This morning we had our SDA appointment at 10 AM. It was an interesting night with the jet lag issues, and in the end we had no time to go get a decent breakfast. We were happy we had packed some Clif bars (thanks, Hollie!) so we made do with those. Everyone talks about how much weight they lose while they are here, and I think that may hold true for us!

Ryan in front of Saint Andrew's Cathedral, next door to the SDA

Nina picked us up at 9:30 in her car and we drove the few blocks over to the SDA. It is right next door to the beautiful St. Andrew’s Cathedral but the SDA building itself is very unassuming. After talking about this for months, it was kind of funny to see what a simple, small office it was. We entered through a small door on the side of the building and sat for about 15 minutes to wait to be called. Finally we made our way up the stairway and into the office of a very young lady. With Nina translating, she introduced herself and then asked a few questions. She wanted to know a little bit about our family, why we wanted to adopt, and why we were interested in a child with Down syndrome. Then she asked how we found out about Vika. It was all very easy and seemed more of a formality than anything. I answered her questions very simply and briefly and she was satisfied. Then she showed us Vika’s file.

As we already knew, she was born 2 years and 2 days ago. She was described as being “quiet but energetic.”  There were three pictures of Vika- one from when she was about 3-4 months old, all bundled up like a fat little burrito, and two that were taken much earlier this year. She has the chubbiest little cheeks and is just adorable. Nina said that when we come back here at the end of our process, we can go to the SDA and give them a current picture of her, and they will give us the three baby pictures that are in her file. We will be so happy to have them.

After discussing all of this, the representative went into the other room and called the orphanage director to tell her that a family will be coming to visit Vika. While she was gone, I asked Nina if she had ever heard of a local family adopting a child with Down syndrome. She said no, she’d never heard of such a thing. Then I asked if Vika would have any chance at all of being adopted here. Without blinking, she said “Zero.” We pretty much knew that before but still found it sad. At the same time, this confirms to us our decision to adopt a child with Ds. We would not want to adopt a child who had a good chance of finding a family within their own culture, especially if there are others who would never have that opportunity.

Finally we were done. The representative gave Nina our dossier, with all of the pages sewn together, and we went on our way. We will go back tomorrow for our official referral and then get on the train to Vika’s orphanage. We were told today that with Monday appointments, they never give referrals the same day. We figured as much so it wasn’t really disappointing.

Outside the SDA after our appointment

Nina headed out from there and we explored that part of the city on foot. All of the streets are made of stone and can be difficult to walk on. The sidewalks are brick and there are many bricks completely missing so you really have to watch your step. It really is beautiful though. We found a street where a lot of brand-new mansions had just been built and they were amazing. Very European looking. I cannot imagine what sorts of people can afford to live in them. Our apartment is not very nice by American standards but Nina tells us it is outrageously expensive to live in this area. These homes were 100 times nicer and in an equally good, central part of town. Perhaps that is why most of them are still for sale!

Anyone in the market for a new house?


Eventually we made our way back to Independence Square. We had some of the traditional food for lunch- manti (steamed meat-filled dumplings), grape leaves stuffed with meat and rice (similar to Dolmas, but not as strongly flavored), and a cheese tray. It was all very good. Eating out is interesting here. The food is very affordable (a “main course” would be about $2-4 in a decent restaurant) but the portions are quite small. It’s no wonder that all of the women here are so thin! Most American restaurant portions are about 4x as large as a typical meal here. We’re trying to get used to eating less and it doesn’t seem to be harming us a bit thus far. It’s probably something we should try to continue at home!

After lunch we walked around a bit more and then stopped in for gourmet coffee and hot chocolate and “curd fritters” with honey sauce. Yum! There are coffee shops all over here and the drinks are excellent.

I’m not sure what we’re going to do the rest of today and tomorrow. It looks like there are some free walking tours and I’m hoping we can visit the Chernobyl Museum which is within walking distance. Tomorrow we will return to the SDA at 4, then get dinner, pack up our apartment, and get on the train a little after 10 PM.