Sunday, August 26, 2012

Trip #3... Gotcha !

I guess it's time for my long overdue post... or posts... However many it takes to fill in the gaps.

Seven weeks ago today, our plane touched down in Moscow for what would be the culmination of this "paper pregnancy".  Saturday, July 7 we boarded a plane headed for EE.  This trip was different from our first two in many ways besides the obvious fact we would return with our son.

This time, our family came to us to care for our bio boys.  The 2 previous times we had stopped in PA during our flight east to leave them with my family.  This trip was a patchwork of relatives caring for the boys.  They had an amazing time with Aunt Kris (Dave's sister), Dave's parents, and my parents (who were already headed this way for my cousin's wedding).

We deplaned about 9am local time on Sunday, July 8.  There were at least 2 other adoptive families on their final trip on our flight... one family I knew of through Reece's Rainbow and the other I just took a wild guess seeing as how they were carrying a diaper bag without  a kid.  Call me Sherlock Holmes.

Dima met us at the airport and kept our bags for the day while we went sightseeing and shopping.  He dropped us at a metro station and we planned to meet about 7pm so he could take us to the train station. 

The bulk of our day was spent between Izmaylovo Market and Red Square.  Izmaylovo Market is a HUGE outdoor shopping area.  It's a combination of souvenir stands and a flea market.  Prior to meeting Dima, we ate dinner and bought a few necessities like bottled water.  We fired off a few quick emails, sent some postcards, and headed to the train.

Our cabin was similar to the two previous trips, however it was more of a family car than business class.  Each of the other times, the passengers were primarily businessmen in suits.  This time, there were families with children and instead of just two beds, our cabin was equipped for 4 (including 2 bunks).  This change was due to the fact we'd be making the return trip with our Little Dude.

Our ride was uneventful and we both slept well with the gentle pitch and roll of the train.  We arrived about 9am and went to Katie's apartment (where we would be staying).  Nadia, whom we stayed with on our first two trips, was visiting her family in Ukraine.  Katie served as our interpreter and representative on past visits and her husband Denis had driven us to the orphanage.  Katie and Denis have 2 boys similar in ages to our bio boys.  A fun little fact is that Katie spent 5 months working in the Dells during a college exchange program.

Katie had planned on spending the day showing us around Little Dude's region's capital city.  However, she owns a restaurant and had an emergency come up.  Denis and his sister (Anna) served as our tour guides.  Anna currently lives in the US and is fluent in English.  During our travels, we ate at Katie's restaurant.  It was amazing.  We also had take-out from there Monday night and Little Dude's first restaurant meal there on the way to the train Tuesday.
                                                     Katie and Denis's restaurant:  USSR Cafe
I can now say that I've eaten Cotton Candy on three continents!
Monday evening we visited our friend Loudmila.  Luda served as our interpreter during court.  We had the opportunity to not only meet her son, daugher-in-law, and mother, we also got to pray, sing, and read the Bible with them.
We returned to Katie's about 9pm, ate a late dinner, then went up on the roof.  Her apartment has an amazing view of the Volga River.  Katie returned about 11pm and we visited for awhile before heading to bed.
After breakfast Tuesday morning, we began our trek to the orphanage.  As I've mentioned before, it's about a 3 hour drive from the region's capital.  Denis drove and Katie was serving as our interpreter.

Shortly after noon on Tuesday, July 10, 2012, we exited the orphange with our son.
Our Little Dude did great during our 3-hour drive... until we pulled into the parking lot at Katie's restaurant where he puked all over himself and the carseat.  Thankfully, as the parents of 2 little boys, this was a non-event for Katie and Denis.

Katie and Loudmila saw us off at the train station.
Little Dude had a great trip to Moscow.  While most of the sleep he had that night would be considered napping, he did so either on top or or curled up next to one of us.  We were all able to rest up for the great paper chase that lay ahead.

Upon our early Wednesday morning arrival in Moscow, we were ushered to our hotel where Little Dude's physical would occur and we'd complete the paperwork necessary for the US Embassy and Russian Consulate.  Although we had booked a room for a 7am check-in, none were available upon our arrival.  This meant the doctor would perform Little Dude's physical in the lobby of the hotel.  It really wasn't a problem since the exam is extremely cursory.  Then Inna (on staff with our adoption agency) arrived to complete our paperwork.  This needed to be filed at the US Embassy by 11am in order for us to get an appointment for our interview on Thursday morning and fly home Friday.

After checking in at the hotel, a bath for Little Dude, showers for Dave & I, and resting a bit, we headed to Red Square.  We took the requisite photo in front of St. Basil's then had dinner at Sbarro with Jonas and his Mommy (a third RR family who was in Moscow while we were).
We all slept well in big, comfy beds.

A bonus of not being able to check in at 7am as planned on Wednesday is that the hotel comp'd us with their breakfast buffet on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday mornings.  So after strapping on the feed bag Thursday morning, Dima picked us up for our US Embassy appointment.

Upon arrival at the Embassy and going through security, we headed upstairs for our "interview".  There were two other families, both with little boys also.  One was the diaper bag carrying family from our flight.  While at JFK, I had noticed the dad was wearing a Penn State ballcap.  As it would end up, he grew up about 30 minutes from me.  We were sworn in as a group and the agent explained a few procedural things, what to expect at immigration, etc.  We were then called to the window and asked a few questions.  Basically, all it was was confirming spellings on names, etc.  We received our sealed packet (do not, I repeat DO NOT, open it or allow anyone else to under any circumstance).  It must be sealed with the original seal when you hand it to the Department of Homeland Security upon entering the USA (otherwise you risk being turned away).  Little Dude's Russian passport was given an immigrant visa and since his adoption was finalized in-country, he would become an American Citizen as soon as our plane touched US soil.
We also completed the paperwork necessary for Russian Consular Registration before returning to our hotel.
We opted for a quiet evening which included pizza at the hotel restaurant.  Inna returned Little Dude's passport about 11pm (as it was needed for Consular registration).

Bright and early Friday morning, we headed to the airport to begin our flight home.  As Little Dude is 4yo, he had his own seat for the flight.  Let's just say that having that extra room was awesome.  Yet again, he proved to be a real trooper and great travel companion.  A few minutes before noon on Friday, July 13, 2012 we hit the tarmac of JFK International Airport and our Little Dude became a US Citizen.

We received a 'fast pass' (or a name something like that) at immigration that allowed us to go to a short/special line.  We buzzed through immigration in record time and went to the gate for our connecting flight.  Anyone who has traveled through JFK knows that there are many terminals and you must enter each one through security.  Again, since we were traveling with a child with special needs, we were accomodated and able to pass through (relatively) quickly.  I will say that during our wait in line, Little Dude was busy high-fiving everyone and trying to help with their luggage.

A neat little God-thing was the Starbucks next to our gate.  While I'm not a huge coffee drinker, God knew I was looking forward to a frappuccino once back in the states.  On top of the blessing of Starbucks being right there, He not only provided one, but TWO frappuccinos!  (The kid making mine initially made the wrong thing and gave me both mine and the mistake.)  Woo Hoo!!!
We had 2 more flights before arriving home.  Both flights and our layover at DTW went well.  Stay tuned for subsequent posts about Little Dude's welcome home and adjustment to family life.