Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Leaving Ekaterinberg, Part One

Today's entry is brought to you by My Pet Blog's one and only guest blogger, Wendy.

May 26, 2005

Leaving Ekaterinburg-Now we so happy, we do the dance of joy

The sign for a salon near our apartment. It's cyrillic for Noelle.

Jupiter likes the dance of makes her laugh.

The Brookstone travel alarm clock beeps bright and early at 3:30am. It's not really bright outside, but it's not really dark either. I can hear the sound though the closed bedroom door, and then it silences as Melissa turns it off. As anxious as I am to leave Ekat, I lay in bed for a few more moments before rising. If I had known what was in store for the rest of the day, I might have stayed there longer. When I get out of bed, I look through the semidarkness into the crib. I have not slept well sharing a room with Jupiter; she is a restless sleeper, and I am a restless Mommy. When she's fidgety, I worry why she isn't sleeping well. Its very hot in the room, which might account for some of the restlessness. On the few times she isn't restlessly moving about her crib, I worry that she might have stopped breathing, and have to get up to check. At the moment she's sleeping soundly; feet and hands sticking out between the rails of the crib. She almost always does that; I wonder if she hopes that even while she's sleeping; an adult might walk by and touch her hand, even if accidentally.

I go into the bathroom and start my official last sulpher shower. It’s taken me this long to figure out that if I can tolerate a bit cooler water, the aroma is slightly lessened. I know that Melissa and I are both psyched to get to Moscow and take a freshwater shower. As always, I feel that my attitude is more negative than I would like. Wendy the world traveler has somehow morphed into Wendy I want to go home. I hope that it's just exhaustion talking. I dry off and leave the towel to the apartment. It is one of many things that we're leaving to the apartment. Either we don't feel the items will ever be properly clean again, or we just don't feel like hauling them halfway around the world. Somebody in Ekaterinburg is even now enjoying Melissa's Polo towels that didn't make the trip home. Speaking of clean, I dress in my jeans, again. It’s been at least five days since they saw water and detergent in the apartment bath, it will be at least three more days they're washed. If we don't get to the Embassy tomorrow, it will be a full week. A dark shirt also seems a wise choice.

After dressing, I go out to prod Melissa awake from the couch (Melissa's note: I was already awake, I swear!), and she takes over the bathroom. I go into the toilet/sink room to brush my teeth with bottled water and put in my contact lenses. My left eye feels a little weird, but sometimes that happens when I'm tired, so I ignore it and head to the kitchen. I skip breakfast, figuring that I'll risk Aeroflots breakfast. I know they'll have yogurt, at the very least. Instead I take stock of the baby food stockpile. I can't bring it all, but there are things that I cannot leave behind. The bag of Russian baby cookies, for instance, must be packed in carryon luggage. I leave behind the cans of baby meat and jars of fruit and vegetables that she refuses to eat. The bag of Russian goldfish crackers are another must. We have a banana that I plan to give her before we leave the apartment. She loves bananas, thank goodness. I spend a long time debating over the box of baby cereal. I know if I pack it, it will spill all over the place, and that will be bad, and possibly mistaken for anthrax by the airlines. I figure that Moscow must have dyetskiy kasha, and the cereal stays behind.

Jupiter checking out her competition (Nadia) in the airport

I pack as much as possible, and then go to rouse Jupiter from the crib. I don't expect her to wake easily, but she seems to enjoy the unexpected attention. I dress her in a pink I love Mommy shirt and comfy pants; no onesies because who knows what the diaper changing opportunities will be? Then she finishes a box of dyetsky malako (I wonder if the milk is truly enhanced for infants, or if its just the packaging. In any case, I am very fond of the small boxes of milk just enough for one or two servings. It seems to taste better than the regular boxed milk. I've been buying them every time that we go into the grocery store.) and eats her banana. Tyotya comes out to finish packing her things, and Jupiter goes to her to receive her attention ration. I'm busy trying to figure out how many American dollars I owe Katya and Sergei. Melissa has to check the bullet point travel journal (neither of us has had time to write a fully fledged travel journal kept up daily) to remind me on which days we did which things. I try to put the approximate amounts in separate pieces of folded paper. (I had planned to bring drive up envelopes for that purpose, but forgot to get them before leaving. And they call me a bank employee.) Then I try to add an appropriate tip to each pile. This is a hard one. On the one hand, some of the things that Katya and Sergei have done for us fall into the category of priceless (for everything else there's Mastercard. And rubles.) No amount of tip can repay that. If I don't get the amount right, I run the risk of offending them. Finally I pick an amount for each, and place the tips into the final gift bags. Katya gets the last LL Bean tote, with peanut butter Lindt chocolates, a hat and scarf set as the first thing she ever asked us (back in November) was if we had hats, and a Tommy photo album. I place a photo of Jupiter smiling into the photo album. I figure especially after the court fiasco, Katya might need to see a happy baby face for encouragement. Next time will be better. I've finally stopped dreaming in Tetris block patterns. Sergei gets one of the Tommy bags, only because I don't have anything else to place his gift in. I'll have to have Katya explain the concept of regifting to him. He also gets his own bag of Lindt chocolates (the variety pack), a box of blueberry tea and a thermo mug for his hot tea; hopefully he'll use it while sitting in the car waiting during a Siberian winter. And fall. And spring.

