28 November 2008

while they're at p.e....

Just popping in to wish you all a belated Thanksgiving.

Still no car.
Still no internet.

But, those little ducks are still marching smartly behind me every time I look over my shoulder. And for that, I'm very thankful.

Thanksgiving stories as soon as I'm able to post from home.

21 November 2008

good news

Long-time readers will have guessed that I have had no internet for the past week and a half. And, I feel funny about posting from school. But, I've overcome my compunction to cc you all on an e-mail I wrote to new agency today:

Here's good news! My new I-171H is finally, FINALLY here!

With the MOE back in the office next week, I think it's time for more good news...and all my ducks, those tricky little bureaucratic ducks, are finally in a row.

December 3 will be 1000 days since I signed with my first agency and started this process officially. (That doesn't count the two years prior that it took for me to clear debts, save up adoption fees and make myself more "stable" by giving up acting and going back to teaching.) I think it's TIME!

I predict good news on December 3. Should we start a pool?


How's that for good news?

11 November 2008

crystal clear?

Can you believe I've resorted to this? Here are the answers from an online "crystal ball". (Silly. I know.) All in all, I was quite pleased...

Will I meet my daughter this year?
The outcome you desire will come to pass.

Will my daughter come home this year?
Not a chance.

Is d2b plural?

10 November 2008

field trip!

Teaching third culture children presents some interesting dichotomies.

My students can't go outside and play by themselves, but we're taking a field trip to Moscow. The cast of Seussical is on its way to show the elementary students in our big, Moscow school our play later this week. It's a first for us. And we're excited! About ten of these students are only third and fourth graders, (Can you parents of eight- and nine-year-olds imagine sending our child to Moscow for three days?) but a trip to Moscow while exciting, is not out of the realm of normal for them.

We were talking about how we'll travel (train this time) and some security procedures we'll need to follow (no one leaves the train car--even to go to the bathroom--without an adult) when questions came up about seating. I asked how many people had taken this train (the "sitting up" train as opposed to the "sleeping" train) to Moscow. Only two people had. When I asked who had been on a train before, every hand was raised and some scoffing, "Of COURSE" noises were voiced.

It's amazing to me what is normal to my students. They can convert currencies in their heads, regularly carry their passports, are more likely to suspect visa issues than the flu for an extended absence of a classmate and are experts at navigating an airport. They are friendly and flexible. They know how to blend in to a foreign culture. But, they don't ride bikes to their friends house, know much about their "home country", and only three of my twenty-two cast members can turn a cartwheel. They learned to swim, ride bikes and tie their shoes late.

There are advantages and disadvantages to raising a third culture child. I've read about it, attended seminars and done a lot of observing. Some families, most families are much closer and much stronger. They are the constant. Siblings are closer--better playmates and more staunch protectors. But, there is an element of insecurity. Moving every three years becomes a habit. Many tck have a hard time reintegrating into their home cultures when they return. And, many live unsettled lives--moving or reinventing their lives frequently. I thought I'd come home soon after adopting. But, recent developments have made me think that I might prefer to stay abroad for the next four years. ;> For now, I'll settle for a trip to Moscow. We'll let you know how the touring version of Seussical goes!

09 November 2008

не сказка

This was in my last (long) post:

...Yesterday I got there and found only two of my eight girls there. The others were home for the holdiay...and a few are home with grandparents for good! This is a fairy tale ending to their stories that left me overjoyed for them, a little worried that it wouldn't last, and heartbroken that I didn't get to say goodbye...

I was wrong. It isn't a fairy tale at all. Two sisters, L&P are being taken into the home of an older lady, but it isn't their grandmother. She has also started the paperwork to take one of my other sisters, N. N's older sister, Kl will not be staying with them as I'd originally been told. Something happened and I don't know what.

I am hoping to get to see N before she moves for good. She's back in the children's home today and will be there until her paperwork is processed. I am hoping that at age 10 she has to be consulted for a guardianship as she would for an international adoption. But, on the other hand, I hope she does not have to be the one who makes the final decision. I cannot imagine being ten years old and having to choose between remaining with my sister, the sister who took such good care of me in the children's home, the only family I have left, the only family I've known for the last few years and the opportunity to leave the children's home. She would be with good friends, but not with her sister. N is a meek, gentle, funny girl who needs to be in a home. I worry about what will happen to her if she stays in the orphanage. She isn't a fighter. But leaving her sister behind might be more than she can bear.

Oh, my sweet girls! What impossible portions have been put on your plates.

