caretaker called I believe Aliya.  We looked at the sky and the birds…we stepped in the snow and made prints with our shoes…..we drew in the snow the sun, a bird, a house (dom).  Little Zhenya, a cute as pie little boy with brown hair, kept lagging behind.  Then there is the little girl with very dark brown almost black hair that is so animated with her expressions that kept falling down in the snow so someone would come and help her up and then brush her off.  The sweet little blond haired boy with the most beautiful brown eyes I have ever seen that was crying the day before for some unknown reason, and the sweet little fair haired girl with curls and blue eyes that needed help going up the stairs when we were coming back in (and wanted me to carry her up but I didn’t have enough arms/hands), the other little fair haired angel that has called me Mama several times.  They are all like short sweet innocent angels and I bristle at the notion that anyone should think that just because these sweet beings are not babies that they are somehow damaged and not good enough.  Several of the families (couples as well as single women) that are here now have made mention to me how sweet the older (relative term) children are and how if they came back they would most certainly be willing to adopt a child that was older.  

If you are interested in the possibility of adopting one of these ancient two/three year olds and want to know what they are like I can tell you exactly.  Go to your local day care center and check out the two/three year olds for about an hour.  That is what they are like.  No different…and I know because back in my college days I taught this age gymnastics for several hours in the afternoon.  These kids are as normal and healthy and lovely as any kids I have ever met….maybe moreso because their eyes sparkle with appreciation over the smallest thing. 

 I am posting some more pictures for you to see!

If the hotel is a Rockin’ then don’t come a knockin’

daughter-086compressed.jpgdaughter-087compressed.jpgdaughter-088compressed.jpgdaughter-090compressed.jpgdaughter-091compressed.jpgdaughter-093compressed.jpgdaughter-094compressed.jpgdaughter-095compressed.jpgdaughter-096compressed.jpgdaughter-097compressed.jpgdaughter-086compressed.jpgOkay, I just came downstairs and logged on to write my post – right now in the restaurant of the hotel (which is on the first floor) there is a children’s birthday party going on – it is 9:30 at night – and it is louder then hell.  You can hear it clearly all the way on the fifth floor.  I can’t imagine that a single person is able to sleep right now.  There are rugrats racing through the lobby left and right and blowing those party horns that seem to be echoing like crazy.  I am sure there are a dozen American, South African, and Irish families cursing in their rooms right now.  I am typing away madly and giggling like crazy at the thought.  I find it all highly amusing.  The volume is ridiculously loud.  Oh well.  I am still fighting the jet lag but it is much better today and I am sure that is because I forced myself to stay awake until 12:30 last night.  I am going to do the same thing tonight so I am hoping the deafening shindig is over by then…if not I will take a Nyquil liquicap or a drink from the hotel bar and knock myself out.  If you did this in America the entire hotel would be down at the front desk in their pajamas ready to riot.  I am almost sure a punch or two at least would be thrown.  I keep peeking into the lobby from my computer expecting to see the AP brigade appear….but no they are all hiding in their rooms.

 So on to the real purpose of your visit…..the lovely and adorable Karina! 

