Friday, October 26, 2007

Hello from Uzbekistan. . .FINALLY!

This is going to be a long one folks, so you’d better pull up a chair!

First, my apologies to the masses for not updating sooner. I have not been able to get a reliable internet connection since we have been here and when I have, it has been difficult to access my blog! So my apologies to my many faithful followers. I would also like to thank Richard for keeping our family website updated (he probably would have updated here, but of course, I forgot to leave him my login information) so that no one is completely in the dark!

This week has truly been one of the most adventurous weeks I have ever had! Talk about a roller coaster! We arrived in Tashkent at 6:30 pm on Monday night and immediately boarded the WRONG bus! Instead of going to customs, we ended up boarding the “departure” bus for those going on to Bangkok! Thankfully, with my shaky Russian and their shaky English we were able to get back on a bus to customs within about 20 minutes. It probably ended up being the best mistake we could have made because, when we arrived, the line for passport/visa checks was dwindling and we were able to get through, grab our baggage and make it through customs in just 30 minutes!

We met our coordinator, drove to the hotel, checked in and went over our plans for the next day. It has been such a long day that, after we went to bed shortly thereafter. I wish I could say that I got a good night’s sleep, but, my body was telling me it was mid-afternoon and after just a few hours of solid sleep, I was unable to return to my slumber!

We were scheduled to leave for Samarkand on Tuesday morning at 8:30 am. At 8:30 our coordinator called to tell us she would be there at 9:00. At 9:30 we were still waiting. She finally showed up and we found out that the car she had reserved had broken down and that when she went back for a new car, it had broken down as well. The third car finally decided it was up for the trip and by 10:00, we were on the road to Samarkand. I will make a separate post about this very subject because I find it so fascinating (and terrifying), but, if you want to compare something to a roller coaster ride, driving in Uzbekistan would make a nice comparison. The drive was wild, but it was amazing to see Uzbekistan beyond Tashkent (and I don’t know that you can really say that you have seen Uzbekistan until you have ventured outside of the city). It is such a different place outside of the city and I was truly humbled to see how many of these people live. I do not think most American’s can even begin to fathom the kind of lives these people live. They are not unhappy lives by any means, in fact, their happiness may actually be more genuine because it is not based on material things, because they do not have much. I do not mean to say that our happiness is fabricated, rather, I think we often take for granted the simple things because we have been blessed with so much.

We arrived in Samarkand around 1:00 pm and met our driver and translator, Sanat. Sanat is a native of Samarkand, but has spent the last 7 years in London, England. When he speaks English, he has a British accent! It has been wonderful to have Sanat. Not simply because he speaks Russian and English and had made our stay a bit easier, but because he knows the history and culture of the city. In a sense, he has been our personal tour guide! After we met Sanat, we checked into our hotel. It is a beautiful, privately owned hotel and it personifies Samarkand very well. I have really enjoyed staying here. The only drawbacks have been the lack of internet (the few times we have been able to use the internet here it has been the owner’s personal computer) and there are no phones in the rooms (there is one phone in reception) so essentially, no contact with the outside world!

After we checked into the hotel we headed for the Hokimiat (mayor’s office) where we were scheduled to meet with the Deputy Mayor. The meeting went well. He asked us some questions about our trip and how we liked Samarkand. He asked me if I had give a lot of thought to adopting our son and if I felt like we could provide a nice life for him. He then asked if I had seen him. At that point I had yet to meet him and the Deputy Mayor felt that, before I could make such a big decision, I needed to meet my child (which is actually required by law now, so I am still unsure as to why we did not do that first). He instructed us to go to the Baby House and meet Joshua and then he would give us the adoption decree.

