Monday, November 10, 2008

We're home

We arrived at home about 12:30 AM Sunday. The flights were very long and we were up over 24 hours. The kids did very well considering. With the exception of a few minutes on the last leg they were up the entire time. Maria got a bit bored and antsy on the Amsterdam to Detroit leg, which is to be expected.

Getting out of Ukraine and into the US was relatively painless. It took about 10 minutes in Kiev leaving Ukraine and 10 minutes in Detroit entering the US. They asked for the birth certificate and court decree in Kiev. There were no questions asked. In Detroit, we were expecting to have to go through the 'special line'. As we were in line I told one of the officers the situation and he said we would be taken to another office to complete the process but everything was completed at the normal passport control desk. We forgot and packed a couple of oranges in our luggage. That caused us to get an extra luggage screening and our oranges taken away.

Maria was very excited to be home. Now that she's in an English-only environment she seems to be trying harder to learn English. She's speaking more, though she understands a lot more than she speaks. She has been exploring everything and is settling in. She immediately wanted a sign on her door just like the boys. They have been playing non-stop. It's much louder with 3 children in the house. There's been a little friction between Maria and the boys when she gets into their 'stuff'. It will be an adjustment for them and her to learn to share and respect each others' things.

We took her to Ponderosa yesterday and let her pick her own food from the food bar. She seemed to really enjoy that. She doesn't have the desire for fast/junk food. She'd rather have roasted chicken and soup which is good. Hopefully it will last.

Friday, November 7, 2008

We're coming home!!!

We're finally coming home. We got Maria's US visa this afternoon so we are leaving tomorrow morning. We will have been here 50 days. Now it's time to pack of the last time. We're trying to decide which things we can leave behind to make room for souvenirs and gifts. We're so tired of packing. Counting this time and the original packing at home, we've packed 7 times on this trip. It seems like we've been getting rid of and using items but our luggage doesn't seem to be getting any lighter.

Back in Kiev

We're now back in Kiev, back in the same apartment we had when we left for the region. The train back from Donetsk was so warm it was hard to sleep and Maria was so excited that she kept everybody awake. I (Larry) actually had a separate compartment. Our facillitator negotiated with the attendant to allow me to be in the same car as Mary and the children. With 5 of us now, we don't fit into the standard 4 person compartment. I initially was in the compartment next to them but I was moved to the attendant's compartment and shared it with them. One came in about midnight and climbed up in the top bed and went to sleep. About 5:30 am, the attendants switched. At different attendant came in and went to sleep and the first one got up to deal with the arrival. I couldn't figure out the timing. Since we arriving at 7:00 AM and Kiev is the last stop, why did the second attendant go to sleep at 5:30?

We submitted our documents to the US embassy yesterday (Thursday). We go back today for the interview and to get the visa. Assuming we get the visa, we leave tomorrow to go home. Even though we're really ready to go home, I feel kind of oddly sad about leaving. We've been here so long I've grown kind of attached to Ukraine. Saturday will be the 50th day in Ukraine, more than we thought it would be.

Maria is doing well. She's a very sweet child and very smart. She's getting along quite well with Ryan and Evan. She seems to be a kindred spirit with Evan. They're both very active and playful. It's a huge adjustment for her, and us. She's had a couple of incidents when she really tried to test us with her behavior by blantantly defying us. We held our ground and she seems to be better. It's hard to balance constantly correcting her behavior. Because almost everything she does right now is a new experience and doesn't know how to act we need to correct her. But she also needs time to learn things on her own without us constantly correcting her. Add in that she doesn't understand a great deal of what we're trying to tell her and it's very stressful for her. It will be some much easier when she speaks English.

Back home tomorrow ....

Monday, November 3, 2008

Introducing Maria Parker

Today was the day. We were able to pick up Maria after the 10 day waiting period. All went very smoothly. We had a busy day. We'll update more later but wanted to get something up on the blog today.
We were able to get her new birth certificate and passport also. We were very lucky that the Donetsk region reissues passports rather than issuing new passports. It took all of 30 minutes to get the passport.
Maria is doing really well. She seems quite happy and is getting along with Ryan and Evan. She was very patient as we went from office to office today. Ryan and Evan were as well. We took her to a restaurant tonight. We're not really sure if she's ever been to one but she did quite well. She got cheese pizza but also ate everything we put on her plate to just give her a taste of different food. We were worried she might be overwhelmed by everything but so far so good.

The plan is to leave Donetsk for Kiev tomorrow night on the overnight train. We'll then get her medical examination for the US embassy on Wednesday and apply for her visa. We should get her visa either Thursday or Friday. We have tickets to return to the US on Saturday. We can't wait to get home. The boys missed Halloween, which we really felt bad about, but at least Ryan won't miss his birthday at home on Nov. 15.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Kyiv Post and local economy

We've seen the exchange rates changing every day. The hryvna for dollar exchange rates back mid September were about ~4.80 and now are ~6.05 hryvna. The inflation is hurting the people here.

