It is 4:00 PM here and it was raining this morning. My fever appears to be gone for the moment and I have a really bad sore throat and body aches just like Olesya and Josh had a couple weeks before we left,, but otherwise I am intact and not wanting to lose our last day here we got up and moving later today.
You know, for kids like ours, part of the point of this trip is NOT just about visiting iconic places like the Empire State Building or the Statue of Liberty. When you have the double whammy working against you with 3 of the kids' lives severely narrowed by orphanage life, and 2 others lives narrowed by mere virtue of where we live, these sorts of experiences are terribly important...at least in our mind. We live in a small town of 17,000 people with little to no diversity. Frankly speaking, it would not be too far off the mark (and my Montrose loved ones could attest to this fact) to say that our sons often ARE the diversity in Montrose!! The LaJoy's create that diversity in many non-traditional ways...hahahaa! But when in public school they were the only Asians in a student population of 560 kids. Then there were the girls and Kenny who had never seen a black person prior to being adopted. I still remember Angela saying quite loudly as she pointed to a true African woman in the Frankfurt airport..."Ohh...black Mama!!!!!"
We know many kids from Cub Scouts at our kids' former school who had been to Denver only once in their life. Yea, 10 years old and they had basically never left their hometown. For them, the hour trip to Grand Junction was a huge deal. Perhaps it is our background of coming from Southern California and Dominick from Chicago originally. Maybe it us the fact that even I had little opportunity to see much beyond my own city growing up, with my honeymoon being my first real vacation. Or maybe it is wanting our kids to imagine a life beyond Montrose, to understand that people live very differently even just across America, let alone across the world. In our minds, we see our children growing up in a very different era, one where a global economy and the internet certainly have changed the playing field and understanding other cultures will be more important than perhaps we can even anticipate. All of the above are important reasons for us to make the effort it takes to get them out in the world a bit. With 3 of the five kids coming to us half grown, we have very little time in which to do that.
So, we make it a priority. We need to prepare them for wherever their lives may take them, be it a big city, remaining in a small town, or something in between. In 4 days, this trip has done a lot to accomplish that. I realized that when sharing with you on the prior blog posts what Angela's comments were about the beauty of diversity.
On our first day, after we left the Statue of Liberty we walked through Battery Park. Josh had a treat when a street performer had snakes with him and offered to let the kids hold them. Of course, all of us squealed as Joshie stepped forward with bright eyes saying "Oh yea....I'll do it!". He loved it! Angela admitted afterward that she stepped forward to hold the snake afterward as she laughed and said "Well Joshua is only 8, I am 13 and couldn't let him beat me!" Dominick did it as well, but it was quite obvious he was not very comfortable with it. The rest of us kindly declined the offer :-) No regrets on that one.
Unintentionally we had another terrific learning opportunity plopped literally right in front of us as we left Battery Park on the Tour Bus. Traveling through the financial district we found ourselves right in the middle of a large protest, and our bus was delayed about 30 minutes while we worked our way through the thousands of people who were protesting the possible cut of over 6000 school teachers from the NYC budget. The throng was noisy and a bit chaotic, and at first the kids were a little scared by it all. Angela in particualr was afraid of violence because there were a lot of police around for traffic control. We have a long discussion sitting there on the top of our double decker bus about peaceful protest and the right to assemble. I explained that what they were witnessing was what made America the place it was...the right to criticize the actions of our government openly without fear of injury or death. I pointed out that although the participants were loud, they were still being peaceful and no one was being hurt. They all relaxed a bit and continued to watch and read signs, trying to understand it all. There were also comments about how in Kazakhstan or Kyrgyzstan, this alone might lead to death. Dominick and I thought of the irony of being there are that moment on a homeschool field trip while these folks were fighting to keep teachers in the classroom so students weren't shoved into even larger herds...I mean classes...to learn. 6000 is a huge number of teachers to be lot , just less than 10% if Wikipedia's figures of 80,000 teachers in NYC is to be believed. I have pictures of the kids reactions to it which I'll post if they go through. All said this was one of the highlights of their trip!
Pictures will follow this post, might take me 2-3 posts.