Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Translator, Tour Guide, English Tutor and Taxi Service

Julia Yarovoy, jbaskova@yahoo.com
Your adoption facilitator will offer translation services during your stay in Ukraine. However, a translator will not be able to be with you all day every day. If you find yourself in need of a good translator or need advice about getting around Odessa, we recommend Julia. She is a Christian with a caring heart and excellent translation skills.

Julia and her husband, Sergey, are natives of Odessa and know the city very well. Julia was Paul's translator and tour guide during his first trip to Odessa. On our current trip, a group of American families wanted to go out on the town one Saturday evening but,we were without our normal translators. So, we called Julia and hired her to interpret and guide the group around the city center. At the end of the evening, Julia helped each family find a taxi or the correct bus home. Huge help!

Julia also works as an English tutor. We hired her to provide English lessons for Yuri which was a huge help in jump-starting Yuri's English skills.

Sasha Finenko - 80671831558
Sasha Finenko - 80671831558 If you need a reliable, safe taxi driver, call Sasha. We used him as our primary driver during our stay in Odessa. He operates a 7 passenger van which is a big advantage over eating your knees as you cram your travel party into the back seat of a small car. So many taxi drivers seem to operate their cars with vengeful aggression. By comparison, Sasha is noticeably more calm and safe. We also found his rates to be fair (compared against other vans). Sasha speaks very little English so, an interpreter will have to call him for you. Tell Sasha Paul & Renee sent you. ;-)

Monday, April 23, 2007

We Made It Home!

Together at last!

Sorry for the delay in making this post. Since we arrived home, it has been a whirlwind of activity. Two soccer games, a family birthday party in Lincoln, church, shopping, laundry, unpacking.... you get the picture.

We touched down in Omaha at 11:35 p.m. Friday night. What a day. We had to run to catch each flight on our trip home. Due to short notice, our travel agent pieced together flights from three different airlines in order to get us home by Friday night. AeroSvit (Ukrainian airline) from Kiev to JFK. Delta from JFK to Chicago. United from Chicago to Omaha.

Friday began smooth enough. We arrived early at Borispol airport in Kiev. However, a customs agent prevented us from boarding the flight. We had to present the original court documents givng us the right to adopt Yuri. We were not informed we needed to present these documents in order to board the plane and had them packed in a suitcase which was already checked. Long story short, all four of our bags were pulled off the plane. We retrieved the documents, had them stamped and ran through security and down the jet way to a plane full of passengers waiting our arrival. (They held the plane for us.) We had tight connnections in JFK (customs) and Chicago. In fact, in Chicago, United had already given our seats to "stand by" passengers and had to pull them from the plane.

Tip to future adoptive parents: keep all your original documents in your carry on bag. You will need to present them in order to leave the country. ;-)

Dad, Mom and Yuri on the flight from Kiev to New York City. A sigh of releif.

The Weddingtons: Sasha, Suzette and Katya. In additon to the Berger and Weddington families, there were two other families on the plane who had also adopted kids from different regions of Ukraine. One of those kids is, Christina, the girl sitting at Katya's left.

The welcome comittee at the airport. I apologize for the quality of this photo. I was a little tired and excited when I snapped it. Liz, Christina and Andrew are holding a sign in the center of the photo, surrounded by members of Paul's family. Grandma Rose and members of Renee's family are to the right. The people on the left are good friends from our church who have also adopted kids from Ukraine. There must have been about 25-30 people to provide a warm welcome home. It was pretty cool.

The kids constructed "Welcome Home" signs. The sign in the bottom photo was posted in our front yard.

Upon our return home, we presented the kids with souvenirs. Christina, Andrew and Yuri show off their new "Ukraine" soccer jerseys.

Andrew and Yuri play a little hoops on the drive way.

Cole Lennard and Yuri get reacquainted. Cole is Yuri's good friend from Internot #4. Cole has been in the US almost two years and lives near our home.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Success in Kiev. Next step... Fly Home!

Safe arrival in Kiev last night--check
Successful Medical Exam Thursday morning--check.
Successful Appointment at US Embassy--check.
Embassy computer network functioning properly today--check.
Yuri, Sasha and Katya issued Visas late afternoon Thursday--check.

The Berger and Weddington families make it through Kiev in one day!

It is 7 p.m. local time and tonight's post comes to you from an internet cafe in downtown Kiev.

We are absolutely thrilled! Praise God and thank you all for your prayers and support. Thanks also to the facilitators and translators who worked so hard to get us out of Ukraine this week. We are "extra" thankful because as of last night, we were pretty much resigned to the fact it would take two-days to get through Kiev, mainly due to a problem in the computer system. Meaning, we could not fly home until Saturday. Bummer. So, you can imagine our surprise and joy when an official at the Embassy said the network was working and they expected to have our Visas ready by end of day!!

All that is left to do now is find a flight home on Friday. As I write, we have a travel agent working on options. We will call/email once we know our arrival time back home--most likely Friday evening. Sorry, kids. You will not get to miss school. ;-)

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

We Depart Odessa Tonight!

It is 6 p.m. in Odessa. We received a favorable decision today from the child protection board re Yuri's property. We have Yuri's passport and airline tickets to Kiev. Our plane departs at 9:40 p.m., Odessa time and arrives in Kiev at 10:50 p.m.. We also had success closing Yuri's bank account. It was worth it, Yuri is providing funds to both Babushka and his brother, Viktor.

In Kiev, we are sharing a large apartment (3 bedrooms, living room) with the Weddington family. We plan to have Yuri's medical examination in the morning. We hear the US Embassy is having issues with their computer connection to Washington D.C. We pray this does not interfere with getting out of Kiev by Friday.

