Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Even though we packed our Sunday clothes and made our intentions known we wanted to attend at least some church, it soon became evident that that was not going to materialize. Camille and I had a nice scripture reading in our apartment instead. We had been invited to go to the beach with Marrow, Carla, Olga and wanted Anastasia to be able to be there – and support her as her new adopted father and sister. We went swimming at the beach right near town. Svitsanna (Anastasia’s friend), her little brother Dema (who live at the orphanage) and Svitzanna’s parents were already at the beach. We swam at the end of an old concrete pier, which was littered with trash and beer bottles. The water seemed a bit dirty, but I figured it was probably o.k. as there were so many people swimming. The pier had a nice drop of about 5 feet to the water, which made it ideal for jumping/diving. After I jumped in and swam back to the pier, I climbed up the old metal ladder to get out of the water. As I was nearing the pier’s edge, I had the distinct smell of the toilet waft through my nostrils. Time and time again after jumping/diving in, I had the same smell confirm that this was not a clean place to swim. Camille and I swam for about 40 minutes in total and then got out. We decided to go back to the hotel and meet the others at 2:00 p.m. at the orphanage. We had a 12:00 check out from the hotel and not showering before we checked out was definitely not an option.

Camille, Anastasia and Olga walking into town to the beach

At the beach in Feodocia

Calvin - walking into town (with Camille taking picture) for a bite of lunch after a shower and before the farewell party at the orphanage.

Downtown Feodocia near Greenwich, where we frequently ate

We arrived a few minutes before 2:00 p.m. at the orphanage. Camille proceeded to wrap both Vera’s and Tamara’s gifts in the gift bags/wrapping paper Cheryl had purposefully packed in our luggage. We also had a suitcase/bag full of toys for the children at the orphanage. We were able to go into the orphanage’s nurse’s office to speak with Tamara and present her with her gift. Vera was there to translate and Camille was on hand to take some good photos. We had a very nice chat with Tamara and presented her with out gifts, a picture book of Utah scenery and a CD of the Mormon Tabernacle’s greatest 100 hits – something very regional and representative of where Anastasia was going to spend the next juncture of her life. We also gave her some money to purchase something personal for herself. Tamara told us that the best gift we could give her we had given - adding Anastasia into our family and placing her into our home. I told her we were glad to this and that more older children could be adopted if they would be allowed to come to America with the hosting program. It was a bit of an emotional experience. Tamara particularly made mention of Illia, indicating that he was such a good boy, but not as strong as the other boys and that she desired for him to be placed into a home. I told her again that the chances were much higher of having the children adopted if she would allow them to come to America and stay in the homes of the host families. I then presented Tamara with our gift to the orphanage and told her I hoped that it could be used to purchase something for the orphanage. She indicated that their washing machine had gone out and that it would probably be used to purchase a new washer. I was glad to hear that.

Camille, Tamara (orphanage director) and Calvin

We went back to the common room of the orphanage where they have their TV and proceeded to open the bag of toys we had brought from America. I had no idea what was in there, except for the few things Cheryl had told me. There were a couple nerf guns, monopoly, Jenga, three soccer balls, a pump, plastic bowling pins, etc. The kids really seemed to enjoy getting them. We routed the gifts to one of the teachers along with the suitecase/bag. Later on I was heartened to see the boys playing a game of monopoly and using the nerf guns.

For the food portion of the occasion, we traveled up a couple blocks to the local market with a few of the children and purchased 10 2 liter bottles of soda and 2 kilograms of sweets/candy. This was distributed along with their 4:00 p.m. afternoon treat/snack. We sat around and just enjoyed talking to the children and each other. Carla and I and Marrow were able to take some notebook paper and tell each other how our schooling system works. We also exchanged our house plans/size and incomes. It was very enjoyable. Part of my enjoyment came from spending some one-on-one time with one of the 17 yr. old boys, who had a homemade sling-shot. We set up a couple targets and shot pebbles at them until we had both hit it – a small white plastic domino and a plastic scrap we found on the ground.

Unpacking the toys at the orphanage

Calvin and boys at the orphanage

Outside area of the orphanage

Carla, Vera, Marrow and Calvin walking to the store to purchase treats for the children

Inside the store

Inside the store, again

Boys enjoying the English version of Mynopoly

Camille, Vera and Calvin

Olga (Anastasia's sister), Svitzanna and other friends of Anastasia

Camille with some of the younger girls of the orphanage - so cute!

Camille with Dema (Svitzanna's little brother)

Calvin with Sasha

At about 5:45 p.m. we called a taxi and and prepared to leave. One of Anastasia’s little friends – a younger (probably 7-8 yrs old) girl, Lena, was crying quite a bit realizing that she was saying good-bye to Anastasia. Anastasia herself shed some tears, which I was glad to see. It was an emotional experience for all of us. One of the boys, Serosha, helped me carry our one bag out to the taxi and waited with us. I grabbed him around the shoulder and gave him a squeeze and told him good-bye. What beautiful children.

