"No I didn't give you the gift of life, but life gave me the gift of you!"

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Playing with Bubbles

Due to a broken water pipe in the orphanage, the main level of the building is fairly chilly, so they had Z all bundled up when they brought her up for visits today. I re-bundled her back up for her treks back down to her Baby Room after our visits; it absolutely amazes me just how patient and easy going these babies are. Z didn’t throw any fuss when I swaddled her up; I can also take away her bottle or nook and she is okay, if I need to undress her to change her diaper or rub medicine on her belly and then need to re-dress her, she is so patient. She loves being naked, all the babies do. Will this continue? Once we get home will her true onry colors show, or will she continue to be easy going? Man, I sure hope she does!

Today we played with bubbles, which is always fun. Z seemed a little more interested in the bubbles, which was fun to see. She is starting to interact a bit more versus watch and lose interest right away. She even spent some good time today looking at her books while I read, this is new for her. When we first started to read books, she would look around and get antsy while I tried to read a book. Maybe she was just more interested today and maybe she is starting to 'get it' more??? Hmmmmm

During our morning visit, one of the caregivers came in and asked for Zahria to please go with her. When I asked Aina, my other translator, what was going on, she mentioned that all kids were getting their HIV tests today. Ugh! You only hope that they are careful with their needles. When Z came back, she had a bandage just wrapped around her little hand. Poor little bean! Honestly though, she seemed quite okay with the whole thing; she was interested in her bandage a bit, but didn’t seem to be bothered by the ouwie. (How in the world do you spell that word?) I think they just learn to deal……….because they have to, their caregivers don’t have the extra time or energy to make a big deal of anything. It is hurry and do for shots, feeding, changing, etc. No time for fuss.

Last night 4 of the 5 families here (Laurie was sick so she couldn't make it) went to an Armanian Restaurant called YPAPTY or OURTARTOU to us English speakers. :) It was great fun! Here are a couple photos of our group, the fireworks show before the dancers came out, and the flamin' bar. Before the dancers came out, they had local singers perform on stage which was fun. It was quite interesting trying to order food with one French couple, 2 Belguim couples and me the lone American. All 3 other couples speak English as well, but our waitress only spoke Russian. :) Yikes! None of us speak Russian. :) Luckily we found a guy there that spoke English and helped us make our decisions and place our order. Stress! I again ordered the Pork Shashlik, a form of barbeque, but it was a bit different from the Shashlik that I had at the Ukranian Restaurant.........remember this is an Armanian Restaurant. I went with the Shashlik because I was too stressed out to try something new, it was just too stressful for us all to figure out what to order so I stuck with what I thought would be safe and good.......and it was. :)

TIP – Research your agency’s in-country staff before signing!!! I remember my great friend Suzanne telling me this piece of advice, research your agency backwards. Suzanne was advised to start her research on agencies backwards, starting with researching the in-country team and then moving to researching the agency itself once hearing of good in-country teams. I am so glad that I did this……..at least I kind of did! I found a couple agencies that I liked and then I researched their in-country staff’s standings in Kaz as a whole. It really is amazing how differently one’s in-country experience can be with a good team behind you! I can only say that LMI really did a fantastic / phenomenal job when hiring my in-country team in Aqtobe! They are the best, and other families also notice this! Again, my team is Ceric (driver), Gulnara (coordinator), Bayana & Aina & Marina (translators.) The littlest things make such a huge difference, case in point:

