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 162 - Kazakhstan Part 14

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.

Mornings in Uralsk were almost always cloudy when we were there. Perhaps it was because the sun seemed to come up after nine when we had been awake for an hour. I have limited experience in getting up before dawn in the US and don't know whether it always looks like this when the horizon is obscured by high rise apartment buildings.

We took turns taking a shower in the small, tidy bathroom. There was no discernible water pressure. The water burbled from the showerhead in pulses and gasps. At least it was fairly warm. Inna had mentioned casually that lack of hot water was common. Sometimes only cold water flowed into the apartments for month or longer, sometimes there was no water at all. They lived with it. I got the sense that Inna made this observation because some previous visitor had complained, though Inna seemed to feel that having to make this comment was like alerting visitors that the sun rises. Don't complain. This is how it is.

After dressing and a quick breakfast, we killed time staring out of the porch windows into the muddy courtyard three stories below waiting for the driver's car to pull up. They never beeped the horn, walked up the stairway to knock on the door, or even called from the cell phones that they used constantly — they waited until we saw them and appeared at the car door.

A car stopped. We grabbed our coats, locked both doors in all the places that they needed to be locked, and headed down the dark, concrete stairway.

Inna greeted us and asked how our night had been. Still jetlagged and now a bit overloaded with information, we had no complaints or requests.

We would be going to Baby House 2 this morning as we had asked. Natalya had not been happy at the request. Since Kazakh law dictates that we travel 'without referral' and then be shown a number of adoptable children from whom a selection could be made, we merely asked to see more children despite already meeting the ones preselected for us. Terry, in particular, wanted to make sure that we had plenty of options. He didn't want to feel like someone who buys the first house that a real estate agent presents and then wonders what other houses were out there. That's not my analogy. He said that.

We knew from other adoptive parents that the director of Baby House 2 was regarded as extremely stern, a sort of dragon lady who was a stickler for every rule. At the very least, we figured, we could take some pictures of Baby House 2 since Nurlan had been sent to that orphanage soon after birth and before coming to the preschool.

We were met at the entrance to the Baby House by Natalya and another interpreter, Yulia. Inna was new with the agency while Yulia was very experienced. Apparently this needed to be handled 'just so.'
The grayness of the day added no cheeriness to the drab building. The turquoise trim and playful brick patterns somehow fell flat, like bows on a recycling bin.

We were brought into a large room where the chairs lined three walls. Through gestures, we were directed to the two chairs in the middle of one wall facing a set of tables and chairs. The agency representatives took the chairs against another wall. The orphanage staff sat behind the table and faced us across an expanse of carpet. More people filtered in. We recognized the lady from the Department of Education. We smiled but no one really smiled back.

So there we were, sitting all alone with our backs literally against the wall separated by 15 feet of Oriental rug from a panel of strangers. The room was very warm. It was especially warm for us as we sat in our coats and boots and dread.

Our agency people explained in multiple languages why we were there. The Director greeted us with a smile that was ceremonial and efficient. She began her list of questions: What were our occupations? How long had we been married? Why did we choose to come to Kazakhstan?

Yulia translated the questions and then the answers. She may have changed our responses to the "right" answers for all I know. It seemed that sometimes her answers were longer than ours and occasionally much shorter. A few times there was a smattering of laughter, pretty disconcerting since we didn't think that we had said anything funny. There were questions for me, questions for Terry, questions that we each had to answer in turn. We had to explain our medical conditions in detail. We showed pictures of our home.

Finally, the director nodded to Natalya and the inquisition was over. We had apparently passed because the mood in the room lightened as though an overhanging cloud had blown away in a sudden gust.

The director spoke and Yulia translated, "We will bring children for you to see." One of the orphanage staff left through the side door. As minutes slowly ticked by, the adoption agency people talked to each other, the orphanage people talked to each other and to the MOE lady, and we just sat there in our little no-man's land against the wall on the far side of the rug.

Finally, the side door reopened and a little girl with huge eyes and a fringe of curled hair around her shoulders was led in clinging to the caregiver's hand.

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