A Positive Decision!!!!!!!!

6/19/2007 01:50:00 PM Edit This 3 Comments »

The last two days have been quite the roller coaster ride and I must say I want off. Yesterday court was definitely not what I was lead to believe. Getting dressed in a black suit with hose and real shoes was bad enough with the heat and bugs but riding in this small mini-van with Flora, Rosa, Zina, Mom and I with everyone dressed for court was fine until we stopped at the Baby House to pick up the Pediatrician, who is not a small lady and then we made another stop at the Ministry of Education to pick up the lady from there (they never introduce people by their names only their titles so that’s how they are referred to.) So we have ReNot driving, Flora in the front seat next to him, then Rosa, Zina and the Lady for the MOE in the very back with Pediatrician, Mom & I in the middle. I was really afraid we were going to stop to pick up the Prosecutor and the Judge on the way as well. When we pulled up to this run down over grown building on a side gravel road and everyone climbed out, I thought I had to be in some kind of surreal play. Then we go into this hot small entry room with one “guard” at a booth checking IDs. We were told not to speak once we got out of the car so we wouldn’t draw attention to ourselves. Like me in my black suit, Mom in her black and white pants suit and Rosa in a dark purple dress weren’t going to stand out in the crowd with all these other people in light colored clothes. Whoever said that you must wear dark clothes especially to court has never been to Court 2 Aktau. I didn’t see any black not even a man’s trousers or a belt. All the women with us were in whites and tans and there were lots of short skirts, see through blouses and high heels (all in light colors) throughout the court house. Even the judge’s robes were a dark purple. So whether or not we spoke English wouldn’t have made us stand out any more. But when Flora asked for our passports and Mom couldn’t find hers I got the dirtiest look from her like I had pulled out a gun. Okay – not a word out of me until we get into the courtroom.

So we get checked in and go upstairs and after some checking around we are shown into a court room. There is only a platform for the judges desk, fancy high back chair and the Kazakh flag plus a podium facing the judge with two benches with desks in front of it on either side of the podium and finally three rows of benches. It was a fairly small room with windows on the side and back of the room which made it VERY hot in there. It was already about 95 degrees outside which made it a good 110 in the room. Did I mention I was wearing a black suit? Of course there was an air conditioning unit at the back of the room but did they use it. NO of course not. Even Flora & Zina where fanning themselves. After about 10 minutes the prosecutor comes in and sits on the bench/desk to the judges right and this girl who couldn’t have been more than 20 came in with her spiked high heels, tan cargo style low cut pants and crop top and she sat on the bench/desk to the judges left. About 5 minutes later the judge walks in and everyone stands up. She’s a very tall slender 50 year old Kazakh woman with large, colored glasses and of course the dark purple robe. By this time I’m in a full body sweat and am afraid I’m going to pass out. This is a great way to start the most important court experience of my life. Of course it’s my first court experience but who’s counting. As soon as the judge sits down and looks at the “crowd” she starts asking questions in Russian. I hear Quast, Low Ann and figure that’s me so I raise my hand. Rosa standing next to me does the same when her name is call and Zina who is on the other side of Rosa starts saying the judge doesn’t want both parties in the room and that one is scheduled for 3pm that afternoon and the other can stay. Flora starts talking and so does the girl, who I now gather is the court assistant instead of a street walker that I thought just came into our court room by mistake, and before you know it Rosa is being escorted out of the room with instructions to wait outside. Zina leads her out talking quietly to her and then the judge turns her eyes on Mom and seems to be asking who the hell she is. Flora I hear say a few things then Quast, Low Ann’s MaMa. The judge is shaking her head and saying Nyet, Nyet just as Zina comes back in the room. So Mom gathers her purse and water bottle then heads out the door with Zina. Then the judge says something to slut assistant, I mean her assistant who goes over to the window closest to the judge and pulls on the blinds to open then so I assume she can open the window (why push a button and use a modern convenience like an AC when there’s a window without a screen or a breeze to blow through it – right?) She pulls on the cord and the whole thing falls down on her. I only speak three words of Russian but I’m pretty sure she said “oh shit” and then just stood there holding the cord and the broken rod that had been holding them up but was still connected to the ceiling. She looked over at the only man in the room, the prosecutor, with such a panicked looked that he did get up and helped her out. He eventually just ripped it out of the ceiling and then opened the window. Well isn’t that a great way to start!

