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Saturday, October 18, 2008

Difficult Choices

We arrived at the orphanage today at 3pm as usual just in time to see Aniyar and Madiyar leaving with a teacher. They were walking to the Kodak shop to have their visa photos taken, definitely a good sign of our progress here. We were assured by the director that our bonding time would be extended to make up the time lost to us by this task and we settled down to wait. It was only a short time before the boys returned, all smiles, eager to see what fun we had brought with us today.

Aniyar and Madiyar love videogames so I know they were hoping for more GameBoy time today. They were a bit crestfallen when I told them we had left the GameBoys in Ust and brought puzzles for them instead. (Craig and I want to vary the activities during our visits so that we can learn more about the boys' interests and abilities and have more interaction with them.) We also set up our laptop to show everyone a slideshow of photos of our home and family activities. The adults were more interested in the pictures than the kids at this point; the boys have seen most of these before. Aniyar started to put his puzzle together, glancing at the photos when there was something new to see. Some of Madiyar's friends were hovering outside the office door and they called to him; he chatted with the other boys for a while before Natalya noticed and called him back into the room...and that's when we saw a different side of Madiyar. He reluctantly returned to the room but sat down apart from us all. Natalya asked him to come look at some photos and he refused. He was polite but quiet and withdrawn. Natalya and Tatyana tried to coax him out of his mood but he was demonstrating a stubborn streak. His response to every invitation to put together a puzzle, see photos, or talk was “Ya ni hachoo.” (I don't want to.) He sat with his head down and eyes averted, barely whispering his refusals. This didn't really upset us; we know Madiyar is old enough to understand the enormity of the change he's facing and we've been expecting reality to hit him now that we're here. Natalya and Tatyana were obviously worried about our reaction to his behavior; they kept telling us not to worry and that 13 is a difficult age...but Madiyar remained silent and rooted to his chair. Finally the ladies went to fetch the director who was in another room. The director talked with Madiyar and slowly, the story unfolded. It seems that Madiyar has many friends here and he's a leader among them, both socially and in school. He is worried that in America he will make mistakes and he will lose his chance to be a leader.... I smiled and told him that I met him when he was 8 years old and he was already a leader then so I knew he would be a leader wherever he went in his life...but that's not something he can believe right now. The reality is indeed sinking in; in order to come with us, he will have to leave his friends and life as he knows it...and that's scary. The director gently told Madiyar he should apologize to us for his behavior but I didn't think an apology was necessary for honest emotions. I hugged him and told him that we were not angry with him; I was rewarded with one of his shy grins and the mood lifted. We were soon putting together a puzzle and joking...Aniyar was almost finished with his puzzle by then, proud of himself and cheerful as always. We spent the last 20 minutes of our visit chatting with the director while the boys played pinball on the computer. When it was time to say goodbye, the hugs were warm and the smiles genuine as the boys hurried off to have their dinner.

If you're wondering, we don't think Madiyar will change his mind about joining our family. We think he wants this but the fear of the unknown can be pretty daunting...frankly, I'd be more worried if a boy his age didn't have some concerns. He knows his life is about to change in every way and the enormity of that change is overwhelming. We've told him that we understand that the choice to leave his homeland is a difficult one but that it is his choice to make. Now we'll give him some time to work this out for himself. As for 13 year old moods...hey, we live with the Drama Queen...wink...we can weather any mood swing!

Kate, Tanya and Max--The critters hit the road with us today...they received lots of hugs and pats from the boys...and even from the grown-ups! They're getting sooo spoiled....

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