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Adoption Trip to Russia

Journey to Emily and Amanda

Monday November 1, 1999

John and I slept pretty well for being in a strange place, but Dottie hardly slept a wink. We were told that we should meet our translator, Maya, in the Hotel Lobby at 11 AM. We weren’t sure what to do for breakfast but we were told that there was a breakfast buffet on the 15th floor. We were a little leery of it, but if we wanted to eat, it was our only option.

We were all up and dressed by 8:30 AM so we ventured to the 15th floor. What we found was a makeshift café type setting with a small bar in it with a table set up with various types of foods. I think it came out to be about $4 per person. The women who were in the make shift kitchen were gracious to us and there was only 2 other men eating there.

On the buffet there was a platter of various meats and cheeses, bread, butter, hardboiled eggs, yogurt, fruit, some Russian salads, cereals, (corn flakes?) milk, and a few other things. The bartender had tea and coffee. We drank tea because we thought that the water was more apt to have been boiled than water for coffee.

The bartender had Russian music playing, but as soon as we sat down to eat he changed the station to one that was playing 80’s freestyle type music. At this point anything in English was very much appreciated!

We ate our breakfast slowly, hoping to pass the time until 11 o’clock. At around 9:15 we finished our breakfast and went back up to our room.

We just decided to rest on our little beds until it was time to go down to the lobby to meet Maya. We were still pretty jetlagged even after being there 24 hours.

At 10:55 we went down to the Lobby to meet Maya. She arrived shortly after 11. She was a medium built lady with shortly styled brown hair. She was dressed in Black jeans, which surprised me after hearing that not many Russian women wear jeans. She came right up to us and introduced herself and said that our Driver, along with another couple adopting from our orphanage, should be there soon.

We stood outside the Leningradskaya and waited for our driver. We would be taking 2 cars to the baby home, one for us and one for the other couple. The weather outside was not as cold as we had anticipated. It was probably about 40F and overcast.

Finally a Blue older looking sport utility pulled up followed by a white typical looking European car. Maya told us that the three of us would be riding in the white car. Our driver did not speak English and she would be riding in the other car so that we had more room.

We pulled away from the hotel and began our first trip to the Krasnaya Polyana baby Home. We all had a lot of anticipation. We wondered how long the ride would be!

We drove through Moscow looking at everything that there was to see. There was a lot of old apartment buildings in need of repair. All the buses that went by were packed to the gills with people. One thing we noticed was that all the cars were pretty dirty with soot…I guess they don’t have a car wash in Russia.

We drove out of the city for about 30 minutes and then we began to drive into what looked more like a suburban type area. There were a lot of trees with white bark and some newly built sub-divisions with homes like you would typically see in a neighborhood here in the states. We found out later that those are the homes of the very wealthy. Its sad to think that a home of an average American here, is considered to be a luxury home in Russia.

As we drove further away from the city we began to see a lot of very poor poverty stricken run down shacks. We wondered how anyone could live in such conditions. A lot of the houses were actually lopsided with shingles hanging off of the roof, but it was evident that someone was living in them. It just made us feel so humble and thank God for all of the wonderful things he has given us.

We turned into what looked like a small village and stopped in front of a big apartment house type building. We thought that this was the orphanage, but it wasn’t. It turns out we had to pick up a lady from the local Ministry of Education. It is a law that she must observe our first meeting to see if we connect with the child and vice versa.

We drove for about 5 more minutes and finally pulled into the driveway of a very old bright yellow building…the orphanage. I wasn’t sure what I expected an orphanage to look like, but it never looks how you think it does. There was a playground yard with old playground equipment. The sidewalks were in disrepair. Nothing mattered anymore, because we were finally on the brink of meeting our girls!

We all got out of our cars and followed Maya up the walkway. We all were carrying our bags of donations and our camera and video camera.

We walked up to the side of the building and into a hallway. Right away the smell of cabbage filled our noses. We were lead right into a room across from the doorway. I recognized the room immediately from the video I had of the girls. It must be the “visitor’s room”. The room had wood paneling and a carpet with a Russian European pattern on it. There was a piano and a whole bunch of tiny chairs lined up along the wall. There was a couch, a table, and a few more adult size armchairs as well. There were several big posters with picture collages on them with children at story time and playing in the pictures. It looked like a very happy orphanage to me.

