Not much going on here right now. We were planning to spend the weekend at Valya's orphanage in Andreyevo. But there was a huge ice storm Thursday night and the area around Andreyevo was hit hard. You may recall in the last post where I told you how our driver went into the ditch while delivering a document for us. Well, the rain continued on all night and coated everything with a thick layer of ice. Yesterday, our facilitator told us that all of the Odessa oblast (state or region) was under storm warnings, except for the city of Odessa. There is one more document we need to pick up from Mikolaevka and we were not able to do that, so that will delay our court appt. a little. Now, we probably won't be able to retrieve that document until Tuesday, when we go up there again. As far as I know, this is the final document that is needed to send up to Kiev for final adoption approval. Our facilitator ensures us that we will have no problem with the SDA.
It looks like everything is falling into place for us regarding approval for Valya's adoption. Nothing is certain here, however, and I will believe it when I see it. There was a lot of drama and uncertainty the last three weeks, and we are thankful for your support, encouragement, and prayers.
The drama in our apartment has been the lack of internet. We finally got it turned on late in the evening on Friday. Yesterday morning I put in some much needed hours at work. I am now out of vacation time. Every hour I work is another bit of pay for us. Nancy is a bit stressed about this, I not so much. God has brought us this far, it will all work out in the end.
Friday afternoon, we went over to Orphanage #4 to see Sergey and their St. Nicolas (Nikolai) program. Some of the kids sang, and others played their accordians. It was great to see their talent. There is a girl in Sergey's class (6th grade here), Karina, who is a very talented singer. She is being adopted by the Nasekos family, who is also here in Odessa right now. They stayed in the apartment with us for a time but are elsewhere now. We often run across them as there are limited visiting hours. The Nasekos' brought roses for all of the girls in Karina's class and gave them after the program. There will be another progam on Monday for Christmas (I think), then another one on Friday, for New Year's. The children have been busy preparing for 3 programs within a week. They memorize everything.
Yesterday, Grandma Lela, her driver, us, and Sergey, had a late lunch together. We received permission to take him from the orphanage for a couple of hours. It seems weird that he will be our child, and everyone knows it, but it is near impossible to take him out. Grandma Lela was able to pull some strings. Lela asked Sergey where he wanted to go, and we went to a cafeteria restaurant nearby.
In the evening, Nancy and I left Mark at the apartment and went downtown by ourselves. We took our flash drive down to a photo shop to get some prints made, and visited the Aphena Galleriya. This is a 6 floor mall that is very nice inside. Nancy needed some therapy for herself so she wandered in stores for as long as she wanted. I sat downstairs in the food court goofing around with pictures on the computer.
In Thursday's post, I mentioned how the exchange rate was climbing and was over 9 grivna to the dollar. Overnight it tanked. On Friday it was at 6.5. There are rumors in some places that banks were running out of grivna at the high exchange rate. No one seems to know what is going on. We had been accustomed to only exchanging a couple day's worth of money at a time, as the rate had been continually going up. Now it has fallen around the country and everyone wishes they had exchanged more on Thursday. We wonder what will happen next week.
Today, we will hang out at the apartment. It is too cold to do much outside, which is a shame as there is lots to see here. We will go downtown tonight for English church in someone's home. These people are missionaries, school teachers, and employees of American companies with business here. Oh and of course American families here to adopt.
Tomorrow, we will stay in Odessa so that we can see Sergey's program. Then, we hope, up to Andreyevo for a couple of days to have extended time with Valya and her friends. I plan to take lots of pictures so you can get an idea what it is like up there.
I promised to post some pictures onec we got broadband internet. So here are some, they are kind of random. Remember you can click on them to make them bigger.
Here is a picture of a woman receiving a speeding ticket in front of our apartment in Odessa. Here, the policemen do not sit in their cars like they do in America. They park the car and stand next to the road with a little handheld radar gun, about the size of a camera with a big lens. If they want to stop you, they have a baton that they point and wave at you and you need to stop. It is very efficient. They can stop three cars this way and give them all tickets simultaneously. They do this even out along the main highways, which look like interstate highways in America. This time of year, the policemen wear heavy thermal overalls with reflective material on the sleeves and legs. They are very visible and everyone highly respects them. On December 1st, a whole bunch of new traffic laws went into effect regarding speeds, number of passengers, seatbelts, price of fines, and other things. It is very expensive to have a violation now. Oh and the woman pled her case to the policeman but in the end was unsuccessful.
The Christmas Tree truck has arrived. They celebrate Christmas Jan. 7, not Dec. 25.
The streets of Kiliya. Kiliya is a mid-sized city in the far southwest of Ukraine along the Danube river. The Danube snakes a long way through Europe and empties into the Black sea near here. The river forms the border between Romania and Ukraine. We needed to visit Kiliya as that is where Valya's sister's orphanage is located. The streets were interesting to me because they were constructed of what must have been hundreds of thousands of preformed concrete slabs. It is a terrible way to make a street - it was incredibly jarring to drive on. But then the Soviets had a way of doing things didn't they.
This is the government building in Kiliya. This is where we were expecting to pick up the Inspector to take her to the orphanage for a tense meeting. As it turns out, instead of coming out with the Inspector, our facilitator came out with the document we needed in just a couple of minutes. It was a miracle.
This is the highway to Kiliya. Or so we thought. Actually, we drove 1/2 hr. down this road only to find out it is not the one. We had to turn around and backtrack to get to the correct one. There are very few road signs and even fewer highway markers. In America it seems like there is a highway marker every mile. Here, there are few to none.