I was scanning the Kyiv Post to read about the Ukranian economy and spotted this editorial on the U.S. elections ... here is a link. . I enjoyed the comments about GWB!
(Larry and I tried to get our absentee ballot mailed to our facilitator here but we have not received it yet, so we will not be able to vote this election.)

Public transportation costs in Kyiv/Kiev are raising from 50 kopecks to two hryvnia. We've seen some very poor struggling people. Most of the people you easily notice are well dressed, fashionable, skinny people and walking quickly. If you sit and watch for awhile you will notice the older people. I've seen an old woman standing by a corner of a building standing with her head down and holding a small plastic cup hoping for some spare change. Yesterday I saw an old woman with several plastic bags (which looked full of more bags) looking in the trash can outside of an eatery. She found something and ate it. Her coat was nice but her shoes were house slippers, no socks on a cold day. We've heard that the elderly are really hurt by inflation and are trying to exist on small pensions. (We heard that when Ukraine became independant the people lost their bank accounts that were in Russian banks.) In Torez I saw a woman taking her trash out to a dumpster in a grocery bag. She dumped her trash out of the bag into the dumpster and carefully folded up the grocery bag to use it again. (stores charge for bags here) We also saw women on the sidewalk selling milk in 'reused' bottles. I am guessing it might have been goats milk since we have seen small herds of goats. In Kyiv we saw people in the square silently gathering beer bottles. (There must be some sort of recycle or deposit value.) I saw one well dressed woman stop at a trash can and carefully unload about 8 beer bottles from her bag into the trash can and go on her way. About 5 minutes later an older woman with several big heavy plastic bags full of bottles stopped at the trash can and loaded those bottles into her bags, filling a third bag. She then carried these heavy bags one at a time over to the next trash can to find more bottles. I got a photo as she was going back to pickup the next bag to carry to the next trash can on her route. She was dressed nicely. I never would have guessed she needed extra money.

(In Torez we left our beer bottles in a clear plastic bag outside of a dumpster and they were quickly picked up by someone walking by.) People walk around here drinking beer from bottles, setting the empty bottles down anywhere. Now I understand why. They know someone will pick up the bottle.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Days in Donetsk - continued

Shopping has been fun, enlightening, hilarious, and very time consuming. I could not have gotten it accomplished without Heather Smith's help and Ryan & Evan's patience. Heather had to shop for two girls (and I only had to shop for one!) and spent a lot of time and effort looking at clothing in the mall stores, normal stores, and the street vendors. Heather found all the best places to shop and let me know where to look. She even kept an eye on Ryan and Evan so I could concentrate on sifting thru racks of clothes to find what I needed. (Heather picks up her 2 girls today and they will take the overnight train back to Kiev.)

So far I've gotten 3 pairs of pants, 3 shirts, coat, scarf, undies, shoes, socks, and a backpack. The backpack was a challenge. Anything in a 'girl' color was tiny. I finally spotted one that wasn't black/brown/maroon and decided to get it because it has lots of extra pockets. The shoes were another challenge. Here's a photo of what I purchased here.

We had brought a few clothing items from home but had planned on a younger girl. We left those small items already at the orphanage. I have some lightweight leggings & T-shirt Maria can sleep in but I might try to find a pair of pjs too. We also have some toys for her that we brought from home.

Below is a picture of the outside of the 'mall' in Donetsk. (taken from the fountains across the street.) It is easy to bypass the mall. It is across the street from the cannon and the fountains.

The mall is multi-level maze of tons of expensive shops. The upper level (level 3 from the elevator but more than 3 floors up) has a childrens clothing/toy store. At the opposite end of this store there is an arcade and pizza place (Cherry Pizza). There is also a grocery store. The grocery store is big and modern and has an entrance from the side street near all the atm machines. The boys like stopping in the playground outside near the parking lot.

This is not far from 'Sun City' restaurant (Aptema, 96a phone # 062-38-104-38). This resaurant has great food, nice prices, an English menu, pizza, chicken, and other foods. This restaurant also has a playground outside !

Monday, October 27, 2008

Days in Donetsk

Larry is working in Lux and the boys and I are in Donetsk during our 10Remove Formatting from selection day waiting period. We are sharing an apartment with Heather Smith who is here adopting two girls. (see our list of other blogs) We are both being challenged by trying to find clothes/shoes/coat/pj/etc and a backpack to fully outfit our new family member(s) to provide clothes to wear leaving the orphanage plus enough to wear for the rest of the time spent in Ukraine. The street vendors are more affordable than the big retail stores. The fancy clothing stores are expensive and still do not offer the full range of sizes. It has been difficult wondering thru the maze of street vendors looking for girls clothing. Finally finding a vendor shop stacked with girl items then trying to communicate what we are looking for, sizes, colors, styles. Girls jeans here are decorated with all kind of 'stuff' and I am having trouble finding any that are just jeans. Shoes have been a real problem. Limited girl styles and sizes. Socks too, nothing is plain and simple. The boys have been so patient with all of the walking and shopping.

If any of you noticed the Ukraine time clock difference, daylight savings time ended here 10/26. So we will be temporarily 6 hours different from EST until your clocks fall back next week.