Sunday, May 13, 2007

5/13/07 - Great to be home!!!

Our flights were on time (10.5 hours to JFK & 1.5 hours to Richmond). Ira enjoyed her first ever plane ride immensely. She didn't get sick & it was hard to keep her occupied, but we managed. Neither one of us slept as we both were anticipating the trip for different reasons. Ira didn't get sick on the first plane. I gave her a Dramamine before take off and that may have helped. It was fantastic landing in the U.S. Customs was not quite what I expected. We had to deal with the curtness of the customs agents and they never tried to make you feel welcome!!! Well, that's NY. Once we got on the second flight after a 4 hour wait, Ira did manage to get sick while trying to sleep. Oh well! I had a plastic baggy to minimize a mess and it worked. When we got off the plane and headed for our luggage, Ira spotted her Mama and sister and moved quickly to embrace and kiss them. She stayed wide awake all the way home. Once in the house we thought she would crash after being up for more than 24 hours, but she was too excited to see her new "digs!" She was wide eyed and we gave her a brief tour of the house and showed her to her new room. She had a smile that went from ear to ear. We finally got her to put on her pj's and she crawled into her new bed. She slept like a baby. After she woke the next day she made her bed, put all her clothes away and took a bath. She really seems to love it here and she follows Lisa's every move.

In the last 2 days we have been blessed to have a number of Ukrainian adopted families stop by or be together for lunch after church. It totally relaxed Ira as she could talk to others in Russian and also she noted how well their English was coming along which has encouraged her to step up her efforts to learn. She said her first full sentence tonight. She came up to me and said, "I am going to sleep," and kissed me good night.

Ira did call her grandfather today and he can now rest easy that his granddaughter is safe in America.

We have not been able to post pictures for s while. Keep an eye out for the pictures of the entire trip to be put on our "Snapfish" web site in the very near future.
Pic 1 - Ira on the plane from Ukraine; Pic 2 - Ira, Nicky & Ella for after church lunch; Pic 3 - The families for dinner after church; Pic 4 - More of Pic 3 (All Ukrainian adopted families)

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Thurs. 5/10/07 - Final day in Kyiv and Ukraine!

We are both anticipating our trip tomorrow to the U.S. Yesterday was a big Memorial Day holiday. We spent hours walking among the crowds in the Freedom Square area and underground shopping malls. We had a great dinner and stayed to see fireworks. They were less glamorous than we had seen in Donetsk. Ira was pretty tired so we walked our 4+ miles back to our flat and she showered and went right to sleep.
I walked to the SRC office today to pick up and pay for our tickets that were purchased on our behalf more than 2 weeks ago (last 2 seats). We will take a walk to the Botanical gardens this afternoon, have a last dinner and get some sleep. I am anticipating the flight already and the clock can't move fast enough. I simply can't wait to get to do some constructive work when I get back. My patience and feelings of being antsy are at about the end of their ropes. I have maintained my cool under some very tense moments and constantly reminded myself that there is nothing I could do to change things, just keep the faith. That's just the way it is. I believe acceptance of what things are makes it tolerable, therefore, we took in the culture of the country and didn't try to fight it. These folks have much to do to catch up to the rest of Europe and the world. Free enterprise in in full gear and construction and industry seem to be flourishing, so time will tell.
I know I said this yesterday, but I'll say it again, see you all SOON!

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

5/9/07 - Finally - We WILL be coming HOME!

Just got through typing a lengthy blog and it got wiped out. Love Windows. Well we now have everything necessary to get out of here on Friday. Since flights and times are at a premium, you just can't change flights at will. Weeks of flights with no seats available on anything!
We enjoyed our last super with Sergey and Ira's grandfather, Viktor. We all ate heartily and Viktor ate more than I thought was humanly possible, but I think leaving anything for the vultures is not what one does coming from his humble existence. We went to the train to have him see Ira off and they embraced for quite a while. I gave Sergey and Viktor big hand shakes and hugs. I will miss Sergey after all our time and trials together. After boarding Ira waved until the they were out of site. I made Ira's bed, she put on her pj's and went to sleep. She slept the entire 8.5 hours. I slept a couple of winks, it was too hot in the sleeper.
When we arrived in Kyiv, we were picked up and went to our new flat, paid for the 3 days here and then went straight to the medical facility. The doctor checked Ira over, reviewed her immunization card and we had to get 2 more shots, which we did. Then off to the Embassy for the paperwork and Ira's visa. Ira's passport was left for visa processing. We went back at 5:00 and picked it up. That was the first time I have felt any real relief in 5.5 weeks. We now have everything needed to go home. Our flight leaves Friday at 11:00 AM. Can't change flights, period. There are no open seats on anything for several weeks out!!! We will take in the sites for the time remaining as this is Ira's first time in her capital.
Ira has been a dream. We get along great. She is patient and learning to kiss and hug a lot on my insistence. She has learned to love it as much as I do. Ira is very stoic and doesn't always show emotions, but I see a lot more smiles & laughter now than in the weeks gone by (probably laughing at me and not with me, but who cares...)
We want to thank everyone for all their prayers. God has blessed us on this journey and we have many to thank for that. We have been praying for the Henry's as they go through their days of excitement! We have talked a number of time on the phone and will again tomorrow. See you all real soon..................................

