Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Trip 1 and then FINALLY meeting our son!!!

Well we arrived home on Saturday and I'm just finally getting a chance to write about our trip! What a whirlwind week we have had with the best of it coming at the end when we finally got to spend the last two days with our son!! It was a crazy week, with lots of ups and downs, but all turned out so wonderful that it's almost like I forget the start to the week. (almost!) Well, I guess it's best to probably start at the beginning! I figured telling our story in one post, was eaier than splitting it into 3 shorter ones... so here it goes!

Our flight for Moscow left Boston at 9:00 a.m. on Saturday the 5th and after 13 hours of travel... we arrived in Russia at 6:00 am. on Sunday morning! Our driver met us at the airport and took us to our hotel. He was really nice and told us that he'd be with us for the week. He also informed us that Olga, our coordinator, would be calling us later that night with our plan for Monday. He said  he'd be by the next day to pick us up for our Ministry appointment. Again he told us that she would tell us what times to be ready.

After we checked in we went right to our room and crashed for 7 hours!! While it was morning there, for us it was night still and we were both exhausted! We got up at 2:30 in the afternoon, groggy and STARVING, so decided to check out the hotel and find some food! (By the way, finding food was not an easy task for a non-meat eater who is lactose intolerant, oh and also allergic to wheat and egg!) We ended up at a cafe in the lobby where I was able to get some vegetable rice and Randy was able to get a fish stew he liked. It was about that time that the actual "culture shock" hit us. We were not in Massachusetts anymore for sure! Of course there was the language barriers, but there was also the fact that as we looked around we were definitly the only Amercians, and we stook out like sore thumbs! We did our best to fumble through the menu and to order, to make sure we left the right rubles and to figure out the correct tip! We felt a bit like ameaturs and realized that we hadn't really prepared ourselves very well! The hotel we stayed at in Moscow was called the Cosmos. We ended up booking there as they were running a huge discount on the internet and it was half the price of the international hotels we had been looking at! We checked out the website and it seemed nice. We also thought that since we'd have some "down" time this week before we'd be able to get into the baby home to meet B., it was great that the hotel had several restaurants, shops etc.
However what we hadn't expected is that in a 25 floor hotel, we'd be the ONLY Americans and that barely anyone we came into contact with (including the staff) spoke any English at all!

Needless to say, as the days went by we got much more comfortable with our cultural differences, and got much more confident with our ordering and with the money! We were able to hold our own, even without our driver/translator with us!! : )

So later Sunday night, we got our call from our coordinator and she informed us that she would meet us at our hotel at 1:30 Monday to prepare us for our meeting with the Ministry. She also told us that our driver, would be picking us up at 3:15 as our appt. was at 4:30 pm.

Olga met us at the cafe in our hotel lobby with her daughter, Anna. The two of them work together with our agency and they were both so nice! It was nice to have conversation with other people since Randy and I had only been able to talk to each other for the last 2 days! We both cracked up though when Olga asked us, "Why did you choose this hotel?" She also told us that in 20 years of doing this work, we were her only couple who stayed at the Cosmo! Whoops! Well, there show's the power of the internet I guess! Our driver also told us that he had never been to this hotel before either! Ha!

We then began discussing our week and how it would all work. Our referral was a bit different than most as Randy and I were heading to the Ministry to present our own case with just our interpretor with us. She explained, as our agency had, that we were a unique case since our boy was still so young! (still only 9 months old.) She said that it would be a formality, they may ask us some questions, and then we'd leave and wait to hear when our next appt would be, but she thought it would be late Wednesday afternoon or early on Thursday. This would be when we'd recieve the "official" referral of our son from the Ministry and be invited to go visit him! Finally!!! This also meant we had to find things to keep ourselves busy on Tuesday and Wednesday, since we were told we'd get 2 days (Thursday/Friday) to visit him in the baby home. : (

We were both a bit nervous about our appt. since we weren't really sure what to expect or what would happen. Our driver was there on time and it took us about an hour or so in traffic to get to the Ministry. We were called in to our appt. at about 4:45 pm and I don't know how else to describe our meeting except tense and nerve wracking! Randy and I sat quietly why the two officials talked in Russian with our driver. (who was also our translator.) At one point one of the women seemed to get upset about something in our documents and was talking fast and all we could understand was the name of our agency and then the rest was all in Russian and the conversation was not being translated for us at this point at all!

