Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Home Sweet Home

Ruslan and Ann at home

Ruslan and guys wearing souvenir hats picked out by Ruslan

Family and Friends at the airport

Stephan and Ruslan reunited

The whole family at the airport

Well, for those of you that don't know. WE ARE HOME! Most of you have heard by now but we arrived home Saturday night after about 25 hours. We left our apartment in Kiev at 3:00am on Saturday morning and flew from Kiev to Frankfurt Germany. After a five hour layover we flew from Frankfurt to Denver Colorado. That is a LONG flight. Anyway, the folks at the Embassy in Kiev told us Ruslan would automatically become a citizen when we touched down in Denver. We have to admit it felt very good to be back in the good old USA.

Some of you may be wondering what happened to us and why the posts just stopped. We really didn't want to stop posting, but given some complications and a set of circumstances that we weren't controlling and that were quite complex, we felt it best not to post anything on the Internet. Needless to say, we had some trials, but in the end it all worked out.

One thing we will mention, we thought we were going to have to use a new computerized system to obtain the new birth certificate, but as it turned out, technology was a little slow. When we arrived the morning of December 2nd to start this new process, we received the good news that the government needed more time to implement the new system so we got the birth certificate the old fashioned way, SAME DAY!! For those of you that might be going later, it will probably start on December 20th. Sorry. After we obtained the birth certificate the next step was a new passport. After that it was on to Kiev for medical exam and a visit to the U.S. Embassy. The final step was returning to the Embassy the next day for a final interview and issuance of the visa. Then it was over. What a process!!!

We have to say the goodbyes at the orphanage was emotionally gut wrenching and not something we were not totally prepared for. The kids certainly didn't want Ruslan to go. He is family to them. We know how difficult it was for us to experience, we can only imagine the pain that Ruslan was going through. All we could do was hug him and reassure him we loved him and were there for him. Ruslan seems to be adjusting fine in our family. So far so good. He is studying English now everyday with Rosetta Stone. He knows a lot of English, just has a hard time verbalizing it. It will come with time.

The airport scene was almost magical. It certainly was emotional. Special thanks to the Richardsons, McBeths, and Fuhrmans who were kind enough to bring their children to the airport to see their Poltava classmate come to America. Ruslan saw those three kids and he ran to them and hugged all of them. When we looked over, he had a giant smile on his face. Thanks to all of you that followed our little journey and posted your comments along the way. They sustained us!

An extra special thanks to our children. While we were having a life changing experience, they had their own little experience here at home. Thanks so much for being the people you are. We never doubted that you all would handle our absence with class and work together to support each other. WE LOVE YOU ALL SO MUCH!!!!! It certainly feels good to be home.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Working Through the Process

Most common car, with one "r" in Ukraine

Apartment Keys. One on left is to steel outside door. One on the right is to our apartment. It is kind of like an old jail key and just about as big.

Apartment Double doors

Ann, Ruslan, and Jeff at dinner at a local restaurant

Well, here we are still working through the process. We ran around today with Natasha doing paperwork for most of the day. A couple of observations. A lot of doorways here in Ukraine have a threshold. Some of the thresholds look like a 2 x 4 across the bottom of the doorway. Trying to wheel luggage over them was a challenge. Additionally, many doors are smaller so it is kind of like moving through a submarine door. One last comment on doors. Sometimes there are two doors together within a couple feet of each other. Heaven help you if you are claustrophobic and get caught between the doors when they close! We included a picture of our apartment door which has a double set so you can see what we are talking about. Very interesting. Notice the lock, we feel like we are sleeping inside Fort Knox! And the keys are huge and look like an old jail key.

An observation about traffic here. The traffic lights here are interesting. After the light is red and before it turns green, the yellow light appears with the red light to signal drivers to prepare to move through the intersection. And do they get ready. Some of our taxi drivers are halfway through the intersection before it actually turns green. The other light has turned red prior to getting a yellow so everything is usually okay, but it is a different to start through the intersection when the light is still red! We probably have mentioned about the competitive nature of driving here. Every trip is like the Grand Prix. A couple of times we have required two taxis, and it sures seems they race to the destination. As Natasha says, there are two kinds of pedestrians here in Ukraine, the quick and the dead.

One last observation about the cars here. There are about every brand you can image, but the one that seems to be most popular, and certainly looks the oldest is Lada. They look like an old Datsun or Toyota from the 1970's, very boxy in style but our understanding is they are very good cars. All of the cars are manual transmissions which adds to the flavor of Formula One driving through the streets of Poltava.

Well, that is enough for now.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Last Sunday in Poltava?????

Stephan's Supervisor with package

Jeff, Max, and Ruslan

We attended church today. There was probably 60-70 people there. The people are very nice and we enjoyed conversations with several of the branch members again. We brought the missionaries some of our food we haven't been able to use such as cake mix, complete with frosting, brownies, blueberry muffins, microwave popcorn, stuffing, gravy and Evenson's cheese and crackers and jam. You would have thought it was christmas the way those boys eyed their new stash. We told them we would take them to dinner sometime this week.

Today we were able to take Max and Ruslan for the afternoon and evening. Ruslan asked if we could get Max today as well. It was nice to have the boys together and they really lightened up and had a good time. When we returned the boys to the orphanage, Stephan Fuhrman's supervisor stopped us and asked if we would give him a package from his old class. There was a picture of Stephan when he was young incorporated into a drawing, some Poltava chocolate (hope that makes it back to America), and some post cards with messages from former classmates. Stephan, we will make sure you get this when we get home. We snapped a picture of his old supervisor and headed home for the night.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

More Pics from Ruslan's Class

Cabin Fever Setting In

Ruslan's class TV room

Hala in her room

Ruslan sitting in his seat in the cafeteria. Great smile.