• When I arrived in Almaty, my Almaty translator, Marina, met me at the airport and stayed with me for 7 hours while we waited for my delayed flight. Marina was only supposed to meet me around 5:30 a.m. to help me buy my ticket to fly on to Aqtobe, and then once my flight left at 7:45 a.m. she would leave; but as luck had it, my flight was in late and my connecting flight was then delayed about 7 hours……….and Marina stayed with me the entire time! She helped me purchase my ticket, exchange money, took me to get a bit to eat at a nearby hotel and then watched my luggage while I slept on a couch in the coffee shop. Marina also hooked me up with my own cell phone to use in case of emergencies while in country and to call my translators if I need them, plus she gave me all of the in-country staff’s phone numbers right in Almaty, right at the beginning of my trip. Marina who is in Almaty, still calls me every now and then to see how things are going in Aqtobe. Just a note – other agencies do not do these same things!!!!
• My driver, Ceric, is an amazing, kind & funny guy; Ceric absolutely goes above and beyond. There are many times that he picks up Laurie and I at the baby house and drops us off at the Mall or picks us up at a restaurant instead of just picking me up at my hotel as is normal. Last night he brought me, Sarah, Geert, Davy & Evy all to the restaurant and didn’t ask for any money. Ceric is only hired to bring me to and from my daily bonding visits, by no means does he need to drive me anywhere else. You see, none of these other families are even Ceric’s families, they have their own driver, he doesn’t have to help them/us out at all, but he does because he goes above and beyond. We tipped him of course, after he refused many times, he finally accepted. I must also say that Ceric has a clean newer van with heat, he never smokes in his car, and it is a very comfortable atmosphere; this is not true of other drivers. Ceric also only picks up me and Margo, so he is not overbooked with families; again this is not the same for all agencies and their in-country drivers.
• My translators, Aina & Bayana are top notch! Seriously, Bayana has helped answer so many questions for me and the other families. Last night I called Bayana at 11:00 pm (her idea) and she sent her taxi driver to the restaurant to pick us all up. When I first arrived in Aqtobe, Aina and Ceric froze their butts off helping me get my baggage, etc. When I arrived at the Hotel, Aina came in with me to help me get things set up and Ceric helped carry in my bags. Some just get dropped off and are ‘on their own.’ You may also just assume that if you get a translator they can speak fairly good English, and this is not always the case! This is so so so important! If they are translating your documents, answering your questions, translating for you at court, and they don’t speak great English, what kind of representation do you really have? My translators are great! I have total faith in their English skills, and they are so helpful! They too go above & beyond! Bayana is great about telling us where are great places to eat and shop, which is so helpful; she also went shopping with Laurie and I to help us buy diapers, the ‘right’ baby lotion, cold medicine, baby clothes, etc. This is not always the case. I am Bayana / Aina’s only family here in Aqtobe right now, so they are not overstretched and they can truly help me out and make me their priority!
• My in-country staff only works with LMI families and a small Hawaiian agency, so they are very familiar with how LMI runs things and they are not overstretched in their time & resources. Other in-country teams are subcontracted by several agencies leaving them overstretched.
• My coordinator, Gulnara, is said to be the ‘bulldog’ coordinator as she gets it done! The day before I arrived in Aqtobe, Gulnara was in a fairly bad car accident, her car was totaled and she had a bad head injury, but her equally capable sister stepped in and helped coordinate my paperwork. My translator Aina is also helping getting my paperwork typed up, notarized and delivered. For New Years, Gulnara stopped in to the orphanage to say hi, ask how my bonding is going, and give me a very wonderful gift. That is above & beyond! I hear that not all coordinators have equal luck in the courts here.

Just good food for thought!


Alysa said...

What a cute little papoose! All bundled up and cozy. I'm so glad you were able to see her today. Also am relieved to hear you get to change her clothes and diapers. I know some babyhouses don't allow you to do that, so you never see the baby in the buff until after court. Just peace of mind to count all the fingers and toes.

Thank you SO MUCH for the info on the in-country staff. They sound wonderful and that is such a huge relief! I'm glad they are taking good care of you. BTW, (I'm in gift buying mode), do the caretakers have pierced ears?

Only a couple more official bonding days to go! Do you know yet when you will be scheduled for court? Or do they wait til after bonding?

Have fun!


Heather & Rob said...

Christy... thanks for the great info on the in-country staff. I've been trying to do a bunch of research on that topic before we go ahead and sign with LMI. I do have a question, though... I know on some blogs I've read, the translators go to many meals with the families to translate, the driver takes them all over, and they even get to go sight-seeing and shopping with the in-country staff there to help. But you mentioned that your driver is only contracted to take you to and from your visits, and your translators point out good restaurants but don't go with you. Are there various levels of staff "packages" to select from, in terms of how much of their time you get, or is it just standard? What did the US staff tell you to expect from the in-country staff before you traveled? Any insight would be great.


