Saturday, June 23, 2007

Wednesday, June 20th - My last day with Beck

I'm happy to report I write this blog from the comfort of my own home! After 3 days of traveling I finally made it! My bed felt absolutely heavenly!

June 20th, 2007

Every day Beck's greetings become more and more enthusiastic. Today was no exception as he ran to us with open arms and collapsed into my arms with a gigantic bear hug. Then immediately gave the same warm treatment to Daddy. Again we were invited to take the kids off the property so our wonderful translator suggested we go to a nice restaurant that she said we very unique. Beck was nervous about getting in the car but quickly stopped crying and began taking in all the sights. The restaurant was unlike any I've ever seen. There was a man made lake with floating gazebos which contained a table each and cushions to sit on. Beck has probably never seen a lake and he was about to take his first boat ride to our table. The small craft rocked at we stepped aboard which made him cry, but as soon as we started moving he was very entertained as we skipped across the water. He sat on my lap as we waited for our food. It was an incredibly relaxing experience, sitting out in this quiet, peaceful lake with the snow-capped mountains as a back drop. I wasn't sure what he would eat so we got some rice and a beef and vegetable dish. He eagerly ate the entire plate of rice, an adult portion of the beef and veggies (I have to admit it was incredible feeding a child who ate anything and everything you put in front of him, without protest. I'm hoping he can teach Morgan a thing or two when it comes to eating!). Even after his meal he still seemed to want more so Tim shared a dish of lamb dumplings. After about 6 dumplings (and a half a dish of ice cream) I thought it would be best to stop there before he exploded. I wasn't sure if he was eating because it was being served and perhaps he felt it was expected of him to eat whatever was being served, or if he was really that hungry.

It was hard knowing that this was my last day with Beck, but it was a wonderful way to spend it. He was content to just sit on my lap quietly taking it all in. I don't know many 2 year old that would be so easy going. I didn't want to leave our little oasis of tranquility, but knowing that he was a little boy who was so accustomed to routine I felt it important to find a bathroom for him. So we boarded the little boat and made our way back to shore. I brought him into the main restaurant and into the ladies room. Let me preface this story by stating that I have a little girl and I have never had to bring a little boy to the bathroom, but I thought no problem, he's potty trained, he sits of the little 'pots' at the orphanage, how hard can this be. I opened the bathroom stall door and much to my horror there was NO TOILET! Just this odd sink-like hole in the floor. What the heck do you do with that?! I started to panic, I knew the clock had started ticking and this little guy needed to go to the bathroom NOW! I tried my best to hold him, hovering over this odd fixture, we were contoured in this small stall and I think it dawned on him quickly that I had no clue what I was doing, and any moment we were both going to get soaked! Seeing that I was having a bathroom meltdown, our absolutely fabulous translator took charge and effortless held him in the apparently correct position and he did his business. And with that, I failed my first bathroom test.

It was time to return him to the orphanage. I tried to keep reminding myself that I would be back in 2 months and hoped he would not forget how far we've come. There was comfort in the fact that Joe would be staying behind and spending another week with him, but still I wondered what he would think when I disappeared. I asked the translator to tell him that I would be back and to continue to remind him, every time she saw him. I developed pictures we had taken together throughout the week and put them in a photo album for him and hoped it would keep our memories fresh in his mind.

By the time we got to his house the other kids were sleeping. He burst into the room and immediately shouted about the tales of the day and the caretaker rushed to quiet him. She asked him something about his newest adventure and he spun around and pointed at me and answered her "Mama!". That was a good feeling. He ran back to me and gave me a hug and rushed off to his little bed. I waved "pa ka" from the doorway and he waved back, with a big smile. It was a good last moment and one that has to keep us both until next time we meet.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Tuesday, June 19th

I'm STILL at LaGuadia! Note to self: next trip, pack a sleeping bag!

