We waited impatiently for Dinara with LB hopping from one foot to the other. In between being swamped by feelings and with a hard knot in my throat, I looked around mentally cataloging the changes. The "car park"
with the rusty lean to had been replaced by a brightly coloured playground equipment which I knew had been built by two of the American dads a couple of years before. The place was looking good with new windows (I later discovered that these had
also been paid for gradually by some of the American families) so no more whistling winds through some of the windows.
A young kazakh woman wandered around the garden with a young baby and it was so peaceful. Apart
from the whirling dervish next to me... "WHERE IS DINARA?!".
We must have been there for the longest 10 minutes of LB's life.
My phone rang. "Are you
there?" "Yes by the main entrance" She'd been waiting at a different entrance. As if we were going to sneak in by the side entrance
- only a grand entrance would be fitting.
the big moment had arrived and in we went.
Different photos in the hallway, a fresh lick of paint, not so much of the horse being boiled in bleach smell. Around the corridor to the directors office.
And in we went. A lovely looking kazakh woman came towards us and LB just about made my heart stop with pride when he held out his hand to her and as we had rehearsed and said "Ochin pri-atna, menya zavoot LB" (pleased to meet
you, my name is LB). We'd rehearsed it several times and he'd pretty much got it wrong every time but in the most highly charged moment of his life it all came together in that one moment. The director just about melted, cooed loudly and hugged him tightly.
LB bore it manfully and managed not to roll his eyes. Then we were introduced to the head carer and made some polite chit chat for a few minutes when the director told us to come with her and bring the toys and
the tour started.
Every moment was like stepping back to another lifetime for me and I wondered what was going through LB's mind. We walked up those stairs to the top of the building. The Director explained
that the place was a bit of a mess because they were repainting hopefully in time for Childrens day on the 1st June in time to be unveiled as they had a big party for the children that day. I saw things I'd forgotten, the budgies in the cage and things
that were new - the indoor water feature made from stone which the carers had built themselves.
The director explained that Daniel should choose some toys to give to the children in each room and the moment
of reckoning arrived. We stepped into the room for the oldest group aged 3-4 yrs.
They hadn't long woken up from their post lunch nap and were ambling around pretty sleepily. The directors explained
to the carers who the guest of honour was and they started chivvying the children to come and say hello. No need really. One eagle eyed child had spotted the toys and with a gleeful shriek ran up to LB, where-upon a whole feral pack of 3 and 4
year olds descended upon him shrieking delightedly. He chose a couple of the more age appropriate toys and opened them up with children clapping and smiling. LB looked up at me with a beaming smile and said "they love me!" and followed it up with
a touch of maturity "I think it's the toys" and giggled. The fact that it was true, spoiled the moment not one jot, he was chuffed to have made them so happy. I couldn't have planned it better if I'd had all the time in the world. Sometimes
the Universe just takes care of things for you.
It was perfect.
We were shown almost every room there - there's a Kazakh ethnic room for children who arrive speaking
kazakh so that they are spoken to in kazakh and don't lose it whilst at the home; they were also older maybe 2-4 and one of the carers encouraged them to sing the national anthem for him. So we had a tiny impromptu concert of the sweetest little voices singing
and the children importantly standing up with their hand on their hearts and LB just beaming the whole while. One little boy was encouraged to blow kisses at us and I did consider briefly stuffing him under my coat when they weren't looking. If
only I'd had a coat.
One by one we visited the rooms and handed out toys like Father Christmas. We were shown the physio therapy room - about a quarter of the children here have a disability. The room
is fairly well equipped with different sensory surfaces to walk on and various pieces of gym equipment.
We also saw the totally empty gym for the other children - in the winter the children struggle to get out much
as the winter temperature drops as low as -40 degrees at its worst so they have to have somewhere to exercise. I made a mental note to ask if some equipment might be useful as I had money from various of the UK families from Ust burning a hole in my
The most difficult room for me was probably the 6-12 month room, we were allowed (as with all the other rooms) to look into the dormitary and sitting up sleepily in the middle in a cot was a sleepy 10 month
old baby LB who had only just woken up. The urge to go over and pick him up for a cuddle was immense and I had to remind myself that he really wouldn't welcome it. Maybe I can sneak one in later in the week.
even let us go into the ante-room to the isolation unit where I'd spent most of my time visiting with baby LB. LB heard the coughing from inside and pretty much said "Thanks but no thanks" and made a make shift mask out of his shirt. We did manage
to get a photo of him standing by the fridge in the same position as the photo we have of him and my mum just before Christmas in 2006. I think it's a new fridge. And all the lockers and furniture generally have been replaced and are looking in
much better condition, no more chair being held together by being wedged between the wall and the table.
So with the tour over we were invited back to the director's office before going. We walked into
her office to dicover that an impromptu tea party had been arranged with tea and water and chocolates, nuts and raisins laid out on a smart table cloth and we were ushered over to take a seat.
director asked me thousands of questions, not only about how LB was doing, how his health was, how he had settled down. She asked him if people asked him if he looked differnt and he said no, that it had never been an issue and a whole conversation about
how multicultural London is ensued. He did say he didn't like it when his school friends talked about his adoption though. Hmm, maybe one for me to deal with...
She said she read every post placement
report that came through and she really liked to know how every child was doing. She grilled me on the latest thinking on adoption parenting and what advice she could give to local parents adopting about talking with their children about adoption as
they get so little preparation. She was really keen to know everything she could. There are very few foreign adoptions (due to the problems with agencies getting accreditation) now but there is a slight increase in domestic adoptions. The
young woman we saw earlier was a prospective adoptive parent in the bonding period - which is now a month. In the meantime, LB made it his mission whilst my attention was diverted to eat as many chocolates as he could find that he liked. It did
cause much amusement everytime he hit a dark chocolate as it was unceremoniously dumped on my plate with a "Ick, dark", even the non-english speakers got the point loud and clear.
We didn't leave until about 6.20pm
about 3 hours after arriving - I later discovered that both the director and the head carer were supposed to have finished work at 5pm.
But one development - we have been invited to the party on
1st of June. We fly to Almaty on the 1st of June. Guess whose going to be trying to change the flights tomorrow?
I think if I live to be 100 I may never find a kinder more caring group
of people than the staff at the babyhouse in Ust-Kamenogorsk.