We went back to Greenwich and had a last meal with Marrow, Carla and Olga and then went to the bus station where we caught our 7:25 p.m. bus back to Simferopol. It was nice and cool, for the most part. However, the bus driver let on so many ‘unofficial paying customers’ that it was very crowded from people standing in the isle. Also, even with my relatively short legs, my knees were bumping into the seats in front of me. Boy and I thought the airlines were skimpy on room.

Dinner at Greenwiches'

It was a long day and we were both physically and emotionally exhausted. This day was the conclusion of our adoption process in Feodocia. And for Anastasia, it is the end of Feodocia she has know as a child. It is also the end of her childhood in so many ways. It won't be until she is an adult, if ever, that she would return to the quaint little beach town of Feodocia, Ukraine.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Saturday August 14, 2010

This morning we were picked up by Albert and Natasha promptly at 7:00 a.m. so we could catch a 7:25 a.m. bus from Simferopol to Feodocia. It was a fairly pleasant ride as it was in the cool of the morning. Today was going to be a most interesting day as Camille and I were going to see Anastasia’s sister, Olga and meet Olga’s parents, who were from Italy. We all were sharing the cost of a taxi to go to the town of Djonkoy to visit Valia (Valentina), Olga’s and Anastasia’s 17 year old sister, who had just given birth to a new baby girl, named Tanya. Valia was living with a guy named Victor, who seems to love Valia and committed to their successful relationship.

On our bus ride down, I was reading in the Book of Mormon, Words of Mormon. A portion from vz 7 gave me a lot of comfort and strength “ . . . And now, I do not know all things; but the Lord knoweth all things which are to come; wherefore, he worketh in me to do according to his will.” Mormon didn’t know why he was adding in extra pages into his abridged account, but he did it “for a wise purpose: for thus it whispereth me, according to the workings of the Spirit of the Lord which is in me.” Regarding this adoption – as well as Roman and Nadia’s adoption – Cheryl and I do not know all things, but we know the Lord knoweth all things which are to come and that the reason we are doing this is because it is for a wise purpose in Him and that He whispered to us that we were supposed to do this. This gave me renewed strength and courage about the process and about our meeting today with Olga’s parents.

We arrived in Feodocia right about 9:30 a.m. We had our ‘carry-ons’ as well as two suitecase/bags – one filled with toys for the orphanage and another with books/gifts for Tamara (the director of the orphanage) and Vera (our translator). I dragged our two bags and my carryon over to our taxi, which was a mini-van. Our old Ukrainian friend and taxi driver, Vulva had agreed to take us all to Djonkoy.

We had a full van with nine of us. Vulva, Vera and Camille were in the front. Olga’s parents, Marrow and Carla and I occupied the center seats. Olga, Anastasia and Svitsanna, a friend of Anastasia, were in the back seat. Our two suitecase/bags and carry-ons fit nicely in the back of Vulva’s van.

Olga (13 yrs old) is two years younger than Anastasia. She was adopted three years ago, in 2007 – the same year we adopted Roman and Nadia. Olga knew both Russian and Italian. Vera, our translator knew English and Russian, so for us to speak to Marrow and Carla we would need to speak English to Vera, who would translate our English to Russian so Olga could translate the Russian into Italian. Of course for them to speak to us, the process would have to be reversed.
Olga was adopted when she was 10 years old, so was able to quickly pick up Italian. She seemed very comfortable when speaking with her parents.

Calvin, Carla and Marrow Ferrero

Olga, Annastasia and Svitzanna (Anastasia's friend from the orphanage)

If we were eating at a dinner party, the seating arrangements in the van would have been perfect – adults/parents together, giggling girls in back and Vera and Camille in front. However, with the noise of the van, it was not very conducive to have Vera (the English-Russian connection) in the front seat and Olga (the Italian-Russian connection) in the back giggling with her sister and Svitsanna. Not to mention, Vulva loves his music and wanted all of us to enjoy it with him, so he had his music turned up loud enough so that it would easily mask the noise of his old mini-van traveling down the bumpy roads of Ukraine. His choice of music was popular Ukrainian and American pop songs which the girls in the back seat loved.

Marrow and Carla are delightful people. I was surprised at how much we were able to communicate with one another with using broken English and hand gestures. Marrow actually knew a little bit of English and of course, I was relying on my vast Italian vocabulary I had learned while using the bathroom at Macaroni Grill, where Italian lessons are complementary. I was fluent with about three words including “gratzie”, “chow” and “poco”. It also helped using the few Spanish words I knew – Casa (Caza), etc. A few times we did use the Italian-Russian-English pipeline when we could get Olga interested enough to participate in our conversation.