Tuesday June 19th

Today the orphanage director said we could take Beck and Anara to a local Amusement Park! We were thrilled at the opportunity to take our children outside the confines of the orphanage, but we were nervous since this would be Beck's first car ride, and moreover the first time he had left the walls of the orphanage since he was 2 months old. His caretakers told us that while other children were interested in sitting inside a car when the had to chance, Beck would never go near it. We had purchased a toy truck for Beck and put it inside the car. When it was time to go to the park I scooped him up and went swiftly to the car. As I opened the door he began to cry in shear panic! I sat down in the back seat and Joe handed him his toy and tried to distract him. After only a minute he stopped crying and was looking around, but when the car started to move it terrified him. But as we continued down the road we talked to him gently and waved "pa ka" to everything we passed. He quickly settled down and watched the scenery pass in pure amazement. He pointed out things he had probably never seen; horses pulling carts, big trucks, busy streets, markets, he watched it all with great intensity.

The amusement park is located only mile or so from the orphanage. It is very old and most everything in the small park with in dire need for repair and a good coat of paint. I quickly decided he wouldn't be riding on any of the rides, just for safety sake, never mind that he just survived his first car ride and probably wasn't ready to ride some pre-cold war era rollarcoaster. We walked around the park and finally just decided to sit on the swings ride, but asked the lone attendant in the park to NOT turn it on. Beck enjoyed sitting on my lap while Daddy gave us a little push. By this time the sun was pretty intense and the temperature was reaching over 100 degrees so we went and got Beck his first Ice Cream. He immediately bit into it and was quite surprised by it's coldness! But soon figured it out and devoured the entire thing! After his cool treat he was content to just sit on my lap and observe this new world around him.

On our return to the orphanage I asked if we could stop to get him a new pair of shoes. The shoes he was wearing were at least 2 sizes too small so we found a little shop. I pantomimed to Beck to sit on a little stool while I hurried to find a pair of shoes that would fit him. I was so proud that he would sit quietly, a remarkable feat for any 2 year old, moreover a 2 year old in a toy store for the first time! Every time I came back with another pair of shoes try try, he'd lift his feet, you'd think he had gone shoe shopping before. We finally settled on a very cool pair of leather sandals, I asked the translator to ask him if he liked them and he said yes. I can imagine they must have felt so much better than the tiny shoes he had been wearing.

Each time we got in the car, he would cry, but each time for a shorter duration before he would look around, engulfed in all the new sights.

When we returned to the orphanage he greeted his caretakers with quite a story! He excitedly spoke to them. I wish I knew exactly what he was saying. He joined his group who were already sitting down for lunch. We didn't mention the ice cream. He turned and gave me a hug and sat at his little table with the others. We waved "pa ka" and left. Another great day!

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Why they don't let us play on the playground anymore.

Not sure who's having more fun!

Monday, June 18th

Boy, I have a lot to catch you up on. I find myself once again stranded in a NYC airport for the night so I guess I have plenty of time to update you. Did I mention I've been in airports/airplanes for TWO days!!!!!!

MONDAY June 18th

Between the bubble extravaganza and the pringle crumbs, I think the caretakers felt it was best that we enjoyed our children in the courtyard, away from the group. It was a pleasant change. As much as I enjoyed playing with all the kids, it often made it impossible to focus only on Beck. We sat on the bench munching on pringles and apples that we brough him. We was most content to just sit on my lap and take it all in. After at least an hour he got and decided it was time to play ball with Daddy. It was only one of the few times we saw him get really animated. He laughed and chased the ball. At one point it went out of the confines of our area and he set off threw the gate after it. I called out "Nyet!" to stop him and he stopped cold in his tracks and waited for me to retrieve the ball. I was so proud of him. I must say, I'm trying to get a good grasp on Russian, at least at a toddler's level. My most used word would be "sabaca" which means dog (there a few strays that live amongst the building in the orphanage. The first time I used it Beck whirled his head around at me with a look of surprise, almost as if to say "good job, Mommy!" Not to be outdone, when I ask him "where's the baby?" (in English), he'd point at Tim and Hilary's little daughter. Slowly we'll break through the language barrier.

When we brought Beck back to his group for lunch the coordinator and director asked me what his new name will be, for purposes of his birth certificate. I wasn't aware that we'd be making a final decision there on the spot, but luckily Joe and I had spent the drive that morning discussing the matter; Beck Michael Tyler

They seemed pleased and said that "Beck" in Kyrgyz means 'strong man'. A good fit indeed.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Random pictures

I know you all really just want some pictures, so here you go!

