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First pages


Pacific Ocean 1998

“So where’s old Frigid Fran anyway?”

“Not sure but she’s supposed to make the clean-up rounds today so watch your mouth.”

“Did you see what she was wearing in Chinhae?”

“I wonder if she’s ever been with a guy?”

“She thinks she’s better than us. Why doesn’t she ever just hang out?”

Silence. One gasp and the scurry of feet. Fran let out a quiet sigh from her bathroom stall in the head of the junior enlisted women’s quarters. I knew I should have waited to go to the bathroom. She exited the stall knowing that the younger women bad mouthing her would be long gone since they had clearly recognized her somehow from under the stall.

Fran was human and this hurt. She was always nice and polite to the junior enlisted women onboard but since she was a Chief who took her job seriously, she maintained separation from them so that she could have authority in her job.

At least I am respected to my face, she thought. It still hurt though. After all, she tried to look out for the junior enlisted onboard and that they clearly did not see that was wounding.

“Sick bay.” She said it out loud, with longing to return to her territory but, instead, she did the right thing. She would finish her inspection of the cleanliness of the berthing area and then return to her work area, head held high.

Fran allowed herself a little time to whine as she finished up her inspection. It would be nice to have someone to talk to onboard about these kinds of things. She got along with the other Chiefs but they were all men and she had to maintain a certain distance from them as well. Couldn’t have rumors hurting her perfect reputation. Frigid Fran. It was so unfair.

She checked the sleeping quarters and made some notes on her clipboard. As she got to the end of her inspection she knew it was time to buck up. You chose this career Fran, she told herself. You wanted to help people and serve your country. You like being ‘Doc’ for the aircraft carrier USS Kitty Hawk, taking care of the medical needs of the crew and leading as a high ranking enlisted person onboard the ship. Think of all those who have sacrificed so much more in the Navy than the occasional loneliness. Toughen up.

Fran smiled grimly as she finished her pep talk. She believed what she was thinking and she had enjoyed seeing the Jinhae tower and the turtle ships in Chinhae, South Korea even if she apparently did not dress well. She tried to look ahead to some time to herself back in their home port of Yokosuka, Japan. She pictured a day hiking Mt. Ogusu and then heading over to the city flower garden to read. She took a deep breath and let herself sigh one last time. The truth was that after 12 years in the Navy the important work and interesting travel were starting to be not quite enough. She sensed something missing from her life.

North Kyrgyzstan 1998

Man, my wife is great. Politician II looked sideways at the beautiful blond Russian woman beside him in the bed. She leaned and twisted toward the night stand to grab them each a post coital cigarette. He looked at her disheveled hair as she pulled out the pack of Sobranie Black Russians. He watched her waist twist and the sheet slip low over her hips. He loved her curvy body and milky skin. He did not even care that her blond hair came more and more from a bottle. Maybe I won’t take another wife after all.

He looked to his left out the window at the capital city of Bishkek. He had a view of the nearby Ministry of Foreign Affairs with a slight view, if he leaned forward, of mountains in the distance. He had come so far from his roots in rural southern Kyrgyzstan. After all, Tash-Bashat village, where he grew up, still did not have running water in half of the homes. He had struggled; always looking, always pushing, always grasping to get ahead. He was now the governor of Chuy province in the ‘educated’ north. His province was administered out of Bishkek which was also the capital of Kyrgyzstan.

He was not loved here, not even really accepted. That lack of acceptance probably had something to do with his southern origins and the fact that he was appointed and not elected. But that was how Kyrgyzstan worked. The south was seen by the intelligentsia in the north as rural, backward, and too religious. While the country was majority Sunni Muslim like Politician II, Kyrgyzstan really was not very religious overall. They had adopted Islamic traditions over time from merchants on the Silk Road and through the first wave of Arab Muslim conquerors but had never been fundamentalists. The Soviets had tamped down on religious expression for several generations in the previous century so that had lessoned religious expression as well. That would change back and religious feeling would grow in time. Politician II knew that the Saudis were looking to build a new mosque in Bishkek, the capital city. He supported it and wanted more Saudi money for this purpose, without their influence of course.

