Today was one of those days that will forever change our lives. Sort of like the day we went out on our first date, or our wedding date, but, truth is, this was bigger than that. Today we met Jonah for the first time. Of course, his name is Nikolay, but we are calling him Jonah, and the orphanage workers have begun calling him that also. This day couldn't have come at a better time for us.
Monday evening, we left Houston on a Singapore Airlines jet bound for Moscow, Russia, 13 hours later we landed in Moscow. Neither of us was able to sleep on the plane due to the fact that it is just hard to get comfortable on an airplane! Once in Moscow, we met our translator, Alex, and he took us to the S7 airlines jet that would get us to Volgograd. We had a 4 hour wait for our plane, but eventually we were able to board and we flew to Volgograd. This was all last night. We got off of the plane in Volgograd and immediately noticed that we were not in Texas anymore. The Moscow airport looked alot like Houston. Big, busy, english everywhere. The Volgograd airport was no airport at all. Our jet landed and we climbed down stairs out onto the runway, which was about 31 degrees, and walked to the baggage claim. The baggage claim was a conveyor belt, that was outdoors, and we all huddled around it anxiously awaiting our bags to come around. We got our bags and could not find our guide who was supposed to be meeting us there. Fortunately, after what seemed like days, but was actually minutes, she found us. My short sleeved shirt tipped her off to our Americanism. I told her it was 90 in Houston 20 hours ago when our journey began!! She loaded us up in a black audi, driven by a young, non english speaking, man and he began to drive us to our hotel. I must admit, I thought we were being abducted. The Volgograd airport is about 20 minutes outside of town. 20 long, dark, foreign minutes. At one point I had decided that they were driving us somewhere to dump us and take our money! I had already formulated a plan for escape. Thankfully they got us to the Hotel Volgograd and helped us check in instead of killing us. We went inside and saw that our room was about 175 years old and consisted of three twin beds, two small chairs, and a TV that didn't work......that's it. "Dungeon-like", I said to Leah! Once everyone had left and we were all alone, it hit me. It was all finally real. We were on the other side of the world, literally, about to begin visiting a baby, who was counting on us to give him a good home. This thought broke me. I became very overwhelmed at the magnitude of what was happening in our lives. Those thoughts and 30 sleepless hours, at that point, and I was actually thinking of changing my plane tickets and flying home when the sun came up! Luckily, I am married to a level headed woman who loves me and Jesus, who reminded me of why we were there and assured me that if we got some sleep it would all be better in the morning. She refered to my condition as "culture shock" and told me she went through that in Paris in July.
She was so right! We woke up this morning, met our translator, and began the 20 minute walk to the orphanage. After meeting with the Russian department of education, we were officially approved and were able to go see the baby. The DOE let us know that Jonah's birthday was October 31, 2010! That's right, Halloween! To make things better, that is Monday, and we will be here to celebrate with him! This is significant because I have been worried that he wasn't going to be able to have a 1 yr old birthday party, but now we get to give it to him! How cool is that? After the DOE meeting, we headed to meet him. His area is called "stars". There are 6-8 babies there at all times, and his nurse told us that he was the "smartest baby in his group". She said that he "is loving, loves attention, and loves to dance!" All of the workers just gushed about how smart he was and how lucky we were to be able to get him. Then they brought him out, and we realized that everything they were saying was true, and so much more. Time stopped as I watched them walk him out of his group room and into Leah's arms. He smiled at us, and let us hold him. He gave us hugs, and played with toys with us. He crawls really fast. Really really fast! He is almost walking, as a matter of fact, he may have taken him first steps with us this afternoon. I'm not sure on that because the nurses speak Russian and I forgot to ask the translator to ask them. We get to visit with him from 10-12 and 2-4 each day until we leave Monday night. We are loving our time with him, and cannot wait for it to be forever. As we were leaving from our last visit today, the nurse was holding him and he reached out and grabbed my jacket and pulled me close to him. He reached for Leah as she walked by. It made us happy because that means he is bonding already. We feel very lucky to have not only gotten a child, but gotten one who seems to be extraordinary. Last nights anxioity, is todays joy. There is no where else in the world I would rather be than in Volgograd with my son. I cannot wait to bring him home.
We will try to update this blog every day or so until we leave Moscow again. We will be flying out Wednesday at 11:00 am and landing in Houston on Wednesday at 2:15 or so. Another 13 hour flight with hours lost due to time difference. Please continue to pray for our travel, our sanity, and Jonah. As of today, his name was erased from the Russian Database of Orphans. He is an orphan no longer......today, he is an Elder.