Baby Adventures - Part 2

Monday, July 10, 2006

On Our Way

It was a long and arduous journey but we finally made it to Boston. It’s as if you go into another world. The twilight zone if you will. You can’t sleep because you’re tending to a baby and worried they will roll out, crawl out and just plan jump out of the bassinet. So you fall into this sleep deprived trance. In the last 24 hours I had a grand total of 2 hours of sleep!

All the flights were very long and very difficult. Although there were blessings mixed in; on the first leg (Almaty to Amsterdam) ended up with an empty seat next to me; which makes a huge difference during 6 ½ hours of flight time. On the second leg (Amsterdam to Detroit) ended up seated in a row with 2 small girls and their mom. Their mom was so helpful to me, I couldn’t have made it through the 9 hours of flight time without her help.

Two other women stopped by to offer help as well. I had to take one of them up on the offer when my row mate was sleeping, and I had to go to the bathroom. No way I can hold onto Hayden and pee at the same time. So found the “grandma” who had offered her help earlier; dropped Hayden off and ran to the bathroom.

It is simply amazing to me that it is always the small kindness of others that truly make a difference in our lives. My seatmate even sought me out in the hub bub of getting off the plane/going through customs to say goodbye. I had been looking for her as well; but she found me first. I was so sleep deprived though that I can not now for the life of me recall her name. But she will forever stay in my mind.

The last blessing was that Allison/Chandler and their kids were also on the same first two legs with me. Although we were not sitting together or nearby we waited for each other and helped each other get to our next gates with all our kids in tow, changing diapers and feeding them along the way. At Detroit we said our goodbyes and parted ways.

Got to Boston to see the film crew waiting for us along with Spencer and Bob. I didn’t say much to them or even recall looking at them much. I was so relieved to see Spencer and Bob waiting for me and they just simply filmed our hugs, kisses and tears. Then we were finally on our way

We’re renting a condo near Bob’s parents and will be spending the next few days with his family. Heading home on Wednesday, July 12th this time all of us as a family will tak take the last fight home together.


Our appointment at the US Embassy was set for 3pm, so Annie and I decided to head out for some sight seeing this morning. First we needed to run a quick errand over to Annie’s airline to finalize Lilly’s ticket. We asked Bolat last night if he could take us and he told us he “was busy”. So we figured we would get a taxi ourselves and go.

Headed out and found a taxi stand near the mall entrance. Annie’s flying on Lufthansa and their office is at the Hyatt, so easy to convey to the driver. Got there, and asked our driver to wait for us; bought the ticket and asked the gal at Lufthansa to tell the driver where we wanted to go next.

We headed over to the Cathedral. It’s built of wood and entirely without nails. It’s in the middle of a large, beautiful park, and it’s the main tourist attraction. Turned out the Cathedral was open so we got to go inside, no service, but plenty of people praying at the various alters. It’s a Russian Orthodox Church, that has been restored and we actually met the priest, who obliged us with a photo op. Next we headed over to the monument of “15 Kaz Soldiers” who died defending Moscow. Quite the sight.

After all this we had originally wanted to head home for lunch but couldn’t seem to find a taxi, while we were walking we ended up running into a HUGE market area, filled to the brim of small vendor stalls selling their goods. Annie’s guide book says it’s called the Asia Market. This had to be about 10 times the size of the one Bob and I found in Karaganda. Now this would have been the place to buy the souvenirs!! Had everything we bought already and at the “locals” pricing. So of course, we had to pick up one or two more items!! The place was jam packed. Wandered around, found a café, and ordered up lunch. Our waitress spoke a tad bit of English and helped us figure out how to find a taxi.

Headed home before our appt at the Embassy. Bolat arrived early asking for his fee. Now mind you this is an outrageously high fee, so I told him Annie and I should spilt the fee, since he has done no additional work for either of us; it’s as if we were husband/wife. Our staying together in this apartment has made it tremendously easier for him. Well, we got into a heated argument, mainly because he accused Bob of not paying the right fee on his way out with Spencer. I won’t get into all the details, let’s just say, it did not go well for either of us. He stormed out saying he would meet us downstairs.

Once we got to the Embassy he deliberately was not assisting me. Turns out there is nothing mysterious about the process and by asking other folks there, Annie and I were able to figure out what to needed to be down without his help. All the more evidence his fee/service is nothing more than a farce.

The interview at the Embassy consists of a few simple questions, mainly asking if we encountered any problems during the process. Then they explain all the paperwork/visa and what to do with them, once you arrive in customs at the US. Very very simple and uncomplicated!

