Our flight landed about 6:00 AM Kemerovo time, a four hour time difference from Moscow. Russia is a vast country. Our interpreter, Irina, met us at the airport along with a driver. We piled into our driver’s mini-van with a couple from Ireland whose interpreter was then missing. Irina showed us some of the restaurants and grocery stores in the neighborhood of our hotel, but Elisabeth and I exuded grogginess.
We stayed at the Hotel Kuzbass in Kemerovo. Unfortunately, the only rooms available were the “not-refurbished” rooms. Our room was very small, with peeling wallpaper and peeling linoleum. It was just after 7:00 AM when we were finally alone in our room. We both said that we would lie down for a quick nap…we woke up at 2:00 PM.
About the room: there were only twin beds available to us and the beds were bolted to the walls. We had to sleep separately; communist family planning? There was only a bath with a handheld shower (no wall mount). We could not control the heat or air, except by opening the window. Romance was not an option in this room.
Each floor had a matron who controlled the keys and cleaned the rooms. If we needed anything, we would ask the floor matron, not the front desk. One wonders if this is a holdover from the communist days. A hotel employ always knew if we were in our room or not. Maybe, in the Soviet days, floor matrons would keep tabs on the guests in case the KGB ever wanted to investigate.
Well it was cold and rainy on this Sunday and we forgot to bring umbrellas with us. I went out in vain to find umbrellas, but all I found was that my coat was not waterproof. That was the major highlight of the afternoon.
In the evening, we met up with three other couples: from Wisconsin, the Florida couple, and a different couple from Ireland. All of these folks were in Kemerovo to pick up children, the Irish couple were to adopt two toddler siblings. We ate at a Russian restaurant near the hotel.
Elisabeth and I, not surprisingly, were not immediately sleepy and slept quite poorly that night though we managed to create this double negative sentence. Jet lag really stinks especially in a twin bed that is bolted to the floor across the room from your spouse.
September 12, 2005
The big day of the first trip – we got to see the child today.
“What exactly do you say to a twelve month old baby that does not talk yet and probably does not understand English?” wondered Elisabeth.
“I think we talk to the child like we normally would and forget about what language he may or may not understand,” I said.
“This is all so surreal. We flew halfway around the world to meet a child that does not understand English but we may yet adopt him.”
Elisabeth and I hugged and then went downstairs to the hotel lobby.
We met the other couple (from Minnesota) also traveling on their first trip today. Irina and our driver took us on the short trip to the orphanage. The Russian social worker rode with us as well and talked to us about adopting. The social worked only talked to the men which seemed odd.
At the orphanage, each couple met separately with the orphanage director, orphanage doctor, and social worker. Elisabeth and I waited let the other couple meet first with the orphanage staff and social worker.
“The big moment is almost here. How do you feel?” I asked as we sat in the director’s outer office.
“Scared and excited. I, you, have no experience at all in adopting. I want to meet this boy but I have so many emotions pushing through right now.”
“I as well. Elisabeth, many different things can happen after today but we need to meet this boy and see how we feel then.”
“I know. What else can we do?”
Our turn came and we went into the director’s private office. The group of us spent some time talking about the child whom we learned is named Kiril. At last the time came to meet little Kiril.
The staff brought us into the office of the orphanage speech therapist. I took Kiril from the staff and then we all stood around awkwardly. The social worker then went to visit the Minnesota couple and the doctor helped us examine Kiril. Finally, the doctor left. Now we had to figure out what to do with an eleven month old child for an hour and a half.
We had brought some toys with us: a car, a small ball, soft blocks, and a bucket with plastic shape things. The speech therapist also had many toys that we commandeered. Our understanding of Russian orphanage life is that the sheer volume of kids makes it difficult for the staff to give each child the attention s/he deserves. The staff in the Kemerovo orphanage were wonderful with the kids and clearly cared about each child. There are just too many orphans. The typical results for such children are developmental delays and poor social skills.
Little Kiril was happy, engaged, and clearly interested in the world around him. Kiril especially like poking each of our faces. Kiril pleasantly surprised us by the way he interacted with us. He seemed to really enjoy playing with us and was not shy at all. We took some digital pictures for ourselves and for our doctor back in Boston. The time came for us to go and we left with a positive outlook.
Back at the hotel, I tried to send some of the pictures to the New England Medical Center International Adoption Clinic. We managed to get off a written report and a picture of Kiril. Our doctor called us that night with a list of things to check the next day.
