Sunday, June 29, 2008

The other 10%

Probably up until now you have gotten the picture in your mind that our adoption journey and Ukraine has been nothing but glorious and wonderful. Hey, honestly 90% of this journey has been, but to leave you with the impression that our our trip, my feelings about Ukraine, and my feelings for my son have been a fairy tale would not be fair. As with everything I have had a few up and down moments.

First off, I think I am sick. Not sure if it is a stomach bug or an actual parasite, but something is upsetting my stomach with continual diarrhea. This is more information than you want to hear, I'm sure, but I think it is important to accept the possibility of this happening to you if you travel to another country. While my tummy doesn't feel very good, I guess there is always an upside. Who knows, at this rate, I may be 10 or 15 pounds lighter when I get home.

Ukraine is really a wonderful country........ I feel more at home here than I did when I was in Russia a couple of years back. This may be because I have done this once before, or maybe because I am able to keep in touch with friends and family through email and this blog. It may also be that this part of Ukraine is less intimidating (Moscow was huge) yet more technologically advanced. Is this possible? We have visited stores that resemble Wal-Marts, have seen more handicap/stroller accessible ramps around here, and have seen evidence that some sort of trash system is in place here. In Russia, they simply burned their trash.

However, there are things about Ukraine that make me feel a little bit uncomfortable like the foul smelling stairwells that lead up to our apartment. While the apartment itself is very nice, as soon as you walk out the door into the common stairwell you might as well be in a bad part of town. It has flies, trash, and graffiti, and smells of urine with occasional spots on the ground indicating that some drunkard had peed in the corner. Not very pleasant.

The mentality of people in this country never cease to amaze me. In this country you can call your own ambulance and request your own concoction of pain-killing sedatives and antibiotics without a doctor, yet you can't sit on a wall because it will cause sickness in your bones. You better believe that I have gotten some rude glares because I have taken a load off my feet and sat down on a wall.

When ordering at a restaurant it would be best if you could bring your own condiments like butter, ketchup, etc. because these things will not be offered to you and for sure they will not be free. Everything is a la carte and many times the price that is printed on the menu is per kilogram, not for the whole item on the menu. We learned this one afternoon when we took our facilitator and driver out for lunch. We thought our bill would be around 150 grivna and it ended up being 231 grivna. Also, water is not free---- ever! But at least you don't have to pay to use the restroom.

There is a unique smell to Ukraine, that you eventually get used to, but if you have a sensitive nose, you best breathe through your mouth. Don't worry, it grows on you.

The smell in the orphanage however is hard to get used too. I love it when the smell of food is in the air to mask the true-lying smell of it...... that is soaked into Dennis' clothes and hair. While he has a sweet baby smell about him, that I admit is probably more of a figment of my imagination, I long for the day that I can take him out of here and give him a bath and put him in the clothes that we brought for him.

Everything about Dennis is perfect, at least in our eyes, but we are allowed to do only so much with him. Like I mentioned earlier, there are so many senseless rules here that John and I feel unable to parent Dennis in the way that we want. They don't want his shoes and socks off, we can't feed him hardly anything, we can never be too careful with how we hold him (as if we are going to drop him), we can't take him to certain places of the orphanage for fear of germs, we have to feed him a certain way, and we are not allowed to tuck him back into his crib after visits. It makes no sense to us........but because this is their country and they supposedly know him best, then we will follow their rules until he is officially ours! Maybe longer if they don't waive the 10 days.

This orphanage appears to have both healthy and special needs children. Like our initial visit with Anna and Sveta at the orphanage we were not sat down and given the details of Dennis' medical until we asked. To us, it doesn't matter what they tell us because we still want our son no matter what they say, but admittedly I am curious to see what they have to say. I guess we'll know everything they want us to know once we have the translated court documents.

I hope none of this has discouraged anyone thinking of adopting from Ukraine from doing so, nor did I intend to offend anyone who has been to Ukraine and has a diferent view. I just wanted to share my perspective on things as honestly as I possibly could.