But I need to get to the airport at 4am tomorrow morning, and I didn’t’ want to have to figure out how to get a taxi on my own; so on our ride home, I agreed to pay the fee but not until he came to pick me up for the airport. Tomorrow can not come soon enough!

Med Clinic

Had our appt at the Med Clinic today. It’s basically a cattle call for the 3 of us that arrived from our agency together. Allison/Chandler are also here in town on their second trip back to pick up their 2 children. They arrived yesterday and are also in an apartment but it’s not near ours.

So we met up with them at the clinic. The nurse took each of us back to get the children’s current height and weight. Hayden now weighs 16.2 lbs and is 26 inches long. Quite a bit of progress in a short time. Especially happy to see the weight gain. Once I met with the doc; he indicated his weight is now on the charts in the 10th percentile. So definite progress it is!

The clinic is very well equipped and I would even go so far as saying it’s modern looking. It’s called the SOS International Clinic and all speak English/Russian. Ended up chatting with the doc during our appt and found out he’s been here for 2 months and is on a 2 year assignment. This is his 3rd post and he’s originally from South Africa and he mentioned that he himself was adopted. So it’s rewarding for him to see so many adopted children coming through the clinic on this post.

After our appt Annie and I headed over to our respective airline offices to pay for the airfare for our kids. It was unbelievably hot and humid today and even though I’m walking around with my hair up – which it has been for weeks – I am still nothing but a wet rag the entire time. Sweat all over my entire body and with Hayden strapped onto me in the front; it only makes me all the more hot. The heat alone has made it very hard!!

After our tickets were done, we asked Bolat to drop us at the Almaty Tsum – a local, older mall for some more souvenir shopping. We walked in, and a wave of heat smacked us in the face! I could barely breathe. We hadn’t eaten so we looked around for a café, but could find none. Headed out on the street, looking for some air conditioning and could find none! They have tons of restaurants all shaded but outdoors, we finally settled on one. I was lucky and got Hayden to lay on one of the chairs to sleep so I didn’t’ have to have him strapped to me while eating, plus it let me cool down a bit!.

For dinner it turns out we are directly across from another mall. This one is their biggest and newest mall. Has all the up scale stores you could want. We walked into one looking for a dress for Lilly only to find out it costs 102,000 Tenge – which is about 90 US!! So of course Annie passed on that. We did find the food court this time around and ate a Kabob type dish, but wasn’t the one I wanted. We couldn’t seem to get what we wanted across to the gal who takes the orders, but it was edible. Yesterday we stopped a restaurant on the upper floor and I had the luxury of eating my first cheeseburger! They seem to use a lot of pepper in their burgers, but it was a good substitute and hit the spot.

Tomorrow’s The Day; we head to the Embassy at 3pm. That’s when we will get Hayden’s Visa in hand, and that’s what allows us to leave the country and head HOME!!

WOW What a Whirlwind

I lost my internet connection on my last day in Karaganda, so I wasn’t able to post to last entry there, or any others since. But I have been writing none the less, so here are the last few entries.

Tuesday July 4th

It’s independence day in the US today, and it also feels like mine as well. Today we’ve released to fly into Almaty to begin Hayden’s immigration process of becoming a US Citizen. Once he touches down in the United States in Detroit on our return flight home with his Immigration Visa approved; he will become a US Citizen and will hold Dual Citizenship until he is 18 in both the US and Kazakhstan. At that time Kazakhstan requires he make a choice as to his citizenship status, and can only hold one. I wonder what he will choose at that point in hid life.

The flight into Almaty was uneventful, but we flew on a different airline called Air Astana and I felt as if we were flying First Class. This plane is so much different than the other plane we flew on, my mouth hit the ground when I got on. Instead of a plane that looks as if it’s seen better days by years, and that it just may fall out of the sky; this plane was new and actually had leather seats!! Unbelievable. Thought out loud how screwed we’ve been to be paying to fly on the other airline!!

As we left the apartment and said goodbye to Lena, she gave Hayden a small gift; a basket with a cloth horseshoe inside for good luck. She told me to quickly hide it so our driver wouldn’t see that she gave us a present. Sad but true they do not encourage her to become “friends” with any of us. This is a business after all. But I was thankful she thinks of us as friends anyway and told me she would write to us. I ended up not leaving our DVD players for the next folks and decided it would be put to better use in her apartment and she was surprised to receive such a gift. Said her friends (from the US Missy and Kelly) will enjoy using it.

