June 20th, 2016
By Laura A. Jones
This is the fourth and final part of a transcript of the hand-written journal I kept when my husband and I traveled to Russia to adopt our daughter, Makayla. To go to Part 1, 2, or 3, click here:
17 April 2000
Today was kind of a rough day for you. I think you are testing us to see what you will be able to get away with. There were several times that you disobeyed us, and when Daddy would get out toys to play with you, you pushed them away in a huff. Then when we tried to have an English lesson, you got mad and said, “I am not going to America, and I am not going to Moscow. I am tired of your English, and I am bored with your English words.” We tried to leave you alone for awhile so you could cool down. Then later on I gave you some applesauce. Daddy tried to help you take the lid off, but you got mad at him and screamed. When I asked you to apologize to Daddy, you refused and ran to the bedroom. Tamara asked if she could talk to you, and we said, “yes.” Five minutes later both of you came out of the bedroom together. You were looking down at the floor as if you were embarrassed. I told you how much I liked your smile, and after a few minutes, you smiled for us again. Tamara told us what she had said to you. She told you that your Mama and Papa love you very much—that we love you so much that we want to give you everything. She said that we are good people and that we want you to be a nice girl. You were crying during this little talk, and she asked you if you want to go back to the orphanage. You said, “no.” I was glad to hear that. I think it will just take some time for you to adjust to all the changes that are taking place in your life. You are probably just trying to get a feel for what is expected of you, and learning another language is not easy. We will try to have patience when you get discouraged. We love you very much! After Tamara had this little talk with you, you decided to play school. You were the teacher, and you introduced each one of us as guests to the classroom. You would ask us to come to the front of the class and recite a poem. Daddy recited “Fuzzy Wuzzy Was a Bear.” I recited “Three Blind Mice.” Tamara recited “Three Little Kittens Who Lost Their Mittens.” You were really cute, and I could tell you were imitating Mama Leda. After dinner you wanted to watch Swan Princess for the third time. I laid on the bed next to you for awhile. I like to be close to you. I love you, Makayla!
Makayla during lunch at Gaya’s apartment.
Makayla and me doing an art project.
18 April 2000
Today was our last full day in Birobidzhan. We are leaving for Moscow tomorrow. When you woke up this morning, I showed you the front of the Russian-English Dictionary which has a picture of Red Square on it. I said, “Zaftrah Moscow” which means “Tomorrow Moscow.” I don’t think you believed it was really tomorrow until we started packing. That’s when you started to get excited. You saw your swimsuit, and you got a big smile on your face and you were telling us you were going to jump into the water. I could tell what you were saying because you kept doing the action for jumping into the water. We said, “Yes, jump in the water!” At lunch today, Cindy came again. She will be moving into Gaya’s apartment tomorrow after we leave. She also has her court hearing tomorrow. She told us she wasn’t the least bit nervous about court until she had the meeting with Tatyana and found out that she needs to lie about some things. I told her that I felt exactly the same way after our meeting with Tatyana. We really like Cindy, and we got her e-mail address. We found out she would be coming back for dinner tonight. In the afternoon we were supposed to go and get your passport at 4:00, but at 4:00 Tatyana called and said we wouldn’t be able to get it until 5:30 because somebody was in a meeting. Tamara told us the office would close at 6:00 or 6:30. It was going to be a close call because we can’t leave tomorrow without your passport. We kept waiting for Tatyana to call, and when it was almost 6:00, we started to worry, but finally she called. We drove to the office, and when we got there, the front door was locked. We kept knocking on the glass. After awhile a car drove up, and Tatyana got out. She came up the steps, and then a guard came to open the door for us. We went upstairs, and signed for the passport. We can finally leave for Moscow.
When we got back to Gaya’s apartment, Cindy was already here. Gaya prepared a very nice dinner, and Peter and Tamara were here also. Olga prepared a beautiful cake for you since this is your last dinner in Birobidzhan. We will miss our Russian friends. They asked us to write to them, which we will. After dinner we said “good-bye” to Peter since we won’t be seeing him tomorrow. Then we did some more packing because we will be leaving at about 10:00 a.m. Tomorrow will be an exciting day for you—your first time on an airplane.