Visit #1 - We got to the baby house this morning and when I went upstairs all the children were gone.  One of the caregivers spotted me and led me to a room on the second floor which turned out to be the Music Room.  All of the little munchkins were sitting on chairs in a semi-circle around the music teacher who was playing a piano….they were all singing.  The caregiver let Karina know I was here and she ran in my direction only to be told to put on her shoes.  She ran back to put on her shoes and brought them to the door where I was.  She dropped them on the ground and slid her little feet into them.  Amazing how self reliant they are since I am sure a child her age in America would not be doing this task all by themselves without even the use of their hands yet.  Because there are so many children and so few caregivers independance is strongly encouraged.  Karina chose not to hook up the velcro straps and came out and hugged me and then led me up the stairs to her room.  We played with all the usual toys today and it was fun fun fun.   But today we had a new toy to play with courtesy of Tim and Debbie an adoptive couple here at the hotel who gave me a toy that they thought was just right for Karina that they had with them.  It was an Elmo and Cookie Monster flip phone that is battery operated and made a lot of wonderful noises.  Well it was an instant hit!  At the end of the Cookie Monster side Cookie Monster says See you later alligator – After a while crocodile….and then laughs.  Karina loved this toy and she even mimicked Cookie Monster’s part.  I liked Cookie Monster too so obviously she has good taste.  She has such an exhuberant and infectious giggle that just hearing it makes you smile.   And she giggled quite a lot over this toy.  We played with the orange balloon, the crayons, the ever pleasing play dough, the picture cards, I read a few pages of Green Eggs and Ham to her and she laughed and laughed even though she doesn’t understand the words I know that she liked the crazy reading voices I came up with and could hear the rhyming patterned genius of the famous Dr. Seuss.  So much fun today – we did some more of the back breaking swinging around and at one point I had her cradled in my arms and unfortunately at that point the Director of the Orphanage came in and talked to me in Russian but I am pretty sure she was telling me to not hurt myself by carrying her around or either to not treat her like a baby…but the thing is you can tell she eats it up ….. and she doesn’t sit there for long…..just long enough to enjoy the comfort of being held.  So I put her down and you could tell she was upset by that…you can just feel the need in her to be soothed and cuddled.  And quite frankly I have oodles of unused soothing and cuddling in me so we make a great match.  Anyway, I rubbed her back a bit and then we went on to play with more of the lovely toys.  At the end of the visit the Director of the Orphanage came back along with the lady from the Ministry of Education to see how we were doing – they were supposed to ask us a few questions but just then several of the little munchkins from Karina’s group came out of their room and into the room we were in and it was like a mad dash to the table that held all of Karina’s toys….and Karina was NOT happy.  First of all please keep this all in perspective.  An orphaned child has no possessions of their own…everything is community property…toys and clothes and shoes and underwear….to have something totally all your own whether that is clothing or a Mother does not happen….when a child is finally given something that is considered theirs they become extremely possessive about it.  And when they are forced to share well they melt down.  A child that has grown up in a home has this reaction usually about the age of 3ish and learns to share moreso around 4 and 5.  Anyway, when the toy run ensued it was bedlam!!!  There are all the officials of the orphanage….five kids attacking the toy table…..Karina losing her mind……and me trying to calm her down and rub her arm with one hand while using the other hand to stop the little boy who has grabbed the baby lotion bottle and was squeezing out an eruption of lotion with all his might and me laughing madly at the pandemonium.  Eventually, the kids left, I made everyone take a bit of the lotion for their hands, Karina calmed down and the officials left without even asking me one question….I think the fact that I didn’t lose it and found it comical worked to my advantage.  Shortly thereafter I had to leave and a very calm Karina helped put everything away and took her new toy into her group to show it to them.  She ran back to kiss and hug me and then went to be the object of envy and fascination with her new talking cellphone.  There was no crying and I am hoping that this is due to the fact that I told her yesterday that I would come back soon umpteen times and she now believes me.  How smart is she to have figured this out in one day!!! (Thanks for the heads up about this Kim!!!)

The second visit was even better than the first.  When I got into the room the entire group was having a snack and Karina was eating fast to get done.  She finished and came into the room and gave me a hug and a kiss.  We had a great time playing….we looked at her picture album again and when I asker her where her grandfather was she turned right to the page with my dad on it and pointed to his picture and said the word for grandfather in Russian.  Then we looked at her Sabaka (dog) and we pointed out Mommy.  And we looked at our cousins since cousin Ian is a source of fascination for her.  Some of the highlights of today include my taking several videos of her and when she realized I was doing something she came and sat in my lap and had me replay the videos of her again and again – she loved watching herself on the digital camera and after each video she would laugh her little heart out and then kiss the picture of herself on the digital camera.  And of course then I had to kiss the picture of her on the digital camera.  More highlights include my singing the ABC song three times in a row first in normal voice then in falsetto voice and then in sotto voice - she danced and bobbed her head along to my singing and seemed to be listening intently.  Then after I was finished she began singing a short song back to me.  I have no idea what she was saying but she sang it all on her own and when she was done I clapped.  Very cute.  The best part was at the almost end of the visit when Karina grabbed her baby doll and began rocking it back and forth and then crawled into my arms and let me rock her back and forth and sing to her.  She hummed and I hummed along and she really seemed to be enjoying herself immensly.  She crawled into my arms nearly three times and the last time I almost thought if I could continue rocking her she might actually fall asleep.  When it was time to go home she again helped me clean up and she came and gave me several sweet kisses on my cheek.  I have looked at the pictures for today and I would have to say that her regular glow is even brighter than usual.  I really think that she is beginning to benefit from the daily experiences of having someone that is there just for and about her.  I know that I have been smiling non stop since the first visit so I am sure that it is benefitting me.  I am working on how to post the videos since I now have many and they are beyond great!  I hope to have them posted by tomorrow so get ready for some real entertainment!!!  If you think the pictures are good you ain’t seem nothing yet!  Oh by the way English words that Karina has learned so far are balloon, open, and good!!  Isn’t she a smart cookie?