Did I mention that one time I opened the door of a gas station bathroom and it was full of flying moths that swarmed around me while I did my business? Not three or four mind you......closer to three or four hundred all attracted to the light. I felt like I was in the scene of a horror movie.

Sorry to seem like such high maintenence. Spoiled by America.


Chelley said...

Very open..

And at least from my point of view I did no way think that everythingn was PEACHY clean there!

But thanks for giving us a view from the other side of the fence

Kevin and Tammy said...

Thanks for the comments. It really helps us who are still to come. Sometimes I think that the people who are there don't tell us all the news. It is great to know the real story.

Maria and Family said...

Hi there ! Thanks so much for leaving a comment on my blog :) I actually found your blog thru..somewhere ?? the other day. I am so TOUCHED by your story. You are truly blessed to be bringing home such a beautiful little boy ! I cant wait until he is officially yours :) God Bless, Maria

Our Version of Normal said...

Ok, I guess I'll be breathing thru my mouth and not going into gas station bathrooms when we get there! :) I agree though I would rather hear ALL of the details good and bad. I prefer to be prepared not surprised.

Serge said...

Hi guys! Thanks for the daily updates! It is almost like we are walking with you over there.

Christine, never, never drink water while there, not even from the restaurants, unless it is from a brand new unopened bottle! If not already done, buy your water by the gallon/liters for home usage. When taking showers, ensure that no water gets into your mouth/nose, eyes.

Ukraine is almost the same as Russia. Last time we went to Russia (2006), I was sick like a dog for two weeks with the runs... They a medication (pills) that are readilly available from the local "apteka". That's what my wife got me and it worked wonders for me.

Hope everything continues to go well and a speedy return home!


Ginny said...

Hi Christine, I am enjoying following your time in the Ukraine. Dennis is so precious.

Salzwedel Family said...

I don't think you've been portraying it all as "sunshine & roses", but it is interesting to hear the unpleasant with the pleasant. Many years ago we thought we would adopt from Ukraine, but God has led us to Haiti. Hopefully they'll waive your ten days & you can fully be mama & papa soon.

Diana said...

Indeed, even the best rides in Ukraine can be a little bumpy and the storms a little hard to weather at times. Hang on tight and keep enjoying the ride. This rodeo ain't anywhere near over yet!

Our facilitator would now allow us to take our younger son out of the orphanage until we had his passport, which was more than a week past the 10 day wait...and I know many who've had to wait even longer than that for passports. There's a LOT of running around getting this document and that that has to be done after the 10 day wait is over. It was very frustrating on so many different levels, especially since our older son had already been living with us for 3 weeks at that point.

You DO definately want to get all the medical and social information you can about your son from as many different sources as you can, INCLUDING ASKING THE ORPHANAGE FOR ALL HIS ORIGINAL MEDICAL RECORDS. I can't stress this enough!!! There's still a lot of stuff about our older son's medical history that even the best docs here can't figure out, so get all the info you can!

While the certified English translations you will get will indeed be very telling, they will be incomplete summaries at best, and honestly, they can't really be trusted, either. We have recently learned that the certified English translation we have of the birth mother's rights termination decree isn't anywhere close to accurate. In fact, it is so far off base that we're going to have the rest of our document retranslated as well.

We were told basically the same story about both our kids by all the "officials." But it is completely different than what is actually in the Ukrainian version of the termination decree. The two stories aren't even close! Yet many people in my younger son's orphanage claimed to know the family personally and they obviously had a LOT of records about him!! It's almost as if they purposely made the English translation very ambiguous because they didn't WANT us to the real story.

You may find the same things. There may be things they don't want you to know for fear you'll change your mind about the adoption. Or, they just simply don't think it's anything important to share. But don't let it stop you from asking a lot of questions to a lot of different people and write down what you learn from each person.