On the way to Djonkoy we stopped at a little market and purchased some oranges, water, fruit juice and of course, it’s not a road trip unless you have a few Ukrainian chocolate bars. Once the girls (including Camille) knew they had some discretion about their purchases - and that I would be paying for it – the chocolate bars surfaced.

We arrived at the bus station in Djonkoy – similar to when we picked up Valia three weeks ago to have her formally document her “o.k.” to have Anastasia adopted without her. Children who are under 18 are allowed to be adopted if they have a younger sibling under the age of 16 being adopted. Since Valia is only 17, she is technically available for adoption since she is not married, even with a child. Once a child hits 16, the door is closed for them to be adopted. While waiting at the bus station, we were able to meet Svitsanna’s parents, who also lived in Djonkoy. They came down to the bus station to see Svitsanna and visit with her. Later on, Camille made the observation that Svitsanna had removed her lip piercing/stud prior to meeting her parents. I guess some things know no cultural boundaries.

I was able to introduce myself to Svitsanna’s parents and briefly visit with them. All the while I was wondering what they had done – or not done – to have their parental rights revoked and have their daughter (and son Dema) raised in an orphanage. I thought it was so weird, especially since we were invited to go to the beach tomorrow, and that Svitsanna’s parents would be at the beach with Svitsanna and Dema. Yet after the beach, the children would go back to the orphanage and the parents back to their home. Perhaps they looked at it like some wealthy parents look at sending their kids away to boarding school for the year and seeing them periodically – on weekends, holidays and during the summer. Most of their parenting and mentoring comming from teachers and nannys. Perhaps it's not so strange if viewed within that context.

At the bus station, we called Valia and agreed to drive a few blocks closer to where we could met up with her. After waiting at the newly designated place, we saw Valia, her new baby and a middle aged lady walking towards us. The lady was Victor’s grandmother (Victor is Valia’s boyfriend). We spent several minutes admiring Valia’s new born baby, taking lots of pictures and observing Anastasia, Olga and Valia renew their sibling affection one for another.

Anastasia, Olga and Valia (Vanentina)

Tanya, Valia's new baby

Tanya, Valia's new baby

Morrow and Carla had told Valia that they wanted to purchase a ‘pram’ or stroller for her new baby, Tanya. We drove over to a row of shops, just behind the Djonkoy ‘market’, which specialized in baby paraphernalia. We all meandered around while Valia and her sisters decided on what stroller would be just right. Is it just me being 13 years out of the baby scene, or is it that European engineering has trumped the Americans in the baby stroller arena? These strollers were so cool! They had big eight inch rubber wheels – not the cheap plastic three inch wheels that graced the strollers we used to use with our children. These babies (the strollers) even had a spring suspension system in them that would help any mother to be victorious in negotiating the broken up sidewalks and pathways which are so common in Ukraine.

Baby supplies shop in Djonkoy

After the purchase of a new stroller

In a way I felt a bit sheepish that we had not offered anything for Valia’s new baby, but felt confident that the cash sum we had given Valia two weeks ago was more than sufficient as a gift of kindness. After Marrow had purchased a stroller for Valia, Vera came up to me and said: “So Calvin, I guess you agreed to purchase a new crib for Valia?” I looked at her with a surprised look on my face and said . . . “no – where did you get that information”? Vera said Anastasia had told her. I went and confronted Anastasia with this news (with Vera translating). I asked Anastasia if she was aware that we gave Valia money last time we were here visiting and she said ‘yes’. I asked her if she knew how much money we gave as a gift and she said ‘yes’. I then asked her where she got the idea that I was going to purchase a crib? Anastasia said: "When I looked into the baby’s eyes I told Valia and Vera that Papa would purchase a crib". Well, what could I say to that? Thirty minutes later I was carrying a crib up five flights of stairs to where Victor and Valia lived.

Valia with new crib

Camille, waiting outside Valia's apartment

A couple of babushkas outside Valia's apartment

Camille and Anastasia sharing a milkshake (milk which has flavoring in it and then it is 'shaked' - no icecream)

Vera, our translator, at lunch

Camille and Anastasia

Anastasia and Papa dancing to music from a nearby wedding party

After the stroller/crib purchasing ordeal, we all went to a restaurant and had a nice lunch. This was the same restaurant we (Cheryl and I) went to on our prior visit to Djonkoy to see Valia. On the way home, I started to have a few uncomfortable stomach cramps. I knew that things were pent up inside and asked Vulva, to pull over at the next stop where we could use a toilet. Well let me just say that I am officially “in the club” now that I have used an outside Ukrainian gas station toylette. I think all my nose hairs were singed off at the pungent smell of ammonia which shot through my nose.

