A Travellerspoint blog

Baby Henry

snow -11 °C

February 19, 2007

First of all, for those of you who are reading this, we are sorry that it took us so many days to get this website up and running! We had planned to update it daily so that our friends and family could follow along on our adventure, but when we arrived here we found that the dial-up connection was so slow that we didn’t have the time or energy to do it. We were also very tired from our long journey to get here! Finally, we discovered a few days ago that a faster connection was available in our apartment building, so paid the fees, got it connected, and we are now able to access the internet more easily. It is still slower than at home, but it’s not too bad now. So, here we are, 13 days into our trip, finally able to share our story with you…

Sorry for the delay!

For those of you who are interested, I’ll start at the beginning. We left SFO on February 6th, less than two weeks after receiving our referral for Henry. We really hadn’t expected to get a referral until March, so we were not prepared, and even after we got the referral we were told that we wouldn’t travel for about 6 weeks, so we were very surprised and unprepared when we found out that we would be traveling so soon! We received our travel dates about a week before we were scheduled to leave and we didn’t receive our visas for Kazakhstan until the very morning that we were set to fly out! We created a whole new definition for the word “stress” that week! It was a crazy, crazy week—you have no idea how much we had to do to get ready for this trip! Update adoption paperwork, apply for visas, buy gifts for 26 people who would help us along the way, prepare Sydney’s food, clothes and toys for the long journey, buy clothes and supplies for Henry, see the doctor, prepare medicine for every possible disaster or illness that we might encounter, buy airline tickets, buy travel insurance, pack, and a figure out a million other last minute details. When all was said and done, we had four suitcases (50 pounds each), one pack and play, two carry-ons, and one car seat. Lisa also had one 65 pound bag and one carry on. You should have seen our load!!!

So, the journey began on February 6th, 2007. Our visas arrived via fed ex at 8am that day, and we left for the airport at 11am. Not a minute to spare! Upon arrival at SFO we had one last sushi meal, before hopping on our flight to Frankfurt. We arrived in Frankfurt 11 hours later and spent one night there to regroup before heading into Kazakhstan. On the 8th, we went back to the airport at noon, caught our flight to Kazakhstan at 2pm and arrived in Astana 5 hours later (10pm local time) for a layover before heading to Almaty. Our one hour layover in Astana turned into a two hour layover because the engine had ice on it and had to be de-iced, and then they decided they needed to refuel the plane because they said the weather was so bad that they weren’t sure if we were going to be able to land at our next destination once airborne and we needed extra fuel, just in case. Just in case? Hmmmm…..too much information for us! Better to be ignorant! So, anyway, after about two hours (at around midnight), our plane took off for the one hour journey to Almaty. As we approached Almaty, we could see the lights of the city and much to our relief, it looked perfectly safe to land…HOWEVER, apparently the runway had zero visibility, so we circled the Almaty airport for a few hours before our captain finally decided that he couldn’t land and had to take us back to Astana! Soooooo………at around 5am, we found ourselves dropped off at the Astana Airport with no idea where to go or what to do! Per our agency, our contacts were supposed to meet us at the Almaty Airport, and we were instructed not to talk to strangers along the way, not to get in a stranger’s car, etc.! We never imagined that we would end up at the wrong airport, so we had no back up plan, no emergency phone numbers, etc. What to do? We got off the plane, called our contact in Almaty and found that no one spoke English at that phone number, the airport in Astana was basically closed down, and Lufthansa was completely unorganized and didn’t give us clear instructions on where to go and what to do. Finally, after about an hour of hanging around the airport with about 100 other people from the flight, Lufthansa arranged for drivers to take us to local hotels. Luckily, they took us to a fabulous hotel, The Rixos, and we were able to check in and get some sleep. So, 18 hours after leaving our hotel in Germany for our 7 hour flight to Almaty, we had finally arrived at a quiet and clean hotel in Astana.

