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Our Ukrainian Adventure: Week Two

Day 8 - Sunday, Oct 21
Today, we went to Mass at the Lavra, the second oldest and biggest and most beautiful church in Kiev.  It's actually a complex of churches, monasteries, bell towers... and has almost 10 0 historical buildings.
The view from the Bell Tower: 

We have pics. It was amazing. No idea what they were saying but it was breath-taking! The buildings here are beautiful. The churches are centuries old. We toured the area, there are many churches, museums, caves, monks... There were mummified monks and warriors from the 11th century on in open coffins down in the caves! Culture shock! I guess the monks spent their lives underground praying.  I  had to cover my head with a scarf (yeah, had to buy one) to enter the area because it was so holy.  We lit a candle for Josh and Avery down in one area of a cave and prayed for them.
Our fellow River Valley-ites should get a kick out of this! 

 The Military Museum had huge, amazing statues carved under bridges:
We're going to continue the tourist thing today and tomorrow, though we'd rather go back and see Josh. It's been rough without him, even though we don't have him, we just visit! We think about him all the time. Allen couldn't sleep last night and wanted to go back then! We're trying to see things for Josh and to include in the scrapbook, but we'd rather bring him.
More details: We should have our court date, when the adoption is finalized, on Oct 29 or 30 (if we're lucky). It looks like our 30 day wait will be waived, it's just a matter of how much $$$. If all goes well, we could be back on that weekend (Nov 3), but there are no guarantees and the orphanage director expects us to have some trouble with certain documents after the adoption. We'll see.  Please pray it'll go quickly!
We'll get to keep Josh with us after the court date, we can't wait! I hope you can view the pics!
We love you, Margie & Allen
Mom - yes, we're getting your emails, keep them coming! What does Zachary eat? We don't know what to feed a 1.5 year old!
Ryan - thanks! Kiss Syd on the lips for us (just kidding)
Mike - no Browns clothing please!!
Mom - lots of Reds clothing please!!
Ryan and Laura - any news from INS yet?
Everyone - thanks for the emails, it's so great to hear from home.

Day 9 - Monday, Oct 22
We went to a ~300 acre museum of architecture and culture this morning. The last of our historical touring in Kiev. It was very cool, with houses and buildings from each region in Ukraine and from different time periods for centuries. It gave us a good grasp on the history of Josh's country. It's hard to understand how old things are here, since we're used to the US with only a 250 year history. Cities here date back 2000 years!!!
Architectural Museum:
We had another run in with the "squatty potty" at the museum. Allen got more film of course (what is a guy's fascination...?!)  I just couldn't commit, due to those who did and missed! When you can't even find a place to stand... but enough about me...
After a LONGGGGG weekend, we finally got to visit Josh tonight. We took an earlier train back so we could at least stop by and say hi ("priviet" or something like that). He was the first to the door and screamed and ran around squealing and laughing! (Can anyone say Sydney??!) We were instantly puddles of goo!
This is when we first saw his Incredible Hulk impression when he got excited:  

The nurses said he was asking for his mama and dada all day yesterday and today. We only had 10 minutes, but it was fun! Allen promised we'd never miss another visit! He didn't want us to leave either. We can't wait until the court date, so it's final, but that won't be until Mon or Tues, Oct 29 or 30. Then we'll get to keep him with us and not have to live for visiting hours.
Now, we're going back to our new apartment for our first night there. Should be interesting. More later...
We're having more film developed soon and will try to locate another scanner.
We love you, Margie and Allen
Ryan - rub Sydney's belly for us
Matt Dunn - how's life? haven't heard from you. email soon!
Mike - the Browns lucked out again. too bad.
Paula and Hung - Happy Anniversary!
Myra and Kevin - hold down the fort, I'll be back soon (Allen)

Day 10 - Tuesday, Oct 23
Hello again from across the sea! I hope you're all warm and snuggly in your pansy little chilly weather. It's butt cold over here and apparently they decided the heat doesn't need to be on until later in the year! The apartments/hotels/everything runs on central heat/air, so someone else decides how much we freeze at night! It's not cold enough for Ukrainians yet I guess! (It's like my dad controlling our heat at home).
Today we visited Josh twice. More of the same playing, videoing, pictures... It gets more fun each time. It's also harder to leave him. We hate the thought of him being there at the orphanage for the rest of the day. We want to keep him with us all the time (tho it's probably warmer there than our stinking apartment!). It's only a week away, but it seems like forever.
Allen "reading" Josh a Ukrainian animal book:  