Monday, May 7, 2007

Mon. 5/7 - The whirlwind moves ahead.

Can't believe so many days have passed since our last entry, but much has occurred since Donetsk. We left Donetsk early Thurs. 5/3 and had to stop in another town so Sergey could conclude paperwork for another family and get their documents to Kyiv (SDA) for approvals. At about 3:30 we took off to Kharkiv and then beyond to Luboytin to the judges office to pick up the final judgement on our adoption. The judge had to hang around til 7:30 to give us our 11 copies and let us be on our way. That made it offical... we now have another daughter [Irina Christine Richards]. Friday we were off to the town where her birth is registered to get a new birth certificate. We had to wait 1.5 hours. When we went back we were told that the judge had erred and that our offical 10 days were not up until after 6 PM that day. But since it was an offical decree from a judge they called the Regional office in Kharkiv and they agreed to make a new birth certificate anyway. Yea! Then off to the regional office for their offical seals and stamps and the end of another day. Sergey and I celebrated a little that night. We now had to get one more document to get the passport (21 documents needed in total!!!). We needed a signed document from the orphanage to expedite a passport. Well no luck with the orphange Saurday, but then we had to get another petition notarized authorizing the passport office to issue a passport (always another form needed for everything). On the way to our appointment to get the petition from the notary we went around a corner and the clutch cable broke and we were able to coast off the road. Remembering, to expect the unexpected, I got out of the car, had Sergey pop the hood and discovered the broken cable. So we hailed a cab, went to the notary (5 minutes to spare) got the paperwork done, and took a cab back to the car. Sergey hailed another cab, stopped at a auto parts dealer, got a tow line and clutch cable came back, hooke our car to the cab and he pulled us to a repair place. The repairman came out, replaced the cable and some other minor stuff and we were done. Total time from the cable break, notary and repair - 2 hours (the fastest thing that has happened in this country, a record!!!) Oh, and the cost... $8 for the cable and tow line, $4 for the cab, $8 for the repair (I gave the guy $10 -> 50 grivna and said keep the change!!! --- what a sport...).

Sunday, we got a cake, candy, sodas, etc. and went to the orphanage for Ira's farewell. We had a surprise when we found that Director was on duty and was able to sign our final document and save a trip today. I also presented her with a gift for the orphanage. The kids had a great time. Sergey and I sat with Ira's teachers and we talked. They each present me with a personal gift and one for Debbie and one for Lisa and, of course, for Ira. As we headed out toward the car the girls were all in an embrace, especially Ira's best friend another Ira. Prior to leaving the girls hugged and kissed, Ira hugged and kissed her teachers (they were known to her while there as mama #1 and mama #2). Lubov (mama #2) cried and as did Ira and her friend Ira. I had Ira present her teachers with another gift as we left.
Today was the last leg in getting things done here before we are off to Kyiv for the medical tests/clearances and Embassy visa. We went early to get the ball rolling in getting Ira's passport and while typing this blog Sergey got a call that the passport was done!!! He just gave it to me and again, God has blessed us with His grace. We will go to the orphanage the last time to get Ira's medical history (needed in Kyiv). Ira's grandfather will take a train into Kharkiv tonight to have dinner with us and see Ira off for the last time as we take the night train to Kyiv. We will arrive tomorrow morning at 7:14 and head over for the medical exams. We will be on a sleeper (I bought the entire compartment - sleeps 4 - for $67). I will give Ira a Dramamine and hope that she will sleep all the way. We will leave Sergey behind as he will head to Donestsk to finish the adoption with the other family and be with his wife and daughter (she got her 1st 2 teeth yesterday!). We will miss him and all his help, conversations and his great attitude. He never seems to let any adversity shake him. It's great being around such a positive person. We will certainly be in touch after we leave Ukraine.
P.S. Heard from the Henry's and they were to have their court date today at (9:00) . Again thanks God and for every one's prayers. We can only believe that it's through every one's prayers from home and God's blessings that we are able to be where we are. Thank you...

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

5/2/07 - Last day in Donetsk

Yesterday turned out to be a bummer. Rained all day, but Ira & I made the best of it. She doesn't like studying that much with me since she doesn't really have to yet. She is still in the comfort zone in Ukraine. But I insist and try to be as redundant as possible with terms she will hear every day. She is getting there but the road is long.

