We lost internet at the apartments at 7:30 Sunday morning. I know because I was online when it died. It turns out that some equipment was stolen, and as of Tuesday morning it still does not work yet.
Yesterday was Sergey's big day.
I didn't realize it at the time, but I had already signed Sergey out of the orphanage last Friday afternoon. All that was remaining from me was the Final Decree, which if you'll recall, had a mistake in it and had to be reissued.
Monday at 9:00 I took the bus over to #4, and gave the decree to the social worker. She took me over to the director's office, where the assistant director signed some document, put a stamp on it, and then she said, that is all.
Sergey was in class and some kids that met me at the entrance had gone to fetch him. He came down the steps in the stairwell in his school uniform for the last time. He hurried down to the playroom to change into the other clothes that I had brought him.
I caught up with him there. He was really hustling, ready to be out of there. He was already changed by the time I got down there. He put his school clothes in his closet, went over to a different one and pulled out a suitcase from the bottom shelf. He had already packed it with his things. We had given him a small rolling suitcase when he left us last summer, and he still has it.
A few of his classmates started showing up in the playroom, but were eventually shooed out by a worker.
So it was just the two of us, walking down the long hallway to the exit with suitcase in tow. It was kind of anticlimactic. We would be back at 2:00 again for his going away party.
M had told us that if we went down this one street there would be a hair salon, where we could get Sergey's hair cut. We never did find it and ended up walking probably a mile, where we were able to catch a bus downtown to our apartment.
I had made arrangements to transfer to a larger apartment on Monday. For the last two weeks I have been in a small apartment with just a single bed. The new one has two bedrooms. So Sergey helped me transfer everything. We sat for a couple of minutes to rest, then we were off again. By this time is was 12:00 so we walked over to McDonald's for lunch, which he loves, and I despise. Even though McDonald's is a two minute walk from the apartment, I hadn't been there since our court day when Nancy, Valya, Sergey and I were all together. As I think about it, it seems like a year ago, though it was exactly two weeks ago to the day.
After lunch, we continued our search for a barber. We found a place not far from the apartment but when we went in, the guy said that this salon was very expensive, so we said thanks but no thanks and went on our merry way. The Aphena mall is on the way to the bus stop, so we stopped in to exchange some money and it was back on the bus to #4 again.
We stopped at a grocery store to pick up food and supplies for his party. We bought 18 bananas, a bunch of sliced baloney looking meat, 6 liters of juice, 2 large bags of potato chips, 2 bags of little chocolate candies, plates, and cups. Sergey had already made arrangements for his Godmother, Irina, to come to the party, and she would be bringing a cake.
From there we made the 20 min. hike to the orphanage. When we got there, we started preparations. I put Sergey in charge of that and headed outside for some last pictures of the facility. I had never been on the north side and had always wanted to see it, as I had seen pictures of the children in that area before we came to Ukraine.
There was one spot in particular on the south side where I wanted to take some pictures. We have pictures of Sergey playing there with his friends when he was much younger, maybe 2nd or 3rd grade. Many of the friends in those pictures are gone now, but some are still there. I had asked Sergey, how many of your classmates have been adopted, and he immediately said without hesitation that he was #19. If I had any doubts that the kids took note when a classmate was adopted, they were erased.
I have seen videos and pictures of children in this spot, and I took a few minutes to just stand and look around and let them replay in my mind, knowing that this was the last time I would be here. The place was quiet, as the children were still at lunch. Like ghosts, the children in my mind were playing on the playground equipment, sitting on the brightly colored benches talking, playing hopscotch in the drive. It was bittersweet; in some weird way I would miss this place, as I had visited on countless afternoons over the last two months, and now it was over. When we came back to America for a couple of weeks in January, the crazy irony was that we couldn't wait to get home, but once there, I did miss it. Not because of the place, but because of the kids. Knowing this, I just stood in silence, taking it all in.
After a 1/2 hr. outside, I went back in. Sergey hadn't even STARTED setting up, so I quickly dispatched him to find some tables. By this time the kids were finishing lunch and were starting to show up in the playroom to change clothes. They just change out of their school uniforms right there in the open.
Tables arrived and were put in place, and then the kids just took over setting out the places and divvying up the food.