There were a lot of times we'd ask questions only to have people shoot a glance at each other and then clam up. They didn't seem to get at all that we were simply trying to figure out our kid's story and trying to find answers that would help them heal in the future. Even though it seemed to bug them at the time, we are SO GLAD now that we kept asking questions anyway. We were able to piece together quite a bit of their history by doing so.

Even though our youngest was really little at the time of his adoption, he still bears both physical and emotional scars of what really happened to him as a baby. Believe me, even the little ones remember! Knowing the real story now makes his behavior now make a whole lot more sense (and a lot easier to deal with, too.)

Best wishes as you continue on your journey!

Bringing Home Sasha said...

I have loved reading your blog (it's the first thing I do in the am) I relates to alot of things in your last post, Ukraine is a very different place and takes some getting used to. We too had the foul smelling stairwell to our appartment, bought what we thought was milk:), were sick, and had some nonsense rules. My husband and I took alot of notes while we were there for the next family to travel. I think it's important to let people know what they are in for, not to discourage them, but to prepare them. You and I both know that a month of being "uncomfortable" is worth the lifetime we will be able to give our sons:) but it helps to be prepared. I was so excited you hear that you have a court date, it is the same day that our 10 day waiting period will be up. We will be traveling back to Ukraine on the 5th of July, we have been blessed with a financial donation that will allow us to be able to bring our girls this time. God KNOWS the desires of our hearts. We will continue to pray for you.
das v donya

Cheryl said...

Oh my goodness, Christine, you wrote this entry beautifully. I pictured everything as you explained Ukraine so well.

I had to laugh about the moths in the bathroom, what I wouldn't give to see a picture of that! These are the things you will talk about for years!

Hang in there and God Bless!

Mike & Tara said...

We also had the foul smelling stairwell - I honestly believe something was dead in the basement as the smell was unbearable. And we were there in winter (it gets dark at 3:45pm) and we made a point of being home before dark as the stairwell was so poorly lit and it really scared me walking up to the apartment.

But - now - as I read your blog to my hubby we started reliving our similar experiences and got to laughing so hard and making so many jokes about the smells we endured and the kefir we bought. You will look back even on the hard 10% and laugh and believe it or not - find them as 'fond' memories! :o)

Nicole (SummersComing) said...

So maybe the intestinal problem is a symptom of.....sickness in the bones!!? haha

In all seriousness....maybe an Immodium type product may help? Or maybe you have to just let it flush out of your system. At any rate, your bad tummy is absolutely NOT reflected in the awesome narration of your trip! You sound very upbeat yet giving a real look at Ukraine. Thank you for letting this stranger have a glimpse at this time in your family's life!

Nicole in NY

The Balsis Family said...

I'm not going to Ukraine, but I agree that you should post the whole story. And it is your blog after all. It is part of what you experienced and I would like to know those things if I were going to be going to Ukraine. Excited for gotcha day!

Anonymous said...

Bottled water in a restaurant like DaVinci's is an expensive brand. Drink water at home. Buy soda in a restaurant. Yes nothing is free except the bathroom, and sometimes some places charge a few kopeks.

It seems they've 'copied' many things, like the supermarkets are smaller but near copies of what our shelves look like, but parts are just weirdly off. Like paying for your grocery bags, or that very revealing outfits and fishnet stockings are considered ok for work uniforms.

- Robb

crispy said...

Christine, you continue to be a testimony of Gods grace in your life. I know that you are being stretched and there is nothing more powerful than seeing other countries to see how much we have and how fortunate we are.

Payne's said...

Thanks for the other 10% - it's real. I have lived in foreign countries for 6 years...none of them are the same. Some things will amaze you and you will think, "now why don't we do that in our country" and other thoughts are "I am so glad America is home" - but it is what makes us all unique. Just embrace the country, the people, and learn what you can from them. You will have wonderful stories to tell your son.


Shea said...