Sunday, Father's Day

When we arrived at the Orphanage this morning the children were still inside their house. Most were watching TV while others, including Beck, were sitting at a table looking at books. As soon as he saw us he flashed a big smile and came over and hugged me. He then went over to our translator and pointed at me and said, "Mama". That was the best greeting.
The caretaker was preparing them to go outside to the play area and we asked if we could take Beck out early, just to see if he would leave the others and come with just Joe and I. I took him by the hand and he followed happily, chattering away. We when got to the play ground we opened up a can of Pringles (or Krack as it is called here) and he immediately enjoyed them, making a mess everywhere (guess we weren't going to be able to sneak those without being noticed!). After he had had his fill we were joined by the other children and I took out the bottles of bubbles we had purchased in the market. I sat on the floor and blew bubbles while the children laughed wildly and chased them. I couldn't make bubbles fast enough for them as they crowded around me waiting to pounce on the next round of bubbles. Beck laughed and smiled like I had never seen before. One by one I showed them how to blow the bubbles which usually resulted in me being covered with a mix of spit and bubble solution, but the looks on these children's faces were priceless. After some time Beck grew bored of the bubble madness and decided he would play with his Daddy while the other kids were preoccupied. Joe and Beck played with a ball, tossing it back and forth. Undoubtedly he is very comfortable with Joe. Watching the two of them play, you would never know they were strangers just days ago. I couldn't help but to think this Father's Day holds some very special meaning.
We continued to play all sorts of games with the kids. I thought to myself how the sole caretaker of these 10 or so kids would probably be happy to see us leave that day. Our mere presence, added to the fact that we were willing to play whatever games or foolishness they wanted, got these kids a bit wild. They soaked up all the attention with such enthusiasm, laughing at the top of their lungs. Several times she tried to quiet them, but to no avail. They were simply children being children.
As each day passes it becomes clearer that Beck understands that we belong to him. When he isn't directly playing with us, he keeps an eye on us. But the time he spends doing activities away from us has become less frequent. It is obvious that he wants to be doing what we're doing, or at least bring us to what he wants to do. No longer does he sit off to the side by himself. There is a definite change in his confidence, even in his dealings with the other children.
One of the little boys in Beck's group is being adopted by a couple from NC who we had met on the plane from NYC, and who, ironically we ran into at one of the large markets in Bishkek. They were leaving Monday and had bought Morat a little book, Hilary volunteered to bring the book to him. Today when Hilary gave Morat the book she said "Mama and Papa". It was obvious that he understood that the book was from his new parents. He sat down and focused all his attention on it, repeating "Mama". The other children, including Beck also wanted to inspect the book, but Morat held fast his treasure. Beck went to reach for it and I said "No, Morat's" in Russian and he immediately complied, but as is expected of any 2 year old, he still wanted the book. So I picked him up and he wrapped his arms around me and hugged me. With that, he forgot all about the book.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

A Good Day

We made the trek back to the orphanage, which is always an adventure. The road to Tokmok, which is a former Russian military base, is long and straight and due for repair. There's no lines painted on it and it's about 2 and 1/2 lanes wide. The sides of the road are usually lined with livestock who are allowed to roam free; large herds of cattle, sheep and goat, dotted with the occasional donkey or horse. There seems to be no true and fast rules of the road other than stay to the left, for the most part and drive as fast as you can. Yesterday I dared to glance at the speedometer and it read 150 km/hr. I asked Joe what does that convert to, and with a pale face he replied "fast". I later found out it's almost 100 mph. And as if that wasn't terrifying enough, passing other cars is like a game of roulette. With no lines designating lanes, the driver swurves out to the middle of the road, half in the on coming traffic, who moves over just enough to avoid a head on. This nail biting experience happens every few moments for the 1 1/2 ride. I have decided I shouldn't watch what is happening when we drive.

Anyways, we had a meeting with the orphanage director today to ask her any and all questions about Beck. It was very informative but there are questions that will never get answered. His Mother gave him up at the hospital and signed a fake address on the paperwork so despite the efforts of the orphanage, they can not find her. We also learned that he arrived at the orphanage from the baby hospital at 2 months and 3 weeks old, and he has never left the small complex since. Never set foot outside the walls, never even sat in a car. His orphanage director told me that he was happy that we were there and then she said, "and I'm trying not to cry." Indeed, they have a special relationship. I can take comfort that despite everything, he has been loved and cared for.

