It’s been so long since I sat down to post anything on this blog. I’m sure some people have wondered if we fell off the face of the earth. We’re still here, but life has become much busier. There isn’t much uninterrupted time. Even now I am sitting here and getting questioned about twice per sentence. My thoughts for writing don’t flow very well when I can’t complete a sentence. I didn’t want to start writing about our time since coming home until I wrote about our time in Ukraine, but that seemed like a formidable task. It meant going through my journal entries and my letters to the family. Now I’ve reached the conclusion that I’ll just have to give a quick summary of our trip and leave it at that if I hope to ever write about our new children and the adjustment period. So here goes.
We traveled to Ukraine by way of New York City with another couple who was also adopting from Ukraine. They had lived in Russia for 6 years and knew some of the language, which was a huge help to us. We shared an apartment with them for the first few days we were in Ukraine, enjoying their fellowship. We anticipated traveling with them to Donetsk region via train, but all that changed when we found out we would not be adopting the girls we had originally intended. We ended up adopting a sibling group of 4 from Odessa region.
We met our children on Friday morning, February 28. We were completely astounded by their positive and loving reaction toward us. It was almost as though they had expected us. Our facilitator was in the middle of translating something for us when they came into the room. Later I remembered that he had said something about a dream. When we called him about it, he said that the night before we arrived, Jessica had a dream that her parents were coming. We are still waiting for the time when we can understand each other well enough to ask her about that dream.
Each day we visited the children for 2 hours in the afternoon. On weekends we had visits twice a day. It was an interesting experience trying to communicate with the children when we didn’t know each other’s language. We did a lot of pantomiming and played innumerable games of UNO. Two hours seemed like a long time every day. We usually went home feeling pretty drained. Once we were able to play outside, the time seemed to go more quickly, and we went home feeling tired from running around like crazy.
The first week in Belgorod-Dnevstrosky, we stayed in an apartment close to the orphanage. We thought we were paying $20/night for our stay there, but after 9 days we learned that it was $20/night/person. We asked to be moved to the Christian medical clinic where the cost was much less. We had further to walk each day, but that was actually a blessing because of the exercise. Because of that move, we met a pastor’s family and were able to visit in their home. They were a big encouragement to us during our stay in Ukraine.
We waited for 3-1/2 weeks before getting our court date. That waiting time was so long! It felt like we were going to be in Ukraine forever. When we did arrive at court on Friday, March 21, the electricity in the building went off, so we had to postpone court until Monday, March 24. We were so grateful to pass court without a lot of questions. There is a 10-day wait period after court before the adoption is final. We had originally planned on returning home for those 10 days, but instead decided to wait it out in Ukraine. We didn’t know if the unrest in Ukraine would escalate to the point that we wouldn’t be able to get back into the country. Also, our children at home were in a routine, and we thought it would be much harder for them if we returned and then left again.
After the 10-day wait, we left the orphanage, traveled to Odessa where we applied for passports for the children, and then continued on to Kiev where we remained for another 8 days. We had the best facilitators through our whole adoption. They made the process as smooth as possible. We couldn’t have done it without them.
Our week in Kiev was challenging, to say the least. We stayed in the same apartment we had stayed in at the beginning of the trip. The children were pretty wild, loud, and uncontrollable at times. They got upset with each other pretty often, and since we couldn’t understand Russian, we had a hard time figuring out the problems. We stuck pretty much to home unless we needed to go out for medicals or the embassy appointments. We worked a lot on table manners which were basically non-existant. We began with holding hands and praying before meals. The hand-holding was more to keep them from grabbing food than anything else. It only took a couple of days before they were reminding each other not to eat until we prayed. They generally liked very short prayers like, “Thank you, Father, for the food. Amen.” They usually said, “Amen,” before Jim had finished praying, so to stop it, we kept adding on phrases for as long as it took for them to be quiet. The first time was really quite funny. Jim: Thank you, Father, for the food. One child: Amen. Jim: And thank you for bringing us to Ukraine. Child: Amen. Jim: And thank you for each of these children. Child: Amen. Jim: Help us today to please you. Child: Amen. Jim: Thank you for being a great God. Child: Amen. Jim: Please help us to love each other. Child: Amen. Jim: And please help the children to be quiet so we can eat before the food gets cold. Amen. You get the idea. By the end, they were telling each other to hush. I am happy to say that they are doing very well with being quiet during prayer time now.
We left Ukraine on Tuesday, April 15, and arrived home early Wednesday morning, April 16. On our way to Ukraine, we flew with a Russian airlines and didn’t understand anything the whole way there. We decided that we needed the language advantage on the way home, so we flew British Airways. A friend from church had booked a rental car for us, so we drove home from New York City, arriving around 3:15 a.m. It was a wonderful reunion with our children at home. We were so happy to see them all and introduce them in person to their new siblings. We had been away for 7-1/2 weeks, a couple of weeks longer than we had anticipated.
This is a brief summary of our trip. In my next post I will introduce you to our children and post some pictures of our time in Ukraine.