Monday, November 8, 2010 30.

I haven't blogged about my final day with the children at the sanatorium, because it still brings tears to my eyes when I think about it, but with us leaving for home tomorrow and since I can't sleep because of my absolute excitement in going home, I thought I would take advantage of this time while the apartment is quiet and the boys are asleep, finally. I mentioned in an earlier post that when the boys left the sanatorium their final day they weren't able to really say goodbye to their friends, so the next day we returned to the sanatorium. Before we took the 45 minute bus ride over to the left bank I gave each of the boys 50 grivna so they could buy a few little gifts to "present" to their friends. They bought little flashlights, a football, candy and a few packages of sunflower seeds. When we walked through the fence I could hear the children inside calling out, "Bogdan, Ruslan" and then from every open window and door boys were spilling out. They all ran to eachother and embraced one another. They each have their own little group of friends, so they would stand together and hug and talk amoungst themselves. Their friends were so grateful for their gifts. They all split the sunflower seeds by filling each of their pockets and periodically grabbing a handful and then filling their llittle mouths, the sanatorium "playground" is covered with sunflower seeds, they love their seeds. They are flavorless and I personally do not care for them, but oh how the children devour them. During our visit three nurses stood within five feet of our little group literally standing guard, they each stood there with arms folded across their chests and not a single smile amoungst them. I didn't undestand why, but it was okay...they let us spend some time with the boys and then about 30 minutes into our visit they started ushering them back into the sanatorium and this is when, as you guessed it, I lost it. Each of the boys embraced Ruslan and Bogdan and a few of them just held on for a bit longer and then they came over to where I was standing and hugged me also. My little Nicholas, who I absolutely have grown to love and adore said, " please Daniella, me America, no mommy no poppy, please". How do you respond to something like that, what do you say? I simply hugged him and told him it would okay... and I hope that one day everything will be. He then walked away. The boys said their final goodbyes and then a few of them walked us to the fence opening where David and I had left our boys so many times before, but this time they were walking out with me and yet I still had to leave some behind. The children continued to stay and wave goodbye at the fence until we went around our final corner to go home. I wish I had the words to share with you how heartbreaking that day was. Each and everytime I think of these boys I have a heavy heart. Why do they need to live like this? Why can't every child have parents that love and adore them? Why? I will never be the same person I was when I first arrived in Ukraine, my life has forever been changed.

Loves and kisses!!

The boys that walked us to the fence waving goodbye.

My most adorable Nicholas. He fell a couple of weeks ago and really skinned up his little face and hands. The green you see on his face is an antibiotic they use.

I snuck a picture of the sanatorium dining room through an open window. The tables have bread and apples for the children to eat.

The sanatorium playground. These are pavillion type structures. On one of my visits we played tag like game where instead of tagging someone with your hand you would tag them with a small soft ball. We ran around these structures, they, not me, climbed on top, to avoid being tagged. We laughed, ran and dodged the ball until we were absolutely exhausted.

More of the playground. The Ukrainians sure know how to recycle their old tires. You see them everyhwere as playgound equipment, planter boxes, benches...they sure are popular.

Bogdan's buddies. (Roseanne notice the baseball equipment, they were so excited when I told them we were leaving the ball and gloves with them. Thanks for letting me give them to the boys, you're the best!)

Ruslan's friends.

The boys showing eachother their gifts and then playing with them.

Nicholas and Vladik.

Ruslan with his friends showing them each what he brought for them. This picture was taken from quite a distance, when they realized Ruslan was back they all ran to eachother. It was the cutest thing ever.

The children.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Days 35, 36, 37 & 38...whew.