19 April 2000
This morning we woke up with excitement because this is the beginning of our trip back home to America. We finished up our packing right after breakfast, and we were ready about 40 minutes before Slava would be picking us up at 10:00 a.m. Olga was there, and I gave her the hairdryer that I bought in Birobidzhan because the plug won’t work in the United States, and the hotel we are staying at in Moscow has hairdryers. Olga was very grateful for it. Gaya came home from work just before 10:00 to say “good-bye” to us. She and Olga have been very kind to us, and we will miss them even though we are glad to be going home to America and all the comforts we are used to there. Tamara and Slava came, and we got all the luggage into Slava’s car. I asked Tamara if she would mind if I rode in the front seat, because I thought it might not be as bumpy, and I was worried about my back. She didn’t mind at all, and I was glad I asked because the ride to Khabarosk was much better than the ride to Birobidzhan was 2-1/2 weeks ago. As we drove out of Birobidzhan, Tamara told you that you would not be coming to Birobidzhan again. You said in Russian, “Bye-bye Birobidzhan. I’ll never see you again.” I’m sure this 2-1/2 hour ride to Khabarosk was the longest road trip you’ve ever taken. After about an hour, you told Slava to drive faster because Khabarosk was very far away. After two hours, you asked Tamara if she would go back to the orphanage to make sure that the children hadn’t forgotten about you. She assured you that they would not have forgotten about you just as you still remember the other children who went to the United States before you. As we continued driving along, I watched all the many people walking along the streets in Khabarosk. I started to wonder how it happened that I got to be one of the very few people in the world who was fortunate enough to have been born in the United States.
Daddy showed you the picture album that we brought for you. You have looked through it several times before, but you have never been as excited about it as you were this time. You asked several questions about the two pictures of your room. You hugged the picture album, and you said you wanted us to hurry and get to America. I think the fact that we are finally on our way is causing you to realize that all of the things in those pictures really do exist, and you will be there soon. I told Tamara to tell you that when we get to the airport, I wanted to tell you what was inside the drawers in your desk. You said, “It is not necessary for you to tell me what is inside them because I will just open them myself and see what is in them!” You are such a funny little girl!
Everything at the airport went pretty smoothly until we got to the guards who check the passports. They looked ours over very carefully and then asked us to step to the side because they wanted to see more documents. They asked to see your birth certificate and the certificate of adoption. They asked Tamara several questions, and then they finally let us go. We had to say “good-bye” to Tamara. I started to get tears in my eyes. She has been so helpful to us with you, and I know how much you liked her. She asked us to write and to send pictures of our family. Once we got inside the waiting area, we met two other couples who were also in Russia to adopt. We were all on the same flight to Moscow, and then we all have different flights back to the United States on Saturday. One of the couples told us that the reason they checked all of our adoption documents so carefully is because the Russian President Vladimir Putin just announced this morning that there were to be no more international adoptions for at least 3 months. This couple also told us that there was another family here in Russia to adopt but they hadn’t had their court hearing yet. They were told, “Sorry, but you’ll have to go back home.” I can’t even imagine how they must feel after all the delays we have been through. What if that had happened to us after we had met you. I don’t even want to think about it. We first heard about this last night from Tatyana when we were at the passport office. Apparently there was an article in the newspaper about it yesterday. Tamara explained that there are a lot of people in Russia who are against these international adoptions. They have decided to review the laws before they allow anymore of them. We made it just in time. I don’t foresee any problems in Moscow because we will be dealing with the American Embassy, but I will be glad when we are on the airplane heading for New York.
We had first class seats on Aeroflat because there is just one row of smoking in first class, but they ended up putting us in the row directly in front of the smoking row. You got very excited when we started to fly, and after that you kept asking me questions. We had no interpreter with us, and the only word I understood was Moscow. Pretty soon you fell asleep, and you slept right through the dinner. When you finally woke up, they brought you some food. You tasted everything, but the only thing you finished was the bowl of fruit—your favorite food. After that, you pretended to write letters to people, and then I wrote down the numbers 1 through 10, and you traced them. You sat in Daddy’s lap for awhile with your Barbie doll, and the man behind you started up a conversation with you. We couldn’t understand what the two of you were saying because you were speaking in Russian, but he was teasing you with your Barbie doll, and you kept coming over to your backpack to get out more of your toys to show him. Later on, Daddy got out your picture album, and you opened it to the pictures of your bedroom to show the man.
