I have never been on a train before and was looking forward to the experience. We had a private sleeper compartment for Robert, Natasha (our facilitator) and myself. It was a crash course in learning to become comfortable with one another. The sleeper compartment consisted on two bunks, side by side, with a small aisle between them. We took the time to chat and get to know each other before turning in. The train left at 10pm and was scheduled to arrive in Odessa at 6am, so Natasha suggested we try to get some sleep because the next day would be a long one. Robert climbed into the top bunk (Natasha and I voted him there) and we set up camp in the bottom bunks. For those of you traveling by train to your region, the experience is "unique". Firstly, I have heard the horror stories about the bathroom, basically a filthy hole in the floor. I was determined NOT to need to use the facilities until we made it to our destination. But, sure enough, I couldn't wait. Thankfully, we were in one of the renovated cars. That basically meant a traditional western toliet on a filthy floor. It could have been worse. Using these facilities without falling over or giving yourself a concussion is an art in itself. I compared notes with Robert , and obviously its worse for you guys who have to attempt to balence in a rocking and pitching car. I know, too much information.
I thought sleeping on the train would be a dream. I anticipated being lulled to sleep by the gentle sway of the railcars. I laid there for quite some time trying to find some sort of rhyme or reason for the movement that jerked and dipped in irregular patterns. In the darkness my eyes followed the shadows cast across the car interior by passing lights on the track. The lingering cigarette smoke for previous tenants seemed to be part of every inch of the compartment. After laying there for what seemed an eternity, I felt myself slip away. I awoke when the train lurched to a hissing stop and Russian voices could be heard outside our window. I conceeded to myself that that wasn't too bad a journey. It was tolerable. I sat up to stretch and Natasha told me only one hour had passed. We were far from our destination. Eventually the train groaned forward, protesting its journey south. This happened four more times before we rolled into Odessa at 6:19 am. Robert and I probably slept a total of 15 minutes the whole night. Add that to the jet lag and we felt dead in the water before our day had even begun.
We stepped off the train into a drizzling rain. How appropriate that the weather I had left Odessa in a year and a half ago would greet me upon my return. We made our way in the shadow of the Odessa train station through babushkas offering available apartments and middle aged men proffering taxi rides as our luggage tapped mercilessly on the slick cobblestone pavement to our waiting ride. We arrived at our apartment before seven and were greeted by a bleary eyed desk attendant who was unsure about our reservation. We would need to wait until Masha the reservation agent came in at 8am. Not wanting to venture back out into the damp darkness of the early morning, we sunk down on the cold marble steps. Natasha text messaged another adopting family staying in the building and Jeri, the mom, invited us up. We found refuge in the warmth and fellowship found in the little apartment. She and her husband are here adopting a 16 year old boy from Kristina's orphanage. She proved to be a wealth of information and a much needed reminder of God's hand in all of these events. As we were chatting, a knock on the door announced Sean and Tracey's arrival. Its strange to express the kinship formed with people you have never met, but who have impacted your journey in such a profound way. We felt blessed that Sean could stay back and offer his hard won wisdom on what to expect in the adoption process as Tracey went to iron out last details for their evening departure to Kiev. We headed over to the Greek Square and had breakfast with Jeri and Sean helped us buy a phone that we will need over the coming weeks.
We retunred to the apartment a short time later hoping it would be ready and we would have a chance to shower and change out of our travel worn clothing, but we learned the apartment would not be ready until after 11. Before we could grieve that fact, Natasha called to inform us that we would be meeting with officials from the mayor's office in an hour. We left our bags with Jeri and headed out. We arrived at the building and made our way to a hallway lined with closed dooors. Everywhere we went, heavy oak doors gave an unwelcoming feeling to those waiting hopefully on the outside. We knocked on the one and waited. After a short while a pleasant looking older woman invited us in. The fact that she and Natasha laughed as they spoke put me at ease. She looked over our documents and confirmed that Kristina does not have any siblings. She then sent Natasha out with a paper that would need to be typed and signed by the "big official". Thirty seconds later we found ourselves standing back in the hallway staring at closed doors once again. We were told that we could wait for the document (which we would need before we could go to Kristina's orphanage). About an hour later we had the paper and were headed to internot 4.
We specifically asked our facilitator if we could record Kristina as she came in and were told that it wouldn't be a problem. We were invited into the social workers's office. I immediately recognized the woman from my trip a year and half ago. I was with Vinny of Frontier Horizon and he introduced us and invited us to sit and chat in that very same room. She offered me chocolates and before we left she said she knew I was a good woman and had insisted I take a bottle of Odessa Champagne as a gift. Robert and I introduced ourselves and then I asked Natasha to inquire if the woman remembered me from a previous visit. She looked into my face and her eyes grew big as she nodded that she did remember. She proceeded to go through Krstina's file and give us her social, health, psychlogical, and academic background. Much of it we knew, though there were a few gray areas. I think that's true of the background of many of these children. We then went to the director's office where she asked how we knew Kristina (from my mission trip last year), how many chilredn we had (again raised eyebrows), and their ages. We returned to the social workers office to sign some forms as she called down for Kristina to be sent up.
Now, I know many of you will be disappointed to hear this (U), but we did not get video of Kristina coming into the office. Apparently, she was standing by the phone in the playroom and heard that her family had come. She raced across the building and burst into the office where Robert and I were sitting on either side of the door. Standing between us at arms length, she tried to compose herself but was unable to stand still as the social worker address her. The social workerer asked if she knew who we were and she nodded with bouncing braids and whispered, "Mama and Papa". The social worker indicated to her that it was okay to speak to us. She flung her arms around my neck and kissed my cheeks. I hung on to her for a long time before releasing her to Robert who did the same. He choked out that he had missed her and she said she had missed him too. Everyone in the office was overcome with tears at the powerful emotions as we were reunited.
The social worker said she would do what she could within her power to help the adoption run smoothly and indicated that she would have our paperwork ready for Monday. Once the paperwork is done, it is sent to the SDA office in Kiev, approved, and then we can set a court date. That sounds simple, but there are many hands that these papers must pass through and it must all be coordinated in order for it to happen in a timely fashion. Additionally, there is an issue that must be resolved. In order to do so, Kristina's birth father must sign off on some paperwork. Our facilitator will visit him before the weekend to try and resolve this. Please pray that this will be uneventful and that no one will take advantage of the situation.
We were allowed to take Kristina out for an early dinner and spend about 2 hours with her. She is the same Kristina with springs for feet and a silly attitude. After returning Kristina to the orphanage, Sean gave us a walk though at the grocery store so we could stock our kitchen. We also had the pleasure of meeting Maria who is adopting a girl from #5. There is one other family that arrived today and is also staying in our building. While we grieve the fact that we couldn't have more time with Sean and Tracey, we are encouraged that we wll be surrounded by other American families on the same path. We are overjoyed to be back together, but already aching to head home. Thank you for all the encouragment and prayer. Please pray for the O'Hara's as they begin their journey home through Kiev tonight and back to their other children later this week. Good night for now. Its time for me to get out of these train clothes and head to bed.
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