Thursday, September 30, 2010

Public Transportation with Children

End of Day Six

Vital Information:  We saw Ruslan again today.  We can visit in the mornings from 10 to 12.  He was all smiles when we walked in.  We got a few photos and played outside most of the morning.  We left at noon and after a life-saving nap, we did school, cooking and dishes the rest of the day. 

I got a call from Nadya (translator) after dinner.  She said that since Ruslan has a sister, the government has to legally separate them.  They are meeting to decide about this next Friday. We can't proceed with any more adoption paperwork until they are officially separated.  SO, just like that, we lost a week.  She said that we are lucky, since they only meet about such things once a month, and we could have lost a whole month.  I believe her.  In the meantime, we are going to meet to go over the other available boys to see if there are any that we might be able to handle along with Ruslan.

Not so vital:  Ok, so we got up at 7am, walked a few blocks to the Metro, took the green line to the red line, took the red line to "cybertown" and caught a bus to Vorzel.  It's short walk to baby house 5 from the bus stop.  We got there at 9:45.  ...It took 2 hours and 45 minutes to go SEVENTEEN miles. Same for the return trip.  We left at noon and got back at 2:45. That's roughly six hours of traveling for a two hour visit.  The bus isn't bad, but the Metro is very stressful with kids.  They pack themselves in those things tighter than Turks--and that is saying a LOT.  Plus, there is precious little time to get on and off.  We haven't got separated yet, but if we do, I won't be surprised.

Poor Matt was introduced to another aspect of international life on the Metro today.  He called it Death Breath.  I think they got him from both sides.  He might even have fainted, but luckily, it looked like the crowd was holding him upright.

Ruslan seemed glad to see us.  His smile nearly splits his face in two.  He is still quiet, but he has no problem letting us know his preferences. Right now, he prefers Bill.  He tolerates me, but generally, I'm in the way.   After being the preferred parent for most of the past week (for our other kids), I am fine with this.  Bill is great with him.  We spent the morning picking up nuts from some acorn trees that cover the playground.  We got a huge bucket full.  I suspect they will eat them somehow.  Ruslan was very determined to help.  He had his own bucket and I'd say he spent half the visit on the ground collecting nuts.  He's a cheap date!  We had the DS games out today and I tried to get him to write his name--or just an "R" with the DS pen, but it just wasn't there.  I had been thinking of starting him in first grade, but he may fit better in Kindergarten.  We are starting from scratch. I doubt that he's ever even written his name.  Plus, he is really small.  His arms and torso are of a six year old, but he has the legs of a four year old.  Thank goodness I brought pants of every size.

Anyway, I don't think we are ALL going to go to Vorzel every day.  We are thinking of taking turns so one of us can stay home and home-school while the other goes to visit.   I mentioned this on the way back and Reilly said, "Why?  I want to come every day!"  So, that is good.  At least they are enjoying themselves.  Vorzel is a small town, although I get the feeling that we are in a suburb and a bigger town is nearby.  I really like it.  There are houses instead of apartments, wide streets and lots of trees.  I would stay there, but they have no internet.  ...oh well.

In the back of my mind, I am working on a list of "Things Ukrainians do better than Americans."  Today seems like a good day to write it all down, since we may be here for a while....

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Meet Ruslan

End of Day Five

So today we met Ruslan and he is precious and as sharp as a tack.  I just kept laughing in the back of my mind that the SDA listed him as retarded.  He was in a wheel chair and probably scared to death, but he gave us great eye contact, smiled when he saw us, held our hands and gave "high fives."  Bill was so wonderful with him.  He showed Ruslan his digital camera and taught him how to use it.  Ruslan caught on after the first try and was taking pictures of everything in sight.  He didn't need to be told twice how to make it work. (Just to explain to  you what a sacrifice this was for Bill, bear in mind that Bill bought ME my own digital camera so I wouldn't "ruin his."  Taking it as a matter of family harmony, I don't actually have clearance to touch the digital equipment.  I'd have to take a class and purchase some sort of liability insurance....Now that I think about it, Bill probably had Ruslan sign some sort of waiver before letting him press the buttons).

Anyway, Ruslan also caught on quickly when we taught him English words and he told us the Ukranian words.  It was nice that he got the idea of the exchange.  The kids were great with him.  Thank God that they are still essentially jet-lagged.  I think they were just too tired to fight with each other.  We had gotten them up early to catch the ride to Vorzel and they were asleep in the van after about five minutes.  We were appropriately grateful, since it was about an hour ride and another 30 minutes wait while they sorted out the paperwork.  Also, THIS TIME we knew enough to let the kids take their Nintendo DSs along.  The thought of losing DS time is enough to keep even Paul in line.

This is the front porch of the baby house.