Finally, it was time to land in Moscow. We got off the plane, and a bus took us to the terminal where we were met by our Moscow adoption coordinator, Eugene. He is a college student who was wearing jeans and tennis shoes. Eugene was serving as both the coordinator and the interpreter. I am sure he is fine as an adoption coordinator, but he doesn’t even come close to comparing to Tamara as an interpreter. He spoke to us in English, and his English is fine, but he didn’t even speak to you at all. Tamara not only interpreted what we said and what you said, but she really worked at teaching you manners also. Whenever we gave you something, she would tell you to say “thank you” in English. She did a lot of things like that which made her such a great interpreter.
Anyway, once we got all the luggage in the car and started to leave the airport, Daddy asked Eugene a question twice, but got no response. Daddy looked at me and jokingly said, “Mr. Popular!” Later, Daddy asked another question: “What time is our appointment at the Embassy?” This time he got a response: “10:00, but we’ll talk about it at the hotel!” That response prompted us to not ask anymore questions. The five of us spent the 30-minute drive to our hotel without saying much at all. You fell asleep, and we woke you up when we arrived at the Marriott Grand Hotel. While Daddy checked us in, you and I walked around and around. This is a five-star hotel, and I am positive it is the most beautiful place you have ever seen. We went up to our room in the glass elevator. You got really excited in the room, and you started smiling and laughing and dancing around the room. We decided to get some dinner, so we went downstairs to one of the restaurants in the hotel. We ordered our dinner, and we chose a fruit salad for you since that is your favorite food. While we were waiting for our order, they brought us a basket of bread and a plate of butter. For some reason, you started to get upset at this point. You refused to eat any bread, and we could tell by your expressions and some words we understood like “Mama” and “Papa” that you were mad at us. We let you ramble on in Russian, and we just had a pleasant conversation in English. After a few minutes, I looked at you and said, “Ahn-glee-ski,” and Daddy said, “I love you!” You started to get a little smile on your face, and you decided to have some bread. After this, you were fine, and when they brought out your fruit salad, you were very happy.
After we finished eating, we decided to review some of the foods on the table in English. I pointed to the bread in the basket and said, “Ahn-glee-ski?” You thought for a moment, and then said, “Bread.” I pointed to the salt, pepper, water, and ketchup, and said those words in English. You immediately started to point to each of those objects and repeated the English words. Even after I stopped asking you, you continued to point to the objects and looked at me as you said the words in English. This was the first sign I have seen that you are motivated to learn English. Up until today, you were never really interested in our English lessons, and sometimes you would even put up a fight. I think that the fact that we no longer have an interpreter with us all day is helping you to realize how necessary it will be for you to learn English. After dinner, we put on our bathing suits and went down to the pool. We ended up getting in the jacuzzi because the pool was rather cold. You just loved the water. You were laughing and splashing, and putting your head under the water. When it was time to leave, you kept running over to the jacuzzi to stick your arm or your leg in again. We went back to our room and called home. You spoke to Ashley and Craig. We are all excited about meeting on Saturday night. At bedtime, you and I got in one bed, and Daddy got in the other. You got really excited again, and you hugged me and cuddled up to me. I love you, little Makayla!
Makayla wearing her new swimsuit. She was so excited to go swimming.
My husband and Makayla in the jacuzzi at the hotel.
20 April 2000
We woke up very early this morning because we went to bed at about 8:30 last night. Actually that was 3:30 a.m. Birobidzhan time. I can’t believe you were able to stay awake for that long but I guess you were just very excited about all the new things that you have never seen. We got ready, and we let you play in the big bathtub for awhile. The water here in Moscow looks just as dirty as the water in Birobidzhan. The only time you can really see how dirty it is, is when you fill a bathtub with it. Anyway, you loved playing in the tub. It was fun to watch you.
Makayla playing in the bathtub at the hotel in Moscow.
We had breakfast in the same restaurant, only they had a buffet. It was exciting to you to see all the different foods you could take. You tasted three different kinds of juice, but you did not like the grapefruit juice. You made a sour face and said, “Foo!” Our friend, Eugene, and the driver picked us up at about 11:00 a.m. and took us to a children’s hospital where we had an appointment for you with a U.S. Embassy approved doctor. He examined you and answered some questions that I had. Next, we walked to an x-ray lab where they took a chest x-ray. They said the x-ray looked good, and they put it in a tube so we could take it to our pediatrician in California.
