Year-end 2005

Hello from Brooklyn where in 2006 we’re hoping to finally finish most of our renovation. No longer a part-time building contractor, my time has been filled running an additional ER since September and a recent increase in responsibilities for information technology at Maimonides. This past May, I was elected a fellow of the American College of Physician Executives, one of fewer than 400 physicians nationally to have gained that recognition.

Zoey’s growing expertise at Texas Hold’em, a popular version of poker, has regularly humbled me, though I’m learning it, at the expense of a few dollars and the unabashed looks of triumph on Zoey’s face at the kitchen table on late weekend evenings. Zoey will be skiing with Stacy and Melissa this winter and following up on his sailing interests by bare-boat chartering with Steve through a sailing school at the end of March 2006. He was accepted at University of Pennsylvania early decision, so he’ll join the Class of 2010 there starting in September 2006.

Masha, a junior, is very focused on her schoolwork these days. This past summer, she propelled our family adventure in Russia where we all met Masha’s biological family: the Kalinkins. The trip was arduous at times and an emotional experience for all of us. Simone and I jointly blogged about the trip here and my photos of the trip are on a linked flickr photo site. We met many wonderful people, among them Galina Estefeeva, Executive Director of Friends of Russian Orphans who was so helpful on our trip. Their calendar project supports children who must grow up in orphanages in Yaroslavl, Russia, the town Masha came from. As we were leaving Yaroslavl, the regional weekly newspaper featured our story–that paper’s front page is our holiday card. Ending the trip in Nice with the family was a treat and my first ever visit to the French Riviera.

Simone still works with the Cobble Hill Community Sponsored Agriculture (CSA) program that supports local farmers and supplies us with fresh produce. Find a nearby CSA here or here. She continues the Brooklyn branch of the German Shepherd Dog Rescue of Southeastern Pennsylavania that she helped establish when we were in Philadelphia. We have brought still more German Shepherds into the house as foster dogs and Simone has placed these foster dogs and other dogs throughout the region.

We’re fortunate that our mothers remain active and mostly well though not without some of the challenges of great age. In June, Simone’s brother, Stacy, married Melissa. These family tidings remind me of friends who are struggling with their health and life itself. I hope you are taking care of yourselves and enjoying the world around you. We would love to host your visit to New York in 2006.

Imgp0870Our visit to the regional maternity hospital where Masha lived the first 3-3/4 years of her life was particularly moving. Simone, Masha and some staff of the Yaroslavl Regional Maternity Hospital who had cared for Masha.

We wish you all the best for a joyous 2006. Think globally. Act locally.

Yaroslavl–Simone’s Posting

Here is the final travel log of our trip to Yaroslavl this summer I did not get to send these pictures while I was there since the internet connection was not good. I have included about ten digital photos here.

Steve’s public photostream at Flickr includes these photos and others.

The day  we arrived in Yaroslavl we met with Galina. Galina is involved in trying to improve the local orphanages in Yaroslavl and is the local director of Friends of Russian Orphans. She had also taught English in local schools and Russian in Boston; she had agreed to help us during our stay. Without her our trip would have been impossible. We hope to help her raise  much needed money for the Children in the Orphanages of Yaroslavl.

Nolga_and_masha_1 Nmeeting_the__family_and_invited_to_tea_1 The next day, Saturday, August 21st we drove out to meet Masha’s birth family, Olga, Alexander and Katya and a very big Rotweiller that was their family pet. They live outside the city in a large apartment complex on the first floor.  There is a family garden just outside the building and they said they also had another garden several miles away. They had grown lots of potatoes and were planning to harvest them the next day in order to help make ends meet. We spent the afternoon with them talking Nour_extended_familyklainkindavidsonmog_1 Nkalinkins_kalinkindavidson_1 There were lots of tears and they were very happy to see us all. They said they had no idea what was really wrong with Masha or what had become of her. They told us they had been told that they would never be able to care for her and provide all the help she needed. We have agreed to all keep in touch with each other. We suggested Katya learn some English and think about  visiting  us in NYC.

The next day we went to visit the Yaroslavl Children’s hospital.

Nhospital_masha_spent_her_first_4_yearsNfirst_welcome_back_hugs After Masha was given up at the maternity hospital she was moved to the Regional Children’s Hospital of Yaroslavl. The nurses at the hospital took care of Masha until she was adopted. They would not let her go to the local orphanage because they feared she would not do well there as she was unable to walk until she was 3-1/2 years old, just a few months before we adopted her. We were told that the nurses would take turns taking Masha home on the weekends so she would know what family life was like.

Tadoption Nremembering_how_she_taught_masha_to_hol Each of these woman had a story to tell about Masha. One told us she used to feed Masha; another told us about Masha’s imaginary conversations on a broken phone with her mother. Another one was still angry with the orthopedic specialist(more about him later) that she took Masha to repeatedly. That doctor, Valery Blandinsky, told her he feared for Masha and would like to help her but did not have the resources to do so.

