One year ago today, on a very dark, cold night, we arrived at the airport in Samara to finally become a family. Our flight had left Moscow, bound for Samara, sometime around 9 or 10pm on the 14th, and we arrived in Samara sometime just after midnight if my memory serves me correctly. We had spent the day on the 14th sightseeing in Moscow with the other family that we traveled with each trip. Here is Sara enjoying a cup of "hot chocolate" during our visit to Red Square. It turns out the "hot chocolate" is simply melted chocolate in a cup.
Upon arriving in Samara, we were prepared to drive into the city (the airport was about 30-45 minutes outside of the city, depending upon which driver picked us up) and check into the hotel. We were scheduled to spend the entire day of the 15th running around Samara doing paperwork that would allow us to pick up the children on the 16th and head back to Moscow. To our surprise, most of the paperwork had been completed already, and all we had to do was make a couple of stops in the morning and then we would be off to the orphanage to pick up Lleyton. Honestly, nothing against Lleyton of course, but I was really looking forward to one last day in the hotel and getting plenty of rest before finally picking up our little buddy and starting our lives together. Upon getting the news that we were getting him a day early we scurried to try to get prepared for him, we had the hotel put a crib in the room, we unpacked all of the clothes that we wanted him to wear when we picked him up from the orphanage, we made up his first bottles that we would feed him so that they would be ready at the hotel when we arrived back. Needless to say, it was a bit of a whirlwind day.
After joining the other family for breakfast, we jumped into a couple of cars and were driven around town to make our mandatory stops. Following those stops, we were off to our final visit to the orphanage. As I stated in an email that I sent to family and friends that day after arriving back to the hotel with our little man, as happy as we were to be finally getting to leave the orphanage with him, I also had a feeling of sadness. The orphanage workers had cared for this little boy in his times of greatest need, they nurtured him, they raised him to be the beautiful little boy that he had become over the previous 13 months, and now they had to say goodbye to him. I am sure that they love seeing these children, whose futures are otherwise in question, leave the orphanage en route to a better life, but that must be accompanied by a feeling of sadness to see them leave.
Prior to departing the orphanage, we were given a brief tour of the children's room. During previous trips, we weren't allowed to see any of the rooms other than the one that we met with him in each time. It was nice to see where he had been living. There was a large playroom with a few children scattered about playing. Then there was the bedroom. This room was full of cribs, probably 15 or so. One right after anther. Each indistinguishable from the previous. I have a feeling that this is the room that the children spent the majority of their time in. It was a sad sight, but I had prepared myself for it being worst that it actually was.
Following our tour of the children's room, we were shown a new room that they were about to open that could accommodate additional children. Both Sara and I and the other family that we traveled with had made a donation to the orphanage on our previous trip, so the orphanage director was eager to show us the curtains that they had purchased with the money that we had given them. It was cool to see how proud the director seemed to be of the new room.
We briefly played with the kids before bundling them up in their snowsuits and preparing to make our exit. The orphanage workers stood in the hallway and said goodbye to both of the little boys as we were leaving. And we were off. Off to begin a new life together as a family. Surreal to say the least.
Lleyton fell asleep on Sara's lap on the way to the hotel. We had spent the previous two trips really getting to know each other (Sara and I and Lleyton). So he seemed very comfortable to be leaving with us and heading into an unknown world to him.
It wouldn't be an understatement to say that January 15, 2008 was the day our lives changed forever...for the better.
First official family picture
Asleep in the car after leaving the orphanage