After this appointment, we went to a photography studio to have some color photographs made of you. These were necessary for some of the adoption documents. The traffic in this section of Moscow is absolutely insane! Making a lane change is like putting your life on the line. Even Eugene told us he has no desire to drive in Moscow, and he doesn’t even have a driver’s license. It was lunch time, and Eugene asked us where we wanted to eat. We asked him if there were any pizza places, and he told us there was a good one in Red Square. The driver dropped us off at one end of Red Square, and we walked through a shopping mall. This mall was very similar to malls in the United States but not quite as nice. Actually, I was very surprised at how nice it was after seeing the stores in Birobidzhan.
The three of us inside the mall in Moscow.
We ate our pizza outside on the patio. The pizza tasted exactly like pizza in the United States, but of course it was not as good as my favorite—Big O! You had your first taste of soda, but you didn’t like it at first. After a few minutes, you changed your mind, and then you drank a lot of it. You didn’t care too much for the pizza, and you preferred the salad instead. I wonder how long that will last. While you and I were waiting for Daddy and Eugene to get the pizza, I saw two sister missionaries walk by. I wish I had stopped them so I could ask them how the church is growing here in Russia. After we ate, Eugene took us on a brief tour of Red Square. As we walked up a hill and St. Basil’s Cathedral came into view, you started to get very excited and you were saying something about Moscow. I’m sure you have seen a lot of pictures of this famous and beautiful building when Mama Leda talked about Moscow being a very large city, but when you saw it right in front of you, you just couldn’t believe your eyes. You started skipping and pointing to it. We walked around the building and took some pictures. Then the driver picked us up on the other side and drove us back to the hotel. We were all still tired from jet lag, and so we all took a nap.
In front of St. Basil’s Cathedral.
Makayla in Red Square.
For dinner, we went to the hotel restaurant again. You ordered a Russian soup called borsch, but you seemed to like the side order of sour cream that came with it more than the borsch itself. After dinner, we went back to the jacuzzi again. This, of course, delighted you, as you have been asking me all day long if we could go swimming again. Tomorrow will be our last full day in Russia as we will be leaving for the United States on Saturday. Our main focus for tomorrow will be the American Embassy, and Eugene will be picking us up at 9:30 in the morning. Eugene seemed to be a little friendlier today. I asked Eugene how the people of Russia felt about communism while they were under its rule—did they feel that they were being deprived of freedoms and rights, or were they okay with it. He said they were okay with it. They weren’t really aware that they were missing any freedoms or rights. Everything was kept sort of controlled, he said. I then asked Eugene if the Russian people were aware of the freedoms that Americans had. He explained that Russians were taught that the United States was a bad country and one that they should fear. He said, “Laura, we were taught the same things about the United States as you were taught about the Soviet Union.” It’s amazing how a government can control the beliefs of its people. Anyway, tomorrow is another big day, so I better get to bed.
21 April 2000
This morning while we are waiting for Eugene and the driver to pick us up, I wanted to write about some things that Eugene told us yesterday. First of all, we happened to drive by the U.S. Embassy yesterday, and Eugene told us that a new U.S. Embassy is being built right behind the current embassy because the Americans say that the current one is infested with bugs, meaning bugs installed by the KGB. Eugene also told us that the reason we don’t have a regular interpreter is because everyone is worried that the international adoptions will be stopped soon, and so they are trying to push as many through as quickly as possible, and all of the interpreters are busy with other families. He normally works only as an adoption coordinator, but he is having to do double duty right now. I am so glad that our adoption went through before everything comes to a halt. I will just be glad when we are on that plane tomorrow heading for New York!