Annie/Lilly along with Hayden and I all flew together and the plane wasn’t even half full so we each got a row to ourselves. Hayden spent the entire flight sleeping, which made it very easy on me.

We all arrived to very HOT and humid weather. Bolat picked us up and told us we wouldn’t be staying in the hotel but an apartment. Said the hotel is full and is charging 170 US a night!! The apartment on the other hand was 100 US a night. Annie and I couldn’t believe it and asked if our apartments would be close by each other, NO we were told. So we decided to share the apartment and split the cost.

We arrived with my one bag and Annie’s 3 bags, got settled in. This apartment has one bedroom and a very large living room area with a bed placed in the corner, alongnwith kitchen and bath. The apartment is very run down, and not nearly functional as our old one in Karaganda. Never the less; we’re only here a few days so we should be able to survive. I’m thankful to be sharing the place with Annie, gives me comfort in numbers. Almaty is a huge city, over a million plus.

Before arriving Annie and I had been trying to work out a way to make it to our med clinic appt and the Embassy without Bolats help; since the fee he charges is simply outrageous for the work entailed. Since Bob’s been through it once already he’s walked me through most of the steps of the processing that needs to get done. I had even set up our own appt at the med clinic today; but by the time we arrived and got our luggage up there was no way we could make the appt I set up. So Bolats appt is set for tomorrow at 9:30 am and we’ll have to attend that one.

Flower Delivery

Earlier today Hayden and I ran out and bought our next door neighbor a bouquet of flowers to say Thank You. She’s much like having a guardian angel and has kept a watchful eye out for all of us, but especially for Hayden and I since Bob left.

Yesterday a woman rang my bell, I decided to open the door. The door is so noisy that when I open it our neighbor can hear me; so she came out too. She grabbed my hand stepped in between us and began to shoo the lady away. She was obviously irritated with the lady and scolded her in Russian. The woman promptly turned and left, with our neighbor standing guard until she heard her leave the building. Then turned back to me and gave me the universal sign for money. Apparently, the woman was asking me for money.

She’s also the one who came by to tell us about the water situation, and helps us with the water and gas meter readers. It was nice to see her genuine surprise over receiving the flowers. I also packed up all our left over supplies, plus some fresh fruit I bought earlier that day and we gave them all to her. I’m pretty sure she’s on a limited income, because she began hugging/kissing me and blessing me when she saw the groceries. Snapped a final pic of her and Hayden together.

Hayden and I are all packed and ready to go. Our bags are parked at the front door, our clothes for tomorrow are laid out and our plane tickets are in hand. Not sure how I’ll get to sleep tonight.

It’s been a long road home and this is the start of the end. We leave tomorrow Tuesday 7/4/2006 at 11:30am and will arrive in Almaty around 1:25.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Safe and Sound in Almaty

Well...the good news is Gina made it to Almaty safe and sound. She missed the July 4 medical appointment because her plan was late, but Hayden is scheduled to go to the doctor's on July 5 in the morning. Then it will be a mad rush to get all the documents to the embassy by noon. If she misses the deadline....who knows what will happen.

It ends up the back up plans were thrown out the window. The hotel she wanted to stay in was booked, and the escort in Almaty put her in an apartment near the embassy. She & Hayden are sharing the apartment with Annie and Lily. There are no cribs, so she had to make a crip out of turning a coffe table on its side, two walls, and the suitcase. She then threw down a comforter, and plopped Hayden down. He slept throught most of the night, so it worked. I guess this is the last test. If she passes, she and Hayden get to come home.

The local news channel is going to wait to air our story until they get some coverage of me and Spencer meeting Gina and Hayden in Boston. The Boston CBS station liked the story so much, they are going to air it as well. I guess we'll get our 15 minutes of fame on both costs. (okay, maybe 30 seconds). They said it will most likely air on Monday, July 10 or Tuesday July 11...we'll probably see it in Boston before we do in Sacramento.

Monday, July 03, 2006

Shuttle Re-Entry

Gina and Hayden are beginning their adventure home. Much like the Space Shuttle re-entering earth's atmoshphere, Gina and Hayden will be out of contact for a while.

About now, Gina and Hayden are being picked up and taken to the airport. Tamara our faciliator was able to get all the paper work lined up. We even have our friends Chandler and Alison taking over a power of attorney to Almaty for me to Gina, just in case.

