Monday, January 30, 2012

Day 15: Content to Wait

Today was the first day that the wait until Jacob is officially our son began to feel long. We wear the same clothes; and Jacob wears the same clothes, and we visit for one hour in the same room with the same toys, day after day. Don't get me wrong, we are thankful for our visits with him and for the tiny changes we see in him each time we are with him, but we just want to have him home. For just a second today, he hugged me tight after we had been gone for two days. We were all happy to see each other. Then my closeness is too much for him and he wiggles to be put down and scoots away.

I can only imagine how challenging the transition will be for Jacob. Everything about us is different than he is used to. Even our love for him is alarming to him at times. We are anxious to have him home.

Usually he is all about mama, but today he got a lot of Daddy time. Brad was the one with the snack today and the cool zip front sweater that was irresistible to Jacob, and the bottle of bubbles. What kid doesn't like bubbles?!

Nothing holds his attention very long, but each time we visit he is more and more interested in us and what we are doing. He is learning to trust us and realizing that we offer love and security...and snacks. :)

Each day we are able to visit we bring the same three toys in the same bag. A stuffed puppy, a photo album of our family, and a dinosaur coloring book. Jacob is especially attached to the coloring book. He uses his hands to scoot around so he holds his book in his teeth. That is one smart boy! Way to problem solve Jacob! We also keep a bottle of water and a snack in the bag for him. We are pretty certain he said "water" today in Russian. :) He is now diving into the bag when we set it down. When we first met him he showed no curiosity for us or anything around him. We are now beginning to see him take timid little peaks around the room to see what we brought.

Like any little boy, he is curious about how things work. He was very intrigued with the zipper on Brad's sweater...enough to crawl on top of Brad to try it for himself.

He almost completely unlaced my boots when he realized the laces could be untied.

It will be wonderful to have him outside of the tiny visitor's room where he can explore and learn to his hearts content.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Day 13 and 14: Catching Up

On the weekends we are not allowed to visit with Jacob. :( We have asked multiple times and each time the answer is the same...No. One time they told us we couldn't because the doors were locked. We think something must have been lost in translation with that one.

On the weekends we try to catch up...catch up on sleep, on eating real meals, exploring the city, etc...

Yesterday, we mostly caught up on sleep. The stress of a different culture and language and visiting Jacob really wears us out. We both slept over 10 hours yesterday.

Today, we set out to have an adventure. Brad is an adventure junkie and I am a willing side kick. He found a Chinese restaurant online that he thought we should try for lunch. I ate a small snack before we set out because I wasn't convinced this was going to end with either us actually finding the restaurant or us being able to order anything that we would find edible.

The restaurant was actually really easy to find. It was about a 10-15 minute walk from our apartment. We race walked all the way there since it is only 19 degrees outside right now and even with the 4 layers of clothing we had on under our coats, it was still REALLY cold! The building was bright red in a sea of grey buildings, so that made it hard to miss.

Once inside, it looked promising. We sat on the red loveseats that they used instead of chairs and the waiter handed us a menu. There were thankfully small pictures, but absolutely no English. I found the word for "chicken" in the translation app on Brad's Iphone and we started scanning the menu for the first three Cyrillic letters in the world "chicken". I figured I would just point to what ever I found that was chicken and I would be mostly safe.

The waitress arrived and actually spoke about 5 words of English. We pointed to the chicken we had found and also at something that looked like spareribs. We ordered rice and tea also since these words are almost the same in Russian. When the food came it was actually sweet and sour chicken with peanuts and friend rice.

Besides being a little oily, it was wonderful. The spareribs were okay, but tasted very Ukrainian and not at all like Chinese food. Not terrible, but I wouldn't get them again. The odd thing to us was they brought us a plate of bread to go with our food. I guess it really is true that no Ukrainian meal is complete without bread, even if it is a Chinese meal.

We race walked back to our apartment with a quick detour into our favorite grocery store to buy chocolate and a cherry jellyroll (tastes a little like a rolled up pancake with sweet cherry jam) and then back home. It might take the rest of the day to thaw ourselves out from the cold, but it was worth it in the end.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Day 12: Our 7th day with Jacob

What a difference a week makes. We met this boy 7 visits ago.

This is Jacob eating a snack today.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Day 11: The way to Jacob's heart

What warms Jacob's heart like nothing else...Teddygrahams.