We went to McDonalds for breakfast (it's the only place where we know what we're getting). Unfortunately they don't serve breakfast so we dined on hamburgers and cokes! At least Allen got his coffee! They serve coffee in little baby cups and espresso in little ketchup-sized cups!
We shopped for clothes for Josh today also. We bought a coat, hat, shoes, cargo bibs... It wasn't very easy though. They wear hand-me-downs, so they couldn't give us normal sizes (even in Ukrainian). Found out later they don't have sizes so it didn't matter.  So they took a string and marked his shoe length and coat length. We basically guessed! Everything fit though, a little big, but we expect quite a growth spurt once he starts eating good old USA food! He's in 18 mo clothes right now. He'll soon fit in 2T though. So any of you moms out there planning to buy anything, it's your call! We can't buy too much here, because it's exhausting. We have to guess. They only have what's hanging on the walls, it's not like what we're used to with many of every size. What you see is what you get and there isn't much choice in anything. It's also like a maze of independent stores and it's hard to find your way around (like a needle in a haystack). We'll find other shops soon and buy enough to get him home.
More details: We found a scanner and are having film developed as we type. Hopefully tomorrow you'll have a few more pics. I'd hate to disappoint any of you so we'll try to include a "potty in a bucket" shot!
Very exciting news! I bought some soft toilet paper today. (All of you say, yeah, so?) But until you've used Ukrainian TP (brown paper bag on a roll), you just wouldn't understand. I hope you are all enjoying your conveniences, like heat, toilet paper, sitting instead of squatting, no one pushing you, no one running you over even in crosswalks, not sucking in unregulated exhaust fumes in taxis with windows down in every weather, knowing what you're eating... we're a blessed nation and don't even know it!
More soon! Love, Margie and Allen
Everyone - thanks so much for the emails and prayers. it's great to have so many wonderful friends around the world! we have great people to bring Josh home to!
Teresa - haven't heard from Ryan recently, has Grace come home?
Ryan - pet Sydney for us.
Matt Dunn - you got it!
Matt Nolan - Allen could use a good fishing story!
Jodi - you're head would explode if you saw how they drive over here!
Tony and Erin - how's the new pad? are you in yet?
Donella - sorry I left off your home email for the weekend, did you get the pics?
Lori - is our old house still standing? I know Ryan's cutting all the trees down. Let me know if he ruins our old home!
Mike - nice job on the first tourney game. when's the next?

Day 11 - Wednesday, Oct 24
Hello all. Thanks for all the emails, prayers, updates, and info! Thanks especially to those of you thinking of us each time you use your own little potty buckets! Ryan (Hawkins, not little bro), you should especially enjoy our update today as we think the INS (yeah I'm writing about you, stinking INS!) and the Ukrainian system are in cahoots!
Today, I woke up freezing to death with an elbow in my side and a board in my back! Typical. Apparently I was wrong about each building having central air/heat. The whole city has a centralized system! The capital Kiev requires heat by Oct 15, but not Vinnytsya! Apparently 32 degrees is not quite cold enough!
We went to play with Josh this morning - same old, same old... pics, video, lots of playing...
We did get some more film developed, so pics will follow. I have to apologize in advance, I missed the good potty bucket shot!  I only have Josh on his luxury ride, but missed the others on their hopping buckets! I'll try to get a better pic, but it's hard with nurses wondering why I want to take pics of the children in the bathroom!
Today we learned more about the chain of command in Ukraine. There is a chain and they hope you'll hang yourself by it after waiting forever! We had to get an application for a court date from the lawyer. She wrote 4 pages by hand. Then it had to be typed and notarized. We spent the rest of the day trying to do that. It's still not finished now. We started at 11:30 and it's now 5:30! The first notary (after a long wait) said she was to busy to even listen to what we wanted. The second (another wait) said they didn't do that. The third (another wait) said we didn't need it notarized. The fourth (another wait) didn't know how to do it. Back to the lawyer (and yet another wait). The lawyer called another notary and now we don't need it notarized after all, just typed!
Allen did provide some entertainment (of course) while waiting for the lawyer. Side note: Let me just say waiting here is not like waiting there. No magazines, comfy chairs, TV, LIGHTS, or HEAT!! Anyway, there were a few mice in the hallway at the lawyer's office. (Nothing unusual.)  Luda (translator) didn't seem to like them! Allen waited for a quiet moment, pointed to her feet, and said Luda! A mouse! She freaked! It was nice to laugh again! The other people in line found it very amusing also. Luda, not so much.   She warned us that we still need her! So maybe we'll get the application today, maybe not.
Good news. We will have our court date next Tuesday morning. We have to go to court tomorrow to set the date and time. You have to have permission here for everything. Permission to have a court date, permission to apply to adopt... You can't just apply to adopt and go to court (see that would be easy and ...) Anyway, if all goes well, we'll have Josh Tuesday afternoon. Then it's 4-6 days of paperwork, passport, new birth certificate, legalize everything we get in court... then we're out of here! We're hoping to get back by Nov 4th, but it's looking like the next week because we have to go to the Embassy in Poland for our final stuff, and we might not get finished here until the weekend (if we're lucky), so we'll have to wait to start on Monday. We're trying to hurry everything up, but when people come to work at 10:30 and leave around 2... By the way, this would be a great place to work! You work 10 to 2 or whenever you feel like it! You don't do anything but chat until it's time to go. You can tell people (we hear it alot) that you're too busy and they should come back later! You have months of vacation instead of weeks! And you can name your own fees (backdoor politics)! It's quite interesting! To let you know how bad it is, our lawyer asked Luda to call her at home, because she didn't feel comfortable talking about our case at work! (I'm thinking what else should she talk about??) So anyway, she's said she'll help us hurry things up, but she hasn't said what it would cost us yet! Here they actually tell you what the bribe amount should be!
Enough complaining, now we'll send pictures!
Love, Margie and Allen
Ryan (little bro) - give Sydney a treat for us!
Mike - are you playing volleyball yet? tell Gerri and Pete congrats from us a little late! we haven't seen them yet!
Ryan - when this is all over, we'll give the INS a few choice words together!

