It is Monday morning here. We have been waiting since Thursday for the kids' passports to be ready. Our facilitator, Nataliya, told us they may be ready by Tuesday. So in the meantime, the kids and I have been passing time at our apartment in Odessa as we wait.
I have been doing the cooking around here. I try to get the kids involved as much as I can, especially Valentina, though when I call her over, Sergey usually will come with her. Valya was in her orphanage for 7 years, which means she had some kind of home life for 7 years before that. I have no idea what she had modeled for her as far as responsibilities in the home, so I am assuming she needs to be taught everything and am getting a start on it here. They have both been hosted in America before, and may have helped around the house then, I don't know. We don't have an oven, only a stove and microwave, so that has been challenging. We can get precooked meat, such as roasted chicken, at the deli case in the supermarkets. So it works well to freeze that and then heat it in the microwave. There is, actually, quite a bit that you we do on the stove, we just can't bake.
The other challenge for me has been to find things they will eat. Valya, especially, has been tough. She is accustomed to the food at her orphanage, which is nothing like you or I are used to. This is going to take awhile for her. For example, she doesn't like hamburger, and so far, I haven't found any green vegetables that she likes. The stores here don't have boxes of instant things, like Hamburger Helper or macaroni and cheese. Life would be much simpler if we had the variety in the supermarkets here like we have in America. We also don't have a can opener in the apartment and, so far, haven't found one in any of the stores we've been to. There are some cans in the supermarket, though, that have a pull tab, so I have been buying those. It just has limited my choices.
When the Swinney's left last Wednesday for Kiev, they brought over bag after bag of leftover food and staples, plus games and movies they had borrowed from M. They, in turn, had gotten a lot of food and staples from the Wildeman's and Partch's, so it was like Christmas last week when they were bringing us all of this stuff. We have like 6 or 7 bags of useful items. We are the last American adopting family in Odessa in the group that had their SDA appointments late last year (which seems like forever ago, by the way, our appt. was Nov. 27). So I will be passing on all of our leftovers to M when we leave this week. I am expecting that we will be going to Kiev on Wednesday, but I am not sure. In five days, we have only eaten out three times, and we eat three meals a day. This is saving a lot of money.
We pass the days by playing games, video games, listening to music, watching movies, and walking around a bit. I do not let them watch the TV channels as it is satellite and full of garbage. When I visited both orphanages I observed that the kids watch a lot of music videos. Those days are over for ours.
On Friday, I had taken Valya over to the Aphena mall to pick out some music CD's. I find that I do enjoy their pop music here, even though I can't understand any of it, and I wanted them to have these souvenirs from their homeland. I told Valya that she could pick out three. She spent some time browsing and I just gave her space and the time she needed. She asked if she could have four, and I said OK. CD's are very cheap here, from 27-30 grivna, which is less than $4.00.
We had brought a little portable CD player with us, and you would think the kids had died and gone to heaven! Man they love their music. Valya will put the earbuds in and sing LOUDLY all day long. She is very cute. We also have a little stereo in the apartment so they will play their music that way. I have to keep turning it down, though, as they like it loud! I also ripped the CD's to the laptop so they will listen there, as well.
Yesterday, I had both of the kids with me and I let Sergey pick out 4 CD's as well. He and Valya disappeared for awhile, finally he had his picked out. Then Valya had this big grin and asked if she could have these 3 that she was holding also! They were both giggling and grinning from ear to ear, I said sure. Really, they enjoy these so much and it helps keep them busy all day long, and it is very cheap entertainment. Now we have music playing all day as we play games and hang out.
Sergey had made arrangements with his Godmother, Irina, for us to go visit her. So Friday evening, we took the bus to her apartment and had supper and a nice visit with her, her sister, and her son. We took several pictures. A friend of hers that speaks English also stopped by. That was great and allowed us to visit. I was able to get a better understanding of how she came to be his Godmother and how Sergey ended up at Orphanage #4. Five years ago, she was living in Moscow and had come to Odessa to visit her sister. They attended a service at her sister's church, and a lady said that they were going to bring 15 orphans from the shelter the next day to be baptized. She had asked for people to come that would be willing to be sponsors. Irina said she just went the next day to watch. But when she saw Sergey, their eyes met, and she knew immediately that she wanted to be his sponsor. Sergey has beautiful blue eyes and he has an effect on the ladies! Eventually, the authorities in Odessa wanted to put Sergey in Orphanage #5, but Irina's sister had some authority somehow, and was able to get him placed into #4, which she said was a better one. Irina moved back to Odessa a couple of years ago and has kept in touch with Sergey. In fact, she said that she even wanted to adopt him, but couldn't because she is not married. It is interesting to see how God moves in mysterious ways. A long time ago they called that Providence. We don't hear much about that anymore. But it is amazing.