Politician II wanted more Saudi money and more mosques because he believed a return to the faith was best for his country and because a more religious country would want a more religious leader which would secure his future in politics. His interests, as always, coincided with what was best for Kyrgyzstan.

Politician II was a survivor. He had grown up under the Soviets and had sold black market horse meat, mutton, and beef when he could get it to local Soviet officials as a teenager for extra money. He then tied himself in lightly with local mafia to get funding to buy his first political appointment. Finally, he became a capitalist democrat when Kyrgyzstan declared itself a free republic in 1991. He did what he needed to do and, despite his wife teasing him about being a soulless politician, he did have a purpose. He was an Islamic nationalist. While he supported the idea of an Islamic Caliphate in theory, he knew this would never happen in the world given ethnic differences. After all, if the Chechens, some of whom had been resettled in Kyrgyzstan by the Soviets, and the native Kyrgyz could not get along and they were both Sunni Muslim that meant that ethnicity mattered more than religion and therefore more than anything. Politician II was therefore an Islamic nationalist, Kyrgyzstan for the Kyrgyz who were Muslim. Others could live there as long as they respected the ways of the Kyrgyz Muslims.

His wife supported him, although she was not a Muslim, or much of anything for that matter. She just liked being the wife of a man who could provide for her. So Russian. Given how things worked under the Soviets and then continued under the ‘free republic,’ a connected politician could provide best for a woman. There were always side deals to be had as a result of a politician’s power. These were technically corrupt but accepted by most, including Politician II, as unstoppable.

His wife was talking about some function they would be attending and what she would wear. He grunted in response and studied her face. She was getting lines around her mouth from all the cigarettes she smoked. Interesting.

New York City 1998

Lisa ran a brush through her straggly brown hair. She had tried dying it blond after finding emails that Todd Kyle, her ex-husband, sent to his skinny blond co-worker complaining about how blasé she was about her appearance. She had, however, decided to let it go back to its natural shade of mousy brown when he ran off with Daniel, the skinny blond co-worker. In the end she did not know which bothered her more, her husband leaving her for a man or that the man was skinny. It had not been the best marriage after all.

Regardless of whether it was a bad marriage, no one could say she had not at least tried to keep it together. After the dye job came the endless dieting which devolved into bouts of crying and eventually outright begging. Her ex-husband said in response to all this that while passion for their work had brought them together there had never been any passion between them and that he needed more from life. He had even changed his mind about kids and she had heard from co-workers, who were too eager to share, that he and his new partner were adopting.

Her husband had never seemed gay to her and in fact never actually said he was gay out loud. It was so strange. Sometimes she thought turning gay was the extent he felt he had to go to get away from her. He really did not seem to like her that much.

Lisa Kyle began to wonder if she had ever really loved Todd or if she had loved who he was connected too. Maybe she had been so caught up in his family and their connections that she had failed to notice the sterility of their relationship. Todd’s Grandmother was a Morgan of the financial ‘House of Morgan’ and while Todd was not wealthy he was upper middle class and had gone to Choate and his parents had a vacation home on the Cape. They were the types of people with whom she saw herself. When they had accepted her she felt like life had started.

Lisa’s family was a bunch of nobodies from a nobody small town in a nobody state. She had never felt a part of that life and had worked hard to get away, to get somewhere that had other talented people who were also meant for something better and bigger. She had gotten into Barnard College in New York. While she found that many did not recognize it as an Ivy League School since it was a ‘just a sister school’ the people who mattered knew of its historical importance and she felt it had helped propel her to her career with the United Nations.

Once she had been through the requisite divorce therapy sessions where she was convinced she needed to empower herself, Lisa had decided she would continue on what was supposed to have been her and Todd’s life path together. If their work was more important than having kids before the divorce, than it was still more important than finding some new husband or having kids now, so she would move forward. It was Todd who had changed, not her, and certainly not the correctness of their original plan.

