Alison's Journey Home: An Adoption Story - Part 11
By Nicole Sandler
It's Sunday afternoon, December 17, and Alison is napping. So while I have a few moments on the computer, I thought I'd continue detailing the journey home, while the details are still somewhat fresh in my mind.
I think I left off where I found out at 9:00 PM Monday night that I wasn't leaving Kazakhstan for Moscow that night at midnight because Alison's exit visa hadn't come through. Needless to say, I was quite upset... but we were able to leave the following night.
Alison slept a bit, and we were picked up for the ride to the airport shortly after midnight. We were flying Air Kazakhstan to Moscow... a five-hour flight, departing at 2:20 AM. We were taken to the Air Kaz terminal in Almaty, not the airport, where we checked in, went through security, had our baggage weighed (and I got hit with $160 fee for 55 extra kilos!), and then got on a bus which was to take us to the airport.
Sitting on the bus with Alison on my lap I felt it...that familiar warmth and rumble that let me know she had just pooped! I thought, "no problem, I'll just change her when we get to the airport, before we get on the plane." Well, the bus took us right to the plane... we got off the bus and herded up the stairs and into our seats. The plane was packed.... they loaded it and we took off, and I felt that familiar sensation AGAIN! Yes, my darling daughter pooped again in an already poopy diaper.
I figured I'd just change her as soon as the fasten seat belt light went off. After about seven minutes or so, I saw someone walking up the aisle to the rest room and just followed. The flight attendant told me I had to sit down (in Russian), but I motioned to her butt and showed the diaper, and he let me go in to the bathroom.
This had to be the smallest airplane bathroom I'd ever been in (and it was also the first time I'd ever tried to change a diaper on an airplane, so it just might have felt really small). There was no pull down changing table, so I closed the lid on the toilet and put down my little changing pad and attempted to lay Alison down on it. Her reaction was similar to her first experience in the bathtub... screaming at the top of her lungs and claws in my neck.
So, I was wiping lots of poop off her butt (it had crept up her back by this time), off her clothes and off my clothes... and putting a new diaper on her, all while holding her attached firmly to my neck! Quite an experience.
She did really well for the rest of the flight. We actually both slept a little, even when Air Kaz served an entire meal at 3:30 AM, with really bad Russian music playing rather loudly over the intercom system!
We arrived in Moscow at about 5:00 AM local time (by then it was 8:00 AM in Kaz...three hour time difference...the first of many time-zone changes over the next couple of days), we were met by our Moscow coordinator Michael, and we then drove to the hotel...the Marriott Tverskya.
How wonderful to be in a luxurious hotel! On the way there, Michael explained our schedule for the day. He would come to our rooms (there were two other families in addition to me and Alison) and go over all our paperwork for our interviews at the U.S. Embassy, which would take place later in the day.
A doctor would arrive at around 7:00 AM to examine the children. This is one of the U.S. Embassy requirements, a medical report from one of their approved doctors. So, the doctor showed up, told me Alison looked pretty good, "examined" her for all of five minutes, took my $100 and filled out the necessary paperwork. Then we got to go to breakfast. A great buffet, though Alison wouldn't let me put her down to get the food! We managed.
I had to copy a few papers for Michael, who would then take all the paperwork to the Embassy and call to tell us what time to be ready for the appointment. We went to the room, took a nap, and were told to be in the lobby at 3:00 PM.
At about 1:30 PM, Alison and I headed out to take a little walk in Moscow (and I needed to look for a store that sold diapers!). We walked fairly far, and I never did find the diapers. The weather wasn't bad...probably upper 30s, but very damp. We got back to the hotel, and waited for the van to pick us up. When it hadn't arrived by 3:15 PM, I got impatient and called a cab. I wasn't about to come this far only to miss our embassy appointment and have to wait another day to head home.
We got the U.S. Embassy at 3:40 PM and went right in. They've just started a new procedure there that makes things run much more smoothly than in the past. In all my research on Russian adoptions, I'd heard the U.S. Embassy was very stressful. Well, with these new procedures in place, it was a breeze. The stressful part was getting there!
Our hotel wasn't far from the embassy, but traffic in Moscow is unbelievable. And this is coming from someone who's lived in L.A. for the past 13 years.
At the embassy, we were asked a few questions, given all of Alison's original paperwork and a sealed packet that I was to give to the INS officials when I reached the states, complete with Alison's immigrant visa stapled to the front of it. We were officially ready to come home. What an amazing feeling!
By then it was about 4:00 PM and our flight heading back to the U.S. was leaving the next morning at 7:00 AM. So, we had very little time for sight-seeing.
