Posts filed under ‘Travel’

NaJuPicMo

 
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I totally just invented this, but I’m excited.  Here’s the selling point…sooooooo much easier than NaMoBlahBlah… whatever that thingy is.  Anyway, the ideas is that July is for posting pictures.  Post one picture a day.  No text necessary!  Take a picture of your vacation, your breakfast, the sweater you’re knitting, your bathroom renovations, the progress your teeth whitening strips are making, your sunflowers in the garden, the plums you brought home from the farmers’ market,WHATEVER! A picture a day…it’s all we ask. 

I fully understand and appreciate that I could have and should have thought of this and promoted it beginning about two weeks ago, but better a tad late than never.  So…I’ll kick things off by posting pictures of our Kyrgyz picnic and get-together in San Diego. 

Isabel with Lyudmilla, coordinator from Kyrgyzstan

 

Lyudmilla with Izzy!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Judge from Tokmok

 

 

 

 

 

Izzy enjoying the teacups at Disneyland

 

 

 

 

So, tomorrow I’ll be back and see how many of you are doing this!

 

 

July 1, 2008 at 10:56 pm 8 comments

Dude, where’s my post?

I’m having serious blogger’s block.  My last post was a big giant spa treatment for my soul and since then, I’ve tried to sit down and write again, some more…something.  Anything.  The words, they don’t come. 

So, I thought that what I could do is have a bit of an open mike jam session and put it out there to anyone reading.  Since I get emails every day with some kind of question relating to my blog, why dontcha just ask me here in the comments following.  Go ahead and be anonymous if ya want to.  Ask me anything.  Or, take me to task.  Whatev. 

The floor is yours…

 

 

June 10, 2008 at 10:27 am 21 comments

Happy Hearts, Isabel & The Supermodel

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Izzy, me, Petra Nemcova & Philip Caputo

I went to Husband’s place of work, which is a racetrack to meet and talk with someone very special.  Firstly, my husband has a dream job.  He runs and operates a racing school for amateur and professional drivers alike.  They specialize in courses aimed at people who want to learn how to drive their performace vehicles safely, and drive them to their limit.  So every once in awhile, the school attracts a person in the media, and even the odd celebrity.  A certain ‘dreamy Doctor’ comes there and Suzannah and he are like this.  Zannie loves going to the track.  But, it was Izzy’s first time to the other day.  What a cool thing happened too.  At the track that day, having a few hours on the track, was Petra Nemcova.  You may have heard of her as she was written about extensively in the aftermath of the tsunami in Thailand.  She and her fiancee were pulled into the tsunami and she clung to a tree for over 8 hours while awaiting rescue.  Her fiancee didn’t survive. 

We came to the track to meet her (and she was absolutely sweet and adorable to us, willing to take a picture and congratulated us on Isabel…) to talk with her about the foundation she started, The Happy Hearts Fund.

Happy Hearts Fund has funded different locally run, culturally specific, effective and efficient charitable projects around the world. Thus far, HHF has established successful programs in Thailand, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Indonesia, Cambodia, Vietnam, Czech Republic. Programs in India and Haiti are under way and expansion across the globe is continuing. HHF aims to advocate and provide for disadvantaged youngsters who have had to endure hardship and who are not receiving the essential and sustainable help they need for healthy childhood development.By bridging the existing gaps in education and health care, Happy Hearts Fund is helping to improve the lives of children by providing them with the means necessary to self sustain and only strengthen with time. Giving little ones the opportunity for higher quality education and health care will allow them the chance to receive increased life
opportunities and gain the personal strength needed for them to elevate not only their own lives, but the lives of their families and entire communities.
Husband had the great idea of telling her about Kyrgyzstan and what a great need there is for an organization such as hers for the people and children of Kyrgyzstan and central Asia.  She held and cooed at Isabel and Isabel flirted back and soon they were the mutual admiration society.  We spoke of how Kyrgyzstan is very much underrepresented in foreign aid and that the need for organizations such as hers is dire.  What she said was that she would be open to adding Kyrgyzstan to her list of countries, but that she needs “A well-connected person who is there, or a very powerful individual who is willing to step forward.” 

Let’s put on our thinking caps people…

Let’s put that six degrees of separation to work and see what we can do. 