Today she would persist on that chosen path without Todd. She had her interview for the job that would boost her to the level where she could make a real difference. She already knew who the interviewer was and had checked to see if there were any other candidates lined up for the job. She was pleased to learn that there were not. She assumed this was because there were not any candidates as uniquely qualified as she was. From this post her rise through the ranks of the United Nations would accelerate. After a job like this overseas she could count on an influential job back in New York, perhaps even as an Assistant Secretary-General. She would have punched her ‘third world card’ and would be an expert in her field, a power broker even. A couple more jumps up the ladder and with some networking and a smidge of luck and she would be Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations Children’s Fund. She could affect the lives of children on a global level.

Lisa picked up her curling iron but decided it was better to leave her shoulder length hair straight. She tucked the thin strands behind her ears. She kept it all one length just beyond her chin to try and make her round face seem longer. At 35 she was still well within her prime even if she had a couple of lines lightly etched into her forehead. After all, she had had some of those lines even in her 20s. It was just how she was made.

She reached into the drawer of her bathroom cabinet and fished out her make-up bag. She did not like to wear too much make-up because she felt looking plain actually made people take her more seriously. If she started looking like a Stepford wife she would be less effective at her work. The downside of this approach was that she seemed to be too plain for most men. No acceptable man had asked her out since the divorce so she had not been dating since her marriage ended a year ago.

She had heard her husband was going to name his baby Olivia.

Chapter 1: T Minus Two Weeks to Adoption Moratorium

Manas Airport, Kyrgystan February 2009, 4:15 am

Fran breathed in the stagnant air and followed the slow moving line of Asian and Asian/Caucasian looking men (mostly) off of the plane. There was the occasional Slavic looking Caucasian with the requisite high cheekbones and wide set eyes who, she assumed, was a Russian. The early morning arrival time ensured that the crowd was subdued. It started to show some signs of life as the line of people crossed the ramp into the arrival building and moved into several winding stucco like corridors that would lead to the visa and customs area. No one wanted to wait any longer than necessary.

Fran kept pace and felt her tension level rising. She wanted to get her visa, make it through customs, get her luggage and hopefully find her hotel driver waiting with the ‘Fran Stewart’ sign as soon as possible. She could relax once she was on the way to the hotel. The line started stacking up on itself and quickly became a crowd as the hallway widened and then emptied into the reception room. From her last two trips Fran knew which counter to go to. She would need to hand them her passport, visa application, and $40 in new bills (counterfeiting was a big problem in Kyrgyzstan so everyone wanted new dollars).

She moved expeditiously, Fran always moved expeditiously. That was who she was efficient, competent, capable Fran. A regular machine. Frigid Fran.

She pushed the nasty name aside and focused on her goal. She clutched her visa application, passport, and money which she had prepped before her trip in one hand. Efficient. She spotted a hole in the crowd ahead of her and carefully maneuvered into it, avoiding bumping or brushing against her fellow travelers. Competent. Most of the crowd were citizens of Kyrgyzstan and did not need a visa. So even though she was not in the first batch of people off of the plane Fran was able to maneuver her way so that she was first in line. She reached the red line in front of the visa application desk and stopped, waiting for the olive green uniformed clerk to look up and motion her forward. Capable.

On her first trip to Kyrgyzstan Fran had not known where the desk was so she wound up at the back of the line. However, now that she was on her third and hopefully final trip to Kyrgyzstan she was an old pro. She waited patiently while a rough line formed behind her as people filled out visa forms at a nearby stand and moved to be processed.

Fran glanced around at the big entrance area to Manas Airport, her eyes lingering on the empty white walls. The rooms here always seemed bigger than needed for the amount of people moving through, even when she left at a crowded time of day. It was as if the Kyrgyz had built the airport for busier times or hoping there would be busier times.

From her right she saw a soldier approaching the desk. He started talking to the clerk in Russian. The clerk responded and Fran noticed a couple standing next to him. The couple was looking expectantly at the clerk who nodded and motioned them forward. What?

