Friday, December 19, 2008

Thursday

Day 1000 without broadband - or so it seems. Today (Fri.) is the day that the internet company says that they will come to turn on internet access in the apartment. It will be nice to get fast internet. A couple of days ago, we believe there was a power surge and their router and two laptop power supplies were destroyed. So, add a surge protector rated for 220V to your list of things to bring with you to Ukraine. One other note along these lines. Ukraine has 220V power plugs, not the 110V that we have in America. You may be surprised to learn that most modern electronic devices you might have in America will work just fine in Ukraine. A simple plug adapter is all you need to be able to plug your devices in here. But before you come you will want to check the fine print on your device to look at the rating. There are converters available that will step down the voltage from 220V to 110V. I destroyed the charger for our personal DVD player. It is the only device we brought that was not rated for 220V. One other note, bring some of those 3-prong to 2-prong plug adapters along. Most of the Ukrainian plug adapters I've seen only accept the 2-prong plugs. I had to cut off a tab on our extension cord so that the 3-prong plug will fit in.

On the adoption front - Our facilitor has had success securing approval for valya's adoption here in the Odessa region. Now Sergey and Valya are both at the same stage of paperwork. Today, our facilitator will send everything up to the SDA in Kiev for final approval. All adoptions in Ukraine must have final approval from the SDA before you can have court. So we are hoping for a fast approval. I talked to our facilitator this morning and she said that she hopes we can get a court date before New Year's day, but it might be the first working day after. We will have to remain here in Ukraine until we have court. We will come home after court without the kids, as the adoptions will be stalled due the Ukrainian government shutdown during the holdays. I will come back in mid-January to complete the process and bring them home.

There was a little glitch in Sergey's paperwork yesterday that could have caused a large delay in his paperwork. By Ukrainian law, children receive their father's surname when they are born, even if the mother is not married. But Sergey has his mother's surname. While no one down here cares, the SDA would have thrown a fit. So our facilitator did some investigating here and found a document that the mother filed to change his surname to match hers. That is fortunate because without that document it would have been a hassle.

Yesterday, we left at noon to see Valya, along with one of our roommates, who is Ukrainian, to translate for us. We thought there was some kind of party or something for St. Nicolas day, but we learned after we got there that it was that the children would be receiving gifts under their pillows during the night. Also, all of the children have stockings, which will be filled with fruit and other small treats. Each child will also receive 10 grivna. At today's exchange rate, that is about $1.10.

From day-to-day we never know exactly who our driver will be to take us to Andreyvo. We had a pleasant drive yesterday with a Christian man who spoke English. He is 37 y.o. and had quite a story to tell. I don't want to tell all of the details on the internet, but I will tell some of it. He was baptized when he was 16 y.o. When he was a young man, he served in a special forces unit of the Soviet army. One time there was a riot somewhere and his unit of 30 men was called in to quell it. They were ordered to shoot innocent people and he refused. Later, he had to go before his superior officer and he thought that he would go to prison. He shared his faith with him. Eventually, it turned out that he did not have to go to prison and the men in his unit only wanted him to preach to them. He became some kind of chaplain and he said all of them became Christians. Later in life, he became a pastor and started 2 churches in northern Ukraine (by the way, they say Ukraine here, not The Ukraine, as that is the Soviet name). After turning them over to others to lead, he moved down here with his family to Odessa. He has been here for 3 months and is listening for a clear calling from the Lord about what to do here. His brother-in-law is the regional director of YWAM for all of Ukraine.

We had a conversation about adoption with him. It is good to get the perspective of a Ukrainian. He and his wife are in fact interested in adopting a child in Ukraine to add to the 2 teen girls that they already have. In fact, many Ukrainian citizens want to adopt. There is an economic crisis here, however, and many people are afraid to adopt at this time as they are not sure that they can survive as it is. We asked him about foster care in Ukraine and he said that it is taking them a long time to get it going. There was a program on TV recently on the subject of bad families that take in foster children just for the money and then neglect them. The government takes the children back when they learn of these situations. Families that wish to adopt or do foster care here are required to take classes before they are allowed to. Well that is what he told us, you may have heard otherwise. One other thing I will note in passing. I have heard from more than one person here that if the Orange party stays in control (they are the pro-West democratic party led by President Viktor Yushenko), then foreign adoptions will eventually cease. If the Communists gain control of the Parliament (called Rada here), foreign adoptions will continue. There is also a socialist party, somewhat led by the popular Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko. She will eventually run for president against Yushenko. It is unclear what will happen with foreign adoptions under her leadership.

Regarding the economy here, the exchange rate for the dollar is going through the roof. The dollar is in high demand. When we arrived in Ukraine three weeks ago, the rate was 6.80 grivna per dollar. Yesterday it was 9.05. For years, it had been 5.0. This is great for Americans coming here, but the underlying reasons are disastrous for Ukrainians. Basically, public confidence in the grivna is sinking. Imagine you are a Ukrainian and you see the rate on the dollar going up. Wouldn't you like to get your hands on some? If someone would have bought a dollar three weeks ago, and sold it yesterday, he would have had a 33% return on his money. In three weeks. So, as the dollar goes up in value, the demand for them goes up, causing the value to go up, causing the demand to go up, etc. The cycle probably won't stop unless the government intervenes.

As the economy worsens here, I can imagine that the orphanages will start swelling with children coming from homes that can't afford to care for them. I have posted before that it is estimated that 90% of the children in orphanages in Ukraine are not here because they have no family, but because the family they have cannot care for them. Children in this circumstance are not adoptable. In this case, the orphanages are boarding schools.