Okay, I may not speak Russian, and I understand that there are differences in our cultures, however, irritation and aggrevation looks the same in any language, and she was not happy!!
Randy and I were so scared. I felt like I was going to cry, as I had no idea what was going on, and this whole conversation was happening in front of us that we couldn't understand! We were kicking each other under the table and trying our best to seem calm and composed, however inside I was dying. Then, our driver just stood up, nodded at us that we were done, and we just walked out of the room. Randy and I both smiled at the women and said thank you. One of them smiled at us, which made me feel a bit better but I was still so confused what had just happened!

We asked our driver if everything was okay and that we felt that the officials seemed upset. He just said they were confused why we were sent there as independents when we were working with an accredited agency and that O. would explain it all to us when she called later... and that was it. Okay, so have to say, this did not help us to feel like all was okay. We felt isolated, scared, and confused!

When we got back to the hotel that night, we hoped that we'd hear from O. that night but we didn't. The next day was Tuesday and we had planned for our driver to pick us up to go do some sight seeing and take us to Red square and the Kremlin. I have to admit, that I am glad we had the opportunity to do this while in Moscow, and it was pretty cool. Also the museums and the GUM mall, definitely kept our minds distracted as we waited to hear something! Truth was at this point, we weren't even convinced that we were definitly going to meet our son! It was scary and stressful to say the least!

It began to pour around 3:30 pm so we decided to call it a day, and our driver then took us to the Hard Rock Cafe for a late lunch/early dinner. It was so yummy!! And due to the fact that I had truly only eaten rice for 2 days, we ate like we had never had food before in our lives! I was able to get a salad with vegetables, and a piece of chicken and best of all... french fries! We were happy and our outlook did improve with full bellies!!!

That night when we got back to the hotel, we did hear from O. and she informed us that everything was a go, all the problems were solved, and we would be picked up the following afternoon to go to a notary to sign another application for the ministry and we'd be going back on Thursday am and then off to the baby home! Relief. And more importantly, hope and excitement again!

Our next appointment at the ministry was much easierand much lighter than the one on Monday! One of the two officials was the woman from our first visit who had seemed a bit upset. Today though, she seemed warmer, and as she slid the paper over to us, and I saw my son's face, I was overcome with relief and just joy. My eyes filled up as our driver/translator began to provide us with the referral information. (Most of which we already knew.) I was just so happy then. Okay, this was going to happen. It was really him and we were on our way to go meet him!!!!
The meeting itself couldn't have been more than 10 minutes. Randy and I were both emotional, and we thanked the two officials again, this time we got smiles and nods and we were off to the baby home!!! The drive from the ministry to the baby home was pretty quick, thankfully. At this point I was about to jump out of my skin! I was so excited!! I was sitting in the back seat of the car and wanted to yell out the window! I wished my phone worked because I just wanted to call or text someone my good news!

O. was waiting for us when we arrived at the baby home and she gave us both a hug and congratulated us. It now felt so real. She then told us that we were going to go right upstairs to meet our baby before they had to take him for lunch and nap! The baby home was bright, well kept, and much nicer than Randy & I had pictured in our minds. We were pleasantly surprised and both felt really comfortable here!

O. waited in the playroom with us. When the caretaker brought him in the room, my first thought was how little and how precious he was. O. told me to take him, and explained that the babies sometimes were afraid of men since they didn't see many in the orphange. The second they put him in my arms, it was love! He looked right up at me with his big brown eyes and smiled. My heart melted and never in my life had I felt so sure that I was exactly where I should be, doing exactly what I was doing. He was perfect!

He warmed right up to Randy and was not afraid of him at all! He was smiling and giggling at him, and within 10 minutes I was able to hand him to Randy without a problem. The two of us just took turns holding him and playing with him and we could not get enough of him! O.  and the caretaker had left right after they handed him to me, and we were able to just enjoy our visit with him as a family. It was wonderful and worth all the stress, fear, and confusion we felt earlier in the week! It felt like we had only been with him for 5 minutes, not 45, when O. came back in and told us the director needed to speak with us now, and that B. would be eating lunch. My favorite part of the day with him was when the caretaker came to take him for lunch and when she reached for him, he turned into me like he didn't want to leave us! We met with the director for about 20 minutes and got a few more details about the biological mom and the very limited family history that was provided. We were also told all the results from his exam with the physican on November 1st. Everything came back normal and he was very healthy! We were suprised to learn though that he was eating with a spoon and could drink out of a cup! What!! He's 9 months old!! (He will have sippy cups with us!) Day one with our little guy was wonderful and when we had to leave him that afternoon we couldn't wait to get back there Friday morning to see him again!

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