So then the judge starts reading stuff and I hear my name again but did I mention that Zina is still not back and they are clearly starting without her and without me understanding what was being said. This was lots of fun. Finally Zina comes back in and tells me the judge was reading my application and wanted everyone’s credentials. So Zina, the MOE lady and the Pediatrician all go show the judge their papers and then signed a book that the lovely court assistant had. But they never asked me to prove who I was or for any of us to swear in or anything. Also, no one wrote anything down throughout the whole proceedings. No recording, no court stenographer, no video camera, nothing.

Now whenever someone said anything in court Zina would whisper what was being said to me but if she was talking “for” me then she would speak loudly. And of course she would often summarize what someone would say. So she tells me to stand up and the judge looks at me for the first time and might I add the last time and said something. Then Zina turned to me and said the judge wanted to know why I picked Aktau in particular to come to for adoption. Now Flora and Zina had been prepping us on and off over the last week telling us what kinds of questions would be asked of us and what to NOT to say – like I could never refer to Alexis by her name, either Alexis or Moldur but only as “this child” which is not easy to do since the whole court was about her – but never did they give me a clue as to what the answer to that one should be. I looked at Zina with sweat now pouring down my face and started to speak and nothing came out so I had to clear my thought and start again. Not exactly the good impression I’d hoped to make on the judge but at least she couldn’t understand a word I said. If I had been a little less nervous I would have simply said Zina I’m going to recite the Pledge of Allegiance and you just wink at me when I’ve said enough for you to tell her whatever she wants to hear since I have no idea what I should say to that question. It’s not like I picked this lovely desert town. So I eventually said that I’d heard that the Baby House here took good care of their children and there were several girls available – she translated something and turned back to me with a wide eyed look, like you need to say a lot more than that. So I just told them the truth that my agency from American sent me here. Then I think the judge took pity on me and asked the question I was told is always the first question which is please tell the court about yourself, how much you make, where you live, etc and why you choose KZ to adopt from. So now at least I could go into the speech I had prepared as they told me to and hopefully make up for my poor beginning. I got through it but the judge kept stopping me and asking questions as I went along. You have to realize I could only say a few sentences and then stop so Zina could tell the judge what I was saying. That’s when the judge would ask a question or make a comment and throw me off. My family knows that speech giving is definitely not my forte so this wasn’t easy for me in the first place. Then the questions started. The judge asked things like how much do houses and apartments sell for in America, what does the average American make in a year, what do I make in a month and what would happen if I don’t sell any houses? Needless to say a lot seemed to be getting lost in the translation and it was very frustration to not be able to understand what she was trying to get at. I found out that they don’t have Real Estate Agents here in KZ so she didn’t understand what I did or how I could make so much money. Then she asked why I didn’t have children of my own? I had to explain it three different times before she finally said through Zina – does that mean that you don’t want to have children without a husband. Da – yes. Clearly we weren’t speaking the same language in more ways than one. She asked about my family even though we were told not to talk about our families. Then - when did I register with Kazakhstan to apply to adopt and when did I get my visa and when was I invited to Aktau? I have an agency that took care of all of that but I think I came pretty close to the correct dates and by this point I think Zina was pretty much telling her whatever she wanted to hear, not what I was saying. Then she asked if I knew about “this child’s” diagnosis and why would I want to adopt a child with these problems. In Kazakhstan, like in Russian, they want the children with medical issued adopted internationally, I guess to make them feel better about not being able to care for them themselves. Now it’s not a law like it is in Russian that the child has to have some kind of medical problem but it is clearly preferred by the courts that only unhealthy children be adopted by foreigners. I told her that I felt with love, medical care and the one on one attention I could give “this child” that I was sure that she would improve. Looking at Lexie there’s not a lot that needs to improve but whatever makes them feel better about this adoption is fine with me. About 20 minutes after I stood up Zina finally told me to sit down. I can’t tell you how relieved I was.

