Monday, February 18, 2008

More waiting...

Dear Everyone,

Thank you so much for your many prayers and words of encouragement during our first trip to Vladivostok!  What a fantastic trip we had.  So many of our prayers were answered.  The Lord brought us safely to our beautiful sons in Vladivostok and safely back home to St. Louis.  We miss the boys tremendously and are counting the days until we receive a phone call from CHI to tell us we have a court date and can return to Russia.  We expect at the least a three-month wait, but it could be longer (let's hope not!).  Until then we're both trying to keep busy with work, fixing up the boys' room and doing some traveling to see friends and family.

As we get further and further into this adoption journey, we come into contact with so many people with similar stories.  Some of them have already brought their children home.  Some of them are waiting for their first trips to Russia.  Some, like us, are waiting to return for court.  Some of them have been waiting for quite some time.  We ask that you would continue to keep us in your prayers, but also all of the families who are waiting to bring their children home.  The Lord be with you all.


Clarion and Joel

P.S. - I'm getting better at tinkering with the blog.  You'd think somebody like me (Joel) who is in to technology could get a handle on this stuff.  A little time and patience and it becomes a cinch.  Earlier this evening I put the Vladivostok and St. Louis clocks on the blog as well as a ticker to count the days since we concluded trip #1.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

The BIG day!

Now that we have WIFI internet (for who knows how long) we thought we'd do a quick blog update.  Our time in Vlad is going very well.  On Monday we met our boys.  The day began with a visit to the Ministry of Education to officially receive our referral.  It was quick and painless and we were off to see the boys.  We cannot list names or post pictures, but we can briefly tell the story.

The boys are ages 2 and 4 and are at different institutions because of their age difference.  Children age 3 and younger are in baby homes and children 4 and older are in orphanages.  We went to the baby home first to meet our first son.  He is a little sweetie!  The meeting was perfect.  He did not cry or scream.  He smiled.  He laughed.  He hugged us.  What an answer to prayer.  We only had thirty minutes with him that first day, but they were thirty wonderful minutes both of us will never forget.  He is healthy and happy!

After our time at the baby home we went to the orphanage to meet son #2.  He has a much quieter, shy personality than his little brother, but is an extremely sweet and brave boy.  We played with him and a bear that we brought him.  He hugged us both and smiled at us.  I think he has been through a lot in his four short years.  He has not seen his little brother for almost a year.  He was extremely attached to him.  On our second visit we were able to show him pictures from our visit with his brother.  You could see the look of sadness in his face at seeing his brother.  But we assured him that his brother is happy and healthy.

After reviewing the medical records of both boys, we are committed to adopting them and bringing them home in the months ahead.  We will be able to visit the boys more over the next couple of days.  Hopefully we will be able to post more.  But we wanted you all to know what a blessing this trip has been and how wonderful the boys are.  We can't wait till we can show off our sons to all of you!  Thanks for your continued prayers.  And thanks for the comments you've been leaving us on this blog.  Keep 'em coming!


Clarion & Joel

Saturday, February 02, 2008

The Venture East

International adoption is a grand adventure, but for us, the real adventure has finally begun: traveling to the Far East. Preparations began about a week before departure. Thanks to Cheryl (Joel?s mom) for coming to St. Louis and getting us packed and ready to go! The days before our departure were certainly not stress free thanks to all of the weather forecasts. Snow! Why this week? Why Thursday? Does the Lord have a sense of humor? I?m sure He does, but it wasn?t for the sake of humor that He brought us snow on Thursday, the day of our departure. The fact that we were able to get out of St. Louis, despite a few inches of snow falling was a reminder that all things are in the hands of the Lord. What a way to begin such an arduous adventure!

Our flight from St. Louis to LAX was scheduled for a 7PM departure on Thursday, January 31. We took off about an hour and a half late, which would leave us about an hour and a half at LAX to make our connection on Korean Air to Seoul, South Korea. An hour and a half isn?t much time when you have to hit the bathroom, transfer to another terminal, get boarding passes, go through security (again!) and (maybe) get something to eat. In our case we got water, snack mix and chocolate covered raisins. No time for one last McDonalds! The good news: we made it to our gate, onto the plane, and in the air to the Far East. We knew we were really cool when the flight attendant announced on the flight to LAX that there were passengers that needed to connect to the Far East and needed to deplane first. That's us!

