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Dan's international adoption trip to Russia
Will I Ever Really Get There?
We first heard about Vasily Ivanovitch Kostyanikov on August 28th, we accepted the referral on September 3rd, and the morning of September 13th I was on a plane to Russia. I took a nonstop flight from LAX to Moscow on Aeroflot (are you sure the plane is supposed to shake THIS much :} ). The plane left LAX an hour and a half late. First piece of advice, if your plane is running late...get as many cold drinks down as you can...because you will not get any in Russia. It was a 12 hour plane ride.
I landed in Moscow at 2:30 pm on Sunday Sept. 14th (they are 11 hours ahead of the west coast). It took an hour and a half to get through passport control then I had to find my bags and go through customs inspection. I had the umbrella stroller packed in one of the HUGE duffle bags that Sandy had jumped up and down on to get closed and claimed she could have fit herself into. We packed the stroller in the middle with clothes for donations to the hospital packed around it so it wouldn't get damaged. All the customs officers saw on the xray sceen was a long metal object. She pointed at the bag and said, "open it". Well, as per suggestions that I had gotten from other people who had travelled to Russia, the bag was not only zipped and padlocked but firmly wrapped in duct tape. It took quite a few minutes to get it unwrapped and opened so they could inspect it. After a couple minutes of searching through the bag with baby clothes exploding all over the customs area, the customs official still hadn't been able to find the stroller...it was a big bag...the customs lady finally got disgusted and waved me through. Of course now I have to get everything BACK into the bag and I didn't have Sandy there to hop up and down on it!
Finally, I managed to get through customs with two HUGE duffle bags and a frameless backpack and was trying to figure out who was supposed to be meeting me. I see a man with a small sign that said "Frank Foundation" and so I walked over to him and nodded and said hello. He immediately grabbed one of my bags and we headed out to his car. As soon as we were out of the terminal he said, "No interpreter, interpreter hospital." UH OH!!!! He pointed at me and said, "You Rostov, Yes?" I said, "Yes" but kept thinking UH OH. We did manage to be able to communicate well enough for me to know that my facilitator would meet me in Rostov and for me to get enough money exchanged to buy the airline ticket. Then we were off to another airport and it is about 5:15.
My flight for Rostov-On-Don (south of Moscow on the Don river east of Ukraine) leaves at 7pm. The incountry flights have very strict baggage weight limits. I was very overweight, by about 50 kilos. The driver argued for several minutes in Russian and was able to get the overweight fees dropped by half...down to $53. My bags were finally checked onto the flight and I was handed over to someone else to escort me to the plane. By the time we did all that and got to the gate, they were already boarding the plane...well, actually they were boarding people on a bus that hauled you off to the plane so we all got to stand in the drizzling rain waiting to get on the plane. Finally we are all on the plane (and by the looks of the plane I am wondering if I would rather walk) and it actually leaves only 30 minutes late.
I arrived in Rostov at 10 pm. We got off the plane and into a bus in the dark. No lights on the tarmac, no lights on the bus...just headlights. When I walked into the terminal, some lady walks up to me and says, "Hi Dan, I am Alla, your facilitator" and takes my carry-on and we walk over to baggage claim. I am so tired I am lucky I can still stand up...and if she wants to carry a 40 pound bag, she is welcome to it :) !! We stood by the baggage claim area and chatted for several minutes before the luggage arrived (nothing is automated there so it takes some time to get the bags to the terminal). Finally the luggage arrived and we went into the baggage claim area to get my two HUGE duffle bags. I pointed out my bags and she walked over and tried to pull one of them off the conveyor belt. She couldn't budge it and looked at me and said, "are these BOTH yours?" So I went and grabbed them both. As we went through the security area where they match your bags to your ticket, Alla was asking me why I brought so much stuff and she hoped I didn't pack any water. I told her it was all donations and gifts.
When we got outside the terminal, she introduced me to Lena, the driver, and her teeny tiny car. Thank heavens for roof racks and bungee cords. Her car looked even tinier sitting there underneath my two HUGE duffle bags! We arrived at the host family's apartment (they live close to the airport), it was 10:30 pm. They live on the 3rd floor, no elevator of course, so we had to lug those two HUGE duffle bags up all those stairs. Lena and Alla each took one end of one bag and struggled, laughed, and cursed up three flights of stairs while I drug the second one up the stairs behind me. Alla introduces me to the host family, Sergi and Irenah and their son Michael (who has had two years of English in school). Alla tells me that they will give me some dinner and that she will see me tomorrow and leaves.
I was very pleased to find out Irenah knew quite a bit of English. They invited me to sit down and EAT!! EAT!! (they feed you a lot in Russia). We had soup, mashed potatos. sausage patty, sliced tomatoes and cucumbers, cheese, hot tea, cookies and chocolate. After dinner I was still pretty wound up even though I was dead tired (I had been up over 29 hours). We sat around and chatted and I got out some photos of Sandy, Steven, our family members, our house, our friends who have also adopted from Russia and their beautiful children. They pointed at the photo of our backyard and asked me if we had a farm! I said, "no, it isn't a farm, but I told them that we had some fruit and nut trees and some berries."
I finally went to bed around 11:30 pm. There were only two bedrooms so I knew someone would be sleeping on the sofa and it wasn't me. Even though I was excited and nervous, it wasn't long before I fell asleep.....
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