"Arnolds" gym - at the base of the apartment complex we stayed in while Cheryl and I were in Feodocia. Carla and Marrow were staying in an apartment in the same complex. After arriving back in Feodicia, Vulva dropped them off and then took us to our hotel.

The sign to "Arnolds" gym

Camille and I were able to stay in a little hotel right in the center of town which was priced right. We were within walking distance to the center of town. After arriving back in Feodicia, Camille and I went wandering through all the little stands/kiosks which line the water front of Feodicia. We drank Kvas and diet coke, had our picture with a live peacock, shopped for souvenirs and ate ice cream. We then went to eat at Greenwich, which is a nice café which serves food cafeteria style. This is always good because you can see what you are ordering, which is usually a safe way to go. I then gave Camille the ultimate experience, a ride home in a hot, sweaty people-filled Ukrainian bus. “Velcom to Ukraine!” We had a blast!

Camille with a peacock on the Feodocia boardwalk

Calvin enjoying a bottle of Kvas at dinner (Calvin's new favorite drink)

Friday August 13, 2010

Natasha and Albert were at our apartment promptly at 7:00 a.m. and we were ready to go. When my alarm went off at 5:30 a.m., I felt kind of like you do on those Christmas mornings when you got to bed too late - but due to the importance of the occasion - you just push through the sleepiness. I brought a pillow with us, thinking that a two hour drive to Feodocia would be a gold mine of sleep time in which I could get caught up on a few Zs. Our two hour drive back to Feodocia was necessary where we needed to pick up the official court decree from the judge, get official papers signed and stamped by the inspector over childhood services in Feodocia, and get papers signed so we could withdraw funds Anastasia had in her bank account.

Calvin waiting outside our apartment prior to the arrival of Natasha and Albert

Camille waiting outside our apartment

While driving to Feodocia, all desire of sleep left me as we bounced down the two land road which we (Cheryl and I) had traveled so many times before. I hucked the pillow I brought into the back of Albert’s car and began to be filled with an excitement and exhilaration which surprised even me. It actually felt good to be back in Ukraine! Perhaps it was the familiarity of the old roads, the bustling of people pushing their way to morning work, or having my rather sheltered and non-traveled daughter along side to experience this with me.

I was surprised at how pleasant it now was in Feodocia, relative to when Cheryl and I were here. It was only about 90-95 F with high humidity compared to 100 – 105 with high humidity when Cheryl was here. After meeting with the judge, we met with the buxom inspector. The inspector’s assistance – a Ukrainian version of what Ichabod Crane’s wife would look like, was pouring over the details of another case. After about an hour in her air conditioned office (Camille sleeping for about 45 minutes) we obtained the necessary paperwork and stamps on Anastasia’s original birth certificate. We then went to the bank to meet Anastasia and Tamara, the director of the orphanage, to withdraw Anastasias funds and close her account.

Tamara is a delightful lady who is the director of the orphanage in Feodocia. She is rather traditional and “old school”. I noticed she had on her same white hat while doing business in town – the same hat she adorned when she came into town to go to our court hearing almost two weeks earlier. While hosting Anastasia last October 2009, we took Tamara out to dinner one evening and had an absolutely delightful time. Our dinner must have lasted 2 ½ hours because we enjoyed speaking with her so much. Our daughter Nadia came through flawlessly as she translated Tamara’s Russian and our English to one another so we could communicate. Tamara was able to give us valuable insight into Anastasia, her background, temperament, etc. prior to our decision to adopt her.

While crossing the street to go into the bank, Camille and Anastasia saw one another and ran and hugged each other. She also gave me a hug and seemed very pleased that we decided to come back and actually go through with the adoption process.

The bank was very busy, but after several minutes, we were able to withdraw about $1,030 US dollars in Ukrainian grevenia. Tamara handed the money to Anastasia, and directed her to give it to me. She kept back about 40 or so grivenia (about $5.00 US) and gave Papa the balance.

It was just after noon when we finished up at the bank and had to dash out and promptly go to Anastasias birth town of Krosnoperekops, which is a good 2 to 2 ½ hour drive from Feodocia. Anastasia didn’t need to be with us and wanted to spend time with Olga, so we dropped her off at the orphanage. We were able to meet Olga for the first time. Olga is a pretty 13 year old who has had the benefit of good parents and some refining influence which comes from three years of family life.

Olga and Anastasia

Camille, Anastasia and Olga

Camille, Anastasia and Olga

Natasha had made arrangements with the inspector/director of vital records in Krosnoparakops to have her new birth certificate officially printed. Anastasia wanted to spend time with her 13 year old sister, Olga, who was over here with her parents in Ukraine visiting her sister before she was adopted to American parents.

