Friday, October 31, 2008

Out and About....

Now that we have shown you our apartment, we would like to share a few things from along the street we live on. The largest store in the area is Target. Jamie had read about this on other adoption blogs and wondered if it was like our Target. It is a large department store, but it is not exactly like our Target. It has a large grocery area and compartmentalized specialty stores within the building, such as clothing, electronics, cafe, etc.

Along the mile-long walk to Target there are multiple street vendors. Some are in permanent booths and others are set up on tables or crates along the sidewalk. They sell meats, vegetables, fruits, flowers, clothing, movies, grains, breads, fish, eggs, and many other items.

It does not take long in Ukraine to discover another social issue. There are stray dogs and cats everywhere where you go! The dogs are often in small packs and hang out at the marketplaces. Jamie has bought two bags of pet treats to try and feed the strays, but they were not hungry enough to eat the ones she found. Steve has been concerned she is going to cause a scene.

Across the street from our apartment is a beautiful park. On one side of the park is another long row of vendors. Within the park there is a playground, small amusement park, closed-for-the-season miniature golf course, and walking paths. It is beautiful here right now with all of the fall color.

Yesterday on the way to visit Nazar, the orphanage staff had moved the orphanage donkey up by the driveway. With some encouragement, Jamie was able to get Steve and Angelina to get beside him for a photo. They feed the donkey a scrap bucket of food scraps from meal preparation for the children. Angelina is our interpreter and paperwork translator. She is kind, enthusiastic, and funny. Finally, we are going to end with our first family photo

of all three of us together! We cannot wait to dress Nazar in boy clothing! In his groupa of seven children, five are boys, and most are dressed in girl clothing. We understand the functionality of the situation. This is obviously and understandably not a priority.

Life in Kharkov

Today we did not visit the orphanage so we thought we would share with you a snapshot of where we live in Kharkov. First of all, Kharkov is a big city. It is the second largest in Ukraine. It is located in the northeast part of the country, just 20 miles from the Russian border, and its population is 1,500,000. Kharkov is one of the main industrial, cultural and educational centers of Ukraine. There are 13 universities here! The city is known for the manufacturing of aircraft, armoured vehicles, and tractors.

We are living in a residential section of Kharkov with dozens of Soviet-style highrise apartments. Steve says that the area reminds him of those National Geographic articles about the USSR from the 1970s.

When you first look at the buildings they seem old and as if they might be falling apart. However, we are always surprised at how nice the interior of the apartment is once we are actually on the inside.

We receive one English-language TV station. It is CNN--Europe. We have a small clothes-washing machine in the bathroom, and a clothes-drying rack in the bedroom. For entertainment, we listen to our neighbor playing the piano and clarinet for hours, but they are really pretty good.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Getting to Know Nazar

Thanks for all of your comments, support, and for sharing our journey. It is encouraging to read what you have to say. We have been without access to a reliable Internet connection for awhile now, but we think we have resolved the issue and can post more frequently.
Since our last entry, we have been able to visit Nazar three times, as you can see from his wardrobe changes. By the way, when the orphange caretakers see us coming, they immediately begin putting another layer of clothes and hat on him!
The final photo shows us taking Nazar to the hospital for some recommended tests. Six of us crammed into the small taxicab for the wild ride back into town, which included being pulled over by the police. We aren't sure why, but it had nothing to do with the fact that Nazar wasn't in a car seat, or that nobody was wearing seat belts. Neither safety devices seem to be used much in Ukraine.
We received some very good news yesterday! We have our court date to finalize our adoption on Monday, November 3rd at 2:00. Angelina, our interpreter, also came hurriedly out of the courthouse yesterday to exclaim that, even though she thought it was going to be impossible, she believes she was able to waive the mandatory ten-day wait period that is in place for most adoptions. This is such a blessing to us on so many different levels! This will allow us to finish the documents needed to leave the country so much quicker and may reduce our stay in Ukraine by up to two weeks. This will be best for Nazar so he can have his health checked and for all of us to begin our lives together!

Saturday, October 25, 2008

And Introducing....Nazar!

Thursday, October 23, was our big day. Our entourage of two cars--consisting of Steve, Jamie, Olga (our facilitator) Angelina (our paperwork translator), the regional social worker, and our two drivers--headed out to the Green Forest Regional Special Needs Orphanage. Nazar's home is located about 20 minutes south of Kharkov, in a small village.

There is NO way to describe what it felt like to pull up to the small cluster of old buildings, walk single-file to the baby house, and enter the room where we waited on a couch for the orphanage workers to bring Nazar out to see us. A nice lady brought him out to the room,
stood him up in front of us, and walked him toward us.

Jamie got to hold him first, followed by Steve. He is so tiny! Although he is three years old, he only weighs about 16 pounds. The workers call him the "little mite". (In these photos, he's wearing about three layers of clothing, as the orphanage is cold). He reached out to our faces and seemed to wonder who in the world we were. He was a bit drowsy, as he had just been awakened from a nap, and he sat down a few times to snooze away.

Nazar doesn't talk yet, and was quiet the whole time, although he smiled a lot.