I spoke to the Henry's yesterday and they are behind the eight ball with all of this holiday business and don't know when they can expect to their court date. It's cold where they are and not much to do in the way of amusements. Jim is like me, no ear for the language. Fortunately, Jean has a great handle on the language and it is certainly coming in handy.
Today we went for a ride with Misha to a religious site about 30 km out of town, but Ira was sound asleep (probably from the Dramamine I gave her prior). She finally woke up after we were back in town and we had to stop the car and let her out. Well, the Dramamine didn't work!!! Looks like air sick bags where ever we go... We went to the circus in Donetsk, another first for Ira. She enjoyed it as Misha and I did also. We went to dinner afterwards at a place called the BANANA. It was Cuban motif and we all ate well. Ira had a large ice cream after her meal. She sure takes after here Mama on that score. Ira plays games on my cell phone while waiting in restaurants. So this evening she finished playing and forgot to give the phone back. I didn't realize it til we got home and she was in the shower. I high-tailed back to the restaurant (about 1.5 miles) and retrieved it. Need some excitement every day to stay on my toes...
We are heading back to Kharkiv early tomorrow. We will stop in a town on the way so Sergey can move some other paperwork along for another adopting couple. Sergey called our Judge and she will allow him to pick up the decree late tomorrow rather than early Friday when the judgement goes into effect. That will save us about 2 hours of driving time Friday. Friday he will head for Ira's birth town and get her new birth certificate (sounds familiar!!!). Then we will go for the passport. That may have to wait til Monday and we pray that the holidays will not interrupt us. Don't know when I will get to another Internet cafe, so this might be it for a few days. I want to thank everyone for all their prayers. God is listening...

Monday, April 30, 2007

5/1/07 - May Day (5 days of it so you don't forget!)

We had quite and interesting day yesterday. We were invited to a picnic with Sergey and his wife daughter, in-laws and friends today. Well, since the weather prediction said clear yesterday and rain today, they switched and we went yesterday. Well, nature had fun raining on us the entire time (by the way, today is sunny!!!) and it was cold, but that didn't stop us. When there is determination, stuff happens. Sergey's family and friends were unbelievably warm caring, good natured and very welcoming. They have a very loving way when they are all together and seem to cherish and celebrate the time they have together. Even though Ira had a bit of an accident on the way (driving in the car gets her sick and you guessed it, she vomited all over herself and the car). I felt so bad for her. Here we were in Misha's car with him only knowing Russian and me English. I called Sergey and we met up with him, headed to a large store, got Ira new clothes, got her cleaned up and we were off. She was fine the rest of the day. What is a little different for me is that it is a Ukraine tradition for the men to drink a shot of Vodka (+ some beer) and the women some champagne in between each little plate of food when they are together eating like this. Well, I was good for three half shots and that was it. I let the rest of the guys enjoy the rest. I didn't want to have Ira re-experience any bad memories.

After getting up this morning I found we had no water! Oh well, no breakfast, shower and all the rest. I don't know who to call or what to do about it much other than wait it out. If there is one thing you learn here... patience, which has not been one of my best known qualities! We plan to do some more sight seeing today primarily for Ira's experience. I think it is important that she knows as much about her country as possible. But first, we will do some more English lessons. I am also doing some math with her to get a sense of how far along she is since that is supposed to be her best subject according to her teachers. Two more days and then off to Kharkiv, God willing...

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Sunday 4/29/07 - The bonding continues

Ira & I are getting along very very well, aside from the language barrier. Fortunately Ira has had some rudimentary English in her schooling so we are not starting from scratch. She still tends to only say yes, no and OK as she seems self conscious of making mistakes. When I ask her to repeat words she is fine and tries very hard but then can't remember them, so we try to keep things to a minimum. I am trying to get her to memorize her new address and phone number. She was able to say "John Shropshire" the first attempt! That's better than most at home! The main thing is that she seems very relaxed and at ease. The fact that there is so much around us in her own language that she doesn't hear enough English to be concerned about thinking in English. She really livens up when we around others who speak Russian/Ukrainian.

Ira & I went shopping together to a big open market. We found a number of things and when she saw that I was struggling trying to get people to understand what I wanted, Ira took over, sensing my desires and then took the right amount of money from me and made the purchase.

Later, Misha and his interpreter friend, picked us up. We got all the passport pictures taken that will be needed in Kharkiv, tried driving to get some other things but spent most of our time in heavy traffic... We went on to a soccer game at one of the very large stadiums (another first for Ira). It was a good game. The local team won 2 to 1 against a Russian team. The 4 of us then went to dinner at a restaurant called Myctahr (Mustang). Ira was non-stop talking and laughing. It was good to see. We went back to our place where she couldn't wait to put on her PJ's and lay in bed and watch another Harry Potter movie. The country is on a 5 day holiday (May Day) which started yesterday and goes until Wed. (5/2). We are hoping to leave on 5/3 to Kharkiv. If we can get the court papers on 5/3 or 5/4 we will try for the new birth certificate, then on 5/7 go for Ira's passport. Then on Kyiv and another holiday (5/9). I don't want to anticipate too much beyond that because we have truly learned to expect the unexpected!