I ended Part 3 of the remembrance of our trip a couple of weeks ago with the story of putting Miss K to sleep on the night of December 23, 2009. For her, I feel like I need to continue the rest of the story, for it is as remarkable as well.
We were supposed to be up and ready to go the next morning (December 24, 2009) at 4:00 am. Ivan and Vasili wanted to make sure that we were at the CSS office when it opened in the morning, and they were concerned that if we left any later we’d be caught in Moscow traffic. So—we were “up and ready to go” by 4:00.
One of the first signs our kiddo is remarkable—she was awake and watching out the window of the van for almost the entire 2 1/2 hour trip from Kaluga to Moscow. She was fascinated/mesmerized by the scenery going by—and she was pretty much focused and content for the first two hours of the trip.
It was only as we got closer to Moscow that she got restless and we to needed to start entertaining her:
When we reached Moscow and made our way to the CSS office, it turned out we were about an hour early. So. We sat in the van and waited. Luckily, Miss K was still pretty cool with being entertained and she loved the Gerber teething cookies (which, because she only had a few teeth, she could make last for a LONG time). We played with her, the guys played with her
and eventually it was time to go inside the office.
Inside the office, I was swept off into the conference room to fill out the paperwork for the Embassy. Some of this I had already done, but apparently it wasn’t done the way they thought it should be, and so we started all over again. We met our new Moscow translator, Tanya, who is a sweet lady, but who, alas, in trying to explain the forms to me (which I could read) made it take more time than it would have if I had just read them. Eventually she figured this out, and stepped out of the room to do other things—we later found out that they had “fast-tracked” our process so that we could have everything done that day, which is why she was trying to get me to hurry—and this was on a day when the American Embassy was going to close early because it was Christmas Eve.
In the meantime, Auntie Susan took Miss K off to entertain her:
Once the paperwork was done, we climbed into Andrei’s van (which had the unusual combined aroma of cat and air freshener) and headed off for Miss K’s doctor’s checkup. This has to be done before the American Embassy will approve the child leaving Russia and entering the US.
In Dr. Boris’ office:
Miss K was not at all happy about the doctor visit—and there were several tears. Dr. Boris said that she was a bit of a “drama queen” but that she was healthy and approved her for the Embassy. This was great news—there was another couple there in the doctor’s office from our agency who had run into problems with their son’s blood test records, and they were waiting (perhaps until the next day) for that to be approved. (We found out later that all did work out well, but it was another flaming hoop they had to jump through to get their child home).
With this all done, and K now happy, we headed back outside
This whole part of the trip was just a bit surreal. And it was not at all what I expected it would be. Tanya and I left Miss K in the van with Susan and headed inside. You have to go through security (much like in the airport—everything is x-rayed) and the we wandered up several flights of stairs to an out of the way office where I handed in all my documents to a lady behind a small window. We then had to get in a line to pay for Karina’s processing at a different window, and then we headed into a waiting room to wait until all was processed. Tanya told me that she couldn’t wait there—and so she left for awhile (which was strange, because it seemed like all of the other American couples who were waiting not only had their child with them, but their translator as well). She then came back and told me that I needed to go get Karina (and Susan). Ok—so I headed outside and had a minor panic moment when I realized that all I knew about the van we were in was that it was black and that it was a bit smelly on the inside—and that there were SEVERAL black vans waiting around the embassy. Eventually, I did find them, and we made the trek back into the embassy with K through security.
Once back inside, we waited. We watched the other families who were also waiting to adopt children from Russia. (It was at this point that Susan leaned over and whispered “we got the best one!”) I had managed to find a phone and call my friend Dave K, who met us in the waiting room and talked for awhile until he had to head back to work—this was just pretty amazing; Dave K, who sat behind me in Russian comp my senior year of college was one of the big movers and shakers at the American Embassy in Moscow (although he had no say over the adoption stuff). Eventually, we were called up to the window at the front of the room where they went over all of our paperwork again and presented us with Miss K’s visa for entry into the US (what we were there for)!
With the Embassy visit now done (it was after noon at this point) we headed back outside and back to the CSS office. We had to go over the paperwork yet again, and they answered any questions that we had and gave us instructions for leaving the country. (Essentially—don’t let anyone take your documents unless you know exactly where they’re going with them, and don’t lose them.) They then told us that all we still needed to do was for Tanya to get our approval from the Russian Consulate to leave—the rest of what we had needed to do had been accomplished. Really? Yes. We had gotten everything (except the Russian Consulate approval) done in ONE DAY.
There was one last stop we had to make before we could head to the apartment—we needed to have one additional picture of Miss K for her Russian Consulate approval (we were a picture short). So, we were back into Andrei’s van and off to a photographer. Poor K was tired and hot at this point, and didn’t want to have her picture taken, the photographer (who was probably 20 years old and gothy) swore loudly and in English when the first picture didn’t work, and I got yelled at by Tanya when I didn’t want to put Miss K’s hat back on for the 200 foot trip from the photography studio to the van. (In my defense, it was warm enough at this point that the snow and ice was melting and falling off the buildings in huge chunks—K was sweating bullets and was just unhappy/tired and so were we. Susan turned to me and whispered, “just put the d*&^m hat on her,” so I did. However, we then heard at least twice during the rest of the trip how essential it was that “Russian baby must wear hat.”)
We were finally on our way to the apartment. This should have been a short trip from where we were (less than a mile from the photography studio). However, we were now in full-blown Moscow traffic. It took FOREVER (well, what seemed like forever). One of my favorite pictures of the trip comes from this time:
Finally, we reached our apartment building, just off of the Arbat:
We hauled all our luggage inside, up the flight and a half of stairs, and Susan and K crashed while Tanya took me out and showed me how to reach a grocery store. She then headed off (after another story about why babies needed to wear hats and again reminding us that she would get our Russian Consulate approval tomorrow) and I headed back inside the apartment to crash as well.
I’m not sure how long we slept, but we eventually rallied and decided that we needed to clean up and do something about eating that night. We decided that neither of us was up to going out, and so we fixed the box of Kraft Macaroni and Cheese that I had stashed in the suitcase (this was without milk or butter—I have to admit that it wasn’t terrible, but it is a taste experience I don’t want to repeat soon). We pulled out our Christmas jammies and decided that we were going to relax and enjoy Christmas Eve in Moscow:
a teething cookie and carrot baby food for Santa and a fireplace on the laptop: