So the next time you hear a parent of a 12 year old complaining about driving 15 minutes to pick up their kid from soccer practice, or a college student's parents griping about having to drive 2 hours to pick up their kid for the weekend, just remind them of what I had to go through to pick up my kid this week...and maybe it won't seem so bad. Below is a description of my trip followed by some of my thoughts on the experience (you can skip to the end if you get too bored).
This trip started like any other trip out of Raleigh with a 45 minute wait in Terminal A sitting among all the business travelers and wayfarer college students. The flight to Philly was nice, I had a pleasant conversation with a nice man from Raleigh about adoption and some other topics (nothing really out of the ordinary). The plane from Raleigh was a little late so I did have to rush to the international terminal so that I wouldn't be stressed about missing the plane. (If you've ever had an airline close the doors on you, you would know what I mean.) So the flight to Frankfurt was nice as well, but I was sitting in the last row with curtains across the isle (for the flight attendants to nap) and a German couple next to me. So needless to say, there wasn't much conversation on that flight. So after landing in the good old Deutschland, I experience their new form of "heightened" security. The metal detectors were set so high that the snap on my pants set it off, so you guessed it -- body search. Well the search wasn't the big deal, it was the fact that everybody was getting searched, so the line went VERY slow. So again, thinking I didn't want to miss my connecting flight, I rushed to the terminal to sit and wait for the departure. When I get there, the posted sign states that there is a 15 minute delay. Great, I can get a cup of coffee. Get back just in time, and yep, 15 more minutes. Three times before they finally loaded onto a bus to go to the plane. We get to the plane, and the bus just stops. 5 minutes, 10 minutes, 15 minutes, finally, the bus driver leaves the spot where bus is. We stop one other place for 5 more minutes and then head back to the terminal. After going back to the terminal and waiting another 30 minutes, we finally board a different plane and then we were back on track to Kiev.
After arriving in Kiev everything went very smoothly, but extremely fast--almost surreal. Here is how it went. Serge, my driver picks me up just outside the customs area and walks me to his van. There he says that we have two hours to get to the train station. Not a big deal, except that it had been snowing in Kiev for multiple days and now the traffic is terrible. Yes it was bad, really bad, so finally about half way there Serge decides to stop, park the van, and take the Metro. (As a side note, in Kiev, they just park their cars anywhere that is not in the street-- usually the sidewalk). Ok this was a great plan, but the metro stop wasn't right there it was a bit of a walk. So we had to walk through a series of neighborhoods, most of which were covered with snow until finally we got back to a main street and aha -- a Metro stop. So there are three things to say about the Metro in Kiev: they are very deep underground, they are very fast, and they are very FULL. We had to change trains, so I just followed Serge from train to train, and finally to the exit near the train station. I bought a snack and we made the long trek to my train car (Ukrainian trains are huge).
The train ride was as predicted (very long, 13+ hours to be specific), but because I was traveling alone, I had to "bunk up" with another traveler. This wasn't so bad, he was a nice man that works with computers; but of course his English is about a good as my Russian. So once again, no real conversation. After arriving at Jonkoi, and walking to my hotel (its across the street from the train station), I finally realized that I hadn't had a conversation lasting more than 20 words since leaving the plane in Philly, and that this would be the norm for the next two weeks.
Now to the prize...I bought a few things in the market and then went to the orphanage. It was like I only left yesterday, but its been 3 weeks. There was one new face, and they were all very happy to see me. I was very liberal with my gum purchase, so they were all excited about that. I played cards with a few of the boys where I even learned a new game called football. We watched the end of a movie (in Russian of course), and of course, played some games on the smart phone. Before leaving I explained to Vova, in my best Russian, that we were going to be leaving on Monday, so we will have a pizza party on Sunday. He liked this and sent me off with the driver.
So now in my hotel looking back at the past 43 hours, I am able to reflect on my experience and see how God has continued to bless everyone involved in this process. In 2 Chronicles 6:34-35 Solomon prays "When Your people go out to fight against their enemies wherever You send them, and they pray to You...may You hear their prayer and petition in heaven and uphold their cause" I really like this phrase "uphold their cause". It does not mean that He will do everything for you or make things easy for you, it means that he will be with you and stand on your side.
My little trip was actually filled with many little blessings that I can really see and appreciate greatly. First, before leaving the house on Thursday, my (actually it was Twila's) suitcase had a blowout. Yes I tried to over fill it, but we had a very specific list of things to take. Well anyway, I had to buy a new one, and mistakenly I picked out the most expensive one on the isle. Because I was pressed for time, we bought it anyway. Well, God must have know I would need it because the new (more expensive) suitcase was lighter, and consequently the total bag weight on the airline scale was only 50.5 pounds. The other, heavier one would have weighed 55 pounds and I would have saved $50 to pay $150 in overweight fees. Also, when Serge and I were taking that trek through the neighborhoods to get to the Metro, I thought to myself, only this new and more expensive bag is really made to be dragged around like this; the other one would have lost a wheel or worse, come open out there.
On to the next blessings, the flight from Frankfurt to Kiev being delayed seems on the surface to be a very undesirable experience; however, before leaving Raleigh I had a big concern about what I would do in Kiev before leaving for Jonkoi. Well that problem was solved :) Also, when we were in Kiev previously, I heard about the Metro and thought it would be cool to ride it once or twice. It was a rushed experience, but I do have to say that it was cool.
And finally the last blessing which is still in progress. One of my biggest concerns before beginning this step in the adoption process is my lack of ability to communicate with my new son once I take custody. Many will tell you different things concerning this; however, I have taken it as a challenge to my self to learn as much Russian as I can. So this immersion if you will, is probably the best thing for me right now. I have been studying Russian off and on since the beginning of my last trip, but for some reason, things are more comfortable now and many of the words/concepts are starting to make some sense. Anyway, today at the orphanage, I felt much more comfortable than in previous trips and even though I didn't understand everything, I didn't feel like a total idiot.
For my closing remarks I would like to give all of who have to continued to pray for us a big word of thanks. Everyday I am seeing more and more how powerful your prayers are and I too am encouraged to pray more. Thanks again and please don't stop.