We wait in the apartment for the arrival. Katya calls from her cell phone to tell us they're downstairs, and Melissa goes to let them in. I dress Jupiter in her pink fleece jacket and hat, just because its morning, and a bit damp. She insisted on wearing her suede pink boots. My carry-on has changed into a blue diaper bag, which is crammed full of everything I think we might possibly need for a 90 minute flight to Moscow. My big mommy purse has changed into one of the Tommy bags, because it is the right size to hold documents, and is thus infinitely more useful at the moment than the big mommy purse. Melissa has managed to fit everything she needs into one bag and one carry-on. After packing the car, Sergei can close the trunk. This is a good thing. Sergei drives the nearly empty streets of Ekaterinburg. I'm torn between trying to remember what it looks like for Jupiter, and just being happy that we're finally leaving.

Jupiter and Katya walking in the airport

Katya gives me the final invoices, and I make the final adjustments before handing over the folded paper with money. Katya gives Jupiter a gift, a painted china spoon. We give Katya her gift; she seems especially fond of the knit hat and mittens that Melissa chose for her. Melissa has orchestrated the entire Russian gifting process; choosing, obtaining, and, for the most part, packaging. It’s been a huge relief for me to not have to worry about that. As expected, Sergei's packaging is not perceived as a "man" gift; I ask Katya to suggest that he might give it to his wife to use for shopping.

Jupiter is fretful, crying and finally screaming. I murmur "karasho," (okay) to her to no avail. Katya turns around from the front seat to speak to her in Russian. Jupiter quiets and listens to words she understands, focusing intently on Katya. Katya tells her not to cry, she has a mommy and an auntie who love her and will take good care of her. Finally Jupiter sits on my lap quietly. Melissa remembers to ask Katya about the French maid girls we saw yesterday. She explains (not for the first time, apparently) that it’s a tradition for the last day of classes, for what we would call high school seniors, before they begin their exams. They dress up in traditional school uniforms from the Soviet time and go on outings around the city. The closest thing I can compare it to is Senior Skip Day.

The airport is busy even just after 5am. Sergei drags bags, I try to stuff Jupiter into her hip carrier. Once inside the crowded airport we stand against the wall, waiting. We're waiting for Sam, Diane, Nadia, and Alonna to arrive. I worry that waiting will cause us to miss the flight. The turbulent line is standing at the window. Finally Alonna reaches Katya's cell phone to say they are in the parking lot. Katya brings us to the window to check in our luggage. The woman verifies our passports and tickets, and weighs the bags. By some miracle, we have not accumulated overweight charges. We're relieved, because we've heard that one of the families that left recently was overcharged in a big way for their overweight bags.

Ready for takeoff

Katya tells us that the plane is delayed. Instead of leaving at 7am, it will not leave until 8am. We go to sit in chairs by the front windows. Diane and Nadia, and finally Sam and Alonna, join us. We try to figure out why the plane is delayed, and find out that evidently there is fog somewhere that is causing the problem. I don't remember seeing any fog, and am obsessed with how there can be fog without my having noticed. Sam has wandered upstairs to look out the windows there, and he says that yes, there is fog. We watch people checking in for the other flights, and slowly the number of people in the waiting area declines. We sit around and try to keep two babies entertained with just a few toys, and anything else we can think of. Jupiter walks across the airport to the stairs with me. She walks with Melissa. She walks with Katya. Alonna has to leave to take care of her son, so she says goodbye to Diane and Sam and Nadia and returns to the city with their driver. Katya continues to wait with us in the airport. At 7am, we find out that the plane has been diverted to another airport. It will not leave until 9am.

