Friday, February 10, 2012
I came home from work awhile back and told Gail that if I bought airplane tickets to go back would she want to go with. She said she would leave tomorrow!! Yes, believe it or not we both miss Ukraine! Our two boys, especially Collin would rather go there than Disneyworld. Right now that isn`t in the cards but someday we WILL be making the trip again. We would love someday to win the lottery and take a group over to do some renovations to the orphanages. We think that would be about as good as it gets. Stay tuned for for how it has beeen going once we came back.
Wednesday, February 1, 2012
Sunday, February 20, 2011
After our last visit to Kramatorsk to see the little girls named Angelina and Viktoria we headed back to Kyiv with high hopes for our third and final appointment at the SDA. This time we couldn`t get a train ticket so we flew from Donetsk back to Kyiv. This was a real treat!! :-) The airport was very old "Russian" atmosphere where half of the lights in the terminal didn`t work, sorta dirty and just kinda spooky. Gail said the bathrooms were the worst she had seen. Made us wonder what to expect when it came time for the plane ride. We weren`t to be dissappointed as the plane was as we had expected. Not bad but not exactly "new" shall we say. Well, we made it it back to Kyiv in one piece anyways. We spent the week touring various things in and around the city with John and Charlene (our friends from Kentucky) . This time we had an apartment above a bakery about a block away from the main square and had access to alot of things within walking distance.
After another "typical" week in Kyiv we were off to our final appointment at the SDA to look through some more files and to tell them about a certain child in Kramatorsk that we had by chance stumbled upon and to request her file for viewing. Let me back up a bit here- when we had left the orphanage the last time we had made a favorable impression on the people there by helping Angelina get the exams she needed. If you remember our last post we "accidentally" met a little 2 1/2 year old by the name of Oksana that we " felt" we might have a chance at. We were told that if we asked for her file we would have to be shown it.
Luba was so confident that things would work out that she was at the train station during our appointment and her sister went with us to the meeting. When we got there we were greeted with the smiling friendly faces of the caseworkers who were more than willing to help us as much as they could. No- not really, they didn`t like us at the first appointments and this one was to be no different. We were shown basically the same files we had seen at the two previous appointments and nothing else. At that point we reached into our sleeve and pulled out our "ACE". We asked to see the file on Oksana at the Kramatorsk orphanage. Holy cow, you would have thought the world was ending. They made every excuse in the book why they would not be able show us her file. We heard that we weren`t ready to adopt and we should be happy to take the other choices that they offered us. We were not ready to be parents. In short they refused to show us Oksana`s file.
After this arguing went on for our entire appointment I was fit to be tied and told the lady to give us the sheet of paper to sign off on because we were going home. We had enough! That was the only request they granted us. As we were signing off the SDA lady said we were the third appointment today to sign off. Gee what a surprise!! In a few short minutes we were outta there and on our way back to the apartment. It was the first time I've ever heard Gail say, " Give me one of those cigarettes and let's get a drink!!" Let's just say she was ticked. We called John and Charlene and told them we had struck out and wanted to go get a bite to eat.
Keep in mind that they are 8 hours ahead of U.S. time so when it was 5:00pm there it was still 9:00 am here so we had quite a bit of time to get back to our apartment and book tickets home. We met up with the Kentucky crew and their translator at Wato`s restaurant down the street from our apartment. We had supper , a few cocktails and told them about our day and how we were so discouraged at the process in Ukraine. Their translator then told us of an appeal process that we could do the next day where we could go back to the SDA and try to get them to change their minds. She also stated that this works only once in every thousand tries. We really didn`t know what to do but figured what the heck- as long as we are here we might as well give it a whirl. We tried to call Luba that night but she was already in bed by that time and we had not even gotten a chance to see her after the big rejection as she was at the train station. When we got back to our apartment that night we called any and all contacts in Ukraine and in the States to see how we should handle this. With good advice in hand we went to bed. Right away the next day Luba called us and somehow she already knew what we were up to and told us to meet her at the SDA at I believe 2:00.
We made it to the SDA and met Luba there. We got in there and we were to meet with the head honcho type lady. She came out and wouldn`t even let us in her office. There we were standing on the dreadded steps again. Gail gave me "the look" and basically told me to shut up because the woman wouldn't want to hear the words of any man!! :-) We stood on the stairway as Gail argued with this gal for quite awhile as we listened to the reasons why we couldn`t have Oksana.
