Sunday, March 24, 2013

Snezhana, Jay and Lyuba

Lyuba, Diana and Jay.

Odessa apartment

Odessa apartment stairs.  We were starting to get in shape going up
three flights of stairs several times a day!


Road to Balta.

"Hansel and Gretel" type well.  There is one in front of most homes in
in the countryside here.  They are still in use.

Road to Balta

Another well

Bathroom in orphanage.

Don't let the frown fool you, she was very
happy here!  This was just before the girls
signed the statement saying, "yes" to adoption.

I added this picture mostly because of how cute Snezhana is in it.
Snezhana hugging the director.

Lyuba hugging the director.

All three girls with their director.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

It's been a difficult week.  I will update with edited journal entries.

Monday, March 18, 2013

We got up around 9 this morning. After breakfast we went shopping a little. We bought some more chicken from the butcher store where we had bought the pelmini a few days ago. The lady there remembered us and asked if we liked the pelmini. We told her we had. She is friendly. Walking down the street a woman caught my eye and said, "Good morning!" with an accent. In a little bit of shock I said, "Good morning!" back. We came back and had lunch. Then David came and we went to see the girls. Snezhana's class was outside playing on the playground. Diana and Lyuba came out and we played around outside for a while. Then we went in a played. The orphanage director (or maybe assistant director) talked to David for a bit. He told us that she was asking him what the girls are choosing to do. He told her that one minute they want to be adopted and then another minute they don't. He said that she wants to make sure that they aren't being too persuaded by us.

The girls say that their mom is coming tomorrow. Lyuba says that she wants to meet me. I've talked to Alyona, our Odessa translator, and she and Svitlana (Odessa facilitator) are coming out tomorrow morning to go to the orphanage with us to talk to the girls. Tomorrow will be a big day I would think.

We really like David, our translator. He really could have a great future if given opportunities. He is from Balta and is one of the few people here who has pushed to learn English and get a higher education. He has almost graduated from a school with some kind of degree, but not a bachelor's degree. He's 18 years old.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Because of what happened this day, I don't feel good posting it and possibly hurting the adoption.  I will post the full details when the adoption is finalized.


Wednesday, March 20, 2013

We woke up to an early phone call from the kids back home. It was so nice to talk to them. They sound good. I think our calling plan is working for all of us. We went back to sleep and I couldn't drag myself out of bed until about 10:30! Alonya called to see how we are. She said that Lyuba has called her and Svitlana several times already.  I am editing out the rest for same reasons as Tuesday's post and will give full details later.

We went on a walk today and found the opera house and the Black Sea. We also were able to find a Kiev Star to add minutes to our cell phone. We seem to have to break the mold with this adoption. Our Kiev facilitator told us when he gave us the phone that people don't usually go over the minutes that are put on the phone. Between us not knowing the cheaper phone numbers to call and needing to call lots of people to help with the girls, we are using minutes too fast.

Because I'm lazy, I'm going to copy and paste something I wrote on Facebook:

I am getting the funniest looks from people as I slowly sound out loud the cyrillic letters in the labels of food at the grocery store here in Odessa. Today it was a young girl who I caught staring at me as I sounded out some kind of bread! The most embarrasing time was when I kept reading out loud labels in the deli section in the first grocery store in Kiev. A woman tried to help me and only later did I realize what I was reading was the brand, not what the product actually was, lol! I've wised up just a little.

I have a Russian lesson book that I studied on the airplane here. And then I ask our facilitators what different letters are that I don't know. It helped us find a Kiev Star today to add minutes to our phone. I'm a super visual person which helps. It is really interesting. We found two supermarkets today from reading signs because when you sound out the cyrillic characters it sounds like supermarket. We've found other words that are the same. I'm just very slow. It's also embarrasing at times when I read street names. For some reason, I can't seem to just read them in my head!


Thursday, March 21, 2013

We woke up this morning with not a lot of hope for the girls. I've talked to the translator several times today and at this point can't remember the exact order of things and the details. They kept calling the facilitator and translator today again.   I am editing this portion too and will post it later.  We have really appreciated all of the support from everyone back home, the McGhies and our facilitator and translator.

