Tuesday, November 13, 2001

Tuesday, November 13, 2001-Our First Meeting with Kara

It’s 2:10am Moscow time and we are flying on a tiny plane, probably meant for chickens!! I just need to state for the record how much I love Donald because we are eating yummy skittles!!! Don gave me a goody bag before we left and it has been a lifesaver. So now, Corey and I are sitting here, eating skittles, happy as clams!! This plane is very smooshy (yes, I know that’s not a real word). Corey’s knees are pushing into Tom’s back because there is not enough leg room—which I don’t understand because there are many tall people in Russia. And to top it off, the name of the airline is Aeroflot (a little too close to flop for me!!).

We are about 45 minutes from landing in Ufa. We will meet our daughter today. I have a feeling that I don’t think I can accurately explain. While this trip feels so surreal—the country, the language, the experience itself, it feels completely right—we were meant to do this. While it is uncomfortable for me to be surrounded by things that I don’t understand, we’re sitting on a plane in the middle of the night far from home, eating skittles to avoid eating mystery meat and I don’t find anything strange about it. Despite the fact that at most times of the day I am scared to death, none of my nervousness or fear has anything to do with Kara. And when I think of her, I feel completely calm. Hard to explain.

We landed in Ufa at 5:30am and Nadia was there to meet us. As soon as we met her, we were all asking when we would see our children and for how long. Nadia thought maybe an hour and Tom almost had a stroke. Although he and Janet live in Newark, he works in NYC and sometimes expresses himself like one. But he was just expressing what we were all thinking.

We drove to our hotel with a different driver. It was very dark and we couldn't see anything. We checked into the hotel. Again, the room was nice enough but the beds had funny mattresses. However, at this point we could have slept hanging upside down. Again, phone trauma. As you travel from city to city, the electrical current changes and so does the phone system, as well as the phone equipment. Finally, we got through to our parents and then it was off to sleep. We went to sleep at 8:30am and slept until 12:45am.

When our wakeup call came, I was so out of it that I couldn’t figure out where we were or what was ringing. We both had that overtired, sick to your stomach feeling until we moved around a little. It was at this point that I made the sad discovery that my curling iron wouldn’t work with the current in this city, so I had to meet Kara with WINGS!!!

We checked out of the hotel and paid our $75 phone bill (I was in trouble!!). The phone didn’t work the way I thought it did so we were billed by the hotel and used 1.5 prepaid calling cards-oops. It was now daylight and we were able to see Ufa. Ufa is an industrial city with many concrete buildings and large apartments. I don’t think it ever gets sunny there. It’s a city without color. We went to lunch with Tom, Janet, Julia, Nadia, a couple who had gone to Baby Home #2 the day before- John and Jane, both of our drivers and John and Jane’s interpreter.

Since the menu was in Russian, we had no need for it. Nadia asked all of us what we liked to eat and ordered for everyone. I’m pretty certain that everyone said “no” to the horse meat and goat. We were served Pepsi (not quite the same), peach juice and they brought out the salads. The salads were really vegetable platters that everyone shared—except "Mr. I don’t eat vegetables." Next we had a very small mushroom casserole, which was so delicious that I ate Corey’s too (he doesn’t like mushrooms). Our meal was chicken soup, which wasn’t bad. Nadia had ordered the guys pork something which didn’t come out until we had to leave. So Corey ate a little bit of chicken broth and had a Pepsi.

It took about 40 minutes to get to the Baby Home and this gave us the opportunity to see Ufa. It looks to be a depressed city, by American standards. Everyone lives in tall gray apartment buildings. We were all nervous and were pretty quiet on the way to the Baby Home. We were moments away from the most important meeting of our lives and there was really no way to prepare ourselves for that.

From the outside the Baby Home looked nice. The building was only a year old so it was in very good condition. Inside, the building was nice as well—it looked like a school. We went directly into Rema, the Baby Home’s Director’s office, and were told that the children’s caretakers would be bringing them in shortly. After approximately 5 minutes, Ivan and Regina were brought in. They had to wake Kara so it would be a few more minutes. Corey and I were on the edge of our seats waiting. I could feel myself starting to get emotional and then the door opened and they brought in the wrong child!!! Same first name, different last name. So we waited a few more minutes. Finally, they brought our baby girl in and as I reached out to take her, she gave us a really big smile, as if to say “Hi!! Here I am!!”