Nwall_of_pictures_1 Nthirteen_years_later_1When we arrived at the Children’s Hospital of Yaroslavl we were greeted by the Regional Director of the Hospital. A big celebration with champagne and food had been planned for Masha’s return. They showed us a wall of pictures that had been taken of Masha when she was a little girl living there. We were then taken to the room where Masha spent most of the time  at the hospital. They explained to us that this was the room Masha lived in. It had been freshly painted and it was a great improvement from the last time I had visited in 1992. They had set up a large table with food for us and many of the retired nurses came back to see what had become of the little girl they had taken care of. Many of the nurses stood up to talk about that little girl. Masha also stood up to thank all the wonderful woman who had helped her. It was a happy and tearful reunion.

Nmasha_gives_a_speech Ndr_valerie_blandinski_1 Before we adopted Masha we had contacted a doctor in Seattle who seemed to have published the most about Arthrogryposis Multiplex Congenita, the syndrome Masha has. At the end of our conversation with him, he told us that he had just had a Russia orthopedist spend three months in a fellowship with him in Seattle. "Why don’t you fax his cousin in Moscow and see if you can get him to evaluate this little girl," the Seattle-based physician suggested. It was a long shot but an AMAZING thing happened: Dr. Blandinsky knew all about Masha and had been following her since her birth. His written report on her condition immensely simplified matters with the immigration service when we adopted Masha. This visit, Dr Valery Blandinsky, got to see Masha again in Yaroslavl. He was thrilled to see her progress.

Nyr_news_cover_vol36 We knew when we arrived that a local newspaper was interested in our visit. Adoption of Russian children by foreigners has become a very touchy subject recently as two adopted Russian children in the past year had been killed by their adoptive parents. Our story was a big surprise to many. Before we left Yaroslavl, the Yaroslavl Regional newspaper interviewed and photographed us. The day we left Yaroslavl we were so surprised to see our picture on the front page of this newspaper.

The trip was a really wonderful experience for all of us. It was a great feeling to be able to go back and say thank you to all those wonderful women and to meet Masha’s biological family and let them know how well she is doing. We want to help raise money for the orphans of Yaroslavl and hope we have helped the people of Yaroslavl learn we are all one global community.

Nice

I have lots more to say and lots more photos to post from our time in Russia.

For now, we’re enjoying the warm weather that cools rapidly to comfortable in the early evening. Nice is a city and the old part down by the water where we’re staying is quite congenial for tourists. Wandering around feels comfortable and the treats for the eye, nose and mouth on every block have been just wonderful. I had not known that it was not only ancient Rome, but the relatively modern City-State of Piedmont which had controlled this part of France and apparently the land returned to France by vote of the people hereabouts.

The meeting is gargantuan and all about me are discussions of the tragically inadequate and delayed response to the needs of the myriad survivors of Hurricane Katrina. Some physicians present are noted experts in disaster response and have remarked informally to me and others about the poor response in New Orleans and even in communities now affected by refugees evacuated from New Orleans.

Tonight we go to the Gala Dinner Event for the meeting. Our whole family is going and I’m enjoying this time for being together and exploring. My sessions are tomorrow and Monday afternoon so I’ll be a bit more tight-laced about meeting attendance then.

Moscow to Yaroslavl and back

Nimgp08661 It’s late and I’m exhausted, but this first good connection in more than a week compels me to post. It has been an incredibly emotional period. Masha and all of us have met Olga and Alexander, her biological parents, and a two-year younger sister, Katya. We visited the staff at the regional maternity hospital where Masha lived her first three-plus years. These women were both joyful and tearful to see her. They had prepared the room in which she had lived by putting up decorations and old photos of Masha from her first years with them: I was astonished they had kept those photos nearly 13 years.

All of this after days of sight-seeing in Moscow and train trips to Yaroslavl. In Yaroslavl we had the fantastic assistance of Galina Evstifeeva, a local teacher of English, who has lived in the USA as a Russian teacher and is involved with Friends of Russian Orphans.

This is all disjointed, it’s past midnight in Moscow and we fly out to Paris and onto Nice tomorrow for the Mediterranean EM Congress. I’m just trying to get a few thoughts down and share some photos with all of you since I’ve been out of touch for more than one week.

Moscow

You can view my public photostream at Flickr.

Nimgp06811_2 Flying Air France to Moscow took the whole day, departing at 9:40 AM from the apartment on Rue Claude Bernard to arriving at the Marriott Tyverska at 8:00 PM Moscow time (two time zones earlier than Paris).

