The trip was pretty smooth this time for the most part. Erich and I traveled from South Bend, IN to Moscow on 3 flights over about 20 hours. We arrived in Moscow about 11am on Sunday, December 13 and were very ready for naps and showers. The weather there was bitterly cold so when we left our hotel in the late afternoon in search of food and a little shopping we didn't stay out long. We stayed at the Arbat Hotel again and so we didn't have far to walk to the nearby Moo-Moo (looks like My-My in Cyrillic) restaurant for soup and pelmeni which are a kind of meat-filled ravioli. We kind of hopped from shop to shop down the street to get to the souvenir place we wanted and to an ATM to take out some rubles for our stay in region but that was about the extent of our adventure in Moscow. We did get a couple pics looking out the window of our hotel room but they are quite deceiving, there wasn't much snow but outside was definitely not where we wanted to be.
Monday afternoon the translator picked us up a couple hours early to head to the airport for our overnight flight to the region. He said there were a lot of families to transport and it would be easier for him if we went early. We didn't mind, we were ready for a break from the construction noise coming from above our hotel room anyway. Apparently the floor above us was under some major renovation. At the airport we got to visit with two other couples traveling to the same region with our agency. One was on their way to pick up a little boy at the other orphanage in the city and the other was going with us to meet a little boy also. The flight itself was pretty uneventful and not particularly full either- Erich and I were able to spread out over a row of 3 seats and got a good nap in before we landed.
We hit the ground at about 6am local time Tuesday morning and were greeted very warmly by the translator who remembered us from last time. Our group got the last 3 rooms at the hotel where there was some sort of business conference going on. We drew the short straw and ended up with the small room but we didn't really mind, it was less expensive and all we were really interested in were the beds and shower anyway. The second pic is of the pretty fountain outside the hotel. Unfortunately the window glass blurred any photo we tried taking so it's a little fuzzy but you get the idea.
By the time the rooms were sorted out and we got all the luggage up there we had about 30 minutes before it was time to leave for the baby home. The winter days are really short in this part of the year and the sun was still rising as we left for the baby home around 9:30 though it wasn't nearly as cold as it had been in Moscow. Our translator actually scolded me for not wearing my hat. It wasn't really that cold but she was worried about us Americans. I think she thinks we don't have winter over here, not that it gets nearly as cold here but it does get pretty nasty sometimes.
Anyway, we rolled into the baby home's driveway around 10 and were shown to the same social worker's office as before. The social worker remembered us which was nice, everyone we bumped into was very welcoming and plenty of people were aware of our situation and tried to make sure we knew that they knew and that they were eager to make things right. We definitely got the impression that they had nothing to do with our loss. We got our child's information and our blue booties (apparently standard footware for visitors) and made our way up to the familiar play room on the second floor. The other couple's child was already playing in the room and ours was brought in shortly after. He was a little shy for the first few minutes but our little guy perked up when we brought out toys and snacks. He was about a year old at the time we met him and seemed to be doing well for a child. He's a little on the small side but is walking and babbling and playing like any other child his age and was eager to sink his 4 little teeth into all the toys we brought as well as the snacks. Over the two days we were there we got to visit 4 different times and found him to be a very happy and curious baby.
I did get a couple of baby home pics. The first is of the entrance to the baby home. As you can see they had snow but not tons of it and they were decorated for the Christmas/New Year holidays. The second is in one of the stairwells. All of the stairwells we saw had murals of fairytales painted on them and this one in particular caught our eye as it is from the Russian fairytale about the family pulling a large turnip out of the ground, the same story told by the set of nesting dolls we purchased as a souvenir on our last trip. I hadn't noticed it the first time we were at the baby home.
The rest of our trip was mostly uneventful. We spent the night in Moscow again on the way home and found that it was still colder than the region and the traffic was still pretty bad too. The trip home was a little frustrating at times. We traveled home the day before the east coast basically shut down for snow. We were delayed at Domodedovo in Moscow and took off an hour late. That was a little scary as we only had a slightly shorter than 2 hour layover in Washington DC's Dulles airport and were a little nervous about making it through customs and security as it was but we figured if we made it back to the US we could worry about making it home when the time came.
Lucky for us the pilot changed his flight plan a bit and we all made it back to Dulles on time, might have even been a bit early. Our trip through customs and security was actually the fastest I've ever seen. I've never been so thankful to be an American citizen as when we rounded the corner into passport control and saw the lines. There were well over a hundred people in line on the non-citizen/visitor side and maybe 15 ahead of us on the citizen side.
Our flight from Dulles to O'Hare was smooth and that's about the best thing I can say about O'Hare that night. Things were already starting to delay for the snow and our last flight home got caught up in it. The plane was fine but we had to wait a couple hours for our pilot to arrive and then got stuck waiting on the plane while they de-iced it right before takeoff. I must say though that the flight crew was probably the most lively I've ever seen. Maybe it was the Christmas spirit, maybe it was the almost midnight flight but I've never seen a flight crew do Christmas carols karaoke-style over the PA and ask if the passengers would like to take the mic.
I think we hit home and bed around 1am home time and my bed felt great:) We were very thankful to be in it the next morning when we turned on the news and found out that Dulles had closed down overnight due to weather and O'Hare was looking pretty ugly too.
So that was our trip and there isn't much more to tell at the moment. We're in the middle of updating the necessary papers to get our court date and it's a little slow right now due to the Russian offices just opening back up after the holidays there. Hopefully we'll get what we need and be on our way again soon. I promise tons of pics when we get this little guy home.