Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Autumn in Tsyurupinsk

We had such a beautiful day today! I've been wanting to do a fall family picnic out across the river. I had noticed that the weather forecast showed today as the last day of sunshine before some rain, so I had been planning on going today instead of doing school. Then, when we got up this morning, I was so disappointed: they had changed the forecast. Clouds? I could see them out the windows, too. Boo. But we went anyway. It seemed to be getting darker and darker. By the time we were in the marshrutka, the girls were asking me, "What if it rains?"

Then, we got out, and there was the sun!

See the clouds breaking up?

All of the girls in this family wanted to take a picture, but...
...the boys didn't want to!

With Papa
A frog!
The view from our picnic place

We came back just in time for art and music school for the older ones, and this for the little one:

He was exhausted!

Sunday, October 12, 2014

An orphanage day

Most Saturdays I go out to the orphanage for handicapped children across the river from us. Since the beginning of the school year I've been going alone because my friend, the one I help there, is in the states. Yesterday, as I rode back, I was thinking that I would like to record what has become a pretty typical Saturday.

On Saturday mornings we get up, Will does breakfast, Asya and Raia head out for art school, and a little later Jaan has music school. As they're all getting ready and leaving, I go, too. First I take a bus toward the center of town. I get off and start walking, going through a big market area, and buying cookies and juice along the way. The orphanage is very careful about what they feed the kids, but they trust a particular store there, so that's where we buy. (And it's a super yummy sweets store!)

After the walk and making my purchases--now my backpack is heavy--I come out to the big road and get on a long distance bus. That takes me out over the river (beautiful!) and into the next town. I get off and start walking again. It's not far to the orphanage.

First thing there, I have to find the nurse. She checks the snack I brought, gives me the key for the classroom, and tells me if I can combine groups of kids or not. No quarantines yesterday, so I went down to get the boys ready. They get so excited! Lots of happy screaming and hugs for me and sweetness as they help each other get their shoes on and wheelchairs ready. I can usually take four or five of them up to the girls' classroom for something like a Sunday school lesson.

When we get up to the girls, there's more screaming and hugs and excitement. I always have to tell T. to hug me gently, because she forgets and hurts me, but she's learning. Little D. has latched on to a certain silly song that we've been doing; she greeted me doing the motions for it, so I knew she wanted to sing.

The classroom is small for that many wheelchairs, but we fit them in like a jigsaw puzzle. I think I had eight girls, with the four boys? Yesterday I started with some little coordination exercises that caused lots of giggling. Then I got out the book that my friend had translated for these kids. This was our third time reading from it, and they finally seemed to be catching on to the idea of listening to a story. From the beginning only V. had really seemed interested; she dives out of her wheelchair and scoots up to where she can put her chin on my knee and catch every word. We finished the first chapter, and I explained what that means. Now that they know a chapter is just a part of a book, they're excited to hear what happens next. (There is a school there, but the kids in these two groups that we work with are not allowed to go to the school. Most of them can't read and write, although some of them would be perfectly capable of learning, at least to some extent.)

Then songs! Music is not my thing at all, but I've started bringing an MP3 player with a little speaker, and they love it. We "make a (very) joyful noise." After singing every song that I have at least a few times we moved to the tables for a craft.

I wasn't sure at all about how this craft would work, but they did a great job. We made a tree from beads and wire (something like this. I'll come back and add a picture next week, because they want to send one to their friend in America. I just didn't have the camera with me yesterday.) Many of them have difficulties with coordination, but they really focused on getting those tiny glass beads on to their wires, and no one got frustrated. Each child made a branch or two, and then we twisted them together into a tree.

By the time we were done with the craft, it was lunch time, so we did hugs and goodbyes, got everyone back to their places, cleaned up, and I left.

I really want to get into a good routine of feeding one of the bed-bound little ones lunch and then playing some one-on-one after my time with the older ones, but I didn't do that yesterday. Before I could take them for walks outside. Now I need to transition into time in the therapy room instead. Yesterday, I was too tired and hungry myself, and the people I need to talk to about the little ones weren't around. Hopefully next week....

Edited to add: here's the tree they made:

Sunday, October 05, 2014

Another babushka

I know I've mentioned our landlady some. She spent the summer here with us, bustling around, fixing everything up, sorting things, and just generally working hard. She kept telling us that she was getting everything in order so that she could die here. Then she went back to Italy... and she died there.

This is the only photo I have of her, a stealth picture from when Bogdan and Asya were watching her doing brickwork:

Maybe this is strange, but I really enjoyed watching our neighborhood community come together to remember her. On the day of the funeral in Italy there was a big meal here. What was definitely a little strange was how much everyone wanted to do everything right--following all the traditions--but no one really knew exactly what that meant. It was our first time at a completely secular funeral, so we certianly didn't know what to do either. Still, it was good to sit there with our neighbors and other guests and get to know them a little better, while remembering Babushka Valya.

Actually, this summer was a little bit difficult. I won't say anything bad about Babushka Valya now, but apparently she had changed a lot, and with her confusion and bad health, it wasn't easy. But, since she's been gone, I've been remembering what a very funny person she was. Her stories about life in Italy, especially when she kept forgetting that we don't speak Italian, were hilarious. The amount of work she got done here and her care and concern for her children and grandchildren was remarkable.

Several people asked what this means for us, in the context of renting this house that I love. We don't really know. I thought her daughter owned the house officially, but that's questionable. Probably in the winter one of the daughters will come from Italy, and then we'll find out. Probably they'll just do whatever paperwork needs to be done, and we can continue renting. At least that's what we hope for.

Crocus that she planted this summer

Wednesday, October 01, 2014

A strange anniversary

Did you see this over on the side?

As of today, we have lived in Ukraine as long as we got to live in Russia. There are definitely lots of emotions attached to that little statement, but I'm not going to write them out. Just recently, I was digging (digitally) and came across photos from our last days in Russia. They still make me teary. I'll share a few of those here:

Random photos from early 2008

They were so little!
That winter was the prettiest ever.
Papa and Asya
Church service for our last Christmas there
In the midst of packing
At the church goodbye tea
That's Raia in the middle

Okay, enough nostalgia. Here's a disorganized photo of all our children, happy in Kherson in 2014:

Quick, current family news: Will got back last night from his time in the states. In a few hours we're headed off to an overnight in Odessa to renew some passports.