Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Odessa Bound

I actually have to start from last night so I can give you the whole story, so bear with me. We had dinner at TGI Fridays rather early and we only split an appetizer and a dessert, so Robert decided at about 10pm last night that it was time to try Ukrainian food. We went down to the restaurant in the hotel and had Borsch soup and Chicken Kiev. There are a lot of British guests in the hotel and we found out that a series of big Manchester soccer games going on. The arena is right behind the hotel. We can literally open our window and see the field. I'll post pics once I get to Odessa.

Thank you for the thoughtful comments. Its humbling to hear that so many of you prayed for us today. We slept late and went down for the hotel's breakfast buffet. After breakfast we milled about, not wanting to stray too far from the hotel. Our travel clock broke in the journey over, so I called down to the desk to set the clock in the room. Dima said he would meet us in the lobby at 1:30 since our appointment was at 2. At about 1:20, he called from the lobby wondering where we were. It seems the receptionist gave us the wrong time. We were only off by 10 minutes, but it was just enough to put me on edge. We threw on our shoes (well, I threw on my boots. Natalyia, Robert said I looked Ukrainian from the knees down. Ha!) and scrambled to gather our passports and photo album. We left the hotel about 8 miutes off schedule. I sat in the back seat calming myself with the knowledge that God is in control. I had to remind myself that the SDA doesn't give out appointments for families to travel here just to tell them in person, "Um, we don't want you to adopt one of our children." Dima said the entire meeting would take about 5 minutes. I didn't believe that it would go that quickly, but I nodded in agreement. I kept watching the minutes tick by on the dashboard clock as we speed through town. 1:46. 1:53. 1:58! We pulled up right at 1:59 and jumped from the car. I had to jog to keep up with Dima. Just a side note here, ladies. The office is at the top of a rather steep hill with a very uneven cobble stone pavement. And here I was in my new boots with heels. What a sight I was trying to navigate (while running) up the pavement to the gated entrance.

When we reached the gate there were about 5 facilitators and one adopting couple standing around waiting for the gate to open. The other facilitators immediately recognized Dima and greeted him warmly. It made me think of the Proverbs 31:23 passage. Dima is obviously a well respected man.

My first reaction to seeing the entrance locked was, "Why is the gate shut and locked? Oh my goodness, please tell me we didn't miss our appointment!" One of the facilitators looked stressed and kept asking something of the guard on the other side of the gate. Each time he would reply, 'nyet'. Dima got the same response when he asked something. Don't panic, don't panic.

Just then, the door swung open and out walked one of the workers to fetch us in for our meeting. She was the translator who would accompany us in our meeting; she indicated that we should follow her. She was very kind and soft spoken. We followed the stairs up to the second floor and were shown into an office. The two women (one SDA worker and the translator) invited us to sit on the couch. The SDA worker and the translator sat across from us in chairs and Dima sat to our left to observe the meeting. The SDA worker asked us to introduce ourselves (names) and then asked to see our passports. She asked if we were there to adopt Kristina to which we replied in the affirmative. I could see that she had a Kristina's paper in her hands and I caught a glimpse of her photo in the upper left hand corner. It was just a fleeting look, but I could see how small and young she was when she entered the system. And suddenly I was reminded why I was here. The worker asked how I knew Kristina. I told her that I had met Kristina on a mission trip over a year ago. She nodded as the translator relayed my answer. She asked if we had any children. We said yes, we have four. She asked what their ages were. When we told her she raised her eyebrows and said, "You are determined to have big family, yes?" We laughed and replied that we did. She then placed Kristina's file in our hands. It was just one page all in Russian with a tiny photo of her in the corner. She asked if this was the child we wanted to adopt. I felt myself tearing up at the magnitude of this moment and I nodded in response. She asked if we wanted to know Kristina's history. We told her we did and she told us that Kristina was born in Odessa and her mother is deceased. Her father was awarded custody and then had his rights repealed by the courts. That is when she entered the system. She has no brothers or sisters, is a beautiful and friendly child according to the orphanage. That was all the specific info that they could provide us with, the orphanage would give us details if we wanted them. Before we could show them the pictures we brought, she said, "We are happy to give you referral for this girl." Time from start to finish: 5 minutes. I had planned to have pictures of this monumental event, but to be honest it was a blur. I wanted to have a picture outside the SDA, a copy of the file picture of Kristina, a picture after our appointment, but we didn't take any! Oh well!

We thanked the workers and headed back to the car. That was it! Dima asked if we wanted to travel to Odessa on the 10 pm overnight train and we indicated that we did. He said he would have the paperwork by 5 and send it with us. Amazing! We know things will not work this smoothly at every turn, but we are thankful for these little steps. We went back to the hotel and changed clothes. We had several hours to kill so we decided to venture downtown and check out Independence Square. We wandered around the underground mall and up the hill to one of the beautiful cathedrals. We stopped at an authentic Ukrainian restaurant on the way back and had dinner. The prices are amazing. We each had more food than we could possibly eat in a really nice resturant for under $15.00. Our facilitator Natasha will be meeting us in the lobby at 9pm to take us to the train station. I just wanted to let you know where we were in the journey. Don't stop praying for us now, though. We have a long road still ahead of us.