Next the MOE lady got up and Zina said she basically told how she reviewed my documents and set up the visa and then introduced me to the children and personally saw me choose this child. Bottom line was she was supporting me in “my decision to adopt this child.” That’s how they described this whole proceeding. The court must decide if it will support my decision to adopt this child. Strange but then this whole thing was. About 10 minutes into the MOE lady talking, the judge asked for the pictures of the child. Zina gave her the album I was told to prepare for the court which had one picture of us together for all 14 days of the bonding period with the dates electronically printed on the pictures. She opened it up and I had put the really cute picture of Lexie in that floppy yellow hat there before the rest of the pictures. She looked up at me and said I looked just like her. REALLY? Then she looked at 3 more pictures and said this child does not look like she has these diagnosis. The MOE lady assured her that according to her records she was sickly and was premature when she was born. Then the judge asked why no local Kazakhs had adopted her. She told her that 4-5 families had seen her and none of them wanted her. I don’t believe it for a minute but whatever. More questions where asked but then the Pediatrician from the baby house was called up. I am really glad it was her instead of the new director who clearly wouldn’t have been able to talk as an expert on her “conditions” the way the Pediatrician did, who is the only doctor Lexie has had since she was 25 days old. So she made her sound worse than she was and also told the judge that yes she was shown to 4-5 local families but none of them wanted her. The judge said to her that this child looked too health to have these diagnoses but the doctor keep assuring her that she was very sickly and that I was the one to bring about the changes. She said Lexie only started to walk after I got there and that she just needed a mother’s loving hands to help her improve. I thought that was really sweet and I hope the judge bought it. I was getting nervous again since the judge keep looking through the pictures ever since they were put into her hands.

Then she had me stand again and asked how long the bonding took and what kinds of things I did to help her improve so much. We were told not to talk about the child but when asked by the judge I went for it. So after about 3 minutes of me telling about our visits, Zina turned to me and said “that’s enough.” I guess I was gushing a little bit but I finally had something important to say since I actually got to talk about Alexis. A few more questions later and the judge turned to the prosecutor and asked if he had any questions or objections. Now he had been asked that by the judge after she questioned each one of us and he always said no questions. He was even more useless than the slutty assistant. This time he stood and said he supported my decision to adopt this child and sat down. Okay…So the judge stands up and starts walking out saying that she would give her decision tomorrow at 10am. WHAT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!What happened to the judge will give you a positive decision today – like I’d been promised a positive decision on the day of court since they canceled last week. I’d sweated in this hot box for over an hour not understanding much of what was said and even less of what they wanted me to say in return and now we weren’t even going to know what the answer was. Even Flora was floored. She rushed out of the room after the judge. A few minutes later she finds us to say the judge was told she could not give her decision today because she had to review the case with her “Chief Judge.” Clearly in Kazakhstan judge means something very different than in American. Flora said the judge told her it would be a positive decision but since the new rules that couldn’t give the decision on the same day as court. I believe Flora is really trying but I’m beginning to wonder if this judge even has the authority to give a decision. Flora said that she’d never had anyone questioned as much as I was but overall she thinks things went fine. We all load back into the van and I had a short visit with Lexie. Then back to the apartment to wait for the afternoon visit. I was so disappointed and frustrated but again there is simply nothing I could do about it. Rosa was seeing the judge at 3 and so we got to see Alexis at 3:30 and by 4:10 in walks Rosa and Zina. They said it was a piece of cake for her. The judge was running late but when she got there they were in and out in 20 minutes. Unbelievable!! I knew they would be easier on Rosa since she is adopting a 3 year old that was of Russian descent but come on. She only asked her two questions – who is going to watch the child while you work and why Kazakhstan. That’s it. Now she has to go back tomorrow for the decision at 2pm so at least she didn’t get her answer as well. Zina and Flora both said that overall they think it went fine, that the first person to go always gets more questions asked so not to worry. Flora went back to talk to the judge some more and she really wants to give us a decision but her chief won’t let her. So get some sleep. Right!!