- too young for us to adopt, we said we had already seen at least two kids that were younger than six but they said the rules changed this week. hmmmm Once again, rules change by the minute.
- too healthy for adoption to American couples. We said she isn`t and needed eye surgery for her eye. By this time Gail thought if they think she is a doctor, now is the time to use it. She stated she had colleaques that could give Oksana the medical needs that she needed. That argument didn`t work.
- We weren`t Jewish. Never did figure that one out
-We could redo some of our paperwork and then come back on a Monday. We stated that laws may change again and that we've spent enough time in Ukraine. Gail said she needed to get back to her patients. (At this point, they didn't need to know it was just to clean peoples teeth.)Anyways, we argued for quite some time and it became apparent that it wasn`t going to work. Luba then told us to go to lobby and talk with her a bit. When we got there she thought that if we got a letter faxed to the SDA from our buddy the director at the orphanage stating that Oksana needed immediate eye surgery that it might change their minds. She called him and he sent it right away and we met with the gal again. Nope- that didn`t work either. The lady told us to come back at 4:oo and she would give us a answer. Gail told her we did not want to leave and that we would wait downstairs. We regrouped and were ready to call it quits as it was getting quite late by that time and Luba said. You guys sit here and I will talk with her alone one last time. It got to be 5:00 and here came Luba and she said "Craig, Gail we leave now we are done here" We said okay....., are we going to go for supper or what ? She said " NO!!! We go to get your daughter, she is yours!!!" Holy Crap!! Not what we had expected but somehow she had pulled it off. We grabbed a cab to get train tickets and got our stuff packed as quick as we could because the train left in 45 minutes. Somehow we made it but it was very close. We were on our way to Kramatorsk. We will never know what was said in that last little meeting but whatever it was it worked.
We arrived at the now familiar train station and just barely caught our train. This time Gail and I were not able to ride with Luba in the same berth. As we got on the train we noticed a gawd awful smell coming from somewhere. That somewhere was Luba`s "roommate" for the ride. A big old Russian guy that had been drinking and was eating this awful smelling fish on the little table in her room. We wished her luck and went to find our roommates. We ended up with an older gentleman that was some kind of play director and a young gal that was a student. We had an uneventful trip and the next morning when we pulled into Donetsk we were greeted by a very weary looking Luba. Not only did this guy smell like fish, he also had a tendency to snore after he had been drinking and Luba wasn`t able to get any sleep.
Once we arrived at Kramatorsk we went straight to the orphanage to see the little girl that was to become Briley. We went to her groupa but she wasn`t there as she was getting checked out on a lower floor by the doctor. Pretty soon a caregiver came with her and another little girl and the caregiver told Oksana that her mama and papa had come to get her. Briley was getting checked over because she along with all the other kids had colds. Another thing was Gail tried to give Briley a little stuffed bear and all Briley could say was nyet nyet as she didn`t want it :-). After a short visit we got aquainted with the apartment we were to call home for the next 4 weeks.
COMING NEXT- OUR STAY IN KRAMATORSK
WE PROMISE IT WON`T TAKE AS LONG AS LAST TIME!!!!
Sunday, October 11, 2009
On Wed. we received word that our next appointment would be the next day. Thursday came and we met Luba for the appointment. When they brought out the files they were all pretty much the same kids we had seen before. All but one new file of two little girls but according to the charts they both had some issues. The 4 yr old Angelina supposedly had epilepsy and the older ( 6yr old)1/2 sister Victoria was fully mentally retarded. The gal helping us with charts was not very helpful and Gail felt that she was not being very sincere. When Gail asked more questions about the girls charts she was given short snappy answers. One that sticks out in our mind is when Gail asked how many seizures the youngest girl has had and we were told several a day without no hesitation. At this point we new she was just pulling answers out of her head or should I say ......! Gail kept looking at the pictures and said that in her mind there was no way that these girls had issues so severe. Needless to say the gal was not very happy with us because she felt we were not listening to her. We weren`t too concerned about the epilepsy so you already know what we decided-- yup, off to Kramatorsk we went!! :-)
Same old routine- get paperwork on Friday, meet Dr. Yuri, get on train travel overnight to Donetsk, travel by car to orphanage. This is the point where it got interesting. We met up with the inspector of the area orphanages to do the necessary paperwork and we were off to the orphanage. We were greeted by a very nice director who was to show us Angelina as Victoria was at yet another orphanage in a different town down the road. A nurse brought this little girl in to meet us. She was a cute little girl but there was some issues that Dr Yuri wasn`t real comfortable with. After the exam we thanked the director and told Luba that we may as well sign off now as there was no use to go see the other little girl as we were told that they would not split up sisters. Luba told us that we had to go see the other girl as it was part of the conditions of taking this referral.
