TRIP TO DOMAN

1. What we needed to go to Doman
2. The book
3. The interview with the administrator
4. Getting the visa (in Russia)
5. The flight to The States
6. Car rental
7. Shuttle bus
8. Taxi
9. Living conditions
10. Babysitters
11. Some extra information
12. Trips budget

Here we talk about out trips to Doman in July and December 2011.

1. What we needed to go to Doman

To go there you need to have a strong desire, money and good knowledge of English.

If you have all of this you will need to do the following:

1. Send a request to the Institutes to get the application forms before the visit or wtd_registrar@iahp.org.

2. Read the book “What to do if your child has a brain injury” in your native language. You may read it in English as well which can make it easy to understand the lectures.

3. Have an interview with the administrator of the Institutes and get the approval of your trip with the dates of the lectures and the kid’s check-up. After that you get the invitation for getting a visa and a list of hotels and apartments to stay in and necessary information.

4. Get the visa. Before it you’d decide if somebody will go to the States with you to look after the child while you attend lectures. Then inform the Institutes so that they send an invitation for the visa.

5. Book the accommodation and the tickets. Decide how to get from the airport to Philadelphia and to the Institutes.

Here you can read about our experience.

Our first trip was with all the family and grandmother (from Russia). There was a 5-day course of lectures (“What to do if your child has brain injury”) and the initial check-up (according to the program “Aspirant”). And the 3 of us (mom, dad, kid) went to the States for the second time.

2. The book

We bought the book in Russian through the official website of Sergey Kalilin as he is an official translator of Doman’s books into the Russian language. The original book was ordered on the Institutes on-line bookstore.

3. The interview with the administrator

My wife is a teacher of IT and the English language. She has worked with foreigners and has a good knowledge of English. But being on maternity leave and having no practice she was not language-confident. And I studied the languages at school and University and I actually have much experience at work dealing with foreign partners. Thus, I was not worried about the interview.

I had a call from the Institutes when I was at work. Having learnt that my wife was also going to the States, promised to call her as well. I did not have time to inform her about the call. We, as we thought, successfully passed the interview with the administrator Harriet Pinsker. We were sent the invitation, all the other forms, and the date of our visit was appointed as well.

But then Harriet called us again. After our conversation she said she was concerned about our knowledge of English. And if we did not improve it our visit might be cancelled. This news saddened our family a lot.

So, we applied for the visa and tried to improve the level of English.

We had to have one more interview in a month. We considered different ways of improving the language. We started classes with the native speaker at home and simultaneously had classes on the phone. We thought that it might do good as the interview with the administrator of the Institutes is on the phone.

During the classes we made some cribs where included Harriet’s possible questions and our possible answers. We practiced all of that with our tutors on the phone. When we had the second interview we had all the cribs just to be on the safe side….But when Harriet called we managed to answer all her questions without any help.

Here is a list of questions we were asked:

1. Tell me about your child’s abilities, age, etc.
2. Have you read the Book “What to do if your child has a brain injury” in English?
3. What are you doing now? (in the terms of rehabilitation)
4. Who does exercises with the kid at home?
5. What are you doing according to Doman’s method?
6. Who will look after the kid in America during the lectures?
7. Are you ready to go to America twice a year?
8. How did you learn about the Institutes?
9. Why do you want to go to the Institutes?
10. How have you improved your English since the previous call?
11. What’s the weather like now?
12. Do you know any families on Doman’s program?

4. Getting the visa (in Russia)

Steps to follow to get the visa are described here.

Here is the filled in form DS-160 for Kate.
Filling in the form you can use a template where the information for some people is saved (for example: place of accommodation). To do this after completing the form for the first person you need to mark this possibility.

We managed to complete the form for my wife and grandmother without the photos that’s why in Pony Express they asked to attach the photos. To be in safe it’s better to make photos for everyone in advance.

We went to the Embassy together with our daughter. We were said that kids under 14 may not go to the Embassy however on the website we found out that we’d better register the kids for the interview in the Embassy. As there was nobody to look after her while we are away we went to the Embassy with the daughter and it took us little time to go through all the stages.

5. The flight to The States

First time we flew by United Airlines from Moscow to Washington and then to Philadelphia. The flight from Domodedovo airport was one hour delayed. Then we had a transfer fight from Washington to Philadelphia. When we went through passport control we were told not to worry about anything and go to luggage inspection. There was a long queue and when we tried to jump the queue it disappointed American people a lot. Actually it’ll not help us.