Anyway, we stayed with Ruslan for about an hour and played on the front porch of his baby house.  It is cute and clean.  We probably saw about five other kids there--all girls except for one other boy.  We inquired about getting him, but it was clear that he is a huge handful. Nadya (translator) said that he has some behavioral problems and honestly, I don't think we could handle them both.  That leaves us with the problem of locating another child to adopt.  Please pray that God works it out for us.  I'd hate to leave here with just one!

We left about noon and came back to our apartment to nap and then work on dinner and school.  If you ever wonder what I am doing during the day, I can tell you with about 99% certainty that if we are home, I am cutting vegetables or doing dishes.  Nothing comes prepared here, so we have to make everything from scratch.  It takes a LOT of time.  Plus, there is no dishwasher, so all the dishes have to be done by hand.  The laundry is another thing, but I'll go into that later. On the plus side, our apartments is "V" shaped and there is a whole wall of mirrors at the apex of the "V" so I can stand at the kitchen sink and see what the kids are watching on TV in the living room.  God thought of everything!  Did I mention that the tile on the bathroom floor is heated.  Oh yes.  Would I trade that heated tile floor for a dishwasher and a stash of Campbell's soup?  ...I don't know.

We are meeting another adoptive mom tomorrow to learn how to use the subway/bus system (since the "taxi" was $70 to get us all there and back.  It looks like our daily schedule will be morning visits, and home in the afternoon and evening.  This will go on for two to three weeks, then a ten day wait, then a few more weeks to get his passport.  It will be worth it though.  Ruslan is adorable. 

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Escalators and Elevators

End of Day Four

Vitals:  We spent the morning in the apartment (while you were asleep) catching up on school.  We had a 4:00 appointment to get some papers from the SDA.  We were there at 4:00 and our interpreter was there at 4:00, but the SDA official didn't come until about 5:45.  The wait was a little painful but we got the papers, got the kids sidewalk "pizza" for dinner (four large pieces and two drinks for about $6.00) and got home via the metro by about 7pm.  We put the kids to bed right away since they are still a little off schedule.  Tomorrow, we will be up early to go to Vorzel and hopefully meet our son.

Insignificant Details:  So, we left about 2:00 for the 4:00 appointment.  It's nearly impossible not to crack up when we walk down the street.  People don't stare like they do in China, but they definitely glance.  And, if they happen to take in Reilly or Sharon, they glance twice.  In the meantime, everyone in our family is completely obsessed with their own little idiosyncrasies.  Bill spends all his time looking at repair/construction sites, muttering words and phrases like, "building codes"..."zoning?"...."debris in the foundation" and "liability," under his breath.  Paul and Sharon have taken up "scaring pigeons" as a new hobby and constantly run off after them.  Poor Matt is staring at the sidewalk, having met way too many scantily clad women for his comfort and Reilly is his one man police force, telling him when it IS and IS NOT safe to look up.  I'd like to say I'm taking in the city and culture, but all I am doing is counting heads, "One, two, three, four, Bill.  One, two, three, four, Bill" over and over again until we stop for a rest.

The metro is absolutely incredible.  There are two sets of escalators that go DOWN QUICKLY to get to the trains.  Bill estimates that they are at least ten stories below ground.  On some of them, you can't see the bottom of the escalator from the top.

There are two sets of these going down to the metro.  If you touch anything, you'll get some black scum on your hands/gloves.  But, they're moving so fast, you'd better hang on.

This is inside the train.  We must have been going opposite traffic, since they are usually much more crowded.  The women will give up their seats for Sharon or Reilly, but the men will NOT give up their seats for anyone...charming. 

Once you get down to train level, the trains are really crowded and you have to MOVE FAST to get on and off the train.  The kids have been reasonably good about staying with us, but I lie awake at night worrying about loosing one of them on those trains. I'm sure that Bill or I would jump after them, but that brings on another problem, since the doors here are NOT forgiving.

I jumped into our apartment elevator a few days ago and the door shut so fast and hard it knocked me clear to the other side of the doorway.  WHAM.   I did learn something though.  Tonight I went with Matt to take out the trash.  We're on the tenth floor.  When he got into an elevator going UP, I paused to tell him to come out because it was going the wrong way and the door shut right as I started talking.  Before my door lesson, I would have jumped right in after him, but NO MORE.  This is about survival.  I sent him straight up to the 18th floor alone rather than endure the body slam of that elevator door again.  He was astute enough to remember what floor we are on and he came back right away.  I'm just glad it didn't happen on the subway.

By the way, the whole building knows that the loud Americans live on the tenth floor.  I got in the elevator with a perfect stranger today (I promise I've NEVER seen him before in my life) and he punched "15" and "10" without looking at me twice.   This was a shame since technically it was "my turn" to punch the button.