Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Kazakhstan Update Part 5 - Saava Orphanage Day 3

The smell and sound of coffee brewing once again woke me up at 5:50 AM. I was glad that I had slept well, but wondered how many others had. They had spent a lot more time with the kids than I had and would be much more emotionally attached. I joined the delegates for a prayer walk around the perimeter of the orphanage and watched as the kids began coming out. Normally they wouldn't be out quite so early, but they knew that today the delegates would be leaving right after breakfast. I wondered how I would react. Sara had warned me that as soon as the bus pulled up things would be harder.

After breakfast I taped another interview with one of the kids. As we walked back towards the main building, the red and tan coach approached. Sara was right--the sight of the bus caused my emotions to accelerate. I took a deep breath and took comfort in the fact that I would not be on the bus (I would be riding home with Sara shortly after) and that I would be returning a week from Saturday to do another video workshop.

The boys began carrying out the suitcases and boxes, some barely able to drag them, others balancing things on their heads. In between packing, the delegates and kids chatted, hugged, and cried. Some of the kids that I had talked to came running over. I gave them a hug and told them that I would be back soon. I videotaped mostly from a distance, not wanting to invade the privacy of those sharing what could be their final moments together. We had been told to try to keep things as upbeat as possible, and for the most part, it was. Some of the delegates held two or three kids in their arms. Others smiled and talked. The team leader, Jim, had told everyone that as soon he said "it's time to get on the bus," then everyone must quickly comply. I wondered how I would have reacted had I not been videotaping. The dreaded words finally came. Some immediately offered a final hug and smile, others could not quite let go. Jim and Sara had the task of prodding the stragglers, and it was probably another five minutes before the bus was loaded and ready. Dozens of young faces stared upward into the heavily tinted bus windows and tried to get a final glance of the visitors who had meant so much to them. I videotaped as the bus drove down the dusty lane and out of the orphanage. I took another deep breath and headed towards the main building. I had about five minutes to get my things and get back to Sara's car. I noticed that one of the boys who I had interviewed was having a tough time. I put my arm around his shoulder and walked him back upstairs to his dorm floor. I said a few more good-byes and got a few more hugs as I worked my way back to Sara's SUV. I was honored to have visited Savva and was already looking forward to visiting again.

Sara and I pulled onto the main road and headed out of town. We needed to stop at a nearby sanitorium where some of the kids from Savva had been assigned. I wasn't quite sure why, but it had something to do with TB prevention. It wasn't long before we arrived at the fairly modern pastel yellow buildings and found our way to the proper floor. The interior was very clean and modern, and looked as though it wasn't more then five year old. The kids from Savva were rounded up and greeted Sara warmly. "Sara! Sara!" they called. After a mini hug-fest we handed out gift bags containing some toiletries. The kids were all very excited and eagerly looked through the bags. We couldn't stay very long because we had an appointment at a teacher-training center and didn't want to be late. Again, we said our good-byes and headed off down the bumpy road.

Sara and I were heading to what I understood to be a college, where Interlink was training english teachers to teach other teachers, and so on. When Sara called to ask directions, she asked the woman if the school was on the right or left side of the road coming from Merke. She didn't know! As a result, we sped right by it, but some kind men at what appeared to be an auto repair place pointed us in the right direction. One minute later, we were there. The woman was waiting for us and led us upstairs to the classroom. The building was older and in the midst of getting an interior paint job. The smell of turpentine filled the halls. When we reached the classroom, about twelve students were seated around a table. They were listening to a song (I Want to be Your Hero?) in English, then singing it back. They seemed to be having a good time and didn't mind as I walked around the room taping them. Later, they did an activity that involved listening to a weather forecast on the radio, and another which required them to interpret or predict parts of the film "Les Miserables." From time to time during the lessons, we snuck off to another room and taped some interviews with the teachers. A couple had known we were coming and had already prepared remarks, which they were eager to share. They were very excited about the curriculum that Interlink had provided and looking forward to sharing it throughout the region. We were asked to stay for lunch, which we happily did. Since they were all learners and teachers of english, I was able to enjoy talking to them directly, without Sara having to translate. I found it ineresting that they asked me what year I was born. Sara later informed me that it was a typical Kazakh question. I was tempted to ask them in which year they were born, but I resisted. It was a delicious and very enjoyable lunch. Afterwards, we took some group photos, during which they practiced their slang. The most amusing for me was "see you soon, baboon!" I wondered where she had learned that one! After an emotionally difficult morning, it was nice to have an uplifting time at the school, and Sara and I left feeling upbeat. The trip home went quickly, and we were soon back at the office.

That evening, I enjoyed another nice dinner at Beth and Sara's place. We had stopped on the way and gotten a roast chicken, which was quite good. Beth offered to walk me back to the office (I was still staying in the guest apartment there) and I enjoyed the fresh air. The town square (where the policemen had been on my first night) was alive with people. It was more or less a mini carnival, with a bucking bronco, some games, cotton candy, etc. It was all a bit chaotic, with roller-bladers and cyclists zipping right between us. Especially amusing were the remote control mini-cars "driven" by little children. Sometimes I wondered if the parents knew how to use the remotes! Beth and I managed to survive the square and continued to a little park. We ran into a couple of people from the delegation, chatted a bit, then continued to the office. It had been a long, somewhat emotional day, and I was all too ready to relax. So far, my trip to Kazakhstan had been wonderful. I hoped that the days ahead would be just as good.

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