21 comments:

The O'Haras said...

I am so glad that the whirlwind has started! Make sure you have munchies for the train...oh, I realize as I post this that you are already picked up and waiting at the train station. I hope you are ready the slow train trip here....when you get off at 6am and wander the streets for a few hours waiting to get into your apartment, even McDonald's doesn't open til 8...give us a call early though, not too early and we will try and meet before it turns hectic and we try and get out of here. Blessings!

Lucia said...

How wonderful to hear that things went smoothly at your appt today! I cried reading your entry, especially when you mention when they asked you if Kristina is the child you want to adopt and all you could do was nod. Wishing you safe travel to Odessa. Looking forward to hearing about your reunion with Kristina!
Blessings ...

P.S. Love the comment about looking Ukrainian from the knees down! LOL I too have bought boots for our trip and have been breaking them in.

Kelly said...

Oh Leslie!!! I was crying reading this! I can just picture everything and how immense that moment was when they handed you Kristina's file. I am so happy for you, and for Kristina. I cannot wait to post the same about our Erik. Thank you SOOO much for the detailed account. I live vicariously through your adoption until we travel!!! You're on the train and it probably JUST left the station. I hope you have a wonderful journey. Imagine, Kristina is asleep and doesn't even realize this is it, her last night without you!!!! Kelly

Ashley said...

I still have chill bumps as I am writing this. Thank you for writing everything with such detail. I, too, feel I am there with you and seeing it through your eyes. I am getting nervous and she isn't even my child. LOL Sending more love from our family to yours. Here are hugs and prayers from us, too! GIVE GRISHA A BIG HUG!!!! Love you, sweet sister in Christ.

Melissa E. said...

I was teary eyed at your teary-eyed-ness! What a wonderful surprise Kristina has to greet her tomorrow!!!
God speed!

Kathy & Matt said...

Like others, I was in tears as I read your post. I'm so happy that your appointment went so smoothly and your journey is starting out so well. I will continue to pray for you and follow along.

Steve & Gail said...

We are so glad that the appointment went well. We can't wait until we are there for ours. Do you suppose that an appointment for three children will take 15 minutes? You are in our prayers.

Hale Family said...

So, it's vacation time! I can't wait to see your odessa pics after reunting with Kristina. It's going to be fun to follow your adventure.

Joy Rae said...

Reading yourpost just reminds me and confirms why we are adopting also! It is that moment that you see your child's picture and you just know, that makes all of this worth it!

Wishing you continued good luck and smooth processes!

Joy Rae

Tami said...

Wow! I've got chills...and happy tears! You're on your way. By the time you read this you'll probably have already been reunited with Kristina. Wow! What a dream come true! I can't wait to hear all about it!!!!!

Anonymous said...

Hey Leslie,

I'm following your blog every day now! I'm so excited for you. I remember that overnight train... I definitely hope you remembered to bring food and water! :-) Can't wait to see your pics once you get to Odessa...

Praying for y'all!

Bev Burrell :-)

gag said...

My got chills too when I read this! You are truly an amazing person, you and your whole family!

Lisa, Chris & Lucas said...

Leslie,

I'm so excited!! I can't wait to read about Kristina's reaction when she sees you. You all deserve this special moment that it will no doubt be. I am there with you in spirit and praying for smooth sailing.

Lisa

Susan said...

I reviewed the videos and read your blog with chills and tears. Our appointment is 12/5 for Luda and Vika in your video. I am following your every word! Have a wonderful trip.

Mark & Kim said...

I can not even imagine looking at that small little picture of her after all this time - and finally being able to tell them YES - that's OUR girl!! This is a HUGE step that you have made. You'll have some more big ones and some little ones. Know you are being prayer for every single step along the way. I can't wait to read about your reunion! This is it - you're there - hopefully by the time you've read this she will have wrapped her skinny little arms around you! Praise GOd!!!!!!!!

Nataliya said...

Leslie, of course you look fabulous in your boots, and I have no doubt you look much better than Ukrainians!

What a great appointment you had today! I do hope the things will work smoothly at EVERY TURN!

It's almost 11PM here, so you are about to arrive to Odessa train station. Welcome to my hometown and GOOD LUCK in everyting!

adopting2fromUkraine said...

You had me on the edge of my seat. What happened next! How wonderful that everything went so smoothly and quickly:)

Kristen said...

YAYAYAYYA okay get kristina and come home thanks :D hahaha. i miss youuu. i got soo much to tell you right nowww :( i actaully need you. booo. so lets goo get her and home! lol i want to see my other family! :)

Vicki Taylor said...

Leslie, like every other mother who read this post, I sat here and wept. I will be praying for you. Thanks for sharing your experience-- you've enriched my life and blessed my spirit with your love for Kristina. Peace.

U said...

No pictures? C'mon my sister. Pull out that Sidekick and shoot away. Document, document, document! You need to remember this moment in time with images. Besides, it'll be easier for me when I create the DVD documentary :-)

Thanks for keeping us in the loop with your writing.

Anonymous said...

Z says- I was crying reading this blog and imagining that picture of Kristina as a little teeny one in an orphanage. Then I read U's blog and had to laugh and pull myself together. I love you guys and I'm praying for you! :) CZ