Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Day 14 -- Last Day of Visitation!

The last day of the two week bonding period arrived today! We left earlier than usual to go to the notary again, then off to visit with Borya and Julia for a short time. After a bit, Borya went to gather the backpack of clothes and stuff he had at this school for the last couple weeks, we said goodbye to Julia (well, "da zavdra", which is "see you tomorrow"), and left to take Borya back to Ridder, his school in the mountains about 80 miles northeast of Ust Kamenogorsk.

It was a crowded car, as we had the driver and our coordinator up front, and Fred, Borya, Bella and I in the back. And we're not talking SUV or even mini-van, but compact car. Bella sat in my lap the whole way. Along the way, Borya grew tired and rested his head against Fred's shoulder and went to sleep. How do you say "awwww" in Russian? Partway through the drive it began to snow. It was exciting at first, to finally see some honest-to-God snow up here, but soon the roads started getting snow-covered and slick. There was a patch where we passed several cars either pulled over or slid over to the side of the road. Our driver finally decided to pull over himself and change over to winter tires. Something he accomplished, in the snow and with no gloves, in about 10 minutes. The tires helped, but it was still pretty treachorous going. As we climbed higher into the mountains, the roads became steeper and the turns twistier. We slowed to a crawl, we all held our collective breath, and we finally arrived in Ridder. Our last turn before entering the town proper, our car went into a spin and nearly crashed into a pole. I grabbed onto Bella and shut my eyes, Fred threw his arm across Borya and watched everything. We stopped inches from the pole, no damage, no injuries. Breathe.

So we get to the orphanange and we're ushered down several long hallways and into the director's office. After a long bumpy car ride with a 65# child bouncing on my lap, I'm in desperate need to use the "twalyet", but we are neither greeted, nor offered a drink, nor offered the use of their facilities. Instead, we all sit silent as our coordinator and the director and a secretary-type begin arguing in Russian. Nothing is said to us, and I'm about to get sick all over the conference table, thinking something has gone dreadfully wrong with the adoption. After a while, our coordinator leaves, and we sit with this man trying to make polite conversation though none of us speaks the other's language. Fred finally asks if we may use the bathroom, and the director takes us there personally. But I must warn you here and now: never, EVER use the bathroom at the orphanage in Ridder, Kazakhstan (remote chance, I know, but still you must be warned). When we got back to the director's office, neither he nor our coordinator were there, and I'm trying to hold it together, thinking the adoption has just been scrapped. Fred's trying to comfort me, but I just know it has gone all wrong. Alma returns and we gathered our courage to ask her what that was all about. Turns out it wasn't even related to our adoption, but some registration numbers that needed to be filed on someone else (doesn't even directly affect that adoption). The term emotional rollercoaster does not come close to doing justice to what we are going through here. I think I might coin a new phrase -- how does emotional tsunami roll off the tongue?

So the meeting with the director over, I ask permission for Borya to show us around and introduce us to his friends. Basically, this is the reason I wanted to come to Ridder at all. But no. So we get one picture of Borya with a couple boys who happened to be around, and it was time to leave. By this time there are several inches of snow on the ground, and just as many mountains to climb through. What should have been a 2- hour drive turned into a 3+ hour drive. We did get to see some lovely scenery, including beautiful montains with the sun setting behind them, stands of birch and forests of evergreens in the snow, quaint villages nestled in the valleys, tendrils of smoke curling from the chimneys of the little cottages, with a backdrop of snow-covered Christmas trees on the hillside ..... and sheer drops down the mountain at the side of slick, snowy roads!

As I'm sure you must surmise from reading this blog entry, we survived the trip. Never was I so happy to see the smokestacks spewing forth the pollution that covers Ust as I was when we neared this city. We arrived back at our hotel about 10 hours after we had left. We hadn't had anything to eat or drink (other than the pack of crackers I found in the bottom of my purse on the drive home) since breakfast that morning. But we signed a few more "doc-oo-ments" that our coordinator put on the table in front of us in the hotel lobby, had dinner in the hotel's restaurant, went upstairs and pretty much collapsed.

I will certainly miss Borya over the next week as we await our court date. The road to Ridder, I will not miss.

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