Friday, March 30, 2007

New Country & A Happy Baby

We are in Almaty now, and I am finally in a place where I am able to post so there is a lot to catch up on.

It was 8 p.m., pitch black and raining when we left Kyrgyzstan on Wednesday night with our adoption facilitator and the two other American couples and their children. Because of the size of our group, we needed two vehicles to make the trek. Jerret and I chose to ride in the 4-door sedan along with our facilitator. Our driver was from Almaty and spoke no English. The beat-up grey Volvo he was driving had a pungent odor, smelling on the inside as though he had used the heater for warming curry chicken.

Jerret cradled JJ in his arms, trying to get him to sleep as we drove through the night waiting to cross the Kazakh border. Surprisingly, we arrived after only 30 minutes and were told to “wake up” and get our passports ready as the car we were riding in reached a stop. Our adoption facilitator told us to follow her and we, along with the other two couples, exited the vehicle and proceeded by foot to a well-lit shack where the border patrol agents asked us to present our visas. The guard didn’t speak any English, but we understood that he wanted us to move inside as he pointed to those of us carrying babies and then again to the building up ahead. The second stop required further scrutinization of our passports, as the agents were now required to verify the stops shown on our visas before allowing our entry into Kazakhstan. JJ grew increasingly heavy in my arms and began fussing quite a bit as he was missing a feeding at the exact time we were waiting for our clearance. (The orphanage babies are on such a strict regimen that you could probably set your clock based on their cries for hunger). An hour later we were finally all finished with processing and permitted to enter Kazakhstan.

Jerret and I slept off and on and took turns holding JJ during the drive. After about 2 hours we realized that JJ doesn’t particularly care to be held 100 percent of the time, nor is he used to it, and the only way we could get him back to sleep was to lay him between us - directly on the seat. It was another hour before we finally reached the city of Almaty.

Around midnight our group of three families checked into the Hotel Otrar, which looked nice enough from the lobby. We had previously heard that the rooms in this hotel are extremely small so we should upgrade to a junior suite if at all possible. All three families wanted to upgrade to the suite, yet there was only one available. We decided to let one of the other families take the room and resigned ourselves to the fact that we would be in a smaller room for the next 6 days - until we saw what lay ahead...

We made our way up to the third floor and found our room – the smaller than small room. The 10 x 10 space consisted of two twin beds and three dressers. It was all nice, and very clean, but we literally did not even have room to turn around in there (let alone any amenities such as oh…say… an alarm clock). We were so tired from the day’s journey that we decided to crash anyway and reconsider our hotel options in the morning.

The next morning we talked with the other couple from our agency that was unfortunate enough to stay in the miniature room. They too decided we needed to look for another place and the husband and Jerret offered to explore the city in search of a new, bigger, better hotel. About 3 hours later the men returned and boasted of their find – a double room with a TV and two chairs. Bigger sounded better to all of us, so we checked out of the Otrar and into the Alma-Alta hotel.

The lobby was very deceiving and certainly looked nice enough for our stay, yet as soon as the elevator opened to our 5th floor room, I knew we were again at an inadequate place. The grey, carpet-covered floors were also covered with stains, and the same curry chicken odor that I noticed in the car the night before lingered down the hallway. The doors to the room looked as though they were made of plastic and did not deadbolt. The room was divided in two and had a separate sleeping and sitting areas, but both were equally dirty. The final straw came when I stepped into the bathroom for the first time and found tiled walls with dirty brown grout and a bathtub that looked as if it had not been washed since the 1970s. I was really trying not to be snobbish about the whole situation, but this bathtub was literally so dirty that I was not about to take a shower there myself let alone put my baby in it. And again, no amenities meaning no alarm clock and definitely no internet access in our room. We again spoke with the couple that had switched hotels with us and once again decided we would explore new hotel options in the morning.

Fast forward to this morning and I am happy to report that we found a great hotel that is ultra-clean. The room is big (again a double room) and has every amenity needed, including an alarm clock.

We stayed in most of the day today because of rain. For dinner we ventured out with our new friends and ate at an awesome Chinese restaurant called Di Wang (Jerret just can’t get enough apparently). JJ is eating like crazy and it is so cute to watch him drink out of a glass the way he did at the orphanage. That boy will eat anything and everything in sight and jumps with excitement at the sight of a bottle. We are all doing well, just ready to come home.

The water smells funny here – not just in our hotel but everywhere.


Kelly said...

What another great picture. I've printed in all off for mom to take over to grandma this weekend to see. (Note, I said MOM take over.) Thankfully only a couple more days......and then the long travel back home. We can't wait for you guys to get home. Get you three outta these weird places and back home so we know your safe and can finally see JJ. Love you bunches!

Anonymous said...

Its great to read it when you write "my baby"!!!

Carol said...

What a happy little guy! We can't wait to meet JJ. I nearly fell off my chair laughing the other night while reading about the restaurant adventure. Dad was here Tuesday so I made sure he saw the 1st photo. We are all just so happy for you!!