Day 12 - Thursday, Oct 25
So I ordered some hot chocolate today (you know trying to thaw my insides) and I get exactly that... a cup of hot, thick, rich, melted chocolate! What am I supposed to do with this, I wondered. Some darn good hot fudge topping, but how does one drink that?! Apparently (use that word often, don't I?), I should have ordered cocoa! My bad. Lesson learned. Who would order a cup of hot chocolate anyway? Sorry we missed a day. We're on the paperwork trail, which is getting narrower and steeper, and we've been quite busy. Also, last night we had dinner for 2.5 hours because the electric went out in the entire city, so we gave up on the internet thing. We had bread over candlelight, just the three of us! (Our translator, not Josh). Anyway, lots of news and many observations, so we begin
Lots of running around doing paperwork, mostly waiting. We had to go to court today to set our court date and time: Tues 9am. Now it's official. Of course it already was due to some backdoor conversations, but now it's officially official. According to our people doing the backdoor talking for us, we had to hand the judge an envelope with $150 in it to speed up the process here. All done quietly of course. We have to speak with our lawyer at night at her home, because she's not comfortable talking about our case in her office. By the way, she also gets an envelope with $300 in it. Envelopes also go to the inspector, city chief, passport office, orphanage director... How's that for shady? Shady, but effective.
We visited Josh in the afternoon, more playing, same old wonderful stuff...

Day 13 - Friday, Oct 26
More paperwork, more waiting. Wonderful news though, we know when we're coming home (barring some unforeseen issue!). We'll get to take our original flight home (leaving Friday the 2nd). We made some time for shopping today (more soft TP!) and Allen picked up a Greek chess set. He's really hoping it can get through customs!
(It did by the way)
We got to take Josh on his first trip outside of the orphanage! We had to get his passport pictures taken. He was scared to death, but did great! He started to cry getting in the taxi, but then just stared out the window at this big new world passing by. He was fine until we set him down to get his photo, then he cried alot! Poor little guy. But then he stopped and was fine. He started to sing (as he always does when he's happy) again when Allen held him. (Daddy's boy bigtime!) Wish we knew what he was singing. It was great! That was the highlight of the day.
Josh on his first trip to the outside:

More details. Here's what we know. Court Tuesday morning to finalize the adoption. Nightmarish paperwork Tuesday and Wednesday to legalize the finalized... We'll get Josh Wednesday (Happy Birthday to his daddy!) Train to Kiev Wednesday night. Thursday morning, medical exam and US Embassy appointment in Kiev. Thursday afternoon flight to Warsaw, Poland. Friday morning, appointment at US Embassy for visa. Friday afternoon, we're outta here!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Please pray hard that things go as planned and nothing changes!
Observations. Ukrainians are afraid I'll catch a cold every time I order ice! They keep telling me it's dangerous. They think it's too cold for such things. So room temperature Coke went with my pizza yesterday! Which, by the way had ham, tomatoes, CORN, mystery meat, some other weird vegetables, and sauce that tasted like nothing I can describe. Not bad though!
OSHA would have a field day here! If only I could do a Buckeyes observation (MCR talk there)! I might have mentioned that no buildings are lighted during the day. They have lights, but for some reason ($?) they just don't use them. Yesterday at court, we were following Luda down a hall when a door shut and it was absolutely pitch black! I felt for Allen. We heard her say I'm up here! We went very carefully as no floor in this city is level and safe! There are always trip hazards, missing tiles... Anyway, we made it through safe and sound! Pretty wild for a court house!
We heard a rumor that the heat might be turned on this weekend! We really hope so as it's below 30°F here! I'd like my blood to circulate once again!
That's all for now. If we don't email soon, we're waiting somewhere on someone who just doesn't care!
Love, Margie and Allen
Ryan - does Syd remember us? show her a picture of us please!
Mom - idea for Josh (as if you need more) VIDEOS! Veggie Tales... the poor child hasn't seen a TV! he really needs to hear English on his level in a fun way to help him also!
Mom-in-law - we're 7 hours ahead of you, so here it's 10pm and there it's 3pm
Mike - thanks again for taping our show
Lori - thanks! and thank Hannah too!
Pictsweet - Allen will see you Monday the 5th if all goes well. he's anxious to get back to work. maybe it's the coffee I don't know.
MCR - of course I'm not anxious to come back to work, but I am looking forward to a visit and miss you guys! I'll let you know.