Who would have thought I would be so thankful that the pack of teddygrahams that I impulsively bought at the airport on the way here would come in so handy. Jacob is tiny in stature but does not appear to be malnourished so we have not been giving him many snacks. We are the first family to ever adopt a child from his institution so we are being very careful not to rock the boat. We didn't want to stuff him with snacks so that we wouldn't eat his lunch, but have realized that these little bears get his attention like nothing else.

I have been feeding him a few at a time and hold them right up to my face so that he will look into my eyes. When he does we cheer for him and hand him the cookie. He caught on immediately. :)

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Day 10: Letting us love him

Each day on the 35 minute drive to the institution I am able to pray and listen to praise music on my Ipod. I have started to look forward to this brief moment of peace before our day begins.

We are driving through the most beautiful countryside. It is not lush and vibrant, but it is a quiet sort of beautiful. Vast open snow covered fields as far as the eye can see with rows of Swedish aspens lining either side of the road. All at once it will surprise you with a flock or bright yellow meadow larks or green pheasants. Breathtaking.

Jacob is kind of like this landscape. Beautiful with lots of hidden surprises. It is heartbreaking that no one has noticed what treasures this child holds. He is not talked to or delighted in. Until now.

When I first began the process of adoption, especially international adoption of an institutionalized child with special needs, I could not fully grasp what it meant to be "rescuing a child." I heard others talk about international special needs adoption and use language like that when describing their experiences, but I didn't understand. Now I do.

No one talks to my beautiful boy. The injustice of it brings tears to our eyes and sets our jaws in anger. He is very well cared for physically, but no one loves him. Just the simple lack of love has taken a lively active child and made him afraid to open his eyes and look at anyone. He stopped talking and walking. He just gave up.

Today was a flock of yellow meadow larks and green pheasants kind of day with Jacob. He was calmer and leaned into us when he held him. He uttered an annoyed "Mama!" when I wouldn't get out of his way. This is a far cry form the drooling unresponsive child they brought to us the first day. We hugged him and kissed him and held him and told him that we love him and that God loves him. It might be the first time he has ever heard those words. As the nanny rushed in abruptly and scooped him out of my arms saying "Times up!" Brad rushed forward with his phone and played the Russian recording we made. "I will see you tomorrow." Jacob looked at us over his nanny's shoulder and waved.

Love is truly rescuing Jacob and transforming him into a different boy.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Day 9: I'm Your Mama

I'm writing the post tonight. Sara is tired and I have a lot to say! The Lord answered our prayers today. It was the first day that we were allowed to spend the entire visit with Jacob without having a chaperone. We have been struggling under the constant supervision, and had begun praying that God would allow us time alone with out son.

This morning, we were ushered into our room, but on the way in we were given a surprise as two of Jacob's caregivers came with Jacob between them walking to meet us. He was doing so well. Not sure if Sara has shared this with you all or not, but Jacob walks completely up on his toes. He will more than likely need AFO's to help him flatten and stretch his feet before he can walk on his own without help.

The second surprise came when they gave him to us, smiled, and all left and closed the door behind them. For the first 15-20 minutes we cringed every time someone came near the door. We were so afraid that our chaperone would come to join us! We took the time to be quiet with Jacob and introduce ourselves to him as his Daddy and Mama. He seemed very interested in this. You may recall that the nannies here have told us that he doesn't speak (just babbles sometimes). Other families who knew Jacob while he was still in the baby house have told us that he did talk, and even called other children by name. Well, not 5 minutes after introducing ourselves, Jacob was playing on the floor, misplaced Sara, and turned and looked and yelled, 'Mama! Mama!' It was as clear as day. Sara went to him and he wanted her to pick him up and hold him! Our little boy is working so hard to come back out of the shell he has gone into.

This is seconds after Jacob called for Mama.

We played with him, and allowed him to explore and get to know us. . . We showed him pictures of his new family and told him who they were. . . We told him that we loved him. . . And we sang to him.

He is still exhibiting a lot of self-soothing behaviors, and is very easily overstimulated. But, our presence seems to be nice to him, and he made a lot more eye contact with us today.

Finally, it was time to go, and we tried to get the one nanny who speaks a little English to tell him that we would be back tomorrow. But, she doesn't think he understands her, so she got embarrassed and wouldn't do it. She couldn't fathom that a child with physical disabilities could comprehend anything, so his basic needs are taken care of but he is never spoken to as a person. We will learn how to say this in Russian tonight, so we can tell him ourselves tomorrow.

