After 3 days in Bishkek, we awoke at 3AM for our drive to Almaty, Kazakhstan. Joshua slept most of the way. I was interested in seeing what I could see which turned out to be lots of road kill. After crossing the border, we made the trip to Almaty and on the way I spotted a dead cow (legs sticking straight up in the air), a dead dog and I’m not kidding, a dead camel. Otherwise, the scenery was pretty boring with the exception of the cool but creepy looking cemeteries on the sides of the road every few miles.
Almaty is a busy city. We found ourselves as LA natives in the most culturally familiar sight we had yet encountered, heavy traffic. The cultural exceptions are the heavy smell of diesel and the aggressive nature of the drivers. Lanes are just a suggestion in Central Asia.
We were traveling in 2 cars with another family, Bob and Sloan Walsh and their daughter Hannah to be precise. To be really precise, Bob was home in the states and being played by Sloan’s best friend, Wendy. As we were told, if the husband made it on the first trip, then only one spouse was needed to complete the adoption on the second trip. So sloan asked Wendy to come and she did. Wendy was an amazing asset, taking tons of pictures and providing needed relief for Sloan. We had a good time with them.
The Walsh’s driver was experienced. He’d done the trip before. Our driver was following him. The problem was that with all of the traffic, we lost them somewhere along the line. I knew we were in trouble when our driver started slowing down and really examining the addresses on the side of the road as if he were looking for something familiar. He then turned to me while driving and smiled and cigarette stained smile and said in Russian what I can only guess was something to the effect of, “Do you have any idea where the SOS clinic is?” I smiled back with a “Yani Panamayu” which means I don’t understand – which was a lie. No, I don’t speak Russian, but I know how to get lost and I know what it looks like and this guy was lost.
Jen and I started praying. It’s amazing how in one part of your heart and mind you can pray while in the other part you can cuss. It’s part of the mystery of being flawed spiritual creatures I suppose.
It was extremely frustrating that he never stopped to ask for directions. He just kept driving and looking and turning and driving and we thought, “there is no way that we are going to make our appointment in time.” We drove by it. He never noticed it. I saw it and yelled. Jen violently tapped him on the arm and we turned around and made it to the clinic just in time for our appointment.
The SOS clinic was pretty clean. The medical staff was friendly. Joshua didn’t seem to like any bit of it though. After being prodded and poked and measured and thoroughly violated, Joshua was none the worse for wear. Our translator for Kazakhstan, Zorya, showed up in the middle of the appointment. We moved our bags from the taxis to her van and our taxi drivers gladly made their way home.
We went immediately after this for our first appointment at the US Consulate. This was a simple procedure of handing them a bunch of papers and setting up an appointment for the following day when we would get Joshua’s and Hannah’s immigrant visas.
We had lunch afterwards – forgettably bad kabobs – but at least there was a Baskin Robbins ice cream place – comfort food during a stressful time. We asked about the flavors – it was all written in Russian. The 31 flavors employees didn’t speak much English and so it’s amazing how each of the 31 flavors seemed to be either chocolate or chocolate with nuts.
Our hotel was unspectacular with a small air conditioned room with the custom scent of previously smoked tobacco (a nice touch I thought) and famous Russian warmth and hospitality.
One of the highlights of this part of the trip had to be the visit we had with some of our staff and students who happened to be passing through Almaty on the very same day. We had a great time sharing stories and pizza with them and it was fun to share Joshua with them as well. They arrived early that morning and flew out late that night, so it was amazing that we got to spend time with them.
The Next Day we toured with Wendy up to the mountains. Sloan was struggling a bit with the effects of our previous day’s lunch. And then we all met at the Consulate for our appointments. It seemed that the Sloan had already had a rough morning. The embassy had apparently changed the rules without telling anyone. Now the 2nd adoption trip apparently required both parents to come. “Your husband must be here to sign the forms,” Sloan was told unsympathetically. After lots of stress and sleeplessness and help from Zorya and a lot of prayer, they received an exception – but the consulate workers (many of them not Americans by the way) were very difficult for her to work with and made the experience extremely difficult. We were very blessed to have no such problems. Zorya said we were one of the smoothest adoptions she had encountered and that nearly everyone had some sort of problem with the bureaucracy at the consulate.
Our adoption agency, Nightlight Christian Adoptions was pretty amazing. We ran into people who were really struggling with the wrong paperwork and experiencing huge delays and 3rd world bureaucratic frustration because their agencies just didn’t prepare them well. We highly recommend Nightlight to anyone considering adoption in China or Central Asia.
The bottom line for us was that we left the consulate with Joshua’s Kyrgyzstan passport and US visa along with all of the approved documents to make him legally ours and a citizen of the United States. We are grateful to God for his grace to us. It’s unbelievable.