Saturday, June 09, 2007

1 down, 2 to go

Adoption from Russia is three trips now. We've just completed the first leg. It's 4:30am back here in the states and I'm wide awake. It's noon back in Moscow. Lunch time for Dylan.
The trip back was uneventful yesterday, though the flight over the Atlantic was a little bumpy. Nothing extreme like the turbulence we hit over the Irish sea on the way over, but unsettling enough and for a much longer period of time. Among the changes I need to make for the next trip: sleeping pills. 11 hours flying without sleeping made me a little nuts.

So for those who are curious about adoption, here's the drill in Moscow: Get ready to wait. It's all about long periods of sitting motionless; Airplanes, cars, queues, waiting rooms. The actual "work" took maybe 2 hours, probably less. For the most part they just wanted our signatures. The exception was the doctor's visit. Actually 8 doctors, among their specialties: a psychologist, a narcologist, an oncologist, a neurologist, and 4 others. I'm sure they had some specialties assigned as well, because there were individual lines for them to sign (and stamp, after all this is Russia where the rubber stamper is king!) on our health certification form. The worst part was the interview by the narcologist. The psychologist was much easier. Though she looked like the scariest of the doctors, the prototypical cold war era Russian woman, she was really nice. Mostly she asked me about my job and my schooling and my marriage. You could tell she was trying to get a reading on how satisfied I was with my life. The funniest question, which we were all asked, was did I marry for love or money. You know it's tough not to crack a joke, but they don't like jokes too much (though I think this woman actually had a sense of humor). It's another cultural detail" if you smile or joke they think you are not taking it seriously. That's been the toughest part for me every time I've been interviewed, because I am quite aware that in this setting I can be the embodiment of nervous laughter.
The oncologist had a few comments for me. First he commented that my spine was not straight. Okay he said that to everyone. I wanted to comment, "it's from sitting for hours in this Moscow traffic!" Actually I think my spine is fine. This was just one of those "things" they tell everyone. Also he commented on a mole on my back which has grown in recent years. "Not a problem yet, but have your doctor keep an eye on it." Frankly I do agree with him on that one. Finally he inspected my chest where I carry the one feature that got all the doctors' attention: a 15 inch scare along my sternum. He pressed to check the structure and indicated that the surgeon who conducted the surgery did an excellent job. Well I should hope so, the technique used is named after the man who operated.
The rest of the doctors conducted their interview as a panel and just asked a bunch of stock questions, checked my blood pressure, listened to my heart and breathing, etc... No big deal. The whole thing took 3 hours (including wait time). I did manage to spill a cup of tea in my lap just before we went in for our first set of interviews, however. Again I wanted to crack a joke about "my drinking problem", but I doubted they would have seen the movie "Airplane."

The drive to the airport yesterday took 2 hours. It's only about 25km away, so suffice it to say I could literally run there faster (I can run 25km in about 1:40). If there is one traffic feature that is incompatible with this volume of traffic, it's a rotary. Yes we hit a rotary. I won't go into too many details about the driving anarchy that ensued, because I couldn't do it justice and frankly you wouldn't believe me. Cars, trucks, everything ... 4 lanes wide on a one lane road... on the dirt...going up the off ramp of the highway jumping curbs...off-roading... total chaos. Is it any surprise that the Moscow Times published the stat that there have been 10K traffic fatalities so far this year in the Moscow region alone?

I'll write more later as I remember it, but now I'm going to do something I wouldn't have dared during the last week; go for a run on the street. I do have a life to rejoin for a month or two here.

Oh yes, one final note about the influx of US culture. Imagine my surprise flipping on the TV and seeing an ad for "South Park." With Putin and Bush disagreeing on the Missile Shield at the G8 summit, which was big news there, I half expected to hear Putin exclaim "Respect Ma Authoritah!" Oh yes, international newspapers also make a point of running the goofiest pictures of Bush that they can find.