Fran took a step forward instinctively trying to protect what was hers. She quickly checked herself, casually stepping back and pushing her outrage down to her gut. She was so good at that. She added ‘unruffled’ to her list of attributes.

She checked her watch, 4:30 am, and looked over at the customs lines which were about 15 people deep in four lines. No point getting worked up considering she would just move from this line to the customs lines.

It took about five minutes to process the obviously well connected couple. They handed the clerk money in Euros. The clerk said something to the line in Russian. Fran thought he might have asked for change. A man stepped forward from the middle of the line. The women with him, his wife perhaps, inched forward too. The man handed bills to the VIPs and got a bill back. Clearly the well-connected couple was not prepared with correct change. Fran tsked in her head. If she had been back home at work at the hospital she would have something to say about that and people would listen. But not here.

The VIPs were handed their passports and they moved off with the soldier toward the customs lines. Fran would have looked to see if they got preferential treatment in that set of lines as well but her attention was diverted by the couple who had helped with change who were now handing the clerk their paperwork. No!

Fran felt the line behind her surge a bit. Obviously others were irritated too. Fran waited to hear voices raising objections but instead she saw a man move forward with what looked like his son, breaking the line. A woman pushed past Fran on her left and Fran instinctively clutched her carry on bag. The line now completely broke down and people rushed to the desk. The clerk appeared unfazed and kept processing at the same pace saying nothing.

Fran now found that she could not move forward. So she stood there clutching her bag at the red line which was now the back of the line. A stagnant smell moved around her.

She felt her energy, her initiative draining away. She shrugged her shoulders trying to mentally move away from her surroundings. Kyrgyzstan.

Fran knew it well by now. When the Soviet Union took control of Central Asia in the early 20th century it organized the area into states based on ethnic and geographical criteria. ‘Stan’ meant ‘settlement’ or ‘place of’ in Russian. Kyrgyzstan was thus born under the Soviets as the place of the Kyrgyz people.

Fran realized her head and shoulders were drooping so she consciously chose to stiffen her spine. She could not start out this trip weak. Kyrgyzstan just had a way of getting to people. The country had been conquered repeatedly, throughout its history by empires stretching to their limits in Central Asia. The Scythians, the Huns, the Turks, and the Arab Muslims all came through and left their mark on the Kyrgyz people who were nomadic shepherds and warriors of necessity.

The Arab Muslims helped to repel the Chinese in the 8th century and halt their westward expansion. The Mongols tore through in the 12th century and eventually the Russians came, followed by the Soviets. Fran, like many, pictured Kyrgyzstan as a nation that seemed resigned to perpetual conquering. After all, the country had not even bothered to pull down a statue of Vladimir Lenin that was still up in one of the main city parks. And there did not seem to be real animosity towards the Soviets, no violence towards them in the early 90s like in other countries. There was just a seeming casual acceptance of one more empire passing through. That acquiescence took a toll on even the most committed visitors. A person got off the plane thinking anything was possible and then quickly started to feel like nothing was possible, like things could not be changed or controlled here because nothing ever really changed in Kyrgyzstan. At some point it was futile to keep trying.

There was a bright spot, Fran reminded herself. An infant democracy had formed after the Soviet Union fell. The people of Kyrgyzstan had showed some gumption when it became corrupt and they threw out their leader, Askar Akayev, in the mostly nonviolent Tulip Revolution three years before. There was optimism when the revolutionaries took over and Politician II came to power. Maybe Kyrgyzstan was not just a people and a country that were reconciled to authoritarian rule. There was hope.

Optimism. Fran repeated the word several times and with her back straight she registered the crowd around her and took a step forward.

The White House, Bishkek, 9:00 am

Politician II flicked a piece of lint that he had been studying off of his coat. He could not believe that the Minister of Education had secured this meeting with him. He made little effort to even pretend to be paying attention. The MOE was his cousin’s husband. He was in the middle of earnestly speaking with his little mouth and slick hair about the overcrowding in the baby houses and had dared to bother the President of Kyrgyzstan at the official executive building of Kyrgyzstan with his slight issue.

