This is day 5 in Kazakhstan and my first chance to post properly, so I'll do a quick run down of events so far...
Met my first two travel partners, The Collerans from the west coast of Ireland, at Heathrow airport and had an uneventful overnight flight to Almaty arriving very early in the morning and horribly jetlagged, none the less managed a walk around and negotiated dinner in a local restaurant. My Russian held up reasonably well until I thought I'd asked for the bill where-upon another round of drinks arrived! Of course this has now become the standing joke of the trip - "shall we get the bill" "why not, I fancy another drink" (OK well you obviously had to be there!)
We caught an extremely early flight to Ust on Thursday morning and after meeting our two other travel partners, The Hendersons also from Ireland, we headed off to the baby-house at about 3pm. At that point we were introduced to the lady from the Ministry of Education and the Director of the home and after a short meeting, were lead off to wait individually to wait to be introduced to the babies who would become our children.
Our translator Alfiya, disappeared into the Directors office with a wrapped up bundle and I was called in to meet Junior. He was handed over to me, took one look at me and screamed blue murder and pretty much didn't stop except for breath for the next hour! Of course I've done all the courses and stranger anxiety is normal and therefore a healthy sign and I found myself surprisingly unconcerned by his reaction. His favorite carer was called for and she calmed him down and took us both off to a quiet room together to try to persuade this boy that I really wasn't so bad after all. He was having absolutely none of it and although he was persuaded to occasionally stop crying, if he wasn't crying he was eyeing me very suspiciously and glancing anxiously at his carer who stayed in the room with us. It was also explained to me that he is currently in the isolation unit as he has a high temperature and I guess being dragged off into a strange room with a load of strange people in black was probably the final straw (note to adopters reading - carers all wear white or pale blue overalls in Ust so if you come here, make life easy for yourself and wear something light the first few days).
Since then we have visited twice a day, two hours in the morning and two in the afternoon and things have progressed slowly but positively. Each day has shown tiny improvements - Friday I was allowed to feed him his medicine from a bottle (I think some kind of soluble paracetamol), then yesterday they let me feed him afternoon tea. We only have one visit on Sunday mornings but this is an improvement on other people with other agencies who don't seem to visit at all but instead get taken out sightseeing. Fascinating though that may be, and there is a real danger that I will come home having seen very little of Ust, it's far more important to me at the moment bonding with him.
This morning was an improvement again as he has evidently decided that I'm not going to murder him any time soon (though he is keeping a wary eye on me) and has condescended to sitting down occasionally rather than the insistence to date on being carried at all times (and preferably facing away from me so that he doesn't have to look me in the eye). Today he has taken to studying me very solemnly and is making good eye contact, though I suspect that it is his discovery that I am the holder of shiny noisy things (car keys) that has improved matters! Although it's not great that he has a temperature (he has a runny nose, so I'm hoping that it's just a cold) the advantage to being in the isolation unit is that you pretty much have the place to yourself. There are two carers on duty and at the moment only four children are ill so they get pretty good care. One of the other children, a pretty little Kazakh girl called Aida (Ay-eeda) is also being visited by her American adoptive parents and we overlap by about half an hour in the morning and evening. She has a really nasty cough and they have been told that she will be in for at least another 7 days. One of the other children is only two months old and the palest baby I've ever seen, he's really tiny and looks terribly sickly and I would say is only the size of a large newborn. Poor mite - I've never considered myself a terribly maternal person (shhh, don't tell Junior) but it really does make you want to take them all home.
My visit today ended well, with my being allowed to take Junior into the cot area of the unit and put him down for his afternoon nap. I suspect that practicing my Russian on the carers has really got them on-side and I seem to have been allowed to do far more far quickly than other adopters I've heard of (happy to be proved wrong that you were all putting your babies down for naps by day 5 but were too polite to brag about it!!). For those following behind, it will make an ENORMOUS difference to you to be able to communicate even on a basic level with the carers and they are really bowled over that you have made the effort.
I'm going to try to cover things I think people might to interested in over the coming weeks - my travel partners, what the baby-home is like etc so if you have any specific questions post them on the comments page and I'll do my best to answer. Questions about Junior are off limits as he isn't mine until 15 days after the court decision and I am legally registered as his mother. Even very loosely bonded with these children as we are at the moment, all of us here are struck with horror at the thought of something preventing us from adopting them but it does occasionally happen - family coming forward or the court having some kind of issue with your paperwork. So I won't be tempting fate until its irreversible.