Sunday, December 16, 2012

Falling In Love With The Children

Since the boarding school was in a very rural village, there was no place else for us to stay but in the boarding school.  (Infants stay in what they call baby houses, when they become toddlers they go to orphanages, and then older children until they graduate live in boarding shools).  Our facilitator / translator took us to meet the director.  Like everyone we ended up meeting there, the director was very nice and told us what he knew about Cava.  He then agreed to let us stay there.

We were shown to our bedroom on the second floor where some of the children (10 - 13 year olds) stayed.  Cava's building was directly across from ours.  The room was small and contained two bunk beds, a small table with two chairs, and a wardrobe.  Since the children there aren't allowed to lock their doors, the director was kind enough to have the maintenance man install one for our room since we'd brought things like our laptop with us.  Although we had our own room, we had to share the single shower and bathroom on our floor with the children.  Something we had to get used to was the squatter-style toilets.

Since we were staying among them and eating with them, our family were closely watched by the children all the time.  This took some adjusting to. 

As we were going inside the building, I noticed a girl waiting to come out, so I waited and held the door open for her to exit before I entered.  After she had, I entered and started to close the door behind me.  I saw through the door, which was glass, that she was standing there, smiling at me.  I soon noticed her staying on our periphery a lot.  Whenever I smiled at her, she would smile back but lower her gaze.  I also noticed she would pass our room quite a bit and look inside.  One night she even sat just outside the room on the floor, sewing.

Our second meeting with Cava was completely different from our first.  This time our facilitator brought him to our room.  Cava brought the toys we'd given him with him.  Now he was very talkative and very, very active.  One of his favorite things to do was to flip himself over the side of the top bunk.  Needless to say, he heard quite a bit of, "Cava, nyet! Nyet!" or "Cava, no!  No!" 

He discovered our hand sanitizer and he loved to put some on his hands, sniff the scent, and then put his hands to our faces so we could sniff them. 

To keep him from continually climbing up to the top bunk and standing on the edge of it, I brought out the travel version of Blokus.  He quickly became engrossed in trying to get all of the pieces on the board.  I think he spent an hour doing this in a very focused manner.  Cava beamed proudly when he finally did get all of the pieces in place.

It also did not take him long to think of our room as his room and he would enter with, "Morning Mama, Papa, Ben" and would pull off his hat and coat and toss them on my bunk. 

We had to keep him from going through all our bags, though he did find a Coke bottle that had a little left in it.  He opened the bottle, drank what was left, and then said, "Ahhhh, Coca Cola!" 

Since I knew Cava loved Spongebob Squarepants, I took out my sketchpad and drew Spongebob and Patrick for him.  He knew exactly who they were and he laughed, pointing to the drawing and saying their names.  Soon other kids on our floor overcame their shyness from us and began to come in and watch me draw.  Then the requests started.  They wanted me to draw superheroes (Batman, Spiderman, Superman, and Hulk), wolves (they especially liked the hip hop wolves I drew), and different sports (soccer, basketball, and their most requested, boxing). 

What broke my heart was when some would request me draw them with a family of a mother, father, and brother like us.

One of the older girls, whom I gave some of my drawings to, came back to our room later and gave us a small photo album to thank me for the drawings.  The album had no photos inside but stickers.  Children prize these small albums, which contain their favorite things in them.  Another example was when we gave out chocolate to the kids on our floor.  One little girl asked if she could have the wrapper so she could put it in her album.  She then showed me that, among the few photos she had, were other candy wrappers she had kept.

The 12 year old girl, that liked to hover, drew me a few drawings in my sketchbook.  The last drawing was of a heart.  She showed this to me and pointed to hers and said the drawing was her heart for me. 

It did not take me long to fall in love with these children.  These beautiful, funny, and full of life children. 

They loved playing with Benjamin, who they called "Ben Ten" after the TV show.  They knew some American shows: Ben Ten, Spongebob, iCarly (which our family would later watch dubbed in Ukrainian when were back in Kiev).  In the photo album we gave Cava, there was a photo of me working the grand opening of Toys R Us where we live.  The kids were fascinated with this picture and amazed at all the toys behind me.  They don't have toys other than a few stuffed animals.  When I told them I worked for Hasbro, one of the boys exclaimed, "Transformers!"

One of the boys had a cell phone that no longer worked as a cell phone, but had three songs on it that he liked to play.  He would then dance to the songs.  It did not take him long to point at me and say, "You!  You!"  The other kids joined in trying to get me to dance.  When I finally did break out my moves, they all erupted in laughter.

They constantly wanted me to take their photos.  The one 12 year old girl, wanted Danelle to take a photo of just me with her.  She grew frustrated with the other children when they would get in the photo.  Still, in the photos, she would get right up next to me.  One night, she even gave me a hug before she went to bed.

It broke my heart that I couldn't take them all home with me and love them as my own. 

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