Our Kazakhstan Journey

Welcome! Gary and I want to share our experiences as we travel to Kazakhstan for or child(ren).

Location: South Florida, United States

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

The Longest Day

The Longest Day
August 6, 2006- I woke up this morning with a “to do” list that seemed impossible to complete. Our Lufthansa flight is scheduled to leave Miami International Airport at 3:30 PM. Why is it that no matter how much you prepare ahead of time, there always seems to be more to do. It is a mad rush to complete everything…set up bill payment, give a quick lesson on hurricane preparation, repack because you’ve learnt the weight limits are no longer 70 and 50 lbs but 50 and 50. A month is a long time and 100 lbs seems totally inadequate (we are both notorious for being heavy packers). But finally at 1:30 all the luggage is locked and stowed in the SUV and we are on our way to MIA. The flight to Frankfurt, Germany was uneventful. We were fortunate that we had three seats to ourselves, since the flight was 8 and a half hours. Then came the L-O-O-O-N-G 6 hour layover in the Frankfurt airport. If you thought MIA was unfriendly, Frankfurt takes it up to an entirely new level. People sitting in the aisles, the smoke (why do Europeans smoke so much?). Take you pick smoke or B.O. (that’s body odor). Anyway, we finally are set to depart when I find out that our flight doesn’t go directly to our final destination of Almaty, it stops in Astana (the capital) and then goes to Almaty. On the transport bus from the gate to the airplane I happen to run into the Deweys. They are a really nice couple from Arizona that I have been exchanging e-mails with over the past two weeks. We were all using the same agency, just going to different regions..them to Astana and us to Almaty. We finally arrive at Almaty at 1:30 AM Kazakh time on August 8 (that’s 3:30 PM EST, August 7). Immigration and Customs are uneventful and thankfully our driver Vladi…..something (we were way too tired to get the full name) is there with a large sign with our names. After a 20-30 minute ride we arrived at our flat which is quite spacious with a living room, kitchen, bedroom, bathroom and lots of closet space but no A/C or fans and it is HOT!!! We both vow to purchase a fan tomorrow…or it will become soon become the longest month.

Meet Kristin Alexandra
August 8, 2006 Galina and Igor picked us up at the flat at 1 PM. Galina is Tatyana’s assistant and will be our escort and translator, hopefully throughout our entire stay. We take what seemed to be about a 90 minute drive to the town of Yessik. The drive is very scenic. We drove through rural areas that reminded us of the Jamaican countryside, old men on donkeys, and fields of corn and sunflowers. We also could see the snow capped mountains that separate Kazakhstan from China. The people’s looks are varied…some look really Chinese and others look really Russian, but most looked somewhere in between (Eurasian). We finally arrived at the orphanage or “baby house” as it is called in Russia and Kazakhstan. It is a large two storey building with a playground directly outside. As we disembarked from the van, we noticed four ladies seated on a bench under a tree. They each have one baby. They looked at us and spoke to each other in what I assumed to be Russian. What would they think about us? We walked down a walkway and entered the building. It is very neat and clean inside. Galina explained that they will take us to the music room to meet our child. The baby house’s physician and director are currently at court but they will meet with us later. However she said that we will have the opportunity to meet the baby prior to their return. The music room had a piano in one corner and was filled with toys, walkers and other baby accoutrements. You would think that you were in a well-run day care center in the United States. Galina also explained that they have only one child to show us at this particular baby house. Naturally, we inquired what would happen if we did not feel that this was the right child for us. She explained that we would then have to do more paperwork to request to go to another region, and this would delay the process. In our minds, we thought that maybe we could end up going home without one. We put these thoughts aside and prayed and hoped for the best. Finally, after a few tense and anxious minutes, one of the caretakers brought in a baby bundled from head to almost toe in pink clothing. (The toes were in a very bright sunflower yellow). I was unsure if it was a boy or girl as they tend to dress the children in whatever clothing is available at the time. Well it was a girl, her name was Marzhan which means “pearl” and she was absolutely beautiful. As Gary and I slowly approached her, her eyes immediately focused on Gary’s and she grinned broadly. I guess she liked us, that’s always a good sign.
We spent about one and a half hours with her, taking pictures and video that we could send back to the States for the doctors there to assess. Outwardly, she seemed very healthy and responded well to the both of us. We leaned that she was about eight months old, but we would get more information when the doctor and director arrived. When we put her in the walker, she played with the toys and was able to “walk”. When we placed her on the floor she was able to pull herself up and roll on the floor. These are developmental steps that are customary from 6 months, but children in an institutional setting are normally one month behind in development for every three months of age. Thus, we were happy to see that she able to perform these tasks. We then took her outside where fifteen minutes later she fell asleep in my arms. It is difficult to explain the feelings of joy and amazement of meeting your adopted child for the first time. We eventually handed her back to her caretaker. The other caretakers and, Galina told me and Gary agreed, that she looks a lot like me.
We returned inside the building when we learned that the director and doctor had returned. The director is a slim and seemingly very nice lady in her 50’s. She asked the both of us about our employment, how much money we made, did we own a house, can we support her, did we have biological children, how long have we been married, where are we from…we took this as a warm up for what to expect in court three weeks from now. She seemed to approve of us.
We then proceeded to the Medical Director’s Office. She also seemed nice, probably in her early 40’s. She reviewed with us the medical information that she had on the birth mother and the baby. Thankfully, the news is good. We agree to visit Marzhan tomorrow at 2 PM which is her normal feeding time. The routine for the next two weeks will be daily 2 hour meetings with her. We then left to return to Almaty.
Galina was nice enough to take us to purchase a calling card, and pick up a nice standing fan from her office, for us to use. We arrived “home” to find Valentina, our cook, making the final preparations for dinner. She set the table, complete with salad, hot tea, chicken, and dessert…and it tasted very good. Gary and I both agreed to name our prospective daughter Kristin Alexandra and are looking forward to seeing her beautiful smile again tomorrow.


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