We left on a Sunday and arrived in Europe on Monday afternoon. Our appointment for the referral of the first boy was on Tuesday morning. The team from Reece's Rainbow works together like a real team, each member having his or her task to do to make everything run seamlessly. We were picked up and driven from the airport to our apartment by our driver who then escorted us to the grocery store to change money and make sure we understood what to buy and how to buy it. Here we are at the bottles of milk, Art and I bewildered to find there were no gallons! gasp!
Our apartment was fine, except cold. It was unseasonably cold when we were there and the government had not turned on the heat yet. The nights were freezing temps so I was cold, but besides that, we were comfortable and had everything we needed pretty much. It certainly was much more comfortable than other places we have been on adoption trips!
The view out our balcony.
We skyped with the kids at least once a day. What a marvelous thing skype is.
There were beautiful buildings everywhere.
It was much hillier than I expected. And many of the streets were cobblestones, making for an authentic, albeit very bumpy ride.
We toured some interesting churches, and saw some beautiful things.
This was a hot food place in the grocery store. We took out from here for several meals, cheap, hot and yummy.
Ocean Plaza was a huge, high end, new mall. We killed some waiting time walking around the mall for a few hours. It had an ocean theme, with lots of interesting decor, fountains, and this huge aquarium.
As in all parts of adoption, there is a lot of hurry up and wait. After our Tuesday morning appointment for our referral, we had to get some documents notarized Wednesday morning, and return to the office to pick up the referral paperwork late Wednesday afternoon. Very early on Thursday morning we set out with our driver and facilitator/translator, approximately a five hour drive to the first boy's region.
We arrived in the city where the child services office that has authority over his institution is situated. We went to child services to pick up the child services lady who was to come with us to the institute.
From there it was about an hour's drive over very rural roads to get to the institution. It was a very bumpy but very interesting ride. I enjoy seeing how people of the world live, especially out in the more rural areas. The countryside here was quite beautiful.
Eventually we reached the institution, and went to the locked gate and rang the buzzer.
This is just inside the gates, at the top of several sets of stairs down to this building, which seemed to be the offices for the institute. The buildings the people lived in were behind this building.
We were taken to a room with some tables and chairs and a desk, and sat waiting for "Emmitt" to be brought in. Besides us, there was the child services lady, our translator and facilitator, the social worker from the institute, the doctor, as well as other institute staff, and the director who showed up towards the end. This was a lot of "official" adult people together to meet a boy who had spent fifteen years in an institute where very few people every came to visit, a place seemingly in the middle of nowhere.
Understandably, when he came in, he was very nervous. He was blinking, and I noticed he was literally shaking. I felt so bad for him and tried to put him at ease. With all the official people around trying to do the business at hand, it was somewhat difficult to communicate effectively with him. We had brought various things, not knowing at what level he would be. He was interested in the book we brought, which had pictures of each member of our family, and our home. To our surprise, he began reading the Ukrainian that I had had translated in the book, and we realized that somehow in the midst of this mental institute where nobody received any formal education, somehow someone had taken the time to teach him to read, and he obviously wanted very much to learn it, or it would not have happened.
It would take far too long, and many pages, to write all that we saw that day, and our emotions and reactions and thoughts. To say it was overwhelming would just be an understatement. To try to explain it would almost seem to belittle the whole experience. To be allowed this glimpse into a place where so few people ever had peeked, and to hold hands, and look in the eyes of those who deserved to be loved and valued, was humbling and agonizing and made me feel that familiar desperation to do something, however small, for the least of these. The time seemed to go by very quickly, and I could not take it all in at the time. I spent much time thinking, remembering, and trying to process all the things I saw and heard and felt. I would have liked a long time to spend, just trying to interact with each of the people I met there, and yet, it all flashed by so quickly it took my breath away.
And then our focus needed to be on "Emmitt". The day was cool, but nice, and they wanted us to walk him outside. We had brought a remote control car, and he was enjoying that, so we brought it all outside. He warmed up to us some, and began to talk and smile more. But as we walked further down the roadway in front of his building, he became nervous and told the translator he wanted to go back. He did not like going too far past what was familiar. I can only imagine what is going through his mind, and how overwhelming it all must be for him. I don't know how to make it any easier on him. I do know what he will have to go through just to get home where we can even begin to help him reclaim some of the lost years of his youth, and I know that it will not be easy for him. And for these things, we pray each day, as we await the next step. He is a very sweet boy, and we long to help him reach his potential, and have the chance for a future full of hope and love.
Maggie gave me this rock she painted to bring with us on our trip. Here we are with her rock in front of our hotel.