Today we decided to really explore Odessa more because we leave for Balta for the long term tomorrow. We went to the huge outdoor market Seventh Kilometer. We were able to find some gifts for the girls and kids back home. We also were able to find some Disney movies and a portable Ukrainian dvd player. We then went back to hotel to pack up a little. Then out to Baskin Robbins. Then walked to the Opera House and through the park nearby. We were able to see the remains of an ancient settlement.

Playground at orphange.

Diana and Sara

Eating dinner at a cafeteria on the 6th floor of a mall in Odessa.

Sara and Lyuba

Odessa opera house

Baskin Robbins

Drying clothes in Odessa hotel room.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Sunday, March 17, 2013

We had a pretty lazy Sunday morning.  We held our own church services.  Our translator, David, came by at 1:30, waited for us to finish getting ready, called a taxi and we headed off to Pischanna.  On the way I asked him if Balta is a small enough town that everyone knows each other.  He kind of laughed and said, "Oh yes."  He went on to say that half the town knew that there are Americans here and by the middle of the week the other half would also know.  They are curious about us, but a little afraid that we want to take their children.  I think it's because they think we'll use them for their organs or something.  He said that he keeps telling them that we are nice!  I asked him if we should be worried for our safety.  He said, "No, not at all."  Interesting conversation!

We arrive at the orphanage and see Snezhana running past us and up the stairs smiling at us.  We went and waited at the spot by the front doors where we have hung out with the girls.  We waited for a while, then David went to find out when we could visit with the girls.  He came back and a little bit later, the girls came.  They were disappointed that we hadn't brought our tablets, but happily played a little game of spoons with us and then Uno.  We talked to them for a bit about the adoption.  Lyuba doesn't plan to be adopted.  Now Diana only wants to come for a visit.  I think Lyuba has been working on her.  I asked Lyuba if she thinks her mom will come get them out of the orphanage.  She said that yes, she thinks she will.  She doesn't realize that her mom can't.  We need to have a talk with the girls about their reality and their options this week.

We made up a dehydrated rice meal that we had brought from home for dinner and spent time reading and on the phone with my parents and the kids at home in the evening.  I am informed that it is St. Patrick's Day.  I hadn't even realized it!  The kids are having a hard time and really missing us.  We haven't been able to communicate much with them since coming to Balta.  Internet has been really spotty and slow.  Hopefully we have worked something out where we can be in contact each day.  That should help them.  We miss them a lot too.  If they could be here, everything would be just fine.  Them being away from us is the only thing I am not enjoying about this trip.  Well, that and the girls being persuaded by their mom to not be adopted.

We haven't heard the discotech tonight!

Saturday, March 16, 2013

First and second visits with the girls

I'm going to just copy and paste from my journal starting with Thursday and our walking tour of Kiev.  Thursday is just an outline at this point.  We've been very busy!

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Bought chocolates in the morning.  Went on walking tour of Kiev with Masha starting at 12 noon.  Took bus to metro.  Deepest metro in all of Europe.  Metro to walking to monastery.  Caves with mummies.  Miniatures museum.  World War II Memorial.  Sam and Sara went inside World War II helicopter.  Back to SDA office.  Picked up referral.

Friday, March 15, 2013

We woke up at 3 a.m. to get ready to leave our Kiev apartment for Balta.  It was raining in Kiev.  Our driver arrived at 4 to take us.  He hadn't received word that we had lots of luggage (because of 4 people) and only had a sedan with him.  We crammed in and sat with luggage in our laps for a 5 hour drive down to Balta.  Jay sat up front while I sat in back with Sara and Sam.  When we got on the highway I tried to peer out the front window and could not see a thing.  A while later we stopped for some reason and the driver got out.  Jay told me he couldn't believe it, but the driver was driving with no headlights on and wouldn't defog the car.  Probably because he was trying to save the battery.  So we were driving down the highway with cars passing us and no headlights going 20 miles an hour until the sun came up!  When it became light he stepped on the gas a bit.  We eventually turned off for Balta.  The road started getting worse - more pot holes and dirt in some sections.  Our driver said that it wasn't bad.  But then we hit a section that looked like a 4-wheel road in Utah!  Our driver said that he hadn't seen a road that bad!  It was slow going as we drove around pot holes.  It was funny watching cars coming towards us.  Everyone was moving very slowly and driving all over the road swerving to miss pot holes.  It looked like children driving in an amusement park ride.  After the really bad section we entered that Balta region and the road became much better.  Still pot holes, but paved.