We made it. We are now in Kyiv and in our second apartment since our arrival late Thursday night. It is now 1am in the morning and the boys have finally fallen to sleep, it'll be nice to be back home and to get the boys on a consistent schedule, maybe then they will fall asleep at a "normal" time, I hope so...they are sure wearing me out.
We left Dniprodzerzhynsk Friday afternoon after we picked up the boys new passports, we then took the train back to Kyiv, which was a long six hour ride, but the boys enjoyed every minute of it. What's not to love...there was a television and food and then periodically a woman would push a grocery cart up the isle with sandwiches, drinks and candy and they loved rifling through the cart trying to find something to snack on. They absolutely loved the whole train experience. Me? Not so much, I was just glad to finally arrive. Afterwards while walking through the parking lot I fell in a hole, shocker, holes in random places in Ukraine, what? My white bag is a now lovely shade of brown, my left knee is bruised and I twisted my right ankle. Woe is me...
Friday morning we had our appointment at the American Embassy and that was quite the experience in and of itself. After a series of checks we were ushered into the embassy ahead of the 50 or so people waiting already. I felt a little guilty "butting" in line, but also grateful in that I knew the boys would never last waiting all day. Once inside I heard the most glorious sounds ever...English. I was able to eaves drop and understand every conversation going on around me, it was wonderful. After filling out a series of papers we were then told we needed to receive medical clearance for the boys so we were off and running again. The rest of the afternoon was spent getting checkups, shots, and blood work done and then we received the okay that they were healthy and had all the necessary vaccinations to travel and live in the U.S. While we were at the doctors the embassy called and we needed to return so that they could fingerprint Bogdan and we needed to be there by 3pm. Sooo, we drove back, RAN through security, RAN to the front of the line and made it just in time, whew. The woman helping us apologized profusely for not having us do the fingerprinting when we were there earlier. She had not realized that Bogdan was 14, he is just so little. In the same area of the embassy that we were in two other couples were there finishing up their adoptions as well. One couple was adopting two beautiful little girls, sisters, the mother was holding the toddler in her arms while the older sister was sitting close by. We chatted for a bit and the father of the little girls mentioned their little girl is also mistaken for being younger than she actually is, you see the toddler the mother was holding was actually 8 years old...she truly looked as if she were 2, if that. Such an amazing couple, I wish I had the time to sit and really talk with them, to listen to their story.
We went to the ballet, which was FANTASTIC. Translator Oksana called me the other day and asked if we would like to go it was going to be 20 grivna to attend, about $2.50. I didn't tell the boys, because first of all I didn't know how to explain to them what we were doing and secondly, I knew if they realized we were going to the ballet I was not going to get them out of the house. When they did finally realize what we were doing, you could probably guess, they weren't too happy, but they actually enjoyed it. It was about pirates, princesses, kidnappings and killing, what teenage boy wouldn't love that kind of action and I know they sure thought the female dancers were pretty cute too. It was a wonderful, wonderful evening. (Thanks Oksana).
We have our final appointment at the embassy tomorrow and if all goes well, WE ARE DONE!! Since being back in Kyiv and leaving Dnipro I am ready to go home now. Leaving Dnipro was difficult, leaving the children and the friendships I made. I will never be back. It reminds me of my mission...saying goodbye to people that were such a big part of your life, that you grew to love and knowing that you would never see them was hard. But, I'm ready to go.

Loves and kisses!

George taking us to the train station. Notice where the white line is, now you know why I was a nervous wreck while sitting in his car and there are no seat belts as well, at least where I was sitting.

Driving down the lane leaving our apartment complex for the last time.

Our apartment building, we are the third apartment up right in the middle of the photo.

Okay, I had to do it. I had to feed the dogs one last time and we were going to go out in style, not hot dogs this time. I went and bought some hamburger, fried it up and added some yummy ham and a little bit of bread.

The dogs were grateful...they finished their meal in 2 minutes flat.

The girl on the left works at the cosmetic counter at our grocery store. My goal was to get her to say, "hello" and smile, and she finally did. I never did get the nurse at the sanatorium to do it though. Oh well, 1 out of 2 isn't bad. The man on the right is security, he stands there all day watching the cashiers and the comings and goings of the store.

The frozen food section at the grocery store.

My most favorite cashier of all, Anna. She was so helpful and kind to me each and every time I went in, which was pretty much everyday. She hugged me when I explained to her that I was leaving, I love her.

The produce department. Not very big.
The man holes in Ukraine. This one is filled with rubbish so you won't fall in.

This man hole is filled with a stump. I walked by this one and the one above every single day.

I started to take a picture of Bogdan while he was getting his blood taken, but he said, "No mama, off, " he was starting to cry and he was a little embarrassed, but then he realized it wasn't so bad and so he then wanted his picture taken, he was so proud of himself. Oh, how I love this boys ever present smile.

Ruslan getting his blood taken. He looked the whole time and was as brave as can be. I got a little weak in the knees though...

Ruslan's drawing of a race care, he really has some talent.

Bogdan's drawing of, you guessed it, Sponge Bob.

There were fireworks last night. Oksana mentioned it was in celebration of the Germans leaving Ukraine during WWII. This was taken outside our apartment window.

We went shopping down "Souvenir Road" and I told Bogdan that he could take a few photos while we were there. He actually took 68, these are just a few. Seriously Dave, this boy needs his own camera.

Inside the theatre where we attended the ballet. It was simply beautiful inside.