It’s hard to explain how I felt when first meeting her. I think I just looked at her and thought, “Ok, I can imagine you as my daughter." After talking to Michelle about their early time with Zach, I had prepared myself for not having a huge rush of emotion, and I didn’t. I think we just tried to absorb as much of her as we could to keep with us during the time between trips and to tell our loved ones. After about 20 minutes, Corey took her and she was very smiley again. He kissed her on the cheek right away and she did a kind of shy smile—very cute. We took turns with her and took lots of pictures and video. We had the opportunity to ask Rema any questions we had but I honestly drew a blank.

All I could think about was being with Kara while we had the chance. We played with the toys we had brought—Fuzzy, the bear, a Baby Mozart musical toy and a photo album that Stacy, Billy and Allie had given to Kara—which was her favorite. Although we did play with her, we mostly cuddled, gave her hugs and kisses and tried to get to know her. She was very cuddly and smiled all the time. When she started to get tired, she sucked her thumb and layed on our laps.

Toward the end of the visit, I took Kara on the floor with Ivan and Janet and they played. All of the sudden Janet picked up Ivan really fast—he had peed all over the place. Apparently, the kids are on the same schedule because Kara did the same thing a few minutes later!! We knew our time was coming to an end so we said our goodbyes, telling Kara that we would be back soon.

When the caretakers come in, they quickly scoop up the children to avoid parents upsetting them with long tearful goodbyes. But they stayed for a few pictures and then they were gone.
On the way back to the airport, we kind of quietly sat there, not really knowing what to say. We agreed with Tom and Janet that we thought we should be having some emotions, but really were so overwhelmed that we were numb—very strange.

We flew from Ufa back to Moscow. This time, Corey and I didn’t get seats together but we were all in the same row. I sat on one side with Tom and Janet and he sat on the other side with Boris and Natasha, as Tom called them. Poor Corey, he was on the inside seat and Boris and Natasha were not small people!!

Same food on the flight back—very scary. Again, I ate the roll and cookie. We arrived back at our hotel in Moscow at 10:00pm and were going to be picked up by Michael at 4:00am. We decided to forgo sleep and site see in the dark instead. We hadn’t seen any of Moscow so we decided to walk around with Tom and Janet. When we first started walking, a man started to follow us and I was a little bit nervous until I saw him drawing Corey. He followed us for miles and answered questions for us as he drew. We, of course, bought the sketch that slightly resembles Corey.

In Red Square, we bartered for a matroyshka and those furry Russian hats. When Corey was trying them on, the man selling them looked at Corey and said, “Oh, big head”, but managed to find one that would fit him. While we were in Red Square, it started to snow and got pretty cold but it was nice to get some air. We had a great time, talking and seeing Red Square, Lenin’s tomb, the Kremlin and many other historical things. Moscow is really beautiful and so full of history. I hope we have more time to site see in the daylight on our next trip.

We got back to the hotel at 12:30 and then had to pack. By this point, we were starving again, so we ate Russell Stover chocolate—one of the gifts that we brought to give but didn’t need. Finally, we laid down at 2:00am and then had to get up to get ready at 3:00am. I don’t really know why we bothered to lay down. At 4:00 Michael was there to pick us up and then we were off to the airport. We had a little luggage issue that had Corey ready to strangle our driver, but that worked out and we boarded the plane.

Corey and I waited for the airplane meal like two kids on Christmas day. We were sooooo hungry that we could have marched down that isle and gotten the food ourselves!! Finally, it arrived, the best meal of my entire life---a croissant, an omelet and asparagus and we ate every bite. We tried to sleep but couldn’t get comfortable so it was a long flight.

Our flight from Frankfurt to Moscow was much better—Corey and I had a whole row to ourselves since the flight wasn’t full and we able to take turns sleeping. Finally, we landed in JFK and I could have kissed the ground. We had no trouble getting home. Some of our family members came over to see the video that we had taken. Initially, we had technical difficulties and couldn’t plug the camcorder into the TV so Mom and Connie were sitting on each side of Corey and watching it on the camcorder.

After everyone left, we climbed into bed and were sleeping within seconds. Our last thoughts before falling asleep were of a little girl, half way across the world, just waiting for us to bring her home. Soon, Baby, soon.

These are pictures we carry in our minds and hearts until the day we return to Ufa, Russia to bring our baby girl home. It seems so right to evolve from a couple to a family of three.

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