In fact, we were 15 minutes late for our flight to Philadelphia. The next flights were in 5 hours or even the following day. The company did not provide any lunch there. But they promised a discount if we stay in the hotel and fly the next day. Luckily, the representative of the company allowed us to make a phone call to the family with which we planned to stay and inform them about the delay. We stayed in the airport to wait for the next flight. So the flight took us half an hour and half an hour onboard before and after it.

Flights to Philadelphia are convenient as you can rent a car in the airport and drive to the Institutes within 40-50 minutes. But all the flights from Moscow to Philadelphia are with a transfer in Western Europe or The US and are 30% more expensive than direct flights to NY.

Our second flight was by Aeroflot to New York. We use Aeroflot as we take part in Aeroflot Bonus Programme. We had a flight to the Institutes from Tyumen (Siberia) to Moscow. The trip to US took us about 30 hours in total.
We stayed in the capsule hotel “Air Express” in Moscow in the airport Sheremetievo to have a little rest.

We took a car chair to use on board but actually used it only for a couple of hours when Kate was sleeping.
By the way, when we tried to find out about the possibility to use a car chair in the Aeroflot plane, we were given different information. There is nothing about it on Aeroflot website.
In Tyumen when the flight attendant saw the chair she got angry but having informed her that we had bought a separate seat for our daughter she calmed down. There were no more problems with the chair on any other flights.

The flights To NY and back were by Aeroflot airplanes with entertainment system Panasonic eX2 which offers a wide variety of films to satisfy the needs of every passenger. It is like a DVD player-you can pause a movie and then continue watching it. Aeroflot offers new films and games. Moreover, we were offered complimentary wine. As we have no time for movies at home we enjoyed that on board.

The only drawback of Aeroflot airplanes for the flights Moscow-New York-Moscow is the space between the seats – it is very inconvenient and much less than at Aeroflot airplanes flying through the territory of Russian Federation (as it seemed to us)
and much less than at United Airlines airplanes.

We usually buy soups for our daughter in the cafes/restaurants of the airports. She really liked the chicken soup more than mushroom and seafood ones. Our daughter cannot chew and the staff kindly chopped the soups in blenders and poured it into our thermos.

We also take Gerber puree and cereals to be on the safe side. But Kate is allergic to them as well as to much other artificial food. So we try to use them in case of emergency.

6. Car rental

You can rent a car at a New York or Philadelphia airport. In NY it is usually more expensive. We rented a car first time in Russia through SIXT. Second time it was at the www.hotwire.com website. Each time we took the car from Alamo finally. To rent a car you just need a simple driver’s license with your name spelled in English. You will also need a bank card (credit card) and a passport.

Chevrolet HHR (Standard car)                                                 Dodge Avenger (Mid-size car)

You will not be able to go around the USA without navigation. That’s why you would need to take a device with you or buy it as a first thing you do in the US. Renting a car with navigation included for a week would cost you the same amount as the cheapest navigator itself. We went to the nearest Best Buy store and bought the same Garmin Nuvi 250w navigator as in the rental car. It can talk and display text in many different languages, which are not always the case in the US. If it’s important for you, ask the store assistant about the language option in the navigator.
The US has fewer traffic signs than in Russia but the traffic regulations are not different by too much.
The most unusual of the traffic rules were these:

1. Traffic lights are located behind an intersection and not in front of it as in Russia or Europe.
2. At the STOP sign everybody stops for couple of seconds, looks to the left, then right, and only after that proceeds in his direction.
3. An intersection without signs does not have the “right goes first” rule. Actually, it does, if you came to an intersection at same time as the person on the right. But generally, the one that first came to the intersection first starts moving first. Same thing applies to all the STOP sign intersections. Although the intersections without signs are really rare and usually have no huge traffic at any time.
4. Very often an intersection has special lanes where traffic can only move to the left or to the right and you can not turn from the middle lane and can’t go forward from left or right lane.

Tolls on the toll roads can be paid in cash. You can also have an E-Z Pass, which is an electronic device that is installed inside a car and you pay its balance using a card. When we first came to the US we didn’t know what the E-ZPass is.

 

We did not think that you can drive along a toll road “for free”. That came as nice surprise. We were not thinking about why nobody took money from us for doing that. After the trip we changed the bank card and in another month received a letter from the US with a request to pay for the tolls we skipped at the toll roads in the US. It turns out they charge your card for that several weeks after your trip. Finally, the tolls were paid 6 months after the actual fact. On our second trip we paid the tolls in cash.

Usually you pay for gas using a bank card. You just follow the instructions on the gas pump. The price is for a gallon (3.8 lt).

7. Shuttle bus

On our second trip from JFK (New York airport) to Philadelphia we took a “Super Trans” shuttle bus. The shuttle has a trailer that you put your luggage in, which is very convenient if you have a stroller and several big suit cases. A drive to the apartments in Philadelphia took us 2.5 hours (evening), the driver was fast but skillful (one has to admit that).