After our meeting one of the head teachers wanted to show us his cognitive skills. She brought out some puzzles and the 4 of us sat in the pavillion as he demonstrated his skills. He was just playing with the puzzle pieces trying to get them to fit upside down at first, but when he showed us the correct way we clapped and cheered and he flashed a smile showing how proud he was. For every piece he got correct we cheered and he'd smile again. Soon the teacher left us to work with the other children and we continued to play with the puzzles. It felt like we had only been there for a few minutes when the caretaker motioned that it was lunch time. My disappointment must have been written all over my face, I didn't want to stop, we were connecting so well. Through an odd game of chuerades I figured out she was trying to tell me we could stay with him on the playground for 10 more minutes and then we'd need to bring him into the house.

He glanced over his shoulder while the other kids filed out of the playground with their caretaker and for a moment I panicked that this wouldn't go well. I imagine he has never in his life stayed behind while his group and caretakers left him. How would he handle this? To my great pleasure he quickly turned back to us and continued playing. It was a wonderful moment. He rather stay with us than the only people he has known in his life. This was an incredible moment.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Second Meeting

We traveled again to see Beck. He waved at us when we came into the play area but was hesitant to approach us. Joe and I started playing with the other kids, whether we wanted to or not. The caretakers encouraged him to greet us but he wasn't too willing. Then the director handed him a toy and asked him to bring it to his mother and he quickly brought it over and gave me a hug and then moved on. I didn't want to pressure him so I took a seat with the other kids. Shortly Beck went over to Joe and wrapped his arms around Joe's legs and buried his face into Joe's pants. The kids were all a bit more sedate today, Beck the most. I think he was really overwhelmed by his new found attention and he is undoubtedly a sensitive child. He came back to me and I picked him up. Then out of no where he began to cry. It was the sort of cry that comes from a very deep place. I wish I could have comforted him but the language barrier was very frustrating. He held onto me tightly and just wailed, burying his head in my neck. I can only imagine what might be going through his mind, the uncertainty and confusion that must be with him all the time. I walked the grounds of the orphanage trying to soothe him, or distract him. It worked at times but then that sadness would take him again. After some time the moments of crying became shorter and shorter. I know we have a long road ahead of us but I know it will be worth it. He needs a home of his own, a family of his own.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Meeting Beck

Sorry this post is late, my computer has been under the weather, infact we weren't sure it was going to make it, but it seems to have joined us in the living again... for now. So without further delay, here's the post you've all been waiting for.

We made the nearly 1 1/2 hour drive to Beck's orphanage yesterday morning. When we first arrived we went directly to the orphanage director's office where she briefed us and reitterated that Beck is a very timid boy who takes quite a while to warm up to strangers. I've been told the same by people like Tina. He tends to stay in the background, sizing up the situation and the people. Even our coordinator, who has known Beck for most of his life, admitted that she has never been able to get him to warm up to her.

Our next stop was in Beck's house where the director showed us his bed, complete with his quilt I had made him. She laughed as she explained that he was very protective of it and often checked to make certain it was still on his bed. It is the only possession he has ever had.

We were then lead to the children playing outside. As soon as we walked through the gate we were rushed by a large group of children who smiled and laughed and jockeyed for a position to get picked up. I quickly searched the sea of little faces for the one I had traveld half way around the Earth to see. As predicted, he watched the scene from the furthest point away. As our eyes met he quickly turned away, and then suddenly turned back as a flash of recognition came across his face.

Joe and I sat down and played with the other children while Beck looked on with worried interest. The coordinator encouraged him to come over, telling him repeatedly "Mama" and pointing at me. I kept my attention on the other children as to not put any pressure on him. Soon he stood about 5 feet from. I wished I had some sort of toy that he would have an interest in and then I remembered I had a stack of pictures in my purse, including the pictures of him getting his quilt. I flashed him a picture of himself and he suddenly walked over and dropped himself in my lap. The coordinator asked him where's Mama and he pointed at me in the picture and then she pointed at me. We sat looking at pictures for some time. He asked a question and pointed at Morgan, he had particular interest in her. The caregivers then came over and looked at the pictures, asking me questions in Russian, I think I had the general idea of their questions and hopefully answered them correctly with a shake of the head, yes or no.