Jupiter is a bit grouchy, given that she's only had a banana so far today and it’s high time for her morning cereal. I have some formula powder in a bottle, and decide to get some water to mix with it, which I can then mix with the sippy cup of kasha I have in the carryon. I walk down to the cafe, which has bottles of aquafina in a cooler. I open the cooler, and am greeted by a flurry of Russian behind the counter. The woman sounds displeased, so I'm assuming that either I cannot have the nice cold water from the cooler and must have warm water from somewhere else, or I must go next door to buy the water. I say that I don't speak Russian in Russian, so the woman shrugs and accepts my 20 rubles. Proudly I return to the chairs with my bottle of water. Melissa glances at it and informs me that I just bought sparkling water. Damn. I can't mix her cereal with sparkling water. Immediately my pride is reduced to tears of frustration. My child is hungry and at this point I have nothing to feed her. I tell Katya that I want milk for her. We wander around the airport searching for milk. The cafe doesn't have milk. The tea stand doesn't have milk. The first class waiting room doesn't have milk. The entire airport, in fact, doesn't have milk. Katya tells me to wait in the airport, and she goes out to the parking lot to the store and returns with a box of milk. A big box.

I try to open the box, and milk squirts all over us. A Russian man sitting behind us takes the box from me and opens it. I tell him spasiba, and can tell that he's talking about us to all the other passengers. I'm not sure that what he says is complimentary, although he seemed friendly enough when he handed me the open box. I mix the formula with the milk and dump some into the cereal. I don't remember if she actually ate the cereal. She ate some cereal bar and it crumbled all over the floor underneath us. I look for the skeleton like cat that we saw earlier; it would be a feast for him.

Jupiter jams out to the Russian iPod for awhile, sitting still and relaxed on my lap, something which happens only rarely. Stacy is impressed by this. Jupiter has not been kind in her interactions with Nadia; Jupiter is very possessive of her adults. Diane and I chat for a bit while we're sitting in the airport. Having other adoptive parents to talk to is a relief; we rehash various details of our experiences in country, and share our desire to go home. It’s not just me. Sam and Katya have gone to the check in window to try to get some things for Nadia. The agents made them check what they had planned on carrying onto the plane, so they had nothing for Nadia. They return successfully, and change Nadia into cooler clothes. It’s quite hot in the airport. I walk Jupiter up and down the airport for awhile, back and forth, and she finally falls asleep in my arms. I return to the chairs and sit carefully so as not to wake her up. I close my own eyes, trying to not cry from frustration, exhaustion, whatever. Besides, my left eye is really starting to hurt now. I rub it and discover its starting to ooze. Please God, don't let it be conjunctivitis. Not now.

Jupiter doesn't sleep for long, but long enough to recharge her batteries. Finally, at last, the arrival of the flight from Moscow is announced. At least now, our plane is HERE. At the same airport where we are waiting. All the other flights have long since departed, the only people around are waiting for our flight. Katya hugs us goodbye for the last time at the security checkpoint. The first one through security, I carefully pull Sam and Diane's bags off the belt, as well as our own. I try not to touch them. The second waiting room has more chairs than the first. Jupiter doesn’t want to stand still. She holds my hands and wanders among the other passengers. She reminds me of the Princess Diaries. "Thank you for being here today." Because she is adorable, all the passengers smile at her. Most likely they're all hoping not to be seated near her. We stand next to one of the big tvs for awhile. Nobody pays any attention to the tv until a soccer update is broadcast. All the indifferent heads in the waiting area swivel as one towards the television. Obligingly, I duck out of the way. We board the bus to go to the aircraft. Diane and I are parked next to the side of the bus, holding the babies so they can see out the window. Sam and Melissa stand behind us, serving as a buffer between us and the other passengers. We are nearly the last to leave the bus and find ourselves at the back of a teardrop shaped line.

An Aeroflot attendant sees us and motions us around the line, and as we head where he's indicated I see him searching for the other baby, so I assume the flight crew is aware there are two infants on this flight. Melissa and I are directed to the front of the line, and soon Sam and Diane join us. Jupiter and I are the absolute first people to climb the steps to the plane. Somehow, I find this totally cool. (Melissa's note: Me too.) We find our seats, and try to arrange all our necessities (toys, pacifier, sippy cup, document bag, diaper bag, baby) satisfactorily. We have a free middle seat for Jupiter. Sam and Diane are across the aisle from us. After the other passengers have boarded, but before taking off, we take turns snapping pictures of each family's departure from Ekat. As the plane taxis, I feel a sense of relief. Now, finally, I'm convinced that the judge isn't going to come after me to take back Jupiter. We're safe.

Leaving Ekaterinberg...Not that Wendy's at all excited about that.

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