“Jim, your face is really red” or “Taylor, I finally did those shots” or “Throw it back!” or “chootchoot” or “Dear Grandma, I’m Sorry, It was Cultural” or “Cognac Isn’t So Bad After All”
What should I call this post? Well, I could have gone with any of the above titles. Today we went to three orphanages. The first two were potential places that The Boaz Project would like to work. A rehabilitation center (where they work with the child’s family to keep the family together), and a baby house (infants to toddlers 2.5 yrs). Finally we drove to Morem, where we went to an orphanage of older children. Here, David was greeted with delight and hugs from all of the girls, and cheerful nods from the few boys that we saw. We met with the director, Martin and then took him out for lunch in town to continue the meeting. Boaz has been working with Martin for many years, so the lunch was in some ways a celebration of that partnership.
We went to a restaurant where we ate in little old fashioned houses that squeezed in a table and 7 chairs. We had roasted eggplant, peppers and tomatoes to start. Then we were served labash (like tortillas) and herbs: purple oregano, green onions, cilantro and dill which we rolled into the labash. Nothing like garnish for lunch! Then came the Shashleek. This was very good meat with a tiny kick, garnished with onions. It was pork, so I didn’t eat much, but what I washed down with my thick apricot juice was surprisingly delicious. And then there were the toasts.
One to parents, those still alive to guide us, and those gone on ahead.
One to the partnership with Boaz, the children will live well, and so will we, and we will always work together.
One to the children, that they might live well, and how proud we are of them.
And of course, one to the Russian people.
Don’t worry. I didn’t take four shots. Victor was very kind and only filled my glass a little bit each time. (chootchoot=a little) By the end, Jim’s face was bright red and his eyes looked like they were on fire. David managed quite well. Svetlana was a bit giggly. Victor and Martin didn’t feel a thing. (And the driver turned his glass over when Martin ordered the cognac. Thank you! I didn’t want to play, “passing the slow truck in front of us with an oncoming semi” with a driver who is a little tipsy….)
Tonight we had another meeting with the women who teach Bible classes in the orphanage. It went fine. I was quite proud at one moment, the girls were looking very confused by Jim’s question and he couldn’t understand why. Without even asking the girls, I explained to him why they were confused—because I had been listening and watching and knew what he had said that was so confusing, and I was right! I was so happy! I also gave a devotion tonight and they all seemed….at least interested. Artom had to translate for Katya and they smiled and nodded a lot from the other end of the table.
After our session, we handed out some gifts and then Katya pulled me aside. “What are your plans for evening?” she asked in her soft, sweet voice. I smiled so widely she must have thought there was vodka in the borscht. “I don’t have plans. Do you have plans for me?” “Yes.”
So we went to Katya and Artom’s flat in Dobre—a district in the city. Yulia (Russian pronunciation of Julia), a friend from when David lived here, came and met us. Kolya came along as well—which is so cool because he’s not a Christian and we talked a bit about God. We had tea (obviously) and some chocolate wafer cake things, tiny grapes and mushy little plums that are shaped like oversized almonds. Katya showed us the whole flat—which isn’t difficult as homes are much smaller here. It is gorgeous. There is green everywhere, so I am in love! She also has an aquarium with snails that she is very proud of—they just got it last week and Artom just finished the cover and the light fixture.
Katya asked me on the bus if I was having “shock.” I laughed and said, yes, yes,yes. I have never had culture shock like this before. I don’t know if I’ve ever really had culture shock. But I am getting to the part where I can deal with it. I also said it’s hard not knowing the language. She smiled and said, “you come live in Vladimir, I think, one month, and you speak Russian. Iss not very hard, and you have no choice.” So I nodded and said I am praying about it, praying, praying. Always praying.
Yulia, the first thing she said tonight when I said I liked Russia pretty well was “you are in shock,” and then moved right along with the conversation. Clearly, this is something I am supposed to have expected more than I did. Oh the problems of arrogance! I thought I’d never deal with this. But Kolya wanted to know what shocked me the most. So I told them, and then I told them about my family, and about Joshua being in the AF, and what my mother is afraid of if I move to Russia. They thought this one was very funny—I said my mother is “afraid I’ll move to Russia, and I’ll get married to a Russian man, and I’ll never come back to the United States and she’ll never see me again.” I think there may have been a few leg slappings at that moment.
But we had to leave too soon. The doors at the hotel lock at 10pm, and we didn’t leave the flat until 10.06! We walked up to the hotel, trying to look very somber and apologetic for the cameras. Unfortunately, David’s bag was caught by a “sudden wind” (otherwise known as his own clumsiness) and he bumped into a car as we went by—setting off a rather obnoxious alarm! I barely made it to the door without peeing my pants I was laughing so hard.
But, like any good Russian hotel guard, ours was watching a movie and didn’t care in the least. We breezed by with a “itz veeneat” and scrambled up the stairs towards our rooms.