So day 2 of court comes hotter than yesterday. Great! Mom doesn’t even bother to dress for court but I refuse to put that hot nightmare back on so I wear tan pants and a white shirt and call it good. This time only the MOE has to come so we drop Rosa off at the Baby House and pick up the MOE lady and away we go. We go upstairs to wait outside the court room again and Flora goes to find the judge or whatever. I have to tell you Flora was much more reserved this morning and said she was a little concerned but we would know soon. Well that’s encouraging. It’s now 10:15 and no judge but the prosecutor shows up and tells Zina something. I can tell it’s not good and then I ask her what’s up and she said let’s wait to see. Now that’s what she told me last Monday just before they postponed the court date so I knew this wasn’t good news. After the prosecutor stops talking I asked Zina to tell me what’s happening. He said my judge and he had a meeting this morning with the Chief Judge of Court 1 (the State court and we are in Court 2 the City court.) The Chief Judge wanted her to put off the decision for at least one week and for them to find the father of Alexis to get him to sign the refusal papers. WHAT!!!!!!!! I couldn’t believe what I was hearing and you could tell Zina was extremely upset. Our judge said that the Kazakh law only required the mother’s refusal so there was no need to find the father and the birth mother had said father unknown on the birth certificate. The Chief Judge said basically he didn’t care that he wanted it done his way. The prosecutor said that he told the Chief Judge that he supported my decision and that all my paperwork was in order but again he didn’t care. That was why they were late. I was so upset I had to walk away from them because I knew I was going to break down in tears. About 5 minutes later Flora walks in and said the judge would see us soon but won’t be giving us a decision right then because she wanted to go talk to her Chief Judge again. Flora was so upset she wouldn’t even look at me. Then we went into a different courtroom and waited for the judge. I didn’t know what to expect since on the way over they said she’d just come in and read the decision and it would take about 10 minutes at the most. Of course she didn’t do that at all. She came in read a few things and then asked me what I wanted from the court. I said the line they made us memorize “I request the court approve my application to adopt this child” and then looked at Zina to interpret it. She mouthed the words more so I just said I’ll keep talking until you tell me to stop, which I did. It was the strangest thing to have people five feet away from me while I was just spouting nonsense in a court of law. Later Zina told me they wanted me to say because this child and I had become extremely bonding and I wanted to share my life with her. Why didn’t they say that then? WHATEVER. This was turning into a nightmare. The judge gave me back the album saying she took a couple of pictures for the record and that I should come back at 12:00 for the decision. It was 10:50 already but no we have to leave and come back again. Flora says she hopes this Judge can get her Chief to let her give the decision today and not wait the week or two the other chief wants. I walked out of the court house where Mom was waiting with a big grin on her face and I shook my head no. Later she said she thought I meant they said no to adopt her and it scared her to death. Sorry Mom!! Once I reached Mom I explained that we had to come back again for the decision - we hoped. A quick visit with Lexie and back we went. Everyone was really quite on the ride back and then Flora said this had never happened before so she really didn’t know what to expect but she’s sure it would turn out okay eventually. That certainly didn’t make me feel any better. Back we go to the original courtroom and the judge walks in without her robes and with car keys in one hand and 3 legal sized pages in her left. She said Quast, Low Ann I stood and she started reading the papers. When Zina translated the first paragraph which said the court approves the decision of Quast, Low Ann to adopt Bekshibaeva, Moldur I just about fell over. After that I don’t know much of what she read but I do know I had a big grin on my face. FINALLY!! A positive decision.

Now we just have to wait the 15 days for the final decision. That’s right. This is not the final decision. That comes only after the 15 day waiting period when either the court or I can change our minds. Of course, Flora assured me that the court had never done that but then I’ve heard that phrase throughout this process. So it’s going to be real by July 5 when I finally take Alexis out of there for good. That’s when I will truly be her mother in everyone’s eyes. So thank you to everyone for your prayers and good wishes. We are almost there. Just save a few more for the next two weeks when I can finally break Lexie out of Baby Jail and bring her home to meet everyone.