Oleg and Andrei are unhosted, and they’re here for my assessment if they’re good candidates for adoption. I’d met them briefly at their orphanage, and thought them promising enough to warrant this step. Angelina is hostless, too, and I’ve violated my policy of not bringing an unhosted child twice by bringing her now. Since I already know and like her, she has little to gain here. Extenuating circumstances led me to break this rule, and I am praying I don’t break her heart.
I aim to sandwich a Moscow River cruise between our lunch and move, but as the wait for the employee drags on, I’m seeing the families’ first day with the kids frittered away behind a hotel. At 12:30 p.m., too late for our boat ride, she finally appears, apologizing as she declines my refund request.
After lunch, we meet Dima back at the hotel and pile our luggage into his van. Next, we find Love, who now has the keys for both flats. She greets me with an embrace to soften a bombshell. “Only one flat is air conditioned,” she moans. My mind refuses this. I hate her cruel joke, but she wails she’s serious. The heat alone makes it distressing, but realizing I’ve moved sixteen people to an unpaid-for place, wasted all day doing it, and crushed hopes of salvation in the process catapults my horror to the stratospheric. Love asks which flat I want. It feels selfish consigning the kids to a hot, smoky place, but I don’t relish telling the families they’ve moved for naught, either. Finally, not knowing which flat has the air conditioner, I opt to house the kids, who need more space with ten in their group, in the larger flat.
In updates prefacing the trip I caution families to expect inconvenience in Russia. The flat charade is maddeningly typical, leaving me grateful I’d issued the warnings. When my despondency fades, I grudgingly realize the families derive cultural value from the episode as a quintessential Russian experience. Still, the owner’s lame defense, a repairman removed the appliance and never returned it, seems delivered with almost criminally minimal self-flagellation.
Entering the kids’ place, a cool breeze hits me, leaving me comfortless, knowing we’ll get the hot flat. Their flat is beautifully maintained and modern. When the kids are settled, we venture with heavy hearts to our place, about one mile away, literally around the corner from the Kremlin. If we weren’t here to spend time with the kids, the location would be stellar, in the nerve center of Moscow. Our flat is toasty, but bordering bearable, on the building’s sixth floor. Each party has private space, and while air conditioning isn’t included, free international phone calls are.
The windows of our rooms are well situated, and a decent, if stinky, breeze wafts through the flat. As I drift off to dream world on a fold-out loveseat, today seems a loss. With three days left, I hope the rest of the trip looks up, and that hearts can be won in the compacted time remaining.