Wednesday, 6 June
It dawned on us this morning that our time in Ukraine is almost over; we only have five more days in town. On Monday morning, our 10-day waiting period will be over, and the court decree for our adoption will be final. We will be able to pick up all the court documents and then go to the orphanage and pick up our daughter!!!
From there, we will drive to the capital of the region to get Masha’s new birth certificate and passport, and she will officially be Maria Elizabeth Niles. We hope to get this completed on Monday so that we can take the train Monday night back to Kiev. In Kiev, Masha will have to have a medical exam and get some vaccinations required by US Immigration. Then we meet with the US Embassy to get her visa paperwork (usually a 1-2 day process) and then we board the plane home….
Please pray that we can get a flight on Friday or Saturday of next week, and that the fares are the same! Fred is heading back to the US tomorrow, and the first flight he tried to book for his return came up $1000 more than the ticket he was holding. He found a different flight that was only $200 more, but on top of change feed, that adds up. Further, we have to buy a new ticket for Masha for the same flights as well.
These are the things that are consuming our thoughts now…on one hand, our facilitator has everything under control and we don’t have to worry about anything, but on the other, there are a couple of final things that we DO have to worry about (like booking flights and packing and making sure we’ve purchased all the souvenirs that one could ever want) and we’re starting to get a little anxious.
This morning, we walked to a bookstore near our apartment and bought some more books for Masha, and a couple for me. I found a book of Russian tales, including Repka, a story I learned in Russian class about a very large turnip! I’m sure Masha will not be amused at my attempts to tell it….She is learning the English word for “embarrassed,” and she has mastered the teenage eye-roll.
We met up with Fred and Lisa and picked the girls up a little after noon for lunch and a walk in the park. We repeated the 20 grivna exercise; they could choose among two different bouncy-rides, ice cream, and an assortment toys from a street vendor. They ran past the vendor and straight to the bouncy ride. After some discussion, they decided to do the shorter, less expensive ride…a giant inflatable slide. These Ukrainians sure like their inflatable bouncy things!
When time was up, the girls hopped off and each bought an ice cream and then wandered over to the street vendor. They inspected the various toys hanging from his stand, asking how much each one cost. In the end, all three girls concluded that they would prefer to do another bouncy ride, and they left the stand empty-handed. Each ended the afternoon with 2-3 grivna left, which we all promised to hold for them.
We returned the tired girls to the orphanage early so they could rest up before the circus. We are finding that as the days wear on, they tire a little more quickly—I suspect that the stress of an unfamiliar routine and anxiety over the unknown of their new lives is wearing on them even more than it is us.
After we dropped the girls, Fred and Lisa piled into our car, and our driver Sasha took us to the circus grounds to buy tickets, then to Amstor for a couple of things…once we got in the store, we realized we could only get a couple things; both families were running VERY low on cash after the circus tickets. We all ended up borrowing from the kids’ leftover money to cover us at the checkout! DOH!
From Amstor, we stopped by our apartment to put a couple groceries in the refrigerator and pick up some more cash, then on to Fred and Lisa’s to do the same. From their place, we walked across the street to a bank to exchange money before they closed. Lisa also tried out an ATM (Bankomat), and found it worked great. It allowed her to choose English, and gave her money in grivnas.
We have noticed that there are ATMs on practically every block here, so running out of money is not as terrifying as we had anticipated. Most stores, though, do NOT take credit cards….if you’re coming, be prepared to carry cash and exchange money often!
We hung out for a little longer until Sasha picked us all back up and headed back to the orphanage. There, we met back up with Fred and Lisa’s driver, Kseniya, and the girls. Masha popped out in the same tiny top and shorts that she had been wearing earlier, so Mom and Kseniya suggested that she change into something with a little more fabric for the evening! I can’t wait until I have more input into the clothing options. I have no illusion that I can totally control what she wears, but I certainly hope to convey the message of what’s an appropriate choice and what is not!
At about 5:30, we were off, and 10 minutes later, we pulled up to the circus tent. Unlike Monday, people swarmed the field. Performers had little stands set up to sell trinkets, and the aerialist couple had a large swing suspended from the peak of the Little Top. For 5 grivna, kids could ride up to the top of the tent and back down.
The girls all bought little balls on rubber bands, and a little light-up thing. It’s interesting to watch them all discuss amongst themselves and agree on what will be purchased, and then all get the same thing…they are very good at reaching agreements, but they don’t seem to realize that buying different things (or riding different rides) is even an option. They are sticking together!
Before we knew it, the show began. Masha asked to use the camera, and after a quick explanation from Kseniya, was swapping deftly between still photos and video mode. She filled up two 2GB memory cards before the show was over, and caught some decent video of several acts!
First to take the stage was the aerialist couple. Though not Cirque du Soleil, they were pretty entertaining. There was also an illusionist and a clown with a monkey (yes, Steve, we got video this time!). The girls had a great time, and were pretty interested in the whole show.
Our thoughts….If we heard a news report next week that the tent collapsed in horrible flames, we would say “yeah, that seems about right.” Not that we want anything to happen, but the whole place seemed to be an accident waiting to happen. A 4-year old child was able to shake the whole structure by swinging on a support post; a performer dumped broken glass all over the ground early in the performance, and the finale “spinning chamber of flames” looked about to topple over. The butane fumes from all the fire acts quickly filled our nostrils, and we were coated with dust before the show began. It’s how we would imagine a traveling circus from the 1940s.
Fun was had by all, but by the middle of the first act, all stomachs were rumbling. At intermission, we discovered that the only concession was a popcorn stand, which did nothing to satisfy our hunger. I produced an apple and a bag of chips from the Magic Mom Bag which kept Masha from dying of starvation (or so she says).
Ukrainians eat their main meal of the day at lunch, so most of the cafeterias do not keep food available late in the evening, and people tend to meet for drinks and light snacks rather than a heavy dinner late in the evening. Kseniya arranged for us to stop at a pizzeria on the way back to the orphanage, since it was about the only place we could be assured of getting food. We were all so tired that we almost collapsed on our plates, but Masha was also so hungry that she decided she wanted pizza and a salad. We ate pretty quietly, and then returned the girls to the orphanage WAY past their curfew! Advice to anyone who has the opportunity to take the kids to the circus…eat first!