A note about our driver.  We had met him a couple days before after our SDA appointment when we went to lunch with Nastya and Alex.  He is a friendly man.  His father worked for the KGB and was a first responder at the Chernobyl disaster.  It was interesting hearing each of the three Ukrainian's stories of Chernobyl.  Nastya had been in Russia with her mother visiting her grandmother.  Her father was with the police I think and knew that something bad had happened.  He told Nastya's mother to stay in Russia until it was safe.  She said that they actually would have been safer in Ukraine because the winds blew the radiation towards where they were in Russia.  Alex said that his father worked at an airport and saw that suddenly in April a lot of higher up officials' wives and children were boarding planes and taking off.  He thought that odd because it was early for summer vacation.

We arrived in Balta and found a statue that our driver thought we were supposed to meet our facilitator and translator by.  It was supposed to be a statue of Lenin.  I didn't think it looked like Lenin though.  Our driver called the facilitator and found out that what we were waiting by was a statue of Karl Marx.  He laughed and said, "They have a statue of Karl Marx?!"  We found the statue of Lenin and met our facilitator and translator.  We went into the city office building to meet with the inspector.  She questioned us while looking through our dossier.  She got stuck on our big family - 6 children.  We explained that one is married and one is graduating high school and moving out of the house this summer.  And that Utah has big families.  She questioned the size of our house.  We were becoming concerned that she wouldn't let us see the girls because our family was too big to add three more.  She did say that our family was a "romantic" family.  That we like to do lots of fun things together.  She especially liked the part where Jay and I met while caving.  We told her that we had backpacked into the Grand Canyon for our honeymoon.  We had to step out into the hallway after a bit.  Our facilitator told us that things looked good and not to worry.  That this wasn't the time to worry.  I asked, "When is the time to worry?"  She said it is when we go for separation.  After a while the inspector gave her permission and off we went to drop our luggage off at our hotel.

Then Jay, Sara, Sam, our translator and I crammed into the back of our facilitator's car while the facilitator and a Balta social worker sat up front.  We took off for Pischanna.  I was expecting a dirt road, but it was paved and fairly decent the whole way to Pischanna.  It did have many pot holes.  The drive was gorgeous with farms on hills.  We passed several picturesque old villages along the way.  Eventually we saw the sign saying, "Pischanna" in cyrillic.  I snapped lots of pictures as we drove along and pulled up to the orphanage.  From this point until we drove away it felt like we were in the movie, "The Italian" when the couple comes to the orphanage to see Vanya (I think that was the boy's name.)  The events were very similar.  The grounds of the orphanage were landscaped simply, but nice.  There was a big playground to the side in the front.  As we got closer we could see children looking at us from the upper floor windows.  Some waved and we waved back.  We went in a side door and up some stairs to the director's office.  Several people were there from the orphanage.  The director was gone for the day down to a meeting of Odessa region directors in Odessa.  Someone else was filling her place.  The woman was very nice and seemed happy to see us.  She talked about the girls a bit.  Then each of the girls' teachers came in and talked about the girl they teach.  They would start with academics and then about their behavior.  We could ask questions.  Then a social worker talked about them and then a doctor gave his report.  In all of this someone told us that Diana really wanted to be adopted and have a different mom and dad, but that Snezhana and Lyuba wanted to stay in Ukraine to be close to their mom.

After the reports and our questions the girls were brought in.  They were shy at first, but quickly warmed up to us.  We gave them all hugs.  After visiting with them a bit, we asked the girls if they want to be adopted.  Diana eagerly said, "Yes."  Snezhana said, "Yes" also.  Lyuba said she needs to think about it.  We talked to her through our translator about her options.  She'll be a Ukrainian citizen until at least the age of 18 if she is adopted.  She can choose to come back to Ukraine to live with her mom if she chooses at that point.  The translator also talked to her about the opportunity to go to America and get an education to be able to support her family in Ukraine better.  It doesn't need to be the end of Ukraine for Lyuba if she wishes.