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ATTENTION BLOG STALKERS!!!!!  KIM HAS BEEN TOLD TO BE IN KAZAKHSTAN IN ONE WEEK!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Will keep you posted to the best of my ability from Ust!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  Yeah Kim!!!!!  Can you all say FINALLY!!!

Don’t be mad – the Internet connection was down for almost a day!!

daughter-060small.jpgdaughter-061small.jpgdaughter-065small.jpgdaughter-064small.jpgOkay!  So the Internet connection was down for almost a day and the dozen adoptive families here at the Shiny River were basically all going through Internet withdrawel together – you never saw so many anxious faces waiting to see if the connection was up so they could send their photos to their waiting friends and family.  It was annoying and funny at the same time.  We all resorted to showing each other our pictures to wile away the time.  And we are very good audiences for each other.  Just imagine a group of Americans in the hotel lobby making oohing and aahing noises over one laptop slideshow after another.  I am sure the hotel employees think we are all bonkers.  It is a true love fest here in Ust.  And we all have jet lag to boot so it is also rather funny too.  I guess you have to be here to fully get it but it is rather comical.   Okay since the network is still partially down i have to run upstairs to get a disk to get the newest posting and pictures off of my laptop and onto the hotel’s compter…will be back with what you really want in a flash!

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First day – Visit #2 – In the afternoon, I came back to visit Karina for the second time that day.  When I got there she ran to me and hugged me.  She has been doing this ever since.  I keep trying to catch this on video tape – her running to see me.  It is priceless.  We opened up the backpack that I packed for her and she pulled out play dough, and the flashcards and the kookla (baby doll).  We played together for our hour visit.  Some of the highlights include when I cradled her like a baby and called her my kookla.  She laughed and laughed and looked into my eyes for a long time.  She let me kiss her on her ears and nose. 

Tuesday February 19th, 2008 – Second day of bonding – Visit #1
When I came to visit Karina she was dressed in a striped dress.  She came running to me again and I picked her up and hugged and kissed her.  We played with play dough, coloring book and crayons, and the viewfinder.  Some of the highlights of the visit include Karina finding the barrettes that I packed in her backpack.  She found one barrette and brought it to me to put in her hair, then she went back to her backpack and found the next one, and brought it to me to put in her hair.  This was repeated until she had all four barrettes in her hair.  Then she picked up the brush that I packed for her and brushed the small section of her hair that didn’t have a barrette in it.  Then she came over to me with the brush and began brushing my hair with it.  Very cute!!  Very sweet!!

Visit #2
During the afternoon visit we played with bubbles…I blew them and she popped them.  I would blow them up in the air and she would raise her hands up and catch them as they floated down to the ground.  As she is playing her face is glowing and she is smiling such a huge smile all the time.  She asked me at one point to help her put on her sweater which she was very proud of.  It has a picture of a bear on it  Even though it is sweltering hot in the playroom she wanted that sweater on so on it went.    At the end of the visit we began packing up her backpack (I had been transporting it back and forth each time) and she got upset that the backpack was leaving.  We decided to leave the backpack in her locker (see the picture of her locker) and she seemed a bit better.  She hugged me goodbye and went back to her group.

