I'm sitting here at 8pm Monday evening on my own, mulling over the past three months. Amazed even as I type it that it has been three months. Sandy and Frank Reising with whom I have been sharing an apartment for the past week in Almaty have gone to bed for a few hours as they are leaving at midnight with their sweet little girl Caroline, to catch a 3am flight.
What a day it's been. The first happy tears of the three months came this morning when the lovely Hadisha at the British Embassy rang to let me know that I could pick Daniel's visa up at 3.30pm in just enough time to get my ticket reissued and get Daniel one and catch the lunchtime flight tomorrow. Of course nothing goes to plan and the final indignity was having to buy a new one way ticket as I have been here so long that my ticket has expired. Ho hum.
Thanks to everyone for the help and support I have had - I will do an Oscar's speech later when I am home and have time to think properly. I should now confess that I haven't shopped and really can't carry anything more than a suitcase, a carry-on bag and Daniel so not even any duty free, which was the original plan. So though many of you reading will deserve a great deal more than you will get, unfortunately "it's the thought that counts" is going to be stretched further than a girl has any right to expect.
I am now one week off having been here 3 months when my visa runs out which is about twice as long as I was prepared for. In any respect - emotionally, financially, underwear-ly. I have lived in two pairs of trousers and about four tops, one pair of shoes and one coat for three months. I no longer look at what I'm going to put on in the morning, I just take the next clean thing (or least dirty thing) from the pile and put it on. I barely bother looking in a mirror (no change there some would say), I don't carry a handbag anymore (sent it home with my mum) - if it won't go in my pockets or Daniels sling then it obviously isn't essential. I have a sense of unreality about going home. I have dealt with the last four weeks in particular by disassociating myself from any thoughts of life at home, my family, friends, cats. Walking out of the house and not falling over on the ice and snow, not having to climb 5 stories with two flights of stairs per floor, not having to plan everything in advance and practising the necessary Russian, just walking out of my front door and go for a walk are all things I am only just beginning to think of this evening. And of course feeling very emotional about it (though managing to keep a lid on it, Ian).
It's difficult not look back on the trip and be disillusioned by the way it has ended - it really didn't need to be this hard.
But it's important to me to try to get a degree of perspective about the overall experience and to think back in particular to the wonderful people I met in Ust-Kamenogorsk, the carers and children and the fellow adopters who have touched my life and Daniels and who have changed it in a subtle way that I couldn't have anticipated. The presents the carers gave me, Daniel's favorite carer coming in especially to see him on the day he left and crying over him going, the generosity of spirit (and books and DVD's) of my fellow adopters all touched me incredibly. I have had to rely on other people which I generally hate but I have had to try to learn to be gracious in need - it's so much easier to be a gracious donor. For every person who has made my life more difficult through pointless bureaucracy, selfishness or carelessness, there have been many more who have shared whatever they had and made this experience not only bearable but in the long term, life changing. Although neither of us would have planned for the extended stay, it was lovely to see my mum have the time to bond with Daniel in a way that she probably never would have in any other circumstance.
And of course there is Daniel. He has been a joy, a horror, funny and infuriating. For everyone who looked at me aghast at taking on a child as a single woman or told me "well your life is going to change" in a slightly bemused pitying way - you forgot to mention the pleasures... a small boy pulling himself up on the furniture and discovering that he can sit himself down and do it all over again and the first thing he does is to look for you to share his excitement with the biggest smile and expression of joy. The feeling when he falls asleep next to me and just as he's dozing off, he reaches over and pats me with his hand, just to make sure I'm there, is indescribable. When it became apparent that the Dfes were not going to issue approval to the British Embassy in time for me to get home, I sat on the sofa holding Daniel in my arms and cried and as he watched the tears rolling down my face he picked up his dummy and tried to put it in my mouth, I guess because that's what soothes him when he's upset. I didn't know whether to laugh or cry some more.
My one regret - I never did find the young girl and her sister before I left the baby house in Ust to blow more bubbles for them. I wish I had.