Thursday, October 23, 2008

Kazakhstan Update Part 4 - Savva Orphanage Day 2

I slept a lot better than I thought I would--until the coffee pot started perking away at 5:50 AM! Apparently this was part of a routine that I was not aware of since I had just arrived. The smell of coffee soon spread throughout the room, and any thoughts of sleeping until 7 o'clock disappeared. I joined the delegates for a morning prayer meeting then headed off to breakfast. Everyone was in good spirits, but I knew that this would be a tough day for most; it would be the last full day that the delegates would be at Savva.

There was a short break after breakfast, and I used the time to jot down my thoughts for the video-making presentation that I would be giving to some of the local staff later in the morning. I then headed outside to the school building to film the students arriving for school. The various groups shuffled off to the same classrooms that they had used the previous evening for the arts and crafts. As a matter of fact, many of the students still needed a few more minutes to paint their creations, and so some class time was used for that purpose. Other classrooms were engaged in English classes. It appeared that "months of the year" was the topic and the students gladly shouted out each successive month. I had to leave the classroom sessions early because I had a classroom session of my own coming up.

Sara had asked me to give a one-hour videography class for some of the local orphanage staff. They had been given a new video camera, but had not received any training. It was my job to present them with the basics. The 5 staff members seemed interested in what I had to say (either that or they were being polite!) and my translator, Diora, did a great job of keeping up with me. The group asked quite a few questions, and the hour went quickly by. They asked if I would be able to come back to talk about editing, and Sara quickly arranged for me to do so. I was quite happy to agree, knowing that I would be able to spend some more time with the kids at the orphanage when I returned.

After the session, I did a few interviews. One was with a translator, another with a graduating student, and still another with the director of the orphanage. It was clear that they loved the work that Interlink Resources was doing and were excited by the fact that the delegation had come to visit.

It was soon lunchtime, and all of us enjoyed the chance to sit down and have a bite to eat. Once more, dill weed played an important role in the cuisine, but it didn't bother me a bit. I had forgotten how much I liked the herb and made a mental note to see if I could find it in Spain. I had been trying to sit in a slightly different seat each meal so that I could talk with as many different delegates and translators as I could. I didn't entirely succeed, but I can say that I did manage to talk with at least one new person each time. When lunch was over, I knew that something I had been waiting to do was in the making.

Mukbar, the boy that I sponsored, had not yet showed up and there were rumors that he was hesitant because he was in some sort of trouble. One of Mukbar's friends, Stas, knew where he lived and offered to take us there. The director supported our plan and allowed Stas to leave campus to show us the way to the house. There was no guarantee that Mukbar would be there, but we thought that it would be worth a try. It only took a few minutes to drive to the house of Mukbar's aunt. Stas ran to an opening between the doors of the gate and yelled something. I heard the word "sponsor" and hoped that Stas was talking to Mukbar. As it turned out, he was, and I was told that he was going to quickly put on a hat and he would soon be able to join us. Moments later, the gate swung open and there he was. The boy that I had sponsored for nearly 3 years smiled and extended his hand. "I am Mukbar," he said. We shook hands and smiled at each other. It was clear that he was just a bit embarassed, but after a few moments of chat (facilitated by Kijon), he seemed to relax and was quite happy when I suggested that we go to the baazar. We all hopped in the SUV and drove another five minutes down the road to the baazar. I offered to buy him a few things and asked him if he would help me pick out a few things for Oleg, another boy that I sponsored. I ended up getting him some shorts, a shirt, a belt, some paint, and a soccer ball. I also bought Stas a pair of shorts for helping us out. We snapped a few photos and talked some more as we walked. It was clear that he was a bit "rough around the edges" but equally clear that he had a good heart. He smiled often and was quick to throw his arm around me. After picking up something to drink, we drove down a side-street towards the mountains. He said that he wanted to go to a "castle." As it turned out, he was right. It was a recreational area surrounded by castle-like walls. It had a swimming pool and a nice outdoor cafe. We took a few more photos and then sat in the cafe and talked for quite a bit. It started to rain, but since we were underneath an awning, we were fine. As the rain let up, I knew that we probably needed to go. I invited him to the carnival that we would be having that night, but he said that his aunt was having a birthday party. The ride to his home went all too quickly, but I was grateful that I had finally met him. He asked me to come back to Kazakhstan and I told him that I would try. He gave me a big hug and then we had to say goodbye. I wasn't sad; I was happy to have met him and had the strongest feeling that I would see him again.

Upon returning to Savva, I taped a couple of more interviews and had some dinner. Shortly after we ate, it began to rain, but this time much harder than earlier. The rain didn't stop those who decided to do a bit of dancing outside. With soaked hair and clothing, they continued their pre-carnival disco without missing a beat. The rain let up with sufficient time to set up the events and before long the children were enjoying bowling, sponge toss, funny photos, and many other events. Despite the simple nature of the carnival, everyone loved it. The kids awaited patiently in line for each event and their almost continuous smiles revealed much gratitude. Besides videotaping what I could, my only other contribution was to show some of them how to pull of their thumbs! After the carnival there was another dance, and I was persuaded to join in. Thankfully, my lack of dancing skill seemingly went unnoticed!

After the dance, the children and adults signed more notebooks and many hung out in the halls for at least another hour. I talked with a group of them for at least 30 minutes and gave up a trip to the "bano" that night. I decided that I needed some sleep, so I went upstairs to our dorm room only to discover that about twenty kids and adults were right outside the door. I got into bed anyway and hoped that someone would suggest they get some sleep. That someone turned out to be Sara, and I was grateful to finally nod off. I knew that tomorrow would be difficult, and I also knew that if I didn't get enough sleep, it would be even more so.

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