I'll just let that sink in for a minute. I don't know about you, but I'm still reeling a bit from it.
Ok, here's how it went:
We arrived in the morning and all of our kids were at school exccept for Vika. She is nearly done recovering from the chicken pox. She also has quite a stuffed up nose!
We got to meet her first. She was very shy and it was pretty heavy that we were there and her siblings weren’t and all the pressure was on her to meet us alone. Someone suggested she show us to her room. She shyly but firmly reached for my hand and practically dragged me up stairs. She was much more comfortable in her room. She showed us her bed and the other girls' beds while we were crowded by a couple of the other girls who were also recovering from the pox. after that, she will snuggle very comfortably but not clingy on mine or Scott's lap.
Alina and Sasha were brought back from school to spend the day with us. It was so obvious that they had been hoping every day that today was the day, and finally it was. Alina was giddy. She is so happy and excited. She has a very bubbly personality that is infectious. It was awesome to see her hope come to fruition.
Sasha is such a great boy. He loves sports and electronics and is really great with both of his little sisters. He is content to play a game on my phone, but he would sit and lean into us and whenever he passed a level, he would just lean over and say, "look, look." to make sure we knew he was doing well. He loved that small reassurance and affirmation. We will need to remember to always be ready with approving words.
Masha goes to trade school in Kiev everyday. It is about an hour and a half commute each way. While we were waiting for her all day, she had no idea that today was THE DAY. She walked in the front door, and saw us, but until Alina raced up to her, cupped her hand over her ear and whispered that WE WERE FINALLY HERE, she had no idea. To say that she was surprised would be an understatement. When she looked at us for the second time, she smiled the biggest smile.
The other children had spent all day with us, but we only got to stay for another 30 minutes by the time she came home.
She had many questions.
Is it warm where we live? (Clearly a little bummed hearing about Chicago weather, but she took it stride.)
What is the situation for her for school?
How about the other kids?
Many MANY questions about what kind of job she can get.
The list goes on
I finally told Masha (facilitator) to assure her that she did not have to decide her future today, tomorrow, or even next year. She had all the time in the world to decide. We are here for here and she didn't have to do anything for a while.
Do we go to church?
Can she change her name? (We were wondering if we would be asked this)
It is obvious that she is yearning for a fresh start. We told her she could pick a new name but that we wanted to have final say on it in case she chose a name that had an unfavorable connotation in the US. We also said we wanted to give her a family middle name. We are letting her pick from the 3 names we have for the girls, and then will shuffle the other ones. Naturally then the other kids want to change their names too, but we are not going to do that. We will let them pick which nick name naturally comes from their names:
Alexander (sasha) can stay sasha or be called Alex or zander, I guess. ( I don't like Lexi for a boy so it is off the table)
Alina can be Ali or Lena or Alina
Vika can be Vika, or Tori or Vicki, but seriously, she is so a Vika I don't imagine that changing. We are game for the other nicknames though, so be ready.
Who knows what Masha will come up with. She said she wanted to think about it.
They don't remember us at all. When I showed them the picture that I took so long ago, they started to vaguely remember. All they knew is that someone said they were coming.
We learned that they have been in the states TWICE. They have been to Colorado and Georgia.
It was cool to see them hear me remember the things they said to me and how they looked and everything about the day that they don't really remember. It was sinking in to them we have cared about them for a while. It was so special.
The kids wrestle and play and Vika has been allowed to really beat the big kids up. (sound like anyone else we know?)
The next day, Friday, we visited with the children again. This time, Sasha was also home from school with a headache. We played some games, the kids were all over the iPad, we ate lunch with them, but had to leave before Masha got home from school. We needed to leave because of what was planned for the 19th...
We had been staying in a hotel in Fastiv, but that was not going to work long term. It is difficult to drive to the facility from Fastiv, there is not really a bus, and while we could probably hire a driver from town, we would not be staying in the hotel, but renting an apartment. If we were to rent an apartment, there would be no access to internet for weeks. While I know our children at home are in good hands, we didn't think we could go that long without access to a the very least an email, so we opted to rent an apartment for a month+ in Kiev. It is big enough to fit us all and we won't have to move until we go home. This is why we left early on Friday, so we could get settled into the new place.
The flaw of this plan is getting back to them to visit. Here was the plan.
Take the Metro redline for 2 stops.
Get on the blue line for 4 stops
get off and find the bus depot
find the #172 bus
ride this for at least 2.5 hours
get off at the train station stop in the hamlet one over from where the children are
text our Masha and she would walk 10 minutes to retrieve us
I imagine you are wondering how this went.
So what happened?
We couldn't find the Metro by our apartment, so we walked to Independence Square. Really not a bad walk except for the sheet of ice covering everything. EVERYTHING. It will be a miracle if one of us doesn't come home with a broken something. Seriously. There was also a steady freezing rain. By the time we got to the Metro, we were ourselves covered in ice.
We had no problem with the Metro from there. We got off at the 4th stop and were told to look for all the buses and find #172.
Here's the deal. There are lines of buses in 5 different areas around the Ocean Plaza where we were. Some are parked with no driver, some are constantly arriving and leaving. There were 5 or 6 different places to check for our bus. Conveniently we had a note with the name of where we wanted to go written in Ukrainian so we could show it to the driver. If he answered affirmatively that it was the correct bus, there was more to the note. This part asked him if he would tell us to get off the bus when we reached the right stop.
Unfortunately we never made it that far. We finally found bus #172, but while that is the number we are supposed to look for, these particular 172's don't leave the city.
We stood outside for about 2.5 hours. Someone told us that the right #172 would come at 1:30. Since we were freezing by then and we had about 45 minutes, we went into the Ocean Plaza mall. I really only know how to order a Big Mac meal at McDonald's, so that is what we had. We tanked up, warmed up, off loaded, and then went back outside to see if the bus would show. We had a number of phone calls with our facilitator, who felt badly about the whole deal. She was looking at the schedule on line and it said it should be there. She did say that when she called to ask, she was told that we could get on the metro and go 3 more stops down the line and then we would be able to catch the correct 172 bus with no problem. This was verified by another driver who spoke a little English and was sympathetic to our pathetic note-toting icy selves.
1:30 passed and the bus never came. We decided that even if it did come, it was now too late to go. We got back on the Metro to Independence Square and started the walk back to our apartment.
Part 2 of the EPIC FAIL.
We were probably 2 blocks from our apartment when we just became too tired and all the landmarks fell out of our head. Our 30 minute walk turned into an hour and a half before we were able to make it back to our place. There is nothing more frustrating than being only a couple of blocks from where you need to be but not being able to get there!
Well, I see that this is quite a long post, so I will talk about Sunday's visit tomorrow.
HINT: it was great!