Saturday, October 27, 2007

Got Milk?

I woke from a warm sleep to the sounds of drills and hammering this morning. There is a small cafe going in on the floor below us and the workers are there faithfully each morning. With nowhere to go and nothing to do this morning, I took Robert on a tour of the port area that lines the Black Sea. I followed the route Larisa had taken me on eighteen months ago trying to remember the history of passing building and romantic stories of the wishing well and the Mother in Law Bridge. When we made it to the newly refurbished Opera House, we found ourselves smack in the middle of an Odessa traditional. No fewer than twenty brides were gathered in the still blooming gardens surrounding the property. They posed for photos in the promenade of ancient buildings, or leaning across the branches of whimsical trees to share a kiss, or among towering columns overlooking the dark waters of the sea.

We decided to try the "cow resturant" that we have heard so much about and have seen countless pictures of its mascot gracing the sidewalk out front. Natalyia, they've recently painted the cow. I thought about Raisa as passerbys lifted their children atop the cow for a quick photo. You'll have to get a pic with her on the new one! The food was wonderful and we were once again shocked at how far the American dollar goes in this city. After lunch, we returned to the market to buy bananas for Kristina's class. Word to the wise, don't shop on Saturday! The place was packed, which made our exploration of the aisles for familiar items bothersome to our fellow shoppers.

Natasha called a taxi to take us out to the orphanage. We raced through the city as if we were late for an urgent appointment, our driver slipping in and out of traffic and using the train tracks at one point. We always have to discipline ourself from laughing at the absurdity of the driving style of the citizens. The car pulled down an alley and stopped outside a locked gray gate. The driver gestured towards the gate as if we should know what he meant. "Internot?" Robert asked. "Dah, Dah," he replied impatiently. We tumbled out of the car with the bananas for Kristina's class and stood dumbfounded in the muddy lane as the driver speed away. We were at a loss for any sense of direction and decided to just start walking. If we were in the wrong place, perhaps we could bride someone with our bananas to take us to the right place. We eventually came out along side the orphanage and found an open back gate. We made our way across the deserted playgrounds to the front of the orphanage. Two of the girls in Kristina's class saw us round the corner and began shouting something in Russian that ended with "Mama and Papa", which we assumed anounced our arrival. The children were sweeping the walkways around the orphanage with homemade brooms of twigs bound together. They worked to sweep golden leaves into little piles all along the lane so that it looked as if a leprechan had lost his treasure there in the yard. They greeted us with great joy and eyed the bag with the bananas. Kristina's caregiver came around to check that the children were completing their work. Robert complimented her on the children's work ethic and team work. "This is our home, so we keep it clean." she replied matter-of-factly. It was an obvious truth that we tend to forget. This has been home and family to Kristina for many years. She has a day to day life, schedule, and relationships here.