We went out into the big room outside of the director's office and gave them some presents we had brought.  Two of Lyuba's friends who had been hosted also came and we were able to give them gifts from their host families.  There were several other children there and we had some bags of candy that we passed out to them.  We were hoping we weren't spoiling their appetite since we discovered that they were having dinner soon!  We had fun taking pictures and chatting.  Then it was time to go so that we could get the paperwork done in Balta today.

We drove back to Balta and straight to the notary's office.  The notary was out to lunch so we were driven to our hotel where we got settled in.  It has a kitchen and two bedrooms and feels like an apartment for which I am grateful for as we will be here about a month.  Our faciliator and translator left us to go do something while we settled in and got lunch.  We went next door to the pizza place that is supposed to have internet.  We couldn't read a thing on the menu and we were too lazy to run back to the hotel to get our dictionary.  The guy working there was no real help in choosing a pizza so we finally just pointed to two pizzas, $5 each, and ordered them hoping for the best.  The first one arrived and it was pretty good.  It had four different types of pizza, each quarter was different.  The next one arrived and it was good too.  We couldn't get the internet to work which was a disappointment.

We eventually were picked up and went back to the notary.  Then to another building where we waited in the car while our facilitator ran in for a while.  After that we went back to the apartment and tried to figure out the internet with the translator's help.  It was no use.  We never could log in.  Tomorrow we'll have a local translator who will go to the orphanage a few times with us help us buy an internet air card for our lap top.  Jay needs internet to be able to communicate with his employees and to do work.  I need it to communicate with people!  We were also told about the laundry service at the little hotel.  Then our facilitator and translator were ready to leave.  They said they were sorry to leave us as they went back to civilization in Odessa!  Balta does feel like we have stepped back into at least the 1970's!  I've never seen a town with so many people walking around in it.  The towns around Balta feel like stepping back into the 19th century.  There are old fashion wells in front of most houses.  There are a lot of thatched roofs on the very small European houses.  We saw several men riding on carts pulled by two horses.  Imagine a picture of a man "driving" a horse drawn cart a couple hundred years ago in Europe and that's exactly what they looked like!  The fields are gorgeous.  I love farms on rolling hills.  They are so pretty.  I'm wondering how in the world they work the huge fields.  We saw many babushkas with scarves covering their heads.  We had seen many in Kiev also.

Back at the hotel we pretty much ran out of energy after being up and going since 3:00.  I took a nap and now Sam and I are the only ones awake at 7:30 p.m.  We'll be going to see the girls tomorrow afternoon.

Later that night - Pizza place turns into a discotech at night.  Lights and somewhat loud noises right outside our bedroom windows!

Saturday March 16, 2013

We got up today and went to the store next door to buy some potatoes to make hash browns for breakfast.  They didn't have any potatoes so we bought some milk and cereal.  The milk turned out to be buttermilk!  Jay loves to drink buttermilk so I'm glad it won't go to waste.  We looked up the word for milk, ran back to the store and bought real milk which is sold in a bag.  It smelled awful - like powdered milk I guess!  Half of the store - all of the middle section - is European chocolates and cookies.  Everything was layed out on tables.  We decided to head into town to see if there was another store.  The main street of Balta is only two blocks from our hotel.  We went into a butcher's shop and bought some chicken for dinner.  The ladies there were so nice and told us to come back.  I'm wising up and bringing along our Russian/English dictionary.  It has been helpful!  Then we find a huge open air market.  Everything is for sale there.  Including lots and lots of European chocolates.  Everywhere we go they are for sale.  Including the gas station on the way from Kiev to Balta.  In Balta the chocolates are a better price than in Kiev.  There are tons of varieties sold in little balls.  Sara and I are having chocolate tasting parties!  We are looking for potatoes for our breakfast at this open air market, but keep buying all sorts of other groceries while not finding the potatoes.  It was a lot of fun.  It was so cold and the hood of my coat kept being blown down by the wind, so I bought a scarf and tried to wrap it Ukrainian style around my head.  I'm sure I failed at that, but was warmer!  Sara has since claimed the scarf as her own.  We finally found potatoes and received a call from the Odessa translator letting us know that our Balta translator, David, was at our hotel.  We hurried back to meet him.

