James and I met our facilitator at the SDA office today in hopes of picking up our referral to meet the children we selected yesterday. It should have been an easy process of showing our passports and signing a ledger and then the SDA hands us a one page document that gives us permission to meet the children. Easy-peasy right? Well, it didn't go exactly like that. Our facilitator was told that there was a problem and she told us to wait outside while she tried to figure out what was wrong. She came out a little while later and said that the Director did not sign our referral because he was on a business trip. She went back inside to try to figure out how to solve this problem. We had already bought train tickets to Kharkiv leaving early in the morning the next day. James and I just looked at each other and basically we both said "of course there is a problem." It didn't faze us at all. I processed how I felt and it was so funny, I felt perfectly calm. A little annoyed, but we were getting used to all of the drama that goes into adoption. As we were waiting, an Italian couple came to the SDA to get their referral too, and then an American woman showed up hoping to pick up her referral as well. Lesya, our facilitator, came back out and had us come inside to wait for a bit. The other facilitators of the other people came inside too. After about an hour another American woman came by to pick up her referral that was supposed to be ready yesterday, but she ran into the same problem and was told to come back today. So now we were up to 4 groups of people waiting for referrals. It is a small area where we were waiting so it was getting a bit crowded. While we were waiting we started talking to the last American woman who came to the SDA. She said she asked her facilitator why there was a problem, and why couldn't someone else sign it? She was told "because we are in Ukraine"! After two hours of waiting and negotiating, our facilitators were able to get someone to sign the referrals so we can travel tomorrow! We showed them our passports and signed the ledger and they handed us our referral!
"Because we are in Ukraine!" stuck with me. The adoption process has been a very interesting experience working between our country and Ukraine. Our cultures are different in many ways and what we think should be an easy process can be very complicated out here. It started me thinking on just how different it is here in Ukraine compared to the United States. Not all of the differences are bad, not all our good, but some are just different. I started compiling a list of experiences with James that are unique or different than what we have experienced in the United States. Here are a few that we came up with:
1. The Elevators are awesome here! You get in, you push a floor button, and then push the "close door" button and the doors close immediately! I mean seriously, they close immediately! No pushing the button a million times to try to get the doors to close so you can get moving! Awesome! (Gotta love the little things, right?)
2. Cars drive ridiculously close to you when you are a pedestrian. You could be walking through a narrow alley way and a car will squeeze by you instead of waiting for you to get through before they go. Crossing in a cross walk, a car will turn their car and drive right behind you instead waiting 5 seconds to make sure they are clear to go. You could be walking on the sidewalk and a car will come up behind you or in front of you trying to park. That's right! they can park on the sidewalk here! They just drive down the sidewalk until they find a place to park. Here is proof:
3. The restaurants we have eaten at in Ukraine have been amazing! They have all been about presentation and attention to detail. They don't set out silver ware that was pre-wrapped in a napkin, they wait until you order, and then based on what you order, they bring out specific silverware for your meal. They usually put a placemat on the table and then napkins and carefully put out your knife, fork and spoon, soup spoon, butter knife, dessert fork, etc for what you ordered. Almost every restaurant has had a tablecloth and draperies everywhere. When your food comes out it looks amazing because they put so much effort to make it look beautiful. Compared to the States the food here is very inexpensive. Here are a few examples:
Mashed Potatoes at Prego in Kiev
Veal Medallions at Richelieu in Kiev
Ribeye Steak and Rice at the Opera House Café in Kiev
4. Ukrainians believe that cats with 3 colors of fur or more will bring happiness. There was an older kitten outside the SDA building yesterday and today. Our driver told us that everyone loves these cats and that they are nice to them. We shared our cultures superstition that black cats crossing your path bring bad luck and he said that Ukrainians think the same thing. Here is the cute "Coashka" we saw at the SDA:
5. Laundry! The machines here are tiny! The average load takes almost 90 minutes to run. Then you hang the clothes to dry. Some of our apartments have had these really awesome drying apparatuses that you can drape your clothes on. Sometimes we have had to spread the clothes out all over the apartment on all of the furniture. I will take a tiny washing machine over washing the laundry in a hotel sink any day though! (I really miss my super capacity washer and dryer at home...I am so spoiled!)
6. Parks are gorgeous out here and used! Lots of flowers, fountains, walkways, and benches. Every time we have walked through the park there were a lot of people in it. Families, couples, old people playing chess, musicians, dancers, you name it. When it gets dark, it gets even busier! Such a pleasant atmosphere! In the states, most city parks close before it gets dark and you wouldn't want to go to them after dark anyways for safety reasons.
These are just a few of the differences I have seen here. There are many more! I will stop now because this post is getting long! "Because we are in Ukraine!" I have realized just how lucky (and spoiled) I am living in America. I have also learned to appreciate the many good things that we have experienced here in Ukraine too! We are excited to travel to Kharkiv tomorrow and meet those kids!