We are here and it’s finally happening. Yesterday it became official that we have a new niece.
As many of you know, Caroline’s sister and brother-in-law Rachel and Zack, are adopting a child from Ukraine. In fact, a year ago we did a little fundraiser and all of us were grateful of the support and the encouragement that came in.
Rachel and Zack did a brief trip by themselves to “pick out” the child, (or sibling pair if it was possible) last month. They were paired with a girl to go meet. An odd process, but the first girl, Gianna, was a perfect fit. After that they went back to the states to wait for the court date to be set. Tons of paper work and beauracracy. Most of the time it’s to protect the child and some of the many delays were with the intention of bribes.
Oh, and by the way. We made sure that Rachel and Zack’s first trip over was on miles (I even booked a 2 day stopover in Oslo for them).
But this next trip is going to be a month long and so they wanted to bring their two biological kids. This is why we are here, to take care of their boys, Kian and Logan (4 and 2). Then they will need 5 tickets home. We got them hooked up with enough miles to get all of them home (although it looks like we’ll have to pay the darn $75 close-in fee per person (darn you AA!)). And on the way over we took one of the many struggling Russian airlines, (Transaero); tickets to Odessa from NYC were only $327 but with kids they averaged down to $277 a person. And I used Avios to get them from Ohio to NYC.
Sorry to nerd out for a second. Anyways…
Yesterday we met her.
Yesterday we took care of the boys like we do/will until noon every morning, and Rachel and Zack went to their court date to decide if they were approved for adoption. Of course they were. But what I didn’t know was that the lunch we had scheduled with them was going to include Gianna.
See, although they are approved by court, there are 10 days of paperwork pending until she is officially adopted. So she still will live at the orphanage for another 10 days. And only Rachel and Zack can visit the orphanage, and Gianna isn’t normally allowed to leave.
But yesterday they made an exception upon the court’s approval and when Carrie and I showed up at the restaurant with the boys, she was there. It was the best thing ever.
She is 7 and she understood who everyone was from pictures that Rachel and Zack had shown her. Of course she knew Rachel and Zack since they visit daily and came briefly before; in fact she calls them momma and poppa. But she was very shy to meet her new brothers.
The younger one, Logan, is only 2 and doesn’t quite get it – get how big of a deal it is. But I was surprised that Kian (4) totally gets it. And that was the best part of my week.
Kian was so excited and all he wanted to do was welcome her, and introduce her to his stuffed bird, Pete.
“Kian, who is this?”
“My new sister, Gianna!” he exclaimed.
“Yea, but Kian maybe she doesn’t want Pete to touch her face right now.”
While she was a little shy and overwhelmed at first, she was all smiles the entire time. Well she’s still a little shy, but through the six hours we were given with her, they all transcended the barriers. They all played, and walked through the park.
And again Kian was over the top welcoming. After a quick nap after lunch he came back and emphatically greeted her again.
Although, it’s tough because she didn’t respond right away as she doesn’t understand what anyone is actually saying. And unfortunately, we don’t understand what she is saying.
The not being able to understand her sometimes bothers me and I eventually downloaded the Google Translate app. You can speak into it in Ukranian and it speaks to you in English. So I tested it out a few times, and had Rachel do some of her Ukranian phrases. And then I took it to Gianna.
Concepts like an app to translate language were totally foreign to her. It reminded me of when we skyped with Carrie’s Amish Grandma. She could see us but didn’t understand how it could possibly be real-time. We were on the other side of the world and Carrie’s dad had a computer…that didn’t even have a chord attached to it!!
But worse than Amish and skype was this girl and Google Translate. I tried by asking yes or no questions and then having the phone translate it so she could understand it, but she didn’t get that it was me talking. She never answered the phone, ever, and she definitely never talked into it. I was right there, why talk into a phone?
However, I made some funny comment and translated it and she laughed. She could hear it, but made no connection to it being me trying to communicate to her.
Later I tried to reverse it to translate Ukranian to English and she didn’t talk into it. Can’t blame her but I gave up. However, I left it recording and was fiddling around with it and she came over and kept talking to me, just kept saying something emphatically and then she just left to play with something.
The wifi took a second but then after she left it translated her into english text, the one success I had. The text looked something like this:
“What are you looking at? What are you looking at? What are you looking at? What are you looking at? What are you looking at?”
My guess is that she’ll know English better than me within a year, but it’s kind of indicative to this being the beginning. She still lives at the orphanage, she has no papers or passport, and when she asks a question she never gets an answer.
In a way, it hasn’t even begun.
In 10 days the best day of her life happens; she permanently leaves the orphanage to be a part of the “Miller” family. Then we go to Odessa to do regional paper work, and then we go to Kiev to do all kinds of stuff. And at some date, I’m not too sure when, they all go back to Ohio.
Today, however, we wait in this tiny town. Although, to be honest, it’s an awesome change of pace. The last weeks have been too crazy for me to get anything done.
We went to the DFW FTU, we flew to DC, we flew to Beijing (where nothing internet related worked including gmail and my own site for the last few days), we flew back to DC, flew to Atlanta, did the ATL FTU that weekend, then flew to Ohio that Monday.
And then we went from Ohio to Kiev, which included a two hour drive to Columbus, the LGA to JFK transfer, a layover in JFK, a layover in Moscow, and a two hour ride from Odessa to wherever we are.
I already hate flying (as you may know) but this flight was particularly crappy. I thought it would be funny to do a trip report showing the non-luxury side of travel that most bloggers don’t write about it. Nothing says not-luxury like Transaero. My arm rest came off…
And then here’s a picture of our $15 a night hotel, only an hour walk to the orphanage:
It’s not bad – way better than Transaero. I would never prefer community style bathrooms and showers, but I’m glad to have a decent room and decent wifi. Sometimes it’s fast and sometimes it’s slow. But a month of little moving around will be really nice. I’ll hopefully get caught up on work, and then hopefully dedicate a few hours a day to emails and comments.
To the people who have asked about the adoption, supported it, and encouraged us; thank you! Seriously, it was super touching to see the support a year ago, and it’s cool that to this day people still ask about it.
We are finally here and in 10 or so days sweet little Gianna won’t be living in an orphanage anymore! Wow, how cool is that? Seriously, while I don’t really know too much about the orphanage itself, the saddest thing isn’t just not having parents, it’s what the apparent fate is for most girls who graduate out of the orphanage and onto the streets.
And there’s no shortage of orphans. Yesterday Rachel and Zack got in a taxi and someone translated to take them to the orphanage a mile away… well, even though it’s a really small town, they took them to the other orphanage a mile that direction. Luckily they were only a few blocks away.
And in contrast to the terrible statistics about kids who don’t get adopted and what they end up doing with their life, is this story. Seeing her and her family laugh and play is amaaaazing for one reason: I know that she will live a loved life.
I want to somehow tell her, “Gianna, your parents are amazing people and you will live a very happy life”. But I don’t need to say it, because when I look at her with them, I can tell she already knows this. She totally gets it.