Resilience seems to be the word that presents itself to me today. Do you ever have that happen to you? Maybe you have to be a "word" person to have that happen. Sometimes a word that is not used in every day conversation comes up and then I notice it is sort of a "theme" word and reappears over and over for a few days, so I take notice of it and try and figure out what God is trying to get me to pay attention to. That is one of the ways I feel God speaks to me. Might seem crazy to you all, but when I say God is "talking" to me, I have never heard this booming James Earl Jones-like voice surrounding me...it is always little quirky things that others might find me nuts for taking as God-talk, or it is intuition, gut instinct, interesting timing...or as one of my blog posts from awhile back talked about "Divine Coincidence".
Today I ventured out of the apartment for the first time in several days. The sinus stuff is gradually fading and I am slowly feeling more human. Not human enough to want to stay out long or go far but I took Matt and Josh to the store to grab some paper towels and a few other sundries.
Walking along the ice packed road behind our apartment I was struck by how quickly everything had changed. We have had no snow for a couple of weeks, and what was once a crunchy white blanketed walk has now a slick, filthy path. Everything is covered by 6-8 inches of ice build up and tire ruts create mini-slippery slopes for your feet to try and find footing on. The little pock marks covering every walkway made by the fast walking high heels that have traveled over it are filled up and packed down, like the face of an adult who had acne as a teen...smoother and yet always present. What caught my attention though was that there is a film of exhaust and grime on everything...a coating of gray covers it all. It actually is more fitting as it blends in with the crumbling cement sided apartment buildings more than the white snow did. Funny how fresh snow can make even the most desolate of environments feel almost magical with it's accompanying softness and silence.
I walked into Corona with my boys at my side, feeling all the world as if I was walking in the front door of the Montrose Walmart where a familiar faced greeter would be standing there to press a happy face sticker on the front of one of the boys' shirts and direct me to a shopping cart. We have come to "live" here in a way I didn't expect. Walking up to Dominick's bread lady, she hopped up off her stool and had a cheery smile for me, rattling away in Russian as if I understood every word but trying to communicate as best she could, with me picking up a bit on the fact she was wanting to know if we had a "machina" or car to come back and forth to the store in. Casual conversation as the cookie lady across the aisle was smiling and attempting to make small talk as well. How much we have missed by not speaking the language, and how nice it has been to have encounters with strangers become less strange. We are foreigners in a foreign land who definitely have a foreign looking family and yet gradually that has slipped away and we have simply become "The Americans" with the Kazakh boys.
As the countdown continues I realize that I will feel a great sadness when we leave, knowing we will never return again. Yea, I know I felt that way each time but this time it is for real. While there are times we have been frustrated or even fed up for brief moments, it is not the place we want to leave...it is the home we want to return to...the friends we miss...that draws our thoughts away from being fully present here.
But I know the lesson I will take away from here and this trip, more than any other trip here, is the lesson of the resilience of the human spirit. It has been woven throughout this experience in so many ways. Living among those whose lives were created and will eventually end in this place, experiencing a tiny sliver of what their day to day existence is like, my respect for their tenacity and resilience to survive this environment has grown exponentially. And it is almost laughable to say we have experienced a slice of true life here, for it is hard to see that as true when we live in a huge apartment with running (albeit crunchy) water, have enough money to buy food each day, don't fret about paying $2 for a taxi to take us where we want to go, have all kinds of mini-luxuries that here are NOT taken for granted like DVD players, nice smelling soap and shampoo, paper towels and 5 liter water bottles that Alexander has asked we save for him. Daily I am impressed with a people who manage to look so immaculate, be so well educated, and live without running water or more than 3 sets of clothes. Here there are people who worry about having enough tenge to cover the cost of a loaf of bread, a woman of at least 60 years old who is shoveling snow outside our apartment to feed herself, a curb crew of 20 people or so that works outside in the mind numbing cold using shovels to clear ice and snow from the curbs by hand. It is almost insulting to say we have experienced life here to any degree considering the wealth we are here with.
And yet they are fruitful and multiply, the inhabit an almost uninhabitable land under soul deadening circumstances. They continue on, they muscle through, they hold out hope for a future that will be different for their own children.
There is resilience in myself, for I have done something that 10 years ago I might never have fathomed was in me to do. I had never been on an airplane until I was 30 years old, my honeymoon was the first vacation I had ever really had...and here I sit at 43 having traveled around the world an equivalent of 3 1/2 times, remained in a foreign country alone for 2 weeks with no language and no other adult as I cared for 3 children, I have powered through acres worth of trees of adoption paperwork, I have reached out to others who were foreign in many ways to me and my way of life, I have mommy'd children whose hurts have broken my own heart and have much more in front of me...and yet I too have discovered a resilience in myself that I never knew existed.
The one that gives me the greatest hope and faith in the human spirit is our daughters. It is stunning to me to think of all they have endured, all they have been bereft of, and yet they stood emotionally naked in front of us saying without words "Here we are, we will try yet again...will someone finally love us?". Olesya's reactions yesterday, her delight and anticipation and desire to simply "belong" brought tears to my eyes. Angela's shy small steps do the same thing. How can they have the ability to do this yet again? I would have turned tail and run at the sign of anyone who said "I love you" after having my love mangled and thrown back in my face so often in this world, after really never having ANYONE love me...how can they be certain we won't do the same thing to them? How can they trust us? I am under no illusions that they fully trust us yet, that will have to be earned. But their remarkable resilience allows them to go back in to the ring, head held high, gloves up and a grin saying "Come on, Life...throw me another one...I can take it!". Please Lord, let this time they be the ones standing with their fists thrust in the air, finally victorious.
I am learning great lessons here in the Land of Resilience...it is presented to me in many forms...tangible and intangible.