Politician II finally snorted, unable to hide his irritation any longer, “Look Sopubek do you realize that I grew up in a house without running water? That I had to scavenge and work for my meals as a young boy? Those kids who get to an orphanage and have a roof over their head are lucky. How many street kids do we have just in Bishkek?”

The MOE at first looked pleased that Politician II had at least responded to his

concern about overcrowded orphanages. Politician II could then almost see the wheels turning in that small little head and then the smile began to fade as the idiot MOE comprehended Politician II’s lack of sympathy for the kids living in the baby houses.

Of course, he tried another tact, “Mr. President, I agree completely that the children in the orphanages are lucky to be there, getting the care that they are getting and everyone knows how you struggled and made something wonderful of yourself. Your family is so proud of your accomplishments. You do us great credit. I was just thinking that if we could go ahead and process some of the waiting adoptions we could lesson overcrowding and have room for some of those street kids you are talking about. Our last count said there might be as many as 10,000 of them in the Bishkek.”

He broke off abruptly as though telling himself not to push too much. Politician II was annoyed by this imbecile, why was he even here bothering him with this mundane stuff? So he opened his mouth and said exactly that, after all he was the President and should not have his time wasted.

“Sopubek why are you here? You are in charge of adoptions, I’ve told you that. This is small stuff. I am trying to get hydroelectric power working again in this country while striking an aid deal with the Russians and keeping the United States happy with those military bases they want to keep. Plus there are elections coming up this summer. Process the adoptions. Just go ahead and do it.”

It was an aggressive response which Politician II assumed would shut Sopubek down. He was surprised when he cleared his throat and spoke again, “Of course you are right Mr. President and I would not be here except that Mr. Deputy Bailus is going after international adoptions again, saying that Kyrgyz families are being denied the ability to adopt children so that rich westerners, mostly Americans, can adopt. Of course, as you know, international couples are the only people who want to adopt these children. Mr. Bailus has the Prime Minister’s ear and the Prime Minister has said publicly that he is concerned about what is happening with adoptions and questioning the legality. Plus they prosecuted one of my Deputies on a technicality for processing adoptions. The Americans at the Embassy have asked after adoption too. So, if I could just…”

“The Prime Minister. You are sighting the Prime Minister as a higher authority than me? I am the President of the Kyrgyz Republic and he only has the power I give him. His job is to make sure the laws passed are enforced. He does not get to make up laws. Now go do what you need to do. Perhaps you would go farther in life and in my administration if you were more decisive.”

Sopubek Bakir nodded several times, “Yes, yes Mr. President. B-but the people who work for me are worried about the Prime Minister prosecuting them so if I could just get something in writing from you it would greatly assist me in my duties. And I will be more decisive in the future, I promise.”

The President pressed his lips into his version of a smile and waved his right hand at Sopubek, “Fine, fine I’ll get you something. Tell my cousin hello.” He looked down at his desk before Sopubek was even out of the room.

The MOE’s shoulders slumped. He gave a small smile and nod to the President’s bent head and backed out of the room.

Politician II felt relief as his pesky relation finally left the room. Sopubek was something of a family disappointment. He had tried running a grocery store but found that following all the laws made it too difficult to stay in business. With all the regulation and taxes on business in Kyrgyzstan the only way to be successful was to go around the laws. Sopubek had not been willing to do that and had lost his business. His problem.

He was lucky to have been rescued with a plum government job by me, thought Politician II. Let him stick his neck out if he wants to process adoptions. Let it be a loyalty test. As long as I am in power he will not face a political prosecution. With that Politician II put the thought of writing a letter for the MOE aside and went back to his busy day.