Wednesday February 20th, 2008 – Third day of bonding – Visit #1
Well I got another fantastic reception today when I arrived at the baby house.  Karina came running toward me at top speed when she found out I was here.  Nobody ever ran to see me before.  I feel very special.  She was returning with her group (about 15 other adorable adorable little munchkins) all dressed in their gym shorts and shirts for recreation time.  I picked her up and kissed and squeezed her tight and we got down to some serious playing.  We got out the play dough one tub at a time, she can now get the play dough out of each tub by herself but she still needs me to open the lids of the tubs and she always gives me the play dough to soften up for her.  We take the different play dough out of each tub because there are so many wonderful colors.  We did so many fun things today like brushing hair and swinging around in the air and turning upside down.  Mommy’s back is not feeling so good but it was worth it.  Every time I would stop she would say again, again…..but of course in Russian. And no I didn’t need anyone to translate it for me….it is obvious in any language when  a child wants you to do something again.  Very cute.  I finally had to fall down on the ground and pretend I was falling asleep for her to give up.  I think she is going to LOVE LOVE LOVE THE PARK and in particular the swings.  I may have to install a swing in my small backyard for her.  We blew bubbles, I showed her the pictures of her on my laptop, she loves to see herself in the digital camera and laughs and laughs so much.  We looked at the little photo album that I have made for her – we have been doing this every day and she can pick out Mommy and Poppa Basorg (Grandfather) and her Sabaka (dog).  She loves looking at the pictures and will sit in my lap and flip the pages and show me them and say the names of the people she knows.  We played with the orange balloon again, a favorite of hers, and she also pulled out the cell phone that I brought with and discussed important things to some invisible new friend.  Every day the amount of talking becomes more and more and I just wish I knew what she was saying most of the time.  So far she is fine and has not gotten frustrated with my lack of understanding.  I am working on the basics of my Russian so I can ask her if she is hungry, needs to use the potty, etc.  It was a very good visit and I am finding that each visit is better than the last!  Now to tell you about the end of the visit.  Our coordinator Alma came in and that usually means that our time is about up and we must start to pack up.  When Alma said this Karina flopped her little baby body down like a sack of potatoes with her face flat against the carpet and did not move for nearly a minute.  There was no sound and no movement.  I rubbed her back for several minutes and told her several times in Russian that I would come back.  She got up and began helping put away everything back into her cubby which is getting really really full of stuff.  Then at the end she ran back into her room and her caregiver changed her out of her gym clothes and back into the striped dress from the day before.  Before she could get her shirt back on a partially naked little girl ran back to me for hugs and kisses….then she ran back to her caregiver and the dress was put on.  Then back again she ran to me for more hugs and kisses.  This went on for about five minutes.  Back and forth she went and more hugs and kisses ensued.  I was a willing participant in the hugs and kisses parade.  At one point she disappeared into her group’s playroom and the other little adorable children peeked at me around the corner through the doorframe.  I waved at them and smiled and called out paka paka which means goodbye.  So many sweet little faces looked back at me – some shyly, some with huge smiles, some suspiciously, some cautiously, so sweet.  Then back into the room came Karina and she told me in Russian that I shouldn’t play with the other children and that I should go home.   Which means she was jealous.  So cute.  At this point I started to pick up my things to leave and she began cry.  I came back into the room thinking that she had hurt herself only to have my coordinator say that she was saying that she didn’t want me to leave.  I picked her up and squeezed her and told her in Russian that I would be back today and that I would bring her some new shoes and a new skirt.  She sort of calmed down a bit but still looked unhappy.  I gave her several more kisses and she went off to her group  with her caregiver.
After we left the baby house our coordinator took us shopping to a clothing store and a toy store.  I purchased a pair of pink sandles, two pair of character underwear (tweety bird and some orange looking bear) a beautiful white undershirt with little flowers, a pair of pink striped tights, a fuschia skirt, and a multi colored shirt with bows on it.  All of this together came to about $45.00 which I think is pretty darn good compared to American prices.  I picked up a set of pastel duplo blocks for Karina in the toy store as well.  When we were finished we decided what to do for lunchtime.
For lunch our coordinator took the three of us to the Pancake House and dropped us off for about 40 minutes.  We had borsht (excellent) and I had Pellmini – sort of like a meat filled perogi…it was decent.  Bill Spyker ordered a piece of chocolate cake and I had a bite and it was incredible.  Very fresh and you could taste the level of quality of the ingredients.  So much for losing weight while I am here.  After the 40 minutes  our coordinator and driver arrived again and picked us up and took us back to the hotel.  I came inside with the intention of going up to my room and ended up sitting in the lobby with the lovely couple from Ireland (Philip and Amanda) and the lovely couple from South Africa (    and     ) who are here adopting as well.  We talked and laughed for nearly two hours about everything from our jobs to all aspects of international adoption.  They were fun and funny and were great company.  It is absolutely amazing how much we all have in common due to this experience.  It is an instant connection we seem to have with each other – going through this process together.  