Maya went to tell the staff that we were here and then came back and said that the children were eating lunch, we would have to wait about 15 minutes. We had waited this long, what difference is another few minutes?

While we were waiting we introduced ourselves to the other couple who were adopting a little boy. They were Mark and Andra Stoller from Albuquerque NM. They were just as excited and nervous as we were.

We sat in the visitors room and waited patiently, taking in all the smells and sounds of our daughters home. There were women in white jackets carrying large pots of what we assumed was cabbage soup down the halls. I saw a cat at one end of the hallway.

The on staff Nurse of the Orphanage then came into the room and went over the Medical History of little Vova with the Stollers.

Finally, an older woman walked into the room holding the hand of a little boy. This was Mark and Andra’s son, Vladimir, they called him Vova for short. He was a beautiful little boy and he seemed to go to his new parents without hesitation.

The very next moment was one that I will never forget. 2 nurses, one older and one middle aged each carrying a small baby, walked into the room. The babies were wearing identical rompers. I remember thinking “those aren’t my girls” because they had NO hair. In all the video’s they had quite a bit of hair.

I was definitely in a daze! The women sat the girls down on the couch in between Maya and the Ministry of Ed Rep, Tatiana. I was kind of shocked that she didn’t give them to my husband and I, but perhaps this was the best way.

John was hiding behind the video camera and I just sat in my chair and looked at them for the first time. They were so small, but they were gorgeous. They looked like they weren’t so sure about what was going on either! Dottie was sitting in her chair blubbering and saying how beautiful they are. I was too in shock to cry!

I finally came to my senses and actually asked if I could go to them! Maya said “ OF COURSE”, they are your daughters. I wasn’t quite sure how to approach the 2 little ones, so I knelt down next to the couch and just talked softly to them. Emily (Leeza) was very apprehensive and started to cry a little bit and wanted to crawl away. Amanda (Katya) was just sitting there taking it all in.

They suggested that maybe I should get out some of the toys that I had brought for them. I went to the bag and got out the soft dolls and a few other toys that I brought.

The girls weren’t too interested in the toys. Finally I picked up Amanda (Katya). Maya was holding Emily (Leeza), talking softly in Russian. John felt “safe” behind the video camera at this point. I think he was a little scared to come to reality! Dottie just continued to sit, watch, and cry. I held Amanda for the first time and studied her little features and let her study me! She liked to touch my face and she played with the soft fuzzy teddy bear on my shirt.

I had forgotten that the whole rest of the world was waiting for their turn so I motioned Dottie to come over. Dottie took Amanda (Katya) from me and I took Emily (Leeza) from Maya.

I couldn’t believe that I was actually holding my daughters for the very first time. I couldn’t imagine childbirth being any more emotional. Emily also loved to touch the soft teddy bear on my shirt. We just looked at each other and I studied everything about her.

We then realized that John was still videoing and told him to turn off the camera and come meet his daughters! He sat on the floor and took Amanda (Katya) from Mom and I gave Emily (Leeza) to mom. I decided to take over the camera for a few minutes.

Amanda was beginning to smile and even giggle a little with all of us, but we could not get Emily to crack even a little smile. I knew that we were new to her and I also knew that this is sometimes the case with little ones from an orphanage. I was not worried about it at all at this point.

All too soon it was time to get down to business. It was our turn with the orphanage nurse to ask any questions we might have, and get any information that was available on the twins.

John videotaped this part for future reference while I held Emily and asked the questions and wrote down everything. Dottie held Amanda who was warming up to us quickly! Emily sat on my lap still playing with my shirt and playing with a pacifier I had brought.

The question and answer session took a good half an hour and by the time it was over it was almost time for the girls to go back to their “room” for a nap. We were all very sad to see our first meeting draw to an end, but were very HAPPY because we knew that these little girls would be ours forever. There was NO DOUBT in any of our minds that these little ones were supposed to be ours.

A couple of nurses came into the room and scooped our little ones up and carried them away. I kind of felt like crying because we only had an hour and a half with them. We knew we would be back tomorrow though!

We all walked out of the orphanage and piled into the cars. We didn’t know where we would be going next.

It looked like we were heading back into Moscow. After about 45 minutes of driving we were on a fairly nice looking street and I noticed the street sign said “Tverskaya”. I knew for a fact that we were in downtown Moscow.

Our driver pulled over along with the other car and Maya came to our window and asked us if we would like to go site seeing; We did, so off we went. As we got deeper into the city we started to see a lot of very nice architecture.

