Wednesday, December 24, 2008


Monday marked exactly one month since we left home. We spent it in Odessa.

Every time we go downtown, our bus takes us past a big market called Privoz. We decided to leave Mark at the apartment and headed down there. We had a rare sunny day, so we really wanted to be outside. I am not kidding I think the sun has been out 3 times since we left America.

This market square is very busy. Besides an outdoor market, there is a variety of other stores, as well as an upscale mall. As we have ridden past in the evenings, we have noted that when this place is closed up, it looks like a hurricane went through will all the refuse and empty boxes. Someone must come through every night and clean up the area.

We visited Sergey's orphanage in the afternoon to watch a program that his class put on. The program was about wheat. I guess they are studying it in school.

Wheat is a huge industry in Ukraine. Ukraine has been nicknamed the breadbasket of Europe. I mentioned before that in our travels to the country to visit different places for Valya, every field has been winter wheat. A couple of weeks ago, when we attended church downtown, I was visiting with a missionary from Clear Lake, Iowa. He was telling me about how Ukrainian farmers will come over to America and buy 40 combines at a time. He told me that he knew of some wheat fields that are 110 miles long! One of these days, when we are not in a hurry to fetch documents, I will have our driver stop every once in a while so that I can take pictures. The fields here are large with no fences, usually having only treelines to divide the fields. Back during WWII, the Nazis would ship trainloads of Ukrainian dirt back to Germany.

Anyway, back to the program. The kids had decorated their room with wheat items, including pictures that they had drawn and painted. Most of the kids stood at their desk and recited something from memory. Four boys were spotlighted in the front and made a presentation about the production of wheat. I brought my video camera to record it but oops I forgot to charge it up. It died about 1 min. into the program. Rats this was one-of-a-kind.

After the program, the staff served bread and tea to the adult guests. Besides us Americans, there were other Ukrainians, I assume they were teachers and staff, Grandma Lela, and the orphanage director. The director always seems to show up at these things. The programs don't start until she arrives.

Here's a few pictures from the day.

This is the grocery store that is just across the street from our apartment. We rarely eat out. The fastest way to run out of money on your adoption trip is to eat out for every meal. We cook in our apartment. The sign is the Russian letters for Silvio.

Christmas trees for sale in front of an apartment building. Apartment buildings here are enormous, for the most part. Many of the first floors on the street side of the buildings are full of little markets. Actually, sometimes they are not so little. You may walk into a shop and find that it goes and goes toward the back. You'd never know it from the street.

An electric tram is an alternative to taking the bus. They are cheaper, and faster because they do not get stuck in traffic. But they are more limited in the places they go, and the people really get stuffed in there like sardines. Sometimes we'll be traveling in a bus and suddenly it will stop because a tram is crossing the road. There are no crossing gates. It's a wonder they never collide with traffic. We haven't been in one yet.

At the Privoz market. Imagine a Wal-Mart that was divided up into litle 10-foot stalls and you would pretty much picture it. You can get every household item here - clothing, food, pet supplies, decorations, toys, paintings, and more. One of the stalls had cardboard boxes full of new brasierres. I commented to Nancy that I can't imasgine rummaging through them looking for one. But I guess they do. In this picture, there is a white building on the right in the far distance. It is a 4 or 5 story mall. It provides an interesting contrast with the bustling market outside. As usual, like everywhere else in Ukraine, there are stray dogs everywhere.

This is the street that the market is on. The yellow sign in the foreground is a sign indicating a money exchange shop. They are everywhere. You can always trade dollars for grivna, but it is impossible to get dollars back. The billboard in the distance is advertising cigarettes, something you'd never see in the US. Something else you'd never see is all of the sexuality portrayed in marketing here. It is at a level beyond America. The mall I was telling you about here had nudity in some of the store displays. Also, it is not unusual to see scantily clad models in provacative poses in advertising, even where children go.

FoxMart is one of the few stores that has any signage in English. It is full of electronics and home appliances, kind of like a Sears without the clothing.

Produce at the Privoz market is superior to what you will find in the supermarkets.

Here's a lady selling dried mushrooms.

Cranberries and tomatoes for sale. You can find a vendor with little carts of produce all over town, not just here. They'll just be sitting there on a street corner with a stool. Sometimes they'll have a TV tray looking thing with their wares on it. Talk about a small businessman. We've been warned never to buy food on the street because these people aren't licensed and the food could be bad.