Needless to say, we missed our adoption appointment on the morning of the 9th in Almaty. We had previously been expected to attend a one hour meeting in Almaty with our agency, before flying back to Astana that same day to meet Henry, who resides in a baby house in Astana. Luckily for us, when we finally reached our contact in Almaty, she told us to stay put in Astana and come to Almaty a different day for our one hour meeting. We wouldn’t have been able to fly to Almaty anytime soon anyway, because we were being told that the airport was going to be shut down for a day or two, due to bad weather. So, the morning of the 9th, after a couple hours of sleep, our adoption lawyer and translator in Astana came to our hotel, picked us up, and took us to meet Henry.

We were surprised at how nervous and excited we were when we arrived at the baby house! When we arrived, we were lead to a room to meet the orphanage director, where we were instructed to tell her certain things that she wanted to hear. After a few minutes of talking, our translator whispered to me that if I was ready to meet our baby (and not be shown any other babies or choices) that I should put a toy on my lap, which I did. Moments later, Henry appeared! He was, as he is in his pictures, very cute. He smiled and giggled and came to us easily in those first moments.

Thus began our visits with Henry. We were shown to the visiting room, where parents “bond” with their new children for two hours a day. Each day we get to play with Henry in this room only. Malika, our translator, stays with us. Some days we are alone, other days we are with many other families. In this room, we play with him, sing to him, talk to him, walk with him, and take pictures of him. Each day with Henry gets better and better! The first day, I have to admit, was kinda rough. We were SUPER tired from our long trip here, we were emotional, and Henry was hyper, hyper, hyper, and wouldn’t really let us hold him or cuddle with him. He just kept wiggling away and crawling like crazy in wild directions and whining. He seemed super over stimulated and cranky! We called the doctor back home and she said that this was probably normal, since he had spent his whole life in one room, doing the same routine each day, surrounded by people who looked and smelled and sounded different than we did. She said he was probably just over stimulated and not to worry. She was right! Each day gets better and better, each day he lets us hold him more and each day we feel more and more sure that he belongs to our family. He now has great eye contact, laughs and smiles when we arrive for our visits, and responds really well to us. We love him! And Henry especially loves Jon. The clincher for us was when we brought Sydney to visit and both Henry and Sydney seemed so happy and cute together. At that moment, we knew for sure that we were doing the right thing and that Henry and Sydney belong together.

Henry is a 7 month old baby with very blonde hair and very blue eyes! They say his is Tartar from a part of Russia called Tatarstan, where the people are strong and busy! People in the orphanage say that he looks like a combination of Jon and I and everyone acts very surprised by this! We think he is a good fit for our family in terms of how he looks. He really does look like he could be my biological baby. Henry is very fast! He can crawl, he can stand up, he’s strong, and he is very loud! Lots of grunting and whining and baby babbling going on at all times. He also smiles and laughs a lot. He likes to be tickled. He seems very well cared for, very healthy, and very developed for his age. In fact, today they told us that they are moving him into a different big -boy baby room, the room with older kids (8-12 months old) because he is too active for his current group (6-9 month old babies). Go Henry! That’s our boy! Henry is a good eater. He is a big boy!!! He seems to have some allergies to something he is eating because he often has hives and rashes. They tell us he is allergic to sugar, but we aren’t so sure if this is true or not. Either way, we will figure it out when we get him home. Henry likes music and sways when he hears it. He likes stimulation and goes from toy to toy, examining it, eating it, and then finally banging it as hard as he can to see if it will make a loud noise. He seems to like loud noises. He is our bam bam boy! Great!! Watch out Sydney and mommy, your quiet, calm life is about to change drastically!! Henry is apparently a good sleeper (we hope this is true!) and they have begun to potty train him! Yippee!! Can you believe it? Our 7 month old baby already sits on the potty and goes pee pee in the potty!! Henry is teething and we have seen a few teeth pop through this week. Ouch! Henry is very cute. Henry is Sydney’s new brother and we are sure we will all love him very much.

Ok, that’s it for now. Sydney needs her mommy, so now I have to go. More later on our apartment, our life here, the weather, the food, etc!

Henry playing with Jon

Henry enjoying a tickle

Henry pausing during a crawl

Here's the room where Henry spends most of his time.