Our appointment in Krosnoparakops was from about 2:30 – 3:00 p.m. We were able to arrive very close to 2:30 p.m. We (Camille and I) sat in a hot, muggy office for about 15 minutes while Natasha and the inspector reviewed all the details of what needed to be done. A fan in the other room gave semblance of trying to cool both offices but to no avail in our office.

Camille and Calvin in front of the vital records office in Krosnoparakops

After our meeting, we left to go get something to eat while Anastasia’s new birth certificate was being prepared and printed. We were directed/recommended to a restaurant a couple blocks away. We were all very hungry as we had no time to stop for lunch. The place was an outside café which had a lot of charm really (Ukrainian style). The little pond in the center of the café patio courtyard was full of light brown mossy water, with plastic alligators to give it that authentic look. The only items being served on the menu were tomato and cucumber salad, pork chops, mashed potatoes, broth and coffee. I was thrilled with the choices because of hunger. I think I would have even been excited if they told me the only thing on the menu was alligator fresh from their pond. We enjoyed a nice lunch (minus the pork chops) and then went to run an errand for Natasha, who had to go to the bank.

Natasha (our facilitator), Albert (our driver) and Camille at a local cafe

Camille's introduction to Ukrainian toilets

When we arrived back at the Krosnoparakops vital records office, Natasha and I went in and Camille wanted to stay in Albert’s air conditioned car, knowing it was a sweat box inside the vital records office. I was needed inside to sign the request for Anastasia’s birth certificate in front of the inspector, as her new father. After I signed the necessary paperwork to officially request Anastasia’s birth certificate, we were able to obtain the completed certificate (minus the English translation).

The whole reason I flew to Ukraine 4 days early was for this meeting. It was a meeting Natasha arranged with inspector as she was going to go on vacation after her work on today (August 13th) and not return for a week. If I had come four days later on Sunday, it would have pushed the adoption process out another week. This was not acceptable as we wanted to get Anastasia (and Camille) enrolled at Provo High (and UVU), respectively by the end of the month – already a couple days past the first day of classes.

A bus stop with the name of the villiage where Anastasia was born

We arrived back in Simferopol about 7:30 p.m. We went inside and Camille was fast asleep by 8:00 p.m. I had to wake her and tell her I was going out to the shops to purchase a few items. When I got back at 8:30 p.m., it was dark and Camille was fast asleep. The next day she never remembered me telling her I was going out for a few groceries.

Thursday August 12, 2010

Frankfort Germany was a great place to be for about a 3.5 hour layover. Once again, after landing, we walked around the airport after we knew we were in the correct terminal, looking for a great restaurant. We finally landed in a German restaurant which served bratwurst, sausages and huge helpings of sour kraut and mustard. We had the most wonderful German breakfast with muesli, yogurt and fruit as well as a traditional German bratwurst and large helping of sour kraut. Camille had a plate with brie and other cheese and meats, delicious eggs and a wonderful basket of various breads and croissants, including a chocolate filled croissant which was to die for! After our shopping – including Camille’s purchase of a new clutch purse - we waddled to our gate and waited about ½ hour for our plane to board for our flight to Kiev.

Camille enjoying another delicious meal in Frankfort, Germany.

Calvin with his bowl of muesli

I remembered taxing to the runway and once our flight was cleared for take-off, I barely remember the acceleration of the plan as we began our assent. I was officially ‘down for the count’. After about 40 hours with little sleep, I finally gave into my body’s need for sleep and slept the majority of our two and ½ hour flight to Kiev.

When landing in Kiev, I was awakened out of a slight slumber as about half the plane’s passengers began clapping upon landing. At first I thought it was a “Thank goodness I’m in Ukraine” applaud, but when talking to our facilitator, Natasha, she indicated it is a tradition that people clap upon arrival to give praise to the pilot and crew for a safe landing. It is a nice gesture - and it’s like they say, "a bad landing is much better than a good wreck".

We were able to meet Natasha, our facilitator, at the airport in Kiev and transfer from terminal B to the terminal A so we could catch the last flight to our final destination, Kiev to Simferopol in the Crimea, the Autonomous Republic of Crimea.

We arrived in Simferopol where Albert, the husband of Oksana (a facilitator and good friend of Natasha), drove us to our apartment. Prior to doing so we stopped at the grocery store and picked up a few supplies to get us by for a couple days.

Our apartment is on the main level so stairs were not an issue – something that would have been a dream when Cheryl was over here the first leg of our journey. However, the best thing about our apartment is that it has free Wi-Fi for our laptop computers! Apparently our land lady lives next door and has a Wi-Fi connection so we just piggy back onto hers. The signal is a bit weak, but if you leave the kitchen door open and stay in the front room, it seems adequate. After we got to our apartment, Camille promptly fell asleep and I stayed up, reconciled my money spent to money on hand, surfed the net and got to bed by about 2:00 a.m. Natasha would be calling for us in five hours so I felt I needed a few good hours on a real fold out bed – Ukrainian style (which actually are much better than any American hide-a-way’s I’ve slept on).

