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Adoption Trip to Russia

Journey to Emily and Amanda

Tuesday November 2, 1999

Today we were moving to our new home. Eugene had said that Americans had stayed in this “apartment” before and that they had found it comfortable. It would be costing us about $40 a night. Yefim was to pick us up around 11 AM to move.

We all got up about 8:30 again today and got dressed and went back upstairs to the “buffet” breakfast. Everything was the same as the day before.

We went back to our room and made sure that everything was packed.

Yefim arrived as expected at 11 AM and we called a bellman to pick up our luggage. It would be 200 Rubles to carry our luggage down to the car. That’s about $4 American dollars.

The van we were riding in this time was a bit nicer than the one that we from the airport. The driver this time was a middle aged tall gentleman who also did not speak English.

We had a nice conversation with Yefim on the way to the new hotel. We found out that he loves classical music. He told us that the Russian people love to listen to American music even though they can’t understand a word of it.

To our surprise we also found out that Yefim was only 17 years old and that he himself was an orphan. Stella, our other coordinator, became close with Yefim and gave him books so that he could teach himself English. He learned it quickly and Stella hired him to help as a translator with the adoptive families.

It broke all of our hearts to find out that Yefim was an orphan. We wanted to take him home with us! He was such a hard working young man, eager to please. When we think about our trip to Russia, Yefim was a big part of it.

After driving for about a half an hour to forty-five minutes we pulled up in front of this tall Blue “apartment” type building. Yefim told us that the 14th floor would be where we were staying. We walked into a fairly nice lobby area and found that there was a bank and little shops inside. Apparently this building has a lot of various functions. On the 7th floor there was a dentistry clinic. There were also party halls, we heard a party (wedding?) going on in one of them.

There weren’t bellman at this “hotel” so we were on our own with all of our luggage! If we ever go to Russia again, we must remind ourselves to pack light, but bring the necessities.

We went to the elevators and got on. YIKES! You could hear cables clanging and the elevator shook a little bit. We reached the 14th floor and turned left. PHEW! The hallway reeked of the smell of cabbage.

Yefim went to the small desk and spoke to the woman in English. She nodded and smiled at us. She then lead us down a hall and opened a door. Inside to the right was a very old bathroom, clean, but old. Straight ahead was a bedroom with a king size bed, everything was in very 80’s style satin, lots of ruffles.

To the left was a small living room with a couch, 2 chairs, a TV and a small refrigerator. It didn’t look so bad, just kind of old. Outside the BIG windows was what looked like poverty tenement apartment buildings.

Yefim told us that our driver, Boris, would pick us up at 1:15 to go to the orphanage. We had about an hour to unpack and check out our new “home” for the next few days.

We didn’t think that the place was very nice, but for $40 a night we really didn’t care. It kind of reminded us of a very poverty stricken apartment. As long as the bathroom was clean and there were clean sheets on the beds we were fine. Dottie would sleep on the couch.

We went down to the lobby and waited until 2:00 and no driver had showed up. He was supposed to be here at 1:15. We went back up to our room thinking that someone might be trying to get a hold of us. Finally at 2:30 we had a knock on the door. It was the floor manager telling me we had a call in her office.

I went down the hall into an office and picked up the receiver of a fax machine. It was Yefim apologizing to us and informing us that he was wrong about the time we would be picked up. Our driver would be coming for us at 3:20 now.

I went back to our room and we waited for our driver. At 3:15 there was a knock at our door. I recognized the man immediately from some pictures that a family who had traveled before us gave me; it was Boris, the driver!

We followed Boris to the elevators and while we waited for our elevator to come he said in very broken English “Hello, my name is Boris, I am your driver”. We knew Boris didn’t speak English, but he did pretty good on his introduction.

We went down stairs and outside to the parking lot where Boris led us to a familiar looking small white hatchback. I also had seen this car in pictures from the Devries' family.

John sat in the front with Boris and Dottie and I squeezed into the back. When Boris put the car in reverse the car started talking. We have no idea what it was saying (Probably something about going in reverse) but we thought it was cute.

We started the drive to the orphanage. We would be meeting Mark & Andra there. Boris kept pointing things out to us trying to “explain” in a few words what he was pointing to. We usually got the gist of what he was saying. We took a different route to the orphanage this time. We were on a regular highway like you would find here. There weren’t very many cars on it. I looked at the speedometer and saw that we were going 90!! I pointed it out to John and he said that it was 90 kilometers not 90 mph. We also saw some Nuclear power plants not too far from the highway…kinda scary!

We got to the orphanage at around 4:30. Mark and Andra with Yefim had not arrived yet. Apparently Boris knows the folks at the orphanage. We were shown into the visitors room again and Boris motioned for us to wait.

A few minutes later the nurses came with the girls. They had the girls dressed in little tweety outfits that we had brought in the donation bag. The outfits were a little on the short side, but to give you an idea of how small the girls were they were a size 3 months.

