Well, folks, I woke up this morning (Friday) with a little person sleeping beside me!
Let me go back 24 hours: At the crack of dawn on Thursday (the 25th), I got up and put on a nice dress (a change from the several layers of jeans and winter underwear I usually wear) and caught the van to Rudny at 7:45 a.m. Although I’d been slated for the afternoon hearing, it was moved to 9 a.m. the day before, so I was dropped off at a non-descript building which was the regional courthouse. My court-appointed interpreter, Alyssa, came up and introduced herself and I learned mine was the first case she was to translate. She’d just been hired. Well, okaaaaay, she and I and Rima, the orphanage director and Natalia, the court-appointed guardian, walked up a few flights, then showed up in the judge’s chambers. The building was what you’d expect from a former Soviet republic; kind of shabby and run down.
But the judge was dressed in a tailored maroon robe which was kind of pretty, I thought, and across from her was a court reporter (who wrote in longhand!) and the prosecutor, whose job it was to ask me any tough questions.
The whole thing took about an hour. First the judge read outloud from a booklet listing some of the local laws; basically reading me my rights. Then I was asked: Why did I want to adopt? And why Kazakhstan? Then the guardian stood up and talked about how Veeka’s mother abandoned this poor prematurely-born child in the hospital; how she never even bothered to call and check up on the child and how things were touch-and-go for a long time and that she was so tiny and thin, she wasn’t even put on the adoption register until this past fall. Then Rima said how they had watched me interact with Veeka at the baby house and how she and I took to each other and how I’d turned down 2 boys in favor of Veeka, what a loving person I was, how Veeka looked forward to seeing me; then the guardian chimed in about how I make such a good salary and although I am older than most new mothers, I will be excellent with Veeka, etc. etc. – I raised my eyebrows at some of these things but knew it was best to just smile and nod. The one very odd thing was how the judge’s phone would ring in the middle of someone’s testimony and she’d interrupt the hearing to answer it.
The only thing that caught me unawares was our discussion on the birth certificate; they asked if I wanted to put myself down as the mother and my mind went blank – couldn’t remember what other adoptive parents did in foreign countries. Kazakhstan will change the certificate if you want. And the interpreter was a bit confused at this point as well; we were both kind of looking at each other until the guardian stepped in and in very brisk Russian tried to set me straight. So finally I said yes – put me down as the mom – then they wanted the name of someone as the dad! Hmmmm. Finally I said to put down her grandfather (!) so there is a “Robert Duin” listed as the father of little Veeka in the Rudny courthouse.
Finally it was all over and I had to wait 20 minutes until the judge gave her opinion. We all shuffled back into her office where she said she had agreed with the orphanage’s opinion that I should be given custody of Veeka and that herewith according to Rudny’s district court I’d be known as her mother. It was about 10:30 a.m. I was so happy to have it over, that I lined up several of us involved in the hearing for a photo on the ground floor of the court house (from left to right: me, Baha the adoption coordinator, Rima and Alyssa) until the guard yelled at us – no photos allowed, apparently. Then some of us went out for lunch at a Korean restaurant to celebrate.
I spent the afternoon at the orphanage waiting for Mike and Carol to get through their hearing. Igave out gifts to a few of the people I’d worked with (Baha, our driver and Valentin the translator). Mike and Carol didn’t get back til after 6, so we each then got a list of the childrens’ schedules and what foods they liked to eat. Then we got a quick tour of their sleeping and play rooms. Unfortunately all the other kids were asleep by then (7 pm.) so it was pretty rushed.
Then, we bundled the 2 kids in their snow suits and then, the falling snow, we took them out to the waiting van for their last trip out of that orphanage. It was dark, of course, but the kids were wide-eyed the whole trip back to Kostenai. Veeka was totally bewildered at being dumped in my hotel room but I got her to sleep by pushing our beds together and holding her til she dozed off.
This morning, I got a call from Gail – thank you! – and the hotel restaurant was closed for some odd reason so breakfast was Chocolo-Chips or some odd Soviet cereal – anyway, got much of it down Veeka. She let me know she preferred a trail mix bar. Well…I poured some kefir down her instead. The little thing then walked out, totally destroying my hotel room and getting into all sorts of things she shouldn’t. BUT she knows how to use the kiddie potty so we’re halfway into toilet training – kids at the baby house are just plunked on the toilet at set times, so they learn how to go.
It was obvious I needed more clothes for the munchkin – everything I brought was too large – so off I went to a baby clothing store where Veeka began to scream and scream. I could not make my wishes (wanted to buy a pacifier, some shoes, 2 shirts and a woolen hat) known to the women in the store but who should walk up but 2 English majors at Kostenai State University. They were so helpful – plus one of the women in the store knew kids REALLY well and distracted Veeka with toys and a candy bar. The two college students, named Masha and Anya, then accompanied me to the supermarket where they helped me with the stroller and translating some of the items. It is the worst weather out – about 40 degrees and raining. Then I treated them to lunch at a local restaurant and Veeka acted beautifully – sat there and gulped down pizza and apple juice and didn’t whimper a bit. Then while I was trudging back to the hotel in the slush, she conked out in her stroller SO I detoured to the Internet cafe so I could post this. She is still snoozing – were she not, the cafe folks would eject me, I’m sure.
Anyway, I will post when I can but dragging the stroller about 5 blocks away and timing my visits with Veeka’s naps is difficult! Anyway, I am so enjoying having my own daughter and she’s behaving beautifully considering she’s left the only home she has ever known. The photo you see of her – snowsuit and striped socks and fluffy hat – is what she looked like as she waved goodbye.