Wednesday August 11, 2010

Well an adventure begins . . . again. Back to Ukraine but this time with my daughter, Camille. I hope this will be a good trip for her. As I was getting my airline tickets over at the Kennedy Center (at BYU) where the international travel agents are located, I read the following quote on the wall by Mark Twain: “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.” I am hoping this travel abroad experience with Camille will have a learning and broading affect on her, as it has on me.

Dad and Camille at the SLC airport prior to departue

Both of us (Camille and I) had no sleep the night before so we were quite tired arriving at the airport at 5:30 a.m. Our flight wasn’t until 7:50 but we were advised to get to the airport early as we had no assigned seats. After a leisure check in, we went and had a nice breakfast at Dick Clarks American Bandstand Restaurant. Camille was about ½ through her omelet when she discovered a bug had been included complementary – no additional cost. We pointed this out to the waitress and manager, who were very kind to ‘comp’ us Camille’s breakfast after bringing out a new meal.

Our plane to Chicago was rather small – a 2 X 2 seat plane with a total of about 80 seats, all of them occupied. About an hour into our flight I needed to use the restroom. I went to the back where the sole restroom was located and noticed the “occupied” / “unoccupied” sticker had been torn off, thus making it difficult to see if anyone was inside. I then noticed the door handle with the “push” sign directly over the latch. I went ahead and pushed on the handle and could not enter, thus confirming the restroom was indeed occupied. I waited a few minutes and another gentleman got up and waited in line with me – standing by his seat a few rows away. I thought I had better let the person in the lavatory know there were two travels who also needed to use the restroom so I gently knocked on the door – not too loudly to say “hey, hurry up”, but a gentle knock which said “Hmm just to give you a heads up, there is at least one person out here waiting to get in”. After a few more minutes, the guy in line gave me a stern look – like it was my fault or something. I just sheepishly shrugged my shoulders and pointed to the door as if to say – “hey it’s not my fault – talk to the person behind the door”. I pushed on the door handle again, wanting to see if perhaps I didn’t push hard enough the first time. Yup, sure enough it was locked. Another lady down a few rows from “Mr. Harsh Look” stood up so she could put her dibs in for the lavvy. It was becoming quite noticeable to some of the passengers near the plane that my father must be in the bathroom, complete with a magazine or good book to read. Just then the thought came to me that perhaps I should turn the knob and push. I followed my instincts and did that. I turned the knob, pushed on the door and to my surprise – and relief – found an empty restroom. I quickly entered, did my business and sheepishly walked back to my seat. As I passed Mr. Stern Look, I tried to explain to him the entire situation from the missing sticker on the restroom door, the “push” sign which should have read “turn and then push”, all in the two seconds as we passed each other in the isle. All that came out was some incomprehensible gibberish about “sign” and “push”. Embarrassed I just slinked back to my seat and started laughing as I told Camille what had happened.

Camille enjoying an Italian meal at Chicago Airport

After changing terminals, and calling home, we were able to hunt down another nice restaurant and have a delicious Italian meal. We were seated right next to the window so had a great view of the airport – not a spectacular view, but it had its own merits and interest. After a long and leisure lunch we meandered over to our gate and had a nice 30 minute wait until we boarded our flight from Chicago to Frankfort Germany complements of Lufthansa Airlines. I almost half expected, to hear the voice of Elder Deter Uchdorf welcoming us aboard the plane and hoping we would enjoy our flight. The 8+ hour ride was uneventful and I did manage to get an hour or so of sleep. I was able to get back into my book I started reading towards the end of our first leg to Ukraine with Cheryl, Three Cups of Tea, by Gregg Mortensen.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Greetings From America!

(Photos to come soon) So sorry for the big delay. The last week or so has been a little crazy. We are home — hooray! Minus a daughter – boo. There is a mandatory ten-day waiting period allowing individuals to step forward and protest the adoption, so we said a tender good-bye at the seaside where she was playing with the other orphanage children and got in our car and drove away. We were sad to leave Anastasia, but the excitement of coming back home to AMERICA! tempered our sadness. She seemed sad at our departure but happy at the thought of Dad returning with Camille after the 10 day waiting period. She ran back anxiously to the other children. I think she will be fine.