Grandma Lela and Alyona were there. Alyona is a lady that has helped us occasionally with our adoption process while we are here. She was our translator in court, for example. We were waiting for M to arrive, and Alyona was there, so I asked her to translate for me. I wanted to say some things to the kids. We called them over to sit on the floor in a group. I told them how thankful I was to them for making Nancy, Mark, and I feel so welcome, and for being our friends while we were here. I had stayed awake most of the night before thinking about them and praying for them, and I had thought about what I wanted to say to each one. So one by one, I called them up to stand by me and I held each one in my arms and told them something positive about them and how important they are. Kids like it when you do that and that never happens here. While I wouldn't have chosen to be here for two months, that did allow me to get to know the kids. I told each one that I was praying for them that they would get a family. It was especially hard to share with a couple of them as the tears came.
While we were in America during the break, we printed out hundreds of copies of photos we took in December. I had sorted them all out and prepared a packet of photos for each child of him and his friends. I told them that I had more from January and I would send them when I got back to America. I have seen that orphans love pictures of themselves. They have no cameras of their own and they love these mementos. When you think about how many photos you take of your own kids growing up, to know that these kids are growing up with none is very sad. They hang on to them as treasures. While we were there, some of the kids that did have pictures wanted to show them to us.
M finally arrived, poor thing broke her toe at her apartment the day before and it takes her awhile to get around. The kids enjoyed their food then for the most part scattered. In all, it was a pretty subdued party. Sergey's Godmother arrived later with her cake and several of the kids showed up, so we ate again.
Through M, I was able to have a nice visit with Irina. I had been curious how she came to be Sergey's Godmother. The way it turned out was that Irina was visiting her sister in Odessa and someone in their Orthodox church said that they wanted to have children in the shelter baptized and they were looking for volunteers to serve as sponsors. So somehow, Irina was Sergey's sponsor. Irina has lived in Moscow for 30 years but has since moved to Odessa. It is nice that she is still interested in him. I told her that after we get Valya to Odessa we would like to visit her. She would like that.
Luba stayed close to me as we were visiting. This is the first time I've really had a conversation with her, as M was there with us and was able to translate. She is so sweet and really wants a family, but she has 3 other siblings that would also have to be adopted with her. Earlier, when I had her come up in front of the kids, I told her that I prayed that she would find a really close friend to love and that would love her. Her name, Luba, means love, and I told her that I think she has a lot of love inside of her that she needs to share.
Soon it was time to leave, and I was glad at this point that there were not many kids around. M, Irina, Sergey, and I all left together. I took one last look down the hall, and that was it.
We all took the bus downtown. Irina went her way, while we 3 went to visit an American family that lives downtown for a small Superbowl party. The Swinney's came by and we had pizza and treats. M had tivo'd the game and we watched it on her computer. We had fun. Since our internet has been down at the apartment, the Swinney's brought their computer along and were able to make travel arrangements to Kiev. They will be leaving Wed. afternoon. They have been in Odessa for 9 weeks and they are ready to be out of here.
Sergey and I had to leave at halftime as we needed to be on the road at 8:00 in the morning. We are going to Rozdilna today to work on Valya's birth certificate. We're not entirely sure when we will be able to come back to America, but our facilitator says things are going smoothly so far. She spent the day in Rozdilna yesterday working on Valya's property issue.
Here are some pictures from the day.
I was a witness to a dream come true. Sergey smiled and smiled as we checked out from #4. Looking back, I find the whole thing very humbling. What a profound impact we have had on his little life. The hopes and dreams of an orphan now rest on our family. How in the world did we get to this point... Where will we go from here...
After we got to the apartment, Sergey helped move everything to a bigger one. Our old one was on the 4th floor, the new one is on the 3rd. There is no elevator. The Aphena mall, in Greek Square, as seen from the 4th floor balcony.
If these walls could speak... Took some time to be nostalgic in spots where Sergey and his friends used to play children's games.
The front lobby at the entrance. It was sad to see a child sitting alone in the dark here in the late afternoon as I was arriving or leaving.
A sad looking dog. Maybe he was sad to to be left behind, too.
The kids enjoy treats at Sergey's going away party. This wasn't his home anymore, he was there as a visitor this time.
The last moments with Luba. I'm still in Odessa and I already miss the kids.
This is really it. Sergey leaving with M and his Godmother.
Goodbye #4. This is the end of the story for us at this place. We will not be visiting again. Best wishes to you who will be coming here for your children. We will follow your blogs with great interest.
A Day in my Real Life
3 weeks ago