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invasion of odessa

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Have I mentioned we haven’t had a whole lot of sleep lately?
Um…yea.

We’re kind of sleep deprived...and at this point, it’s not too pretty.
After our Wednesday afternoon nap, Lev called with the plan.
He wanted us to call a cab and meet him at the train station at 9:30 p.m. We were taking the overnight train to Odessa.
My moment of truth had come.
I was finally going to be riding the train - long distance.
I immediately started limiting water intake.
Anything to avoid the 'facilities.'

What can I say? Desperate times call for desperate measures.
Lev said to have the driver show up at 8 p.m….just in case the bridge across the D'nipro was congested. Bogdan thought it was a little early, but he called the cab for us anyway. Bogdan was right.
The driver had us to the depot by 8:15.
We had over an hour and a half to wait.
And it was cold.
We started out waiting in the big lobby by the Christmas (or New Year’s) tree…but it was freezing in there. Don’t they heat that place? So we moved into the ticketing area and stood by the wall to wait.
Now, without a whole lot to do, we didn't have many options for entertainment. We'd already spent the last 48 hours with each other...and three of the five weeks before that.

We've talked about everything we could talk about.
So we people watched.
One babushka slumped over on the bench while taking a nap. I was worried she would fall off...no one else seemed to mind.

A security guard escorted a couple of homeless men out of the heated room and back out into the cold. I don't know if there are homeless shelters in Kiev (I doubt it), but if they don't I don't know how these people survive the winter.
And another group of men huddled together, tipping back bottles of liquor, laughing loudly and cracking jokes.
Everyone else just pretty much sat motionless, staring off into space…not making eye contact or smiling at anyone at all.
Sigh.
We also had enough time for Meshack and I to make last minute trips across the street to Mikky-Ds. For those of you about to travel - it's the only place for miles around with a decent bathroom, but in order to use the facilities, you have to buy something so you can get a code to open the door.

We bought a bottle of water.
I only took tiny sips.
I wasn’t taking any chances.
Finally, Lev showed up and led us to the train.
It wasn’t bad, honestly. The cabin was fine. We bought all four bunks so we would have the place to ourselves. The three of us set up our bunks, then sat back and chewed the fat for awhile. (I wonder if Lev knows that expression.)
Then Lev filled us in on what the process would look like in the next couple of days.
About 11 o'clock he climbed in the top bunk and urged us to get some sleep.
Yea…right.
It was the middle of the day back home. How in the world were we going to sleep? That’s the thing about jet lag…it doesn’t care if you’re sleep deprived or not…you just can’t sleep when you’re supposed to.
I didn’t sleep a wink…the whole way there.
I watched a movie on the laptop, watched the darkness go by out the window, listened to Meshack’s MP3 player for three hours and spent some good quality time looking at the bottom of the bunk above me.
I thought about pulling my one and only book out of the suitcase, but I didn’t want to read another book and have absolutely nothing left to occupy my time for the next three weeks.

