December 24 2003

I would like to start by saying Merry Christmas Eve to All of you!

We got up this morning and just kind of futtzed  around the apartment. Did a load of laundry, Katherine had some new cloths, under-garments, that needed to be washed.

The coffee saga is still interesting. I am not sure if I mentioned that Ann and I brought 7 pounds of coffee from home. We also brought a somewhat portable/travel coffee maker. The coffee maker only lasted about 3 pots worth before the electronics burnt out. Since Almaty, we have been heating the water in a water heater and pouring it through the grounds in the filter. I would suggest to anybody that loves coffee and is traveling over here, to buy the manual coffee maker. You can buy one when you get here, this is another option. Jim and Suzanne bought one and it has worked out just fine for them.  We did see coffee beans at the grocery store, not sure of the taste and not sure we are going to try it out. Your call on bringing your own. Anyway, the entire coffee making process takes us about 15-20 minutes to produce 2 14oz cups of good home coffee.

Breakfast consisted of Strawberry and Banana oatmeal, purchased here in Karaganda. You can pretty much get what ever you want at the market. I would suggest not packing too many food products, if you were worrying about it. I (Bill) am a pretty picky eater and have managed to maintain my beautiful figure, (ok whatever, I have managed to keep up my health just fine). Ann has become a resourceful cook, we have cheese and salami, with a cup o soup for dinner.  Lunch is usually out with Natasha and Olga.

We had to print the pictures for the care givers this morning. I also put together 2 photo albums, 1 for Katherine's room and 1 for Anthony's room. Pictures we have taken since visiting their rooms for the past 2 weeks. I thought is would be nice to leave these in the room so the care givers could see where their babies have gone. Pictures are a huge hit here. The care givers seem to love having a photo of themselves. I printed mine on the portable photo printer I brought with  me from home. We developed a roll of film and had 30 reprints done. All in all it was 54 prints for 2200 Tenge, about 15 USD. Not too bad, but the quality of the prints was less than desirable.

So - You've been wondering what all the fluff above is about when today is court day?  We thought we'd make you all suffer through our morning like we did.  OH MY GOD were we nervous. My Mom and Ryan called us this morning which was great. At that time I wasn't too nervous and Bill was still sleeping so he wasn't nervous either. Natasha was picking us up at 9:10am. By 8:50 we were starting to get a bit crazy.  Bill was still in his skivvies.  I kept saying you better get dressed.  Then the phone rang.  We thought it would be the Ferets, but much to my delight it was my good friend Taralee.  We chatted for a few minutes while Bill actually started getting dressed. That was when he became visibly nervous.  I'm talking with Taralee and Bill thinks he hears Olga coming up the steps, he's like 'Annnnnnn.....?!'  (Does that cover the inflection in his voice?)  So I get off the phone with Taralee and it's not Olga.  The next two people who pass through the hallway outside are also not Olga.  Where are they? Finally, right on time, Natasha knocks on the door and off we go.  We have everything we need for court, sweaty pits, clammy hands and cotton mouth.  We also remembered to bring our pictures (which they never asked to see but came in handy for occupying a few minutes while we waited) and the gifts for the Lawyer, Judge and Secretary.  We had to put together a last minute gift for the lady from the Custody Office. We remembered hers too.

We met Olga and Svetlana outside the courthouse.  It was a bit chilly today so we waited in the car a few minutes. When it was time, (maybe when the lawyer got there?) they ushered us into the lobby of the courthouse. We sat and waited there a few minutes.  Apparently there were some mistakes on one of the documents and they had to redo them and we had to resign them.  It was just me, Bill and Olga sitting on the bench waiting.  Poor Olga was so nervous.  It actually helped me by trying to help her not be so nervous. Bill threw the Do you have a bear at home joke on her, but he was so nervous he kind of stumbled through it.  We all laughed anyway.

It was time to go upstairs and wait. You go up three flights of stairs.  At the top of the stairs, you make a left and a quick right.  This brings you into a small room with nothing but a radiator and a window.  No seats. This is where you stand and wait until court begins. Passing out at this point was a definite option.  This is when I pulled out the pictures I'd brought with me.  I went through them with Olga and then with Svetlana.  It was a good distraction.  We were talking and I guess I was too loud (imagine that).  The lawyer came over and told us we should keep our voices down.  The little room we were in led to the secretary's office. You walk through her office (which is just a room with a desk, a cabinet and a chair - everyone puts their coat on the chair) to get to the judges chamber.

Finally it was time. We all file in.  Present in the court room are the Judge, behind his desk, the Prosecutor (a young woman who looked like she should be on the practice), the secretary (she sat next to the prosecutor and she had on some truly funky spiked boots), the Custody Office lady (who seemed much nicer today), the lawyer (he and the custody lady sat against a wall facing the prosecutor and secretary).  Olga, Bill and I were in the middle of the room facing the judge with the secretary and prosecutor in between us.  Behind us to our right was the head doctor for the orphanage and Katherine's doctor. She spoke on behalf of both Anthony and Katherine.