Ruslan and Sasha joking around in the hall

Ruslan's Class

Ruslan in the homework room, with Supervisor in background. Ruslan's face says it all.

Ruslan's Class

The boys really liked the ping-pongs and paddles. Who needs a table!

Ann with Leila as we headed to Ruslan's class

Iryna's classroom

Today is day 10 of the waiting period. We left for the orphanage with Natasha around 2:00pm and arrived and visited with Iryna in her classroom. We snapped a few photos and headed for the meeting with Ruslan's class. We brought them ping-pong paddles and balls and enough chocolate to feed an army. We also had pictures of Utah Jazz player Fesenko for the kids. We visited for quite a while. Some of the kids asked questions about Utah. One asked Ruslan if he was going to live in Utah and he quipped, "no, Jamaica." Yeah man! Ruslan seemed to beam today as he sat on the couch with us with his classmates sitting around us on the floor. It was his moment. We had previously agreed to buy the kids some computer games and blank CD's to assist them in their school work. Ruslan will pick those out in the next couple of days.

We had a great visit. Ruslan came with us back to the apartment where Ann fixed him a gourmet meal of Macaroni and Cheese with fried ham and cucumbers....ymmmm! The Evensons leave in the morning for Kiev. They fly home on Wednesday.....lucky ducks. Ray Evenson has enjoyed finding traditional Russian-style hats so we all put on a hat for the obligatory photo op. The joke at work was that I was not leaving for an adoption, but rather that my boss had banished me to Siberia for a month. Natasha commented I looked like I belonged in Siberia. I guess they weren't that far off. We will miss the Evensons and wish them well on their trip home. It will be quiet around here. They have been great roommates. Hopefully, we won't be too far behind them.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Another bump in the road

Ruslan's wall. Notice the Curled Small Family Photos

Ruslan's Wall of Fame

Utah Jazz Poster with Tanner's Photo (Center)

Ruslan's Bed and Postered Walls

Photo of Front Door of Courthouse taken from Cab

Today is day nine of our waiting period. The Evensons left this morning for a visit to Sumy Orphanage so we watched Tonya and Tamila today. Natasha had some paperwork for us to help her with today, so we traveled with her to the notary, the court, and the birth certificate office. At the birth certificate office we hit another bump in the road. We learned that new legislation takes effect on December 1, 2008, which requires Poltava region to use a new computerized system. The legislation allows the office THREE MONTHS to process a birth certificate. After Ann and I woke up from fainting, Natasha informed us that the office will be closed on December 1st to train on the system. That was the day we were set to begin processing Ruslan's new birth certificate, usually a one day process. Natasha said that it could be 2-3 days now and we can't start the passport process until we have the new birth certificate. We are trying to stay positive, and we still may be able to make our revised time to come home, we will know more after we actually get the birth certificate.

On a positive note, when we got to the orphanage to pick up Ruslan, they didn't have anyone to go get him, so we were allowed to venture deep into the orphanage dorm area. Ruslan resides on the third floor and rooms with Max. We got to the room and his wall is covered with pictures of soccer teams. At the head of his bed he has several posters and pictures of the Utah Jazz and smack in the middle of his largest poster is a picture we sent him of Tanner from the Deseret News as he played against Bountiful in the state basketball tournament. Additionally, we had sent him several pictures we photocopied onto sheets of regular paper and sent with a letter back in September. He had cut out every one of the pictures and tacked them to the wall between and on top of his soccer and jazz posters. They were pictures of the entire family, Grandma Richardson, and Grandpa and Grandma Carr. Some of the pictures were curled and worn but they were all there! Ann and I were so excited to see his room. The dorm rooms are very old but clean. It has the feel of a very old hotel or boarding house. We saw the homework room where the kids do their homework and use one computer. The supervisor asked us through Natasha, if we would consider buying some blank CD's for the kids' use as well as some computer games. We will visit the orphanage tomorrow and visit with Ruslan's class and hopefully take some additional pictures. Hopefully, the bump we hit today will be a small one, but we will have to wait and see.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

A Day of Thanksgiving

Ruslan and Kola

Ruslan, Hala, and Max

The play with kids who were previously hosted

Romeo and Juliet

A very brisk day in Ukraine, but the sun was out. We left the apartment around noon headed for the orphanage. It was a nice walk. We were going to see Ruslan's class perform a play today at 3:00pm. We were excited to see some of the kids we recognized in the play including Oleg, who we hosted two years ago and Hala and Max who were hosted this year. The kids did a great job. The theatre was on the third floor. We sat on wooden chairs and the stage pretty much looked like any school auditorium. It was great fun. We also got to deliver a few packages to kids who were hosted this year.

We met an American family from Alabama who are here to adopt four kids. They are planning on coming back in May for another. It was nice to meet another American couple and spend a few minutes learning about the great things they are doing. We hope to see them again before we leave.

Natasha took us to the Metro, which is like Costco, and we bought some groceries that should sustain us until we leave for Kiev. We then took Ruslan and Natasha and had our Thanksgiving dinner at Botanica. We had chicken and mashed potatoes (not quite the same as a typical Thanksgiving dinner). We talked to the kids later. We miss you guys. We all have a lot to be Thankful for today.