Friday, 25 May
It was bound to happen at some point…we experienced our first real challenge related to culture and tradition today. In the end it will all be OK, but the day was not one of our better ones.
The day started out pretty typical; we hung out at the apartment until about 11:30 when Sasha picked us up and drove us to the Internet Café. I updated the blog and started adding photos while Mark checked out the downtown shops. At 1:00 Sasha picked us back up and we drove to the orphanage where we met Sveta, Lisa, and Fred.
We stood outside and waited for the girls while Sveta went inside and spoke with the orphanage staff, but then a few minutes later, we were all called inside. The director spoke with us for a few minutes to share some requests regarding communication and gifts, and she also asked us to bring some fruit for all the children so that they would also feel special. Then she asked that we limit our time with the kids to about an hour today, and stay on the grounds of the orphanage. Apparently something had happened unrelated to us, but she felt that her traditions and culture were being disrespected.
We were told at this point that we could play with the girls for about an hour, so we waited for them to come out; when they did, we talked with them for a few minutes, Sveta explained that we were not going to be allowed to go to town today, but that we could play at the orphanage. We were just spreading out to start throwing the Frisbee when an orphanage worker came out and called the girls in for lunch. We had seen them for about 10 minutes.
We were then told that they had lunch and then dance practice, and that we could see them from 4:00 to 5:00. We said our goodbyes, and decided to go get some lunch ourselves, and then go to the store to buy fruit.
Sveta took us to a wonderful pizzeria that was sort of like Subway, in that the ingredients were right there in front of you, and you could pick what went on your pizza and see that it was all fresh. But the best part was the air conditioning. On yet another Africa Hot day, this place was cool and comfortable….and the tables were thick slabs of granite that were cool to the touch; arms rested on the table worked to cool the whole body!
So we went to Amstor and bought fruit. We bought apples and oranges and kiwis. We bought 300 grivna of fruit. That’s a whole cartload of fruit. We should have taken a picture of the cartload of fruit, but we were a little preoccupied. We also picked up several bottles of water for the girls since it was very hot outside.
We drove back to the orphanage, and after a couple of minutes, the girls came outside. We were invited to carry the fruit upstairs, and were able to see the space where the girls live. Based on what we expected to see from pictures of other orphanages, we were thrilled to see the conditions these kids live in. They had two very large rooms, with a couch and TV, an area with desks for studying, and a kitchenette. After this, we went back outside and we started playing our own strange version of Monkey in the Middle.
The stress of the trip and of adjusting to a different environment and the general emotional drain of the situation have been wearing on me more than I was aware. As kids spilled out of the orphanage to play, tossing Frisbees and balls, and laughing and giggling, I stood at the side and cried, totally overwhelmed by it all.
Masha and her friend Lena noticed that I was upset and asked Sveta why I was crying. She covered for me nicely and said that sometimes when adults are really happy, they cry, and that I was just so happy to see Masha playing with her friends. The two girls came over and hugged me and sat on either side of me. Lena asked Sveta how to say “Don’t cry” in English….and she kept hugging me and stuck right by my side for the rest of the time we were there.
I pulled it together long enough to smile a lot and say our “good-byes” and “see you tomorrows” before we piled into the car and left. We went straight to Papa Karlos to hop online and make a couple of phone calls on Skype, and then headed home, exhausted.
Tomorrow is another day….