Visit #2
Before I knew it, it was time to go back to the baby house.  Alma and Bulat arrived like clockwork and we were ferried off to the baby house.  Upon arrival Dana Spyker went to get their baby and Bill Spyker  knowing that the new clothes were going to be unveiled came up to Karina’s room with their video camera to film the lovely experience.  When she heard me arrive Karina once again came running into the room to me.  I pulled out the new clothes and she began pulling them onto her body on top of the dress she was already wearing.  I wanted to take off the dress first but I knew without an interpreter she would think that I was taking the clothes away so I just let her layer herself.  She still looked pretty darn cute in her pink/pink/pink getup.  As each piece was put on she would run to the mirror to inspect her fashion transformation.  She was very impressed with the shoes, and the undershirt, and the skirt.  It was wonderful to watch and a real eye opener.  When was the last time you saw a four year old get visibly excited over new underwear?  She was thrilled!!!!  And I was thrilled too!!!  So fun to see her excitement and huge smiles.  She had to stop every few minutes and show her caregivers her new outfit again and again.  After the excitement of the new outfit calmed down a bit we played with crayons, sang the ABC song (okay I sang it she listened) and pulled out the fantastic play dough and her little photo album.  It was a very nice visit and I have to tell you that each time we get to go to the baby house I am nearly giddy with excitement and all I can think is ……YEAH I GET TO GO SEE HER AGAIN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  It is the happiest I have been in a continuous time period in a long time….no actually it is the happiest I have been ever.  She thinks I am fabulous and I think she is fabulous.  We make a great pair.  At the end of the visit Karina ran back into her group’s room and when she came back she was crying.  I called her over to me and she came and sat in my lap and I kissed her and rubbed her back.  Once she was calm she walked over to the table of toys and Alma said it was time for me to go.  Well the waterworks happened again.  I picked her up and hugged her and kissed her and said over and over again that I was coming back and that I loved her.  She finally calmed down and feeling a bit upset myself I got my things together and left. 
The first time she got upset that I was leaving – which was today’s first visit – I felt 90% great because she was getting attached to me – and 10% bad because she was upset.  The second time she got upset that I was leaving – which was today’s second visit – I felt 10% great because she was getting attached to me – and 90% bad because she was upset.  I am worried that if she gets upset tomorrow that I will feel 100% bad and not be able to stop myself from crying too!  The only thing that stops me is that it will cause her more upset if I got emotional too and I want to try and lessen her trauma.  I am thrilled that she is attaching so fast and so hard but it is hard to see your little girl cry and you can’t do what comes naturally and have her stay with you so she doesn’t have to suffer from the separation.  I am seriously worried about the fact that this is just day 3 and we have a long way to go before court even – I am concerned about her getting so upset twice a day, day after day, it is not good for her.  The poor thing doesn’t understand why it has to be this way.  I just want to squeeze her tight and put her in my pocket and take her back to the hotel.
I am also worried about what will happen when I have to go home for a month.  She is so sweet and soft and seems so vulnerable and I want to protect her and not cause her more pain. 
I will leave you with some pictures of our visits today.  I am trying to figure out how to post the video tape of her and hopefully will figure it out by tomorrow.  Check out her lovely pink on pink new outfit and how she is checking out her beautiful self (her words) in the mirror.

NOTE TO BLOG STALKERS: 

#1)  Thank you all for the lovely comments you have left!  I have read them all and truly appreciate them!  Due to the unreliable Internet connection it makes it hard to check on them, write the posts, respond to all of them and still have time to see the cutest munchkin ever and sleep.  Know that I really enjoy reading your comments and have come to the conclusion that my friends, family, and Internet Blog friends are clearly the most intelligent people I have ever met since they all seem to comprehend how beautiful and wonderul Karina is!!  LOL!!  If you have left me an email also know that I have been reading and appreciating them all and probably will take a bit longer than i would like trying to respond to them all but eventually will do so!  If you are patient i promise i will get back to you!

#2)  I cannot begin to tell you how bad the effects of the jet lag are.  If you have been a reader of my blog I would think you can discern the difference between my writing from before I had left to after I was already in Ust.  The best way I can describe it is a brain fog.  I am having a hard time  writing clearly without excessive effort.  All I can say is that your brain and body are turned upside down with the drastic time change and it makes you quite a bit loopy.  Hopefully this will clear some time soon.  Until then please forgive misspellings, pathetic grammatical errors and just crummy English.  Imagine staying up for 48 hours straight and then trying at the end of that to write a post – that is EXACTLY what it feels like – I only describe this for you because I want future APs to know that jet lag is really really unpleasant and annoying.  Be prepared to feel not like yourself for a while!!

MORE PICTURES and a post about the first day at the baby house.

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Hello Everyone!  I apologize for not writing a more thorough post until now.  I blame the jet lag and the excitement for distracting me.  Let me tell you about the first day at the baby house.

