Today was the Big Day, and it started off with Matthew and I again awake at barely 4:00 AM...wish this jetlag would leave us behind! We all got up and dressed and were on our way to the orphanage with Saule and her son Kuba by 7:30 AM. When we arrived at Belovodskoe it was a mild, sunny spring morning and there wasn't a child in sight! The orphanage Director, a kindly Russian woman, met us outside and surprised us by knowing enough about our family to remember Matthew and Joshua's names. She led us inside and straight to her office where we were told a bit about Toktogul and then asked if we had any questions, which we did. We learned that his birthday is not October 15th as we had been told but November 15th. We also learned he was abandoned at the Bishkek Baby House about 2 months after birth and that there is absolutely no birth parent information available. He is one of the best students in his class and we were told that we would have to be vigilant because he is extremely curious about everything. We were told that he has had 4 surgeries and is "done", but later learned that might not be the case. She also said that he deserved a good, loving family and that he was a very good boy who was much loved.
We were then led down a hallway to where hs family group lived, but the room was empty. A caretaker was there and went to get Toktogul, so we all stood there quietly waiting...
Suddely, in walks our little boy accomapanied by his favorite caretaker who immediately started to weep. He walked right up to us and gave us a big hug, and then the boys as well...despite his apparent ease with everything, he was breathing so hard I thought he would hyperventilate and was obviously very, very aware that this was a big moment in his life. My first impression was that he was smaller than we had most recently thought, but that he was actually the size I had originally assumed him to be...about 3-4 inches shorter than Matthew and he wore the smallest sized shoes we brought along. His hair is short cropped at the moment and he has slender arms and legs but is actually fairly solidly built. He turned and saw his caretaker crying and ran to her, kissing her several times and hugging her, then turned back to us. The room was pretty quiet, none of us saying too much as he slowly took it all in. He was clinging on to a plastic shopping bag that contained a very few personal items...the scrapbook we sent, some candy, and oddly enough some slippers. He hadn't been around us 5 minutes before he offered us candy from his bag. We learned he had just given the Russian-English book we sent him to his best friend, telling everyone that he was going to America and would learn English therebut his friend might need the help.
After a few moments when he showed us his bed and the rest of the area, we walked down to the Director's office, past an indoor terrarium that contained a full sized banana tree, and there he changed clothes into the ones we brought him. He showed us photos and a note with his caretakers address and phone number that she had given him and he had stored inside our scrapbook. Then, just like that, it was over and we were ready to leave. We walked outside accompanied by the Director, a Doctor and his caretaker and stood there for a moment watching all 3 boys who were goofing around together already. Dominick asked them each to say something to Toktogul and he videotaped their messages to him. The all 3 boys piled into the back of the van and with more window kisses directed at his caretaker, we were off!
We went to lunch where we were able to sit back and watch the boys playing at a playground area, and where we could watch in awe how much Tokotgul ate. He refused to go back to playing because he was still eating...and I mean EVERYTHING. Saule made a great point that children from an orphanage will eat so much at first not just because they are hungry physically, but because their souls feel empty as well. She has been incredible, helping by our side all the while directing Toktogul to ask us or pay attention to us rather than herself. She did a lot of preparation with him for this adoption and it paid off, he was as ready as any child could be for this kind of life changing event.
Toktogul is very bright and a quick thinker, and has a quick wit and catches on to jokes fast. He is extremely kind and helpful to others, and was particularly watchful of Joshua. He has a great laugh and today we heard it often.
We also encountered resistance often to direction or telling him "no", and by the middle of the afternoon he was actually a bit angry a time or two...so,the honeymoon wore off quickly :-) The fact is, he has never been constantly corrected on a regular basis and needs patience to teach him that "no" means "NO". Understandably he also hasn't been taught the finer social graces and ocassionally grabs things from you or pushes in without a thought. There is no meanness to this, it is simply a lack of parenting and with time (and no doubt a few battles) will be corrected. Thankfully his good humor doesn't leave him angry long and his smile is quick to return thus far.
There was the additional overload on his senses that also contributed to some of it, surely, and we decided to come back to the hotel for the afternoon and just hang out quietly and eat dinner here. After some down time things improved markedly and although we still had some "selective listening" the control battles weren't as strong. We actually had a lovely evening all together after everyone had their meltdown in the afternoon...we ate a light dinner of salami and cheese and chips out on the patio deck where it felt more like we were in Southern California rather than Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan. The hotel has a very nice garden area and swimming pool, and we went for a walk on the railroad tracks behind our hotel just to explore. We played cards all together and laughed and laughed, and relaxed.
Things we discovered today were:
1) Toktogul had his first taste of soda today, Sprite, and was hooked!
2) He can not use a straw, and when he laughed we noticed it appeared his palate had not been closed completely...although we have not opened his mouth like a horse to check it out, but that could explain the straw issue too.
3) He had never seen a railroad track
4) He didn't know what salt and pepper were
5) He did not know how to wipe his bottom appropriately and then was absolutely stunned to learn that you actually put the toilet paper in the toilet rather than the trash can. Americans are VERY different!
6) It doesn't matter whether you speak English or not, Superman movies are cool!
7) We don't spit cherry pits on the floor in a restaurant
8) We learned "on" and "off" while playing with the lightswitch 6729 times.
In many, many ways it is like being with a toddler who has no fear of traffic, no clue about household equipment, etc. and yet there is an older kid lurking in there hiding that pops out sometimes.
Overall, it has been a day to remember forever...a nerve wracking morning, a stressful afternoon, and a lighthearted evening foretelling our future. We know it is a long road and actually, for us, the journey is really just starting. Toktogul has so much to learn, so much he has missed, and it is our job to fill in the gaps of that life experience. But I can honestly say that he IS a perfect fit for us, and although we have moments where we are struggling as we teach him new things we are completely surprised at how "right" this feels, how much he doesn't feel like a stranger in our midst, which frankly, is what I expected. Maybe I'll wake up tomorrow and feel differently but watching three bare naked bottoms walk past me and into the bathtub together I felt it was all exactly what it was meant to be.
Tokie is a remarkable child, and this means so much to him as evidenced by his saying his name loud and clear after dinner tonight...it was obvious he had been practicing..."Kenneth Toktogul LaJoy", from his own lips.
So here we are, a family, perfect in our imperfection.