The door to the clerk of the court.

We spent a lot of time on this bench outside the clerks door while our facilitator worked her magic inside.

Oh, and we petitioned the court today for an adoption hearing. We should be assigned a judge tomorrow, and then are just waiting for the process in the capital city to be completed so that they can then mail everything to where we are and we can go to court. We are struggling with the unknowns of everything (especially not knowing when I can purchase a ticket to go back home and be with our other kids), but God reminded us this afternoon that man makes his plans, but God directs our paths. We are trusting in the Lord to direct our paths. Please keep praying for Jacob and us. Thanks. -Brad

Monday, January 23, 2012

Day 8: A New Day and a New Name

We skipped blogging yesterday since it was Sunday and we really needed to take a Sabbath. Everyone says that this process is overwhelming, but it is something that just can not be put into words. We took the day to lay around, sleep late, take naps and listen to a sermon online. We were blessed with an unexpected visit from friends, who are also adopting. We were able to share a nice breakfast with them. Brad went to buy eggs after walking to pick them up from their bus stop and we all laughed that Brad practically had to cluck like a chicken to communicate he wanted to buy eggs. :)

Today was our first visit back to the institution after a 2 day break for the weekend. After our visit, we got a phone call from Sasha, who I have started to call our fearless facilitator :) saying that she needs to know our son's new name for the paperwork that she is filing. This had been a real struggle for us for some reason. We had one name all picked out but it just didn't suit him when we tried to call him that. Last night we finally came to a tentative decision that we felt confident about today when we got the call. We took a picture of the text we sent to Sasha with his new name. :)

Jacob Aaron Wall

It feels feels like our son.

Jacob in the Bible was born a fighter and struggled to find his way, but ended his life a hard worker and a triumphant follower of God. Aaron was my great-grandfather's name but it also means "mountain of strength" and our sweet boy is indeed a mountain of strength to endure all that he has in his young life and still retain that delightful belly laugh of his. We managed to get a few pictures of him with his eyes open today. I think he keeps them mostly closed to keep the world out.

Institutional life has robbed him of all the skills he had from when he was in the baby house...the ability to talk, to play, to make eye contact, to be calm, to feel safe, to pull up and walk.

We were overwhelming to our sweet Jacob today. The touch and eye contact were too much. He would enjoy it for a few seconds and then it was too much and he would rock violently on his hands and knees or flail on his back. All institutional behaviors that we were told to expect, but it is shocking to see and experience in person.

The difficulty is compounded by our ever present chaperone. He name is Ludmila and she is very sweet and speaks a little (very little) English. We are in a room that is about 6' x 7' with a small couch, 2 arm chairs, and 2 end tables, a small play pen and a small coat closet. We are crammed in tiny room with a scared and overwhelmed child. It is difficult for Brad and I, I can't imagine what it must be like for Jacob. Our poor baby.

The institution itself seems like a good one, but we are still very tightly controlled. We are not allowed to see into any of the rooms with the kids and when a group of older boys (about 8-12 yrs old) walked by our door to go outside and play, the nanny noticed me looking and closed the door. The nannies seem to really care about the children, but they also don't have any expectations for them either.

Some mom's who knew Jacob in the baby house have been very encouraging to us by recounting what he was like before he went into the institution. We are praying and greatly anticipating our little boy finding his way back out of his shell. Please pray with us that God will heal him and restore him and that we will be able to discern what he needs from us right now.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Day 7 - Just hanging out

Today is Saturday and we are not allowed to visit the institution on the weekends. We are not exactly certain why, but think it is because the director does not work on the weekends and wants to be there when we are there.

We spent the day catching up on everything: sleep, laundry, sight-seeing, and grocery shopping. It was very windy and raining off and on today, so we tried not to stay outside too long. We realized that we are in a wonderful location. We had explored what was to the left of our building (which is pretty much nothing,) but never what walked to the right. We found multiple little corner groceries and deli counters like we have in New York. We found a large grocery store and bakery with a hot food counter (picture Zabar's for those of you in NYC.) We ate at McDonald's for lunch...which is funny since we almost never eat McDonald's while we are in the States. We were ready for something that looked familiar. It actually tasted a little better than what we are used to in the States. We both got Big Mac meals since that was the easiest thing to order with the language barrier. Everyone eats the fries with some sort of tartar sauce so if we go again we might take a little ketchup with us from our stash at home. :)

We walked 15-20 minutes to a mall that has a large store that is kind of like a Walmart. We looked at strollers since our son will need one on the way home. Also, all the toys we brought are a little beyond his skill level until we are able to catch him up again. We do have a plush puppy and a nerf basketball with us, so we will probably stick with that for now. Everything else goes straight into his mouth (really typical behavior for kids who have spent time in an institution) and we are afraid he will choke.