This time we took off in a different direction about 20 miles to a town called Stravansk. On this road trip we actually finally saw a grain elevator, which was strange because even though this was a very good farming area we had yet to see any bins or elevators. We arrived at our next stop and there we were escorted to a playroom type area as the caregivers went to get this little girl. We were expecting to see a little girl with issues and we would be on our way. Well, we were wrong!! This little dark haired, dark skinned girl with pigtails comes out , sits down and starts talking with the Dr.. He ran her through all the tests and she did really well except for one test where she stumbled a little bit. I wasn`t too concerned as I was doing the test right along with her and I messed it up too. After she did the tests she took our photo album we had along and rattled off the things in all the pictures. At this point Gail gave me the "look" and we thought this little girl could be the one if we could work it out. As we left, Luba stated that there probably wasn`t any way that we could split up these two half sisters. Just to defend ourselves a bit here- these little girls had, we believe never seen each other and probably never would be together because they were far enough apart in ages that they would always be in different orphanages. But anyways, we went back to the orphanage in Kramatorsk to visit with the director. We told him what we had found but wasn`t optimistic. We thanked him for his time and then we left for Donetsk. As we were on the road back, Gail and I were a little steamed as it seemed that we had hit a dead-end. All the while Luba was talking with the driver off and on again and on the cell phone. After awhile she turned back to us and said " it is possible if you want to fight, the orphanage directors want to find this little girl a home, but the regional inspector has to OK it." We told her to go for it. Being this was Saturday we had to grab a room at the Liverpool Hotel in Donetsk til Monday. Luba hadn`t planned on staying very long and only had a handbag of stuff but she was a trooper. The hotel was quite new and had a very nice cafeteria on the bottom floor so we were set. When we arrived at the hotel we had asked Luba if this was a safe area and she said " Yes, veddy safe", I asked her what about the chalk outline of a body on the sidewalk out front? Well uh, must be someones joke! I wasn`t so sure it was a joke as it looked pretty real looking to me.
Saturday night we all went to the cafeteria and had a nice supper and it was here that we finally found the ketchup that we were craving, only problem was that it was used as pizza sauce. Other than that the food was good and we called it a night.On Sunday we went to breakfast and there were the display case full of picture perfect sunny side up eggs, glasses of milk etc. We took what we wanted and found out that everything was served cold- yuck. Luba had a glass of milk that looked sorta " Thick" and we asked her what it was. " Curdled milk,you not like,you not try?" I said yup, I`ve had it before but only when the good milk accidentally got bad.
Sunday afternoon we were getting a little bored and went for a walk around the neighborhood and checked out quite a few little shops. When we got back was when I mentioned to Gail that I wish there was a way to see how many people were looking at our blog. After some tweeking on the computer I installed a counter and didn`t think anything of it. Like I had said way back when in our posting, Gail thought maybe 30 people a day and I thought a few more like 40-50 might be watching. When I checked back a few hours later the darn thing was already up to a couple hundred. This was very humbling to say the least. Sorta made us feel that we weren`t doing this all by ourselves. The highest count on any day that we saw was a little over 500 hits!!! Pretty cool.
That night Gail and I went back to the cafeteria to grab supper . Luba didn't join us cuz she spent the day in bed. Luba's curdled milk and raw cold sunnyside up eggs were not as fresh as she thought. When we entered the cafeteria we were greeted by hundreds of drunk teenagers . We were astounded , Luba told us that there is a teen night twice a year and we were lucky enough to be there for one of them. We just ate very quickly and got the heck out of there. Kinda made us uncomfortable in that situation.