Just wanted to say I can not wait for you to be home with little Dennis. I know it has to be tough being so far from home! God bless and keep your chin up. I'd also be asking for abt's for the diarhhea! Wish I could send you some Cipro over there.

Anonymous said...

you know, your comment about the bathrooms being free reminded me of when i was england.

we were at a large food court next to one of the train stations in downtown london and the bathrooms were for general use, not in each individual restaurant. so i'm happily eating my mcdonald's (it was day 2 and i didn't fall in love with england until day 3, i needed something from home!) and my family goes off to use the restroom before our train to windsor.

suddenly my little sister comes running out. "give me your wallet! give me some british money!" to which i replied "umm... you have your own money... why do you want mine? did you run out already?" and she informed me that they couldn't get INTO the bathroom because they didn't have pounds (english money) with them. apparently to get through the door you had to put money in the machine. no money, no bathroom.

praying for you, dennis, your entire family, and court on tuesday.

WHAT TIME is court for us in the U.S.? i'm from DC so eastern time zone, and would like to know when court is so i can be praying. i've been in treatment for a brain tumor-like thing this weekend and between painkillers and exhaustion from the procedures and the adjustments my body is making, i'm up at odd hours. much like a toddler, i sleep a few hours, wake up, sleep a few more... so even though it'll be the middle of the night, i WILL stay up and be praying.

can't wait to see pictures of dennis SMILING!!!!!! :-D

- michelle

Tami said...

While we were traveling last winter I vaguely remember somebody (you!) telling me I needed to keep the blog honest! I did. You need to too. It's the only way the families behind us can be truly prepared. Keep it up! :)
Hope you're feeling soon. We were able to find some Immodium at an apteka (pharmacy). (The name is the same - I'm looking at the box right now. BTW - It cost us 21.5 grivna. HA!) While the doctors here in the U.S. always told us it was better to let it run its course so we could get rid of the bug faster, I was more interested in feeling better. Praying you feel better soon.

Christine said...

Michelle, I hope you feel better soon. What a sweet offer to pray for us at the time of court. Unfortunately that would be 2am for you. God Bless.

Amy said...

Don't be surprised if you ride the "Ukraine Train" back to Kyiv that you may be charged to used the restroom at the train station! The main train station in Kyiv had the holes in the floor bathroom... it was really yucky! Nothing quite like about 20 stalls with holes in the floor - getting LOTS of use!
I can totally relate about the orphanage "policies"... We had a hard time doing much with our daughter - we wanted to take her outside alot, and after about 3 or 4 no's... we just did it... after that - they left us alone!
I have to agree with the records! If they won't let you take them - take pictures of ALL of them! Any pictures that they have - if they won't GIVE them to you - take a picture of them.
Don't forget to make sure that you take care of the pension/account for Dennis as soon as you are able!
Thanks for keeping it real for those folks who have never been to Ukraine! It is truly an eye-opener!
Take care!

Connie said...

Hey sis, can you ask your facilitator to call a pharmacy for you? As you noted, all you have to do is call, no prescription, and if it is like Cairo, a good pharmacist will know what to do for you. I would suggest finding a drinkable yogurt, it may be horrid, but the cultures really help get you balanced!

It is good to pass on information, good and bad, that helps people deal with the culture shock. No place is ever perfect, and if you can be prepared in advance for some of the negatives, you will be better able to appreciate the positives.

btw - while you may be feeling left out by the rules of the orphanage, from my 'outside perspective', I actually LIKE hearing of how protective they are of Dennis. These people do not know you and what kind of parents you are - they must meet so many people, good and bad, so it is good that they are so tough about defending him with all they can. Better than being lax! Soon enough! :-)

adopting2fromUkraine said...