Tanslator Oksana, my dear, dear friend and the boys.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Days 33 and 34

Yesterday, Tuesday, we celebrated Babushka Luba's birthday, she turned 70 years old. At 4pm we met her out in front of the grocery store and then she escorted us the rest of the way to her daughter Lena's home. I had to really work hard to even keep up with her, she is an amazing woman. We had a WONDERFUL dinner of borsch and a potato-type ravioli, needless to say it was fantastic. Wendy and Christy this is why I don't want to leave... just yet. Don't get me wrong I am as homesick as they come, but Lena asked me to come over tomorrow and she was going to teach me how to make a few traditional Ukrainian meals. The boys simply devour what she prepares and I haven't had that much luck with what I have made them. However, she did teach me how to make her rose fruit juice and then she carefully wrapped up for me a bottle of canned rose pedals with sugar for me to take home. Anyway, we had a wonderful evening, Lena had a Russian to English dictionary by her side and I had a English to Russian dictionary by my side and it worked out wonderfully. After dinner and conversation we needed to head home, it was late and so dark outside. There are very little street lights, if any, and the sidewalks, if you can even call them that, are treacherous even in the day time. Side note...the sidewalks are unbelievable, you are not able to look up and walk at the same time, you really need to stay focused on what and where you are walking. They have manholes everywhere, but the problem is there are no covers for them. Oksana mentioned that people steal the covers and sell them, so where the cover should be there is either nothing or a giant log sticking out. Seriously, you look down the road or sidewalk and see logs and sticks sticking up about every 100' or so. Anyway, back to Babushka Luba ( I love to say her name) we were walking home I tripped a couple of times so she had to take MY hand and help me the rest of the way. I am sure it was a sight to see this little, little woman trying to support my 6'1" frame through the streets of Dniprodzerzhynsk. She walked us all they way to our front door and then continued on her way through the dark streets to her home. I felt terrible having her go on alone, but she insisted that we stay home, "Niet, niet, niet," she would continue to say to me. For being such a small woman, you sure feel as if you need to listen and obey her every command.
Today, we met Lena in front of the grocery store and we walked with her to her school where she has taught sewing for the last 24 years. She wanted to teach me some Ukrainian stitching and show us around her school. Ruslan was not too happy about this, but as soon I mentioned that he could take the laptop he was more than willing to go. We spent the afternoon sewing and then she took me on a tour of her school and introduced to me many of her students and coworkers. When you really get to know these people they are simply beautiful. So warm and friendly and willing to share whatever they have. Again, it is because of these friends I have made over the last week or so, that is making my going go home more and more difficult and I still am having a hard time with knowing I will never see the children at the sanatorium again. SIGH.
Well, Facilitator Oksana called last night to tell us we will be leaving for Kyiv Thursday. We have an appointment scheduled for 10am Friday morning at the American Embassy. Then she told us to make our flight plans for Tuesday, the 9th. AHHHH!! She just called and mentioned that she hasn't heard back from the passport office yet, hopefully she will tomorrow, because we won't be able to leave until we have the new passports in hand. The not "knowing" wears on you after awhile, I'm tired of not being able to make long term plans and actually have them come to fruition. We will be taking the train out of Dnipropetrovsk so please keep us in your prayers that all will go well with the passports and if not, at least I will be able to have few more days with Lena and her know, we were so fortunate to meet them. With the thousands, upon thousands, upon thousands of people in this city, we came in contact with the ONLY 3 people that Bogdan considers family...tender mercies.

Sorry if this blog is a jumble of words. It's 1:15 in the morning here, and I FINALLY just got the boys to bed. They are abosolutely crazy. They are so anxious and excited to leave, they are simply giddy, they laugh at everything. They have the giggles non stop!!

Loves and Kisses!!

Babushka Luba's birthday sign made by her granddaughter Lena. For her birthday she received one white towel and a bag and she was thrilled. They are a wonderful family.

Babushka Luba and Bogdan, she hugs on him and hugs on him all night. For her birthday she game ME a photo album of pictures of Bogdan from the orphanage. (Nanette she also gave me a few for you of Benson.)

Lena in her classroom. She mentioned that in the winter time they have no heat, it really gets quite cold inside the school.

The sewing machines the children use...amazing. Yes, they work great too.

More of Lena's classroom.

Our supplies for my sewing lesson.

This is a picture of a museum that is right inside the school. It goes the history of Ukraine. They have received many awards for the work the children have done in making this museum.