Henry and Jon sitting by the window

Jami and Henry sitting by the window

Henry eating his hand

Henry in the blow-up pool

Henry playing with Jami

Henry likes the mirrow a lot!

Henry and Jami playing with a ball

February 20th, 2007
Hi Again! So today I thought I would tell you all a little bit about Astana, the city we are in. Astana is the capital of Kazakhstan. It is actually the new capital, and it is a very growing and vibrant economy. Things are very expensive here and people are very fashionable. You wouldn't believe how much construction is going on here. Literally every street has new buildings being built right now.




Everywhere you look, there is construction going on. The plan is to build the city, and then the people will come. They say there is a plethora of good jobs here right now and anyone who doesn't have a job is just lazy. The architecture is beautiful and very modern. The new apartment buildings are very fancy.




Our apartment in particular is super modern and comfortable. We even have a HUGE jaquzzi bathtub and a large screen TV! It has two large bedrooms, three bathrooms, a huge living room, a large kitchen, an office, and an extra bonus room with a couch and chair. It's probably 2000 square feet. Very spacious and comfortable.

Our foyer and kitchen beyond

Our living room.

Our office

We are shocked at how modern everything is here. We thought we were traveling to a third world country, but this is a very comfortable city for us to be in. Jon even found a nice gym down the street to work out at and Lisa and I went to a really nice spa the other day to get massages. Just like home!

Gym near our apartment

Pool at the gym

View from the gym

Contrary to what we expected, Astana is very modern, clean, and safe. The food is great, the streets are clean and safe, the stores are modern and well stocked. The drivers are sane (what a relief), everything is very efficient, the supermarket has all sorts of descent food, the restaurants are good.

Our favorite place for dinner so far.

They gave Sydney presents after dinner - we were all very excited about it!

Everything here is so much better than we expected it to be. Even the orphanage is nice. The babies are very well cared for, it's clean, they have nice toys, etc. We feel pretty sure that Henry has been well cared for during these first months of his life. There's not much to do here in Astana, especially because the weather is so bad here and we can't really walk anywhere because Sydney is so cold that she cries hysterically when we try to take her walking outside, but we have had a chance to go to the circus (instead of Lions and elephants, they train racoons, possums, monkeys, and dogs!),

Monkey and Racoon at the circus.

... do a little site seeing, visit a large (and very cool) aquarium, shop in some modern shopping malls, and eat out at lots of good restaurants. We are very lucky to have been sent to Astana, because we are told that all the other cities that our adoption agency work in are more like small villages and are much less developed than Astana.

February 22, 2007
Hi Again! Jami here. Jon has been meaning to add some text to this, but since he hasn't had a chance to do it yet, I thought I'd write a little bit more this morning. We had a nice day yesterday. We all walked down the street to the gym and spent the morning working out, getting massages, eating hamburgers and pizza, and playing with Sydney in the playroom.

Lunchtime at the gym

It was a great morning. Our visit with Henry in the afternoon was was really good. Each day just gets better and better with him. He is still very active and boy-like, but he has really calmed down and is much more comfortable letting us hold him now. He does a lot of laughing and giggling and seems really happy most of the time. It's a big change from the first couple days that we visited him, when all he would do is whine and act irritated. Anyway, during our visit yesterday, they suddenly came into the room and said that we were going to take Henry to get a picture taken of him for the judge. They brought in the most ridiculously warm (over warm) clothes for us to bundle him up in (about three sizes too big too!) and we all headed off to get some photos taken of him.

Henry's first outing.

We assume that this was probably his first time to leave the baby house. He was completely silent and wide-eyed the entire time, just looking around and observing everything. He was very cute.

