Saturday, January 24, 2009
One year ago...
I woke up bright and early this morning...ready to head to the orphanage.
Lev didn't. He slept in.
Okay...he didn't really sleep in. He left at 5 a.m. to meet the first train to pick up some paperwork Meshack sent over. I guess I can't complain too much, but he didn't get back up and around until 10 a.m...and by that time I was about ready to drag him out the door by the collar of his black leather coat!
There were a million items on the agenda today. We had to...
- Translate the document Lev picked up.
- Apply for Maddie's passport.
- Get some pictures taken for the orphanage and for the embassy.
- Check Maddie out of the orphanage.
- Hand out all of the gifts I brought with me.
I am a procrastinator at heart...so I used everyone's sage advice to wait until I arrived in the region to purchase anything to my advantage. My excuse...it would save on valuable luggage space and weight and would give me something to do during the 10 day wait.
Unfortunately, I didn't take advantage of the 10-day wait. Being a true procrastinator I waited until the last minute.
Like five minutes before we left for the orphanage.
Actually I was a little better than that. I had purchased most of the gifts the night before at a office supply store across the street. I bought the orphanage lawyer and inspector a nice pen set each. A little impersonal, but when you're desperate you're desperate...besides I don't really know these women. The only time I saw them was on the day we met Maddie and again on the court date.
Have I mentioned I don't like this part of the process?
So anyway...I woke up this morning and realized the present I actually did bring with me for the orphanage director, just wasn't right. It wasn't her. I needed something else.
So I dragged Lev across the street to help me pick out something else.
Five minutes later I came out with yet another pen set, a year planner and a binder thingy that he said would be good.
I quickly brought it back to the apartment, put it in a gift baggie and off we went.
We walked through the scary alley (which isn't so scary in the daytime) to find a late 70's model Lada waiting for us.
I had never seen anything so beautiful.
I didn't care that it was a leftover from the Soviet era. This rusted out piece of history was taking me to my daughter.
It could have been a turnip truck for all I cared.
Today was Gotcha Day!
I have to say - what the tan Lada lacked in outward styling, it more than made up for in digital quality sound. The guy had the little matchbox tricked out.
There was a video player in the dash, which I prayed he wouldn't watch WHILE we were driving. And the stereo was good enough to make Vanilla Ice sound good.
With 'Ice, Ice Baby' blaring out of the back speakers, we raced through the streets of Odessa on our way to the orphanage.
This time I didn't care.
We couldn't get there fast enough.
We arrived at the Orphanage number 1 a short time later. I paid the cabbie 40 grivna and said my customary 'spasiba'. As I was getting out he said, 'Congratulations.'
How awesome was that?!
I said thank you - this time in English, grabbed my five bags and walked through the gate. We first went to the administrative building. Lev was going to ask to use one of their computers to translate Meshack's document. He told me to go ahead and hand out the presents while I waited.
So I did.
First, I gave a little present to the director's secretary. Paulina had been a godsend. She called cabs for me everyday...and made to sure they called to let her know when they had arrived - so I wouldn't have to wait out in the cold.
She always had a smile for me...a rare treat.
Another small gift went to the security lady, Lara, who buzzed me in every morning. She was the one I did charades with to get to Paulina...she was also almost like a babushka (grandmother) to Maddie. Every time Maddie saw Lara, she would run up to the woman, give her a hug and then hold her hand out for the piece of candy that was sure to come. Lara always made time for Maddie.
The rest of the gifts were for the lawyer, doctors, caregivers and director. I also left a little box of cookies for the kids.
I hope they get them.
Finally I sat down to wait for Lev.
I waited, and waited (anyone want to chime in here?)...and waited.
Two hours later he was finally done.
Or so I thought.
The plan was to go ahead and take Maddie to apply for the passport and get those pictures taken and then bring her back to the orphanage to check her out.
To save time, though, Lev decided to go ahead and fill out the paperwork now, so we wouldn't have to do it later. That was a first.
So he translated the form for me, I filled in the blanks. It went pretty well, but then he started walking from one office to another...I have no idea what he was doing, but he would literally walk out of one office, walk through another door, come back out a few minutes later, go down the hall to another office, then come back to the first.
He did this at least five times.
I guess no one believes in holding meetings.
Anyway...finally he said it was time to go get Maddie.
Unfortunately by this time she was already in the middle of her nap.
The caregivers were none to happy about waking her up and then they saw the coat I had brought for her. Lev translated what the woman said to me, but there was no need. I could tell.
She thought it was too 'flimsy' (that's the word he used)...and wasn't good enough.
Let's not go there lady! Alright?!