Before the proceedings began our lawyers cell phone rang. He and the judge both turned their cell phones off at that point.

The lawyer read the petition that we signed a few days ago.  It was just a letter asking we be allowed to adopt Katherine and Anthony and change their names, but not their birth dates.

The judge and lawyer talked about our paperwork for a bit. There was apparently some mistakes they were trying to clear up.  No big deal, but as your sitting there everything seemed like a big deal. Then the judges phone rang. He picked it up and had a conversation with the party on the other end.  We are not as important as we think, huh?  

The judge asked who would speak, that was me (Ann).  He asked did I want to say anything.  I just said we were grateful to the court to hear our petition. They asked us questions.  What do you do for a living, how much do you make, why are you adopting and why from Karaganda.

The prosecutor asked that if we both worked, how would we take care of the children.  I was very grateful to be able to say I'd made arrangements to go back to work part time and that Bill worked from home.  Thank you Prudential and Agilent!!  The prosecutor also asked what was Ryan's attitude toward us adopting.  I said he was excited (did I get that right Ry?)

Right about here, the judges phone rings again, and just in case we did not get the message of not being too important the first time, he answers and has another conversation.  I'm not complaining or anything, it's just that everything is so weird when you have no idea what's going on.

The Custody Lady, the Head Doctor and Katherine's Doctor spoke on our behalf and also on the behalf of the children.  When the head doctor said the reason Katherine and Anthony were in the orphanage was because no one  wanted them, I started to cry.  That was the beginning of  when I started to really lose it. I didn't sob or anything.  Don't mistake me. But the tears welled up and I had to pull myself together.

The only curve ball they really threw was this.  The judge said yesterday they heard a story of a family that adopted a Russian boy and when they brought him back to America and he died. When Olga translated, because of her accent, I at first thought she said they Bit him to death.  I was mortified. I'm sure Bill was too.  And there was no question here.  It was a statement. So I just kind of looked at him and then at Olga with eyes the size of saucers.  What are you supposed to say to that?  Finally the judge asks, 'Does this change your mind at all?".  I'm like What in the World does that have to do with US???  Of course I did not say that.  I just said No, it doesn't change our mind.

Finally the prosecutor made her recommendation that since no one else wanted these children that we should be allowed to adopt them.  The judge said we were coming to the end of our proceedings, was there anything else we'd like to say?  Of course I'd just like to say No, but again I say We are grateful for the opportunity and would be the best parents to Anthony and Katherine we could be. The judge says the reason he asks is because we are coming to the end of the proceedings and if we've changed our mind, now would be the time to say so.  No, we hadn't changed our minds. Then he asks Bill does he have anything to say.  Bill says Thanks for the opportunity and he really loves his children. That got across to the judge as the father says the same at the mother. The judge did say that Bill looked grim, not joyful.  How do you say in Russian, "That's because I'm so nervous I'm going to throw up?" That's it.  We file out and go to the little waiting room without the seats. It was about two minutes in the waiting room.  The judge was mercifully quick.  Thank You Mr. Judge!!!

We stand for the decision.  I think Olga almost had a heart attack because I bent to place my purse on the floor and she's saying 'You must stand, it is the decision!!!'.  The judge says, because we already have one son at home (and I guess because we have managed to keep him alive for 9 years) and because no Kazak citizens want to adopt these children and we are financially stable, he grants our petition for adoption and our request to change the names of the children to Anthony and Katherine. That we will be listed as the parents of these children and they will be United States citizens. HOORAY!!!  There was nothing anti-climatic about it.  I cried.  Had a really tough time controlling myself at the end.  The tears just came.

The judge asked more than once about Anthony's name.  He wanted to know if it was Italian. He either really liked it or didn't. Hard to tell, but he asked about it enough.  I think he liked it.

So it was pretty much the end and the judge said something to Olga and she answered "Yes".  She answered in English, she quickly caught herself and said "Dah".  I just thought it was funny since yesterday she was worried she'd start speaking to us in Russian.  Everyone laughed.

We all filed out.  I got a hug from Katherine's doctor and Svetlana.  A handshake from the head doctor and the lawyer.  Bill and I wobbled down the three flights of stairs on shaky legs. It seemed like everyone else was racing down the stairs.

We came back to the apartment and were here a little after 10:30.  All in all the process from the time Natasha picked us up was about an hour and a half.  We could not go see Katherine and Anthony for our morning visit.  Everyone is busy getting ready to take Jim and Suzanne Feret to court. We called the Feret's when we got back to the apartment, just to wish them luck. I am sure they will have the same success we had.  