Afer the baby visit, we drove back to the apartment to pick up Lisa and Sydney and went on one of our usual daily adventures to yet another local shopping mall where we browsed the stores and let Sydney run around and stretch her legs. There is really nothing to do here in terms of sightseeing and it is way too cold to be outside, so usually in the late afternoons we go to a shopping mall and let Sydney run around a bit. There's usually not much to buy, but yesterday Lisa and I both found a couple of sweaters that we liked. Yesterday's mall was the first one that was even remotely affordable, usually we find things way overpriced. For example, the first day I found a very simple plastic piano that I wanted to buy for Henry that cost about $60 (the same one would cost $15 at Target back home), I found some tacky, cheap, poorly made cotten clothes for Henry for about $20-30 for one shirt or one pair of pants (again, the same thing at home would cost $5-10), Lisa found a cute little hat that she wanted to buy, until she noticed that it was about $300, we found coats and sweaters for literally hundreds or even thousands of dollars, etc.!! We are amazed at how expensive everything is! Yesterday, however, we went to a mall that was much more affordable and found a few things to buy. It was fun! Oh, but it was VERY hot. They keep the heaters cranked up really high in all the public buildings, so as we went up to each floor, it became more and more unbearable. Jon, of course, especially didn't like it.

For dinner, we went to a really nice restaurant. The waiters were dressed up in traditional Kazakh clothes and the interior was decorated nicely. Jon had shish-kabobs (we're not sure what kind of meat it was. hopefully not horse), I had chicken with cheese on it, Sydney at french fries (but at least she is eating!!), and Lisa had some sort of traditional soup. They have a lot of good soup here.

Outside restaurant with our driver Murat

Dinner at the new restaurant

Ok, I'm gonna sign off now and go pay attention to Sydney before we leave to go visit Henry again. Thanks so much for all of your nice emails. We are so overwhelmed by everyone's support and excitement around Henry's adoption! Thank you!

February 24, 2007
Hi, It's me, Jami again. Thought I would write a few thoughts down before we head off for dinner. Tonight is Lisa's last night in Astana, so we are going back to our favorite restaurant one last time. Tomorrow we all fly to Almaty for a little sightseeing and to attend a meeting with our agency (the one we missed that first day when our flight dropped us off in the wrong city!). Lisa will fly back to the US on Sunday night, late. For some reason all the flights in and out of this country leave and arrive at 1 or 2am. Very inconvenient! We are extremely grateful to Lisa for coming with us on the trip to watch Sydney while we visit Henry. Luckily the baby house has agreed to let us bring Sydney to the visits next week though, so Lisa can fly back home to her family and her work. They have told us that we can even bring Sydney to the courthouse with us on the day we petition to become Henry's legal parents as long as she sits nicely and doesnt talk or move! I assured them that Sydney is a very good baby and she will sit nicely, by herself for the hour appointment. I didnt know what else to do! However, I am VERY nervous about how she will actually act that day! If we get very lucky, maybe she will sleep, but who can reasonably expect a 2 year old to "sit nicely" for an entire hour?! However, if I told them that she couldnt do it, they would provide us with a non English speaking babysitter, a stranger, and I didn't want to do that to Sydney. Sooooo..........everyone who is reading this......think of Sydney on the 5th of March at 2pm our time and send her relaxing vibes and thoughts to calm her! If she cries or wiggles, she has to leave the court with a stranger. But miracles do happen, right? Perhaps she will cooperate that day.

So right now we are in the middle of a big storm. It is so loud that none of us can sleep well at night, and it is hard to move around outside. Mainly it is very windy. Very, very windy. And cold. And snowy. They say it is windy in February.

We went to see Henry this afternoon and he was a bit cranky and tired, but he let us hold him and rock him and he seemed very comfy in our arms. He still especially likes Jon. It is very sweet.

I'll have Jon post some more photos tonight, but for now, I have to go...

More later!

Friday and Saturday visit's with Henry:

Henry playing

Henry enjoying the rattle

Henry with Jami

Jon writing here. So it's our Sunday today and we've just spent the day touring Almaty. We had a full day just in the downtown area. We all had such a good time we were hoping we could spend some more time here. We came here on Saturday night. Our flight was delayed (by many hours) so we ended up arriving fairly late but luckily the restaurant here in our hotel was still open and we had a great meal. This city is quite large and far more western. Many people speak very good english and we've seen a lot of westerners here. We headed over to the bazaar first (also called the "green market" because it is housed in a giant green building). You can buy anything here from dvd's to a side of horse meat.

For some reason the security guard told us to stop taking pictures so these are all we took.

