It is morning in Odessa. This post was written last night. The internet connection here gets flaky at night and I wasn't able to post it. I will post it as is without editing it to say yesterday, etc.
We finally had our appointment this morning at Sergey's orphanage. Our facilitator Oles, or Sasha, called on-time today and told us to walk down to the Inspector's office. This building is on the next block south of us. Well the blocks are enormous here but still it only took about 5 min. to get there. Sasha and the Inspector, Alexandra, were waiting there with a taxi to take us to the orphanage. We didn't know what to expect about the Inspector and what he or she would be like or look like. I had expected someone older. But she was young with supermodel looks and dressed very classily. It seemed hard to believe this person had total power to put an end to our adoption of Sergey. Well Sasha did not realize that Mark was with us and had gotten a fairly small taxi. He told me to sit in front and then he, the Inspector, Nancy, and Mark were squeezed tightly in the backseat of this little BMW. I would have loved to take a picture of them. The irony of the situation was killing me. Here Nancy was smooshed up tight against this lady that had the power to put an end to our adoption and they were packed in there like school friends.
The taxi ride was about 10 min., and when we arrived at the orphanage, we were led in to a lady's office. Her name was Dina and she is the orphanage social worker. She is a middle-aged woman with big reddish-purple hair. She asked us all kinds of chit-chat questions about Obama, Hillary Cliton, how much we tip waitresses in America, other odd things. But she had obviously read our homestudy because she knew many things about us. She asked which church denomination we belonged to? We told her Reformed in America. I didn't expect that would mean anything to her but Sasha added something about it being Calvinist, which we did not mention, but which she seemed to understand. It was surprising to me that either of them understood that as I would bet there is a fair number of people who go to our own church that wouldn't even know that. We talked about how we knew Sergey. We had pictures along that we took last summer, some of which are on our blog. Let me tell you those pictures went a long way to making her and the Inspector comfortable with this adoption. For example, it turns out that Dina is a dog-lover, and one of the pictures was of Sergey, Mark, and Sparkle together. So of course we had to talk about the dog for awhile. Like what kind was she? (She's a Teddy Bear Shi-Tzu mix). What was her name? They both looked at the pictures carefully and smiled. They also asked about Valya, and we showed them a picture of her as well. How do we know her? She was a friend of two sisters that were adopted by friends of ours, the Tolly's, in our town. At some point Sergey showed up, since he had been summoned when we arrived. He had been in class. They asked him if he wanted to be adopted by us and he told them in Russian, "It's OK". No they said he had to say "I agree" or "I disagree". They got a laugh out of that. Do you know about this girl that they are adopting? Yes, we had told him about her last summer. Then they gave him various admonitions such as he needed to obey his parents and do well in his studies. In the end, the Inspector stepped aside and filled out a couple of forms, both of which we eventually needed to sign. We don't even know what they were. Didn't bother to ask, just did what they said.
Sergey has a 19 y.o. brother whom he hasn't seen for seven years. He must talk to him occasionally because Sergey knows his phone number by heart. They said that the brother will be coming in on Saturday to sign a paper that he agrees to the adoption. We will try to find out more details because we would love to meet him and take a picture of him for Sergey to remember him. Sergey also has a grandmother. She's in the picture somehow so we are also going to try to find out more about that.
They told us to come back after 2:00. So we hugged Sergey goodbye and walked back to our apartment.
At 2:00, we returned back to the orphanage, and met with the director. Her name is Anna. This time we didn't have an interpreter along, and she didn't know much English, so we waited for Sergey to arrive so that he could translate for us. Again, most of our conversation was smalltalk. She spent the majority of our time talking directly to Sergey and we don't know what she was telling him. One part was interesting, however. She also asked us about or church denomination, are we Catholic or Protestant? She told us that the children in the orphanage do not attend church but that we shouldn't pass judgment because when they leave the orphanage they are free to attend whichever church they wish. Apparently, she is not familiar with Proverbs chapter 3. Whatever. Finally, she told us we were free to visit Sergey fron 2:00 to 5:00 every afternoon. We are not to take him from the orphanage nor visit while classes are in session. At the end of the meeting I asked if we could take a picture of her and Sergey. She seemed surprised but pleased at the request and said something in Russian but I recognized the word, "souvenir". "Da, souvenir," I said.
After the meeting, we were free to go with Sergey. He gave us a tour of his world, including his classroom and various other places, such as the clothes washing room, shower room, bathrooms, art room, music room, and playroom. We spent the rest of the afternoon in the playroom meeting his classmates and playing games. Mark and I taught some of them to play Dutch Blitz. They had fun with that.