By the time we got home I was pretty exhausted. We had forgotten how tiring it is to be immersed in a different culture. I laid down on the couch when we got home to take a quick nap and ended up sleeping almost 3 hours.

Here are a few random pictures from our apartment and our outing today.
A huge statue that seems to be a throw back from the Soviet era. You can always find government buildings here because they still have a statue of Lenin outside of the them.

Chicken Satay over rice with stir-fried cabbage. The only veggies available here are cabbages and root veggies. Good thing we like cabbage!

Our Cyrillic microwave.

Enjoying a Big Mac. Everything was the same as the U.S. except for the little dog running around under people's feet eating french fries. That was completely different!

A beautiful church that is across the street from the Mall.

The Mall and walmart-ish store.

The walk home.

It seems that bacon and lays sour cream and onion potato chips transcend all cultures.

Our make shift drying rack. Maybe we should have washed out sheets earlier in the day...we might be ironing and hairdrying them before bedtime.

Our pink topiary...because doesn't every home need one of these?
If you go to a bakery to buy a few slices of cake and they ask if you want a kilo of cake...say NO unless you want about 14 slices of cake. :)

Friday, January 20, 2012

Day 6- Peaking Through

It is so difficult to keep track of what day it is when we do the same thing every day! It started to snow today so we were late getting to the orphanage, but at least we were still able to go!

We had our second visit today and we were brought into what looks like a little family visiting room. (Some of the kids still have family that come to see them.) They brought our son to us and he was still asleep. They handed him to me and it is so sweet that he just holds on and settles in. He is really a cuddly kid. He likes hugs and squeezes. :) I held him first and then let Brad hold him. We were thankful that they left us alone with him for just a minute. The nanny told us that he loves music and singing so we started singing "Eight Days a Week" to him. Anna has a school program where her class will be singing this so it is perpetually stuck in our heads!

The minute I started singing, his eyes flew open and he seemed jolted awake for just a second. It was so cute! We were able to catch a lot of it on video. He is still VERY sedated, but we were able to catch little glimpses of the old Easton peaking through. He still won't make any eye contact at all, but will regulate himself to our actions. If we rock him and stop then he will push on us to get us to keep rocking. Or if Brad only sang as long as Easton held Brad's hands and clapped them, then Easton would keep clapping. He is a smart cookie under all those drugs!

A teacher/nanny who spoke about 5 words of English came and sat with us to observe. She was able to give us a little more information about his schedule of eating and sleeping. She was really surprised that Easton did not cry around us and was even laughing some when Brad would rock him backwards by his little feet. The director, a doctor and we think the regional social worker checked on us and made the comment that we looked like a family and that Easton seemed so happy with us. It was nice to hear but made me sad that they find it so unusual.

I am having a lot of mixed feeling about the director and the institution. On the one hand, the kids are well loved, well fed, and even educated to some degree. (I saw a class room of older boys singing.) I am so thankful for this, I truly am, but then I just want to scream at him to stop drugging my little boy and what kind of monster is he that he would just sedate him and stick him in bed! I know deep down that the director thinks that this is what is best for him...their thinking is that he is calmer and happier this way and that he is easier to take care of like this with their limited staff. It is very conflicting and emotionally draining to be on display and to know that as the first family to adopt from this institution that we are paving the way for other families and need to establish a good and trusting relationship.

We won't be able to visit Easton over the weekend, but will start out visits again on Monday. We will probably so exploring and shopping while we have the time. I just love the language barrier sometimes. Our facilitator, said to us one day, "Eventually, you will be very boring!" Indeed I might. :)

This one isn't for the kids Grandma!

Our apartment here is very clean and very comfortable. It has a built in gym in the form of 5 flights of stairs with no elevator. :)

The only things that we might want to change is the decor. I call it the love shack while Brad calls it the heiney-moon suite. It has glow in the dark...yes, I did say glow in the dark...wallpaper in the bedroom that is a drawing of two naked people embracing. It also has artistic style photos of women's backsides hanging on the wall. If that weren't enough, it has a bedside table full of condoms. Oh my...afraid to ask what this apartment is normally rented for.

