I had some dreams ... they were klowns in my koffee.

(With apologies to Carly Simon)

This is my journey through job transition from a toxic environment to a better life. Join me for a few thoughts and a few laughs along the way.
What are "klowns in my koffee"? They are the factors large and small that make you less than you are. A "klown" can be a grossly incompetent boss,
a short-sighted policy or a moronic coworker. They won't kill you, at least not immediately, but they abrade the soul
as you scrape past them to get through the day. Sometimes it's best to dump them out of the cup.


Day 79 - Kazakhstan Part 4

Every Sunday, this blog will describe our life-changing trip to Kazakhstan in 2005 to adopt our two youngest children. While some of our friends and family have seen a few of the pictures, we've never put it all together in an organized format. One of the reasons is that I hesitate to subject others to a 21st century version of the endless slideshow of vacation photos harking to some relative's visit and a lost evening of my childhood. Still, the story must be told before details are lost since this is my children's unique birthright. When we get to the end of the story, I'll edit the posts together into an extended and separate blog page and then have it printed by one of the blog-to-book(let) services for my kids. For people with less interest, these posts will be easy to identify and avoid. ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

We had hoped that the timing would be right for my then fifteen-year-old daughter to accompany us to Kazakhstan, a trip that would be undeniably educational and, at the very least, potential material for college entrance essays. She received her passport and was enthusiastic about the prospect. As summer inched toward fall, however, it seemed less and less likely that the trip could be completed in time to avoid disrupting school. As I shared custody with my ex-husband, he generously agreed to take over full custody for the period of time that we would be out of the country. This relieved one source of anxiety, though I was secretly concerned that this living arrangement would prove too comfortable for her and that she might not want to come home to new siblings, our chaotic household and more restrictions than she would have at her father's house.

One day in mid-October, I received a phone message at work from Bianca, our contact at Tree of Life, asking me to call her as soon as possible. I dialed with hesitation, knowing that the adoption listservs were full of rumors about the possibility of further restrictions being imposed by the government of Kazakhstan. Bianca had good news -- our letter of invitation had arrived so we needed to prepare to leave quickly. The other boot fell when she announced that we needed to have FBI clearances completed right away.

The next few days were like living in a blender. We applied for the clearances. Like all government processes, you get what you get. In theory, you spin the wheel and check the mailbox every day, hoping for the response that you want. To the credit of all levels of government with whom we worked in this entire lengthy adoption procedure, there are actual caring people whom you can find and they will help you if you are tenacious enough to cut through the first level of administrivia. Since my impression of the FBI comes largely from popular media, it was a weird cultural dissonance to find out that you can just call them. I talked with a very nice agent and begged her to expedite the application. The adoption agency was pushing me to finalize a departure date and get plane tickets and yet were equally clear that going to Kazakhstan without the required documents would be useless. As the Kazak government shuts down for an extended period over the winter holidays, we were also being painted into a corner on that end of the scheduling, knowing that we would have to be finalized and fly back out before mid-December or face an extra month overseas.

The adoption agency pushed for a departure date and suggested that we proceed without the clearance and, assuming that it was granted, have the final approval documents couriered from the US to Kazakhstan when they were granted. To say that this seemed like a risky idea is an understatement and I resisted. After a week or so, my FBI agent seemed optimistic and we asked our travel consultant to find us tickets. Fingers crossed.

Adoption travel is a specialty and there are a few agencies in the country for whom this is a main focus. The challenge is to find reasonable pricing for round trip tickets where the departure date is fixed but the return date cannot be predicted. The booking also has to reflect that more people are coming back than went in the first place. The airlines will claim that they have special adoption rates but I never found anything that was less expensive than having a travel agent book the appropriate regular flights.

Legendary among international adoption travelers is Golden Rule Travel. The agency specializes in adoption and missionary travel and was founded as a outgrowth of the owner's personal religious commitment. Our agent sincerely and genuinely regarded this activity as his ministry. While rescuing the godless savages through our Christian largess is a concept that I hope died with Rudyard Kipling, our time crunch made me realize quickly that I didn't have to buy into the philosophy behind Golden Rule to appreciate how good they are at what they do.

There are three standard ways to fly to Kazakhstan via Europe -- through Frankfort (United/Lufthansa), Amsterdam (Northwest[now Delta]/KLM) or London (British Airways).

We stepped off the cliff and booked tickets for October 31 from Minneapolis to Chicago to Frankfort to Almaty, Kazakhstan. As the departure date approached and the FBI clearance didn't appear, I nervously called my personal Agent Scully and asked for an ETA. She happily announced that they had mailed the final documents the previous day. And so, one day before take-off, we had our FBI clearances.

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