03 November 2008

3.10 yesterday

My visits to celebrate birthdays in 3.10 start days before. I find out what the girls want for their birthday and go shopping. In addition to a requested item (shower gel, a hair dryer, black ballet-style shoes), I like to add in some "accessories" and include a new item of clothing. I know they have plenty to wear. I've seen it. But, I think it must be nice for them to have something new, too.

I always bring an activity for all of us to do together. I want to spend time with them. And, I want them to celebrate their friends' birthdays without feeling jealous. We make bracelets, decorate pots and plant flowers...that sort of thing. Yesterday we had салон красоты с Кейт (a beauty salon with Kate). I took basins, new towels, foot soak, scrub and lotion, nail files, toe separators and lots of miniature bottles of nail polish. After Kl's reaction to her lotion, I wanted to spend some time on girly pampering.

I also bake. This time, I made blondies. They were awful! So...I made some chocolate sauce, bought four different kinds of Baskin Robbins and dug out the sprinkles an ex-pat left behind. I packed plates (no disposable bowls) and plastic spoons. And, I picked up bananas on the way. Despite bagging them in a thermal bag and surrounding them with gallon ziplock bags of ice, we had slightly melted sundaes. (Ice cream soup!) They were not impressed with my description of American banana splits, but enjoyed the ice cream first and the bananas later.

Yesterday I got there and found only two of my eight girls there. The others were home for the holdiay...and a few are home with grandparents for good! This is a fairy tale ending to their stories that left me overjoyed for them, a little worried that it wouldn't last, and heartbroken that I didn't get to say goodbye. I'm hoping I can at least send them some letters.

I seem to come during holidays often. That just seems to be how the girls' birthdays (and my car's health!) coincide with my schedule. While it's sad to not get to see everyone, I think it might be even better for the girls left behind to have something special. We had a new friend (She a little girl who was new and shell-shocked last Christmas who recieved a doll.) join us and two boys. The groups had been somewhat combined over the holiday to let staff have a break. The boys were happy to join in the ice cream party--wishing N all sorts of lovely things--but declined the beauty salon. Instead they played video games.

My girls are so sweet and so dear! They laughed and played with me and with each other. They did and re-did (of course I remembered the remover, cotton pads and cotton swabs) their nails--

--and mine.

(left hand by N--sort of French manicure with daisy,
right hand by Ka--feathered with a toothpick and three silver dots)

They demonstrated the dances that N has been learning in her Saturday classes. Ka has the chicken pox and was covered in green spots, but it didn't dim her smile. She came running up the path to meet me and beamed the entire time. She and N walked me to my car afterwards despite my protests that they were not suitably dressed. (Their caretaker dismissed that thought and let them walk me to my car in shorts and camis! They'd gotten very hot dancing. I've moved pre-teen underwear up my mental list of needed items.) We just have such an easy time together. It's warm and relaxed and simple and fun. Each visit lets me see a little more and know them a little better. There weren't surprises in personality this time...which made me feel like I really DO know them now. And, as I was leaving, I met another new girl from a different group and encouraged them to invite her to the salon. They did with all eagerness--putting her hands in to soak and getting out the polish for her to choose. I love their generosity.

I had the chance to chat with two of the caretakers who were there while the girls were preparing their dance show for us. I invited them to the beauty salon and did their hands, too! While it wasn't exactly a footwashing, being able to take their hands, both the hands of these precious girls and of these women, and wash them and soothe them was a privilege. (No one was willing to take off their shoes.) The caretakers wanted to know if I had children. I told them I didn't, that I wanted to adopt, that St. Petersburg said no. When they asked why I just told them I didn't know--maybe because I was an American. They thought this was a nightmare. I agreed. They asked if I was married, how old I was, where in America I was from. I saw the newest pictures of their children and grandchildren.

I enjoy the time I get to spend with them. It makes me feel a part of a team. The girls' primary caretaker, AN, loves them so much. It shows not just in how she treats them--an affectionate pop on the yagadeetsi, including me in conversations about cigarettes so that I can add my warnings to hers, telling me what marks everyone had in school, the way she LISTENS to them, the way she encourages each one to show what is special about her--but in how they treat each other. There is much teasing and laughter. There is a generosity of spirit. There are affectionate kisses on the little ones' foreheads and pats on the head. It's a magical room, 3.10.

Yesterday, AN, was telling me why different children were in the orphanage. I didn't really understand all of it, though I'll ask my friends here about a certain word and gesture. The grief that she had over these parents who didn't realize how good, how kind their daughters are was easily understood and shared. We comiserated over the injustice of it. I think she knows how much I love these girls and want the best for them. I did find that one of my sister sets had no mother and father. It just makes it harder to leave them. Her wonderment of the injustice of them having no parents and me having no children was comforting in a way. When the directors and caretaker find out I want to adopt and ask me to come back for one of their children, it is a great honor. The trust they have in me is humbling and encouraging.