Eugene picked us up in the hotel lobby at 9:30, and we went straight to the American Embassy. There was a long line of people that went around the corner outside the building. Eugene told us that the people standing in that line were people trying to get a visa to go to the United States. There was a separate much shorter line for Americans who are adopting Russian children. Adoptions are given first priority, and they are allowed to enter the building ahead of the people in the longer line. Once we got inside, we went through a security check similar to those in airports. We paid a fee of $325 and then Eugene turned in all of our paperwork. We had to wait for about an hour for our interview, and we waited in a long room that had about 25 other adoption families. The majority of children being adopted were babies that appeared to be about 1 year old, and they were walking up and down the room followed by their new mothers. There were only two other families that I saw who had adopted older children. One was a family we met at the airport in Khabarosk. They had adopted a 7-year-old girl. The other family that we met with an older child was a couple from Missouri who were adopting two boys (a 1-year-old and a 5-year-old). The actual interview wasn’t much of an interview at all. We just had to raise our right hands and swear that the information was true. Then he asked us a couple of simple questions, and we signed some forms.
After this, Eugene took us to a place where we could see all of Moscow from a look-out point. There was also a flea market there, and we purchased some souvenirs to take home. Next, we went to TGIFridays for lunch. They gave you a balloon with helium in it, and you were delighted to get it. You didn’t like the chicken fingers we ordered for you, though. After lunch, Eugene took us to Arbat Street, which is the oldest street in Moscow. There are lots of shops, restaurants, and people selling their artwork and souvenirs. There was a lady who had a live monkey dressed in clothing. You laughed and laughed at the monkey. Our next stop was back at the hotel, where we rested for awhile and then went to the souvenir shop in the hotel to purchase some items. I bought you a book which has Russian folk tales in English so that I can read them to you. I also bought a small book on Moscow and some postcards and stamps. We came back to our hotel room, and you put on a show for us which was really cute. You pretended to hold a microphone, and you would announce, “Today our guest is Natasha.” Then you would walk away and pretend to be Natasha doing a performance. Next you would announce another guest and do a different performance.
For dinner, we went back to the same hotel restaurant. For the past two nights, we have had water with our dinner. However, since you can’t drink tap water, the restaurant charges for it. For three glasses of water, we paid $12.00 (that’s U.S. dollars). Since we have been paying for the water, we figured we might as well order juice. When we got the bill, Daddy told me that the orange juice was $7.50 a glass. Unbelievable! The only people that we ever see in this restaurant are families who have come here to adopt a baby. Each night we see the same people in the restaurant. The parents are speaking in English—usually talking about when they get to go home. Sometimes I hear a baby say some words in Russian, such as “Pah-kah” which means “Bye-bye.” You ordered the borsch again, but you hardly ate any of it. You just wanted to eat the sour cream that is served on the side. You ate it by the spoonfuls. I think you didn’t get many dairy products in the orphanage. The doctor told us yesterday that the dark circles around your eyes are from a vitamin D deficiency, but he told us they would go away within a week. You love butter, yogurt, and sour cream. After dinner, we took you swimming again, which you always love. The doctor told us that you need to get plenty of exercise in a swimming pool. I’m sure you will love that.
22 April 2000
We made it! We are on the plane, and we just took off from Moscow International Airport. We will be arriving in New York in about 10 hours. We are so fortunate that our adoption went through. We are finding out more and more about that new law that is bringing all international adoptions in Russia to a stop. This morning after we finished packing our bags, Daddy opened the Moscow Times, and there was an article on the front page about all the families that have already arrived in Russia to adopt and are being sent home without their children. The article specifically mentioned the Jewish Autonomous Region which is where Birobidzhan is. Our friend Cindy from Berkeley had her court date on Wednesday, the day we left Birobidzhan. We don’t even know if her adoption went through or not. The article mentioned how heartbreaking this will be for the children who have been told they will be adopted. There was a 7-year old girl at your orphanage whose parents were coming this week. Their court date was supposed to be yesterday. I wonder what happened. And poor little Vika who hugged me and kissed me so many times after I gave her the Barbie doll. I said to her, “So you are going to America!” She smiled a big smile and gave me the thumbs up sign. It looks like there will be no hope for her as her parents had not yet arrived. And her poor parents—they had already met her last summer when she went to the United States to go to camp. How heartbreaking this will be for them.
Anyway, when we went downstairs to the lobby to wait for Eugene and the driver to pick us up, we ran into two other adoptive families who are on this same flight to New York. We were all talking about the new adoption law and how we just barely made it. We are the fortunate ones who are taking our children home with us. When Eugene came, we got all of our luggage into the car, and we headed for the airport. We asked Eugene about the new adoption law, and he told us he was concerned because this could mean the end of his job. He has been working as an adoption coordinator for five years.