The other children then wanted to look at the pictures and it suddenly became a scene like feeding seaguls at the beach and things got a bit out of control and the caretakers took the pictures away from the kids and I put them safely in my purse. Beck then layed back in my arms. As I cradled him he looked up at my and smiled, comfortable in my arms.

But least we forget he's a 2 year old boy, laying in my arms all day wouldn't do and he was off again to find further entertainment. Joe, who had been keeping his distance joined us as we went to find some more fun. Beck went into a little pavillion and started playing with a truck. Joe joined him and started playing with another truck. Suddenly, and to the shock of us all, Beck grabbed Joe's hand and lead him over to a box of toys were the two of them played happily for quite some time. The caretakers and director nudged eachother and watched in complete surprise. Everyone thought it would take a great deal of time to get Beck to even acknowledge Joe, not only is he wary of strangers, men are a sight these kids very rarely see. But he undoubtedly took to Joe. They played intently with a dump truck which was commandeered by Burt (of Burt and Ernire fame). And as if that wasn't surprising enough, suddenly Beck ran to Joe with open arms and hugged him, collapsing in his arms. There was a fury of shocked chatter among the caretakers. It was a beautiful sight.

By this time Hilary and Tim joined us with their beautiful baby girl. Beck ran over to Hilary and gave her a hug. So OK, I was getting a wee bit jealous. So Hilary and I played a little game where we stood about 10 feet apart and he'd hug her and then I'd call him and he'd run and hug me, then she'd call him and he'd run and hug her. We had him running back and forth, his face was lit up as he laughed everytime he was called for a hug.

The 2 hours we had with him flew by and soon it was time for the children to return to their house for lunch. Joe and I helped the single caretaker wrangled all the kids down the walk way to the house. I held Beck in one arm and held the hand of another child. As we walked back a stray dog came across our path. Beck got very excited and started chatting away to me about the dog. I learned from the translator that "rowww rowwww" is "woof woof" in Russian. As soon as we got the kids into the house they quickly went into their routine of potty time. They all quickly went the bathroom, washed their hands and face and dried themselves with their own towel, hung under their name tags on the wall. Beck came running out of the bathroom with the biggest smile and wrapped his arms around my legs. The fact that we were present in his home seemed to excite him and he chatted away poiting out everything to us between hugs. He started to really ham it up, squeezing us tightly and jumping up and down smiling at us. The other kids took their places at the little tables as the caretaker attached their bibs one by one. But Beck was too excited to take his seat. The caretaker called to him several times and he would hug us. Finally our translator returned and I asked her what the caretaker was saying and she replied "she's telling Beck to say good bye to his Mom and Dad." Opps, I think that was our cue to leave. So we each got one more hug and he obediently sat in his chair but never took his eyes off us. I asked the translator to please make sure she explained to him that we would be back tomorrow. As we walked out the room he became very quiet, his smile disappeared as he watched us exit.

So I would say our first meeting was a huge success, far better than I had dared to dream. Leaving him will be undoubtedly hard.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

After 54 hours of planes, buses and airport floors, we finally arrived to our hotel, Ak Keme. It’s a very nice hotel, the view off our balcony is breath taking, but nothing felt better than a hot shower and a full night’s rest on a real bed!
We were surprised to meet other parents on our flight who were also coming to Kyrgyzstan for their adoptions. We all had a common connection and spent hours chatting and sharing our excitement.
Well, today’s the day we’ve been dreaming about! Finally meeting Beck and getting to hold him. I would have NEVER guessed just days ago that I would be here right now. This was such a whirlwind that I didn’t even have a chance to go shopping and buy him anything, but I guess at this point that doesn’t matter.. I get to actually SEE him and HUG him and KISS him, what could be better Well, perhaps Pringles. Yes we know he’s a big fan of them thanks to his honorary Aunt Tina, so perhaps I can get some on our trip over.

We FINALLY made it!

