[Author’s note: Because I brought my fancy-shmancy MacBook Pro with me to Almaty, instead of the 4-year-old iBook that we had in Kostanai, I don’t have a modem, which means no in-room dial-up internet for me. There is WiFi in the hotel, but it’s by the hour, and the signal isn’t so great, so I’m posting three days worth of stuff in one magnum opus.]
Somehow, we all managed to get some sleep Sunday night, but by 5:30am Anika was up and ready to go. The timing was a little unfortunate, because we were told by Nikolai that we had an appointment for her medical exam at 10:00am, which meant that we had only 4 hours to get up, showered, fed, some play time, and then a nap in before we left. We knew that it was going to be a long day, and we really wanted to avoid a total meltdown which likely would’ve happened had she not gotten a morning nap. With some creative shift-work, we managed to accomplish all of this, and by 9:30am we were in Nikolai’s van and on our way.
We made a quick stop at a photo store to get an additional passport-sized picture of Anika for the medical examination form – apparently the passport photos that we struggled to get in Kostanai before we left in November, were too big. This time, Anika was much better in the car – after a 36 hour train ride, I can assume that she’s now used to moving vehicles. As a result, she was also much better with getting her picture taken. As opposed to November’s 25 attempts, this time it only took two quick pictures to get a good one.
From the photo store, we traveled through downtown Almaty to the International S.O.S. clinic. I am now quite familiar with this company – having called a couple of weeks ago in an attempt to help out a sick American Kostanai. They run a fairly modern clinic for tourists, ex-pats, and apparently, international adoptions. While sitting in the waiting area we met an extremely nice father-son pair who were there for their immigration exams. The father is a health economist who works for the CDC and lives in Atlanta, and his son is an extremely handsome, and extremely affable young man who goes to college at the University of Waterloo. It was quite amusing to hear this young Kazakhstani man speak English with a very clear Canadian accent. We chatted for a while while being shuttled between different stations. Anika had to have a quick blood test (a rapid HIV test, apparently required by the US government), vital signs (where she comes in at 72cm in length and 9kg fully clothed), and then a brief exam by a physician. It was a strange place for me to have my first experience of being a pediatrician standing by as he watched his child being examined by another physician. By the time she had her exam, it was nearly noon and Anika had had just about enough. She was completely asleep before we arrived home, which we converted in to her afternoon nap.
While she was asleep, I set out into town to pick up some additional supplies, and also to book Anika’s return flight home. We were told, prior to leaving this trip, that the infant airfare would be substantially cheaper if we bought it in Kazakhstan, and so I was hoping at some point to get to the KLM office to make sure that this was the case. You can imagine my pleasant surprise when I inadvertently came across the KLM office while randomly walking the streets. I ended up booking her flight and was very pleased to find that the fare was not the $800 or so that I was quoted in the US, but a rather fair $140! I also took the opportunity to ask that we be seated in the front bulkhead row, where the airline can provide a bassinet that clips on to the wall, potentially freeing our hands for a bit.
On the way home I stopped by at one of the outdoor food stands and ordered up two doner kebab sandwiches, and a container full of something that turned out to be rice, meat and red peppers, making for a very cheap (800TT) lunch for the two of us. By the time I arrived home, Anika was awake and so Julie and I switched off and she enjoyed her sandwich while I provided entertainment. Before long it was nap-time again – in the hopes of keeping her on the same schedule that she was at while in the baby house. This time it took a little more effort – she fussed for about 30 minutes but was asleep in under 10 minutes once I put her into the carrier and walked her around the room.
Oleg swung by the hotel around 3:30pm to help me fill out all of the paperwork needed for our petition to the US Consulate. None of it was particularly difficult, and we were finished in about 20 minutes. Once were were done, Oleg told me that he expected to file the paperwork today, to hear about our appointment time tomorrow, and that if all was in order, we’d have our consulate interview on Wednesday and at that point we’d receive all of Anika’s immigration documents. I asked him if that was all, and he said that yes, once that was done we were free to leave. I told him that our flight was booked for Sunday because we were told to expect an interview at the consulate on Friday. He was a little surprised by this and suggested that we try to change our flights.
This, of course, sounded like a mighty fine idea to me, and so if things go well on Wednesday, then I’m going to make a beeline for the KLM office and attempt to change our flights to Friday, meaning that we’ll be home two days ahead of schedule. It’s a good thing that we purchased the unrestricted and fully changeable tickets. I hope that there are seats available, because as much as we enjoy being here, we really want to start the work of getting Anika acclimated to life in Boston.
The rest of the evening was fairly uneventful: room service for dinner, a little playtime with Anika followed by a moderately long period of fussiness capped off by falling asleep (once again) in the carrier. I’m going to send a letter to the woman who invented this particular brand of carrier to ask her what the secret is, and also to thank her. Julie’s sleeping even as I finish writing this, and I’m going to spend the next couple of hours in the hotel lobby working on two lectures that I’m giving tomorrow. Hopefully tomorrow, since we have no “official business”, I’ll be able to snap some good photos of Anika.