We arrived home Wednesday night at about 6:00 pm. There aren’t words to describe how wonderful my own bed and shower are! My home looked beautiful, my neighborhood looked beautiful and the mountains looked beautiful, but nothing looked as beautiful as my children. It was sooooo good to see Roman and Nadia at the airport. I couldn’t look at them enough. Camille was working and we caught up with her at home later and Christian is at EFY having the time of his life. He’ll be home Saturday, but I may have to sneak on campus just to give him a quick hug and a kiss.

Tuesday after we said good-bye, we drove the two hours to Simferopol to do some notarizing for Calvin’s return trip in a couple weeks, ate some lunch with Natasha our facilitator and our driver Albert and his wife Oksana (who is also a facilitator). We waited several hours in a sweaty airport terminal for our delayed flight to Kiev.

While I was going through the metal detector I of course, set it off. This is typical for me because I had an artificial knee made of titanium put in three years ago. I don’t think there are many titanium knees in Ukraine because it completely flummoxed the guard. He asked me if I had a paper for my titanium knee and when I said no, he asked if I had a Dr.’s note giving me permission to travel with a titanium knee. I again said no, and then he asked how we expected them to know it was a titanium knee. At this point, I got even sweatier (if it were possible) because I began to fear what I might have to do to prove I had a titanium knee! I suggested he wand the knee, which he did and it seemed to satisfy him, but he let me know by the disdainful final look he gave me that I had a lot of nerve travelling with a metal knee. Maybe I can leave it home next timeJ

The plane ride to Kiev was made more interesting and fun by two cute little girls occupying the seats in front of us. One little girl reached her hand over the top of her chair. I slipped a stick of gum into her fingers. It quickly disappeared and then the hand reappeared. I put an American dime into it, followed by a penny a nickel and a quarter. We then passed notes and pictures back and forth. At the end of the flight two cute little faces popped over the top of the seats. We smiled at each other and said good-bye. Natasha recognized the mother with the two girls as a famous international affairs anchorwoman in Kiev. It was refreshing to let my guard down and interact naturally with children. Natasha has warned us to not show too much interest in the children because she doesn’t want people thinking we’re scoping them out. This has been a little difficult for me because they are all so darn cute.

Court on Monday was a little stressful. They had had no American adoptions out of this city for years and nobody knew what to expect. There was a businesslike middle aged woman judge who had a kind face and two respected business people representing the people of Ukraine, a prosecuting attorney, the head of child affairs for Feodosia and the Director of the orphanage. We were nervous and grateful for the air conditioner. We were to stand every time we were addressed and introduced business, our education and ourselves and present formally what we desired of the court. Calvin had practiced saying Anastasia’s name correctly

(Ah-nahs-tah-see-yah Carp-oh-vah) so he would sound okay. They were free to question us but fortunately they asked fewer questions than we thought they would. The prosecutor started asking why we were adopting girls who were so old, in other words, she was implying that we might be doing unseemly things with these girls (Anastasia and Nadia). After pursuing this for a while, the judge got impatient with her questions and stopped her. It’s sickening to have people think these types of things of you, but I guess it’s a sad part of the process.

We were so happy when the judge declared her our daughter. It was such a relief and a really wonderful feeling to know that we belonged to each other. Natasha was visibly relieved, not knowing what to expect before hand and Tamara, the orphanage director was sweet and wonderful and congratulatory. It was really a wonderful day. We went out to eat some lunch, as we were all starving. Tamara, who is still not feeling really great, excused herself and went home. Anastasia did a great job in court and was very cute. They really didn’t ask her too many questions. In Sumy, they asked Nadia and Roman if they felt they could follow rules and live in a family and listen to their parents. I thought this was really a great thing for them to hear coming from a serious and very solemn judge, this judge never asked Anastasia anything like this. I really had a hard time not turning around to Natasha and giving her knuckles because of the incredible job she did translating. The judge spoke remarkably fast and Natasha kept right up with her. She’s good!

The reason why we haven’t blogged for so long was because we changed apartments. The location wasn’t really great because it was so far from the center of the city and it was 5 flights (no elevator) up. My knees were really feeling it after a while. The shower didn’t work, the bed was hard to the point that Calvin finally found two huge stuffed dogs in the house and tried laying them end to end and sleeping on them. Ironically, he got bit by fleas so apparently the stuffed dogs were infested. It was fodder for a million jokes, but it was enough and we finally yelled “uncle” and went to an apt that Vera had found for us.

Unfortunately after we hauled all the stuff up to the apt (no small task with all the stairs and the heat) the landlady said she thought we were staying 7 days instead of 5 and that she didn’t want us to stay there if we couldn’t stay the full 7 days. This was a little too much for my typically calm and gentle husband and he blew a gasket. Let me just say that it’s good she couldn’t understand English, but I think his body language made it clear how he felt about her. He knew she was just fishing for more money (which Vera confirmed later on) and he finally got fed up of being taken to the cleaners because we’re Americans. We have gotten to the point where we have to stay back until a cab price is negotiated because if they know who we are the price goes up 20-40%.

