Sorry for the delay in posting. We were without internet our last day in Petropavlovsk so our bill could be calculated, and then it took until late last night for us to have internet access set up here. There was some sort of problem but now it has been resolved. I'll try and catch you up over the next couple of days.
We had a hectic last full day in Petro as we spent the afternoon shopping with the girls for a little party for their family group. We took them to Taiga and told them they have 6000 Tenge to buy enough for about 30 people. At first it seemed hard for them to know where to start, and it is quite obvious neither of them has ever had much experience handling money. So we gave them a quick lesson in not clutching their Tenge in their hands out in public, about thinking about how much they had spent and how much they had left remaining, and to make sure they had enough for all they wanted to buy. Being in Taiga and the chaos that surrounds it is not the best place for these lessons, but it was a start.
They went nuts, and we told them the boys had agreed to be their "slaves": for the afternoon and carry everything for them. The grinned at that, and were off and running. They bought juice and soda, a couple of kinds of nuts which seem to be a real treat, several different pastries and candies. Then we headed back to the Regional Boarding School for their last goodbye.
We came in and a beautiful older girl named Anya kindly took over arranging everything on plates, and the other kids quickly set up several tables. While everything was being set up we met a lovely woman, Becky, who came by specifically to see us...yet again another lost opportunity for friendship as we enjoyed her very much for the short time we got to be with her. She is a Peace Corps. volunteer working every day at the orphanage helping in English classes, and has been there since November. The girls had mentioned her a week before and we were so glad to have the chance to at least meet her and hope to continue getting to know one another via email.
My friend. Zhazira joined us and we visited for a short time, but soon, it was time for us to leave. The girls were ready and neither one showed much hesitance about going. They had to leave everything behind with the exception of cards, photos, and notes of which many were ones received by us over the years. We brought clothes for them to change into, including underwear and shoes, and the rest we were requested to leave behind for the other children to wear. We were happy to oblige and I actually saw Tanya wearing a lightweight jacket that one of the girls had been sent by us years before and had long since outgrown. I loved seeing Nastya in another one of the shirts that we had sent.
As we were waiting in the hallway of their group, one of the boys came up to me and said "the girls are crying", which I expected. I went into their bedroom to find that it was not they who were crying but their friends who are all going to miss them very much. Shoura, Tanya and Natasha were all in tears and I hugged them all and said we would send lots of pictures. How hard it must be to see your friends leave, one by one, for families. Some of these children will never be legally free for adoption and live in limbo for their entire childhood. Some have a relative or two who love them and come to visit, but many do not. These children become their family, the only family they have ever really had that has been stable and permanent.
We have been overwhelmingly impressed with the children we have met at the RBS. They were all extremely polite. clean, respectful and generally really, really great kids. The staff there is doing an amazing job, and their care for the kids is obvious. The tears of the women hugging the girls as they said goodbye, the quiet conversations they were pulled away for, the fussing over them as they left was a true indicator of the fact that they have been well cared for.
As we all trailed out into the main hallway, there was a gaggle of crying girls trying hard to put up a happy front and yet succumbing to the sorrow they felt. We were walked all the way to the front door, with Tanya and Shoura eventually turning and running back up to their family group where I am sure they cried off and on all night.
Angela is really admired by these younger girls, the tough yet caring and gently correcting older sister to them all. Olesya is their equal, another buddy who was well loved. There will be a very quiet corner of their bedroom until the day those beds are filled by yet another little girl without a family.
I was very pleased that the girls seemed quite willing and ready to go with us, their hearts were well prepared now. There was great sadness at leaving their friends yet they never cried themselves and happily waved goodbye out the back window of the car as we pulled away.
When we arrived at the apartment, it all showed for a moment as Angela walked into Dominick's arms as we entered the apartment and shed a quick few tears of her own, but it was brief and she was fine afterwards. It had to be stressful for her to hold it together with the younger kids so they would be comforted and yet feel an incredible mix of feelings of her own. She does not feel safe enough with me yet to show her feelings, but I am thanking God over and over that she feels a strong connection with Dominick, and it is special for him as well.
We pulled together a quick meal of salami and cheese and whatever else was left in the fridge that we were trying to get rid of. We were already fairly well packed and ready to travel the next day so other than a little picking up there wasn't a whole lot for us to do. We played a few games, Olesya bounced from one room to the other very reminiscent of Kenny's first days with us as she touches everything, plays with it all...and eats like a horse!!! Man, she wants to eat 24/7 and LOVES LOVES LOVES sweets and milk. She then called the RBS as promised to say hello to everyone again. Angela was more settled and you could tell that for awhile she didn't really know what to do with herself until she settled into watching a movie with Kenny for awhile. By then it was time to go to bed so we could get up at a decent time and do the final clean up and packing for the next day.
The girls changed into their jammies and the boys into theirs. There was a lot of giggling about what beds everyone was going to sleep in, and thankfully both Angela and Olesya are proving to be as easily adaptable and helpful as our boys are....they just shrug their shoulders and go with it all, nothing is really rattling them all that much. We said our first prayers with them all that night, having not done so before with Irina needing to translate as Irina was obviously very, very uncomfortable with religion in general and we didn't want to force her into doing something that felt false to her. But the girls were fine with it, respectful and of course didn't understand a word we have said. One day at a time, we hope that faith is revealed to them through action more than words, and we will let God work it all out without us pushing.
I leaned over to give a hug to Olesya and she immediately turned for a kiss and gave me one in return. Angela gave me a solid hug and submitted to a kiss but I think it will be a long time coming before I ever receive a kiss from her. Maybe never even, but if she can feel safe and secure with her mom that will be enough for me to feel I did my job well. Not everyone is as openly affectionate as we are as a family, and we will see what time does for her in this area. I am not at all unhopeful, but being very honest and realistic about it all. She is very considerate of me and respectful, and we will build from there.
There was a long while with giggling and whispering, and then one by one you could hear they had each fallen asleep, and finally there was silence. Dominick and I lay alone in our bed, whispering ourselves. Me feeling a little nervous, scared, worried about the future and whether I can be a good mom to them. He reassuring and reminding me that God did not lead us this far to leave us, and that we had to invite God to always be in our midst and we would be able to handle anything that comes our way. I worry about illness being somewhat older parents, I worry about education, emotional needs, so much...and yet we did it. We are finally their parents. They will have a family forever, even if something happens that is less than ideal they will not be alone the remainder of their lives. They will have a solid home base, brothers who will always be there for them even when their parents eventually will not be. If we do our jobs right, all of our children will always feel supported and nurtured by one another.
We are finally...family.