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 127 - Kazakhstan Part 9

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 woke up very early in the little triangular hotel room in Almaty and dragged the wall-o-luggage into the lobby. We were met by the agency's coordinator and then piled into the back of Sasha's death car. It was a little less frantic this time or perhaps we had become used to half the wheels leaving the pavement when rounding corners. Either way, we were at the airport in quick order.

Sasha carted the luggage in while Anya handed us the tickets. They stood in line with us until the security gate and then waved a hearty good-bye with a promise to pick us up on the return trip unfathomable weeks in the future.

The carrier for the flight from Almaty to Uralsk was Air Astana, the national carrier. It was a good-sized jet and completely filled with travelers. I was once again struck by the excellent food and wonderful treatment that airline passengers receive anywhere but the United States.

At this time in the US, the concept of identifying potential security threats by ethnic appearance was a controversy. Looking around the plane, everyone other than us looked like someone who would be pulled out of line in an American airport. Playing "one of these things is not like the others," I suppose we looked liked the potential terrorists.

Compared to trans-Atlantic flight, this wasn't a long trip but it was still a few hours going from one end of a large country to the other. The view out the window was desolate, miles and miles of what seemed to be nothing. We had a stopover in one of the small cities and I was thrilled to spot a caravan of camels before we rose too high into the clouds.

Finally, Uralsk. This city is said to be the most Russian city in Kazakhstan. The small city is located close to the Russian border and the population is about evenly split between ethnic Russians and ethnic Kazaks. It would be our home for the next few weeks.

We landed at the tiny but neat Uralsk airport. Our escorts from the adoption agency identified us quickly. Inna, our translator, later told us that was because there were copies of our passport pictures in her folder, but more likely it was because we were the only people who didn't look like we belonged.

Inna would be our nearly constant companion for any official function while in Uralsk. With her was a young driver named Yuri. We would later learn that Yuri's wife and child had won a green card lottery to emigrate to the US; they lived in Seattle and were waiting for him to someday find a way to get there.
Our luggage rolled down. In Almaty, enterprising men stand by to accost the luggage of newcomers and you end up paying for their "help" in releasing it and moving it to your vehicle. Mindful of this, Terry grabbed the luggage and nearly got in a tug-of-war with Yuri, whom he did not recognize in the sea of bundled up strangers wearing gray and black. We worked past that embarrassment, gathered our luggage and made our way to Yuri's car.

Yuri was a more conservative driver that Sasha had been and his car was in better shape. Inna sat in the front passenger seat and chitchatted with us. She was an attractive blonde in her late twenties. She was an ethnic Russian who had learned English in school. She was accomplished enough to have translated for another large adoption agency working in the area but had a falling out with them. This was one of her first assignments with Tree of Life.

Inna said that it was important that we meet with the representative from the Ministry of Education that afternoon so that orphanage visits could be started. The MOE is the gatekeeper.

Looking out the window of the car, we saw a severe but not empty landscape. It reminded me of some stretches of Canada on the way to Sudbury. Inna pointed out land across the Oral River that was Russia. How cool is that!

The typical protocol was for the local coordinator, Natalya, to meet us at the airport but Inna said she was helping a family who was departing that day and would meet us later.

We were taken to an ornate office building and met Natalya outside. Natalya was beautifully dressed and had a charming accent. She reminded me of a less waif-like Audrey Hepburn. The building was an odd mixture of old and new. It had the feel of the school buildings in small towns that were built early in the century and then freshly painted to almost, but not completely, obscure the aging. Natalya led us inside to the Ministry of Education office. The woman from the MOE was statuesque and very fashionably dressed. She asked us a few questions that Natalya translated. We answered the best that we could. The MOE woman seemed satisfied with the answers and we were told that we could start seeing children that very afternoon.

This had already been an extremely long day but the exciting parts were yet to come. Inna and Yuri drove us to our apartment where we were met by Nastya, one of Natalya's assistants. The building looked ramshackle and scary, sort of a Russian Cabrini Green. A battered access door led to a dimly lit stairwell and concrete walls. Making our way up four flights, we smelled that mixture of urine and boiled cabbage that permeates old apartment buildings. Nastya unlocked the apartment door and then unlocked a thick security door inside that. I wondered how many doors were in there and why they were needed. The inner door opened and, unlike the exterior and the stairwell, the apartment was tidy, cozy and clean.

Nastya emphasized the importance of not damaging anything in the apartment since it all belonged to an elderly woman who was staying with her daughter for the time that we would use the place. I wondered if we looked like people who would destroy a little old lady's knick-knacks and crystal chandelier or if everybody received this talk. Later, when we knew people better, we found out that the last couple -- the ones that Natalya had to "help" so that she couldn't come to the airport -- had let their adoptive child run wild in a rented apartment and had not kept diapers on him or her either. The apartment had extensive damage and the agency was in danger of losing their ability to get locals to sublet to adoptive parents.

Nastya, Inna and Yuri all trooped out and said that they would be back in an hour or two to pick us up and start the visits. They suggested that we rest. Yeah, right!

No comments:

Post a Comment