Gina is prepared to "work the system" in case the facilitator in Almaty flakes on them. She set up the appointment for Hayden's medical check up, and is ready to charge over to the embassy. The biggest problem is that all the paperwork and the medical forms need to be in the embassy's hand by noon the day before the visa processing appointment. The embassy is closed on July 4. So...Gina needs to get the medical done either July 4 or early on July 5 to get it to the embassy. Then...the final processing isn't schedule to July 6 at 4:00 pm. The flight out is on July 7 at 7:15 if there are any mix ups....she's stuck for a while.

Fortunatly, she is teamed with her new buddy Annie, and they will be takin' on the town.

Deep breathing and lots of prayer are in order.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Frog Man

Hayden and I ran some “getting ready to leave” errands this morning. Hit the ATM, picked up my pants from the cleaners and got something to eat. Supplies are low since we’ll be leaving town in a day.

After all those activities, Hayden and I hung around the apartment today. Couldn’t sit on my hands any longer and started packing! I’m that ready to leave! I kept thinking I don’t have that much to pack. But surprisingly once you get it all together it starts to add up. Did my final load of wash by hand and hung them on the line to dry. Did a dance of joy around the apartment chanting “no more washing by hand”!! Hayden didn’t quite understand what was going on!

I’m amazed when I sit back and look at him now. He has learned to do so many things in such a short time. He’s now crawling and can get to anything he wants. He sits up on his own, and can crawl forward from sitting. Just recently he learned how to get back into a sit from the crawl position. He’s trying so hard to stand up on his own. If you hold out your fingers, he’ll grab onto them and then will lift up, takes a few steps towards you all while holding on. He’s still really wobbly when standing but he’s coming along. He lifts up with his legs with his hands on the ground a lot, the tri pod stance; goes up and down and sometimes this is how he gets around. He looks so much like a frog from behind that I’ve dubbed him the frog man! Pic attached.

He’s a happy fellow, smiles a lot and has that big open mouth smile/laugh going on in the pics I was able to catch today. It’s so hard with these digital cameras, they need a faster shutter speed designed to catch the kids in action!

Tuesday can’t get here fast enough for me, another day down with only one more to go – then it’s off to Almaty!

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Passing the Time

Why is it when you want time to move fast, it does the opposite and moves ever so slowly? Time is passing for me now at an exhaustingly slow speed. Seems as the day draws nearer for me to leave Karaganda, time has crawled to a snail pace. There is a blessing disguised in there. All this time here has caused me to ponder about life here in Karaganda.

Life here is so opposite from our life at home. Here there is a small apartment, walking, walking, walking, no washing machine/dryers, trash everywhere, poor water quality, and the list goes on. Yet living here is full of extreme opposites as well; although technically up to speed, their infrastructure is not; luxury cars are in abundance yet housing is so compact; a pack of cigarettes costs 85 Tenge yet a fisher price toy costs 9,000 Tenge.

I suppose coming out of Soviet rule takes time. Is there such a thing as a second world? If so what countries are considered second world? Or is it now referred to as an “emerging country”? (maybe one of my nieces/nephews could answer that question for me?) That’s how I would describe Kazakhstan – it is “emerging” and shows potential to be a flourishing economic power. Its oil reserves alone will probably make it that in due time.

Anyway such are the things Annie and I were pondering today. She’s good company for me to pass the ever so slowly moving time with. Today we took a stroll through town; I’m a bit shopped out and am saving my budgeted allotment to see if I can find any keepsakes in Almaty. So we ventured out for a stroll around town instead. Pics attached.

Saw 5 different brides today, all taking photos at the town center. It’s picturesque there and I can see why they all make it a stop on their list to take photos. Shot some myself. The large water fountain cascades into a series of large pools of water, each lower than the next. There were lots of kids “swimming” in these various “pools” of water. Thought they were looking for coins at first, but they weren’t – just enjoying a “swim”.

This town square as I said earlier leads down to the lake. Turns out there is a “beach” area and swimmers in the lake. I had always been passing by on weekdays, so I hadn’t spotted any swimmers. Still I question the water quality. But it’s a busy spot, they rent paddle boats, and people take their shoes off for a knee high dip in the water. Me, I kept my shoes on!

Not much else going on to comment about. Just another day done! 2 left to go……..

Friday, June 30, 2006

The Wall

It’s been a rough day for the Morrison clan on both sides of the world. Both Bob and I have hit the wall with being apart and taking care of the kids as single parents on opposite sides of the world.

Bob called a shortly before 6am (his time) to tell me he’d been up all night with Spencer. Seems Spencer’s gotten sick and has been vomiting all night. Bob called the advice nurse, then me to see if we had pedialite in the house. Unfortunately I packed it all up for this trip, not thinking we’d be separated. So of course, I didn’t bother to buy some more for the house. Our extras are sitting here with me in Karaganda!