We spent about 25 minutes with him, while our
entourage watched and smiled (except for the social worker, who was rather stern-faced the whole time),
and then it was time for us to go. We will return to see him tomorrow, and will be allowed to spend a little more time with each visit.

Visiting The Lavra

A quick post here. On Wednesday the 22nd, we visited one of the most important sites in Ukranian culture--The Lavra. We felt it would be a good way to know more about Nazar's heritage.

In Orthodox Christianity, a lavra is a cave for monastic hermits. Kiev's lavra is located in the center of the city, along the banks of the Dnieper River. Over the years, several chapels, monastaries, and churches have been built on the site. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The coolest part was visiting the catacombs, which are caves located underneath the site. After lighting a candle, you follow a stream of religious pilgrims down into the tunnels, which extend for miles. Once your eyes adjust, you notice that there are niches that hold dozens of monks laying in glass coffins. Their bodies have been partially preserved in the cave air. We had never experienced anything like it.

After leaving the Lavra, we boarded a plane for Kharkov. Tomorrow, Nazar!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Our First 24 Hours in the Ukraine

Our first 24 hours in the Ukraine have been exciting and exhausting. We arrived in Kiev Monday morning after a (fortunately) uneventful trip from Flagstaff.

When we stepped off the plane, we kept an eye out for Alex. He was to be waiting with our name on a sign to guide us through customs. Jamie was excited to feel like a VIP. Sure enough, Alex was standing at the entrance to customs, in plain view of the entire load of passengers, boldly holding a sign that read "Oder". This slightly horrified Jamie, but this is what you get when you marry into the Yoder clan!

After being whisked through customs (while everyone else waited), we then kept an eye out for Vladim, our driver. Sure enough, he was standing at the airport entrance doors holding a sign that read "Yorder". :)

What a nice guy. He took us to get groceries on the way to the apartment, and insisted on pushing our cart while he helped us select our food. He treated us like royalty. At one point, he insisted strongly, by physically placing her in the seat, that Jamie not leave the van while Steve helped unload the luggage in the cold air. When Steve asked him if he was born in Kiev, he said that his family has lived here since 1490! We hope to have him again as our driver.

We arrived at our apartment that afternoon and crashed for a few hours. Then Olga, our facilitator, met us to explain the adoption process, as well as buy a cell phone for us to use. We are very impressed with her. She is efficient, helpful, and sharp. We crashed again for the night.
Today (Tuesday) was the date for our apointment with the SDA (State Department of Adoption).
We began the day by making breakfast in our three-room apartment. It is located right in the center of Kiev in a beautiful old building. It has a bedroom, living room, kitchen, and bathroom. After breakfast, we ventured out for a few
hours on our own.

We strolled down the main road to a public square
filled with impressive monuments. We also had our first glimpses of the famous Ukrainian babushkas (grandmothers), some of whom were selling flowers on the streets. Many of them have not had an easy life during this time of transition from communism to capitalism. They have lost social retirement assistance and so many must continue to work. Still, folks we have talked to do not wish to go back to the old days of communism.
After lunch we met Olga for the 25-minute walk to the SDA. Below is a photo of Steve standing at the entrance to the building. Our appointment was brief, maybe 25 minutes.

Basically, the psychologist asked us questions about our motivations for adopting, and shared a photo of Nazar that we hadn't seen before, taken when he was a newborn. It is Nazar's only photo as a newborn, and Olga stated that she would make sure we receive a copy of it.
We wished we could learn more about him, but that will have to wait. It was difficult to hear him referred to as an invalid, but that is the way it is here. They seemed puzzled that we would adopt a child with Down syndrome, and wanted to know why? We both explained our beliefs and feelings regarding the worth, joy and potential that we believe all children possess. The psychologist stated she was grateful that there are people in the world willing to accept a child as this, as the Ukraine does currently not have social programs or future for invalids.
We showed the psychologist a family photo album that we had created for the meeting, and when we got to the photo of Judy (Jamie's mom) waterskiing this past summer, the psychologist called the other government official over to view this photo. They were quite impressed with this babushka!

At our meeting, we were given a referal to meet Nazar. We stopped to get this photo of Jamie and Olga in front of St. Anderw's Church before taking a taxicab through rush-hour traffic to purchase fares for tomorrow's flight to Kharkov. Steve was impressed with the driving skills of our cabbie, and particularly enjoyed the part when the man manuevered down the pedestrian-covered SIDEWALK for a portion of the ride.

After a long walk back to the apartment, Jamie rested while (you probably guessed) Steve wrote much of the entry to this blog. Can't wait for the next 24 hours, when we get closer to seeing Nazar.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

The Beginning

Back in January of 2008, while surfing the net, we came across Reece's Rainbow. This nonprofit organization is dedicated to finding homes for orphans with Downs syndrome and children with other developmental disabilities.

We had been considering adoption for some time, and were open to adopting a child with special needs. After viewing photos and reading the stories of children who were at risk for institutionalization, we were drawn to Nazar from Ukraine. His name means "Nazareth".

After months of paperwork, prayer, and preparation we are now in the Ukraine to bring Nazar home.
While in the Ukraine, we will be able to make updates to this blog, so that you can follow our journey.