Did I mention the bathtub built for two or the zebra print living room?

I had a stack of post it notes that I found in my purse and am thinking of making little post-it skirts for all the drawings on the wallpaper. :)

WARNING: picture of previously mentioned decor posted below!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Day 5 - Our Lives are Changed Forever.

Day 4 - Our Lives are Changed Forever.

Today started very early. The train attendant knocked on our compartment door at 4:30am so that we could be ready to disembark at 5:30. She brought us some hot tea and we made a breakfast of bread and butter with jam. Many families before us have been very afraid of the bathrooms and while I would never want to make a habit of using them, I have been in much much worse. They were similar in cleanliness to any public American bathroom. The main difference was learning how to flush the toilet (a lever on the floor you step on) and turn on the water to wash your hand (press up in the facet).

Sasha, our facilitator came on the train to retrieve us and walked us to the car. She is as delightful as everyone has said. Our apartment is on the fourth floor (no elevator), right downtown Nykolaev City. It is very clean and more than adequate for our needs. Brad and I noted that it had a rather unique decor. I will explain more in the next post.

*****Grandma if you are reading this to the kids skip the next post!******

We had a few hours to grab a little more to eat and to take a shower before Sasha and the driver returned. We hiked back down the stairs and drove to the Social Workers office. We are big news to this particular office since they have never done an international adoption before. They were also dressed to kill because the national director for the Social Services Department is in town for a visit and was coming at noon. As we drove into the parking lot I started to feel queasy and nervous. I starting praying and asking the Lord to be with us in the process and prepare us if the social worker was not receptive to us being there. It felt the Lord clearly say to me to not be afraid because we were not doing this alone, that He was there with us and I felt a great sense of peace.

We walked into an older building and were greeted by the social worker. We were so relieved that our time could not have gone smoother. She only asked us if we understood that our son may never walk , run, jump and play like a normal boy. We told her that we understood and that was all she said. She was kind and motherly with a quick sense of humor. As we were leaving she told a young man and a young woman that worked there that she was leaving for a little while and that they were in charge. She looked at them and said, “I am only leaving 2 or you here. Behave yourselves while I am gone, I don’t want to leave 2 and come back to find there are 3!” :)

The Social Worker told us that we were very fortunate that the institution we were going to was the model program for all of the region. It has been rated as the #1 facility for a number of years and that the director has been there for 18 years. We were very relieved to hear this. We have heard horror stories about institutions in Ukraine and other Eastern European countries.

The Institution is in a little farming village about 35 minutes outside of town. There is a population of about 1000 people. Originally is was a German settlement and you can still see the German influence in the buildings.

We were greeted by the director, the social worker, several nannies and the physical therapist of the institution. We were told to remove our coats and to put on white doctor’s lab coats (still not sure why) and to go upstairs to the school room. It is a medium sized room set up like you would imagine a small elementary school room. A few tables, and chairs, and toys and shelves around the edges of the room. They gave us a brief history of our son’s time there that I honestly can’t remember now. It is all such a blur. We were able to record it though. Then they brought in Easton in a stroller. It feels like I should pause here because that is what it felt time stood still and all sound stopped. I know there was a lot of activity going on around us with 7 people not including us in the room, but I don’t remember any of it.

Eason is VERY tiny..about the size of a 2-3 year old. He is heavily sedated. They told us up front that he is given medicine to keep him calm. It was difficult for him to keep his eyes open. We don’t have any pictures of him with his eyes fully open yet. He was not able to interact with us much and was understandably a little afraid of us. He tried to hide his face in the stroller. His nanny is very attentive and loving and he likes her to hold him. He is also very close with his physical therapist who told us that he is certain that Easton will walk with the proper help. They let us hold him briefly and then we took him upstairs to the physical therapy room so that he could get down on the floor and play. In spite of all the sedation, it is obvious that there is a very lively little boy in there. As soon as they put him down he scooted all over the room! He has rock hard little muscles in his upper body and feels very solid when you pick him up. He also holds on to Brad and I when we pick him up, which is a good sign to us since it means that he is used to being held.