Catalina said...

Beautiful pictures as usually, I love most the one with the bubbles. what beautiful eyes she has!
You are so lucky with your team, I did not know about all those things when I chose my agency, now is too late.. I hope everything will be OK.
Thank you for your detailed posts and all the good advices.

Susan said...

so glad you had a fun day with your daughter today and you're not sad anymore. I'm sure she's just warming up and getting used to the books and will really start to show an interest. That's so awesome!
So good to know you're well taken care of in country.
We're not using LMI, but i always read the blogs of other Commonwealth families with extreme interest since in country staff makes such a big deal. So far, everything i have read is very positive, so that makes me feel better.

your dinner out looked like fun!

Amy said...

Hi Christy!! So glad you got to see Z today!! What a character! I think it is pretty normal for a baby not to be able to sit through the reading of a book. My 10 year old niece who just a few days ago was reading her Mom's college History of Elizabethan Times textbook wasn't able to sit through the reading of even a cardboard baby book until she was nearly 2 1/2. At the same age Z was I was lucky to get about three pages read before she was off to something else. Or she did show longer interest in the book but only to chew on it. That is great info that you are providing regarding the in country staff. Such anonymous people that play such a huge role. I hope more people list their experiences with the in country staff so other PAPs can see!

zeunkazkids said...

Hi Christy......oh congratulations on your little munchkin!!!!! I'm so glad things are going well for you and that you have decided to stay.......I know it's hard but I bet she is really getting to know you.....I stayed with my son 2 years ago...it was hard but it was just too precious a time for me to leave him.....plus it was great to have time with my son away from the day to day stresses of life.....and I had that luxury of doing so with my job and all......thanks for all the good news about LMI......it is good to hear........now will you get to take Z after the bonding period or do you have to wait for court?????


drhoey said...

Things sound much brighter today! Good heavens, could she be any more darling? Did she seem well after your day apart? Why in the heck would they do HIV tests when the parents were there?

Shannon said...

Hi Christy!

Thanks for the posting, I was getting worried ;-) Zahri is so so so so cute (get my drift?) and I know you love every moment with her. I'm glad you're enjoying your time there, and I'm REALLY glad you speak well about LMI. I wish I were there with you!

Happy New Year,

Stacy Peters-Walters said...

Hi Christy - I love the pics of Z and the bubbles - she's so interested in them! I think sitting through books is based on each kid's personality. Connor by 3 months would let me read and read and read to him from little board books. Even now, I could read to him for hours from chapter books and he loves it. Alanna wouldn't let me read even one page of a book until she was 13 months old. Something suddenly switched for her and now she can't get enough of them. Kaidan's temperment seems to be in the middle. At four months he'll let me read him about 2 board books before he's ready for something else. He also has to be in the right position - us lying side by side on the bed with me holding the book in front of him. It's so cute and amazing to watch the different personalities. I can't wait to hear how Z's personality changes and grows! Stac

Tasha said...

You are living the life! Congrats!!!

Oh, it's 'oowie' according to a slang dictionary.

Zihnadoc said...

Hi Christy,

I have been following the whole journey and suddenly I am getting nothing new since January 4th. Is everything ok? Holding you in my prayers and hopes for a trip home to the USA very soon!

Zihna Jones

Izaak, Elijah & Ty 'Bear'

Izaak, Elijah & Ty 'Bear'
Cousins (Izaak wants to name my daughter (his cousin) Isabella, Sant (for 'Santa') or Hershey (his friend's dog's name.) Hmmmm I told him that if we name her 'Hershey,' that would mean that we get to give her a lot of kisses.

Kolter Matthius Simon

Kolter Matthius Simon
Littlest Cousin......possibly. Kolter may indeed be the same age as his little girl cousin in Kaz. :)