Finally we pulled over into a sort of makeshift parking area (the sidewalk) and got out of our vehicles. We were in the Red Square area.

Maya pointed out the Duma Building (where all laws are made), the Balshoy Theatre, and a few other landmarks.

We walked about a half block and we were standing in front of a beautiful tall building. Maya told us that this was the famous mall the G.U.M. department store. We went inside. What we found was your basic mall with some very nice architecture inside. There were quite a few interesting shops. We stopped in some of the kiosks and bought some postcards and some Matrushka dolls to bring back as souvenirs for family and friends.

Maya gave us 20 minutes to look around by ourselves and then we were to meet in front of the fountain in the middle of the mall. We all met back in time.

We walked to the end of the mall and through the doors leading to the other side of the G.U.M. When we stepped outside and walked a little to the right, there stood St. Basil’s Cathedral. We were in Red Square!

It felt so weird to be in a place I had only seen on TV and a place I really never gave a second thought to before we knew we were adopting from Russia.
St. Basil’s was a magnificent sight. Pictures really don’t do it justice at all. We saw Lenin’s Tomb, but we didn’t go in and the Beautiful Red buildings that identify the Kremlin.

We all stopped to take the usual “adoption picture” in front of St. Basil’s. Just about every adoptive family who has adopted from Russia has that same picture. Maya told us about some of the History Surrounding Red Square.

There weren’t very many people around that day. There was a peddler trying to sell us Fur Hats. I should have bought one, but didn’t. We went up to a booth that sold 18 K gold Russian Orthodox jewelry. Dottie bought the girls each a Russian Orthodox cross for them to remember Russia by.

We walked out of Red Square to see the front of it. There were lots of different Statues, but I couldn’t tell you the significance of any of them. We walked down the sidewalk and Maya pointed out the KGB Building.

Next we went to another Mall. This mall was very much like the ones we have here in the U.S. We all had to use the Bathroom. We had to pay 5 Rubles to get into the Bathroom. I wondered if it would have toilet paper! If it didn’t we were definitely prepared with our own.

The bathroom was surprisingly modernized, but it had the standard Russian “brown paper towel like” toilet paper.

We were all realizing that we were hungry so guess where we went? A Food Court!! They even have them in Russia! It was exactly like any mall food court we have here. We split up and were to meet back in 45 minutes. Since we definitely could not read anything on any of the menu’s Maya had to help us out! We ended up getting Fried Chicken at a Fast food Fried Chicken place. It seemed to be very popular among the locals.

John had a chicken pita wrap sandwich and Dottie and I both had 2 pieces of chicken with fries and cole slaw. The food was good, but not much to write home about.

We all finished our Dinners and strolled around the mall for a little bit and then went outside. Maya showed us a few more landmarks and such.

It was beginning to rain lightly and it was getting cold. We thought we would all call it a day and start back to our respective “homes”.

Maya rode with us back to the Leningradskaya. She asked us if we were pleased with the babies and we told her we couldn’t be more pleased! The traffic was VERY heavy going back to the hotel. Living in NY, you learn to drive in heavy, aggressive traffic, but I can’t imagine learning to drive in Moscow. There are basically NO RULES! People make roads out of the sidewalks. We literally SQUEAZED through other cars within a half an inch.

We finally reached the Leningradskaya. It would be our last night here because we were being moved to a cheaper accommodation the next day.

The driver dropped us off and we went up to our rooms. We decided to video the inside of the hotel so that we could remember it in years to come.

It was probably about 6:30 PM and we were pretty tired. Dottie and I went down to the little store in the lobby and bought some Russian wafer cookies, some potato chips (imported from Kansas!!), some ice cream, and a few bottles of Coke and Sprite. One thing John noticed about the Soda is that it must have a lot more caffeine than the soda here. He actually felt his heart beating faster after drinking the Coke.

At around 8:30 Dottie said she was going to go to her room and shower. John and I sat and reminisced about the girls and got our clothes ready for the next day. I also made sure everything was packed for our move to the new “home”.

I decided to take my shower too. It is quite an accomplishment to try and take a shower keeping your mouth closed. I was absolutely phobic about getting a parasite from the water. I had heard so many horror stories from other people who had traveled to Russia.

We decided to call it a night around 9:30 and went to bed. (more...)

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