How can we describe the flight to Seoul? LONG!!! 13 HOURS LONG!!! But, it was a good flight nonetheless. We have to hand it to Korean Air. They know how to do a long flight. They have an outstanding in-flight video system and impeccable service. Movies, inflatable neck pillows (thanks, Mom!), wine, bimbap noodles (or something like that) and Tylenol PM are a must for a flight to Korea.

We landed in Seoul around 6:30AM on Saturday, February 2nd. Security was pretty painless. We didn?t have to take off our shoes or remove electronics from our backpacks. South Korea rocks! Incheon International Airport in Seoul is fantastic. They have KFC, Dunkin Donuts and (thanks be to God, says Clarion) Coca Cola! They also have everything in English and take U.S. Dollars! We stopped for a Coke and then did a lot of walking around to make up for 13 hours on a plane and two more hours on a plane to Vladivostok. We had about three hours to kill. Our entertainment at the gate for our flight to Vladivostok consisted of listening to Korean flight attendants shouting out the names of destination cities when it was time to board flights and listening to the good Russian folks around us and trying to pick out words we knew.

Our flight to Vladivostok took off on time (10AM) and we were off for the last leg of our journey to Vlad. We flew over the Sea of Japan (or the East Sea). I guess for some reason the pilot didn?t want to take a route over North Korea. Hmm. Probably a good thing too! They served a meal on the flight, but both of us were too excited to eat. We were almost there. Who needs food anyway when you had bimbap a number of hours ago? One of the best things about Korean Air?beer (not $4, not $3, $0). We thought 10AM a bit early for a beer, even though that?s 7PM CST back home. However, the nice Russian man next to us did indulge. My indulgence in Russian beer was to come later. Once we were flying over land, we noticed a lot of white color below us on the ground (i.e. snow). The captain announced the current temperature in Vlad: 3 degrees. The plane landed soon after and we found ourselves on a bus to the terminal.

We finally made it to Russian soil. We left the bus for passport control, customs and immigration. I watched as they let Clarion in the country, so I figured I was home free. Yep, they let me in too. It was actually very painless. Do you want to know what feels great after a long, long day (or more) of air travel? Seeing your luggage waiting for you at the baggage claim. Russian airport personnel even check your claim tickets, which never happens anymore in the US. I?m glad they do it hear. Our long Johns and special K bars made it to Russia. Woo hoo!

Lana and Irina (our CHI contacts in Vlad) were waiting for us when we came out with our bags. They are so nice! We loaded our bags into Irina?s Honda CRV and we were off to the Vlad Inn, but not without a few people cutting us off in the parking lot. The ladies filled us in on the state of the Vlad roads and gave us the low down on Vlad drivers. On our way to the Vlad Inn we saw a lot of rural countryside and a little bit of Vlad, but not the actual city yet. We saw houses, some big, but most small. We passed a Russian Orthodox church with the traditional dome you would expect to see. About twenty minutes later we were at the Vlad Inn. Time to chill. Irina and Lana said goodbye and told us they?ll be back Monday morning at 8:30AM. That gives us a day and a half to ourselves to get caught up on sleep and get situated.

We got to our room, got cleaned up and went to explore our temporary home for the next few days. We didn?t venture too far yet, just around the hotel grounds. I posed by the Vlad Inn sign and stepped in about a foot of snow. We ate dinner at the Vlad Inn (where most of our meals will be on this trip). Chicken quesadillas, chicken fingers and fries brought a little taste of home. For Clarion, another Coke was a welcome treat. For me, nothing would do but a cold Russian beer (ok, maybe two). I did share the second with Clarion. We went back to our room to watch a movie, but fell asleep within ten minutes. It was about 6PM Vlad time.

We both got plenty of sleep and are about to enjoy Sunday brunch at the Vlad Inn, apparently a favorite for many of the locals. Tomorrow is the big day! We?ll spend the rest of the day discussing what is to come, reviewing Russian words and phrases, going over questions to ask at the orphanage, etc. For now, it is time to sign off. Sorry for the length, but we thought you?d enjoy the whole enchilada. Imagine how long the next post will be after we?ve met our sons! We miss you all and we continue to be grateful for your prayers. Please post comments on the blog. We love to hear from you!!! Dasfidanya!