The meat market

Herb and spice venders

We also toured a cool museum and catholic church and had an awesome indian late lunch.


WWII War memorial

Our driver/interpreter Andre speaks very good english and has a great sense of humor which made our day a lot of fun.

Andre and gang in Almaty

February 26th, 2007
Jami here! We have enjoyed Almaty so much that we decided to stay here another day. We will miss our visit with Henry tomorrow, but this is a good chance to see more of Kazakhstan, and who knows when we will ever return here, so we should take advantage of it while we are here and see as much as possible. We will see Henry again on Wednesday. Almaty is a great city. So much to see and do, compared to Astana. Almaty is the old capital, and the center of commerce. It is very international and vibrant. Much more modern and fancy than Astana. Really, it is just like a European city. Very nice. Designer stores everywhere you look, international restaurants, lots of museums, shopping malls just like home, etc. Today we watched rock climbing competitions (to rap music) on a climbing wall at a shopping mall and browsed through designer stores and ate delicious hamburgers! There are three orphanges in Almaty that were closed down for inspection this year, but we hear they will open again in March. This would have been a fanstatic city to have come to. We really like it here! Ok, I don't have much to talk about today, but I thought I might post a couple more photos of our visits with Henry.

Henry playing with Daddy

Henry practicing his crawling skills

Note: Sydney is having lots of fun with Henry. It makes us very happy to see them together. She will be a great big sister! She shares with him, brings him toys to play with, and even talks about him once in a while when we aren't visiting him. Henry can't keep his eyes off his big sis. We think they will be great pals! Only once during one of our visits last week did Sydney look at me while I was holding Henry and sweetly say to me, "Bye bye Henry!! Henry bye bye!!". Awe, sisterly love...



February 27, 2007
I'm a bit too tired to write tonight, but thought I would post another photo of Henry. Here it is, Henry playing with Daddy:

February 28, 2007
We are back in Astana and it is FREEZING here right now! We are happy to be back. We missed Henry! Yesterday was Sydney's birthday:
Jon and Syd at our hotel in Almaty. We're baking her a cake today and we'll have a proper birthday party when we get home!

Here are a couple other photos of Henry that I thought were cute from last week:

Henry snuggling with his mama

And a snuggle with Dada

More dada snuggles

And here's one last photo for today. Henry kissing his new sister.

March 1st, 2007
Only a few more days until our court date. We can't wait! Although the time has been flying here, we have to admit that we are excited to go home next week. We are getting tired of being so cooped up inside (too cold outside to do much) and we are really looking forward to the comforts of home. We have decided that we are going to eat sushi every night for one week straight when we get home!! The food here is good, but we are a bit tired of the cuisine here. Needless to say, it will be good to be home for many reasons. We have been gone almost a month now.

Tonight Sydney and Jon had fun playing soccer in the house. Here are the pictures to prove it!





Look how cute our new baby is!!!!


He really loves the mirror...


Today when we left the baby house Sydney was very sad to say goodbye to Henry. She almost starting crying when I told her it was time to say "Bye-bye" to Henry! I told her Henry had to take his nap and I started walking out of the playroom with him while Sydney and Jon were cleaning up the toys. As I was walking down the hall, away from the playroom, Sydney suddenly came running out the door and ran up to Henry and I and started calling Henry's name and she ran up and gave him a big hug/pat goodbye. It was very cute!

March 2, 2007
Hi there, it's Jami again. Not much new to talk about today, but I did want to post a couple photos from our visit with Henry today. Sydney was very sad when we had to say goodbye to Henry today. Again, like yesterday, as I walked out of the playroom to take Henry into his room for his nap, Sydney came running after us crying out Henry's name and trying to grab onto him as I handed him to his caretaker. She was very upset that he had to leave us! She really is starting to get attached to him and she really didnt think it was right that I was handing him off to another woman! The rest of the day she talked a lot about Henry. It was very cute. I guess that on some level she is starting to think that he belongs with us.

Here are some photos from today:

Henry playing

Henry exploring and crawling

Henry and dada having a laugh

Henry just can't get enough of that mirror!

Posted by lotter 00:00 Archived in Kazakhstan

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