From Kaz with Love

 November 4, 2008

In Our Arms...November 3, 2008
Forgive the long post, so much has happened, we are forever changed.

This is my “birth story” for Nina….

We are here and well. All tolled it took 36 hours to get here and we ‘lost” another half day with the time change, but we are here.

We arrived in Almaty just after midnight and passed through customs fairly easily. The airport in Almaty is relatively small but not overly friendly to this ignorant non Russian speaking American. No problem just stay calm, smile and nod and we figure it out. Once we retrieved our bags we went out to the airport arrivals area and were immediately surrounded by about 50 or so people asking if we wanted a taxi. We did not since our driver Nicolai was there holding a sign that read“PRINTY”. Yup that’s us. Full of naive trust, blind faith and a whole lot of jet lag, we got into his van. He then drove us in the dark of night to a small hotel about 20 minutes away. Described as “simple with uncomfortable beds but affordable” it did the trick. Think the Almaty Hampton Inn complete with breakfast buffet in the morning and you get the idea.

We returned to the Almaty airport at 10:30am for our flight to Ust-Kamenogorsk. Once again we had a little confusion as we navigated the baggage check in process and figured out how to pay the extra charges for our overweight baggage –in Tenge (which we had none). Just another situation where even the tiniest little bit of Russian would have spared me from feeling like a complete idiot. Oh well viva la ugly American. Idiot or not we did make it.

Dart said the Ust-Kameogorsk airport was something straight out of a cold war spy novel, I had to agree. No jet way here: we walked down the stairs, across the tarmac to a fenced in area outside (mind you it was about 30 degrees) and waited for our luggage to be dropped off via dump truck, thank you very much. We were delighted though that in the outdoor baggage claim was our coordinator, Alma along with a driver Arman. As we collected our bags (which all made it unscathed) Alma said we could go to the baby house immediately. My heart started racing with excitement and I had that weird feeling of anticipation in my stomach.  

We are meeting her today.

The driver takes us first to the hotel where we literally dump the bags in our hotel room and go right back to the car and to the baby house. We get there but no Alma. We wait in the car, literally I am staring at the blue and white building that houses (to me it now feels like imprisons) my daughter. LET”S GO!!! Then a call from Alma. There is a problem. The “inspectors” are at the baby house. We must wait. The driver is instructed to take us to Pizza Blues a restaurant around the corner and wait. We do wait, eating and making small talk and pretending to be calm. Then nearly 2 hours later Alma calls. "Come now, hurry" is her command. We practically run.

In less than 5 minutes we are back to the baby house following Alma who is moving so quickly I am afraid I might lose her in the baby house halls. The whole place smells like cabbage, I think it is dinner time. It is dark and all the lights are not working. We come to the director’s office and are told to sit, they will bring her. A few minutes go by and Alma is now saying something to the orphanage director and social worker. It sounds angry to me but the truth is pretty much all Russian sounds a bit angry. I am sure there is a problem. Dart takes my hand and tells me to calm down, its OK, she’s here he reassures and a moment later she is .

No pomp and circumstance, not at all like I imagined it a thousand times over the past year. Instead a nanny just brought her in and matter-of-factly sat her down on a chair.

So now the good part... Nina, Ni-nee-shka as she is called here, dressed for show in a yellow dress and tights sat on that huge chair as still as can be. She was clearly scared but did not dare (it seemed) to cry or whimper she just pouted her little lip and darted her eyes around the room. There were 4 people from the orphanage along with Alma in the room with us. One of them tells Dart to sit down- away from Nina-she hasn’t seen a lot of men - she is afraid of them. Then the same person tells me (translated by Alma) to pick her up.

My God she is small: about 15 pounds, I 'm guessing the size of the boys at 12 months. But oh she is beautiful-the pictures don’t do her justice-really. At this point I am quietly crying and cradling this amazing child. I feel conspicuous that I am being watched but still the tears roll down my face. I rock with her, call her name softly, cry. It is all surreal.

We are told Nina’s birthday is  “twenty five December”. “You mean she was born on Christmas day?” we asked. One of them goes out to get a calendar, “Dah twenty five December...Christmas.”

After ten minutes or so, we must have gotten the thumbs up from the social worker because we are told we can take her upstairs to “bond”. We then spend the next 30 minute rocking, holding and kissing her. Nina is still very unsure but hugs me around the neck and when Dart tries to hold her she lunges into my chest. She seem to love cuddling together. I know I do. And then much too quickly we are told in a breath; "time to go, come back tomorrow and bring pampers".

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