He is an eighteen year old who speaks great English and is very nice.  He took us back to Balta main street to a cell phone store where he helped us find an internet card.  Then we had him go to a grocery store to help us figure a few food items out.  We still hadn't eaten and it was lunch time now so we bought some bread and lunch meat and cheese.  Then went back to our apartment to make lunch.  We invited David to have lunch with us before we visited the girls.  He declined the meat and cheese and asked if he could have some peanut butter on bread!  I was surprised.  He said he really likes it and has tried to make here in Ukraine but fails.  I wish I had brought another bottle.  I'd love to give him some.  I'll have to get his address and mail some when we get home.

David called a taxi when we were done with lunch.  It cost 110 grivna, about $13, to travel to Pischanna by taxi one way.  When we got to the orphanage we met Sasha, Lyuba's friend who had been hosted before.  She went and got the girls.  Snezhana came running in and gave David a huge hug.  I think she might have mistaken him for Jay in her hurry.  David was surprised and said that the last time he had translated for an adoptive parent, the boy had been really shy.  We told him these girls aren't shy!  He agreed.  Lyuba and Diana arrived and we spent a couple hours with them in the orphanage lobby.  They were very interested in our tablets and camera.  We brought some flash cards and taught them some English.  I worked with Diana and she picked the words up quickly.  Snezhana is worried that she's not going to be able to learn English.  Lyuba is still not sure about adoption, but enjoys having us there.  Diana is totally into our gadgets.  Same with Snezhana.  Tomorrow we'll bring some games along with us.  We forget them today.  We'll leave the gadgets home!

We came back to the hotel and made dinner with the chicken.  We have packed a lot of "hamburger helper" type meals that we normally don't eat.  Jay dressed up a fettucine alfredo one with added chicken and mushrooms and it wasn't bad.  After dinner we skyped with the kids at my parents' house.  We miss them tremendously.  It will be great to get back to them.

Besides missing the kids, we are enjoying our time here.  It is nice to visit the girls.  The main street of Balta has been fun to explore.  There are a lot of markets selling food and we have a kitchen so we can save money by cooking our own food.  We actually can't eat out much anyway unless we want to eat pizza every time.  So far we have only seen one restaurant - the pizza place next door.  It is only $5 per pizza and the pizza is tastey.  Some of the people here are a little scary looking.  I keep thinking that we're in a backwards part of the U.S., then I remember that we are in Ukraine!  Woah!  Most people have been very nice though.  Our translators have been wonderful.  Discotech is going again tonight, so I guess we get it every night.

Internet is very slow here.  I don't have time to label all of the pictures.  If the picture is unlabeled and a picture of a house or small building, it is safe to assume it is in Pischanna.  Unlabeled countryside pictures are most likely the drive from Balta to Pischanna.  The large building, inside and out, is the girls' internat (boarding school) in Pischanna.

Driver from Kiev to Balta on left

Artwork made of Psanky eggs in Kiev

House in Pischanna


View on drive to Pischanna


Bus stop in Pischanna




Pischanna store


Pischanna gas station


Building in Pischanna


Internat and outbuildings in Pischanna.

Looking towards the road from the internat parking area.

Playground at Pischanna internat

Pischanna internat

Pischanna internat

Side door of internat.

On the left is Alyona, our Odessa translator.

Dog standing at doorway of butcher shop.
Lots of dogs run around this town.

Pischanna Boarding School (Orphanage)

Looking down the sidewalk on main street of Balta.

Open air market in Balta

Open air market in Balta.

Lenin monument

Countryside on way to Pischanna from Balta.

Chocolates for sale at open air market in Balta.

One of the villages between Balta and Pischanna.  On the drive to Pischanna you travel up and down several of these hill ranges.  Villages are in the little valleys.

Road between Balta and Pischanna.

Entering Pischanna




Turnoff to the internat (boarding school) in Pischanna

Internat front door.  I don't think this door can open.  We go in through a side door.

On wall at internat.

David, our translator, in white jacket.

Safety sign on wall at Pischanna

Jay, Snezhana and David

Snezhana and David

Sign announcing the boarding school.

Nurse's room where the girls take our phone calls.
The nurse was kind to pose for this picture!
Lyuba's friend is on the phone.

Emergency numbers on wall at boarding school.

Dining area.

Dining Area

Washroom by dining room.