Monday, June 23, 2008

Graduation Time!

Pretty dresses, fancy hair styles, manicures and make-up- the things most teenage girls count on for a special occasion. And graduation from high school in Ukraine is one such special occasion when girls put much effort into looking their best. With lavish ball gowns, and cascading curls, the Ukrainian graduation day tends to resemble an American high school prom more than a typical western graduation! And for orphanage graduation it is no different-- they too want to look their best and dress to the nines!

Our staff in Kiev has been working with the older orphans at Radomeshal orphanage (about an hour from Kiev) for the last year, and we decided to make their graduation day extra special by giving the 9 graduating girls a day of beauty. So we went early in the morning armed with shampoo, hairdryers, curling irons, nail-polish and make-up and set to work. This was my second year doing the hair and make-up for graduates of this orphanage, and I have to say it is fun to see the transformation take place-- the girls really get into it and have so much fun. Girls are matter what matter what social status.

It is a sobering fact to know that these girls didn't have the moms and dads waiting afterwards to give them hugs and congratulations...and the future that awaits these 16-year-old graduates is uncertain. Most have gone through our life skills traning and they have developed some relationships with some positive adult role-models...but like all things in life, nothing is for certain. My prayer is that God will guide their steps and they will seek to know him more.

The girls graduating from Radomeshal

Monday, June 16, 2008

Nice Ukrainians...

So I've lived in Ukraine for almost 4 years now (startling really) and one thing I have come to learn is that Ukrainians are typically NOT very nice in public, but very nice once you get to known them and are welcomed into their homes and lives. The irony is I've probably experienced some of the best hospitality in my life through living here, as people tend to give generously out of the little that they have and make you feel like royalty if ever invited to a meal, or even just to tea. But on the other hand, in public (namely on transportation) I have probably experienced some of the worst treatment in my life through living in this country. From the elbow jabs, to the stern faces and evil glares, to the just plain rudeness, the public persona of this country can leave much to be desired.
However, after that little introduction, I have to say that this weekend I was given a new perspective, a glimpse at how there actually are "nice Ukrainians" in public when a young mother is perceived! For the past 3 days I was that young mother! My dear friends Kelly and Tyler left for a weekend to visit some friends in Russia and left me with two of their 3 children, Hannah (5) and Joshua (almost 3).

So I got to experience what it is like to carry two small children and a stroller throughout the streets and public transportation systems of Kiev, and boy let me tell you that I gained a new level of respect for all those Kievian mamas out there! Now I know how they stay so skinny!!

With sweet little Joshua watching elephants at the zoo!

So anyway, I had this revelation over weekend that Ukrainians are actually quite friendly, helpful and downright NICE when a young woman is trying to maneuver a 5 year-old in one hand, an almost 3 year-old in her arms and a stroller strung around her shoulder all the while trying to walk up a flight of stairs and then board the almost moving tram in 85 degree heat! I was shocked as numerous men and women would offer to carry the stroller, carry little Joshua or let me off and on the trains and trams first and without pushing and shoving. Maybe you are thinking, "well that's the way it should be"-- and believe me, I agree, but after my years of living here, this little weekend made me very appreciative that the not so nice Ukrainians can be very nice...when they need to be!

Hannah enjoying some cotton candy at the zoo!

Thursday, June 12, 2008

The Miracle of Adoption

It truly amazes me how one moment 3 children can be living in an orphanage, doing their day to day routine and the next moment a family can show up and change their lives forever...offering them a home, love and consistency that they have never known. This is the miracle I witnessed yesterday as we arrived in Ternopil and Zenon and Monique met their newest children for the first time. It wasn't some magical moment where the kids came leaping and bounding into the parents arms or anything like that, but it was very real all the same.
The kids were confused and a little timid at first, not understanding what was going on, but as the afternoon passed and their understanding of adoption began to increase they warmed up and began to ask questions about living with this new family in America. Ruslan is 11, Yuri is 9 and little Alina, with her missing front teeth is 7. I sat as an observer for most of the afternoon, feeling a bit like the paparazzi as I was secretly snapping pictures of the kids getting acquainted with mama and papa for the first time. But more than anything I felt blessed. After two years of waiting with this couple, and two years of doors closing and documents expiring, I had the honor of sitting there and watching the beginning of a new chapter in the life of this family.

It amazes me just how God has been in the details of this adoption every step of the way. For over two years this couple has waited, frustrated that they were not getting to submit documents, when their hearts desire was just to adopt! Why did it take so long? On Monday at the appointment when they selected the children, God's timing became evident when learning that these 3 little ones just became registered for international adoption 3 months ago. It rather puts the waiting in perspective. We don't always get to see the eternal perspective-- but this was a small glimpse and a testimony and reminder to God's perfect timing.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Walking through an Adoption...

Tonight I will be heading out on the midnight train with the family I am helping with an adoption. Monique and Zenon arrived on Saturday and after an introductory weekend to Kiev they had their appointment at the State Adoption Department (SDA) yesterday.

Monique and Zenon in front of the SDA

I waited patiently outside the building as they went in to their appointment with our lawyer Valery, and prayed that God would give them wisdom as to which children they were to choose from the files layed before them. I still can't imagine what it must feel like to pick your future children from photographs and files layed before you on a table. They emmerged from the office with smiles on their faces and ready to head to Western Ukraine to adopt 3 siblings-- two boys aged 11 and 10 and a girl, 7. So I head out tonight with them on the train to go meet the kids tomorrow! Please pray for us...and for these kids-- their whole lives are about to change...FOREVER!!

Monique and I enjoying ice-cream in the center

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Living in Kiev...or Kyiv...however you want to spell it

Actually some people take the spelling of the capital of Ukraine quite seriously. The reason the spellings vary depends if you are translating it from Ukrainian or from Russian into English. If you are translating from Russian it is "Kiev" and if you are a true national and speaking Ukrainian you would translate it as "Kyiv." I like the freedom to be able to choose...depending on my mood! To get into the sociology and deep rooted emotions behind the use of the two languages will have to be the subject of another post...there is just way much to say on that topic!
Below are just some fun pictures to show you the beauty of Kiev..or uh Kyiv...and the random things one might see when walking down the main street Khreshatik. These were taken at the beginning of May.

The main street in the center of the city

You just never know when you may come across a man juggling in the center of the road

Believe it or not, you can pay babushkas about 10 cents and they will tell you your weight! Ummm no thank you...I prefer to lie to myself at home!

Hmmm...communism alive and well?

No, this is not traditional Ukrainian costume

My beautiful city at night!