Day 14 - Saturday, Oct 27
Priviet (or something like that). What a beautiful day it was today. Hope yours is/was too!
We had some down time today. There's not much to do here on the weekends. All of the offices are closed, so we can't do any paperwork. We decided to take a drive out in the country and maybe visit a village. And let me just say, village is the correct term. The Amish are a technological wonder to these people! We have a great video. We went with our new taxi driver friend, Andre. He's been showing us around the city all week. This morning he drove us around even though he wasn't working until 6pm. We visited the ruins of a place Hitler lived during the war, I'd tell you the name, but I'll have to look it up. Then I'd have to kill you all. Anyway, it's very cool. There are underground tunnels that they're afraid to dig down to, in case of booby traps! There's also an underground railroad that goes toward Germany, but everyone who worked on it was killed, so no one knows where it is!
The Ruins of the Former Wermacht Headquarters "Verwolf": 
We drove by villages outside of Vinnytsya and all the way through one. It was pretty sad. The people work on collective farms, working the land for the government. They don't get a salary, only a place to live and some of the crops. They have to pay for gas and electricity, so they have to sell the vegetables. Horse-drawn carts are their transportation, not the nice Little House on the Prairie kind either. Cows are chained in yards. Every house has a well. There aren't any jobs in the village, only working the land. It's a tough life. We were sad, but grateful for our life.
Pictures of the village we visited:
Then we went to see Josh, more playing, same old... As we waited on a taxi at the orphanage, we saw quite a scene. A man who had obviously had way too much vodka staggered down our road with a turkey following him! The poor turkey had lost it's way! Luda talked to it, while Allen tried to feed it animal crackers! It waited with us until Andre arrived later. For a turkey, it was quite friendly, it made whatever sound turkeys make and just looked at us. Of course I felt sorry for it. Anyway, just an odd scene!
Tonight we went to McDonalds and were kind of in a hurry because we wanted to see the movie Pearl Harbor (in Russian, but hey, when in Rome... but of course it was sold out). Our hearts sank as there was a huge line in McD's. But hey, didn't I say there was no such thing as a line in Ukraine? I did, didn't I?! Luda pushed her way to the counter and ordered. Pretty cool when it works for us. No one says anything either (here or anywhere) they just think man, good move. Especially the taxi drivers. They just pull out and people stop. Or just get the corner of their bumper in front of another car and they have the right of way! No patience with stopped traffic either. If someone stops, you honk and go around. Maybe in the same lane, maybe in oncoming traffic, maybe between them and a parked car. We shot one gap I wouldn't have walked through. (I puckered, Jodi - you would have died, but Allen laughed). The taxi driver probably was thinking about lunch or something else. To us, we almost ate it, to him, nothing was out of the ordinary. I can almost always touch the passing cars by sticking a finger out the window, not even my arm! It's amazing how many cars still have side mirrors. And if you're a pedestrian, you'd better be very lucky or very fast! No right of way for us! Wild.
Tomorrow we are going to an Evangelical Baptist Church. We couldn't find any other church, besides Ukrainian Orthodox, it may be here, we just didn't find it. So I guess we'll settle! (Oh, just a joke for my many Baptist friends!!) Anyway, until tomorrow, snuggle in your warm beds as we're still waiting for the heat to be turned on!
Love, Margie and Allen
Ryan - hello! anyone home??????????? hope you take better care of our puppy than you email your sister!
Deidre - the orphanage is fairly warm, but they dress them very well. Very well as in very warmly with many layers.
Mike - how does "deck the halls" sound?
Michelle (cuz) - hey! sorry I did leave your email home, glad you got me! now I'll include you. how was Guatemala?
***Dad - see you at the airport Friday night at 8 pm!!! YIPPEE***

Still haven't had enough?  Okay, click here for Week Three!