June 11 and 12, 2007
Our day began as we arrived at the bus station at 5:30am for our journey to JFK. 4 buses, including one that had steering “issues” that felt as if we were on the high seas as we careened down a Conneticut highway, and 7 hours later we finally arrived at JFK where we immediately met our travel companions and fellow KTA parents, Hilary and Tim. We had a few hours to get to know each other and share pictures while waiting to board our plane, which we finally did more than an hour late at 7:45pm. We pushed back from the gate and I began to feel a mix of butterflies in my stomach; excitement about meeting Beck and sadness for leaving Morgan behind and being a half a planet away from her. But we were on our way….. until we were about 100 feet from the gate… then we stopped. We were told that there were some delays and we’d be taking off in 30 minutes. We weren’t too concerned since we were expecting a 10 hour layover in Moscow anyways. Five hours later we were still parked on the tarmac, continuously being told we’d be leaving in just about “30 minutes”. At midnight the crew, probably in part for fear over their own safety, decided to feed us. When I inquired as to the contents of the mystery tin the flight attendant replied in a heavy Russian accent that left no discernable space between her words, “It’smeat”. “What kind of meat?” I insisted. She looked perplexed as she stared at the tin, “Beef…….. I think?”. At that point I didn’t care, smeat and trice-nuked potatoes or not, I was hungry.
I suppose it’s easier to give people bad news while their extinguishing their hunger pains, at 1:30 am the pilot announced we would be returning to the gate, we were not flying out tonight. As an angry group a weary travelers circled the ticket counter in the empty terminal it was explained that all the area hotels were booked, for those who wished to try to get a hotel there would be a shuttle coming and bringing passengers at least 1 hour away to search for a bed and they would be rescheduled for 10am. Since it was now after 2:00am we decided it didn’t make any sense to leave the terminal. We went online and booked a new connecting flight from Moscow to Bishkek to ensure we would not be left in Moscow without hope of continuing on. After which, we said goodnight and made the best of a relatively quiet corner of the terminal floor. It was a night, or what was left of it, filled with random announcements echoing throughout the terminal (I think one airline was having a training session at 3:00am, allowing each and every agent to have a turn to belt out some abrupt, shrill announcement that was still impossible to comprehend even in the now quiet terminal, thus proving my theory that they actually do teach agents to speak some other muttered, incomprehendable dialect when making any and all announcements).
I won’t say we woke up well rested. A hard concrete floor with nothing more than a thin indoor/outdoor type carpet, doesn’t offer much comfort, but nonetheless it was sleep, and we desperately needed it. We were also thankful for having such wonderful travel mates. These types of situations tend to bring out the best or worse of people and I will say I feel a great bond with Hilary and Tim already. They’re my kind of people. As Hilary and I got awkward stares in the ladies room as we did our best to wash and make ourselves presentable… or at least look like we didn’t sleep on a nasty terminal floor, we joked about how we would use this little tale of adventure every time our kids even thought of sassing us. No guilt trips about 18 hours of labor, we may have something even better!
At noon we finally took off for Moscow. My nervousness of the prior day was, at least temporarily, replaced by relief that we are finally on our way. Now, I could go for some smeat.

Saturday, June 9, 2007

From May 9th

From May 9th

I can not begin to express my appreciation for a very special family who offered to bring Beck a little gift from us. I wracked my brain for just the right gift. I wanted something meaningful... and of course soft and easy to pack. So I spent the day making him a little snuggly quilt with our pictures on it in hopes that we will not be strangers to him when we finally meet. As I put the finishing touches on it I imagined his little hands touching it.

I didn't want to take up too much room in Tina's luggage so I vacuum-sealed it. Tina joked that she was afraid it would open like a car airbag! Above it is pictured next to a regular size business envelope.
I was very fortunate that Tina got to visit Beck at his orphanage on 2 seperate trips while adopting her beautiful daughter. While visiting she took pictures for us and a video, as well as delivering his quilt to him. Thank you so much Tina!!!

Hold On, It's going to be a wild ride!

Security is an illusion. Life is either a daring adventure or it is nothing at all.
~ Helen Keller

In less than 48 hours we will be on our way to Kyrgyzstan to meet the missing piece of our family. While there, I hope to keep this blog updated to let everyone know how things are going and to take you all along, at least in a cyber-space sort of way. We have about 34 hours of traveling ahead of us so I hope to use at least some of that time posting on how we have found ourselves where we are today; bags pack and flying to the other side of the world to meet a precious 2 1/2 year old boy name Beck.
So get comfy, it's going to be a wild ride!