Monday morning came and we met up with Luba in the lobby and she didn`t look good and said she didn`t sleep well as she had a stomach ache last night. Gail told her she should probably lay off the curdled milk :-). We went back to Kramatorsk and met with the regional inspector to plead our case. We went around and around but she thought that maybe someday the girls would be together and while we admire her intentions we can`t help but think that somehow it wasn`t the right thing to do.
After it was obvious we had struck out we went back to thank the orphanage director for trying. Gail asked at that point why was Angelina`s file so wrong. We were told that they had no money to update the files and the government didn`t do it often enough. We asked what kind of tests were needed to make the file more accurate and were told that the tests were very,very expensive. We asked how much was very expensive and were told that the cat scan was I believe $90.00. Gail at that point looked at the director and told him to get it done! He was a little taken aback and asked why would we do this? Gail told him that if we don`t her file will never be accurate and it might help her find a home or at least make sure she isn`t kicked out at age 16. He then called the clinic ( socialized medicine) and we couldn`t get in for 6-8 weeks. We told him to call a private clinic and he said that was more expensive but Gail held to her guns and said to do it! He called and an appointment was set for the next day.
After another stay at the Liverpool we were off to the orphange again. They were ready for us and had a nurse to travel with us to the clinic. The clinic itself was quite dingy from the outside and had dogs and cats running all over outside but seemed to have the necessary equipment inside. Gail went with the nurse as I had the driver take me to a supermarket to get a huge bag of candy for all the kids at the orphanage as we planned on leaving that day to go back to Kyiv. After about an hour they all came out and we headed back to the orphanage to say our goodbyes. We gave the director the candy and he gave Angelina a couple pieces and we went over the exam results. In short, the scan did show the brain issues and helped update her file so it worked out pretty well. Oh yeah- the total cost of the cat scan and the doctors briefing ----------- A little over forty dollars!!! Money well spent!!
Side note- when we picked Angelina up for her cat scan Gail gave her a little doll we had brought along and she latched right unto it! Also she had said something to the nurse and Gail asked Luba what she had said. Luba said " she told the nurse that my momma and poppa have finally come to get me". Gail knew better than to tell me that at the time. She didn`t tell me that until after we had left.
So, we were saying our goodbyes and jokingly asked the director if he had any more children coming available. He looked at his book and said yes he would have twin girls available in the near future but it was a ways down the road. Long story short- we accidentally "met" a little girl that had a lazy eye, thin hair, shy,pale etc. Catching on yet?...
On the way back that night we asked Luba how might we be able to have a shot at this little girl that we "thought" might be available. ;-) She said that she was quite sure that something would work out for us at our next appointment.
Stay tuned for the next appointment!!!
Friday, September 11, 2009
Tuesday, June 16, 2009
About two years ago I had seen an article on my MSN homepage at work and started looking at the links. One of the links took me to the "Ukrainian Angels" website and it showed a gal by the name of Cathy Harris from Florida that had adopted numerous children from Ukraine over the years and she was now helping families do the same thing independently without using an adoption agency. For whatever reason I saved it to my favorites and every once in awhile I would open up the site and look at the pictures of all the little tykes that various families had adopted and the pictures of the kids still in the orphanages. At that point I had no intentions that I was aware of anyway and didn`t give it anymore thought.
About six months later I had come home and Gail was on the computer staring intently at the screen and she sidestepped me a little bit when I asked what she was looking at. Well, lo and behold she was looking at an adoption site. I mentioned that she might want to go to Ukrainian Angels. org and she gave me the goofiest look( not the "stink eye", just a goofy kinda look). Well, that was the start of the whole ordeal.
We sorta thought at that point we might as well check into it together as long as we were already doing it seperately sort of. We contacted Cathy in Florida and she gave us a breakdown of prices, travel, documents needed etc etc. While we were doing this we also took the time and researched domestic adoption and attended a seminar in Rochester also. The seminar in Rochester was done by an agency and we left there thinking that if we are going to do this we are going to wing it ourselves.