Michael arranged for a van and a guide to take us to a few places, and after some confusion and an hour of waiting for the "third family" (Peter, the guide, mistakenly thought that Dan Charles, with his adopted daughter Nastya and I, with Alison, were one family and that another one was still coming....) we were on our way.
We drove to Red Square where we first went in the mall to do some last minute souvenir shopping. Then it was a stroll through Red Square, past Lenin's tomb, and winding up at St. Basils Cathedral...which is as breathtaking as you imagine it would be.
Then it was back into the van, and a LONG drive back to the hotel... once again, due to the crazy Moscow traffic. I really don't know how I can ever bitch about L.A. traffic again.
At the hotel, I did what I'd been looking forward to for three weeks...ordered room service. Alison and I had a great dinner, and we went to sleep after calling for a 3:45 AM wake-up call. We were to meet in the lobby at 4:30 PM to go to the airport.
A quick aside here.... for the past three and a half weeks, the only English language television I had was the Fox News Channel, providing a very conservative slant to the whole election debacle. Finally in Moscow, I had CNN, and this was the day that the Supreme Court finally (sort of) put an end to the situation. I had seen every bit of coverage of this thing from November 20 until this day, and now...when something was finally happening... I didn't get to see either Gore or Bush make their speeches! I did think I'd get a very cool souvenir by having the Moscow Times on December 13, the day the headline would announce the new president, but it wasn't out before we left the hotel or available at the airport before we boarded. Ugh!
So, we leave Moscow at 7:00 AM for the three hour flight to Frankfurt, Germany. This time there were no poopy problems on the plane, and Alison did just fine.
We landed in Frankfurt, had just enough time to wander around the airport a bit and get to the gate for the 10:05 departure to Miami. I think there was a two-hour time difference between Moscow and Frankfurt, so we landed around 8:30 local time).
As I got to the gate, they informed me the flight was delayed, and we'd be leaving at 11:30. Alison and I went to the restaurant and had brunch. Then we did a little shopping. She got a beautiful little gold ID bracelet (that she won't let me put on her), and we bought Pop Pop (my father) some Swiss chocolates from the duty-free shop.
We boarded the plane and I felt that familiar poopy feeling again. But this time I had time to change her before we took off, and the bathroom had a wonderful pull down changing table. We took off and 10 minutes into the flight, the captain came on and said something lengthy in German (we flew Lufthansa). I could see people were concerned and shaking their heads. Then he spoke in English and explained that two systems had failed (the altimeter and odometer!)... that we were in no danger because of all the backup systems in place. But it was Lufthansa policy to turn around and land back in Frankfurt. The only problem was that we were fully fueled and too heavy to land, so we'd have to circle for an hour or so and dump fuel. So we did.
By the time we landed and disembarked and got back to the terminal it was around 2:30 or 3:00. They said we'd board again at 5:30 for a 6:00 departure. I was waiting for them to bring my stroller, that I had to check at the gate, and it never came. I patiently(not) explained that there was no way I could carry this child around for three hours and that I needed the stroller, which for some reason, they never were able to get for me.
Somehow, Alison and I wound up in some special Lufthansa area that had a playroom for kids, and they went out and brought me lunch. They said someone would come to get me when it was time to go back to board.
So, we passed a couple of hours in there. At about 5:15 PM I started getting antsy, and asked when we'd be heading back toward the plane. That's when I was told that the new departure time was 8:00 PM. I thought I was going to die. I was exhausted and Alison was definitely way past tired and cranky. They brought me to another room that had a couple of sofas and cribs, and said we could lie down and take a nap, and they'd come wake us when it was time to go. That's exactly what we did.
They got us at about 7:15 PM, drove us back to the gate (Alison pretty much slept this whole time). We boarded the plane and took off. Though I was in coach, I had a bulkhead seat, and they have bassinets that attach to the wall. So, once we hit our cruising altitude, they set up a bassinet for Alison. I put her in it and she slept for the next eight hours or so. It was a nine and a half hour flight to Miami, and we arrived at about 12:15 AM Friday morning, December 15 (only 10 hours later than scheduled).
We made it through customs and INS, and my sister was waiting for us at the gate! We got back to her house at about 2:30 AM, and the barking dogs woke my two and a half year old niece Lindsey, so we all spent the next few hours catching up.
And here we are. Trying to get over the jet lag!
Alison met her grandfather yesterday, and as soon as she wakes from her nap we'll go visit him again. We'll be here until Wednesday, when we get to take our last plane ride for a while, to go home!
About The Author
Nicole Sandler is the owner/producer of Legacy Video Productions, specializing in producing adoption stories.