Amanda got excited upon seeing us and Emily was still a bit leery of us. Emily went to us, but still no smiles from her. The nurse came in and tried to motion if we had any more questions. I don’t know how we would ask questions if we had any; we had no translator.

We sat and played with the girls and took pictures of them. Amanda was already getting attached to us all. She would start crying the minute we put her down on the floor. We wanted to see how she could crawl and other things. Emily, on the other hand, was fast as lightning and tried to crawl out of the room. We decided to shut the door when we heard a “meow” from the windowsill. I looked under the curtain and their sat a cat. I tried to pet it when it went “hisssssssss” and dashed out the door. I guess the cat wasn’t used to strangers.

One of the caretakers came into the room and motioned that it was time for the girls to eat. We assumed that they would be taking them away from us, or that we would go to wherever they feed the kids. The caretaker started to rub her hands together motioning for us to wash our hands. She led us into a small room with a sink and we scrubbed our hands good under the watchful eye of the caretaker. It was very good to know that they thought of things like clean hands when feeding; it made me feel like they really care.

We thought we would be going to the feeding room, wherever that is, when she led us back to the visitor’s room. We were going to get to feed the girls in the visitor’s room.

An older caretaker with bright red hair (it looked like she tried to dye her hair and it didn’t quite work out) came in with a bottle with a white substance in it and a small cup with a soupy cereal, and a large spoon (serving spoon size). I had Amanda and she gave the spoon and cup to me, and the bottle to Emily. The bottle was one of the old fashioned glass “pop bottle” kind with the rubber nipple stretched over the top…like you would see on a bottle for a farm animal. The hole in the nipple was huge!

I sat at the small table and started to feed Amanda the messy cereal. The caretaker gave us wash cloths to use as bibs. I smelled the cereal and it really didn’t smell too bad. It smelled like it had cream butter in it.

Both of the girls ate VERY eagerly. Emily had the bottle drained in about 4 minutes. I was having a difficult time feeding Amanda because the cereal was so watery. I had cereal all over the both of us. The older caretaker came in and gave me a bottle for Amanda to finish. I think they were just trying to show us that Amanda could eat from a spoon, however messy it was. Amanda drank the bottle down quickly. Both girls let out big burps!

Yefim still had not arrived with Mark & Andra. We wondered what was keeping them. We continued to play with the girls. I think it was sinking in that these were really OUR daughters.

Amanda had started playing with and in our mouths. Something about our mouths was very interesting to her. She studied every nook and cranny. She would suck on her index finger or thumb while at the same time exploring our faces, glasses, mouths, etc. She took a liking to all of our watches and to Grandmas fingernails.

Emily was opening up a little more to us and playing with the toys we had brought. She still wasn’t smiling or giggling and I was beginning to worry a little bit. She also enjoyed poking at our faces and touching my hair. I guess they had never been held for long periods of time like we had been holding them and they were curious about us.

After having been at the orphanage for almost 2 hours, Yefim, Mark, and Andra finally arrived. They were caught in a traffic jam for almost 2 hours.

It was almost 6:30 PM and the girls were starting to get a little cranky. We all thought it was best that we kiss the girls good-bye and let them get some rest.

We asked Yefim to ask Boris to take us to a McDonald’s to get something to eat. It was very funny because Boris starts laughing and in Broken English he says “Big Mac?” we said “Da”.

We pulled away from the orphanage reminiscing about our second meeting with the girls. We were all growing more and more in love with them and we couldn’t wait to go to court and make them ours forever.

We drove for about a half an hour and Boris pulled into a McDonald’s that we had seen before. We thought he would go through the drive up window, but he parked and got out. So we followed his lead and went into the Restaurant!

Boris went up to the counter and ordered for us. All we could understand was “Big Mac” and “Coke”. Boris wasn’t very fond of McDonald’s. When we said we wanted to go to McDonald’s he said “McDonald’s Blahk”. He did order himself a shake though.

We found a table and sat down. The McDonald’s was cleaner than some of them here. There were a lot of families eating in the restaurant and taking pictures. Apparently going to McDonald’s is considered a “big deal” to the average Russian.

We ate our Big Macs and Chicken Sandwiches eagerly. It was the best food we had ever tasted…at that point! Boris sat with us and drank his shake. It was too bad that he didn’t speak English, he probably would have been a lot of fun to talk to.

We finished our dinner and got back into the car. Surprisingly, we found out that the McDonald’s was only about a mile down the road from our hotel. Boris dropped us off and said that he would pick us up at 9:15 AM the next morning.

We all took the clanging elevator up to the 14th floor and went to our room. We reminisced about our day and talked about everything we had seen and done already. Russia was a big culture shock for us. We were all beginning to get homesick at this point, but we knew that the Lord would sustain us for however long we would have to be there.

We all took our showers and went to bed for the night. Our bed was very squeaky. You couldn’t move a muscle without it squeaking. Needless to say, none of us slept too well on our first night in the new hotel apartment! (more...)

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