He did not talk or interact with us much. Brad could get more smiles than I could since Brad plays rougher than I do. (Praise the Lord for Daddies!) He doesn’t make any eye contact yet and began to be overstimulated so the physical therapist asked if we wouldn’t mind cutting the first visit a little short for Easton’s sake. We of course agreed. The facility and all the staff really are wonderful...they truly love and care for the children and have built a wonderful facility by Eastern European standards. The children each have some individual therapy and outside exercise everyday and are all a good weight. We were able to see into the other rooms and they are well lit, not over-crowded and clean. Of course it is not what we could prefer for them to keep Easton so sedated, but we really are very blessed to find him in an institution as good as this one is.

After our visit, Brad and I just rode quietly back to the city with our facilitator and the social worker. We are needing space to digest the enormity of what the Lord has given us...the task of raising one of His beloved orphans. We jumped into the deep end of the pool today!

Sasha took us to a Ukrainian cafeteria style restaurant while she stayed in the car to begin the crazy paper chase for us. We ordered what we thought was chicken cutlet topped with mushrooms and cheese, red cabbage slaw, a potato-cake (fried mashed potatoes that looks like a pancake) and broiled chicken leg-quarter. It was actually pork cutlet, some sort of minced chicken and onion sausage in the shape of broiled chicken and an omelette type thing filled with cheese and ham. It was all really good except the pork cutlet...just not my thing and really gristly.

Everything felt like it was in fast forward today since Sasha was doing her best to get all our paper work in very quickly so that the process goes as fast as possible for us. After lunch, we piled back in the car and raced to the notary to get several documents notarized. We then dashed to the copy shop to drop off a stack of papers copied. While that was being done, they drove us to a grocery store where we had 20 minutes to race through and grab the necessities and enough food to get us through a few days. After this they dropped us back at our apartment while Sasha and the driver continue to criss cross the city on our behalf to get everything completed for us.

An interesting cultural fact was that today was a religious holiday for the Orthodox church. It is called Epiphany, which is celebrated in the Catholic church but is done a little different here. At every church we passed there are crowds of people wrapped around the street. Everyone is carrying empty water bottles that will be filled with Holy Water. It is believed that if you have a problem or illness during the year that you can use this Holy Water for a blessing or for healing. Some people even jump into the freezing cold rivers or lakes that have been blessed by the priests. It is believed that this guarantees good health all year. It is said to commemorate the baptism of Jesus and they believe their sins will be forgiven if they do this. It seemed that people thought this was a good day for us to meet our son. I will have to google more about this later since it is all new to me.

Each day until he is officially ours, we will be able to visit him from 10-11:30am. Our driver will pick us up and take us there each day Mon.-Fri. We are not permitted to visit on weekends. :(

Update (Day 4)


Tonight we got on the overnight sleeper train to travel to Easton’s region. Our driver, Eugene picked us up and we went to the train station. It was a huge ornate building similar to Grand Central Station in NYC. Across the street I couldn’t help by laugh at the huge restaurant named McFoxy that ironically enough was right next door to McDonalds!
It even served McFoxy burgers and fries! There are so many jokes that come to mind with that one!! :)

Eugene helped us onto the train and introduced us to the train mistress...a sweet plump little Ukrainian lady with an old fashioned blonde up-do hairstyle. He explained to her that we were clueless Americans and she promised to take good care of us, bring us tea if we wanted, and to wake us up in time to get off the train. :) Inside the train was a dimly lit narrow hallway with a low ceiling. There were bathrooms at both ends and compartments all along the hall with sliding doors. Each compartment had four bunks, but we bought all four bunks so that we could have some privacy. I began to feel a little claustrophobic and shortly after we got settled and sat down on our bunks, I got a bad case of the giggles. Brad instantly looked at me with alarm because if he has learned anything in almost 12 years of marriage is that his wife doesn’t get the giggles unless she is about to totally lose it! And I was close. He literally even looked at me and said, “Oh no!” Brad jumped to it and started turning on more lights, opening the shades and getting our picnic dinner out for us. I promised him that I would try to behave myself and get a grip, which I managed to do. The train really was clean enough...the sheets and pillow cases were fresh and sealed in plastic...I was really glad I brought my own pillow though, since I am really weird about needing my own pillow. The only thing I would have done differently was to memorize my compartment number BEFORE I went to the bathroom so that I wouldn’t have burst in on that poor Ukrainian gentleman who was reading in on his bunk (thankfully still fully clothed!)

We were really sleepy and went to bed shortly after 8pm. I think the time difference and just the craziness of the last few days finally caught up with us. It felt like sleeping in the back of a pickup truck that was driving on an unpaved road. It was not the most comfortable sleep I have ever had, but it was good enough.