6/13/10-6/18/10: So our stay in Moscow wasn't terribly exciting. We arrived on a Saturday and it was a 3 day weekend holiday so we had a few days to settle in and get into a routine which pretty much consisted of getting everyone up and dressed and eating breakfast in shifts while entertaining Joshua with toys and whatever we could find on TV (we had about a dozen English-speaking channels, yay!). Sometimes we'd take a walk outside if it wasn't too bad then back home for lunch, nap during which we were napping also, then playtime and dinner prep, bath and bedtime. There wasn't a whole lot of good weather for sightseeing while we were there. We mostly got either hot and humid or cold and rainy weather so I'm glad we had the opportunity on earlier trips. Our most exciting trips were to the grocery store down the street which was in the middle of a mall. Since we were living in an apartment we were able to try a variety of dishes from their deli and frozen section. I did have an interesting encounter with a young man from India. I had walked over to the store by myself and was browsing the selection of frozen pelmeni when he came up next to me and asked if I spoke English. I was shocked he had to ask as I was under the impression I stood out like sore thumb. Anyway, he seemed relieved that I did and we had a short discussion about where the fresh veggies were and how to go about getting them weighed before checking out.
By the time the doctor from the Embassy came on Monday for his visit (required for the visa application) we were feeling pretty good about being Mommy and Daddy and he gave Joshua a good report so all the better. Tuesday was the first part of our Embassy paperwork and a translator came to help us fill out the forms and then she submitted them for us. Wednesday was our actual Embassy interview and we spent a few hours at the Embassy chatting with several other adoptive families that had come in from other regions, most much closer than ours. That process was a little intimidating as we had to stand in line to pay before getting Joshua's visa. Apparently the rule in Russia is that if you have a small child you don't wait, you get an automatic pass to the front of the line. It felt very uncomfortable to push through like that but that was the way it was. The actual interview process was pretty easy. We verified some documents, showed our passports, listened to instructions and were given The Packet plus Joshua's passport with his visa. The Packet is very important, it has all the documents needed by the border control on the US side to process Joshua's adoption and get him into the country. Oh, and you can't open it and neither can anyone else before it gets to the US so we were told to be careful with it and not let anyone at the Russian airport open it. Somewhere in the midst of all this Joshua started teething again and decided that he wanted nothing to do with most of the food we had available for him. Rice cereal and the occasional animal cracker were about all he'd accept. Fun stuff.
Paperwork done, we were ready to finally start the long journey home the next day. This was the part of the trip I'd least been looking forward to and notice there are no photos until we actually get home and I didn't take them either. We were too exhausted. I'd heard horror stories and was expecting the worst. It wasn't as bad as it could have been but I don't intend on taking my child on a trip that long again for a really long time. Maybe never.
So we were up at a reasonable hour Moscow time (home time about 10:30 pm Wednesday night, remember that) on Thursday morning. We leisurely packed our things and bathed and dressed. Got caught in traffic on the way to the airport which didn't bother Joshua as he took a nap. Had a small scare at passport control on the way out of the country. We got stopped of course, which we had expected and were detained for about 20 minutes while our documents were checked. Made us a little nervous as we were running a little late because of the traffic snag but a very nice Russian man who spoke English stayed with us and offered to translate for us if needed. Thankfully our documents were eventually pronounced satisfactory and we were on our way home.
The flight from Moscow to JFK was better than we'd hoped for in that it was only half full with the back half of the plane (where we were sitting) even less than that so we were able to spread out over a whole row of four seats and probably could have had a few aisle seats too if we wanted. Turned out to be a great thing as Joshua slept for maybe an hour of the 11 hour flight. Have you ever entertained an active 18 month old for 10 hours in an enclosed space with limited resources? How about an 18 month old who wants to get down and walk but then decides he really doesn't like it on his own two feet because the plane is half dark? Let's just say we were thankful for the seatbelts which were endlessly entertaining, the two Russian grandmas behind us who thought he was a hoot and asked to hold him several times, and animal crackers.
JFK made me nervous. We knew we only had a short layover and a lot to do before making it to our connecting flight. We were lucky in that passport control was not terribly busy. We handed over the paperwork and The Packet and let me tell you, the adoption stories on TV make this part of the process look so sweet and "Aw, welcome home cutie! You're a US citizen now!" Not so much for us, they pretty much ripped open the envelope, flipped through things, and pointed us to the office for the rest of our "interview." Oh, and I got into an argument with the border control officer about the paperwork during the interview which consisted of them taking our documents and that was about it. She wanted to take our original copies of the adoption and birth certificate which the Embassy had told us specificially not to give to anyone no matter what. I ended up winning and she ended up with copies. Probably not the smartest people to argue with but I was tired and I had just had the lecture at the Embassy about how much red tape there is to go through to get new copies.
