Tuesday, January 19, 2010


We went to visit Ruslan today. He looks really happy and even looks like he has some color in his cheeks. He showed us around the sleeping quarters...finally! We got the grand tour... all the highlights... the rug where they wrestle, break dance, karate, and do gymnastics moves, the TV room with hard benches to sit on and watch tv, and the weights that belonged to one of the older boys. There were several posters from McGills skateshop (in Encinitas) so I am sure that Ruslan got a lot of kudos for bringing cool posters to the orphanage. There were not any other posters or pictures up on the walls, so I am glad he brought them. We finally met his best friend. He must have been gone for the holidays because we have never met him until today. His name is Vitali and he looks like the sweetest little guy. All of the boys seem very sweet and thoughtful with each other. Sure they wrestle and kick the crap out of each other, but they always make sure the other guy is Ok afterwards and that the blood isn't getting all over the carpet.

Ruslan seems to be very comfortable with us. He is trying to talk and answer all our questions in English. He is even posing for pictures which is something that we really have not been able to do. It is amazing what happens to a person when they feel loved. It is the greatest gift you can give to someone. It must be such a lonely feeling knowing that someone won't stick their neck out for you. I can almost tell which kids at the orphanage still have family who visit because they are the ones who still have some softness in their eyes. Some color.

The first time I saw Ruslan at the airport in New York, he scared me a little. He had fear in his eyes. It was a look like he was not afraid to punch me if I tried anything tricky. I remember that most the other kids were smiling and hugging their host families (some knew them from past trips or had received a letter or two before the trip). Ruslan did not want to look anyone in the eye or -God forbid- hug anyone! He looked scared. And skinny. We grouped together with some of the other kids and their hosts to find our way to connecting flights. One of the kids, Victor
(who is finally being adopted), had shoes on that were way to small on him and he could barely walk. Our guess was that they were the newest shoes at the orphanage and so they put those on him. Or maybe, he squished his feet into them just so he could wear new shoes. We made him take them off and walk around in his socks. He looked at us really funny because- who in their right mind would walk around without shoes? Ukrainians NEVER go without shoes, even in the house. Once those shoes came off, he let out a sigh of relief and smiled. One of the girls was a fiery redhead and was already telling English jokes and was the skinniest thing I had ever seen! She was just adopted by a family in Italy (Good, get some pasta and gelato into that girl!) And then there was our guy, the quiet apprehensive one that had the saddest eyes.

We all weighted ourselves on the baggage scale and every host parent there was silently calculating how much weight they can try to put on the child before they had to go back to the orphanage. Ruslan gained 5 pound in 3 weeks. Not bad. He didn't eat much at first because he was busy riding the bike for the 100th time around the house or was having a meltdown in his bedroom. After week two, he came out of his protective shell a little and started to eat. A lot. His favorite thing was (and still is) chicken and he also loves french fries and fruit- any kind of fruit. We would go to the grocery store and he would start to grab anything that looked like fruit and put it in the cart. He got a little daring after a few trips and got a pineapple and a mango. He also loved trail mix with m & m's and macadamia nuts. He could go through a pound of macadamias in a day!

Then there was the behavior. OH, the behavior! I can't tell you how many times we tried to go to pizza port to eat pizza and play video games. He did not want to eat pizza, he hates pizza, and did not want to play video games. The fact was, he had no idea what we were talking about, but the 11 year old mind likes to think that they know everything. We finally got him to go on one of his last nights there and I think he was a little peeved that he didn't agree to go sooner.

Much of his stay with us was dealing with melt downs and him retreating into his room under the blankets for an hour or so. We called the translator almost every day to get him to understand what we were saying and that "Let's go to the zoo" did not mean "We are going to take you somewhere really boring and make you eat pizza with mayonnaise and lard." And it never really got better. We all had big bags under our eyes after that three week "vacation." I think we all were going to bed at 8PM every night.

So, his eyes aren't so scared, he trusts us a little now and he knows we stuck it out in this god forsaken #@!#$* country so we could bring him home with us. We are making some progress.


Marla said...

I love this story...even though I am sitting here crying like a baby! You guys are really awesome. You have so much love in your hearts...you are truly an amazing family!

brianna said...

I'm so glad that Ruslan is getting more comfortable. You guys are amazing and tough and have huge hearts. I hope to enjoy some pizza port and macadamian nuts with you all really soon. :)