Wednesday my families arrive. Three have traveled previously, and want to visit kids they’re waiting for. Sheri hopes to adopt Igor, but he doesn’t know it yet. She wants to see his face when he finds out, so she has traveled to tell him personally. Barrie worries Alexandra will lose hope as the adoption process drags on, so he is here to encourage her. Amy aches to see Yulya again; she’s been waiting a year, through no fault of Amy’s. David is traveling to see Zulya and Lora; his wife met them last trip, and they’re planning to adopt, but he's anxious to meet them himself. Mike and Roberta are coming, along with their daughter, and Stefanee is visiting, just four weeks after a cross-country move with her husband and young children. Melinda is already in our region to meet a child too young for the trip. It’s her second trip with us, and she’ll join us for the weekend to spend time with the rest of the children.
Dima calls me when he leaves the airport with four of the families; the others are arriving at another airport later today. I expect them in an hour, but it’s closer to two, as traffic is punishing. When they walk into the hotel, it feels like a reunion of sorts, even with those I’ve not previously met. They’re kindred spirits in my mission, and we’ve spoken so often. Meeting the hosts is almost as big a thrill as meeting the kids.
Before we all left home, I offered them the options of resting upon arrival or sightseeing. All good-naturedly choose the Armory Museum over a nap. Armory tickets come with an entrance time, and a 90-minute window to view the exhibits. The museum is within the Kremlin’s walls; entrance requires an expensive ticket, passage through a metal detector, and a half-hearted inspection of purses. Bags are not allowed inside, though it’s still a mystery to me how Russians differentiate between bags and purses. Calling my bag a purse, an attendant rebuffs my attempt to leave it at the bag check room.
The doors open at precisely 2:30. The Armory is my favorite Russian museum; I like everything about it. The museum is intimate, the restrooms are the cleanest I’ve seen here, and there’s a time limit. We start at the end, as the best exhibits are there. Catherine the Great’s wasp-waisted coronation gown; Peter the Great’s boots, like eighteenth-century hip waders; and Ivan the Terrible’s very straight-backed ivory throne are preserved in these final rooms. My favorite exhibits are the gaudy carriages of Russia’s tsars and tsarinas. Signs in Russian and English bid viewers not to touch, but the carriages are so alluring our group never manages strict compliance. A guard in a green sport coat shadows a more exuberant member of our band, but his requests to refrain from touching are issued in Russian, and fall on deaf ears. When an arm comes too close to a carriage, red lights flash, and a loud multi-lingual recording rebukes the unwitting miscreant. While it’s embarrassing if I’m in close proximity, it’s good for a chuckle at a distance.
As I anticipate tomorrow, I hope my hosts, my friends, will find what they’ve come here looking for.