|Our Adoption Journey to Russia
This is an account of our trip to Russia to adopt two children from an orphanage in the town of Pereslavl (80 miles northeast of Moscow). Our entire "journey" actually began several months earlier when we decided to add to our family by adopting. That journey has barely begun.
Days 1 & 2: February 11-12, 2000
Everything being packed and ready, we spend a comparatively leisurely morning at home, then drive to Des Moines from where we will fly out. John's parents live a mile from the airport, and our three biological children will stay there for a few days. They will stay in the homes of four different families during our stay in Russia. Mischa, age 6, cannot wait for Mom and Dad to leave so that her "party" can begin. Emerson, age 4, is just now getting the idea that Mom and Dad will be gone for a significant time. Janae, age 2, has no clue.
We leave the kids at John's parents' house (emotionally easier than leaving them at the airport) and go to the airport. Our flight leaves at 2:30. Friends and family are there to see us off. We board a 757 headed for Chicago. Short flight, around an hour, barely time for a cup of Starbucks coffee and pretzel-cheese cracker mix.
We have a three-hour layover in Munich, so we go through Passport Control and wander through a shopping mall attached to the airport. Unfortunately, the shops and restaurants only take Marks, and as it is early on a Saturday morning, the money exchange places are closed.
Another three-hour flight to Moscow. Two more time zones make it 4:30 in the afternoon now. We land at Sheremetyevo Airport, a comparatively small airport for such a large city, and the terminal is a rather dark and gloomy place. The ceiling is covered with cans about 18" in diameter, and may of them contain light fixtures, but only about one in every six lights is lit. We go through Passport Control, and then get our checked luggage and go through Customs.
We stay the night in the Hotel Rossija, an enormous hotel next to Red Square in the heart of Moscow. Outside our hotel window is St. Basil's Cathedral, the most recognizable sight in Russia. We go to bed early while our bodies try to figure out what time it is.
Day 3: February 13, 2000
Olga meets us with a van and driver, and we leave Moscow for Pereslavl. It is a two-hour trip, and it seems that the first hour is mostly spent getting out of Moscow. Moscow is a city of around ten million, and unlike New York, it is built wide, not tall.
After we got out of Moscow and the suburbs, we went through a heavily forested countryside, passing a few small towns on the way. The full name of Pereslavl is Pereslavl-Zalessky, or literally, "Pereslavl through the woods". Pereslavl is on the road to Yaroslavl, the regional capital.
Arriving at Pereslavl, we stay at the Hotel Comfort, a bed and breakfast operated by Kodak for their employees. Due to a connection between a Kodak employee and the orphanage where our children live, we are able to stay there. The Hotel Comfort lives up to its name - it's a very comfortable place to stay, and the staff is great and very friendly. The food is very good and the rooms are large and relaxing.
Day 4: February 14, 2000
Today we meet our new children for the first time. The orphanage does not allow us to tell the children of our intention of adopting them because they have had experience of people coming and meeting the children, then changing their mind. The children seem to know that something's up, however. When they see us, they both tell Olga, "I am going to America!"
Day 6: February 16, 2000
Day 7: February 17, 2000
We get the children's photos taken for their passports and visas, and then head back to Moscow. The children nap briefly on the way. We eat lunch at a McDonald's, which the children recognize immediately, though they probably have never eaten at one before. We check back in at the Hotel Rossija, this time getting two rooms, because the rooms are only large enough for two people apiece. We walk down to the nearby GUM shopping mall and have supper.
Day 8: February 18, 2000
We go to the United States Embassy in the morning to get the children's immigration visas and packets to take to Chicago. Afterwards we eat at a Patio Pizza near our hotel and then walk back. Later that evening, Olga's friend Vera baby-sits while we go with Olga to a concert of Russian folk music set in a modern style. Very entertaining.
Day 9: February 19, 2000
Day 10: February 20, 2000
Day 11: February 21, 2000
We meet with Vera again and she shows us around the Kremlin while Olga baby-sits. Inside the Kremlin walls are several cathedrals as well as the buildings of government. The Kremlin is on the spot where the original walled city of Moscow stood. We eat at the underground mall and then turn in early.
Day 12: February 22, 2000
We get up at 3 a.m. to get to the airport by 5. Our flight home leaves at seven. Flying westward, the flights take a little bit longer because we fly against the prevailing winds. We fly from Moscow to Frankfurt, Germany, then a nine-hour flight to Chicago on a 747 with enough empty seats to allow us to stretch out with our children. Lufthansa even changes our seats to give us more room. The children nap for a couple of hours. Thanks to the time zone difference, we leave Frankfurt at 10 a.m. and land in Chicago at noon. Getting through customs and immigration is a breeze, and we have two hours more before our next flight. By now we're used to hanging around in airports. The next flight is an hour and gets us into Des Moines at 4:30.
Family and friends are waiting to greet us and our new children - 35 people in all. The sight is a bit overwhelming for the children, and they stick close to us and don't say or do much, but they soon recover, and are helped along by their new siblings, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins. By the time we get home, they are busy and active, though we are all very tired.
And so, this journey is over, and a newer and larger one has begun...