It seems strange to be writing this from the business center of our hotel in Kiev (pardon the typos, strange keyboard here). You imagine many times how the adoption experience will play out in the many months leading up to this, but its another thing altogther to be living the reality of it. But let me back up a bit . . .
Our seven hour layover at JFK turned out to be uneventful and even comic as Robert and I expended nervous energy pacing the airport. Just a heads up for those of you who plan on flying Aerosvit, we had an issue with the weight of our carryon luggage. I can't remember what the weight limit is (check their site), but both our bags were grossly overweight. We tried to repack things into our check bags and still couldn't get the issue settled. I ended up having to check my carryon. Mark and Theresa also had this problem. So you might want to take that into consideration.
When we got to JFK, I looked everywhere for Mark and Theresa feeling certain that I could pick them out from the crowd of travelers we passed, but I wasn't able to locate them. When the boarding announcement was made, I scurried over to a shop to grab some last minute things. As I was making my way back to Robert seated just past our gates I heard my name whispered from the line of people waiting to board. There was Theresa with a cell phone perched on her shoulder and bags in hand. I was so happy to see her that I hugged her immediately. Mark introduced himself and I knew God had blessed us to have their company on the flight across. Our flight was packed and the Dramamine I had taken kicked in as soon as I got situated on board. I found myself dozing off within minutes of being seated. I fought to stay awake, but found myself slipping away everytime I was still. Theresa and Mark were seated directly behind us, so when I was able to regain consciousnous, we were able to compare notes and get to know each other. What an amazing couple! They have such a heart for their kids and have made great sacrifices to pursue their adoption.
Mark said there was some intense turbulence at one point of the flight, but thankfully we were asleep for it! Robert sat by the window and looked at the passing planes and changing landscape. He has decided that he wants to go to New Finland based on his areiel view of it. :P We arrived on time to Kiev. Now, let me explain the immigration situtaion as we experienced it. I was terribly worried about how it would work, but it turns out that it wasn't a problem at all. We filled out immigration cards on the plane (very simple form) and then filed into the immigration office. Theresa and I scanned the rows to see which official looked like he/she was having a good day so we could get in their line, but it didn't much matter. A serious looking man (aren't they all?) looked over the forms, stamped them a few times, and waved us through. We gathered our luggage (which all made it!) and then filled out the declaration forms in the next area. FYI: there are carts at the luggage carousels and they are free. So you'll have that to help you navigate through the rest of the airport if you bring a lot of stuff. All pretty standard except the part where you have to declare how much money you're bringing into the country. This was the part we had been dreading. We filled out the forms and approached a desk with a friendly looking woman. Was the money for business? We told her it was for an adoption. She wanted to know if the amount we wrote down was all we had brought. Yes. Were we sure? Yes. Was there money in our bags? No. She asked to see the money. Ugh. I placed the envelopes discreetly on the counter. She looked in one envelope and quickly indicated to me to put it all away. Phew! That was it! We walked out the doors immediataly behind the desk and there was smiling Dima and our driver Nikolai holding a sign with our name.
Nikolai loaded our bags in his minivan and off we went through Kiev. It was amazing to see new modern building sprouting along side of older building rich with architecture and history. We made it to our hotel, got checked in, and made our way to our room. It took a minute to figure out that you have to insert your room key in a slot by the door to make the electricity work in the room! The room key also operates the elevator. Good stuff to know. Wish we would have known it before exasperating a French couple who got in the elevator after us. We took a short nap and woke up famished. Unfortunately, we arent' staying in the same hotel as the Fischer's or Mark and Theresa, so we were on our own. The receptionist said it would be about a hour walk to get to the other families' hotels and we weren't up for that kind of hike. We found out the famous TGI Friday's was only about a ten minute walk from where we are staying so we ventured out into the city. We had a business card from the hotel in pocket in the event that we got lost and needed to hire a taxi to bring us back! Just as the receptionist had promised, we happened upon the resturant and sat down for a meal. Robert fought me on eating here initially. He wanted to eat local cuisine, but I reminded him that Ukrainian food was going to be our main diet for the next few weeks. I convinced him that we should have one more taste of American food before we left for our region. His response was the title for this evening's post, but we ate at TGI Friday's anyway. On the walk home, he kept stopping and perusing the menus of local eateried, grumbling under his breathe about real Ukrainian food. The city is gorgeous at night and we took a detour through a local market with meat, produce, flower, and caviar vendors. I got some great shots, but this computer isn't allowing me to upload any of them. When we get to Odessa, I will post pics.
Well, let me bring this post to an end. We have our appointment tomorrow at 2pm with the SDA. Please pray that things go smoothly. We will be taking the night train to our region after the appointment. Touch base with everyone again soon! Night!
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