We had packed the gifts of medical supplies, including all sorts of OTC medications and suture materials among the five bags we brought so that we wouldn’t lose it all if we were stopped coming through customs. Entry to Russia reminded me of entering Italy when I was 15 years old. There was some formality, but very little and we were quickly through customs and met up with our driver who took us to the hotel. We saw modern European and Japanese cars everywhere. Later we learned that there are over 3 million privately owned car in Moscow, a city of 10.5 million (official) people with some unofficial estimates going as high as 13 million.

We’re staying at the Marriott on miles I’ve accumulated over the years. Thank you ABEM.

We grabbed a quick and expensive dinner in the hotel restaurant and I got a WiFi account which unfortunately doesn’t work in my room. It does in the kid’s room and in the lounge where I’m sitting now. So I’ll have to be more disciplined and organized in my blogging.

Nimgp06861_2 We spent today touring, visiting Lenin’s tomb, seeing the Kremlin wall and visiting various churches, including St. Basil’s shown here. Ludmilla Chmyga (chmyga at mail dot ru) took us around first through the metro which was entirely as described with inlaid stone floors and finished ceilings well lighted with various art pieces in the Soviet style. Our guide helped us beat the line for Lenin’s tomb, but nothing could save us from having to walk all around the outside of the square and view the statuary after exiting the tomb . . . statues of long dead Soviet leaders.

Nimgp06931_2 Nimgp06941_2 Saint Basil’s sits in Red Square, which contrary to my prior understanding was not named such in honor/recognition of Communism but rather because the name "red" means beautiful–rather like the "Firebird" symbol. With our back to St. Basil’s we’re facing the Gum Department Store. The sun really was brilliant at our back and thus the washed out sky so I could get our faces to appear. I’m not so practiced with Photoshop.

Nimgp0695_1 The GUM Department store (over my left shoulder in the photo above right) is a modern commercial enterprise with every name you might imagine: L’Oreal, Rolex and more. No more a state enterprise, it resembles in every way a visit to a modern mall except for the architecture which is marked by gorgeous 19th century colonnades and wrought-iron work. Apparently escalators have been installed only in the last five years. Soon after GUM and a pit stop at the Metropol Hotel we were picked up by a mini-bus and driver who took us around the city for an orienting tour. We heard about the old churches demolished by the Soviets–especially Stalin–and the rebuilding splurge of recent years.

We saw Moscow University and views of the city from various hillsides. All in all it was a fine and somewhat fatiguing tour which ended with a stop at one of Simone’s favorite destinations in any city: a supermarket.

Nimgp0711_1 Nimgp0710 When Simone was here in November 1992 to complete Masha’s adoption, it was at the height of the turmoil and disorder after the end of the Soviet Union. There was nothing in the stores. There were scarcely potatoes to be had let alone other produce. She took the family she stayed with to a "green store" not because it was ecological or had great produce but because you could only spend American Greenbacks there. She bought edible, though not great food on that trip. Today, Simone was bowled over by what she saw of the store’s stock and I by its interior architecture.

Paris Plage

Nimgp06591Nimgp0658 It was a gray Sunday in Paris with no agenda and the kids wanted to ‘hang out’ so Simone and I went for a walk along the Seine and found Paris Plage, the fourth annual week-long Parisian beach party. Lots of people enjoying the environment, even if it was a bit chilly and gray. It was our last day in Paris and we were off to Moscow the next morning, so walking along the Seine and making it a busman’s holiday by visiting Hotel Dieu finished the day.

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Marches aux Pouches, Saturday Afternoon

Nimgp0633 One of the seven markets at Marche aux Pouces. We took the Metro #4 to Porte de Clignancourt and walked from there. Simone tells stories of shopping there all the time when she lived here in the 1970’s. I remember the bootleg disks and old French Foreign legion surplus or knock-offs for sale. Today it was full of name brand clothing at relatively cheap prices, but there are still a few of the older sellers hawking wares from who knows when and "antique" (could be, I don’t know) furniture for sale.

Nflea903e I went on this trip eager to hear jazz ala Django Reinhart at the café named ‘La Chope des Puces‘ which has been singled out, most recently in the August US Airways Attache Magazine, because it is small, funky, has moules–frites, and live Django Reinhart–type music with its musicians ‘Les Manouches,’ in the afternoons on Saturday, Sunday and holiday Mondays. At 122. Rue des Rosiers, Saint–Ouen. Métro: Garibaldi or Porte de Clignancourt. InfoTel.: 01 40 11 02 49. Unfortunately, the bar was closed on this August weekend as we’re finding many places are at this time in the summer.

Nimgp0637_2 We took the Metro back to Odeon and wandered around the Latin Quarter where we people-watched, cafe sat, shopped and wandered . . . saw this opera singer draw quite a crowd. (Click the photo for a one minute audio-video sample, but it’s huge–10 Megabytes–so you’d better have a DSL/cable connection or lots of time on your hands.)

Supper in the Mouffetard district near the apartment and now (midnight) soon to bed. Tomorrow’s weather anticipates lots of rain.

/Steve, Simone, Zoey & Masha