Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Photos from the Summer Camp

Rowan about to fall asleep

Samuel enjoying the Cheerios...and don't you just love his little do rag?

Rowan, protective of the apple

The Russian countryside, as seen from the summer camp.

The entrance to the camp
One of the play areas
The actual building

One of the play pins

Friday, October 16, 2009

August 14-August 20

First an update - turn out the boys did have a parasite, and we are not the first couple whose dog ate the poop of adopted children with parasites. While talking to the nurse, I told her what happened, and she stated that a similar situation happened a few years prior, but she did not remember the outcome. The vet got a good laugh too. Fortunately, the vet was understanding. The particular parasite is species specific, so no crossing between dog and human.

And the story continues...

The 14th through the 20th were not really eventful. The schedule went something like this: be ready by 8:30am, drive to the orphanage, play with the boys for a couple hours, drive back to the hotel, eat lunch, nap, eat dinner, repeat. We were very fortunate that the boys orphanage allowed visits on the weekends.

On the 14th, we were provided with a large shopping bag full of magazines and an orange notebook. In May, an American couple was in Novokuznetsk for work purposes. During the 60 day stay (that's right, 60 days), they meet another American couple who was staying at the same hotel during their adoption proceedings. At that point, they decided to start a sort of "helpful hints" guide for all couples coming after them. In the notebook was a list of things to do, a map of the downtown area, and a list of restaurants including type of cuisine, availability of an English menu and free wifi! SCORE! The magazines in the collection where quite outdated, but were all in English, so it didn't really matter that I was reading NCAA football predictions from 2007.

On Saturday the 14th, we made an impromptu stop at a farmers market on the way back to the hotel. I suppose when you are the mercy of someone else, you have to do what they want. The fresh fruits and veggies were everywhere. There was also fresh breads and pastries to be purchased. Our travel guides instructed us to be very cautious about eating fresh foods, and personally, I wasn't really wanting to get a bunch of fruit. The translator insisted we purchase fruit (I think her words were "I'm getting some grapes, what are you getting.") I ended up with 2 bananas and 2 pears, both things I could peel.

One day, I don't remember which one, but our van got a flat tire. It started as we left the summer camp. If you remember, the summer camp was at the top of a one lane dirt road, on a very steep hill. As we left, we stopped, were instructed to exit the vehicle, and wait while the driver inflated the tire in question with a bicycle pump. Four more times we did this before the driver finally changed the tire.

On the 16th, a woman adopting siblings came to town (that's right, a woman, as in single, adopting 2 children. She was amazing). It was nice to have some company for a couple days. She would be in town for 3 days, and was returning home during her 10 day waiting period.

Originally we would be told we would be taking custody of the children on Tuesday the 18th. When we asked on the 16th, we were told it would not be for a few additional days, as the hotel was not heated (mind you it was 75 outside), we did not have food to feed the boys (even though we brought tons of it, and there was a grocery store one block from the hotel), and we would not be able to wash the boys clothes (even though the hotel had laundry service, and we had already washed some of our clothes in the sink). We smiled and nodded, and packed clothes for them everyday, just in case.

On the 17th, we were not able to see the boys (the only day we couldn't see them), so we ventured around the town. We found a couple of malls, a movie theater, a nice park, and the grocery store. Almost all of the shops and restaurants were frequented by a much younger crowd, 30 and under. Our speculation is that the younger crowd doesn't remember as much of the socialist system, so they feel free to shop/dine/play whenever and wherever they want. We almost never saw a person over age 40 in a newer store, or a restaurant. We did, however, get a good chuckle out of the older woman, presumably in her 60s or 70s, rolling her cart down the street while talking on her cell phone:)

Visiting the boys became easier, but harder all at the same time. We were finally allowed to be with the boys unsupervised, but we were ready to take them home. We were annoyed that we had to follow the orphanage rules. We were expected to keep them dressed in all 3 layers of clothing and have a hat and coat on at all times. We could take them outside, but they could not sit on the ground, walk in the grass, or sit on any benches without the covering of a blanket. Even though at that point, they legally were our children, we could not totally treat them as such. We felt pressure to bring all sorts of toys because that's what the orphanage workers wanted us to do, but we just wanted to sit and be with the boys. Rowan of course cried most of the time, and Samuel wanted to play by himself. We expected it though. We were strange people that they didn't know. I wouldn't want to play with me either if I didn't me. And to top it all off, both boys were sick.

So what did we do, we went on lots of walks. We tried to get the boys to look at pictures of the house and family. We fed them cheerios.

On Tuesday, we finally heard Rowan speak. It wasn't much, but it was more than we had heard him say. I was showing him pictures of the family, and it was a photo of Steve's dad that sparked a reaction. He whispered a word, what I don't know, but it was more than we'd heard. Behind those massive screams was a quiet little voice just waiting to be heard.

Rowan was still cautious around Steve. He only went around Steve without crying twice. Once while he was sleeping, and once while we were cleaning up toys.

Wednesday and Thursday we were able to take the boys outside. There was a small cat that played on the summer camp grounds, and both boys were fascinated by it. We could tell the cat had experience being tortured by small children, and ran quickly from the boys. Rowan managed to catch the cat and grab it by the tail. The cat frantically ran, not to be seen again. Samuel's favorite thing to do was walk. He was not interested in stopping to look at the flowers, or playing on any of the benches. He just wanted to walk. Rowan's personality became more apparent during these two visits. He was like a new kid once we went outside. More and more words started to come from his mouth. He enjoyed playing in the play-pin type contraptions that were outside. There were small toys dangled from the rafters. He enjoyed banging the tambourine and shaking the rattles. He and Samuel even played peek-a-boo with us. It was amazing to see both of them smile big smile, gum showing smiles, with sparkling eyes. It was the first real time we saw Rowan smile, let alone laugh. I could not control the tears.

After that visit, Steve helped take the boys back inside to visit the doctor. While I waited outside, the group that Rowan belonged to walked past. I said hello to the children, and those who could, said hello back and waived. As I stood there, the woman started speaking to the children. What I gathered, based on her hand motions and what I could understand, was that I was Rowan's new mommy, and that Rowan was going to fly on a big airplane. Most of them looked at me with amazement and gave a big whoa. They were cute, and at that moment, I wanted to take all of them home.

During Thursdays visit, we went at snack time. About 10 minutes into the visit, a small girl came out of the building, and handed Steve and I each an apple to give to the boys. We were a bit surprised the boys would get a whole apple to eat. Rowan quickly chomped into his without regard. He didn't stop. Samuel, however, was much more interested in the cheerios. He ate only about a quarter of the apple, and then Rowan stole it and finished the rest. As we left, the boys were returned to their groups. Samuel was escorted inside, and Rowan to a play area near the exit. We were able to watch Rowan play with his peers and interact with his caregivers. It was nice to see him interacting with others, still with a smile on his face, and turning around often to see if we were still watching him. In a few short hours, we would be back to take custody of them, and change all of our lives forever.