Thursday, January 3, 2013

Final Trip to Russia

On November 13th, I (Barry) travelled with Lisa’s parents back to Russia after a very hectic and busy 30 day waiting period (see previous post).  It was very hard to have to go back without Lisa after looking forward to making the trip together for so long leading up to it, but I knew I had to get our son home no matter what.  After flying for a full day and losing 10 hours we arrived in Volgograd EARLY in the morning (middle of the night) on the 15th.  Based on our court decree we could pick up Elijah on the 16th, so we intentionally set up our flights to be there early enough to be able to visit him one day before taking him away from all he has ever known to hopefully ease the transition for him a little. 

The first hurdle we ran into once we arrived in Russia was that only 3 of our 5 suitcases actually made it to Volgograd with us, and one of the missing ones was Elijah’s, which had all of his clothes (except one outfit, since I did think about this possibility) and all the scarves that my mom hand made for gifts to give the caregivers at the orphanage and the workers that would be helping us.  Fortunately the two missing suitcases made it the next afternoon, so we had all we needed to go pick him up the next morning…so I thought.  As I was going through the clothes to prepare for the exciting morning ahead, I realized that the brand new snow suit we had bought Elijah a couple months before (it was in the 30s in Volgograd, and they bundle up the kids even when it is like 60 outside, so not having a snow suit was out of the question) was not in his suitcase.  After checking and double checking all of our suitcases, I had to accept the fact that it had been taken from the suitcase at some point while it was ‘lost’.  Soooo, we went out and bought a new snow suit at a place near our hotel, and once again I was ready to pick up our son the following morning.

Hurdle two came the next morning, and it was a big one.  We were getting ready, anxiously waiting for a phone call in the hotel room from our coordinator to let us know when she would be there to pick us up to go to the orphanage.  The phone rang and it was her, but she didn’t seem happy.  She said, “I have bad news, can you come down to the lobby?”.  We went down, and she said that the judge who had to sign the decree that day allowing us to get the documentation necessary to pick up Elijah, was sick, and there was nothing we could do until Tuesday! (This was Friday)  What a shock!  All of a sudden instead of getting to have my son in my arms for good within a couple of hours, it was going to be four days of waiting around.  Not to mention that we were scheduled to fly to Moscow on Tuesday evening because it was supposed to take a few days to process his passport information in Volgograd.  It was a hard four days, but we got to visit him each day except Sunday. 

Tuesday finally arrived and it was absolutely crazy.  Our coordinator and translator managed to get everything that was supposed to take 3 days done in a matter of a few hours (it did involve me having to pay the passport office lady an ‘expidition fee’ to get it done in the same day, which I was assured was normal in Russia).

We picked up Elijah a little after lunchtime, and even though it was hard thinking about him leaving all that he knows, it was the best feeling in the world to walk out of the orphanage gate with him, knowing that he would never have to sleep at the orphanage again. 

This is us leaving the orphanage!

DSC_0118

We made our flight to Moscow just a couple hours after we picked him up, and everything there went much more smoothly.  He was a great flyer, and despite only sleeping about 1.5 hours of the 10 hour flight back to NYC, overall he did fine. 

Just when I thought we were in the clear and finally on US soil, hurdle #3 happened.  We only had a one hour layover in JFK airport, and we were going to have to go through immigration (with someone that we hadn’t left with), get our bags at baggage claim, go to another terminal in a separate building, recheck our bags, go back through security, and catch our flight.  Hard enough even if you aren’t in the worst airport in the world to navigate (seriously I don’t know how anyone who doesn’t speak English would ever get where they needed to go in JFK, because it was hard for us and we can read what few signs there are).  Anyway, we got split up in immigration because I had Elijah, so Lisa’s dad took all of our carryons with him, so I could carry Elijah through.  He just handed me mine and Elijah’s passports out of my backpack and went through another line.  When I gave the already disgruntled looking agent our passports and the packet of documents I was told to present when we entered the US, he flipped them open and his only words to me were, “Where is she?”.  I was at a loss for words, “What?” I asked, confused.  “Where is she,” he said as he flipped Lisa’s passport around and showed me her picture.  Lisa’s dad had handed me Lisa’s passport instead of mine (we had them both in the same bag with all our other important travel documents, and had left hers in there in case it was needed with me travelling without her).  So there I was at border control, with a Russian child, and someone elses passport…and not mine.  He seemed very angry, and when Lisa’s mom saw what was going on, and brought me my passport from the other side of the gate, it only made things worse, because then he said “why does this lady have your passport??”.  Even though I explained the situation, he said, “I can’t say that you’ve officially done anything wrong, but it’s protocol that we report all occurrences like this, so please come with me.” Great…now we’ve already burned half of the time we have to catch our flight, and I have to go to some back room and explain why I have someone else’s passport.  After another 10 minutes of hearing me talked about in third person among the guards, I got Lisa’s passport back, and we were on our way.  The flight was already boarding by the time we got to our gate, and we walked straight on and then it was on to Atlanta, and then to Dothan.  Elijah slept from the time the wheels left the ground at JFK until we got home.

