28 December 2007

ikea is ok-ea

Warning: this post meanders quite a bit

We were laughing as we were driving yesterday about the fact that on many horrible roads in Russia there have been signs put up a warning drivers about disastrously pot-holed roads instead of fixing the road. The warning above functions in the same way. ;>

I admit that I'm not a fan of their furniture or their store layout. Before yesterday I would have considered it a place to buy vanilla candles and temporary solutions. But now I have a soft spot for that retail giant.

The orphanage director from the orphanage I went to yesterday has gotten IKEA to sponsor her facility. They repaired the building (It's a large, U-shaped building. One wing is completely closed. Another had fallen into serious disrepair--broken windows, leaks, etc.). They rebuilt shower rooms. And, they furnished the children's rooms.

We handed out gifts the students at my school collected to some of the school-aged children.

And afterwards, we went upstairs to see one of V's special friends, L. V has known L since she was three. At that age, L took V's hand and led her throughout the orphanage showing her things and asking questions.

L is eleven now. She is warm and sparkly and open. She wanted so badly to talk to me! She exhausted her English (with help from her roommate, O) and considerately slowed down and simplified her Russian for me. Still, I found it difficult to converse. That is FRUSTRATING! I just wanted to chat. Every time I meet one of these amazing children one-on-one I think I need to raise my age range! Remember when I decided seven was still little after meeting Katya? Today eleven feels little, too.

L met us in her study. She and one other girl have a room furnished with two desks (chairs, lamps, etc.) and a wardrobe for their things. They had personal items on their desks and in the wardrobe. This was such a welcome surprise! I hadn't seen any other orphanages with this personal space allocated to children. And, it was quite a difference from the usual all-communal property.

Space might be one of the things this orphanage has going for it. It's a big building! But, I think that the director's vision for what the children need is just as important. Otherwise, this space could be used as offices, storage or simply left unused. The fact that these children are given this space as their own affected me tremendously. This director is leaving the orphanage. Valentina summed it up well when she said she is sad to see such a wonderful woman leaving the children, but glad that she is moving up in the ranks of government. She is going to be a supervisor of many orphanages now (I think). Valentina thinks her talent and intelligence will take her far--and hopes that having such a caring woman in a position of influence will help all of Russia's children.

We also talked quite a bit with L's brother, his friend, and L's roommate O. O was not happy with her Christmas presents. She didn't like the wooden dollhouse furniture that you assemble. She was upset that she didn't have a doll the right size. The dolls she did have she declared either too tall or too fat. She wanted the gifts L had. L offered to share, but O was determined to be unhappy. She didn't want her picture taken. She didn't want us to find her a doll. She just wanted to be sad.

She forgot to be sad when L wanted to talk to me. O is more confident of her English than Lena and liked being able to help her. She didn't want to speak to me herself, but she liked being able to help L say, "I am eleven." I asked where they learned English. We were told (V translated) that their dancing teacher wanted more money so he had begun teaching them English as well. When we left, O was fine. V, who was very concerned, told the deputy director that O was upset with her gifts. The deputy director said that this was usual for O. I'm on a secret mission to find a doll the right size...and something fun for L, who generously offered to share what she'd been given.

V is always an interesting source of opinions on the state of things in Russia. She thinks that Medvedev will be the next president of Russia. The statement that made the biggest impact on her was his claim that in two years there will be no orphanages in Russia. She thinks this is laughable. She is very concerned about a law limiting abortions that goes into effect next year. She foresees a dramatic rise in the number of children in Russian orphanages.

V also has her eye out for d2b. I confided to her that I was concerned that neither my current agency nor the other possible agency has experience and contacts in the region where I'll need to be. She often works there and is going to talk to some directors she knows who have placed children internationally. Maybe we can work this backwards and get d2b home!


Maggie said...

What a sweet girl. From someone who adopted a 10-year-old, yes -- 11 is still young. There are particular challenges that come with adopting an older child, but there are also things that are easier about it. I'm so glad I adopted an older child, though.

Tami said...

What a sweetheart!! The orphanage that we stayed at (I'm going to blog about it today) had a similar set up to the one your visited. But they had family sets. Each 'family' had their own living area, kitchen and bedrooms where only two or three at the most shared a room. They were able to 'buy' things from the 'general store' for doing extra chores around the orphanage. Like yours, this director is a visionary and she has a staff of amazing people working with her. BTW - this orphanage is for special needs, so they have the added responsibility of training these children to live on their own, because if they're not able to by the time they're 16 they'll be sent to a locked institution for the rest of their days. So incredibly sad. So many of these kids are NOT special needs...but if left in a traditional orphanage would be locked up without any hope.
I'm glad you have an ally in bringing home d2b. We'll keep praying!!! :)

votemom said...

and ugh.
those pictures get me every time. they give me a stomach ache.
i don't know if it's because i've actually been to a place like that in real life and the pictures acutely bring it all back.....
i have a child

i'm soooooo thankful you could go!!
and that is VERY VERY cool about IKEA.

it was such a huge, giant deal when our town got an IKEA. people drive hours to shop at it.

when we were in moscow and i learned that they have 3 (or is it 6?), i was amazed.

i went once and decided that was enuf for me. the layout drove me insane and made me feel trapped.

i'm rambling now.
i have to go back and re-read your post again. and enlarge the pictures again. and study each face.

thanks for sharing.

JennStar said...

Oh, what a sweet spirit L has! It brough a tear to my eye to read about her. That's wonderful that you were able to spend some time there (and possibly have help finding d2b, too!!)
We just got our 1st IKEA about an hour away- I stil haven't ventured there yet, since we're in the midst of the holidays, but I would like to in January- I'm super curious! Merry Christmas Kate!

kim said...

It seems like IKEA is huge in Russia. There were signs all over Nizhniy Novgorod... it is good to know they give back to the community.

Traveling to the detsky dom was such a beautiful and sad thing. Having girls come up to you and cry and beg to go home with you is almost more than I can handle. I was so worried about Anna being too old (at 16) to successfully make the transition, but it has been wonderful. Her favorite Christmas present was a baby doll that cries, eats, talks, etc... we now have another member of our family.

It would be wonderful if you could get d2b home through the back door. I hope and pray 2008 is your year.

Rachael said...

What a sweet story. How sad that V has known L since she was 3 and here she is still in the system at 11. I love hearing about your orphanage visiting tales.

ferenge mama said...

What an adorable little girl. Yes, 11 DOES seem pretty little, doesn't it?

Glad to hear about that orphanage - seems we always hear the horror stories, but this one sounded good.

Annie said...

I LOVE your blog....and am so glad your internet is back up! I'd give anything to be in your teaching-in-Russia shoes. But I am very grateful to have my dear little Russians at home calling me "mama". I hope so much things work out for you soon! It is hard to understand why it wouldn't be easier for you....but it is all a mystery, sometimes.

Deb said...

That's a director that cares. Very touching.

I hope V is able to help you with finding your d2b. That would be wonderful.

It's got to be hard going to orphanages and seeing all these children that need love and not trying to take them all home. I can't imagine how heart breaking it is to see it all the time.
Just remember what you feel comfortable with adopting. (easy for me to say) We have our reasons for not wanting to adopt a child over the age of 4 and those reasons haven't changed no matter how many children I hear about that need a home. (we're still approved for a child up to age 3)

Anonymous said...

connections...all good...and I think I am emailing IKEA for their efforts at the Orphanage...they deserve our kudos...

I like Vote...feel the hurt and pain in each picture, love to see them but really feel the hurt..children living like..UGH too much...

you are a great person and supporter taking time to visit with the kids....