He had many other things to focus on after all. For one thing he had an election coming up this summer. It was just five short months away and while he could make advantages for himself using his current office he still needed a mostly legitimate victory. When he had taken over three years before Politician II had proclaimed that Kyrgyz was now for the Kyrgyz people and that there should be a return to Islam. Under his leadership the exodus of Russians intensified. While there was little ethnic violence in Kyrgyzstan many Russians who left and went back to Russia complained about discrimination in hiring. Politician II still heard about it occasionally from his first wife, when he spoke to her, mostly in relation to her family and what they were denied. His response was that he would look after her, but her family was not his responsibility and they should go back to Russia.

Politician II was most concerned with the standing of Kyrgyzstan in the world which he conflated with his own standing. When papers criticized him he shut them down. He still had to be careful going after his main opposition party too hard but he had gotten advantage where he could. He installed his people in government jobs and worked to get money from Islamic sources to fund the building of mosques. While he paid lip service to both Russia and the United States and took money from both, his real concern was to have Kyrgyzstan be able to stand on its own. His latest plan was to get the hydroelectric power plants back up and running and to build more. He had grown up hearing about the plant that was supposed to be built near Tash-Bashat where he was born and raised. There were plans in place for it but no action was ever taken. When the Soviets left, the money and the will to keep up the maintenance of this important source of power and to complete new plants, like the one in his village, had left the country too. He had seen how it hurt his village and the country.

The first administration after the Soviets had been too corrupt and ineffective to do what needed to be done. It was ridiculous really. Kyrgyzstan’s one natural resource, other than a few minerals deposits like gold, was water from mountain rivers. The Soviets had seen this and tried to exploit it. They had sure done some things right. Politician II had grown in his admiration of them since he came to power. They knew how to rule, they were not soft and they got things done.

460 Erkindik Boulevard, Apt 4C, Bishkek 5:00 pm

Lisa Kyle ran a brush through her straggly brown hair that now had a few course white hairs shooting up. Why is it that the white hair has a different texture from the rest of my hair? It made it stand out so much more.

She did not even contemplate make-up. That time had come and gone. In fact, a lot of things have come and gone. Lisa sighed and took a sip of her Arak with a splash of Kyrgyz cranberry juice. The drink washed things down so well and relaxed her for the evening ahead. Her nightcaps had lately turned into several drinks after work and the occasional drink at lunch. She never really got rip roaring drunk but liked to maintain a nice buzz to take the edge off. It also helped blur strange looks or slights and let her proceed confidently throughout her day and during her evening commitments.

She slipped bland rectangular earrings into her ears and straightened the jacket of her more formal pantsuit. Ten years. She had been in this God forsaken place for ten years. Her two years and out plan had vanished. She had found that once she was away from New York her visibility had gone down and she was found unqualified for positions she tried to apply to. She had been told unofficially that she was aiming too high and that she should consider a lateral move to a job at her same pay grade.

Lisa refused to acquiesce to the idea that her plan had failed. All she needed was one big accomplishment to put her back on the map, to make her resume pop. The problem was that nothing big ever happened in Kyrgyzstan. Events moved Kyrgyzstan not the other way around. There was so much corruption and persecution of opposition that the easiest course of action in most situations was to talk nicely and then do nothing.

Well maybe tonight that would all change. She finally had an issue she might be able to use and get something accomplished. And then she would finally get out of here and arrive back in New York in style. She could not face New York and all it meant any other way. Her life was not going to have been a waste.

Her main work in Kyrgyzstan was administering programs to get medicines and medical training, nutritional supplements, and safe water to the children of the country. When she first arrived she had traveled around the country with volunteers and hired workers and tried implementing changes to make things more efficient. She soon discovered that there were ways of doing things and going against the grain just shut things down. If she ever wanted to make her mark she would need officials and locals on her side. So she tolerated, or looked the other way with some of what she knew went on. Words like bribery were ugly and harsh but she knew there was a cost to doing business everywhere. If that meant some percentage of moneys did not get quite where they were supposed to go well at least she got some money and goods to the children. It was better than nothing. All of the local resistance had led her to mostly becoming a desk jockey in the capital city of Bishkek, with long lunches and occasional afternoon western movies in Russian when nothing was going on at the office.

