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 148 - Kazakhstan Part 12

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. ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
Dima's car wove through Uralsk intersections while Inna explained that the region had two infant and toddler orphanages, Baby House 1 and Baby House 2. Dima turned off the main street and took a muddy road past what seemed to be an open air market. The car lurched in the deep ruts leading through a gate. There we were: Baby House 1.

Baby House 1 seemed somehow cheerier and better kept than the preschool had been. We made our way up the pink stairs and through a heavy wooden door. The front office was spare but clean. Inna said something to a young woman sitting behind the office's sole desk. Inna gestured to us to sit and wait on a padded bench. She and the receptionist entered a nearby office.

Shortly, a stout blonde woman in a white medical coat entered the room and greeted us with a warm smile. Inna introduced her as Dr. Irina, the director of the Baby House. We were shown into her office where she asked us a few general questions. By then, we were used to answering just about anything anyone asked us without a second thought.

A few minutes into our interview, the young woman reentered the room holding a baby. We recognized the child as Anastasiya, the nine-month-old girl that the agency had been very excited about. We had received a picture of the baby while still in the US but no video or medical information. The picture had shown a dour-looking baby that somehow looked like an old Russian babushka, an elderly grandmother. We took the limited information to the University of Minnesota Adoption Clinic for evaluation. Dr. Johnson said that he had some concerns but not enough information to make a formal recommendation. He said, "When you see her, use your senses and you'll have a pretty good idea of her condition."
And there she was.

As I held the baby in my arms, she studied every detail of my face with her little-old-woman expression. She was very attentive but did not smile. She was built sturdily, but was neither too fat nor too thin. Her eyes tracked. Her philtrum, the hills and valley skin folds from the center of the upper lip to the nose, were pronounced, indicating less of a chance of fetal alcohol syndrome.

Terry tentatively held the baby. You couldn't say that he was a natural, but at least he didn't handle her like she was made of china; he handled her like she was a large head of cabbage. Anastasiya stared at him intently, unsmiling, taking it all in.

The orphanage people were saying something about her. I was distracted by the baby and was hardly listening. In retrospect, it might have been useful to know what they said.

I was confused about why they were showing us this child. She was prime international adoption material according to the calculus of the adoption agencies: white female infant with no obvious medical issues. According to Kazakh adoption guidelines, I was too old to be allowed to adopt an infant. Should I mention this or just be quiet?

I held the baby again and she seemed to be settling comfortably. Conversation had lulled since there seemed to be nothing to talk about. I was walking around the office holding the baby when suddenly her whole body shook momentarily. I asked Inna to ask Dr. Irina what this meant. She said that all babies do that, particularly when they had been preemies, and they grow out of it by the time they are a year old. I was skeptical since I didn't remember my biological daughter ever doing that and hadn't heard of this symptom in others except for those with cerebral palsy or other neurological illnesses.

The caregiver came to retrieve the baby for her nap. My eyes followed her out the door and down the long hallway. I'd quickly gotten used to that little warm bundle.

We left Dr. Irina's office and made our way back to the muddy parking lot. The roads were always muddy but Dima's car was always clean. He spent the long periods waiting for his clients by cleaning and polishing his car.

It had been a very long day with still one more task. Inna took us to Uralsk's only western-style supermarket to buy groceries. The store had been built to cater to foreign oil executives and their families who were not used to going to multiple special-purpose shops for their groceries. Fortunately, most of the packaging had pictures and so, between the pictures and Inna's translation, we were able to find some canned and packaged goods. We stared at the meat case but didn't see anything that looked familiar except piles of sausages of every color and size. Getting to the check-out, we had to tell the cashier how many plastic bags we wanted to buy since these are not complimentary. Being cheap, in later weeks I would often underestimate or not bring enough bags with me and end up with groceries in my pockets or carried loosely in my arms.

It was starting to get dark, something that happens at 4:30 or 5:00 during that time of year. Inna and Dima left us in front of our apartment building and went on their way back to their lives. Teenagers and young men milled around the courtyard eying us with interest. The shabby building shown with a patchwork of lighted porches.
We climbed the four flights of concrete steps weighed down with grocery bags but with the adrenaline that comes from being followed by strangers with unknown motives. The building was alive with muffled voices and smells of cooking from inside the foot-thick concrete walls. We found our door at the top of the staircase. The outside door was the lighter-colored one shown on the left. It was a good thing that Nastya had us practice locking and unlocking the multiple access doors since the stairs were so dimly lit. We tumbled into the dark little apartment and locked both doors behind us.

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