I got up early even though I was exhausted from the flight.  I did about 15 minutes of yoga and then jumped into the shower.  I hurried up to get dressed and put on makeup.  When I was ready I went downstairs to the breakfast buffet.  It was delicious and I had a very good meal.  I took a large scoop of mandarin oranges and pineapple.  I took a blueberry yogurt.  I had several glasses of orange juice.  I also had a scoop of what looks like cut up chunks of hot dogs but tastes a bit better quality than hot dogs.  I also had a slice of what looks like pizza but tasted slightly different.  There was also an omelet station, a bowl of soft boiled eggs, and a table of different breakfast bread rolls.  Other things that I saw but didn’t have were a hot station of what looked like cream of wheat, rice pudding, and oatmeal.   After having a good night sleep and a filling breakfast I was ready to go.

I got my briefcase together and went down to the lobby.  For the first visit to the baby house I wore a long black skirt, a dark purple blouse and comfortable dress shoes.  I did my hair and makeup carefully and wore a strand of pearls.  I wanted to dress in a fashion that said I was taking this seriously and was respectful of the director, who I knew I would meet at this first visit.

Alma and Bulat picked us up and drove us to the babyhouse.  I was equal parts nervous and excited.  I am sure I had a really serious expression on my face.  We (the Spykers and I) went inside and were led into the front office of the Director.  We both went inside and sat down.  At the table that we were sitting was a lady from the Ministry of Education.  She spoke and Alma translated.  We were told that we were to meet twice a day at the baby house with our chosen children and that we needed to do this for 14 days for the bonding period.  That during that time we needed to keep a journal.   Then the director called to her assistant who walked out into the hallway.  A few minutes went by and then in walked a lady holding a small blond haired and blue eyed baby.  The Spykers were caught off guard and were very surprised.  Dana Spyker was asked if she wanted to hold the baby.   She leaned over and took the sweet baby in her arms. 

As I was watching this sweet scene,  out of the corner of my eye I saw a lady came into the director’s office with a little toddler girl.  She had a huge cream bow in her hair.  She was wearing a frilly peach and cream party dress.  And had such a beautiful smile on her face.  It took me three seconds to realize that this little girl was there for me.  I of course lost it a bit and had to fight to get control since I didn’t want to frighten her.  I came around the corner of the table blinking back tears and knelt down by her.  I put out my hand and she put her little hand in mine and it was so small and had sweet baby fat on it.  I kept repeating the word beautiful over and over and then said her name and the Russian word for beautiful and her response back was Da…which means yes.  In other words I called her beautiful and she said Yes, yes.  At this point I picked her up and she felt so good in my arms and when I did this she just laid against my body and put her head on my shoulder and hugged.  And I squeezed her back.  And tried not to cry.  Then after a minute I put her down and grabbed a toy off the shelf of the director’s office and got down on the floor.  Karina sat on the floor and we pushed the little plastic car back and forth between us for a few minutes.  After a few pushes she decided the car wasn’t interesting to her.  And she started to look around the office.  At this point the director motioned for us to go to the playroom.  Alma, my coordinator began walking us toward the playroom.  The director met us halfway there and took the hand of Karina.  Alma went to find the Spykers and I followed the director and Karina as they headed toward the playroom.  We went up to one playroom and Karina told the director that it was not the right room.  They had a short conversation and I could tell Karina was telling her it was the wrong room.  Then we went back to the staircase and Karina led us all up the stairs to the third floor where her group room was.  The director left us there and I got out the play dough.  It was a serious hit! I opened each tub and she tried to get the play dough out.  She would try once maybe twice and then would hand the tub to me to help.  During this time I was able to look into her eyes several times and she did not glance away…in fact she would giggle when I would and look back at me with sweet flirty eyes.  Then after we played with the play dough I pulled out the bubbles and they were a huge hit.  She tried to blow the bubbles herself but it was hard.  So, I became the bubble blower and she was the official bubble catcher and popper.  As a stream of bubbles  went airborne Karina threw her hands up in the air and laughed and ran around the room trying to catch them.  After a few more minutes, Alma my coordinator came to tell me that the time was up for the first visit.  I would say that it was around 15 to 20 minutes long.  I, of course, did not want to leave.  Karina gave me a big hug and ran back into her group’s room. 

Let me explain the group rooms.  What I have been able to see so far is two rooms.  The first room is straight off the hallway – it is a small ten by ten foot room.  It has little wooden lockers that run around the perimeter of the room and that you can probably see in the pictures.  Each locker is for a child and holds their outdoor clothes and some other things.  This is the room where we have been meeting these past two days.  Then there is a door that leads to the main room which is about  20’ x 10’.  In the main room there is  a large carpet in the middle and many little chairs lined up along the carpet for the little ones in Karina’s group.  There are toys on the shelves that line the room.  Beyond this I know that there is a sleeping room with all the little toddler beds.  I have seen the pictures on other people’s blogs but have not been invited back yet to see for myself. 

