But when no call came, we headed downstairs (leaving Emily and Jeffrey behind) and met our driver. This time instead of the the shiny new Mercedes van he brought last time, this van was about 30 years old and looked like it was on it's last legs. At that point I didn't care as long as it got us to where we were going. We arrived at a building so old and run down that I didn't think it could possibly be the court. I was wrong. Natalya met us with our court translator in the lobby and we went in through a turnstile, up a small staircase and into a skinny long hallway. We stopped at the first door and everyone was talking very quickly in Russian and gathering documents.
Other people arrived and milled around.
We were all squeezed into a very small area off the hallway and everyone was pacing back and forth and looking very nervous. This did not help my sense of dread that the judge would deny our petition and we would go home empty handed. I just wanted to get it over with as fast as possible.
Suddenly the door cracked open and I could see the judges chair and desk and just enough room for the prosecutor, secretary, the 2 ladies from the orphanage, us and our translator. It was tight squeeze as we filed in.
We stood around waiting for what seemed like an eternity, (probably closer to 10 minutes) until the judge came in through a back door. She was all business and began right away without even looking our direction. She spent a lot of time reading each paper out loud and our translator repeated everything to us.
She finally looked up from her paperwork and asked which one of us would like to talk about why we wanted to adopt. Jeff stood up and recited a somewhat rehearsed speech about how we were both adopted and wanted to do give a child the gift of a home that our parents had given us. She asked if we were "both in agreement" with this adoption and we said yes.
Then she started the questions about our finances. She asked if we could afford another child, if we planned on paying for her education and if we expected our income to stay the same. Then she questioned the ladies from the orphanage who said they thought she was a good match for our family and that we interacted well together.
They stressed the fact she had been exposed to TB over and over again, saying that no Russian family would want her because of this. The judge asked if any Russian parents had shown any interest in her and the director said not ever. The judge asked if there was a possibility any Russian family would take her and the directors once again said no Russian family would want her because of her TB exposure and that she desperately needed to be in a family as soon as possible with "good food and vitamins". They said they believed we could give this to her.
The judge asked me to stand and asked about Chris who was in the Air Force. She asked how long he was in for and if when he got out he would come to live with us. She told me I could sit down and that was the end of my participation.
Then she asked the prosecutor to give her opinion of the proceedings and she said all the paperwork was in order and she was in favor of granting the adoption.
The judge stood, said she would consider our request left the room.
Another 10 minutes that seemed like an eternity passed before she returned.
She began reading paperwork out loud again, repeating everything that had been said previously.
As soon as she finished she closed her files and said "All Finished" and stood up and left the room.
I looked around practicing my blank stare again.
The translator was smiling and said Congratulations.
It was so anticlimactic....nothing like I had imagined. I imagined that when this moment came, I would break down and cry but instead all I felt was this overwhelming relief and uncontrollable desire to get out the hell out of there.
When we left the court we went straight down the street to the MOE where we were signed off the list of prospective adoptive parents. We were official now.
Here is a picture of a building across from the court house. I couldn't get a full view but the top was certainly impressive.
We went back to the hotel, changed out of our fancy court clothes into comfy go for a long car ride clothes, picked up Emily and Jeffery and headed for the orphanage. We stopped along the way to eat then settled in for the 2 hour drive.
Here is a one of the big government buildings as we were heading out of the city:
And here is a picture of a grocery store and bus stop in one of the villages we drove through. You purchased your items through the little window on the left.
On the way we got pulled over by the police who were carrying machine guns. They asked our driver what our business was and he showed them papers and they let us continue.
Once in the village we went to a local office with treacherous looking stairs to pick up her new birth certificate and the certificate of adoption. Everything was ready as soon as we arrived so I suspect that the adoption had been approved even before the court proceeding because with as long as things take in Russia, I didn't think they could have had it all done in the few hours since court was over.
Then onto the orphanage.
Here is a shot of the front door:
There they brought her to us and we changed her into going home clothes. They always joke that when you adopt a Russian child that's all you get. One skinny naked little kid. Nothing leaves the orphanage, especially clothes.
The director was quite impressed that we brought her jeans and tennis shoes that lit up.
We finally got to go upstairs to see where she had been living. Their day room was quite large and had a parakeet, fish tank, lots of plants, a small TV, several couches and some tables and chairs.
Here are she and Jeffrey with most of the other kids in her group.
We brought goodie bags for each kid and I had Katherine pass them out to each of her friends. They opened them up and ate the chocolate first.
Katherine was the only girl with longer hair. As soon as the director knows that a little girl is going to go home, she lets them start to grow their hair longer. All the other little girls had their hair cut very very short. One little girl was sick and not allowed out of bed. We took a goodie bag to her and she was so happy.
Off the day room was their bedroom where all 12 of them slept. Katherine is sitting on her bed.
Each kid had to make their own bed every day and Katherine continued the habit when she got home.
These pictures are of their bathroom:
Emily and I were fighting tears as we were looking at the kids and wishing we could take them all with us.
As were packing up to leave, the caretakers were all crying themselves and hugging and kissing Katherine as she was wiping her tears and trying to hide her face so no one would see her crying too.
But by the time we got to the van though she was smiling and climbing in without looking back.
Here is Natalya (red hair) saying good bye to the director (on the right) and the translator (in the middle).
Natalya said it saves time for the drivers to pay the fines on the spot. The police do the paperwork later back at the station. Jeff leaned over to me and whispered, "The only paperwork that gets done back at the station is counting how much money they each made that day".
As we continued on, Katherine ate almost a whole bag of cheese puffs. Within 15 minutes she looked pale and ill. We stopped the van and took her out to get some air and when we got back in she laid down and fell asleep.
She woke up as we got back to the city but continued to look very sad and quiet. I misinterpreted her silence as sadness for leaving the only home she had known for the past 2 years.
As we pulled up the hotel and were getting out, she turned a lovely shade of green and puked all over herself, the back of the van and sidewalk.
She looked up at me and smiled.
OK now she felt better.
I apologized to the driver and tried to wipe up the back seat but he said that it was OK and that most kids threw up at some point along the way because they weren't used to car travel. At least I knew why he brought the old ugly van for this trip.
When we got her up to the hotel room and changed her clothes, she suddenly opened up and starting chattering away in Russian and smiling and chasing Jeffery all over the place. All my worries that she was sad disappeared as she giggled and laughed and tried every knob, drawer and remote control in the room.
She ate more spaghetti at dinner than I thought she could possibly fit in her stomach. When it was bedtime she wouldn't sleep in the pull out bed with Emily so I folded one of the thick bed quilts and put it on the floor next to my side of the bed and she slept there.
We all fell asleep exhausted. I simply could not believe that we had gotten this far.