01. Maybe Foreign Adoption is a Mistake.
The beginning of our upcoming book, KazMainea: Our Foreign Adoption, Declassified.
We’re standing in an airport in Kazakhstan at midnight with thousands of dollars strapped to our bodies.
The men in the Customs office speak little English and ask lots of questions. Why are you here? Where are you going to adopt? How long will you be here? Where are you staying? And then, the most scary of all, Are you carrying any US currency?
Of course we’re carrying US currency. Twenty thousand dollars to be exact. Fresh from our bank back in Maine. Maine, where we seriously wish to be right now.
Cigarette dangling from his mouth, one of the men makes a gesture that is clear in any language. Show me the money! Taking a breath, we untuck our shirts. We hesitantly relinquish our money belts, embarrassed by the dampness. We are sweating. A lot.
We all stare at the stacks of new bills sitting on the table in the harsh light.
This could be the most money these men have seen in their lives. Heck, it was the most we’d ever seen.
What if these men from Customs declared they would be keeping the money?
Finally, he nods. Hastily we grab the cash and secure our belts. We thank him as though he just gave his kidney. Squinting through the smoke, he waves us away like a bad thought, and we shuffle out into the noisy airport.
The airport Arrivals is nicer than anticipated, but it’s also chaos. We face a wall of people moving, talking, shouting, smoking, waving papers with foreign words. Lots of smoking. We realize dozens of eyes are on us. Our tired brains register an unsettling fact: we are the only Americans in sight. Did they see us leaving the Customs office? Do they know why we are here? And, most unsettling, do they know what we are carrying?
We are supposed to meet The Guy who will drive us to our apartment. One problem: We don’t know what The Guy looks like. We don’t even know his name. The last email before we left assured us that he would find us. Our cell phone isn’t yet activated, so calling him isn’t an option. We don’t know his number anyway. If he has one. How exactly will The Guy find us?
We scan the wall of people. Behind them are doors to darkness. It seems like the people are all men and all smoking. And many are holding papers with names on them. We think they are names. We’d never seen names containing numbers and symbols from a math calculator before.
With eyes burning from the smoke and lack of sleep, we search the faces, looking for...what exactly? We don’t know. The faces look back at us blankly. No Guy.
Here we were. Two mild-mannered, middle aged adults from Maine, in an airport in Kazakhstan, in the middle of the night. No one to call. No one but us.
Was this a mistake?
We look at each other with wary smiles and raised eyebrows.
Welcome to KazMainea.
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