I was stuck.
About an hour before we were scheduled to arrive, the conductor went through and turned on all the lights...waking everyone up.
The line to the bathroom was loooong.
I wasn't in it! :)
An hour later we pulled in Odessa.
Now in order to fully appreciate this next part you have to use your imagination...or maybe pull up a audio file with sound effects.
I promise it's worth it.
The train came to a stop, but true to Lev form, we took our time.
We were the absolute last people off the train.
Not only that...we were the last people to disembark from the next to last car on the train.
Everyone was way ahead of us.
Remember that...NO ONE ELSE WAS AROUND.
Lev got off first, then me and then Meshack handed the luggage down to Lev.
We brought two roll-along suitcases with us (I'm so proud of ourselves). I grabbed the smaller of the two and Meshack grabbed the handle of the larger one. And we took off.
Now remember NO ONE ELSE WAS AROUND.
To paint the picture - the platform in Odessa is brick lined...it's really pretty. And the workers had done a great job of clearing the snow off to make it nice and safe for us. Two trains also share the same platform, so we were walking in between them, which means there was a lot of echoing.
I think you know where I'm going with this.
'Whop, whop, whop, whop, whop, whop, whop...'
I'm telling you it sounded like a squadron of Black Hawk helicopters were flying low overhead. All we needed were the sounds of bombs and machine gun fire.
It was so embarassing.
And the worst part was, and I hate to admit this...
In my jet-lag induced fog it took me a while to figure out what was really going on. I kept looking up, expecting to see something...anything.
Finally, people started staring...and it dawned on me.
Sigh.
Yep...that's us. The crazy Americans are invading Odessa...with two suitcases, four carryons, a teddy bear and an etch-a-sketch.
Sigh.
I needed some sleep.
Unfortunately the adventure doesn't end there. I would end this post on the line above...because it's such a great tag, but I have to get to the court hearing before you all reach through your computers and start choking me...and we have so much to tell BEFORE court even begins.
So here we go....
Remember the point I made about having only three hours to get ready for court.
Well, it turns out that wasn't quite right. Lev isn't great at estimating time...we actually had five hours. The problem was, he hadn't reserved any hotel space before we got here, so we drove around for two of our five hours looking for some place to stay.
We ended up at a flea-bag older hotel with two twin beds jammed in a bedroom the size of a small office, no food, no drinking water (just when I was actually allowing myself to drink :), no internet connections...nothing but a hot shower.
I'll take that hot shower...but you can keep the room. (More in a later post)
So we ended up with only three hours after all.
And not even three hours, because we had to run some errands before court.
Our main stop was the orphanage. It seems the director was 'disappointed' with the amount of our 'donation' and to keep everything pleasant, our faciliator told her he would ask us to up the amount of our donation.
Before court.
$300 more.
Thankfully my Sunday School class, in the kindness of their hearts, had collected an offering for the orphanage, but it was going to be a surprise donation...one where I could take pictures of all the things we bought so they could see how they had helped.
I'm sorry to say there will be no pictures.
We went by her office to drop it off. Lev walked into the office, shut the door, then five minutes later called us inside.
She had another request. It seems that overnight one of the computers died and needed to be replaced.
Uhhh Hmmmmm....
We told her the truth.
'We're sorry...but this adoption is costing us an arm and a leg...not to mention lots of money. If we have any left over when we're done, we'll send you some. But I wouldn't hold your breath.'
Okay...we didn't add the last sentence.
She seemed alright with that. Thankfully. She really is a nice lady. I'm sure she was just trying to do her job.
Sigh.
Finally, it was time to go to court.

5 salty messages:

kate January 12, 2008 at 12:52 AM  

i've done that overnight to odessa! i am a bit of a princess who needs her own bed. i was awakened every time we went past a station that had it's lights on. plus, i was excited to get there.

i can only imagine the excitement you must've been feeling as you made that ride!

will you bring Maddie back on the train by yourself?

MamaPoRuski January 12, 2008 at 12:08 PM  

Wow, I'm exhausted just reading this! What a difference an orphage director makes! We made our donation before we took our son from the orphanage,after he was legally ours, by way of purchasing an agreed upon item and giving it to them. She insisted we keep the receipt. We were not aware our child also had a bank account with his government stipen and the director kindly informed us so we could have it for his expenses! Don't forget to ask once the process is over, and then maybe you can "donate" that to her as well! (I suggest purchasing items you know has to be used on kids like formula, diapers and small clothes...)

Nataliya January 12, 2008 at 3:29 PM  

I'm glad you survived the train ride! It was not that bad, was it?

I can't say I'm surprised by the director's request for more donation, unfortunately it happens very often in Ukraine...

DoveFamily January 12, 2008 at 7:05 PM  

Good for you. We were so sick and tired of people asking us to donate more money, I felt like grabbing them and just telling them that all Americans are not filthy rich and it should be enough that we are trying to take care of their children. We look forward to seeing and hearing more about your trip. Can you post some photos of Odessa in the winter? We missed most of the snow.

Anonymous,  January 14, 2008 at 10:04 AM  

I just love the way you write. It's like I was on that trip with you. Thanks for the great account! (Loved the "whop-whop-whop" of the rolling suitcases, ha, ha.) I can't believe the nerve of those orphange people asking for a larger "donation." Good grief. - Melinda H.

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