What Do We Know About Nikolay?
We don't know a lot about Nikolay; Kazakh law prevents prospective parents from learning detailed history until we arrive at the orphanage, so what we believe we know now may well change when I arrive. But here is what we have been told thus far.
He was born May 24, 1996, and given up at birth by his mother whose identity is unknown. Nothing is known about his father and Nikolay is not known to have any siblings. He has been with the same caretakers since birth and is clearly as attached to them as they are to him. The orphanage gave him his name; the his last name, Chernochin, supposedly means Duck Eyes. Go figure!
I chose Kazakhstan for its reputation for excellent care of their orphans, in part due to a 5:1 caretaker ratio -- better than most US daycares! Nikolay is of Kazakh nationality but unlike nearly all the other orphans in his orphanage, he is probably of Russian or Slavic heritage and does not seem to share any of their Asian or Turkish features. He speaks only Russian as far as I know.
He is now six, soon to be seven. He is a little small for his age, as his diet to date has largely consisted of fruit juice, tea and vegetable soup. I am told to expect he will grow quite a bit his first year on a US diet. He has no developmental, physical, mental or other disabilities of which I am aware, but the challenges of being raised in an institution since birth I am sure are not without consequences. We just don't know what they are going to be! His teachers report he is among their favorites, and I sense that I am being carefully screened to see whether I am "adequate" for their little guy! He has unusually large shoulders, which makes me think he will enjoy swimming and water sports as much as the rest of the Kellys.
Children in the (former) Russian bloc countries are not generally taught to read or write till age 7, so he has not learned to read (although he loves to be read to). He will probably spend the remainder of the school year in half-day kindergarten to help with the language skills, and we will see in the fall whether first grade or home schooling will be more appropriate. He spent a month last summer in the US and understands a great deal of what is said to him in English, and likes to say a few phrases like "Come on," "Let's go," and count to 10. I am learning a little Russian to help with the immediate transition -- I can now order two chocolate ice cream cones with confidence -- but I am told he will be speaking English within about three months. He will reportedly lose all his Russian within six months if I don't make a concerted effort to keep his language skills up (which I plan to).
By Kazakh law, I will be spending the first two weeks of my visit at the orphanage with Nikolay, several hours each day. I will be traveling about 1.5 hours each way on a dirt road to get to the orphanage, accompanied by a driver provided by the adoption agency. There I will get a chance to see what life has been like for this little guy, including the outhouse that serves the entire facility.
The second week of my visit Nikolay will be permitted to come back to the hotel with me each night to start the transition to full-time life outside the orphanage. It is this type of attention to to the care of their orphans that I think has earned them the reputation of highly successful placements.
By a relatively new US law, Nikolay will become a US citizen the moment he steps on US soil (which will be our arrival into Washington DC).
Anything else I am missing? (I am trying to think of all the questions I get asked most frequently.) Wonder what he looks like?