We got back to Dothan on November 24th, and went straight to Healthsouth to see Mommy before we even went home.  We brought Lisa home the next day and we have been a family of three at home ever since.  It has been quite an adjustment for all of us trying to figure out the logistics of Elijah’s schedule and working out how we get everything done that we have to around the house with Lisa’s condition as well, and me returning to work.  Our families have been great about helping us, while maintaining enough distance so that Elijah can get attached to us. 

16 comments:

  1. Wow what a trip. Glad ya'll are all home together. Praying for Lisa's complete healing everyday and for a smooth transition for you all. God Bless!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, and thank you for the prayers!

      Delete
  2. I'm so happy for you all to finally have Elijah home. Seeing the picture brought back a lot of feelings for me. Closing that very same gate 9 months ago was the best feeling in the world, and at the same time I realized it would be terrifying for Zach to leave everyone and everything he knew. The transition is hard at first but it is sooo worth it. Congratulations on your new beautiful family :)

    ReplyDelete
  3. Its great to hear the details - just an amazing story of how you received your son. He's such a cuttie! And he looks like you two!

    ReplyDelete
  4. I'm sincerely speechless. Teary eyed but full of joy and happiness for you Lisa, Barry, Elijah and the angels your parents are for going to get your little boy and bring him home. Going through our very recent journey to Volgograd, each and every step was so precious. I'm so sorry to hear your news so shortly after your return from the court trip. You are so blessed to have been at home and so close to the hospital. So blessed. I was checking in on your blog waiting to hear about "gotcha day". While I was waiting I was praying for you and your family as we heard all the news about American families and the adoption ban. We were concerned for you. Happy to hear that you are recovering and you have your little Elijah by your side. Snuggle with your little nugget and hold him tight. Enjoy as much as you can these precious moments. I only know you from your blog and have shared similiar challenges. I live in Ottawa Canada and can't do much from a far. I will hold you in my thoughts and prayers. God bless your new family and a speedy recovery.

    http://chrisandjackiephotos.blogspot.ca/

    Most sincerely, Jackie, Chris and Little Dmitry

    ReplyDelete
  5. Thanks! And thank you so much for the gift!

    ReplyDelete
  6. What an ordeal!!! I'm so happy to know you made it through all things safely, despite some major hiccups. Continued prayers to Lisa for her health & your family during Elijah's transition to all things new.

    ReplyDelete
  7. I know you have alot on your plate right now, but I just nominated you for an award, if you are up for it! :) Continuing to pray for your recovery!

    ReplyDelete
  8. Hi Lisa and Barry,

    I have been praying for you and little Elijah. I hope the transition time is smoothing out and your health is improving. I have been reading your blog for about a year now after Jenn Hudson linked to it. Anyway, all that to say, our family business may be able to help you in your road to recovery. We work with individuals who have suffered from strokes and other traumatic brain injuries and may be able to help you overcome your double vision. I hesitated writing this, but it has been on me that if this could help I shouldn't keep silent.

    In God's peace and love, Lesley

    http://www.snidertherapycenters.com/

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for not staying silent. We'll definitely check out the website.

      Delete
  9. I haven't been active on blogger for a year or so but today I had logged on because I subscribed to a new blog.
    First off, I am SO happy for you and your husband on the addition to your family. Elijah is just beautiful and it brings tears to my eyes knowing some of what you've been thru, that God heard your prayers.
    Secondly, I am praying for your healing and recovery. God Bless you and keep you! <3

    ReplyDelete