15 August, 2012
We were informed last night that a new family was coming into region on the morning train and that, if it was ok with us, they would be brought to our apartment around 07:15 so they could freshen up before they went to meet their potential new family member for the first time. Of course we agreed and so we were up bright and early this morning. The family arrived as scheduled and we did our best to stay out of the way while they took care of business since they were going to be picked up an hour before we were in order to get to the CSO for a morning appointment. Earlier in the week, Erika had mentioned to one of our friends that there was a need for toys in Caleb’s groupa. The result was a “chip-in” that many of you contributed to, raising a little over $150 in toy funds. Last night we, along with another family currently in region went to one of the toy stores and bought over1000GRN worth of toys. Most were stuffed toys that would sing when squeezed, but we also managed to find some crib toys, a few electronic toys (toy phones, matching games, etc.) for the older kids, some balls, a bright pink bouncy ball, and (my personal favorite) a bright orange cow! You cannot imagine the looks I got last night at the mall, where the toy store was located, and on the walk home as I casually strolled along with an orange cow under my arm. We loaded up all the toys in the driver’s car this morning and headed off to the market for our fruit. After getting our peaches and bananas we arrived at the orphanage. Things seemed a little disorganized this morning and we all seemed to have a little trouble getting our kids. After letting the senior caregiver, a very pleasant and cooperative lady, know that our kids had not yet been brought down; we asked if we could bring the toys to the groupa while we waited. She had no objections so off we went. One of the things to remember while you are here, or in any of the regions for that matter, is to wait until you are invited before you do something. As exciting as it may be for you to play “super spy” and sneak into an area, or to “covertly” take pictures or video, don’t do it; It puts all the hard work that others have done to build trust with the orphanage staff at risk. What we have found in this region, as well as our last, is that the best way to be allowed access to the kids is simply to ask. By taking this course of action we have gone from being denied access to the groupas, to being invited in and encouraged to interact and play with all the kids there. We have developed very friendly and trusting relationships with many of the caregivers and staff because they know that we will not do anything that we have not been given permission to do. Ok, back to the toys. As soon as the caregivers saw us at the door, they waved us into the groupa. We came into the room and held up the bags of toys. I’m really not sure who was more excited, the kids or the caregivers! The caregivers started smiling and talking excitedly as they took off sales tags or took the toys out of their packages and passed them out to the kids. One of the things that I noticed was that every single toy that we had brought since our first visit was either in the playpen or in one of the cribs; none had been set aside as “display” toys. After the toys had been passed out the caregivers began to play with the kids and invited us to do the same, one even indicated to me that it was ok for me to enter the playpen with her. When I noticed a concerned look on a more senior caregivers face I declined, which got me a smile and a “spasiba” nod from her. We played up in the groupa for 10 or 15 minutes and had a great time! Since Caleb was still asleep, we went down and got Jessica from her groupa and spent some time with her. She is making small but steady progress. She got most of her “Man” and “Lady” pictures right, signed “more” when I was feeding her the banana too slowly, and repeated the words “buffalo” and “elephant” with surprising clarity. By that time Caleb was awake and had been brought down so we went outside. Since it was such a beautiful day we went outside, along with the rest of the orphanage it seemed. We had a great time showing some of the older kids the videos of Clare and Malachi at the Danville Science Museum. Erika also passed out gum which didn’t hurt either. A little later we were surrounded by a group of the younger wheelchair boys. They had a good time looking at our family photo book, and also got gum (Erika’s such a sucker!). The boy’s caregiver, who spoke fairly good English, also thought the photo book was pretty special. It turned out that two of the boys were from the last region from which we adopted so she was explaining to them about Malachi and Clare. One of them actually climbed into Erika’s lap and wanted to go through the “magic bag” that all the neat things were coming from. After leaving the orphanage we had a late lunch with the family that had arrived this morning and filled them in on all the important things, such as were the best restaurants and the supermarket are located, and how the public transportation system works here. After that, Erika and I grabbed our bags and headed off to the train station … 60 Kilometers away.