I asked Bob to call our local Mary Poppins (grandma) to see if she could assist. He didn’t want to call her that early. Our call ended abruptly because he was out of minutes/time. Luckily, since I had run out of my minutes/time this morning (my time) calling Bob, I went out earlier today to buy some more calling cards. So I called Mary Poppins directly and asked if she would call Bob, to see what she could do to help. Thanks yet again Mom!

Thankfully he’s got a Mary Poppins to assist him. Over here, I’m not that fortunate! Hayden’s teeth have really been bothering him today and so we’ve both been cranky and edgy. Did manage to get some errands done this morning, and Lena also called this morning saying she was taking Annie and me to the “souvenir store”.

On our last trip through I didn’t get a chance to make it to the "souvenir store", so I was really looking forward to going. I was vividly imaging a large, spacious store with a lot of merchandise to select from. Boy, was I ever disappointed! The store is quite small and has many of the same items in all the others stores we’ve been shopping at. But being the sport that I am, I did manage to find one or two special items. Most everything I’ve bought are items made from Kazakhstan or Russia and are for Hayden/Spencer’s bedrooms for them to always remember their heritage and birth country.

Since we were both so cranky we took long naps in the afternoon, then I decided we should head out for a walk for some fresh, humid air. These photos are for Bob, lest he think I am not doing my duty by educating Hayden about Road Construction. Although my terminology may be off, after all I am not an engineer! All I know is they are awfully large trucks, but Hayden got the drift of things and enjoyed watching for a spell. Last photo is just of some kids playing at the apartment building next door to ours.

On a brighter note; KOVR/Channel 13 was successful at getting me re routed to Boston! We had to pay a fee for the re routing of course, but it’s better then buying a whole new ticket. We really appreciate their endeavors on our behalf! Not sure when our story will air, last I heard they wanted their affiliate station to shoot some footage in Boston of me/Hayden getting off the plane and our family being reunited. Not sure if that’s still the plan but, once we get word on when it will air we will let you all know. Then we can all tune in to watch. Thanks again to KOVR/Channel 13!!

This trip, our story, let alone our family would not have come about without all the helping hands that have assisted us along the way!!

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Not Much

Not much happening on my side of the world. Seems new activities are grinding to a halt. Did meet up with Annie today and we did some more shopping. She has a lot of friends back home she is buying gifts for. So really I am only tagging along at this point. But it’s nice company and a good way to pass the day/time. Also gets me and Hayden out for a stroll.

Shot some photos today. The fountain is in a large town square that has a parkway which leads down to a small lake. That’s me in front waiving, have to look hard. The carnival with the kiddy rides is also attached to a path that leads from the lake. Unfortunately the lake has a lot of litter in it. Don’t think it’s safe to swim in, and I have never seen anyone swimming. It’s sad but they have a lot of garbage/litter just lying around. You can’t walk down the streets without seeing trash and litter just thrown onto the ground all over the place.

Our apartment complex though seems to be making an effort to improve their trash situation. While we’ve been here they installed 3 more trash bins, for a total of 6 now. With a large garbage truck coming to empty them just about every other day. It’s odd because, last time, we never not once saw a garbage truck; someone would come by to burn the trash instead. And since there used to be only 3 bins, the trash would pile up high and overflow onto the ground. Thus causing the litter all over the place!

Next photo is one of the places I’ve been spending a lot of time; it’s one of two malls in the area. I’m on the steps again waiving. Then the building with all the banners on it; we’re not quite sure what it is. I love the colors in the banners, and think these must be plays or musicals? The last is a statute of a pilot in combat, can’t read the dedication because it’s all in Russian, but against the dark ski, thought it was picturesque.

I will be leaving Karaganda, Kazakhstan on Monday July 4th. Will be flying to Almaty, Kazakhstan where I will begin the process of immigrating through the US Embassy located in Almaty in order to bring Hayden home. That will consist of an appointment with the US Medical Clinic to exam Hayden and assure he is healthy, then meeting/being interviewed by the US Embassy itself to process Hayden’s Immigration papers.

On the other side of the world: Bob’s not sure when our story will air on TV. KOVR has contacted KLM/NWA; who indicated they would fix the problem. So we’ll have to see how this story ends. We owe our thanks to KOVR for intervening on our behalf, and are hopeful this will end on a happier note.

Will keep you posted. Till then – another day done!