We lost our internet connection today and so, I am borrowing the Becker's internet to make this post. I am uncertain what kind of internet access we will have in Kiev. We will post when we can. If you don't hear from us via the blogg, keep checking back we will offer more picture posts as soon as we regain high-speed access--even if that means posting from home after we return. ;-)

Prayer Request - For safe travel tonight to Kiev. For computer system at the Embassy to function.
Praise - For everything!

People We Would Like You to Meet:

A good friend of ours, who adopted two kids from Odessa, put it best when she said, “… they knew our kids and loved our kids before we did. And, we love them for it.”

We are amazed by the work God has done and will continue to do, through the ministries of each of the people listed below. We respect them, love them and count them as friends. We would love to tell you about their work and go on about their stories but, we thought we should let their respective websites/bloggs do the talking instead.

Lela Steel
“Babushka” Lela already lived one full and complete life in Florida. Then, God showed her the desperate needs of children in Odessa and at age 71, a her new “life’s work” began. http://www.harvestinternational.org/HeritageHouse/ You may email Lela at lelasteel@normaplus.com

Paul and Tanya Becker
By occupation, Paul is a dentist and Tanya is President of a theological seminary. Boy, is that only scratching the surface. http://www.heritagehouse.blogspot.com/

Michelle’s role is “volunteer” at the orphanage. The title itself is so basic yet, Michelle fills it with so much love and meaning. Every child needs a friend like Michelle. You may contact Michelle at michellevonjoy@juno.net

Julia and Sergey Yarovoy
On my first trip to Odessa, I knew Julia only as a very skilled translator and her husband, Sergey as a nice guy who polished cars. During my second trip, I learned a lot more! http://www.youthofukraine.org/ click on the "Sergey and Julia" tab. You may contact them at jbaskova@yahoo.com

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

One More Day in Odessa... again.

We are not leaving Odessa tonight. At one point this afternoon, we thought we may not be able to depart Ukraine until next week! (That was the dark and angry moment of the day.) However, that was only a misunderstanding. Our people tell us they will have us out of Odessa Wednesday night and out of the country by no later than Friday. We should be happy at this news but, honestly, we are so worn down and disappointed over events from this last week that we are kind of numb right now.

To recap, we did not get Yuri's passport today, we did not get a decision on his property and we were unable to close out his bank account. We expect to have all three of these items accomplished tomorrow. Our facilitator and translator are working very hard and doing everything they can for a quick resolution to our problems. FYI... Yuri has been great through all of the waiting that we have had to do lately. He has not asked us "Are we there yet?" even once!

Prayer Request -I think the prayer request should remain the same. That Renee and I have patience, understanding and wisdom. For efficiency in both Odessa and Kiev. Safe travels and for decent lodging in Kiev. And, tonight, I want to remind you to pray for our kids back home and Grandma Rose who is caring for them. Thank you.

Monday, April 16, 2007

One More Day in Odessa?

The Nutshell - As I write this post, it is 8 pm. Monday in Odessa. We had hoped to depart for Kiev tonight but could not get Yuri's passport today. 37 days in country and counting! Today started out so promising and then we hit a road block this afternoon. However, we made some headway on all fronts and are very hopeful we can wrap it all up Tuesday. We moved our flight reservations to Kiev back to Tuesday night.

Today, was a long one in the van as we criss-crossed the city. Driving and waiting. Driving and waiting, etc. Yuri was so tired (from his recent overnight) and so bored, he spent much of the time curled up in the back seat napping. Paul's knees ache from so much sitting. We like our driver Sasha, but after today, we are less enthusiastic about his van. ;-)

When will we get home? - It is likely we will have two days in Kiev for Yuri's physical exam and to process him through the US Embassy, although, we will do our best to get it all done in one day. We hope to be home Thursday or Friday depending how quickly we can get through the process in Kiev. Sorry, we can't be more specific. Everything hinges on when we are able to leave Odessa.

Thank you! - Thank you for your thoughts, prayers and encouraging messages. I think we had a break-through today and feel a degree of understanding, peace and optimism that we did not have Sunday night. There is so much more we would love to share with you now but, now is not the time.

Prayer Request - Please keep praying for us. That Renee and I have patience, understanding and wisdom. For efficiency in both Odessa and Kiev. Safe travels and for lodging in Kiev. With the current political difficulties in the capitol city, there are few hotel rooms and apartments available. Thanks!

What happened on Sunday? - We attended Sunday services with Michelle and the Weddington's at the Presbyterian church. The service was in Russian but they provide English translation via head phones. However, the sermon just happened to be preached by an American pastor in English . After church, the Weddington's and Berger's walked to Afina Mall to eat lunch at Mario's (7th meal at Mario's for the Berger's).

After lunch, the Weddington's invited Yuri to "Playland" for more arcade games. Renee and Paul walked to the Becker's apartment where we traded Renee's computer expertise for free laundry service (using machines!). Sunday evening was spent at home. Our friend, Michelle, came over and borrowed the internet while Renee and I packed. We ate supper, bloggged, checked email and passively watched bits and pieces of the movie, "Troy" with Brad Pitt (in Russian). OK, now you are all caught up with our Sunday.

Sasha and Yuri mess around after church as they wait for their parent's decision on where to go for lunch. The boys are very good friends and enjoy each other's company. Watching them interact is like watching a couple puppies wrestling. They can't leave one another alone for 10 seconds without physically picking on each other.

Interior views of renovated Presbyterian Church. There are several Americans who attend or are members. The Church will soon host a group of Americans who will be here on a two-week project working on the church building and orphanages around Odessa.