When the kids were finished cleaning, they follwed us like little ducks aound the property showing us where they played tag, the select roses in the little plot of earth that they had planted, and favorite stray dogs that called the internot home too. Kristina has been very generous to share our attention and affection with the other children. We are very proud of her humble gesture. Robert compared pocket flash lights with the boy and asked what they would like for him to bring next time for snack. It would have been easier to ask what they did not want! Juice! Apples! Cake! Oranges! Snickers bar! They have a very limited, bland diet and anything new is a treat. Remembering how much Kristina had enjoyed a glass of cold milk, Robert decided he wanted the children to have milk. He took off down the long muddly road to the closest market as darkness was falling around the orphanage. The children and I waited in their playroom for his return. Kristina and Leana became concerned when he didn't come back in the amount of time we had estimated it would take him to walk there and back. I got my coat and decided to walk down the path in the hopes of meeting up with him. As I exited the playroom, there was Robert, arms heavy with 11 quarts of ice cold milk. He said the market manager had stopped him when he had cleaned out just about all of the milk on the shelf. Obviously he wanted Robert to leave some for other patrons! The milk was more than Kristina's class could ever drink, so he walked the halls with the surplus putting a jug in a hand here and there. When he returned, Kristina had poured out glasses for everyone. She sat on the floor cradling the cup in the exact same way she had at our home, as if she was blocking everything else out to fully experience the ice cold treat. She was enjoying it so much, Robert asked her when was the last time she had had milk. "In America," she replied. "No, when did you drink milk last?" "At house in America," she emphasized again. It has been 13 months since she enjoyed the pleasure of a glass of cold milk. We were shocked to hear this and questioned the other children. One of the girls said she had milk two week ago. I was relieved to know milk was available, but couldn't understand why Kristina had gone without. When I questioned further, I found out that the milk they have is powdered milk and it must be mixed in hot water that has been boiled to kill the contamintes. Yuck! No wonder! We decided we will bring milk often. The children truely enjoyed it. At seven it was dinner time for the children and Kristina had kitchen duty pouring hot tea, so we kissed her goodnight and meet missionary Michelle on the front steps of the orphanage. She was kind enough to show us how to use the bus system to get from Internot 4 to our end of town. The experience was less frightening than the taxi, but it did take twice as long. What do you expect for 25 cents though!? We stopped off at Pan Pizza and had the pleasure of chatting and learning more about the orphanage system in Odessa and Michelle's incredible ministry to the children here. The evening was rounded out with laundry and a much needed call home to speak with the kids and mom. It truely sets our minds at ease to know that they are in her care. The children had questions about everything, but particularly wanted to know when we were coming home. That remains the million dollar question.


Nataliya said...

Oh my, I have my own wedding photos next to the same tree by the Opera House as well as by the wishing well and the Mother in Law bridge! It's nice to see that these places are still favored by the wedding parties 20 years later! And the cow does looks different, we'll definitely get Raisa's picture on the updated cow!

What a great idea about the cold milk! Boiled powdered milk doesn't sound very good...

It's so nice that your Mom is taking care of the kids! My Mom's is also going to take care of Victoria when we go to Ukraine. It must be so hard to be without the kids for such a long time - I truly hope your process will be very short!

Debora Hoffmann said...

Leslie, thank you for sharing this experience with us and allowing us to pray for you! And thanks for sharing photos of the kids. I'm so glad you've been able to spend time with them. I have also been chatting with Michelle--how neat that you've been able to meet her.

Hugs from Colorado,

adoptedthree said...

I love the hand holding picture that is fabulous!

I love the kids they are wonderful

It always makes me remember that if I had not adopted my boys when I did, then they would probably be in these same pictures~ Breaks my heart~

Anonymous said...

The milk story really got to me. I had no idea- the milk thing blew my mind. The idea that milk is not just available by the carton and a part of every kid's diet. I feel so ignorant of life outside America. I'm so glad you're there right now. I'm praying for you all. I'm also praying that Sasha finds a home. Lots of love,
Christine z

Contact Mark and Theresa said...

Hey my friends!

We miss you and are praying for you. I wonder if God is preparing us for a move to the country because I have been deprived of high speed DSL!!! I love your wedding album. I have some too, there were 2 weddings while we were waiting outside on the bench at the bronze statue. I cannot fathom how these brides are managing the cobblestone in stilletos and a gown. I killed myself walking in my fashionable boots! Bad move. I am living in my tennies now. Love to you and Kristina. Let's go home on the same flight, o.k.? Say, in 2 weeks?

Tami said...

A girl after my own heart...there's nothing better than a tall glass of cold milk. And now she can have as many glasses of milk as she wants! :)
Love the pics!

Ashley said...

Wow! The milk thing blows my mind as well! That has made me think that we should give milk as often as we can too while we are there. Thanks for sharing and I love the pics. Is Marat an acrobat or what? He is too funny and I can't wait to see him. I am praying that him and his sister get a wonderful Christian family. I also saw Andrei. He is my mom's pen-pal. I hope he is doing well, too. Have a great day!

The O'Haras said...

I am sure it was quite a sight to see Robert clearing out the milk of the local little market. Not like the market down by McDonald's...Tracey and I just couldn't get used to the milk over there, but the kids sure do love it. For Alyona's going away we did peanut butter & jam on toast with cold milk....the kids loved it.