Facts about Kyrgyzstan:

Recognized as an LLDC (Land-locked Developing Nation) by the United Nations Ranked 116th out of 177 countries in the UN Human Development IndexRanked 143rd out of 177 countries by the UN HDI for GDP per capita According to the World Bank:

In 1999, relative to a national poverty line, 64.1% of the population of the Kyrgyzstan Republic was living in poverty. Annual household surveys from 1993 to 2000 in Kyrgyzstan found that more people were living in poverty each year. In 1993, 17.2% of people lived on US$ 2.15 per day or less; by 2000, the proportion had doubled to 34.0%.

Let’s not let the people of Kyrgyzstan think that the world has forgotten them. 

  According to the World Health Organization:

WHO estimates Kyrgyzstan’s latest probability to be 59 under-five deaths per 1000 live births. WHO estimates for neighboring Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan are both lower, at 33 and 32, respectively.

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Let’s Not Let The People Of Kyrgyzstan Believe That No One Cares

March 10, 2008 at 5:19 pm 4 comments

Kyrgyz Felt

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I’m excited to have been contacted by April who runs the Volga River Trading Company.  She wanted me to know that she imports the beautiful and vibrant felt shyrdaks, toys and other items made in Kyrgyzstan.  On the site it says:

Volga River Trading Company strives to bring products that we consider to be of outstanding quality, value, and interest to the attention of American buyers. At the same time we support the work of talented Russian artisans from the former Soviet republics, giving them the tools they need to survive in a market economy.

I fell in love with the handmade felt animals and ornaments while in Kyrgyzstan.  I was shown how the felt is hand-dyed naturally using flowers and herbs. Please support this shop and think of it as a resource for our children from Kyrgyzstan. The artisans in Kyrgyzstan put so much work into these beautiful items and I’m so happy to showcase it here.  Please go to: www.volgarivertrading.com

January 23, 2008 at 10:25 am 14 comments

One Hot Mama!

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Our Kyrgyz Adoption Community is small but my experience in connecting with others adopting from Kyrgyzstan has been wonderful.  We take care of each other by taking pictures of our waiting kids if another one of us in in country, we email each other for support, information and for laughs. Suzanne is no exception. She drove down from the Bay Area to our little neck of the woods yesterday and it was an afternoon of big fun.

She arrived with gifts of books for Izzy and Zannie and we chatted a bit at our house. She is going to be a great mom, especially for a daughter because she is fun and asks all the right questions.

We ventured on to lunch and dove right into talking about babies, Kyrgyzstan, travel, food, boys, motherhood and everything else in between. (Read: Things not appropriate for a family blog!!) Anyway, all you other Kyrgyz bloggers out there…you should be so jealous!

Here is our picture. Not my best picture…but excellent of Suzanne and Izzy.

January 20, 2008 at 10:37 pm 11 comments

Six Months Later

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Isabel has been my daughter for six months.  We’ve been a family of four for six months.  I’ve learned by ‘listening’ to Isabel how to care for her.  She’s showed me what she needs and when.  She’s taught me her different cries and that the ‘hungry’ one is more urgent than the ‘I’m bored’ cry and different still is the ‘I need a bottle’ or the ‘I need some cuddles’ cry.  I speak fluent Isabel-ese. 

It hasn’t always been easy, not by a long-shot.  I’m not speaking about the love part.  The love just comes and has been there since meeting her and holding her.  But being the kind of mom she needs has taken time and lots of mistakes.  I hate that that’s true, but it is.  I wish I could say that since I had already been a mom to a baby before Isabel, that I seamlessly parented her from the day I brought her to our home.  But I didn’t. 

I had to learn that she likes to be held close, but she needs to be able to look out and around.  She likes to sleep on her own and adores her crib.  (She won’t co-sleep…have mixed feelings about that)  She loves savory foods over fruit or sweeter things.   I had to learn that she is, at times, tentative.  She holds back a minute, decides if she trusts what you’re offering her, and then pushes it away or grabs it with a smile.  She’s shown us who she is over time, and it’s been nothing short of amazing to watch it all unfold. It’s lovely. 

I look into those deep, brown eyes and wonder, “Where did you come from?”  “Your mother must be beautiful and graceful because you certainly are.”  I wonder what her mother is doing and if she’s safe.  I wonder exactly what circumstances led to her decision regarding her baby girl.  I hope that she is not suffering.  I wish we could send her letters and pictures, and we do send pictures and notes to the orphanage in case she comes looking, but that’s just not the same.  I wish that young women, particularly women in impoverished nations, didn’t have such impossible choices when faced with an unplanned pregnancy outside of marriage.  I heard my husband talking softly to Isabel the other night as he brought her down to her bath.  He said, “I’m so sorry your mom couldn’t keep you and raise you.  But since she felt that she couldn’t, I’m so lucky that we get to raise you.  We’ll take you back to Kyrgyzstan and find her if you want to.  We’re here to take care of you.”  Those were some powerful words for me to overhear.  He’d got it just right.  For me, hearing that with adoptee ears, he’d got it just right. 