Anyway, Karina went back to her group and I packed things up quickly and followed Alma back downstairs.

And that was the first visit to the baby house.     Now I need to write up about the second visit that day and the first and second visit that happened today.  Let me tell you how many times I read on other people’s blogs about how it feels like you have been here forever and have known your child forever.  They were all right.  It has been only two days and four visits and I feel like I have been here forever and I feel like I have known her forever.  It is unbelievable the feeling and the instantaneous love and attachment I feel for this short cute munchkin.  My daughter.

I do promise to write up the other visits by tomorrow but until then let me tide you over with some great shots of today.

Say hello to the newest Sharify!

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I visited with Karina – not sure of the proper spelling yet – she is 3 and about to turn 4 years old in March.  She is beautiful and healthy and sweet and I get to go back again today for a second visit in about two hours.  I will take more pictures and post more about the days experience.  It was absolutely unbelievably stunning.  I am in love.

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Second Visit!!!

Here are some more photos of Karina taken during the second visit today.  She is very active and inquisitive and will get along with my friend Tara’s little girl Shelby famously.  In fact her actions and way of playing reminds me of Shelby to a T.  We were playing with little tubs of play dough and she would put the cap on each one and put each tub away in her cubby one at a time.  She also loved taking things out of her backpack and then putting them all back inside.  She laughed out loud at the images she saw in the view finder.  When we were putting away the play dough she broke up each chunk of play dough and put it in the little tub a bit at a time so it would fit.  Then Alma (my coordinator / translator) asked her to put the correct color lid (matches the play dough) and she picked the correct lid each time.  Every time I would catch her and squeeze her she would giggle.  If I pick her up she puts her head down on my shoulder and hugs.  She is so sweet and fun and active and has a great personality.  I promise to write more especially about the first meeting and will post it tonight – which would be about mid day your time.

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Have arrived in Ust!!!

Hello all!  Well we arrived in Ust today at around 2:00 pm in the afternoon on Sunday.  We had no trouble getting from Almaty to Ust.  Nicolai (our driver/escort) was very helpful and got us  situated, even though our plane was a bit delayed.  Nothing too bad or that I haven’t experienced before when at O’Hare.  The plane ride on Air Astana was pleasant and the meal was very good.  When we got on and off the plane there was none of the pushing and shoving I had heard about…again worried about nothing.  Just goes to show you that the reality is people are people everywhere…they may look slightly different (and us to them) but we are all really the same otherwise.  

On the plane they were showing a program of candid camera like events – all physical in nature and not requiring any language.  The lady in the seat next to me and I were laughing rather hard at one point – and it is good to realize how similar we all are, the same things make most people laugh as well as cry.

At the end of the flight we got off the plane and walked across the tarmac to a building and through to the lobby area where we found Alma our coordinator and Bolat our driver.  Both Dana and I told them they were like rock stars to the people that had traveled and were going to travel.  We will be getting their autographs before we leave.  : )  Both seem very nice and knowledgable and the Spykers and myself feel very relaxed knowing that we are in such good hands. 

We were taken to the lovely Shiny River Hotel and we got to unpack and have dinner.  I had lamb in wine sauce and it was excellent!  While eating dinner we met three other future families to be in the dining room.  Later when I went to check my email I ran into Philip and Amanda from Ireland - the lovely couple that has been here for about two weeks now.  It is a hotel filled with friends and others in the same situation and it makes me feel very at ease. 

So far my take on Kazakhstan is that it is filled with very interesting people.  I would wish for them better air quality as the pollution level is instantly noticable and makes a bad smog day in Los Angeles seem pretty good. 

So, so far my post has been filled with facts.  (I do intend on coming back to both posts, this one and the last, and filling them in with more information as my head clears from the jet lag – there is more info that I would like to post but need a good night’s sleep to get the ideas to form into sentences.)  

But tomorrow is a day that will be less about facts and more about feeling and intuition.  I am anticipating it highly and am dreading it as well.  I have heard from everyone that there is no preparing for this experience and well to put it mildly I really believe them now.  I am one day away and am still awash in differing emotions and concerns.

I am prepared to have it be the hardest experience of my life - I know that there are harder physical experiences but I personally cannot think of a harder emotional experience.  I do not know how such a decision can be made really – and my heart is already breaking and has been for weeks about whatever wonderful children are shown to me that I must as a matter of course reject - I find it ironic that in this whole process that has been about such a complete and overwhelming struggle to get to a child that I must now say no to two.  The irony leaves me speechless really. 