We didn't have a foul smell to deal with at our apartment, but we had disco music until at least midnight each night, from two different sides of our apartment. One was from a restaurant and the other from a disco. Then, we would start hearing bumping, door banging and footsteps starting at about 6:30 in the morning! It was hard to get any sleep. I guess that's why we would take naps after visiting the orphanage and before supper. lol

Our town wasn't as organized with garbage as Donetsk. Right where our apartment was, there were lots of babushkas working to keep everything tidy for the restaurant, disco, markets and maybe even other businesses, but down the street where the 'natives' lived, garbage was overflowing.

You are right about the smells in the orphanage also. When we first walked into the orphanage the smell of the 'restroom' was overwhelming. I don't think I really ever got used to it.

But I have to add, even with all these experiences and more, we would go back in a heartbeat! :)


KristenK said...

Hi Christine, your stories remind me so much of my time in Brasil. I hope you're feeling better soon!

Mike and Christie said...

I think you are being accurate. However, I don't think we ever paid that much for a meal. INLATION??

I would like the UTUBE video of the horror movie moth scene! :)

Mike and Christie said...

Oh Yea, I forgot....

I know that smell you are talking about. I couldn't wait to get Erika in a tub, wash her precious little body, and her hair and make her smell like a little girl...
Her undies were burnable...., she balked at me trying to clean her ears.. how could she hear??
They wouldn't let us help her down a treacherous ledge where she might fall and we had to watch her weep as they made her walk in new braces that didn't fit, with sores all over her feet. We could do nothing but cry for her inside....

As soon as she was all ours, we let loose with mothering and fathering and cleaning and babying and those eyes... those huge eyes of, "are you sure this is ok?" melted to love and hope and pleasure and relief.

Martha said...

My sense of smell can be quite strong at times. Even smells here can bother me. I would have to get tough if I were to visit smelly places.

MamaPoRuski said...

Yes, it is all coming back to me now... Sometimes eating out is not always safe according to the local missionaires. I think I got bad borscht that affected me for a week! I hate to remember that Z and I had our first bonding moment when I got sick on the train going back to Kyiv...It is his favorite to retell still to this day! May you never have that kind of bonding moment!

Dave said...

Just a few more days until court date! Yaye!

We were advised not to drink the water (except from bottles that you're sure were not simply refilled--check the seal) nor to eat anything that might have been washed in water (veggies, etc.) We were also advised not to eat/drink milk products that might not have been "processed" in the way they are in the states. Brushing out teeth w/bottled water and being careful during my daughter's bathtime got old, I'll admit. And you thought YOU were spoiled by America.

I don't know if you have access to acidophilus, but a friend of ours who is a missionary in Ukraine gave us some. You take it throughout the day, and it's supposed to help w/dealing w/different kinds of food. We were only in Ukraine a week, so we're not experts, though.

You're in my prayers. I hope the 10-day wait is waived!


BoufMom9 said...

I just appreciate your honesty so very much!
Thank you!

Alison said...

Thank you for being so honest. We understand that it is not all roses. It's nice to know what we will need to get prepared for. I might take some 'pink stuff' with me just in case.

Enjoy the 'little' things :)

Jane said...

They never let us through the door into Maggie's room at Antoshka, in fact they only opened the door a small crack to see who was ringing the bell & they shut the door when they went to get her.

Ashley said...

I love the honesty. I have been to Ukraine and I know exactly what you are talking about. I also understand how you feel when you have to follow all of their rules. Even though I was only there for a visit with Grisha, it was still hard not to be his mama and do things with him the way I wanted to. Like getting him a haircut... He wanted me to take him to get a haircut. Even though he was with me both weekends, they said I couldn't go somewhere to get his hair cut. They had someone come to the orphanage every few months to cut hair so he had to wait until she came. I felt bad because it was bothering him so bad the hair in his eyes.

It is simple things that they make a big deal about. It will be wonderful when you have Dennis and can make the decisions solely on how you want to raise him. I will be happy to have that day, too for us. :) Yours is VERY SOON!

Congratulations on the courtdate! Very exciting!