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 113 - Kazakhstan Part 7

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. ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The plane shook and shuddered. It felt as though someone were bowling and we were the pins. The plane muscled forward and then would be knocked suddenly to the right or left. The sun had set and left us in blackness, a cat toy on a spring being slapped by an unseen paw.

The announcement came in multiple languages that the weather was forcing plane to divert to Tashkent, the capital of Uzbekistan. Tashkent sits close to the borders of Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgystan, and Tajikistan. It was not a great time in history for Americans to be stranded in Moslem countries.

From the position of the lights, the runway seemed very short in comparison to the huge plane with its 350 passengers. We braced for landing. From the squealing and shuddering that rippled through the plane, it seemed that the pilot was standing on the flap controls and brakes all the way down. We rolled to a stop by the last row of lights.

How long would we be there? No one could say. Could we leave the plane? Probably not.

It was dark. We sat on the runway. And sat. They brought us water and a snack. We sat and tried to sleep.

A few hours passed and we were cleared for take-off. We'd been on a plane or between planes for a solid one and one-half days with only the amount of sleep that one can get with your spine reclined 15 degrees from vertical and between the elbows of strangers. We had mentally checked out and our bodies were merely along for the ride.

We landed in Almaty, the largest city and former capital of Kazakhstan, at about 3:30 in the morning on November 2. Blessedly, our luggage did as well.

We flowed out of the plane and into the terminal as part of the weary river of travelers, gathered our luggage caravan and made our way to Customs. There were armed soldiers and official-looking people everywhere. Most were slight Asian men and a few women in starched, intricate uniforms. The most striking aspect of the uniforms, other than the automatic weapons, was the outsized headgear. These were big hats. I mean pope's mitre big, Yosemite Sam's ten-gallon hat big. Picture an admiral's brimmed hat, only made to the same scale as the giant sunglasses from a novelty store. They worn their enormous hats with pride, like living chess pieces with no sense of humor and a gun that indicated, "Don't laugh at my funny hat." I have no pictures of this since the general tone was as far from humor as looking into a coffin.

Our visas good for 90 days were glued inside our passports and stamped by an angry-looking woman in a gray metal and glass box.

We stood in a large open room with a gate on one end and some office cubes in the middle. There was a form indicating that we would need to declare items being brought into the country including large sums of cash. Scratching at the currency still taped to my side, I started to fill out the form. A group of four Big Hats was circling our luggage and seemed particularly interested in the contents. Other adoptive parents had recounted horror stories of having their laptops and other personal possessions seized by corrupt airport officials and having to pay a ransom to get them back. Terry was taller than any of them, even with their super-sombreros and formed a human shield. I kept trying to fill out the stupid form in a dogged pursuit of trying to follow the rules of a country where a lot of people seemed to have guns. I looked through the gate to see a tall Russian man and a petite Asian woman with a sign with our last name on it. They waved with a strong "Come here right now" motion. We grabbed the luggage, moved out of line, and walked as casually as possible around the office cubes and straight through the gate in the fence.

Sasha the driver grabbed the luggage and led us forcefully through the crowd. The coordinator, whose name was something like Anya, pushed from behind until we found ourselves in the back seat of a small Russian car with our luggage stuffed in the boot. I kept asking about the Customs Declaration form throughout the exodus since the adoption agency had been clear on the need for this process. I got answers that seemed to mean, "Don't worry about it. It's just a rule." A few weeks later, I would understand exactly what this type of answer meant but right then I was concerned.

Sasha's car had no discernible shock absorbers. The vibration of the floor boards made it seem like we were riding about six inches above the ground. I kept one hand wound around the handles from the suitcases, afraid that they would fly out of the open back of the vehicle as Sacha careened madly through the streets. Ironically, this was more harrowing than the airborne storm. We caught glimpses of the city with a large building here and some interesting lighting there. Sasha and Anya debated where to take us since we had been expected many hours sooner. We stopped in front of a tall building, the Hotel Kazakhstan. Anya led us in while Sacha dumped the luggage onto a cart. Anya talked with the lone night clerk in Kazakh or Russian, I don't know which. He gave us a room key card and gestured to the elevator.

Anya, switching back to textbook English, told us to get some sleep and that she would call the room in the early afternoon to make arrangements for our flight to Uralsk in the next morning. We dragged the cart into the elevator, made our way to our floor and then to our door, shoved the luggage into the small room and collapsed on the bed.

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