We hurried over to the Baby House and I quickly met with the Director. A caretaker then brought Joshua to me. I wish those sweet moments had not been so rushed, but the short time that I had with my baby was precious. He is even more beautiful than he is in his pictures and so happy and alert. Within a few minutes we had him laughing and babbling. Unfortunately, because we had to get back to the Hokimiat, our visit was short and after only 5-10 minutes we were being rushed back to the car. When we arrived the decree had been signed and was ready to be copied and translated. Unfortunately, before it could be copied it needed to be registered and the girl in the registration office was gone for dinner (people here do not work 8-5 like we do, it is standard for people to work until 9-10 pm and to work weekends as well). While we waited we discovered another problem!

In order to get Joshua’s birth certificate, I needed to travel to the region where he was born which was 5-6 hours away and near the boarder of Afghanistan. There are many check points along the road and, as you near the boarder, security is increased. The coordinator and another government worker were concerned that I would not be able to pass through without several documents (in addition to my passport), one of which was a valid Power of Attorney from Richard (because in this culture it is not acceptable for women to make these decisions without their husbands and I needed to be able to show that my husband had authorized this trip). Unfortunately, because Uzbekistan is not part of the Hague Convention, in order for a document to be legally recognized, it must be legalized (for us that means a document must be signed, notarized, county certified, state certified, authenticated by the US Department of State and legalized by the Embassy of Uzbekistan in DC), and unfortunately, our Power of Attorney had only been signed and notarized which meant that it would not be recognized. Even though this seemed like a problem on Tuesday evening, our coordinator felt like it was something that we could work around and so be tried not to worry too much (little did we know at the time how big this problem was about to become).

On Wednesday morning the coordinator continued to plug away on paperwork and my step-dad and I went with Sanat to tour Samarkand. We visited the tomb of Amir Temur (Tamerlane) and it was magnificent. We also visited an old building that had been turned into a marketplace. We saw some incredible handcrafted fabrics and were about to enjoy lunch with some of the local people when we received a panicked call from our coordinator. We rushed to meet her and learned that, without a legalized Power of Attorney we would be unable to obtain Joshua’s passport. At that point we had two options, we could get the Power of Attorney legalized or Richard would have to fly to Uzbekistan. The second option would be almost impossible (Richard would have to get a visa, book a flight, arrange for the kids to be cared for 24-7 while he is gone, and miss a major office move that he is responsible for), so we began to formulate a plan for acquiring the POA. We went as quickly as we could to an internet café where I was able to contact Richard via Skype and e-mail and explained the situation (it was roughly 6 am when I called and while Richard lay dreaming, I don’t think he could have ever imagined what the day would hold for him). Richard printed out two copies of the form, filled them out and took them to be signed and notarized. He then took the forms to the Greene County Courthouse to be county certified after which he drove to Columbus to have them certified by the Secretary of State. Between notarizations and certifications he contacted Caring Hands, the adoption courier service in Washington, DC that we used for our adoption paperwork, and explained the situation to Colleen (who is one of the most fantastic people I have ever worked with). Together, she and Richard discussed how to get the document done as quickly as possible in DC and on it’s way to Tashkent. In the meantime, I had also e-mailed Victoria, the director of our agency, to explain what was going on and asked her to contact me via the coordinator’s cell phone as soon as possible. To make a very long story much shorter, Richard, Victoria and Colleen were able to get everything worked out and the documents should arrive via FedEx (gotta love FedEx) on Monday! I cannot express my gratitude for such an amazing “team” in the US! Although I asked a lot of my husband, he did what needed to be done without a moments hesitation or complaint. Is there really any question as to why I love this man so much! From halfway across the world I felt peace because I knew that Richard and Victoria would take care of things and I knew that they were being directed from above!