After a little discussing and talking with the boys we found ourselves telling Cathy that we are "gonna do it"! At this point Collin and Tory wanted a little sister and they made themselves pretty clear on the matter! Here is the paperwork sequence in the order that we remember doing it. Keep in mind we had to do all this to put together a dossier(all the paperwork) to send to the officials in Ukraine. The catch is while you do all this, once the dossier gets over there none of the things can expire within 6 months of submitting. For example- if we had physicals done on Jan 1, 2007 the paper work would have to be submitted and approved by June 1, 2007 or it would be expiring within the 6 month time limit. All the documents had to be signed by a notary and then sent to the state attorney general to get apostilled with an official stamp. ( apostilling is basically the state making sure the notary that signed and stamped them previously is really who they say the are.)
- Home study, we had to hire an agency to send a social worker out to evaluate whether or not our family is suitable, housing is suitable and whether or not we could afford another mouth to feed. We also had to attend classes in Eden Prairie as part of this requirement.
- Paperwork to the INS to get approval for the international part.
- fingerprints and background check at the federal level.
- fingerprints and background check for the state level.
- fingerprints and background check at the county level.
- physicals for Gail and myself.
- letters of reference
- employment certification from employers.
- wage statements from employers.
- tax statements from years past.
- foreign power`s of attorney
- marriage license
I`m sure I have missed some things but you get the gist of it- lots of paperwork. And yes, we drug our feet a bit and had to do some over again as some documents expired before they got submitted.
While the paperwork was being completed we stayed in touch with Cathy with any questions we had and she gave us the e-mail address of our facilitator in Ukraine. His name is Vlad and he would be the guy over there arranging the translator, submitting paperwork and doing the legwork before we got there. During this period we had high hopes of getting there, getting it done and getting home but things don`t always go as planned, especially in Ukraine. Finally we received an e-mail in Sept that our dossier should be submitted in Nov.. With 30 days to accept us or deny us and 4-6 weeks for our appointment, that meant we would be travelling early to mid January. This worked out really well for me as this would be the slowest time of the year at work. That was the good part, the bad part was that the panic started to set in as to what in the world are we doing?? :-)
We got plane tickets booked with an adoption discount which is substantial and started making the arrangements for everything else when we were gone. In no specific order- bills paid, Collin and Tory arrangements(Thanks Kenny and Judy), dog chore person,(Thanks Jeff)housesitter( Thanks Brady)etc,etc.
Well after dragging out for over a year and a half the travel date zoomed up on us. We were ready for the most part but realized that we were putting a whole lot of trust in people that we had never met and travelling 9000 miles to do it. At this point we figured that we would go over there , pick up a little girl, come home in 3-5 weeks and things would be hunky dory. WRONG!!! Two days before we left I got the flu. I never get the flu, but I sure had it now!! The 4 trips/hour to the bathroom flu!
Finally the big day was here. We had to fly out of Mpls. to Chicago, from there to Dusseldorf Germany and from there to Kyiv. We arrived at the airport plenty early for our departure and said our good byes to the kids. For me this was the hardest part. We were leaving to a foreign country, didn`t know when we would be back and would be away from the boys that we had never been away from before for more than a day or two. We didn`t have too much time at that point to dwell on it because I had to get going!!! Not on the airplane though, you remember where I mentioned the flu?? Yup-I had to find a bathroom and find one quick! This was gonna be a long trip.
Arrived in Chicago O`Hare after a little ride and found our gate for the long ride. About an hour later we boarded on a Lufthansa flight on a real big dog airplane. 4 seats in the middle and two rows down both sides. Three hundred and some people. All I thought about was Gail`s old boss Dr. John DDS. (forensic guru) He always said if you are gonna crash in an airplane to shove a thumb up your butt before you hit the ground so that they can get one good fingerprint for identification purposes.
The plane ride itself was very long but with the movies and all the service from the flight crew it went pretty well. We had a couple meals, snacks, beverages and were waited on quite often. Alot more cushy than say a domestic flight. Remember when I said I had the stomach flu?- yup, there were a couple mad dashes down the aisles to the bathrooms.
Arrived in Dusseldorf, Germany after 9 hours in the air at about 4:00 am their time. The customs there were brutal. These people took their job way too seriously. Had to take off jackets, open cases and explain what my Maalox was. They found Gail`s money pouch but didn`t even try to see if I had one.