When we talk with the evangelical Christians here, they are upbeat that this as a time of great opportunity for the Christian Church in Ukraine. After the country gained independence in the early 1990'si there was a short period of spiritual revival as the shackles of Communism were removed. Shortly after, the society became extremely materialistic, as you can imagine. Think about how life was under Communism, with shortages of consumer goods, and inferior quality. Now, the Christians say, God is getting Ukraine's attention again. As we drive in the country, we have seen Orthodox churches under construction.

Desperate people do desperate things. There was a time here when you could feel very safe walking on the streets of Odessa. But now crime is increasing. Recently, there was a bus in Odessa that was robbed. Men with guns ordered everyone on the bus to turn over their money and jewelry. Yesterday, our facilitator, a young lady, was mugged across the street from our apartment. She had tried to exchange money, but the line was too long. She left that store and was on her way to another when a man accosted her. She was able to push him away and yell for help, then he ran away. If you come to Ukraine you will want to do your best to blend in and not look obviously American. Don't carry large sums of money with you.

But I digress. I was telling you about our driver. When we arrived at Valya's orphanage, we learned that our facilitator had requested that we take a document from Andreyevo to the government building in Mikolaevka, which is about a 15 minute drive, WHEN IT IS DRY. We left with Valya for another building, and he left for his car. We noticed that it had begun to rain harder. It was raining a little on the way up. We didn't think anything of it. We had planned to stay an hour with her, but that came and went. Then another hour. We called our facilitator and asked her if she had heard from our driver? Yes, the rain had turned into freezing rain and he had slid off the road into a ditch. He was by himself, and in this part of rural Ukraine, it is pitch black at night. There may be a house scattered about here and there, but they do not have yard lights like they do in America. She told us not to worry as he is a Ukrainian and he can figure it out. We finally got a call after 3 hours that he had arrived at the orphanage and was ready to take us back. We asked him how did he get the car out of the ditch? He said he did not know, it was a miracle from God. Another man had come by, but he could not push it as he could not even stand on the ice. On the way home I was very concerned that we would not be able to get out of Andreyevo. It is kind of in a valley and there is a lot of uphill driving to get out of there. His car was rearwheel drive and more than once we fishtailed. But thankfully the road was rough enough and even sanded in a couple of places, and so we made it out. Sometime I want to show you a picture of the little sand piles they put next to the road here on hills. It is much different than America. Meanwhile, our facilitator was very worried for us. Later, she told us that 5 years ago an American couple was out in weather such as this and died in a car accident. The husband was killed in the crash, while the wife was transferred to Germany where she died after 2 weeks in a coma. They had a child in America, and the children they came to adopt in Ukraine are still in the orphanage now.

We had more time with Valya than we were expecting and that was fun. This time we got to meet her best friend, named Anya, who is 15 y.o. She wants to come to America. Last year, her best friend Lienna was adopted by the Tolly's, and now her best friend Valya is being adopted by us. It is very hard for her. Email me if you want to know more about her. We will try to find out more information.

We got to see the wilder more-physical side of Valya. We had given her a teddy bear when we first met her, and she brought that back to our playroom when she went to retrieve Anya. She had also brought a tiny stuffed animal for Mark, which we brought home later. Somehow, we got into a game of tossing the animals back and forth, like hot potato, which became very fast-paced and involved all five of us. I can tell you she has a good throwing arm. While we were with her, we also went over some more English, started to teach her Dutch Blitz, and played Uno. Dutch Blitz is very popular at #4. With her competitive spirit, I imagine Valya will enjoy it too. We also measured her for clothing as well.

When our driver came back for us, it was time to go and we each hugged her. When Valya hugged Mark she gave him a big bear hug and picked him up off the ground and carried him a little ways. Oookaaay... I think she is going to be a feisty one. It should be interesting when we add Sergey to this mix.

We will go to see Sergey today. We are making arrangements to stay in Andreyevo for the weekend. I have not taken any pictures of the orphanage or of Valya's friends. Will try to do that. I am sure many of you are interested in that orphanage. It seems to be a MUCH happier place than #4. #4 is just downright depressing.

Well I've rambled long enough. I Wish I could show you pictures, maybe at the end of the day today if we get broadband going again.

Christmas is less than a week away and there is not much here indicating that. There's a few Christmas lights around, but nothing like America. We miss that. Hope all is well with you.

4 comments:

Conethia and Jim Bob said...

Stay strong guys! Wishing the best on the adoption front.

Ashley said...

How awesome to meet the driver that was a Christian. I am glad he is okay from the accident. And I am glad that all of you are okay from all that fishtailing...goodness! That is so sad that the parents died from an accident. I cannot even imagine going there to adopt and this happening.

Glad you are seeing more of Valya's personality. Yes, by adding Sergey, you are going to have one lively house. But I can see that it is going to be so much fun and filled with laughter. :)

So happy everything is going well with both adoptions and these "glitches" are getting worked out.

Kevin & Pam said...

So glad to hear it is going well with Valya and her adoption. When we were in Ukraine the exchange rate was $4?? I can't believe it is now $9. I am sad to hear their may not be adoptions happening next year. There are two girls I have had my eyes on after we recover from this adoption. Stay safe! Praying for you guys.

brado said...

Pretres - Wishing you guys the best this Christmas season and have been thankful to hear the progress and moments of joy your family has experienced. Back here in SD, its been pretty bleak, cold and windy - don't think it is to get much over 0 degrees next week but we await a break in the cold temps and look forward to reading your families adventure in the Ukraine. We continue to hope that all obstacles to your family are removed and that you are all back home safely with your new family. Take care Pretres and God Bless.