So, it was a typical visit. It was happy and joyful. The planning is fun. The visit was wonderful. The drive home is long and hard.

less possible

I had an e-mail from new agency to say that Miss Possible is decidedly less possible now (though still not impossible). This has left me feeling...relieved. The MOE in her region and I have the same concern--and her very best interest at heart. This is a good thing. REALLY.

(I knew I bought those boots too soon!)

02 November 2008

in hot water

I am a small car kind of girl. My car of choice when back home in the US--a vintage (read, "old, affordable, 150K+") BMW 3 series. Seriously. Love them.

When I moved to St. Petersburg, I didn't really need a car. I had friends who took me grocery shopping that first year, and everything else was withing walking distance. The second year, I decided to buy a car. I wanted to be able to take d2b to the doctor if needed without calling a taxi and to have more freedom and control over my schedule. (Don't laugh. That was before I knew about the random towing and Mechanical Munchhausen.)

Because of my job, I have the privilege of having diplomatic plates. That means, I need to buy a car that has dip plates. Switching types of license plates is unheard of--probably very expensive and paperwork intensive. So, I asked around at school and the consulate. No dice. There were some cars available from teachers at the Moscow school--including a SAAB that sounded right up my alley. After getting jerked around by a real jerk, it became clear that the SAAB was not coming anywhere near my alley. BUT, the then-new principal in St. P was getting a new car, so I could buy the old principal's car. It's a Blazer. It's huge.

That's not all bad. It is harder for me to wiggle through traffic. But, it's already knocked around, so I don't worry about that. It gives me some weight to throw around when push comes to shove as it so often does in Russian traffic. And, it fits loads of orphanage donations!

Last week, my car came back (yea!) but needs new brakes (boo.). I said the brakes would have to wait until I made some orphanage trips. On Friday, V and I visited four orphanages and delivered lots of medicine, used toys and outgrown clothes. Today, I went to see my girls in 3.10. Along with the usual birthday goodies, I was able, thanks to one of Rachael's readers, deliver a hot water heater! This generous reader donated enough to money purchase one-and-a-half hot water heaters for the kiddos at the L. orphanage. (And, since Maxidom wouldn't let me buy half a hot water heater, I kicked in for the rest.)

So all I had to do was shop for hot water heaters. Why do I think I can do these things? If I know what I'm doing, then my limited Russian vocabulary isn't a problem. If my limited vocabulary covers an unfamiliar activity, I'm fine. Today...welll... I had been assured by V (WHY do I keep believing her? And people in general??) that all I had to do was ask for a hot water heater. (Guess what--"boiler" is the same in both languages. I did find that out before I went.) When I asked what kind, what specifications, she told me it would be easy. Any one would work. She implied that there would only be one kind.

Maybe she didn't know what she was talking about (ya think?) and just acted like an expert (not a cultural trend or anything...). Maybe the last time she shopped for hot water heaters there only was one kind. Not so today. There were LOADS of different models!! Being a brat, I didn't want to call V to ask about it. So I called M at the orphanage. Who doesn't speak any English.

I explained where I was and what I was doing (Hi, M, it's Kate. I'm at Maxidom doing the shopping for the boiler. No, not the children's home, MAXIdom. The shop. You understand? I am doing the shopping for the boiler. The machine to do hot water. Yes? Please will you speak to the man here?) and we got it sorted. There was a long conference that included me and four employees--one who was helping, one who was listening, one who (it was much later revealed) spoke a little English and a woman who was there for solidarity. I finally chose one--not the most expensive and not the cheapest. (None were brands I recognized.) NACH, the men "weren't allowed" to help me take it to my car. Apparently they weren't even allowed to help me take it out of the department. Fortunately, simple machines are a part of the second grade curriculum, so I was able to navigate through the store (on the cart it was taller than I), pay, get the warranty stamped and then load it into the car myself (said the little red hen).

When I bring donations, I like to slip in and slip out. I don't like to have thanks loaded upon me. (Had an extremely uncomfortable moment when the then-principal came with the students and I to deliver some donations to a children's home and she wanted the kids there to understand that our students had collected clothes and toys for them. EXTREMELY uncomfortable.) So, after getting some help unloading and handing off the warranty, smiling and nodding, I left to find my girls.

Rachael's reader, I send all the thanks to you! I know that hot showers will be greatly appreciated this winter. Spacebo bolshoi!