You are speaking to a woman who has been waiting in this country FOREVER...way longer than should be necessary!!! I have three children at home who I haven't seen in WEEKS and who do not freeze in the winter. I know how to dress my child!!!! And she IS my child now, so if you don't want to put the coat on her, I'll do it myself.
Besides if you will look in the backpack you are holding you will find a shirt, a sweater, an undershirt to go along with the coat.
SHE WILL BE FINE!!!!
No, of COURSE I didn't say that...but I sure WANTED to!!!
I sighed...pulled out the clothing, the woman gave me a dirty look and turned around to go get Maddie dressed.
So much for international relations.
A few minutes later a groggy Maddie walked into the room in the clothes I had packed...except for the scarf and gloves. Thinking that they didn't think my scarf and gloves were good enough, I grabbed the bag, pulled them out, took the stuff off that she had on and replaced it myself.
Then we turned and walked out.
Little did I realize we wouldn't be coming back.
We grabbed a cab and Maddie's adventure began.
Her reaction her first car ride was mixed. At first she was overwhelmed and pretty much stayed glued to my side. I was worried about her throwing up so I asked if the driver could take it easy.
It didn't help much.
But a few minutes into the ride, Maddie climbed onto my lap to look out the window. We talked about cars and busses, vans and trucks.
She loved every minute of it.
Okay, this next part I am not making up....seriously.
I was in ANOTHER minor fender bender.
I'm telling you I must have some sort of magnetized attraction to the worst luck in finding cabbies.
Actually, I don't know if you can call this an accident.
It was more of an incident.
Our car...another lada..scraped fenders with a Toyota SUV.
I'm not even sure the cabbie felt it. No one stopped. No one seemed to care.
But I'm telling you, it happened.
I wish I could swear off riding in cabs. Unfortunately I can't do that until I get on a plane out of here. THEN...I will vow never to ride in a taxi again.
Unless of course it's driven by Brad Pitt.
Then I MAY reconsider.
Finally we arrived at the passport office.
Maddie did great.
She stayed right beside me, but talked with everyone she came upon. Not tantrums, no boredom (except for mine)...she was a trooper.
We ended up having to wait for an hour or so for our passport appointment, so we went back to the apartment and waited while Lev went to have a document notarized right across the street.
While we waited, Maddie had a snack of yogurt, juice, Pringles and a banana.
Mmmmm...quite a combination.
Finally it was time for us to head over to the notaries office where I signed my John Hancock. Again, Maddie did great. She played with stuff in my purse and just babbled to herself. She charmed the socks off the lawyer, which is tough to do. That lady is a toughie.
After that was done, we headed back to the passport office to finish up her application. The ladies in the passport office loved Maddie. They gave her two pieces of candy before they took the picture and then gave her another for being such a big girl.
The girl is a charmer.
This is where I realized it had all gone wrong.
I thought we were catching another cab to head back to the orphanage to check Maddie out. But Lev started walking.
We walked and walked and walked.
Finally, I go up the nerve to ask.
Turns out, unbeknownst to me, we had already checked her out. We weren't going back to the orphanage. She was mine.
But what about taking pictures with the oraphange workers? Asking about her schedule? Getting good luck notes from everyone who knew her?
What about that?
What was done, was done.
So I have no pictures of Maddie with her groupa. I have no pictures of her with her caregivers. I have no notes of encouragment from the orphanage director.
I have nothing.
Why doesn't that surprise me?
I had checked my child out of the orphanage and didn't even know it.
It was a great day...it was just a little marred by the disappointment.
There would be no goodbye for Maddie.
On the way back to the apartment, we stopped by McDonalds for some chicken nuggets to go. I was too tired and disappointed to fix any meat for supper, but figured if I combined the nuggets with some noodles and corn I'd have a meal fit for a princess.
She loved it.
Then we watched a little VeggieTales - it was lost on her. I guess you've got to know the language to truly appreciate Bob and Larry.
Finally it was bath time.
It wasn't fun.
For the first three kids this part of the first night 'home' was a breeze. Everybody loved bath time.
Not this kid...she screamed.
The entire time.
So much so, I worried the neighbors would call the Ukranian version of social services.
We survived...but only because I used my hands to rinse her hair - that took forever. She was so upset she was shaking...visibly.
I pulled her out of the tub, dried her off, put on some lotion (which she loved) and then got her dressed. As soon as she was in her footie pj's she climbed up in my lap for a good cuddle.
I just finished watching her drift off to sleep.
It doesn't get any better than that.
Since I don't have any pictures from the orphanage today, here is some video I took after we got home. Enjoy!