Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Day 6.3--Getting to Know Ruslan

I was a little worried about today.  Yesterday, Elder Carley called and invited Chris to attend an English discussion with him and his companion, Elder Hardy.  At first, I declined because the discussion was scheduled for 10:30 am, just 30 minutes after we would be arriving at the orphanage.  To make it even more difficult, I was to be going with an orphanage staff member to purchase an air conditioning unit in the afternoon which would make a visit impossible.  Ruslan and Chris are inseparable so I thought it might be hard on Ruslan to have Chris leave so quickly and be unavailable the whole day.
Then, after hanging up the phone, I started thinking about the reality that Chris will have YEARS with Ruslan, but may never  have an opportunity like this one again.  How many boys get to go on splits with missionaries in another country?  They also offered to walk him back to the apartment, contacting as they went.  For a boy who has already saved all his mission money and is anxiously awaiting the time he can go, this was a dream come true.  And he was chomping at the bit to do it, too.

So, I called Elder Carley back and took him up on his offer with some trepidation about Ruslan's feelings.  Little did I know, the whole day would be orchestrated differently than I imagined and, of course, to the greatest benefit of all!

Before leaving this morning, I grabbed one of the Russian/English dictionaries I had brought for Ruslan.  I had purchased it here on the last trip, but thought he might want it during all the long hours of travel, so I threw it in his backpack.  I had imagined that if I just had a way to point to the word I wanted to say and have someone understand what I was trying to communicate, it might work better.  So, it came with us to the orphanage.

Also, before leaving I got to chat with Marsh online and asked him to give me pronunciations of phrases that would help me explain that Chris was leaving and why.  I was able to copy and paste the phonetic pronunciations Marsh typed out and put them in my iPod so I could read them when I got there.  I seriously LOVE these technologies when things like this happen!

We arrived at 10am, as usual, and had our scripture reading with Chris.  I explained everything to Ruslan and he was totally cool with it.  I know him to be easy going, flexible and positive, but I figured there would be some disappointment.  He was fine and thought it was great Chris was going.  I was relieved.

Ruslan reading the English version of the scriptures while Chris helps with occasionally with pronunciation.

 It was then time for him to go meet up with the missionaries.  Our driver had just waited for him and took him to the church at the appointed time. 

We walked him outside and said goodbye and went back in for our English lesson.

I used a lot of visuals again this stick figures always make the kids laugh and we learned the phrase, "I need help".  We also discussed what it would be like on the train which is now less than a week away (I hope) and we all cheered at that fact. 

I drew pictures of the kids in the bunks on the train...making sure Chris' foot was hanging off and his arm was hanging down.  It was probably more hilarious because he wasn't there to defend himself.  What a good mom I am.

Nastia especially enjoyed the picture of Chris and his leg hanging off the bunk in the train car!

After our English lesson, we had our snacks and I offered Ruslan a shot at learning one of the other card games we brought.  I haven't learned them myself (we brought several), so I've had to read the instructions and talk the kids through them.  They catch on so quickly, even with the language barrier.  I think it gives us a great practice communicating, too!

We played Blink! a few times.  It's a fast-paced game that just about gave the girls heart attacks!  Even though the heart rates had been up, we still went outside to play.

The girls went right to playing badminton.  I picked up dollar store rackets before coming here but they have been worth their weight in gold!  They have come up with a million different ways to play with the rackets and birdies and the game itself. 

It was a cooler day (so nice!) so Ruslan and I sat on a bench together and watched the girls, each with a Russian-to-English book in our hands...he had the dictionary and I had the book for Dummies.  Aptly named.  That's what I feel like here just about 24 hours a day!

We had great conversations using the books.  I could use the dictionary to find a word I wanted and point it out to him.  Then he would understand what I was trying to say.  We talked about what it will be like at home, going to early morning seminary with Chris, homeschooling, what the rest of our stay in Ukraine will be like and what will be expected before we can go home.  We laughed and talked the whole hour and a half.

The girls decided it was time to take a walk under the trees, so we got up and followed.

I offered to get a ball and play with him, but he just smiled and said, "Nah!" and continued with our walk around the orphanage.  We ended up on another bench and talked about the harvest that will happen next month and how we will can apples and peaches and dig up potatoes in the fall.  He loves corn and was so excited that we have it growing.  I showed him video on my iPod of the garden as of July 4th and we discussed how big everything will be when we get back.  He was just so happy and so excited about everything, just ready to take it on and enjoy it all.

I want to be like him when I grow up.

I realized at the end of the visit that the Lord had just provided the most wonderful day for my sons and me.  If I had not been willing to step out of my comfort zone and let Chris go today, I wouldn't have had that time with Ruslan.  It was something I didn't even know we needed until I had it.

Amazingly, at the end of the visit I was told, once again, that someone from the orphanage couldn't come buy the air conditioner with me.  It was decided that I would change the money and just give it to them, awaiting a receipt for the purchase.  This meant our afternoon was freed up to allow for another visit...with Chris, this time!

We arrived at the apartment to find these handsome young men waiting for us:

I was able to ask for The Articles of Faith in Russian (something that occurred to me yesterday) and they had a copy of The Family: A Proclamation to the World and The Living Christ...both in Russian, of course.  I was so thrilled and told them they were like treasure troves. Just what I needed at just the right so many ways!

Later, we headed back to the orphanage after the headache of changing the money (remember, people, bring all CRISP, NEW bills!) and played with the kids.  The difference in the afternoon was the comfort level Ruslan had with me.  He never seemed uncomfortable, but there was a level of reservation that was more like formality, if you know what I mean.  He is always cheerful, always willing to be hugged, but he seemed still a little reserved.  After our morning together, that reservation had all but disappeared.  And he was even more cheerful than usual.

I had taken stickers for the kids, thinking that might be fun for them.  Here, Andre and Ruslan pose with me. 

The kids took the camera around and got pictures of each other and with, too...and then it was time to go.

I'll tell you, people, I don't know what the director of this orphanage has going on exactly, but these kids are so loving, so cheerful, so hard working and helpful.  They are, for the most part, obedient and respectful and I'm just ready to take them all home with me!

When we arrived back in the afternoon, we got to say goodbye to the kids that are coming to our area for this year's hosting program.  What a set of fabulous children!  There are some extremely talented kids coming, too.

If you have not participated in a hosting program and are at all interested in doing so, please let me know.  It is my understanding that some of these kids don't yet have families to host them and they arrive in Utah on July 20th.  Hosting does not mean you adopt the children, you just allow them the opportunity to meet the family that will.

As my sweet friend Becky put it:  "We didn't know we were missing our sons until we met them!"  They are now five kids strong in their family and we are going to be eight strong.  Just because you have your own biological children, doesn't mean you can't have more to care for and love.  And, trust me, if you do this the Lord will provide the way.  He wants all of His children in a family!


  1. It warms my heart that you have broken down a barrier, however small. I'm totally remembering these posts for when we start teaching English to our kiddos - I used to be an ELA teacher, but teaching ESL is SO different than teaching grammar etc. Yikes!

  2. Courtney,

    I have no idea what it would be like to do ESL, but I did study Spanish for five years and I know what helped in that case. I have decided not to think beyond getting the kids home at this point! I'm teaching them phrases that they will want to use right away and we will spend the rest of the summer just immersing them in our family and in our language. We'll pick up the hard stuff of grammar, etc. when they are more comfortable conversing and living with us. They'll get it! Don't're going to do just GREAT!