After sitting at our gate for a 2 hour layover we were told that our flight to Kyiv was going to be delayed due to the fog. After an extra hour or so we were able to get on a smaller plane and we were finally on our way to Kyiv. This was the point where the reality was finally starting to set in. You know- "the what in the world are we doing feeling". This plane was not nearly as nice and I was thinking about the "thumb" thing again but we safely touched down in Kyiv about 3 hrs later . There were no gates per say as we know them. We were met on the tarmac by a bus that took us to the terminal where we picked out our luggage. You have probably heard the saying " We are not in Kansas anymore ToTo". It was very different to say the least. We had to fill out forms as to why we were there and where we were going to stay etc. etc. Try telling a customs guy that we really didn`t know where we were actually staying. Finally he said just put down "hotel" . That worked for me!! Then we had to go through a security check point with x-ray and guards. I wasn`t too worried about this as the guy looking at the x-ray machine had his feet up and looked to be half asleep.
We gathered our luggage and made our way out into the terminal to see if someone was going to be there to meet us as we had hoped. Sure enough, there was a gal about 30-35 years old holding up a sign with our names on it. This gal was Luba who was to be our translator for the time we were to be here. She took us out to the waiting car where she had a driver ready. Also there was our facilitator Vlad. We paid him his balance that we owed him for his services and we were off. The airport is a ways out of town and our driver lost no time in getting us to where we were going. The thought that we could be dropped off and robbed or worse and nobody would ever know what happened did cross our mind but we had to trust that everything would work out. We had a cell phone with us from another past adoptive couple so Luba had us stop and get a phone card with prepaid minutes on it. Everyone over there uses these cards as they are sold everywhere. I think the idea of a monthly cell phone bill would be a strange concept for them. From there we were taken to our apartment about a block off of the main square. We had to walk through a gate and down a dark alley to the apartment and we were thinking- " great!- what a place to get mugged and killed". I don`t think Dr. John`s thumb trick would work in Ukraine. Our apartment building on the outside was far from fancy but the actual apartment itself was pretty nice. The next day was going to be our first appointment so Luba told us she would meet us at the square at I believe 1:00 for our 2:00 appointment.
The next morning after hardly any sleep we ventured down to the square to eat at the most popular restaurant in Kyiv. Yup- McDonalds. Real similar to home but way different. Some same items on the menu but quite a few different ones. Some that come to mind are the seasoned potatoes as well as french fries, sundaes with a cone cup, fried fish, coca cola "lite" not diet, no 1/4 pounders, pay for condiments ( nothing free). The strangest thing that first day at a Ukrainian McDonalds was the people drinking beer with their egg mcmuffins. It wasn`t uncommon at all to see drinking going on in the morning. Later on in the trip in Kramatorsk we saw 14-16 year olds on their way to school drinking bottles of beer. But anyways, at 1:00 we went to the corner to meet Luba for our appt. We dressed in our dress clothes we had along for our appts. and court. She met us right when she was supposed to and away we went. We walked up a steep street and across a courtyard and down a few more blocks where we arrived in front of a non-descript building which was the dreaded "SDA". We had no idea what to expect but figured we would just hold on and see what happened. We went into a little side door where there were a couple of other couples standing around and we waited for our translator to come and get us. Finally Luba came out and said to follow her. We went upstairs to a little office where there was one couple looking at pictures of children on the coffee table and we were taken to a little office in back. We were introduced to this little gal who looked like she had just flown in on her broom. After looking through our dossier and asking us why we were there and what we wanted she proceeded to lay I believe 11 or 12 files in front of us. At this point we were a little panicked as there were no files that "jumped out" and said " This is the one". All the kids had issues of some sort which is common over there but still we thought that something would stand out for us. Well, nothing stood out and to show that we were sincere, we picked out what we thought was the healthiest child of the group. This little girl was " Elina" in Mariupol. Luba had seen this little girl while at that orphanage before and didn`t remember her as being as ill as her file said. We left the SDA at about 4:00 with the understanding that we were to come back the next day ( Friday) to get our paperwork and jump a train to Mariupol. We contacted Dr. Yuri to travel with us to evaluate this little girl and determine health etc etc. Dr Yuri is a doctor based in Kyiv that does evaluations for adoptive parents as a sideline.
On Friday we packed up and were ready to do our paperwork and train ride to Mariupol. The paperwork went without a hitch and we were off to the train station to meet Dr. Yuri.------- continued on the next rain day-------------------------( my pointer fingers are getiing tired from typing) :-)