The shuttle has only one disadvantage of taking several passengers, they try to fill it full, and it can take couple of hours till the driver picks up all of the passengers at the airport (and the airport can have several terminals). It took our driver more than an hour. On the other hand, we were lucky to be at the end of the pick up. We could only guess how long the first comers had to wait.

You can, of course, pay for the whole shuttle, and it will wait only for you. You will see a difference in price, though.
On our way back from Philadelphia to the NY airport we took the same shuttle. All of the passengers were picked up at their addresses in Philly and everybody was taken to his terminal in his turn. We were glad to be not flying that day (we decided to stay in NY for another day and take a break before the flight).

You call Super Trans right after you land in NY and ask them when they can pick you up. On the way back the Super Trans dispatcher will tell you the time of your pick up from the apartments in advance. If you have a local number they can call that one. They don’t call international numbers. A usual price for a NY to Philadelphia roundtrip is $320 for three people (including a child). We found a $250 price. Maybe because we told them that we were visiting the Institutes. The child car seat was very useful. Katya slept all the way from NY to Philadelphia (and we too). On the way back there were no extra seats and we had to put the car seat to the baggage trailer and Katya rode our lap.

8. Taxi

We took a taxi only once from Philadelphia airport to Anam Care apartments after we returned the rental car. We paid $60. You can find the taxi prices here.

9. Living conditions

During our first trip we lived in a volunteers’ house thanks to the organization Host of Hospitals. In fact, it was a little bit far, in the suburbs, so it took us half an hour to get to The Institutes by car.

We lived in a 2-storeyed cottage. Guest apartments on the ground floor were available for us: two small rooms and a bathroom with a lavatory. In the bigger room there was a stove, a fridge, a microwave oven, a coffee machine and a TV-set. The hosts (owners) gave us all the necessary dishes, bed linen and towels. There was an opportunity to access the Internet. We could also use the washing machine and the drier which were placed in a separate room on the first floor.

The house was situated in the forest so we had a great chance to watch squirrels and deers that came up close to the road or to the house.

When you apply for Host of Hospitals, they send you a questionnaire, where you can write your wishes concerning the number of rooms, the distance from the Institutes and so on. Then everything will depend on the fact if the apartments which can suit your wishes are vacant or not. Living in volunteers’ cottages is free but we couldn’t help giving a small sum of money as a symbolic payment for their invaluable help.

During our second trip we lived in Anam Cara Apartments, which were closer to the Institutes. It took us 20 minutes to get there on foot and 5 minutes by car. We lived on the ground floor of a 2-storeyed house made of bricks. All in all there were 5 flats in it. In our flat there was one room, a bathroom with a lavatory, a fully applied kitchen and the access to the Internet. In the basement there was a washing machine and a drier which were available to all people who lived in the house. There is a reduction for families coming to the Institutes. The average price per day is 100$.

10. Babysitters

When we went to the Institutes for the second time, our granny couldn’t follow us because of the problems with her health. So we needed someone to look after Kate during the lectures. In this case the Institutes suggest several agencies which provide babysitting service. We chose a baby-sitter from the agency called Bayada. We (and that was the most important, Kate) liked our african-american baby-sitter Kelly – she was a kind giggly girl. We were going to leave Kate with an unknown person for almost two days for the first time. That’s why we decided to get acquainted with her future babysitter beforehand. It turned out that it was better for Kelly as well.

During the lectures all children with their babysitters stay in the Institutes’ gym. You arrive in the morning and leave your child in the building which is next to the one you are going to study in. The Institutes’ staff doesn’t allow parents to meet with their children during the process. But nevertheless (during the breaks) we hurried to the gym and watched our daughter without being seen. We were constantly asking the staff about Kate’s behavior. But in fact, being with her baby-sitter Kate behaved very well.

We prepared Kate’s food at home beforehand and put it into separate containers before going to the Institutes. There is a fridge in one of the rooms near the gym where you can keep the food. There is also a microwave oven to heat it up. The Institutes suggest lunches for all the participants and you can choose something for your child as well. Moreover, the staff in the kitchen can chap it if you ask.

It was rather noisy in the gym, that’s why we asked the Institutes’ staff whether they could provide any vacant room for Kate to have a nap or not. We were kindly provided with one of the vacant cabinets, where Kate was sleeping during 2 days. But you should discuss such a possibility with the Institutes’ staff beforehand.

11. Some extra information

In conclusion, there are some household things.

