Every day, as I am pulling pictures off my camera for the blog, I make a new folder on my desktop (yes, it's filling up) with the date and some title that will remind me essentially what happened that day. I figure in years yet to come, it might help me have an idea of what pictures might be in that folder or, at least, help keep the timeline of this experience somewhat accurate.
Today, there was not anything better to title this day than "Andre's Birthday". During the last week, have been able to take lots of pictures and video of Andre to send to his new, sweet mom waiting for him in Arizona and this has given us the great pleasure of getting to know him.
We got to have a hand in delivering his birthday present and Marsh even called just in time to wish him a happy birthday and speak to him in Russian. (That way, the poor kid could hear someone American sound like a Ukrainian rather than listening to me with my morphed English-Russian-ASL-Pictionary-hand gesture-body language-facial expression language.)
There was a lot of emotional investment in Andre's birthday by my kids and between visits, Patty Lyn decided she wanted to spend some of her souvenir money on ice cream cones for all the kids. At home, sixteen of these ice creams would have cost more than she could afford. But, over here they are less than $.30 each. We figured now was the time to do this because all the other kids are still at summer camp! When they get back, it will be unaffordable. :)
So, this meant yet another challenging experience of attempting to speak to someone about what we need. The store only had a few of the ice creams we wanted to buy, so we needed to somehow communicate that we needed 16.
Now, a lot of people over here are kind of not nice. Let's just say...they are a little unhappy and impatient. It's hard on people like me who are doing the best they can, working with difficult situations and completely without immediate resources to talk to someone who just wants you to "go home to America". I think we parents can probably apply this to how we deal with our children!
So, imagine my joy when the unhappy and impatient ice cream lady went and got the nice, smiley ice cream lady to help us! I'll tell you, there is nothing like a kind face when you are struggling outside your comfort zone (another parenting lesson). This woman listened carefully trying to understand what I was asking (I have taken to carrying a pencil and paper with me everywhere so I can draw a diagram or write numbers to show what I'm talking about...this is the Pictionary part of my language) and cocked her head and smiled with this look of real compassion...with a hint of pity. She understood and went back to get another box of what we wanted.
Then, I got to explain that we needed to do all the shopping first (because we still had to walk everything home and we didn't want the ice creams to melt). This time, I used the body language and hand gesture part of my language and got the job done. It is amazing that I can't communicate verbally to save my life, but once someone understands and repeats back to me what I'm "saying", I can understand them perfectly. Weird.
So, to make a long story short, the ice creams made it home and into the freezer and back out again to be carried to the orphanage...where I would then get to explain why we had 16 ice cream bars in a backpack and that they needed to be put in a freezer because they had been out of a freezer for the 30 minute walk to the orphanage.
To which the woman I was speaking to responded with a sigh of irritation and left to get Ruslan and a tray. Love that Ukrainian hospitality!
We spent the rest of the afternoon visit playing like a bunch of crazy people. Games of Uno are MUCH more exciting with the antics of Chris and Ruslan. Andre stayed with us the whole time and had a ball with the "big boys". They were so sweet to make his day special and let him hang around and play with them. They are both such sweet, thoughtful boys, careful to include the little ones around in every game...soccer included. Chris expressed sadness when little Erik was told by one of the bigger boys that he was "too little" to play soccer yesterday. He played a little one-on-one with him later.
Besides the thrill and happiness of Andre's festivities, the day was sort of filled with dealing with the language barrier. I got to figure out how to use Western Union by speaking to Ukrainiains (an angel woman came into the bank and rescued me) and later had a 30 minute conversation (with an interpreter as well as the Ukrainian woman I was talking to) to find out if Ruslan and Nastia were going to the theater with the other kids.
It's humbling to say the least. I do a LOT of apologizing every day!