Nancy at a garland booth. This booth literally had only long strands of garland for sale.

This picture gives you an idea of the size of the stalls.

The meat market at Privoz. They have every kind of meat. It is chopped right in front of you. Can't get much fresher than that.

This stray dog found a quiet sunny spot for a nap.

A couple of pictures of the mall next door. The prices are very average for America, but for here must be out of reach for many people. If you sold all of your assets in America and moved here, you could probably live like a king.

After shopping, we went to Orphanage #4 to see Sergey's program. Grisha greeted us downstairs and escorted us up to the room where it was held. The kids wear uniforms for school, like Grisha's. The girls wear a white blouse, black cardigan, black skirt, and dark stockings or nylons.

All of the students had some part in the program. Most stood at their desk, facing the rear where the adults were seated, and recited something.

Four of the students had special parts. It was all spoken in Ukrainian, but I believe they were describing how wheat is grown, harvested, then used in the making of bread. Sergey is the one on the far left in the chef costume.

The director of Orphanage #4 came. After the program, she gave a short talk about how we shouldn't waste food, and that when they have families of their own they should teach their children the value of food. Or something like that.

After the program, they chased the kids out and served tea and sweet bread to the adults. The kids changed clothes and were invited back after a little while to also have the treats.

Nancy visiting with Sheila Nasekos. Jay and Martha Sweeney were also there. They are adopting another boy from #4. The Nasekos' are adopting Karina from Sergey's class.

A table decoration.

Some of the artwork that the children made.

This is Sergey's 6th grade class. There are 15 but three of them are missing in this picture.

This is Tatiana. She is one of the class's supervisors. She is a kind young Christian woman.

We gave the camera to Sergey so that he could take some pictures. It isn't as awkward for him to take a bunch as it is for us.

This is Sergey's classmate Yuri. He missed the program because he was at the hospital having skin grafts. He showed up afterward. Grandma Lela's mission is providing him with medical care for his burns. It is not the kind of thing that the orphanage does. We found out a little about his past. He was a street kid (there are about 900 in Odessa). One night he was sleeping in some kind of container, like a barrel or something, when some other kids set him on fire. He couldn't get out and someone else pulled him out. How he ended up in this orphanage I don't know. His hands are disfigured from the injuries. He has some scarring on his face but has more on other parts of his body. Lela says that the doctors care for him so much. When they treat other people they scream in pain, but he just looks at them and smiles.

After the program the kids took things down and put things away. They are very efficient, like an army (OK maybe a bad analogy for those of you in the Army). Anyway, they get things done licketysplit.

I wanted to include this picture because other times we have visited the orphanage the gymnasium has been locked up. There were kids in here playing during the program. There was a coach in there with a whistle so it must have been PE or something.


Debbie said...

Thank you for posting this so we could see Monday's program and the talent of these precious kids. It's fun to see our sweet girl in her environment (love the artwork)!

I am saddened by Yuri's story, but how wonderful that Lela is helping him get threatment and that he is obviously appreciative of the love and care shown him by the doctors and Babushka herself.

David, Donna and Amber said...

Hey guys, love the pictures of the kids. Hopefully you guys will be coming home soon. Merry Christmas!!

Annie said...

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you!!! Thank you for sharing your though. I really enjoy to read your blog.
God bless you my friends.

Weber Family said...

Alan and Nancy,
Beautiful pictures of all the kids. Day #40 in Ukrian for me was rough. Feeling trapped in a foreign land but needing to be there for my boy was such a mixed feeling inside. The sunshine was such a HUGE deal to me as well. Maybe that is why I didn't see too many smiles around. (I had one, but it was pasted on.) God bless you two. May the Lord's peace that passes all understanding dwell in your hearts. We will also be praying for speed to get ALL of the documents completed.
--Erick and Joni

Brad & Mari said...

Good pictures of the kids & description of the program.

Hope all is going well with your progress and things can get resolved quickly.

Julie said...

Merry Christmas. Thinking of you today. - Julie

Ashley said...

These are all great pictures! I am also saddened about Yuri - how horrible that he went through this. I can't imagine.

Thanks for sharing about the program and showing us pictures. I feel I didn't miss it in some small way. :)