Over the holidays I heard the often-said “That’s one lucky girl”.  With my extended family and with close friends, I usually reply with a minimum of, “No, we’re the lucky ones.”  And we are.  Isabel has lost so much and has been through enough without the added burden of hearing how ‘lucky’ she is.  She deserves a childhood free of obligation, guilt and the message that her existence in our family is one in which she ought to feel grateful.  We’re going to set up her whole childhood around the truths around her birth and adoption, and let her feelings come without our own feelings getting in the way.  She’s not in our family to help us overcome infertility.  She’s not here in any sort of ‘occupational’ way.  It’s hard that it happened this way – for her mother and for her.  Never for a moment do I push aside the enormous losses Isabel and her mother will always carry with them.  But now, and for the future, Isabel is in our family.  She’s my daughter.  She’s thriving and lovely.  For that, and so much more – I am so incredibly lucky. 

December 27, 2007 at 3:04 pm 7 comments

Second Trip

Day Two Together 

Ok so I’m still getting used to this whole having two kids gig.  It’s GOOD – but it’s a lot to get used to.  I find getting Zannie to school on time with both girls fed and wearing presentable clothes a challnege.  But, last week we managed to do just that and for the most part, things have gone quite smoothly.  We get to school and we are the new rock stars.  Isabel is mobbed and smothered in adoration.  She needs a bodyguard and maybe even an agent.  I think my role is merely sherpa/PR agent.  I just talk to everyone about how amazing and beautiful she is. 

Trip two.  Wow, where to begin?  I bypassed Aeroflot this time for the incredibly superior Lufthansa.  It went San Francisco to Frankfurt to Almaty.  I didn’t fly into Bishkek this time for logistical reasons.  On the two-trip adoption system in Kyrgyzstan, you end your adoption paperwork at the U.S. embassy in Almaty, Kazakhstan.  This is where the closest adoption unit is.  So, I got a roundtrip ticket in and out of Almaty.  This meant that when I flew in, I had to be driven to Bishkek for the first part of the trip.  When I booked it, it was written up as Lufthansa’s official bus from the Almaty airport going directly to where you were staying in Bishkek.  I imagined a nice minibus, one that might even have bench seats where I could lie down and sleep on the way to my hotel as I was landing at midnight local time.  It was not to be.  I got out of customs and saw my driver guy holding a sign with my name on it.  We walked out to a tiny, ancient Nissan or Toyota and it was us and a Swiss guy heading out to Kyrgyzstan to climb the Tien Shen mountains.  It was absolutely pitch black and I couldn’t see much of anything that wasn’t lit up but already it seemed quite different to me than Kyrgyzstan.  We jammed our luggage in somehow and went on our way.  We were all talking and chatting a mile a minute and then we all zonked out.  Awhile later we were awakened by a bracing cold wind since the driver had opened our doors and was pointing to the border patrol.  I felt like I was in an episode of the Twilight Zone as it seemed as if time had stood still here in what felt like the middle of nowhere.  There were a few people coming from Kazakhstan going into Kyrgyzstan and most of them were on foot.  Some had cattle or sheep with them.  I think that this border and its guards with their military uniforms and huge-brimmed hats looked exactly the same even 40 years ago.  The only thing that I think has changed since then are the computers they use to check your entry visas.  Anyway, we were I’m sure a sight to behold with our weary faces crossing the border at 4ish am.  Everyone was openly staring at us.  So, with that done we drove about 50 yards to repeat the same thing so as to gain entry into Kyrgyzstan.  More livestock, more stares, more military guards.  It was eerie.  We sped away and were in Bishkek in less than an hour. 

We crashed at the nice, cushy Hyatt.  The coordinator was to meet us in the morning and go over the rest of our stay and to finish up more paperwork. 

The next morning was IT.  We were being picked up and taken to Tokmok to see Isabel for the first time in two months.  It seemed like the longest drive there.  In the time since the first trip, Bishkek had turned lush and green.  Trees lined the long road to Tokmok and had been bare and cold grey against the wintery landscape on our first trip.  This time, they were full and welcoming.  It was a bit like Dorothy opening the door from her world of black and white to a new, colorful place.  I couldn’t get over the beauty of the countryside and the massive mountainside in the distance.  My excitement was hard to contain. 