Well, I am going to sign off now and try and go to bed – it is about midnight and I should at least make the effort to sleep before this monumental day begins.  Please send a prayer skyward to ask for some direction and some peace regarding my decision and mostly for all the other children to find parents soon too.      

Love from Ust-Kamenogorsk, Kazakhstan

Amy            

Have arrived in Almaty!!!!

Hi everyone!  I am writing to you from the Hotel Kazzahol in Almaty!  I am here in one piece with all my luggage! 

The flight from Chicago to Franfurt was very long and I did not sleep much.  Met up with Bill and Dana Spyker in the terminal and we talked until it was time to board the plane.  Also, talked to two very nice older ladies one heading to Egypt and one heading to Venice.  Flying Lufthanasa was very nice.  They take care of you very well.  The food was decent and filling and the water and juice were handed out regularly so you did not get dehydrated.  Once I got to Franfurt I zipped through customs in about 2 minutes and then found my way outside to get picked up by my sister. 

I got to spend a few hours with my sister Jackie, her husband Robert, my niece Morgan, my nephew Christian, and the newest relative my nephew Ian.  It was very nice to see their lovely house nestled in a cute little village.  They fed me pancakes, let me take a blistering hot shower, and had me play a rousing game of Clue!!!  I wish it could have been longer and will try and stay a day on the way back from trip #1 or again on flight in trip#2. 

Then they took me back to the airport where I met up again with the Spykers and we waited to board our Lufthansa flight to Almaty.  It was also a very nice flight.  In fact I was able to sleep for nearly three of the six or so hours of the flight.  Again, they fed us a filling meal and provided enough liquid to keep me from feeling thirsty or having a dry mouth.  Very nice.  It is the little things that matter when you are on a long flight like these.  I was so happy by the end of the second flight to be able to get up and walk around, have a hot meal, wash my face, get some sleep, and have a glass of water. 

When we arrived the three of us went down and waited for immigration to look at our passports and visas.  It was a very quick and painless process.  The guards were efficient and I was through there as fast as in Germany.  It was slightly intimidating however I think that was because I was worried about it…and clearly didn’t need to be.  We went through to baggage and within ten minutes all of our bags came.  We loaded them onto the free travel carts provided and pushed them through the double doors where there was a row of taxi drivers flanking us on each side. 

Now I had heard that they are aggressive and pushy and it is very intimidating.  PUHLEASE!!!!!!  They politely said Taxi?  And when you politely said Nyet, spasiba back they went on to the next person.  I mean I have been to New York and that is where you find the aggressive and pushy taxi drivers not here.  They are obviously just trying to make a living and asking if you need their services. 

We walked past the thirty or so taxi drivers and found Nikolai our friendly driver…who took my cart from me and pushed it out to his large Toyota Van.  All the bags were loaded in and we were off.  It was night or actually 2:00 in the morning on Sunday as we drove through the streets of Almaty to the hotel Kazzahol.  We saw many luxury car dealerships on the way here ….and there are so many trees here in the city it is amazing. 

 We got to the hotel and our bags were unloaded and we checked in easily with the help of Nikolai.  The clerk was polite and efficient and the bellhop took my bags up to my room.  I sat down on the bed, opened up the laptop, and here I am. 

Tomorrow will be meeting with Sara and Julian at 8:00AM in the lobby!  Can’t wait to meet them in person finally!  At 10:30 will meet Nikolai again in the lobby with all of our bags so we are ready to go back to the airport and off to Ust!  Will keep you posted -and will also probably write a more thorough description of the incoming flight once I get settled in the hotel in Ust. 

UPS has my package!!!

Okay pull your minds out of the gutter. 

UPS shows that my documents are in transit for delivery at 10:30AM tomorrow!!!  I can go home now, after refreshing the UPS page like a gazillion times. 

Alla called me to wish me good luck and to have a good trip. 

I sent a batch of cookies to the Assistant Stork people from a bakery in the same town as them to thank them for the great job on my behalf.  Have to send something to Eldo and a big something to my agency. 

Will go home now and do a last check on the house, mechanicals, packed bags (packing lists), important papers/documents double check, and then I will try and fall asleep.  Oh yeah I am going to eat dinner too.  And color my hair…can’t have any grey hairs showing in Kaz.  Okay, tmi.  Till tomorrow.

Oh yeah…..Happy Valentine’s Day everyone – come to think of it – this has been the best one I have had in like ten years.

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