Wednesday, December 21, 2011
The story continues:
Susan and I finally reached Kaluga and checked into the hotel at about 5:00 on the morning of December 23. We unpacked just a bit, and then crashed for a couple of hours. Ivan had told us to be ready to go about 8:30, since Nadia and Margarita (our translator and the regional coordinator) wanted to get things started as soon as possible that morning.
So—around 8:30, Nadia came to the room and had me sign the first of many sets of papers:
After this, we were off with Nadia, Margarita, and Vladimir our driver on the first of a bunch of stops that morning. We first went to one office in Kaluga to pick up Karina’s new birth certificate. This involved filling out more paperwork and signing more documents.
Then, we had to have this new paperwork stamped (stamps in Russia are something that are just hard to explain—every official/doctor/secretary/etc. has their own official stamp that has to be on every official document) with the Kaluga city stamp. For this we drove to another office building where Margarita asked us to wait in the car while she took the document inside to have it stamped. We waited maybe 30 minutes—and then she was back. Nadia commented that this was quick—and Margarita told her (and then us) that she had pretended to work in the office in order to sneak in and get the paperwork stamped more quickly than normal.
After that, we were off to the passport office. Here we found out that Ivan (who had waited at the airport for us the day before and had been our translator on the drive to Kaluga) had been in line for us since early that morning so that we wouldn’t lose time there.
We were able to get right in and go to yet another office where we signed more paperwork. Then we waited. Susan and I sat on what I would have called old wooden movie theater seats after we submitted all of our documents to the official for passport processing. In the meantime, Nadia told us that she was going to wait by the front door of the building so that she could talk with someone. Susan and I people-watched, and realized how much we stuck out in an office where the women were in high heels, dressy boots and very fancy outfits—we were in jeans, snow boots, and ski coats!
After something like 45 minutes, Nadia appeared with a younger woman (who pretty obviously looked official). She then introduced her to us, talked a bit longer, and then told us that we were now ready to leave. She told us later that this woman was the assistant to the official who was normally in charge of issuing the passports. The official was “gone” for the day, and so his assistant was in charge of the office. The assistant had also been one of Nadia’s students in a college course, and they were friends. Nadia had been waiting to talk with her as soon as she reached the office because she wanted to tell her about us, about how we had been delayed, and to ask if K’s passport could be processed and issued that day. The woman had told her yes, this was not a problem. Nadia turned, smiled at me, and said, “this NEVER happens—we always have to wait at least one day for the passports. This is providential.”
I’m not sure that we understood at this point what she was saying—there was more to do. We headed out to exchange some money and to buy some baby food at the baby store:
Things are a bit of a blur at this point in my memory—I think that at some point Nadia asked us if we wanted to go back to the hotel and get some rest and something to eat while we waited for the passport to be finished, or if we wanted to go on to the Baby Home and pick up Miss K. Neither of us was hungry, and we were too excited to rest, and of course we said “let’s go get her!”
We had to make one more stop before the baby home. It is traditional to take two cakes to the baby home as part of the pick up process—one for the caretakers and one for the social workers. After driving to a couple of stores, we found a store that Nadia and Vladimir both agreed would have cakes—and Nadia, Susan and I headed in on our quest for cake:
Susan wanted to know why there wasn’t an “aunt cake”. Nadia thought this was hysterically funny (well, or she was as pumped with adrenaline and lack of sleep as we were).
Our next stop was the baby home. We put on the lovely blue booties:
and headed up the stairs to where Miss K was now living:
and Susan finally got to meet Miss K and I got to hold her again!
While the caretakers changed K into the clothes we had brought for her, we headed down the hallway to deliver one of the cakes and to sign more paperwork (and to meet for the last time with the baby home director)
with all the paperwork signed, we headed back to the Groupa room to pick up our newly-dressed Miss K. At this point, the only instruction/information that they gave us was her schedule (nap time, bedtime, eating time, etc.) and then handed her over to us. They seemed to think that we knew what we were doing—oh my!
As we were leaving, it was clear that our Miss K was going to be missed—so many of her caretakers waved goodbye, or went out of their way to speak to her and hug her. This part was just so touching—seeing these women who had cared for her crying or waving to her or wishing her good fortune (and us, too):
Miss K was buckled into the car seat and we made a celebratory lap around the baby house:
At this point, we had to go back to the passport office to pick up K’s finished passport. She and Susan bonded in the car while Nadia, Margarita and I went inside to get this last piece of paper for the Kaluga leg of the trip.
Margarita then left us with her good wishes:
and we headed back to the hotel. Here Vladimir our driver left us with his good wishes and we were on our own with Nadia and Miss K
Nadia and I headed across the street to buy some diapers and some bottled water, while Auntie Susan took on K watching duties. I came back to this scene—K’s first cookie! :
We quickly skyped Steve, and then Nadia took us downstairs to the hotel cafeteria so we would eat something. She sat and talked with us for a long time (I don’t think she wanted to leave, really) and then we headed back upstairs to repack and get ready to leave in the morning. Nadia, like the rest of the Kaluga staff, were definitely part of the angel band that had surrounded us on this trip. It was finally starting to sink in—we were DONE in Kaluga in just one day (usually this is a three day process) and we were headed out to Moscow at 4:00 the next morning!
We tried to get Miss K ready for bed (note: she did not like it when we tried to give her a bath in the hotel room sink—I can’t say I blame her. Two women she had never really been around before had broken her out of the baby home and were now trying to bathe her in a little sink—who were these crazy women?).
Finally, she crashed on the big bed, and we finished packing (we had unpacked the night before, thinking we were going to be in Kaluga for at least 2 days). I think we finally fell asleep around 10:30/11:00 pm—and we needed to be ready to leave at 4 am the next morning! The whirlwind was definitely not over yet. However, we now had Miss K, and so all was very right with the world this night.
(It should be very clear, but I want to say it clearly just in case—I would NOT have made it through all this without my sister. Not only did she document all of this with her camera, but she was the calming presence in the midst of the entire trip, and the one who took care of Miss K so that I could fill out paperwork, sign documents, and do all of that stuff. She carried innumerable suitcases, changed diapers, played, laughed, entertained (the Russians, too—they loved her!), and kept me sane. I can never thank her enough for this. I hope she knows how very much I love her. )