Today was the big day!! Court was scheduled for 9:30 sharp. Robert and I woke up earlier than we have been used to and the one day we needed the boys to get up at their usual time, they were dead asleep. This entire trip Elijah and Valera have woken up at around 7 am. Today, they did not get up until around 8. So, we were a little rushed, but the boys were cooperative. Valera showed all of the signs of understanding what today meant. He even began to take his backpack to the door as we were leaving (he knew he was going back to the orphanage today). He was very happy to find out that we would all be coming back to the apartment after court. To start the day off, it was pouring down rain. It almost never rains here, but it rained the first two days of our arrival and it rained all day today, our last day in Karaganda. The driver arrived at 9:10 to pick us up. We had a little problem this morning because our facilitator told us to bring all of our gifts with us and leave them in the car just in case the director wanted to take them with her after court. It was quite difficult piling all four of us in the pouring rain into a very small car with all of the gifts. So, the gifts sacrificed and were crushed in the process. When we arrived at the building, the driver pulled into an alley way and told us we had to wait for Larisa. So, we waited in a hot car in the pouring rain. Larisa came to get us and the boys waited in the car with their game boys and Victor, the driver. Once inside, we saw the director of the orphanage, the representative from the Ministry of Education, and our attorney. The attorney gave us some instructions on how to address the judge and told us to show emotion in our answers to show how much we want the adoption to be granted. He also said that some of the questions might seem strange to us but that the judge was obligated to ask them. We were told no pictures until after court, and we would only take them outside the building after everyone has left (we were hoping to get a picture with the judge). We waited about half an hour because Elaine, our travel companion, was first. Since her daughter was over the age of ten, she was required to be present in court. Waiting outside the courtroom was maddening!! We kept rehearsing possible answers because you don’t want to say anything that prompts them to ask more difficult questions. For example, if we imply in an answer that Elijah wanted a little brother, they might ask did we just want to adopt to get a toy for our biological child. Word choice is everything in these proceedings, but if you answer in longer sentences and explanations, the translator then has the opportunity to spin the answer in your favor if she needs to. The court room was not typical. It was a nice room inside a very old building. The judge and two other officials sat behind a desk. The judge had a burgundy colored robe on. Then along the wall were a row of chairs and here sat our attorney, Larisa, me and Robert and another young gentleman ( I am not sure what his role was). Behind a table opposite the judge on the other side of the room sat the director and the representative from the Ministry of Education. So, the proceeding began with some formalities of introduction and Robert stood to represent the family and stated our names, ages, occupations, and place of residence. Then the questioning began. We were asked how much money we make together as teachers and what subjects did we teach. They were interested in seeing pictures of our home and community and how much we paid for our house and did we have a mortgage or pay cash for it. The judge asked us about health insurance. He asked if we were aware of Valera’s medical conditions and about our plans to manage this. Questions were asked about why we decided to adopt because we are young and have time to have more children. So, we explained about the complications surrounding my first pregnancy. This prompted a question about any plans to get pregnant in the future. Our translator quickly said (before I could really answer) that I could not have any more children. The judge seemed pleased with this response. Then he asked a series of questions about who will care for Valera when we are not home and how much time would I take off of work to be home with him. Being teachers is a big advantage in this situation!!! Our answers to these questions were satisfying and as the proceedings continued, they asked us about Elijah and would he be jealous. They wanted to know would we treat them differently and would Valera share a room with Elijah or have his own room. We explained about the boys relationship thus far and that we have prepared a room for them to share. I am sure I will remember other questions, but these were the big ones. Once our questions were finished, the director of the orphanage spoke and she detailed Valera’s entry into the orphanage, his medical conditions, and what kind of child he is. Then she spoke kindly of us telling the judge Valera fits well with our family and that throughout the year, we called and sent gifts and kept in contact with him. She pulled out a picture to show the judge and to my surprise, the picture was of Valera and Elijah shooting spit balls at each other at the Varsity last summer (I think she took this out of Valera’s photo album to bring to court). The judge laughed and made a comment that was never translated, but it sounded friendly. I think the director wanted to show how Valera and Elijah have bonded. Finally, there was more procedural formality and we left the courtroom to await his decision. It was very quick and when we went before the judge, he granted our adoption on behalf of the Republic of Kazakhstan (when he read our names, he read Valera’s new given name and last name). Words cannot describe how special this moment was!! Robert and I hugged and were congratulated by everyone in the room, including the judge. We are finally a family of 4!!!! The documents
become final after the 15 day waiting period.
We went outside and it was still raining, so we only have the picture of the building and the picture with the director. We gave a gift to the attorney, the representative, Larisa and the director. Then it was decided that we would go back to the apartment and would be picked up at 2 that afternoon to take Valera back to the orphanage. So, we spent the afternoon packing some clothes for Valera and just spending quality time together. Valera was little edgy, but not crying. He had pretty much decided on what he wanted to take and what he wanted us to take back to America. In getting ready to go, Robert and I decided that along with the gifts, we would make a monetary donation to the orphanage as well to give to the director (we were told that she is very good about spending the money on needs for the building and for the children). The orphanage was empty except for some of the cleaning and maintenance staff and the director. We gave all of our gifts and the money and she was extremely grateful. She spoke to us and told us that she was especially thankful that we were going to be Valera’s family and that she feels like he fits so well with our family. She laughed when she spoke of his personality being so kind, funny, and cheerful and we all agreed!!! Then we went outside to take more pictures. One of the cleaning ladies saw Valera and scooped him up with a big smile. They really love him here and his loving spirit and personality just seems to brighten the hearts of all the caregivers and orphanage workers. God has given us a very special little boy! Valera began to get upset after a little while and he just kept walking away and drying his eyes with his shirt. The director came over and spoke to him and we all cried. We knew this would be difficult and it was more difficult than you can imagine!! We cried and hugged, told him we loved him and that we would be back in a few weeks to bring him home. He and Elijah hugged several times. He just kept crying and after a few minutes, Larisa decided it would be best to go. To top off the unusual weather on our big day, Elijah became covered in muddy water on the way home from the orphanage because the driver ran through one of the millions of enormous potholes in the street and the window was slightly open. A waterfall of mud came pouring down on top of Elijah and he was soaked (and luckily laughing about it). It really was a comical ending to a crazy 3 weeks!
The apartment feels strange without Valera saying “Maaama, pa zhal sta!” ( usually asking for something). But we are anxious to get home and make plans to pick him up on the second trip. We leave for the airport at 9:30 tomorrow and will stay in Almaty tomorrow night. We will be home in Atlanta on Wednesday. Home sweet Home!!! A bittersweet ending saying goodbye, but Valera Ethan Holman is officially ours!!! Praise God!!!!