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Ukrianian Adoption Journal (pg.7)

Thursday April 15, 2004 8:30 PM Happy Tax Day
Just back from our day in Kyiv..

Max got into Ivankiv early and got the Inspector’s report and had it signed. He met us at the hotel and we decided to get the papers notarized in Kyiv as we had to drop them off at the NAC anyway. That would give us a chance to post our last week's worth of updates and hopefully meet Maxim's wife, Larissa. It will be good to get to the city for the day, but it will mean we won't get to see the kids at all until tomorrow. We must get the papers to Kyiv so to the big city we go.

We "hitchhiked" into Kyiv---yes-don't try this at home, but in Ukraine it is quite common for cars to troll about and pick up folks with their hand out--- no thumb, please…arm extended at full length and at about 30 degrees with your palm down, and, viola you have a cheap ride (make sure you negotiate your fare before hand or you could really be taken for a ride-but it is usually 1/5th the cost of a metered cab)

Our goal was to have the papers at the NAC before lunch (1-2) and beg them for a "same day approval". Traffic was a nightmare and by the time we finished at the notary and got the subway to the NAC, it was about 1:20 and everyone had gone to lunch. Max left the papers and we will come back before the end of business to see how things are going.

Back into the subway to venture into "left bank" Ukraine for the first time.

******** Subway Side Note**********

The Kyiv Subway is one of the deepest in the world---2 very long escalator rides to get to the platform-the subway stations are incredibly clean.. No rats! No trash! This thing puts "The Tube" in London to shame. The subway cars get very crowded and there is little respect for personal space in Ukrainian culture. Getting on and off the car is a free for all-survival of the fittest-push shove, push harder, get some shoulder behind you to get those in your way -our of your way. (I am not a small guy and I was actually lifted by the crowd and nearly removed from the train… now I know to shove back-it's not personal, you just have to jump in and be a local… the babushka's can-we can--- this might be fun!)

We stopped off at the Internet Café while Max and his wife looked at an apartment they are thinking of buying. I put the disk into the A drive and noticed that it went in very easily--- too easi---- oh no-there is no A drive-just a slot where it used to live-the disk is not at the bottom of the computer case and no one here speaks English--- We were able to explain that the “Stupid Americans” put the disk into the imaginary A: drive and needed it to be fetched from the abyss-they complied, but it was not until Max returned that we discovered that indeed there is a floppy drive--- one for 30 computers-- in the file server--- a quick mapping and we were able to post our updates and pictures. Again, sorry it took so long.

From the Internet to Max and Larissa’s apartment for a WONDERFUL lunch. (yes--- I like food again)

The Best Borscht we have had in Ukraine
The battle of cold pork roast between Max’s and Larissa’s Moms…. They were both wonderful
A beef Sausage (kinda like a really big, really good hot dog)
Fruit and pastries and tea
And to drink during the meal, a wonderful Ukrainian homemade drink-It comes from the sap of a birch tree-slightly tart, a little fizzy and very refreshing..

They also had Salo (pork fat you spread on bread). We both really wanted to try it (some call it Ukrainian chocolate) but we were stuffed-Hopefully Larissa and Max will have us back before we leave.

After dinner we hitched back to the NAC where a huge line of folks were still waiting to see the director. Max decided to get us on our way-- hailing a car to Schevschenko Square, then we climbed onto a mini bus for the hour ride back to Ivankiv (6UAH-- $1.10 per person). We are now safe and sound, comfortably in our room at "Hotel Happiness", awaiting word from Max regarding the success (hopefully) of getting the needed papers signed and ready for court. There is still a chance, however slim, that we could have court tomorrow!

********* Soviet/Ukrainian Side note*********

We wanted to get perspective from Max about the fall of the USSR and Ukrainian independence for Tanya and Dima to understand that time in their country. It’s a very different story than we get in the US.

Max was 15 when they got word of the breakup-nothing in the wind, no warning-just woke up one day to hear that the USSR was gone. And some American's might be shocked to hear that life under the Soviet system was not as bleak as we were taught in school. Summer vacations on the Black Sea every year. Enough money to buy what you needed and enough to save. A guaranteed pension for life upon retirement. There were downsides-product selection was poor, those in power and their cronies got the best "stuff".

Upon the collapse of the USSR, there was hyper inflation. Max’s great-aunt had her life savings of 10,000 rubles (over 15k usd) become worthless. She had to work an extra 9 years because the pensions were no longer enough to provide for life's (very) basic needs. Crime was also a serious problem in post USSR Ukraine. And the cronyism of the USSR was replaced by the oligarch's and their capitalist cronies.

Ahhh what is the line?? -"power corrupts"-- No matter the system!

Things are getting better. Inflation is somewhat under control. The middle class is growing. But there is still a long way to go until the people of Ukraine have it as good as even Poland or other Eastern Bloc nations. I heard some speculation that this is so because Ukraine missed out on The Renaissance and Reformation and free thought was never encouraged. Better to be a part of the collective-- but you can see in the eyes of all the Kiosk owners and the gypsy cabbies that they are figuring the "capitalism thing" out and will be just fine-as long as the government doesn't screw it up.