Although we must wait for the paper work to clear for the next two weeks, it is official, we are a family of 5 (not including the dogs) and tomorrow we will celebrate with the doctors and will bring our children to the apartment, the start of the home coming.

This is a single photo of the outside of the court house. We will ask Natasha and Olga to give a better tour later. I was so nervous, taking pictures was not on my mind.

This is quick. Our evening with Katherine and Anthony was fabulous. They are now KATHERINE DELMEDICO AND ANTHONY DELMEDICO. That is so cool. It felt good to hold OUR new additions. I told them that they are officially Delmedico's, I do not think they got it. That is ok. They may be coming to the apartment tomorrow. We do not know for sure yet, Olga will call us in the morning and let us know what is going on. It was somewhat of a short visit. We left early to attend the Methodist Church service.

This was an experience I will never forget (as hard as I may try). They pretty much did everything except "lay hands" and that may be only because we left early. I am ok with all of it, it was just unexpected. Svetlana was correct in forcing Max (the interpreter) to go with us. He was priceless. I do not think he has ever experienced anything like this in his life and will be talking about it for days maybe even months.  It was all in Russian. Max had to interpret everything for us. His eyes were as big as saucers when the singing started. They were singing and raising hands to God and swaying to the music and rolling their eyes.

This is Ann throwing in her two cents about the service. I write this account at the risk of offending anyone religious and anyone associated with a ministry. However, this is our experience and the story is too good not to be told.  First Max is Orthodox Christian.  Very somber, very serious religious practices. He said his mother told him not to trust these ministries. Svetlana did not want us to go either.  This is proof once again that mother is always right.  After traipsing through half of Karaganda trying to find the place, we found it tucked down a very bumpy road (there are lots of those).  We go in and find that it is not a church at all.  It looks like a renovated night club.  There were maybe 15 people there when we arrived at 6:15. The Feret's court time was postponed until 5:30 so it was just me, Bill and Max.  We thought we arrived late, but found out service started at 6:30.  Max was not feeling OK about any of this. He said that in his church it is a big sin to sing.  There were two guys up there with electric guitars. At 6:30 the minister (?) came up to the podium with a big cordless microphone. He looked Italian from Jersey City maybe.  He was starting to go bald in the front but had some nicely slicked down black hair.  He wore a burgundy blazer over a black t-shirt. I knew we were in trouble. We really don't understand Russian. We can pick out a work here or there, but I can tell you Pimsler's Russian CD did not have any of the words this man used.  Through Max he said he was glad to see everyone was here at church and not home drinking vodka. He paced back and forth and praised Jesus and shouted some Hallelujahs!  Hallelujah is the same in Russian and English.  He was very loud.  He only spoke for a few minutes and then turned over the service to the singers. A young boy, maybe 11 years old, was in charge of the overhead projector that had the words to the songs they started to sing. With the electric guitars jamming we were treated to a Russian Christian Pop Rock Version of Christmas Music.  Max read to us the words of the songs. He was mortified.  Bill and I were beside ourselves.  The people in the 'audience' were raising their hands and swaying back and forth and singing at the top of their lungs.  It was really loud now.  There were guys in the back of the room almost dancing in the aisles.  This was not my preconceived notion of a Christmas Eve service. By the second song, I was almost convinced the Feret's had set us up. It would have been a great joke. The girl that sang the first song at least had a pleasant voice.  The older woman who lead the second song was much like a bullfrog with a cold. Max went outside to try and call them to see if they were coming, so Bill and I were left alone.  It occurred to me at some point that this type of service might be familiar to Bill since he grew up in southern Mississippi and had attended a tent revival or two. He claimed that he'd never seen anything like this in his life. When Max came back in, he said the Ferets would be there any minute.  He was going to wait outside and when they got there if we wanted to leave he would come back in and get us.  I told him, You are NOT leaving us in here.  I am getting my coat!  And out the door we went.  Total experience was about 45 minutes (not including the drive there).  I feel we escaped soon enough that their voodoo magic will have little lasting affects on us. We laughed long and hard about our Ministry experience. Max says he is never going back and we agreed that we weren't either.  I also tried to assure him that this was not representative of all church services in the United States. However, Max is going to Tennessee in the spring.  I warned him to stay away from church while there. Those arms swaying in the air (and remember bathing is not a daily activity here) will haunt my dreams tonight.   Ann signing out.

We had Christmas Eve dinner with Jim, Suzanne, Max, Natasha and Vadeem (Natasha's husband). I am still afraid of the meat here. I could not eat all my food because I started to think about it too much. I clearly have an interest in toilets. The ones at the restaurant were simply porcelain holes in the floor. Disgusting.

We know this post is late, but we had a very busy day.

We hope that you all enjoy your Christmas Eve festivities.

Good Night and God Bless!

© Bill Delmedico 2013