On Friday we had a driver drive us back to the institution again, while our facilitator ran around doing the necessary paperwork. This time, it was just us and the institute's social worker. Even she was much more relaxed without all the official people there. She tried to help us communicate with "Emmitt" and we both had our phones out with Google translate, having fun trying to pantomime and make ourselves understood. There are so many things I would have liked to have asked him, and have told him, but without a translator, it was just left to us to laugh and simply communicate our desire to be with him, and that we were safe to be with, and cared about him. This may just be all that was necessary for now.
When we left a few hours later, he told the social worker to spell into the phone, "Mama, I will wait for you." He gave me an awkward sort of hug, and I left with a heart and mind full.
We had to get back to the capital city in order to get our appointment for the next boy's referral. We left in the evening for the five hour drive back, and arrived back at our apartment quite late. Those few days had been a whirlwind, and now we had three days to just sit and wait around, hoping that our next appointment would be granted for the following Tuesday.
To our great relief, it was, and we began the deja-vu trip that next Tuesday morning. The referral appointment was again, fairly uneventful. This time the woman spoke a very long time to our facilitator, who eventually included us to explain to her why we would want to adopt these boys. As I explained, her eyes filled with tears, to my surprise. Wednesday afternoon, we picked up our official referral and headed to the train station for the trip to "Frank's" region.
We stopped to eat at the McDonald's at the train station since we got there early. It was very crowded and busy. Beside the McDonald's was this McFoxy. I asked what it was, and apparently it is a McDonald's only it serves beer. We found this amusing.
I had heard many things about the overnight train ride, and none of them were good. I had always thought it would be fun to take an overnight train somewhere, but never thought I would ever get the chance. We were told that most people do not like to take the train, and prefer to drive when possible. I was set up to expect to be disappointed.
But inside we had a room to ourselves, with beds to stretch out on, a door that locked for privacy and security, a table, and someone who came by offering coffee or tea. It was heated and for once I was warm on the trip. The train started and as it picked up speed I settled into the feeling of the clickety clack and the gentle rocking and swaying. It put me to sleep. It was the most comfortable sleep. Thirteen hours later we were there and refreshed and ready.
Here we are with Maggie's rock again. We don't really look all that refreshed, but all things considered, we were. Art's eyes were closed because his contacts were bothering him.
This was going into "Frank's" institute. We had to wait around a while until we were allowed to meet him. In his case he was very prepared to meet us. He came in and was so excited he could hardly contain himself. Apparently this was something he had been waiting and hoping for for a long time, and he eagerly went from thing to thing that we brought for him. He especially enjoyed our family book, and would bring it to show anyone who came in the room. He seemed very active and curious. We did not particularly have anyone to translate for us as our facilitator was working furiously to get all the paperwork completed.
It was difficult to find accommodations that night since the town was celebrating its 605th anniversary and all the hotels were full. We were finally able to secure an apartment for the night.
The next day we had even less time with "Frank" and lots of driving around for documents and notarizations.
This was the town we were in for "Frank". His village was about a half hour drive from here. This city was very beautiful, with cobblestoned streets and interesting architecture. That evening we headed to the train station again for the 13 hour train ride back to the city. This ride was just as nice.
Back in the capital city, we had one night before our flight back home. Since our other apartment was occupied, we were brought to this apartment, closer to the downtown area. We were in a nice apartment on the fifth floor, and for the first time in two weeks, there was a bathtub. I thoroughly enjoyed soaking the chill out of my bones for a short while.
This was taken with Art's phone and is hard to see, but it shows the size of the elevator. It could barely fit two people in it. But at least there was an elevator. The first apartment had been on the fourth floor, and there were just steps. Everywhere we went there was a lot of walking and many many steps and stairways. Perhaps that is why the people there are all so slim!
It was a beautiful place to stay. The major street was closed off and there was much activity by the evening of vendors and street people offering various things. We wandered around exploring and enjoying all there was to see. I wondered if I wouldn't want to request this apartment next time, as the location was so interesting, and the apartment itself was much nicer, but then I had to weigh the fact that the other apartment had the grocery store right across the street and was very convenient in that way.
We walked into a "buffet" fir breakfast and Art was quickly offered a plate of sausage with "two free beers"! We laughed. Beer for breakfast? We accepted the sausage but declined the beer. This was one mighty full plate of sausages!!
A few hours later we were on our plane headed home to our babies again. I could not wait to see them. The flight home was long and tiring, but the first leg is complete and all went smoothly, all things considered. Now we await our court dates. Many people stay in country throughout this time, which we hoped might just be a week later. As it turns out, because of some issues in "Emmitt's" documents, the earliest our court date can be is the end of the month. So we wait. And so do they. Waiting on the next step....
You can continue to follow us in our private group on Facebook (we are not permitted to post photos or specific information until we have passed court), and those who feel led to join us in bringing these boys home can contribute to the expenses of this journey by clicking on the Reece's Rainbow link at the top right of this page.
And most of all, we covet your prayers to cover all of this.