Friday April 16, 2004 7:30pm
Mary was up early to see the kids off to school-I was zonked from all the running yesterday and stayed in bed. Upon her return we set out on our quest of the day-To find a nice Ukrainian porcelain tea set. Many thanks to the Hamanns for their great directions we found a nice little Soviet era mini “Woolworth like” place and got a splendid tea set for about $18USD. After a walk through the Rynok, it was back to the hotel for lunch. Apparently something Mary either said or gestured gave the waiter the idea that we only wanted a coke. He promptly brought that and disappeared for 40 minutes. Ahhh not really that hungry anyway.

Back to the room for a quick nap before Tanya gets home from school. (Still not quite at 100% after my NDE)

Met Tanya at the orphanage and decided to hunt for some still needed clothes. Bad News: Everything is closed.

Tanya helped us to buy a phone card and we placed a call to Max to check on our status. We have another minor setback. No approval from the NAC today. Tanya and Dima's last name is spelled differently on the paperwork-- Tanya in Russian-Dima in Ukrainian. Max needs to get back here to Ivankiv to get the paper redone by our friend the inspector and get the 2 required signatures-looks like that will set us back another day for court---It's now looking like Tuesday.

Tomorrow we must get back to Kyiv to get a notary stamp. Good news since we’ve been wanting to take the kids to see the circus and there is a show at 13:00. That will also give us a chance to get shopping finished and take them to their first western restaurant. I want to try the TGI Fridays--- I'll probably be out- voted and we'll go to McDonalds.

It was a beautiful spring day here in Ivankiv.. Sunshine-temps in the mid 60s. All the trees are blooming (gesundheit). Had a great time with Tanya, Dima and a bunch of the other kids from the orphanage playing Frisbee and just hanging out.

7pm-time to say our goodnights to the kids and get back to the "Hotel Happiness" There is laundry to do-and only a sink in which to do it-I quickly offer to write today's update-- darn-I won’t be able to do my own stuff----Thanks Honey!!

Till tomorrow,

Saturday April 17, 2004 8:45 PM
Jim: Step right up, one and all, young and old, boys and girls of all ages--- see the incredible dancing bear, acrobat cats, death defying horsemanship, the "dog-a-round" featuring the "fearless feathered winged warriors" plus lots of girls with feathers coming out of their tushies--- No we're not back in Vegas--It's the Kyiv Circus--What a show! 60 minutes non-stop, a 20-minute intermission, and then another hour of fun--- this is the ADD Circus--- no act lasted for more than 4 or 5 minutes. I HATE circuses—this thing had me mesmerized. Max was able to get us some seats from "Guido" the scalper for 10 uah a person--about 2 bucks. We were in row 2—incredible seats in the 1500 seat "in the round" theatre.

Our day started early picking up the kids at 7:30 and to the waiting car at 7:45. Up till now, we were beginning to think that all those who came before with the horror stories of the Ukrainian roads were just a bunch of spoiled American sissies… We would now like to formally apologize for thinking that. The driver was a MADMAN. We were in a Lada "a Russian branded Fiat"--That should be enough to describe it--- The slogan is "not a lada money for not a lada car".

He wove, he passed in no passing zones, He ran out of gas, he was more worried about his cassette player falling (It was solidly secured by a dish towel) than the fact that he made a 3rd lane down the middle of the 2 lane road (at 110 KPH with cars on both sides). We made it! It was not pretty, but we made it.

Max met us at and we were off to the notary. After adding another official document to our pile we were onto the subway and back to the Left Bank for shopping.

Hey Emily--we found Doenner Kabaps! Just as good as Germany, except they use Mayo and Catsup rather than the yummy yogurt stuff.

Max's wife met us to head to the Circus from there--- After the circus, we FINALLY were able to convince Max that we'd be fine with the kids alone in Kyiv for the rest of the day. That way he could spend Larissa's last day of vacation with her before she must head back to Sumy. We love his company, but it's nice to have alone time with the kids.

We walked from the Circus to the main shopping street near Independence Square-- a couple of miles. Tanya and Dima held up well. I ducked into the Internet café to upload the last few days--Mary and the Kids head to TSUM (the old Soviet Department Store) to do the last of the shopping.

We all meet for McDonalds on Independence Square for dinner--Funny, we'd never go to MC in the states if we were in a different city--we always look for local food---but the kids really wanted to try McDonalds for the first time and there really is something cool about seeing Micky Dees in what, just 15 years ago, was the Soviet Union.

Got a cab and transferred to a minibus for the 90 minute ride back to Ivankiv. We are all beat- The kids are back at "the nest" and we are at "Hotel Happiness" --can't wait till they get to stay with us for good. (more...)

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