Yesterday, we went to church and then trekked for 1/2 hr. down to Chevchenko park and the seashore. It was cold, windy, overcast, and drizzly, but we had a great time. I'd like to go back again. Don't know if we'll have the chance, though. There is a beach, and it is common for those that adopt here in the summer to go down their and play. But not this time of year! The Black Sea was crashing along the shore. There is a sea wall over by the Port of Odessa, but not here.
You may be surprised to know, or maybe not, that I have never had a conversation with Valya. Sergey and Valya talk nonstop, but I never know what they are talking about. Very occasionally, if I ask, Sergey will tell me what they were saying. Yesterday, I had a rare glimpse of Valya. She and Sergey were putting on their shoes as we were leaving to go to church, chattering as usual, and I happened to ask what they were talking about (I have given up for the most part because he usually won't tell me). He said he had asked her why she wants to go to America, and she had replied that she wants to have a family. I can't wait for the day to come when we can actually talk to her.
Speaking of which, I am trying to spend a little time with Valya every day teaching her some English, but she is not really motivated right now. Since she has Sergey to talk to, she doesn't really care about it. I have this feeling she will be a lot more motivated when we get to America!
We are making great memories here, even though I'd rather be home. I know that I will look back fondly at our time together and our special bonding opportunity.
Here are some pictures.
Just hanging out.
Roller Coaster Tycoon 2 is Sergey's favorite computer game.
Sergey writes an email to the American family that hosted him last year.
Music keeps the two of them occupied all of the time.
Helping out at meal time. Valya helps with spaghetti and meat sauce. They do not sell spaghetti sauce in the supermarket here, only tomato paste, so I made it from scratch. Nope, neither of them really cared for that, though I thought it was delicious. It is tough to figure out food that they like.
We have a Ukrainian Bible, and I make both of them read it every evening for 15 min.
Visiting Sergey's Godmother and her family. She said that after she had met Nancy and I the day we had court, she knew that we would be a good family for him. She was a wonderful hostess and very gracious, serving us more food than we could eat. We exchanged email addresses and will be able to keep in touch.
On the way to church, we paused for pictures at the McDonald's next to our apartment building. This McDonald's is two stories, with seating upstairs. In the summertime, Odessa has many, many outdoor cafe's. When Nancy, Mark, and I were here in early December, they still had the outdoor tables set up, but they are put away now. The street shown here, Deribasovskaya, is in the heart of downtown. This is early morning and the street is quiet, but it is a major bustling hub for Odessa nightlife. The street is closed to vehicles, only people can be on it.
We visited a small church that is attended by young adults that are in Bible school, or are working in or out of Odessa as missionaries. It was the first time I've had the kids with me in church. Something like this was especially new for Valya.
At the entrance to Chevchenko park. Taras Chevchenko is a very famous Ukrainian author and poet. He appears on Ukrainian money and you can even find monuments to him in Washington DC, Canada, and South America.
No skateboarding, bicycling, or scooters allowed in this park.
The stadium for Odessa's pro soccer team is here. It is being refurbished and expanded.
Goofing around in the park. There are lots of statues in Odessa. I don't know what this is a monument to, but it was dated 1979. Something communist maybe? Though communism is gone, there are still communist-era statues everywhere in Ukraine. Nobody bothers to tear them down. Valya poses as a statue.
These are probably the most expensive apartments in Odessa. They overlook the Black Sea.
At the Memorial to The Unknown Seaman. There is a flame that burns continually.
Kids being kids. Always moving, running, and jumping. Later, Sergey was complaining about being too tired to walk home. I don't wonder why.
At the seashore below the park. This is a popular sunbathing area, but not today! The Black Sea was raging.
Here's a little video of the kids.
A Car Ride
2 months ago