In 2002, Bret and I traveled to Russia to adopt our daughter. Not sure why, really, except I knew I didn’t always want to be a mother-in-law, I wanted to have a grown daughter who I could be good friends with someday. I should have probably thought more about the 18 years between the adoption and the grown-daughter part, but I digress.
Traveling in Russia in 2002 was an adventure I’ll never forget. Having never been to an non-English speaking country before, there was an absolute thrill for me in being surrounded by foreign words, sounds and even letters. At first, I found myself trying to translate the Cyrillic alphabet to the English alphabet. Feeling triumphant that I had correctly looked up every letter and made the proper substitution, I realized that the word I had “translated” was still a foreign word and had no meaning to me. From that point forward, I relied on Bret (he managed to figured out enough Russian on our flight over that he fooled our guide/interpreter into thinking he was a native Russian speaker) and Olga, our chaperone for the trip.
There are so many things I could say about Russia! We loved our trip there. The people were friendly, the parts of Moscow we saw were clean and safe and the countryside was lovely. I was thrilled to realize that their way of cooking was not unlike what we were used to: lots of sour cream, fish, noodles and soup; comfort food at its best. We plan to take our kids there again someday, when the country is a bit more ready for tourism and the kids are old enough to appreciate the history to be found there. I can’t wait!
The top things I learned in Russia in 2002:
- Don’t drink the water! Both still and carbonated water is provided everywhere!
- Don’t brush your teeth with the carbonated water, even if it’s all you have!
- Bring a lot of reading material! There’s no English TV at night in your room!
Beer is cheaper than soda or water, but isn’t so much like American beer
- The subways are amazingly gorgeous
- The beautiful church (St. Basil’s Cathedral) in all of the photos of Red Square really is even more stunning in person
- The Moscow airport is a very scary place. Even though it looks dark and creepy and like you will be shot on site, you’re probably going to be just fine. Just don’t smile!
- When leaving the airport, “Neit” is the most important word you can know
- Make sure you’re with someone who speaks Russian
The top things I learned about traveling with a child who doesn’t understand a word I’m saying:
- Learn how to ask the basics: “Do you have to go potty?” “Are you hungry?” “Are you tired?” The rest doesn’t matter because you won’t understand the answer anyway
- Dramamine is your best friend. Our nearly-four year old slept from Moscow to Atlanta (23 hrs), only to wake long enough to be carried through the airport. Can’t say I blamed her, I think being adopted might make you tired
- One baby doll and one other toy is more than enough to entertain a kid on a plane, especially one who has never owned her own toy. More than that is overwhelming
- A kid brought up in an orphanage will eat anything and A LOT of it. Monitor this or make sure to have a sick bag with you at all times
- Kids who aren’t used to buttons will push all of them. In planes, in bathrooms, on cell phones, on computers, in hotels…
And the number one lesson I learned on our trip to Russia was:
Never let go of your child’s hand and everything will work out just fine.