The next step for us is a court appointment, which we do not have yet. We and Sergey will need to go before a judge in Odessa and he needs to approve the adoption. He will ask all of us many questions, but we don't anticipate any trouble. After court comes a mandatory 10-day waiting period where officials try to contact any known relatives and allow them or others to come forward and contest the adoption. Just because they contest, however, doesn't mean they would prevail. They would have to agree to adopt him and prove that they have the means to support him. And where were they the last 7 years, and why did they not go visit him before? If there are no complications at the end of the 10-day waiting period, Sergey will be legally ours and we can take him out of the orphanage.
I explained to Sergey that we would try to visit him every day but that we are not sure that we would be able to do so. We also will be traveling to Andreyevo or somewhere abouts to visit the Inspector for that area. It will not be the same one we had in Odessa. Which is too bad. I think we're on her good side. Eventually, if all goes well, we will be able to adopt Valya. If so, we will intend to actually stay at her orphanage for several days so that we can get to know each other. Our adoption situation is a little tricky because the two orphanages are 150 km. away from each other. We obviously can't be in both places at the same time. It is premature to be concerned about it right now, but I hope this is a problem that we will have.
My impression after our meetings today is that these people genuinely care for these children.
The last point I will make about today is that I am truly amazed at the attitudes of these officials toward us. We have heard anecdotes about some of these same people behaving much differently toward other families. I believe the prayers of our friends and family are having an effect here. Before today I would never have believed that these meetings could be jovial, but they were. They were actually fun. How can we explain that? God is blessing us. Thanks to you all for interceding for us.
Here are some pictures from the day.
We walk from our apartment to the orphanage. It takes about 20 min. This is our apartment building.
This is behind our apartment building. It is where the entrance is.
This is the main street in front of our apartment building. It is very busy day and night.
They do not have clothes dryer appliances in Ukraine. Everyone leaves clothes out to dry after washing, either indoors or outdoors.
There are stray dogs and cats everywhere here. Here are some of them. A pack of them will chase cars out of parking lots or bicycles riding by. They are all friendly. The cats are feral, however.
This is the neighborhood of the orphanage. There is a public elementary school across the street from the orphanage.
This is the front side of orphanage #4 in Odessa. It was recently painted. But they only painted the side facing the street. The sign says Shkola Intyernat #4. Orphange #4 is actually what they call an Intyernat, which is a boarding school as well. There are kids here that go home on the weekends, also older kids who are attending a nearby technical school. There is room for 400 children here, but at this time there is only a little over a hundred or so.
This is Sergey and the director of #4, Anna, in her office. The picture on the wall is of Ukrainian President Viktor Yushenko. The book on the desk next to Sergey is a visitor's log that visitor's must sign. She has two little girls of her own. One of them was playing outside of her office with an older boy. I assume he was assigned to watch her.
This is Sergey's classroom. The 6th graders are in the same room all day. He showed us his school books.
I got a laugh from this picture of a page in Sergey's geography book. Kiev Ukraine is the center of the world! There is also a poster on the wall that shows cursive cyrillic letters.
Sergey showed us an American Rifleman magazine that we had sent to him in one of our Care packages. It was well worn from lots of use by the boys. They love looking at the guns and bullets and stuff in there. Boys are boys everywhere.
Two Dasha's. While we were in there, a lady named Dasha was tutoring a classmate of Sergey's in English. Her name is Dasha as well, and will be adopted by the Strainick's soon. Sergey had also been tutored by her in English by the family that hosted him in the US last December and summer.
Sergey gave us a tour of the orphanage. Lots of long hallways in there.
This is the dining hall. They got all new tables and chairs last week.
There is a bookcase with several pictures of adoptive families. Here is a picture of the Hoffman's from last summer. They will be adopting a girl from Sergey's class soon.
Here Sergey is showing us his treasures. Everything he owns is in this shoebox. He will be allowed to take this with him when he leaves. Everything else stays, including his clothes and shoes. When we go to take him from the orphange for the last time, we will need to bring him clothes to change into.
This is Babushka (Grandma) Lela. She is an American from Florida who has spent many years here in Odessa at this orphange. She provides love to the children. Every time she comes she kisses each child on the lips and tells them that she loves them. She tells us that many tell her that no one has ever told them that before.
This is Nataliya, the playroom supervisor. The kids really like her. She is having a baby soon.
Here we are playing Dutch Blitz with some boys. It takes a little to get used to. They should be experts by the time we leave Odessa.
1 month ago