After buying a ticket to fly from Astana to Almaty, I packed my bags and Grant and I were driven to the airport. I thought I was just about on my way! The coordinator could only take me to the door and then I was on my own to navigate the Cyrillic alphabet throughout the airport. I only got as far as security. Once I was through, I was immediately stopped by the military police in the airport asking for documents. If only I had a picture of myself at that moment! One chubby toddler on my hip, one wheeled carryon, an umbrella stroller, and several large bags on the other side of me! I tried putting Grant down to pull out my documents but he started screaming and turning red! The airport was busy and people kept pushing past us. The policeman motioned for me to pick him up and people started staring at the whole situation as Grant became louder and louder. I handed him the Kazakh passport and mine, but evidently this wasn't what he wanted. I even showed him my plane ticket, but that was a no-go too. He then motioned for his fellow officer to come over and I knew they probably wanted some money. But this girl had had it! Enough was enough! I put Grant back down on the floor of the airport and let him scream till his heart's content. After all, time was ticking and my plane was leaving from a terminal that I didn't even know it's location. At this point, I'm drawing a large crowd as I keep trying to get my passports back and move on while Grant's screaming and crying. As the saying goes "Kazakh babies don't cry", so my screaming Kazakh baby grabbed a lot of attention. It worked! Frustrated, the officer shoved the passports back my way and walked away. Quickly, I grabbed Grant and all of my belongings and headed towards the ticket counter for some direction before he could change his mind.
Grant cried throughout the flight. An older woman and her daughter were sitting next to me trying to comfort him which only made him more angry. She sang Kazakh children's songs to him. I can only imagine they were thinking what a young, inexperienced mother I was! We landed in Almaty and headed to the baggage gate. I had checked a piece and grabbed a cart as I was waiting for it. The same older woman from the plane saw me and started talking to Grant again who was sitting in the cart. Next thing I knew, she was pushing the cart towards the front door. I was a little confused. It's not everyday, someone steals your child while your watching them! I went after her trying not to leave the rest of my luggage sitting unattended. But she kept going - smiling and waving her hand. I pulled Grant back and said several firm "No! Nyet!". I still don't know what she thought she was doing for me! Right outside the doors are a mob of people waiting to physically pull you into their cab. I never would have found him.
My nerves were frayed by the time I pushed through the cabbies to look for someone that may know me. I didn't know who was picking me up, but an older Russian gentlemen motioned me over and in very broken English asked if I was "Heather". I guess that's the guy! In I went and he drove me to a hotel where another coordinator met me. Ivan was his name and he spoke fluent English!
Unfortunately, with all that wonderful English, he told me that I couldn't make the Embassy appointment I had because we were waiting for my paperwork to fly via currier from Astana! Evidently, I had pushed our previous coordinator so hard to get me to Almaty and my paperwork done, that she had just sent me on my way. This little act cost me another week, literally!
Grant and I stayed at a hotel that wasn't really within walking distance to anything but street vendors for food and I felt a little uncomfortable there by myself. So Ivan was able to find a room for me at the Hyatt with all its glorious metal gates and bomb sniffing dogs. It had American food too. I love trying new things, but I was exhausted and ready to go home. A good hamburger hit the spot! Grant wasn't a big fan though. The staff there came to love Grant too. They would call him "Master Grant". Because he kept breaking out in hives, I tried keeping him on basic oatmeal. I found some instant packs in Astana that I brought with me. I took them to the hotel kitchen and asked if they wouldn't mind making it.
Soon enough, Grant's oatmeal dinner came to the room with white linens, white china, and a rose. They loved talking with him when we went downstairs to eat as well and would fill my bag in the morning with extra fruits and yogurts to feed him on our daily walks around town. I couldn't stand to just sit in the room waiting for the process to occur so we would walk all over Almaty to see just what it was about.
It's a beautiful city really with a large Russian influences as you would expect. But some portions of it are very European with tree lined streets and small bistro type restaurants. Ivan called one day to say that a woman was picking me up to do some sight seeing the next day. I was so excited as my days had previously been dragging on.
I can't remember her name but my guide was a wonderful young woman who had just become a new mother herself. We drove up to the mountains to the Medeo ice rink which is an outdoor rink that has had its fair share of hosting events throughout its history.
A young boy and his donkey was walking along the road that day and I asked if I could take a picture with him. He let Grant sit on his donkey. Obviously my idea and not Grant's! He hated it!!!
My new guide spoke pretty good English. We talked a lot as she drove me around the next few days. She was so curious of my life as I was hers. She wanted to know why I came to Kazakhstan to adopt, why I wanted to adopt, how I lived, what kind of house did I have. We talked about freedoms I had, politics, and American life in general. She told me that she had a friend in Canada that she wanted to visit several years prior. Presumably this friend was another adoptive family she had met and was prior to her pregnancy she had just had. She said she had been trying to get exit visas for her and her daughter to visit Canada but the government would not let her leave as they said she wouldn't come back. She was leaving behind a husband but that wasn't good enough for them to guarantee her re-entry. A good reminder to be thankful for all the many freedoms we have in our America!