Sunday, 27 May
Even after a full night’s sleep, we are still waking up tired. A combination of being in the sun, and being hot, and sleeping on beds that we are not accustomed to…
Shortly after we woke up, Sveta called to tell us that she had spoken with the Director on last night, and she had suggested that we all take the girls to the beach today. She said that the girls had swimsuits, so we just needed to bring towels and entertainment. Mark took a quick walk around the neighborhood to see if he could pick up a set of trunks, as neither of us brought a swimsuit, but he didn’t have much luck.
Sasha picked us up at 12:15, and we managed to communicate to him that we needed to exchange some money. He tried three places before they found one that was open, but we had cash again…helpful if you want to eat around here, as pretty much no one takes credit cards.
Fred and Lisa arrived at the orphanage with Sveta about the same time, and the girls appeared a couple of minutes later, with bathing suits under their clothes. I noticed the strap of Masha’s bathing suit was tied funny, and Masha explained that she had done that so that the other kids wouldn’t see it under her clothes and get jealous that they couldn’t go the beach….Maybe she did get out point from yesterday; that was very considerate of her! She also used that opportunity to let us know that the bathing suits here were two-piece rather than the one-piece suits we were used to in America, so that we would not be surprised when we got there.
We decided to get some pizza for lunch, and then were off to the beach. As the girls started removing layers of clothes, we saw that Amina had a really cute two-piece with a flap on the top that covered her belly, and Khrystyna’s had pretty good coverage as well. Then off came Masha’s dress. And all the blood rushed out of my head. There, on my little 12-year-old daughter, was the ittie bittiest, teenie weeniest blue string bikini I had ever seen. The only consolation was that it wasn’t a thong!
We quickly rushed her into the water so Mark and I could get over our shock. We all agreed that photos should only be taken from the neck up, and that Mark needed to start polishing his baseball bat. Lisa and I discussed techniques for explaining modesty in the US culture. But overall, the girls had a great time, and I guess we sorta got used to it. All the important parts were covered up. It wasn’t what we would have chosen for her, and we will have the opportunity to correct that starting in a couple of weeks. Until then, we just go with the flow.
For you culture-watchers out there…there were only a couple of topless women at the beach. The men, though, pretty much all wore little tiny speedos, and most of them do not have the physique to pull it off!
The other odd element of this beach—it was placed adjacent to a large shipyard for one of the steel mills. It was very strange to be a couple hundred yards from an active shipyard, and to see the various container ships lined up in the channel waiting to come in to the yard.
So the girls played in the water, and played in the sand. At one point, Masha grabbed something off the beach and started digging a hole. As soon as Mark saw it, he stopped the digging…it was an old rusty tuna can. Suspecting that the Director might get upset if we sent her back with tetanus, Mark removed the can, and let the girls continue digging with their hands. They dug a very respectable hole, and when the guys asked if they were digging a hole to China, they replied, “No, America!”
Time at the beach flew by quickly, and it was soon time to head back. As Masha was drying off, she began complaining that she had water in her ear. Shaking her head and pounding on it (my preferred techniques) weren’t working. So Sveta gets an idea. She looked at me with a total straight face, and asks “Do you have a stick?” Like I’m gonna rip a stick off a tree and cram it in my daughter’s ear? (In her defense, she meant a Q-tip, but didn’t know what to call it!)
No Q-tips available, Sveta’s issued an edict that all car windows in both cars should be closed for the trip home, since everyone had wet heads. Keep in mind that it’s about 87 degrees out, and these cars do not have air conditioning. Heat notwithstanding, we all piled into the cars and headed back to the orphanage with the windows closed. I started getting really sick in the car on the way there, but it’s a small price to pay to prevent, um, ….well, something.
We did learn that Masha had been at a camp last summer where we won some swimming competitions, and that she was interesting in joining a swim team when we get back home. Anyone who knows anything about the swimming scene in Fort Wayne, please drop me an email?
We got to talking a little more about what else she likes, and while she wouldn’t volunteer anything, she did also answer that she liked camping when we asked. So that can go on the list of things to do when we get home! The upside of horrible Ukrainian public restroom facilities is that even the pit toilets in the “rustic” campgrounds will be ok with her….hopefully!
After we droped her off, we headed back home for a shower and a little nap before getting together with Lisa and Fred for dinner. We decided to try a restaurant near our apartment that seemed popular. We were thrilled when we walked in to find it almost chilly—air conditioning is something we’ve really come to appreciate!
Upon learning our challenges with the Russian language, the waitress was very kind and accommodating, she helped us through the menu using her limited English and pointing and miming. Everything was going pretty well until she pointed out the chicken. One chicken dish contained a chicken leg or thigh…and then the next was chicken breast. The poor woman turned crimson as she said chicken and then quickly waved her hand across her chest and then burst into laughter! We all howled, but we got the idea! We thought it would be better to not order the Chicken Chest!
We had a lovely adult dinner with just the four of us, and it was really nice to just be able to have a fun evening with friends. It’s really surprising how much energy this takes. It doesn’t seem like we are doing all that much. We have time to sleep in, we don’t do much in the evening. But it takes a lot of energy to function in such a different environment, to build parent-child bonds with kids who don’t speak English, and to deal with so many unknowns. It tests your patience and flexibility, but it’s worth every bit!