In the USA the power voltage is 110V, 60Hz. The sockets differ from the Russian (European) ones. That’s why you have to buy an adapter for connection of devices with Russian (and European) plugs beforehand or you can buy it in Philadelphia in shops Radioshack. If you want to buy small home appliances in the USA, make sure that they will be appropriate to our power grid (220V, 50Hz).

 

 

We tried to use services of the local cell phone providers. We bought a phone in a local shop, the provider Tracfone. But using it you have to pay for incoming and outgoing calls. During the second trip we bought two SIM cards by Simtravel for using in the USA. The incoming calls are free in USA. In Philadelphia we had to talk only to each other while buying products so for this purpose these SIM cards were quite good.

 

As a rule, you can buy all necessary goods in shops of Philadelphia. If you go to Pathmark or Wal-Mart you will be able to buy everything including food, nappies and diapers for a child as well as household chemical goods. Sometimes you can also find a chemist’s department (Wal-Mart, CVS) there. In the district where the Institutes are located there is also Wal-Mart which works till 24:00.

We usually pay using general debit card Visa Classic by Sberbank. Doing this you should indicate the type of your card: Debit or Credit. It’s strange but you should choose Credit and you don’t have to write a PIN code. Sometimes it’s necessary to sign on a special display.

If you miss some Russian products (for example, buckwheat), newspapers or magazines in Russian, you can go to a Russian shop, Net Cost Market, for instance.

12. Trips budget

12.1. The first trip

Description Cost, USD Comments
FLIGHTS
Moscow-Washington-Philadelphia (adult) 3 867 3 adult tickets х $1 289. Flights of United Airlines. Tickets were purchased 11 days prior to departure on the United website. Kate was less than 2 years old (child ticket).
Moscow-Washington-Philadelphia (children) 147
Total: 4 014
VISA
Consular fee 703 4 х $176 paid in the office of Pony Express.
Visa for 1 year 400 4 х $100
Total: 1 103
TRANSPORT AND PHONE
Rent a car 573 The car – Chevrolet HHR (Standard car). Rentals in Philadelphia airport from Sixt company for 11 days: 7 days at a price of 226 EUR + 4 days for 200 EUR. Total 426 EUR. The car was from a company Alamo (partner Sixt in the U.S.). Child seat and LDW insurance is included in the price.
Petrol 97
Cellphone 18 $ 20 for two phones from Tracfone. Called rare. Enough for 20 minutes incoming & outcoming calls.
Total: 688
ACCOMMODATION
Apartments 100 Lived with volunteers from the Host of Hospitals. Transferred to the organization $ 100 for 12 days.
Food 409
Total: 509
INSTITUTES
Initial evaluation of the child 5 025 $1725 (course for mother and father “What To Do About Your Brain-Injured Child “) + $3300 (first evaluation of child and program assigning) = $5025
Supplements and materials for the program 467
Total: 5 492
COST OF TRIP: 11 806

 

12.2. The second trip

Description Cost, USD Comments
FLIGHTS
Moscow – New York (adult) 1 462 2 adult tickets х $731 + 1 child over 2years. Flights of Aeroflot company. Tickets purchased on the website of Aeroflot 2 months before departure.
Moscow – New York (child) 630
Tyumen – Moscow (adult) 873 2 adult tickets x $ 437 + 1 child over 2years. Flights of Aeroflot company. ickets purchased on the website of Aeroflot 2 months before departure.
Tyumen – Moscow (child) 320
Total: 3 285
TRANSPORT AND PHONE
Rent a car 323 The car – Dodge Avenger (Mid-size car), the company Alamo. Rent at the airport to Philadelphia for a special price “Hotwire Hot Rate”: $ 12.95 x 11 days + $ 72.44 taxes = $ 214.89. The insurance for the car $ 108: “Collision, loss or damage”.
Petrol 64
Taxi 120 A trip to Philadelphia airport and back for rent a car.
Shuttle 250 New York (JFK) – Philadelphia – New York (JFK)
Cellphone 18 $ 18.20 for two phones for 11 days. Incoming calls – 22 min. Outcoming calls – 24 min. We got calls from Russia, and mainly we called on the U.S. numbers and communicated with each other.
Total: 775
ACCOMMODATION
Apartments 1 123 $1123 for 12 дней ($655 for 7 days)
Food 417
Hotel in New York 198 Sheraton JFK Airport Hotel, $197.78 for 1 day.
Hotel in Moscow 277 3390 RUR for 6 hrs. + 5200 RUR for 8 hrs.
Total: 2 015
INSTITUTES
Revisit 4 700 $4700
Supplements and materials for the program 645
Nurse 445 $20 x 22,25 hrs.= $445
Total: 5 790
COST OF TRIP: 11 865