I am sewing. When you visit this room they have each guest stitch a cross before they leave. I am standing by the principal, next is Olga (she translated for me) and then beautiful Tanya. Yeah, don't ask...I have no idea what is up with my hair.

This museum show the many different sewing techniques that are common in the Ukraine.

Lena, Tany, Olga and the principal ( I can't begin to say or her name or even spell it).

The gymnasium.

Another picture of the gymnasium.

Days 31 and 32. I'll get back to day 30...later

Before I start I need to ask my SAC family some questions....

For those of you have been on this "ride" before and before I head home next week, I hope, I hope, I hope, what do you wish you would have done, eaten, taken pictures of before you left Ukraine? What do you wish you would have brought home, maybe a decoration of sorts, a picture? What? Also, I think I may have a little bit of room left in my suitcase if there is anything you would like me to bring home for you. Wendy, Oksana told me there is a particular chocolate that you love to cook with, may I bring some home for you? Please let me know.

Christy and Wendy THANK YOU so much for suggesting we go to the Potato House and yes we did find it with no problem at all. It was the building that had POTATO HOUSE written in huge ENGLISH letters on it, go figure. Well, after the boys said goodbye to their friends at the sanatorium we decided to venture down into downtown Dnipro, after much walking and once we arrived to the Potato House the boys decided they were no longer hungry. What? No longer hungry? It had been over 2 hours since they last ate, sigh. So we turned back around and then a miracle occurred. Just as we were walking out the front doors, I heard Bogdan yell, "Lena," what, we ran into someone he knew? Lena and her daughter, Tanya, are close friends of Bogdan's and actually considers Lena's mother, Babushka Luba his grandmother. She would bring Bogdan to her home during the holidays and on long weekends for the past 7 years, but since the orphanage has a new director she has not been able to see Bogdan for a while. In fact, over the last 7 years or so she has cared for approximately 25 children and has seen 10 of them adopted. (Nanette she asked about Benson and I showed her your blog, she cried when she saw photos of him). Lena and Tanya then invited us over for dinner on Sunday and we more than honored to go. So after church, which was sooo boring for the boys, Yura, the couple missionaries' driver drove us to Lena's home. Yura stayed and translated for us, they spoke no English and you know how well I DON'T speak Ukrainian. Yesterday was the ABSOLUTE greatest day, aside from getting the boys, that I have had in Ukraine. They treated us and fed us as if we were royalty. It was an unbelievable afternoon. We had traditional Ukrainian food and Lena made an amazing fruit juice out of roses and a little bit of fruit. Even though I had missed my most favorite holiday back home I would have traded a lifetime of Halloweens for another afternoon like we had. Bogdan, Ruslan and Tanya played the whole day away while Lena, Babushka Luba, Yura and I talked, we were all complete strangers just a week or so ago and now dear friends, isn't it amazing how life is? We have been invited back for dinner tomorrow and we are ALL anxiously awaiting for 4pm to arrive.

Today we traveled to Dnipropetrovsk for passport pictures. They say if all goes well we should have them back in 3 working days, WE all sure hope so. The boys are STILL exploring their surroundings and because of their curiosity we have lost power in our apartment twice today because they are plugging too many things in at one time. Now with the power being out again, actually it's just power to one side of the apartment, but it so happens to be the side where the kitchen is and where our heat and hot water is controlled. So now I sit and type this blog in the cold, with a washing machine that is full of water and clothes that I'm not able to open and with puddles of water on the floor from a freezer that is slowly melting. And to top it all off we just went grocery shopping today and now the food is going bad, but on the bright side it's colder in here then the refrigerator so I actually think the food just might be okay. Also the clothes I washed last Saturday are finally dry and that means I get to sleep in my pajamas tonight instead of my jeans and sweatshirt, yay. Isn't life good...

All in all we are doing just fine. As I have typed this blog tonight I have had to go into the boys room at least a dozen times to remind them it is bedtime and at this moment they are still in there laughing under their blankets hoping I will not hear them. Oh, here I go again...hold please...okay, I'm back. I think it's going to be a long night, but it's a good thing listening to them in there. Their enthusiasm is simply amazing. Goodnight...I hope.

Loves and kisses!!

Tanya, Bogdan and Lena.

Bogdan and Babushka Luba.

Babushka Luba, isn't she beautiful!!

Yura and Babushka Luba right after dinner. We had fruit for dessert, and what wasn't eaten she packed it up for us to take home.

Ruslan, Lena and Bogdan. Tanya and Bogdan have been close friends for since they were seven and five years old.

We were just getting ready to sit down for dinner.