The nightlife in Kemerovo for foreigners is a little lacking, so is the television show selection. We have resolved to bring a portable DVD player for the 2nd trip.
September 13, 2005
On this day, we were to see Kiril in the morning and the afternoon. The morning session was short, only about an hour. Kiril was just as happy and curious as the day before. It was a nice visit.
We then went with Irina and the Minnesota couple for a light lunch and to kill some time before the afternoon meeting. Again, not much going on in Kemerovo for foreigners who do not speak Russian. We did stop to buy a large amount of disposable diapers for the orphanage at the request of the director.
Ok, now for the marathon 3-hour session. We saw Kiril again in the speech therapist’s room. We played, laughed and had a good time. Towards the end, we all got tired. Kiril would then rest on Elisabeth’s shoulder. At one point, I laid on the floor, on my back, and Kiril took a short snooze on my chest. The little guy did not want to miss anything so he would jump awake and then poke us in the face. Finally, it was time to say goodbye. We were tired but a little reluctant to leave.
Later that afternoon, the Minnesota couple asked Irina where they could exchange some more money. Irina had our driver stop on a busy street in the main shopping area. Irina then stated that the black market exchange rate was better than the official bank rate. We stopped in the shopping district not far from the Hotel Kuzbass.
“Those men there can exchange your money,” said Irinia pointing to some gentlemen congregating nearby.
“Are you sure?” I said, “There are uniformed police standing right by the ‘informal’ money changers.”
Irina stated, “Don’t worry so much. The police are there to protect the money exchangers, not arrest their customers.”
“Oh, of course,” I replied. Elisabeth gave me a jab and a “look.” The Minnesota couple exchanged money without any trouble or law enforcement involvement. Free enterprise at work.
We dined that night with the Minnesota couple at the same Russian restaurant. Elisabeth went for the “safe” pork chop and I tried the beef stroganoff. We then walked with the Minnesota couple down to the WWII memorial by the Tom River. Another happen’n night in Kemerovo. It was time to party like it was 1949.
Irina, in the afternoon, reminded us to meet in the lobby at 6 AM then next day to go to the airport. The Minnesota couple was ready to go, but we were not. Our agency had told us to stay an extra day, but nobody had told Irina. Fortunately, Irina was able to arrange for us to see Kiril on the next day.
At about 1:30 AM, Elisabeth said, “Kiril seems like a great boy. I think we should adopt him.”
“I agree but I am also nervous. “
“Me too, honey, but we will do this together. We make a great team.”
We then went back to our respective bolted-to-the-floor beds and fell asleep.
September 14, 2005
The last visit with Kiril took place in the orphanage’s music room, a room much larger than the speech therapist’s room. First, we talked with the doctor again to follow up on a couple of points our Boston doctor had made. Kiril seemed to recognize us and smiled when they brought him in.
We played and laughed like the other times, but this time, we seemed to make a connection. It was really hard to say goodbye knowing it would be months before we could come back.
After this last visit with Kiril, Irina asked us if we wanted to adopt Kiril.
“So, do you want to adopt Kiril?” asked Irina.
Kiril seemed very outgoing and apparently enjoyed meeting Elisabeth and me. We felt Kiril was relatively healthy for such a small little boy. He seemed to have a good personality. How else do you make such a decision? Elisabeth and I had never been in this position before. Luckily, we had discussed this situation in the middle of the night before Irina asked us.
“Yes, we do.” Elisabeth and I said. Irina had us sign some paperwork which formally stated our request to adopt Kiril.
September 15, 2005
Morning came really early. Neither of us felt sorry to leave that sorry hotel room even if it meant another thirty hour travel day. Irina, really a saint by now, met us at six and took us to the airport in the frosty air.
In Moscow, Sergei and Viktor met us at Sheremetyevo Terminal 1 and drove us over to SVO2. We had a snack with Sergei at the SVO2 TGI Fridays and then he bid us “dosvidanya.” We then shopped in duty free, and ate at the Indian restaurant that was out of Indian food. We walked around some more and then went to our gate area.
The flights home were ok for economy class. Elisabeth’s brother-in-law, Andy, picked us up in Buffalo at about 11 PM. He drove us home and we got to bed about 1:30 AM after some really great showers. At that point, we had been awake for about thirty-two hours.
The next two months were filled with so many things that I wrote a separate chapter.
 A 1MP camera that really helped us in getting a quick report from Boston.
 Living large with cutting edge 1990s technology.