Monday, August 3, 2009

Finishing-up in Russia and the Longest Flight Ever!

Friday we all went to the US Embassy for our interview and to get Owen's passport with visa documents. It is a fun experience because the Embassy schedules several adopting families at the same time. We all sit in a room together for about an hour sharing stories, letting the children see each other, and waiting to be called to the window for the interview. It is a very low stress day and the people working at the Embassy are always helpful and pleasant.

When we returned to the hotel, I decided to venture out for some shopping at Old Arbot. The hotel provided a shuttle that dropped me off a little over a mile from my destination. After surveying the area, I could see where I needed to go but did not see a direct way to cross the busy street in front of me. I was also trying not to look too much like a tourist and draw the attention of a local official, which would mean showing him/her my documents (passport, hotel registration) and hoping I got them back without incident. Eventually, I remembered Moscow has these underground walkways with kiosks that sell all kinds of things. I made it through two of these on my way and spent the rest of the walk in parks without looking too conspicuous (I assume). I found pretty much what I wanted in Arbot and my lack of Russian was not a problem. When I returned to the hotel I was exhausted but felt I had redeemed myself from my previous walking adventure...

The next day we were finally going home with our baby boy! Per the routine, we had to get up more than five hours before the flight to meet our driver four hours before it and get to the airport three hours before. For the first time we actually needed all the time! We were told to buy Owen's baby-in-arms ticket at the Moscow airport and attempted this at check-in. When we got to check-in, we were told the ticket had to be bought at the ticket counter. This may seem obvious but you have to understand the process at this airport (plus know that we were able to get the ticket at a similar point for Alexa). Here's how things work:

1) Go through a preliminary luggage screening - one long line
2) Go through a passport check with Delta representatives - a few short lines
3) Go through the normal US-type check-in, where you check bags and get boarding passes (this is where we tried to buy the ticket) - several fairly short lines
4) Go through Russian Passport Control - a few long lines
5) Go through the normal metal detector for carry-ons and people
6) Finally enter the terminal gate area

So now someone has to go back through steps 1 and 2, after waiting in line to buy the ticket at the kiosk ticket counter near the entrance. So I take my passport and Owen's and go through all the roped areas backwards (no one tried to stop me which was a little concerning). After waiting in the for 15 minutes, I get to the front and am told Owen has to be present as well - ugh! Now is the really tricky part because Tracy is already in line for step 4 with both children. I manage to get her attention and make the Owen transaction across some ropes. Apparently since I left Owen, he has been melting down and Tracy looks spent. Fortunately, I take him and distract him enough so that he is actually fine while I get his ticket. By the time I make it back through steps 1 and 2, the check-in agent is not at step 3 and Tracy has made it through step 4, which means I can't see her. I've told the people so far that we already went through the first steps before and get little resistance. I decide to just walk past step 3 and get in line for Passport Control. At nearly the same time, a Russian women points to me and speaks in Russian and the check-in agent tracks me down. This is a very good thing because he translates that the lady is saying I can go in a shorter line because the baby and the agent gives my something I need for Owen to get through Passport Control. At the window, the Russian agent says I missing something and I have to put Owen down search my bag. He, of course, crawls under the gate where I catch him in time but send him into another meltdown. Somehow I got out the right documents, got him under control, and didn't forget anything I needed to go on! After that, things went smoothly and we had time to eat lunch before boarding on-time.

Owen was miserable on the 11-hour flight from Moscow to Atlanta. He had more meltdowns in that period than I can remember- and the only thing that seemed to help was giving him to the other parent. There were at least two other babies on the flight and each took turns crying loudly throughout. I felt bad for the other passengers! The only good thing about the flight was that Owen became a United States citizen the moment our plane touched the tarmac at the Atlanta airport! Poor Alexa never adjusted to the time change and slept more than Owen both at the hotel and on the plane - although that did make things easier for us with Owen's disposition.

Somehow during this ordeal Owen figured out that when we give him his eye medicine, it is over very quickly and painlessly if he doesn't fight. Even on the plane, he was perfectly calm and motionless - giving us a much needed respite. I know I'm biased, but the kid is pretty sharp:) It turns out Alexa acquired pink-eye from Owen as well - fortunately we already had the right medicine!

Owen was better on the short flight from Atlanta (although clearly exhausted from lack of sleep) and we got our luggage and to the car without any trouble. I foresee many rides in the car to get Owen to fall asleep. He actually starts to laugh when he sees a car seat. I sure hope gas prices drop soon! He slept the whole car ride and then woke-up enough when we go home to look around before going to sleep pretty quickly. I'm almost as ehausted writing this as I was experiencing it - okay maybe not...

Next up will be Owen's first few days home

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