“A journey, I reflected, is of no merit unless it has tested you.”
― Tahir Shah
Well, we have arrived at Day 11. I know that many of you have been wondering what’s been happening and how it’s been going, but I wanted to wait this first week out before putting pen to paper… or fingers to keyboard, I guess. To sum it up… it has been a rough week – no real way to sugar coat it. And, as you know, we are no strangers to bumpy roads… but I must say this has even given me a run for my money.
Now there are a number of things to keep in mind. These kids, who likely have a traumatic past, were brought to a country and dropped off with a family that they don’t know. They are surrounded by a language that they don’t know that uses an alphabet that is unidentifiable. And, despite our best efforts and the miracle of online translation programs… there is definitely a language barrier. AND just one day after their arrival we traveled to New Jersey for our week at the beach – 24 people, boardwalk, food everywhere.
And this is all important information to keep in mind… and, believe me, I am doing my very best to keep this in mind.
So… here’s the scoop…
Aleksei is very small for his age (7) but he is a powerhouse. He is very strong and athletically inclined. Clearly the language barrier applies to him as well but he has demonstrated the ability to work thru it. As I mentioned he is 7 and he certainly behaves like a 7 year old… which is no surprise. He is good at playing with others and also very capable of entertaining himself. The only real challenge with him is the occasional pouting episode when he doesn’t get his way… but if you don’t play into it… he turns it around. I would say most things with him are age-appropriate.
Mariya is 9 and extremely head strong. She can be very helpful but has a difficult time entertaining herself or playing with others when she is not the main attraction. This can be kind of exhausting. We have discovered, however, that they must have Sponge Bob in Ukraine (as if I ever should have doubted this) – so that allows for some downtime. Now, one thing that we know about these kids is that they came from a single mother… we do not know the circumstances that led to them being placed in an orphanage… but with any story that you can conjure up… there is little doubt that whatever relationship they had with their mother was likely not a good one. So, I am sure that I am getting the “best” that Mariya has to give… and this has proven to be a real challenge for me. I don’t have a problem dealing with sulking or frustration… but I do have a problem with being yelled at (by anyone really but especially a nine year old)… and Mariya does a lot of yelling. And, while I cannot understand what she is saying – I am certain that it is not appropriate and totally unacceptable) So, last week we were put in touch with the facilitator, Dima, in Ukraine to try to get her back on track. This worked for a couple of days… but I am fearful that the effect of that phone call is wearing thin. However, the mere mention of Dima’s name brings an immediate and clear response. So… time will tell. It is hard to peel the layers when you don’t know what the layers are.
Rachel is doing the best that can be expected I think. She definitely has established a friendship with Aleksei and has been very helpful with both kids. Unfortunately, Rachel was also the lucky recipient of a tongue lashing from Mariya so this relationship is a bit strained. She is also experiencing what it’s like to have another girl in the house… which is a challenge. All of a sudden there is someone who likes similar things and so sharing has taken on a different meaning. I think Rachel is also feeling a bit like the 2nd fiddle… since these kids have been the main attraction everywhere we go. However, both Rachel and I keep reminding ourselves that they have only been here for a week and it was a big week and, to be fair, we really have to see how things go when we have some normal days.
One very big cultural difference surrounds food… not the type of food – the quantity and availability of food. We are trying to keep some structure because while Aleksei doesn’t eat much… I’m pretty sure Mariya would eat all day long if given the opportunity. And they are going back to life in Ukraine in just a few weeks… which is going to be difficult on many levels – including food. They do like sweets of course, but they also eat a lot of vegetables… loving onions, tomatoes, etc. The first day that they were here, Mariya found a garlic bulb and proceeded to peel a number of cloves and eat them raw. It took days to “de-garlic” her and this happened the day before we all got into the car for a 4-hour trip… ugh! Now I hide those types of foods and we just have them occasionally because regardless of their health benefits… the aroma is just too much.
So, that pretty much sums up Week 1+. Both kids are doing well picking up English. They both love the water… which is great. Over the next 3 weeks we will have different family members (my niece Ellie and my folks) coming to our house to help out during the day (including 6 days when we will be hosting one of the travel chaperones from Ukraine)… allowing me to go back to work. This will be helpful in assessing what normal living would be like with these kids and whether we are able to provide what they need. As you know… this hosting program is separate and apart from the adoption process… but it has given us an opportunity to test-run this relationship.
So, please keep all of us in your prayers. Specifically pray for patience… lots and lots of patience.