Our plane ride has been pleasant so far. I have been thinking how much I miss Ashley and Craig and wondering what it will be like when the three of you meet for the first time. I know that they will be a great brother and sister for you. They have been looking forward to this for so long.
When we landed in New York, the passengers in the plane started clapping. You looked out the window with excitement and asked me if we were in America. I told you we were, but then I had the lady sitting in front of us who spoke Russian tell you that we still had to take two more plane rides to get to where we live. We got off the plane and we had to take a series of escalators to go downstairs. You thought the escalators were funny. I am sure you have never been on one before. We had to go through customs where we turned in the sealed envelope that we got at the American Embassy yesterday. We had to check in our luggage again, and we had a few minutes to call home before we had to board the next plane to Salt Lake City. At this point, we were all pretty tired, and we slept a lot on that flight.
When we landed in Salt Lake City, you asked me again if this was America. I told you yes, but I held up one finger and said, “One more airplane.” This made you a little upset, and you said something about Ashley and Craig. You were obviously tired of traveling, and you didn’t want to have to take another airplane ride before seeing Ashley and Craig. I used a little bit of Russian to tell you that Ashley and Craig were not there, and we needed to take one more plane to get to them. While we waited for our next flight, we met two BYU students who were waiting for the same flight. You made friends with them, and you showed them some of your toys and your picture album. We finally got on the last plane, and when we took off from Salt Lake City, it was dark. You looked out the window at all the city lights, and you said, “Pretty, Pretty Princess,” which is the name of the game we brought for you that has jewelry and a crown with jewels. Every time we get you all dressed up and fix your hair with a bow in it, we say, “Pretty, Pretty, Princess.” You decided to use those words to describe the city lights that you thought were beautiful. Then you said it again, “Pretty, Pretty, Princess.”
When we finally landed at the Sacramento Airport, you had a big smile on your face. You quickly jumped from your seat, and you kept talking about Ashley and Craig. When we got off the plane, we saw Grammie right away. I hugged her first, and then she hugged you. Grammie kept saying how cute you were. You did look absolutely adorable in your navy blue coat, your navy blue velour pant suit with the little red flowers, and the red bow in your hair. You also had on black patent leather shoes. After we got our luggage and started going outside, you let out a laugh of delight. It was dark outside, and as we approached our minivan, I said Mamana Machina,” which means, “Mama’s car.” I knew you would recognize it from the picture album we brought for you. I sat in the back with you, and as soon as Daddy got in the front seat to drive, you let out another laugh of delight. As we drove along, you held onto my hand and looked out the window at all the lights glowing in the dark.
When we got home, you got out of the car and headed straight for the front door. It was close to midnight, but Ashley had insisted on staying up with Grandma Char. She was so very excited to finally meet you. As we walked in the door, you and Ashley looked at each other and slowly walked toward each other. You hugged, and then Ashley took your hand to show you around the house. We had a little snack, but you were so curious about your new house, and you ran around on your tip-toes with a big smile on your face. We took you up to your bedroom, and you wanted to see everything in it. Then we put your red nightgown on you, and we went into Ashley’s room. She turned on her stereo, and the two of you held both hands and danced together. I have never seen two little girls so excited in my life, and this was all happening at about 1:00 in the morning. Craig slept through the entire event. We finally decided it was time for all of us to go to bed. We were all exhausted.
Ashley and Makayla were so excited to meet each other!
They started dancing together even though it was the middle of the night.
Ashley and Makayla still playing in Makayla’s new room.
We finally got Makayla into her new bed.
The next morning you and Craig woke up about the same time, and he ran down to your room to give you a hug. We all had breakfast together, and then Daddy left to go pick up Aunt Linda at the airport. After lunch we had a little party. First, you gave everyone the gifts that we bought for them in Moscow, and then you opened all of the presents we had for you. We had a special fried chicken dinner planned, but you fell asleep on the sofa before dinner. We took you up to your bed, and you slept for 15 hours. This has been an exciting day, and we have many more of them ahead of us!
Everyone in the family is holding up the gifts that we bought for them in Moscow.