So, we literally ended up back on the curb with our luggage around us…..homeless. Natasha called our van driver er… Mulva back and he gave us the sound advice to make sure we’re actually staying next time, before we carry all the luggage up J. We ended up spending the rest of the day searching around town for an apt that would work for us. By 10:30 my knees hurt, I was tired, hot and frustrated and I’m ashamed to say I finally broke down a little. We found a hotel and spent the night there in a comfortable flea-free environment. After a restful night and a good shower we were prepared for whatever the day would bring. We found out that sweet little Anastasia called bright and early to find out how we were. She was really concerned for us.

Vera came through and found us a really nice apt in a great location which was only on the second floor. Calvin settled in, nursed his fleabites and began a serious rivalry with Natasha to see who could pound down the most watermelon. I think she may have won. We had no computer access anywhere nearby so we were unable to blog or respond much to emails. Our phone access was even kind of sketchy. We apologize and thank everyone for their kind concern for us and wonderful comments. You don’t know how they keep you going when things are a little less than ideal.

Those few days after we found our new apt were filled with an excursion to the beach where we enjoyed the beautiful warm water, marveled at the sand which actually turned out to be not sand at all but billions of tiny sea shells. We bought the children all a pastry dessert from a lady who peddled them at the beach and enjoyed playing in the water with Anastasia and the other beautiful children. Calvin also took Anastasia to Avatar and some street dancing movie. She loved it! She is very affectionate with the other children, particularly the little ones. This orphanage is truly like a little family. We returned to the orphanage a few times to play ping-pong and to get to know the other children better.

Calvin just found out that he will be returning in just a few days to Ukraine. This week in America is very busy and full as we bring Calvin’s 90 year old father home from the Rehabilitative Center and get him settled, catch up at work, celebrate our daughter Camille’s birthday and take care of a flood we had in the basement. We have given up hope of ever turning a hand to our poor neglected garden, but there will be other years for that. After returning from Ukraine and seeing our beautiful daughter, we have become convinced again that some growing things will wait - and others will not.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Sunday July 25, 2010

We just returned from church in Simferopol.  What an incredibly small world.  I met a patient of mine whose teeth I had cleaned in my office in January!  She is from Springville and had served as a missionary in Ukraine and then returned to stay with a Ukrainian companion to tour around and see the sites.  It was fun!  We also took photos of the American missionaries and took their mother’s numbers so I can call them. They’re all so cute!  Made me miss my dear missionary son!  I hope he is as happy and well as these Elders appear to be.  There was also an Elder who served in Donetsk with Noel Ellison.  He taught gospel doctrine class and is darling.

It was so wonderful listening (through our very excellent translator, Sasha) to the testimonies of the dear Saints in Ukraine.  Technically, this is the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and for all intents and purposes, seems more Russian in culture – I really don’t get it but I think it’s kind of like our Indian tribes where they still need to keep all the laws of Ukraine but can add on or be more restrictive. (Sorry, little side trip there.)  

These members here are a miracle – each and every one! I think that the Lord has hidden some of his most choice spirits in this “nethermost part of the vineyard.” I can’t believe what they have to overcome in a cultural way to even be open to the Spirit. This is not a “believing” culture and religion holds very little value for most of them.  In fact, many have been raised to scorn it or be suspicious of it, or believe that it’s for weaklings.  How they have remained so spiritually sensitive is mystery to me. It renews my faith!

Even through a translator I received inspiration for what’s going on in my life today.  We all need church and it felt renewing and spiritually invigorating to take the sacrament and reflect on things.  Jacob 5 seems to be a recurring theme that has come up again and again to us recently. It was exactly where we left off as a family in our Book of Mormon reading when we came here. We also keep bumping into it in our scripture study here in Ukraine. We gave each other a meaningful look when a sister at church expounded on it in her talk. It was a tender mercy with a strong message that speaks of our own personal mission here in Ukraine.

We had to get up at 5:30 and take a sweaty, squished two-hour bus ride to church and then an even sweatier, squished two-hour bus ride back. I guess it was our nod to Pioneer Day. But, all is well, we made it back to the apartment. We were so impressed the way Anastasia got us home from Simferopol. The bus station is the central connecting hub for all of Crimea, and very, very busy. She was able to negotiate things and get us from the church to a bus stop, then to the central hub, purchase the tickets, help us order lunch and find the cab ride to our apartment. Frankly, she’s a smarter cookie than I thought we were getting. We loved her when we didn’t know she was so bright, but this is like a bonus! 

 The McDonalds right by the bus station.  Note the crowds.  No we have not yet eaten at Micky Dees - yeah!