We arrived at Tokmok baby house bearing supplies, gifts and many cakes and chocolates from a bakery.  We met with the director for a bit and she told me that Isabel was a little bit sick with a slight fever and a runny nose.  Then, she asked me if she wanted them to keep her for “a few more days while she gets better?” I said a firm but polite, “No, thank you!”  There was nothing that could keep me from her!  So, they led me to her room and I looked into where they were pointing and I saw her, but almost didn’t recognize her.  There she was in a pink sweat suit, a hat and lots of hair poking out from under it.  She was being held by her special caretaker, Sonya.  I smiled and walked toward her letting her take me in.  Sonya grabbed the little book I had made with our pictures in it and she showed Isabel the picture and then pointed to me.  “Mama…Isabel….MA-MA!”  There was a long pause and then suddenly, a smile, a flash on her face.  I’d love to think that she really remembered me and knew I was her mama.  But, I think it was just a spark.  Nonetheless, there we were and we were together again and we spent some quiet time in her room with Sonya.  I had a special gift for Sonya and postcards from our town.  I thanked her over and over for the individual time she had spent with Isabel for the two months I was gone had been invaluable to her development.  She was stronger, more engaged and lively.  She had gained four pounds. 

We finished up all of our good-byes and gave the children fresh fruiut and the cakes to all the caregivers there.  Sonya kept coming out and hugging us.  Then, we were being scooted back to our car.  We were gone.  I was happy, worried, sad, anxious and exhausted all at once.  Isabel seemed to be taking everything in.  She was quiet.  She stopped looking at me.  By the time we got to the hotel, she was clearly confused and worn out.  Her cry wasn’t hunger or pain or tired.  It was grief.  It sounded so, so sad.  Comforting her by holding her didn’t help.  All I could do was stay close by,but not in her face and feed her and keep her dry and in soft clothes.  She finally slept that night and didn’t wake up until morning.  She awoke happy and she seemed curious about the room we were in, her new crib, her clothes with bright and happy colors.  She was loving the baby food I brought.  She LOVED her bath and having lotion put on her.  Over the next few days, we were basically in lockdown.  We showed her stuff, read to her, sung to her, bathed her, changed her into different cute outfits and held her while she napped.  When she cried we responded and tried to figure out what she needed.  After a few days, I had cracked her code and knew all her different cries.  That girl found her voice too!  She figured out that if she cried, that new girl always comes and helps!  She was staying awake for longer periods and giving big belly laughs.  I was pulling out all of my baby flirting techniques and they began to pay off.  It was pure falling in love. 

Then, just when we were really feeling settled, it was time to head for Almaty and wind up the trip.  It was incredible to me that we would be leaving Bishkek.  But, away we went again, to cross over the borders and to see the countryside by day.  It’s pretty much a four hour trip and we made it in good time.  The next few days were an absolute blurr.  We were tired and M. was getting sick.  On Tuesday we visited an International clinic to have Isabel go through a few blood tests and a general examination.  She was pronounced healthy that night.  The next day we went to the adoption unit at the American Embassy where we had our exit interview.  A brown envelope containing all of our immigration documents and some adoption papers were sealed and were given to me to give to customs upon arrival in San Francisco.  It was quick and friendly.  We were set and all clear to come home.  It was so hard to believe. 

We boarded our plane that night and the journey home began.  20 hours later, we landed in San Francisco.  We were messy with spit up and probably didn’t smell very good but once we got through immigration and customs, even with all the luggage on the cart and carrying Isabel, I galloped through the exit knowing the next thing I would see would be the rest of my family.  I saw them and Zannie ran to me and hugged me and Isabel tight.  I kept saying, “I missed you so much!”  After hugging me, she just wanted to see Isabel and hug her.  Then, the four of us were all together and I felt the most enormous relief to be home and with the people I loved the most. 

So, that is the second trip condensed.  It was long and parts of it were hard.  But, as with so much in life, anything that is worth doing – is hard. 

I realized the other day that we have been trying to create a family since early 1999.  While adoption absolutely never solves or erases any of the difficult feelings that come with infertility, it does squarely put it where I want it to be – in the past. 

I will be posting more pictures soon.  I know I said that before but you have to forgive me.  I’m artsy/crafty – NOT techie. 

June 11, 2007 at 3:49 pm 4 comments

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