Yesterday was another long day! I traveled with the coordinator and a woman from the Hokim’s office to Suhandaria, the region where Joshua was born. It was a 5 hour drive through a very poor region of Uzbekistan. It was fascinating and humbling to see this part of the country. As we neared the boarder of Afghanistan, security increased and, at every check point I held my breath in hopes that I would be able to pass through. If I was unable to pass, I would have to stay at the checkpoint while the others went on and brought back the necessary documents (and government officials) for me to sign. Let’s just say that I was a little intimidated by that prospect. The Lord was smiling on me because we had no problems (they just looked at my passport and the coordinator and driver explained where we were going and why and that was that). When we arrived we quickly took care of the birth certificate which named Richard and I as Joshua’s parents and he officially became ours!! WAHOO! We were in Suhandaria for most of the day taking care of a few other documents and we set out for "home" around 6:00pm arriving back in Samarkand around 11:45 pm. Let's just say, my backside was a little sore for all of that sitting!

Our coordinator submitted the paperwork for Joshua's passport to the passport office this morning (minus the Power of Attorney) and we are hoping that they will process the passport now so that all we will need to do once we receive the POA is exchange documents. . .the POA for the passport. We hope to get the completed passport on Tuesday and travel back to Samarkand the same day. I am unsure as to whether or not we will be able to take care of all of the required tasks at the US Embassy in Tashkent before we are scheduled to fly home next weekend, so I am preparing for the extra week but hoping and praying that we will make it home on time. The Embassy only does medical exams and visa processing on specifics days and times throughout the week and we may miss that window due to our delays with the POA, BUT maybe we will be able to play on their sympathies and get everything processed in time!

The best news of all is that we will be picking Joshua up from the Baby House this afternoon! I cannot wait! Unfortunately, I do not have time to post pictures from our adventures thus far at the moment (I am in an internet cafe and our driver just returned from Mosque to take us to meet our coordinator at the notary office), but we moved to a new hotel this morning with internet access, so maybe I will be able to hop back on and upload pictures after Josh is asleep this evening.

It has been an incredible week in so many different ways, but even with all of these ups, downs and in betweens, I am so grateful to be here in this beautiful country, adopting my beautiful son! The hand of the Lord is definitely guiding this process and I as always, I stand all amazed at the places He has taken me and the miracles that have been performed.

Please keep us in your prayers as we continue to work through this process! And please pray for my family as well who are working through struggles of their own (sickness, broken down vehicles, stressful work, and no wife and mama) as well!

I hope to check in again soon, so stay posted! Never a dull moment here!


9 comments:

Tiana said...

Oh my goodness what an adventure. The Lord is truly blessing you every step of the way. My thoughts and prayers are with you. Also my pregnant emotions are going crazy with every event that unfolds on your journey, darn hormones.

barbara and david said...

Wow, what an amazing adventure and what a great story you will be able to share with Joshua!

Meredith said...

Wow!! What a wonderful journey! My prayers are with you and those at home waiting for you and Joshua! You have given me a new excitement about my own travels to Ukraine that are coming up all too slowly ;)

Charissa said...

Wow, roller coaster indeed! I'm so glad you got to hold your little Joshua. I'm looking for pictures!

alison said...

Can't wait to see pictures.

Alison in Ohio

Gmail Account said...

Hello Valerie!

my name is Tolkun Umaraliev, a coordinator of Uzbekistani blogs in Neweursia.net. I have been reading your blog since it was created and was waiting for this time to say - congratulations! I am really happy for you that you finally achieved your goal - adopted Joshua.

Valerie, i know that you are really busy at the moment, but anyway i will try my luck and ask you - would you like to write couple of stories for Uzbek blogs of Neweursia.net about the child adoption in Uzbekistan? It would be really helpful to those who are willing to adopt a child (children) from Uzbekistan.

If you decide to write (i hope you will:), just drop me an email at umaraliev@gmail.com

Take care!

Heather said...

WOW.
My Dad really liked Samarkand when he was there, too.

Sending prayers! You are so amazing!

M said...

What an amazing journey you have already encountered. I am so happy that you are getting the opportunity to embelish Josh's life...and he yours.

CONGRATS!!!!

Ute said...

What nerve wrecking ups and downs, but at the end you will have your son at home. I'm thinking and praying for you.

Ute