Here are a couple of Orthodox churches under construction out in the country. It is surprising to me, or maybe not I guess, that there is money to build these beautiful churches even when the economy is such a mess here.
People in this area love fish. The markets are full of all kinds - fresh, smoked, and canned. You can even get little fish snacks. Kind of like fish jerky. Here I am with little dried fish snacks. They take alot like...dried fish.
In a notary's office in Odessa. Notaries here are different than notaries we have in the US. Here, they are actually lawyers that draw up documents. In this picture, our dossier that we assembled in South Dakota is sitting on her desk. Our facilitator takes it with her wherever she goes, to present to various people as needed. After your original SDA appointment in Kiev, the SDA will give it back to your facilitator for use in-region. The documents in the dossier are each sewn to their Ukrainian translation sheets, and the complete set is sewn together like a book. The loose ends of all the threads on every document, and the bundle, are taped and stamped with multicolor seals that make it impossible to disassemble it without it being obvious. The little shiny black book to the left of the dossier is something like a journal. I am not kidding every document that was typed out was almost completely duplicated by hand in this book. Nancy and I would have to sign in like 4 different places in this journal, as well as the documents themselves. We always need to show our passports to the notary.
On one of the days we went to see Valya last week, we took her a little gift bag, which had some garland in it. She wanted us to take pictures wearing it.
Tense moments waiting in the car in Rozdilna. Rozdilna is the place where Valya and her siblings are registered. In a throwback to Soviet times, citizens are registered in certain places. We waited in the car for 2 hours while our facilitator discussed things with the Inspector here and the SDA in Kiev. I suppose some day we'll laugh about it. But not yet. I have more pictures of Rozdilna, but I want to make a separate post about the place, because there is interesting history here.
Looking at an I-Spy book with Sergey at #4. The kids really like the book. Note, if your are coming here from America, bring one or two along with you.
Here are some of the kids putting a Lego set together. When the kids went to Kiev for the music field trip last week, they all received a Christmas present of some kind.
Luba and I. She is really sweet. She is gentle and never yells like the other kids. After we first met her, Mark commented that we should adopt her. But she is not adoptable as far as we know. We do know that she has several siblings.
Visiting with Valya last Thurday afternoon. Pictured with us is Lienna, our Ukrainian roommate. She translated for us. Here, we are working on English. We gave Valya a notebook to keep and study. And yes after 13 years I did shave off my goatee. I guess that is long enough.
This is Valya with her best friend Anya. Anya is 15 y.o. and it must be sad to see her best friend moving away. She would really like to come to America. But her time is running out, unless she has younger siblings. Mark is concerned about her and asked if we could adopt her. She is older than him yet he doesn't seem to mind. I don't know, that seems hard to fathom right now. Maybe some of our friends back in Mitchell? Hint hint. Mark understands what it is like to lose a best friend.
Playing with Valya. Hot Potato with her stuffed animals devolved into dodgeball.
Our driver did WHAT?!! He slid his car off the road due to icy conditions. We got more time with Valya than we were expecting. It was something of a tense drive out of Andreyevo later.
Our facilitator went to Rozdilna the next day without us and gave us a couple of pictures of the conditions there.
While they were getting ice and snow north of here, we were getting rain in Odessa. They do not have storm drains in Odessa, maybe nowhere in Ukraine. Soviet infrastructure is minimal. Whenever it rains, lakes and puddles forms everywhere. When we walk near Orphanage #4 we have to hop from island to island.
Picture with Sergey. I had to take several shots of this one. Just as I would take the picture, Sergey would tickle Mark in the ribs. He is quite a character.
Getting ready before the St. Nicolas Day celebration. Sergey wasn't part of the program, so he didn't need to change. Other kids in his class, did however. The dorms are locked up during the day and are only open during the evenings. So they were all changing clothes in their playroom. The girls kind of crouched behind the supevisor's desk, while the boys just changed their trousers in the open. There is a hangar in one of the closets with several pair of dark slacks on it. The boys pulled that out then looked for a pair that fit them. Their supervisor, Nataliya, shown in the picture, would help them. Dasha is shown here ironing her outfit. The kids are very responsible with their things. They do not have a parent to do things for them.
At the St. Nicolas Day program. There is an auditorium on the top floor. Some of the children participated in a program where they sang songs in Ukrainian. A couple of the boys played accordian solos. Here is Grisha. Afterward, the orphanage director gave a message. The concert was wonderful and their performance would have made any parent proud. How sad there were none, however, except for us and the Nasekos'. I recorded the whole thing on wide-screen DVD from the front row. If you're a family coming for one of these children soon, you can pay me large sums of money for a copy. But it will be so worth it. You see we have this big expense right now...
Grandma Lela came to the program. She is an American missionary who has been in Odessa about 15 years. She has given love to kids when there was no one else to do it. Many times she helps provide for their medical needs as well. She has prayed for these children for years and is thrilled when a family comes for them.
After the program, we had a time of visiting. Michelle came by with penpal letters. The kids love that. If you would like to be a penpal, send me an email and we'll see if we can get you more information.
Waiting for Sergey to come to take him to lunch. The have a wall with artwork. They have some good artists in the orphanage.
On the way to eat lunch. We had four of us in the back seat. Sergey needed to sit on Mark's lap.
Lunch with Grandma Lela and Igor, her driver today. Igor is a gentleman from her church.
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