She told herself that as head of UNICEF’s offices in Kyrgyzstan she should operate out of one centralized location. Staying in Bishkek meant too that she had gotten on the embassy circuit of parties thrown by the political and diplomatic class. She had not made a ton of friends but she had contacts and was ‘in the know’ on the gossip of her peer group. If she was a big fish in a small pond at least she was getting training as a big fish so she would be ready when she went back to New York. How you saw yourself was everything both here and in New York City. If you thought you were somebody and acted that way others would follow your lead and treat you with equanimity or even deference.

She returned to her new plan. It had to do with adoption. A small number of children had started to be adopted internationally from Kyrgyzstan back in 2005. This number had increased from a handful of kids the first year to over a 100 in 2007. 2008 had been looking to beat that record until adoptions had been slowed down because local and geopolitics had interfered. She could not do anything about the geopolitics other than gather information on the party circuit. However, she could deal with the local issues. Given the time she had spent in Kyrgyzstan and the neutrality of the UN in the region she could position herself as an expert and as an arbiter with the US to resolve this problem of international adoptions for Kyrgyzstan.

UNICEF’s position on adoption was that it supported international adoptions as a last resort. Its’ view was that orphaned or abandoned children should first be placed with a domestic family and then, after a significant period of time, if no family presented itself, they could be put up for international adoption following the Hague Adoption Convention. The officially titled Hague Convention on Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption was the UN’s attempt to regulate international adoption. Some complained that it added bureaucracy and therefore more time that kids spent in orphanages, but Lisa knew that those people just did not understand the importance of local culture and the danger of child trafficking. Children should not be separated from their homeland and countries should not have to westernize or ‘Americanize’ there future population just because they were poor. It was so imperialistic.

It was this neutral stance that convinced Lisa that the Kyrgyz government would be receptive to her efforts to get involved. The adopters might not like UNICEF’s position that International Adoption should only be an option after foster care in country was ruled out but they would need her help and would therefore be willing to work with her. If she could get Kyrgyzstan to implement the Hague Adoption Convention it would be huge accomplishment. It might take some time to put it in to practice but everyone would be better off in the end and her career would be back on track. It would be the kind of accomplishment that she had been searching for. Maybe in a year she would be reflecting on what a great idea this was at a café in Little Italy.

Lisa finished her toilette and admired her handy work. She knew she was not attractive and had put on some more weight in the past several years, but she also knew that she dressed appropriately, was clean and most importantly knew how to kiss up with abandon to local officials.

She had not dated much since she had been in Kyrgyzstan. Some of the locals liked her. There was a certain type of Kyrgyz man who liked Russian woman and sometimes she was mistaken for one. However, these encounters never led anywhere. Not that she wanted them to, of course. None of the men she had been with would be appropriate for New York society and the inevitable trip back home. She knew it was better to be single than to be married to the wrong man. It was impossible to act confident and command respect if you were married to an embarrassment.

At the very least her new plan would provide something more interesting to work on. Supplying medicine and food was pretty straight forward. She was excited for the first time in a long time about actually playing the game and trying to get her priority through.

Lisa went downstairs, climbed into her ’95 Mercedes and headed off to the embassy function. New cars were not sold in Kyrgyzstan so she had bought this one used five years ago.




About me

Kate Cooch is a former Coast Guard helicopter pilot and current mystery writer. This is her first novel. Kate lives in the Philadelphia suburbs with her husband and three kids. The Samantha Sherman mystery series is available for purchase on Please see Kate’s website ( ) for more information and free downloads of her writing.

Q. Where can readers find out more about you?
Q. Where did the idea for this book come from?
International adoption is slowly being shut down. I am saddened that so many kids who could be a part of a family are not getting that chance. This book is based on a real six year adoption moratorium in Kyrgyzstan. Children suffered while domestic and international politics played out.
Q. When did you decide to become a writer?
I was in the Coast Guard and had a very busy operational job. I found that I liked the solitude of writing as a counter to that. Now I just love writing and feel unfulfilled if I do not get a chance to do it for awhile.