Unfortunately JFK was where the trip really started to fall apart. After dealing with the folks at border control we got our luggage and got it all rechecked, made it through security with minimal problems, and found our gate. Then the explosive diarrhea all the adoptive parents warned us about hit. Poor kid. It was bad, throw out the outfit bad and I'll leave it at that. Unfortunately that was also about the time Joshua decided he was really, really tired which was also bad because we were in the middle of a large airport and at that point he was having trouble going to sleep anywhere but a quiet room with no one else in it. So we were treated to a lovely screaming fit during which nothing would pacify him. Eventually we got him to drink a little juice which kept him happy for a few minutes. When we boarded the plane we had 3 seats but only 2 together so Erich took him since Josh was favoring him at the time and we hoped for the best and that maybe he might consider taking a nap on the extra seat. Of course the plane was delayed so we got to sit for at least 30 minutes while they did whatever it was they were doing and all sounded well from my seat at the back of the plane until the captain made an announcement about our status and that was the start of a 2 hour screaming fit. And of course since we were mid-roll down the runway when he really got going there was nothing I could do but sit there and listen. Eventually I was able to get up and go help poor Erich but there wasn't much either of us could do but wait it out. Nothing, and I mean nothing and no one could do anything to help. Poor kid was just too tired and couldn't get it under control. I don't blame him, we'd been up for at least 24 hours at that point and I really just wanted to cry with him. Eventually he did wear himself out and slept for the last 45 minutes or so of the flight.
We were almost afraid to move him when we landed and decided that the best course of action would be to wait until the plane was almost empty just in case he woke up and started screaming again. I had to laugh a little bit at poor Erich who had apparently had conversations with some of the surrounding passengers while I'd been stuck at the back of the plane. There were a few people who made some not so nice comments about the screaming as they passed and I guess Erich had had enough. He finally told one group that he was really sorry but they ought to cut the kid some slack as he'd started his day in Moscow and oh by the way he was an orphan we'd just adopted. I think that had the desired effect as their jaws kind of dropped and they mumbled apologies and moved on. Oh well, they'll live. I'm sure the journey was much more traumatic for our little guy than them.
When the plane was finally almost empty I took our sweaty, sleeping angel from Erich's lap and he never stirred. We gathered our things and started the longest walk ever to baggage claim where we were met by my parents and brother, Erich's parents, Erich's sister and brother in law, and my grandparents. That was the most welcome sight I've ever seen as we came down the escalator and saw them all waiting at the bottom.
As you can see we quickly decided that everyone should get a chance to hold him before he woke up in case he was not in the mood then. He eventually did wake up in my mother's arms and kind of gave her a "Who are you?" look but didn't cry. By the time we got outside the airport he had apparently recharged enough to be social again and was pointing at all the cars going by and the lights of the city as it was almost midnight by that time. Now when we asked for a ride home before the trip started I thought maybe my parents would rent a van of some sort but apparently they had other ideas. They rented a Cadillac Escalade limo! We were definitely not expecting that but they said our little guy had to come home in style and besides it cost about the same so why not. So we not only got an awesome ride home but we had a driver too so no one had to drive. They came fully prepared with snacks and sodas and snacks and toys for Joshua who thought this was the best thing ever. Unfortunately we were too tired and it was too dark to get pictures but he took turns on everyone's lap eating their snacks and playing with toys. It would be safe to say that he had them all wrapped around his little fingers by the time we finally hit home.
Since he was so awake and Erich and I were about dead on our feet by the time we made it home my mother stayed over for what was left of that first night. We weren't sure if Joshua would sleep or not but after exploring the house for a few minutes and getting a new diaper and some jammies he went down easy. So did Erich. Mom and I were too wired to go to bed right away so we stayed up for anothe hour or so, talking and looking at pictures of the trip. When I finally crawled up to bed it was almost 5:00AM Friday morning, approximately 31 hours since waking up in Moscow.
I'd like to say we slept the rest of the day away but the adults in the house were all up and ready to go again by late morning. Erich had to go into work and check on some things and graciously offered to bring home fast food. We decided the best course of action would be to let Joshua sleep awhile and we woke him around 2 in the afternoon. It worked perfectly, he stayed up until normal bedtime and has been on schedule ever since. Erich and I were not that easily turned around but we made it there within a week or two.
We spent that first day home making lots of calls to family and ended up with a house full of grandparents all anxious to see the new arrival again. Erich's grandparents who were not able to make the midnight run were over to see their newest great grandson.
And my parents brought Leland home. They weren't too sure about each other at first but Joshua gradually got braver as the day went on and I'm happy to say that now they tolerate each other very well.
So that's really the end of our adventures in Russia for now. I'd really like to do it again someday but I think we need a little time to forget about the frustrations of adoption paperwork and international travel with a toddler first!