My trip began this morning with a taxi ride with S**** (our guide and all around amazing translator) to the bus station (which is too far off to walk to). When we got there we had about 45 minutes to waste so we took a walk around the neighborhood there so I could see the city and take pictures to send back home and to remind me of what the city is like. There wasn’t much in the area of town, it’s an industrial area, although we got to go by a school. I didn’t know what it was at first, it looked like a brightly colored bomb shelter or similar poured concrete structure. I asked S**** what it was and she said that if we saw kids hiding in the bushes and smoking cigarettes then we’d know it was a school. I was surprised it was a school (not because of the smoking – that’s more common than in the US), but then she pointed out the area of asphalt, which I thought was a decrepit parking lot, and that the thing that I thought was a lamppost that someone had torched was in fact a basketball stand with a backboardless backboard.
In any case, we went to a grocery store (Billa) where I found Bulgarian/English word books!!!! One is a coloring book which I will bring to him Tuesday with some art supplies, and the other I am bringing home to help him when he gets here.
The bus to Marin’s village of ******* is really an oversized van, like the ones retirement communities use to bring their residents to events. It was about an hour ride there, very bouncy, but we got there and found the orphanage.
The director was not there, she had to go to visit a government official, I think in the Ministry of Justice, so we were greeted by the orphanage’s social worker. She was nice, we talked about Marin briefly, fi they have any records for him from the first orphanage he was in (they don’t), and then she said she’d go get Marin (who was at school a short way away).
I was expecting her to come back and have an introduction where he was somehow eased into meeting me, not sure how exactly, but in any case they just came in and he shakes my hand and shakes Slavina’s hand and we sit down (I found out later that he was told we were coming SOMETIME, but not told we were coming TODAY). S***** explains that I’m visiting him from America because I’d like him to take him to live with our family. To me he looks like he is shell-shocked or has just seen a ghost or something; he almost looks like he’s gonna cry. I ask S***** if he’s all right and he says he is, but I’m a little worried. That, and he won’t look at me.
Fortunately, we all go outside. He goes to get his jacket first (I had been told Bulgarians dress their children I a lot of clothes and it is true – a sweatshirt, a vest on top of that, and a ski jacket – and it was at least 65 degrees at the time) and S**** and I go outside and I ask her if he's in shock or something and she says, "Oh, no, he's excited, just shy...." but I don't believe her, I’m taking no comfort in it.
We sat at a gazebo like structure in the orphanage yard and I showed him a card that was sent by one of the children who was adopted from the same orphanage who now lives in the US (Kim had found his mom via the online group for our adoption agency). Marin remembered him and was very happy to see the card and the pictures of the boy in it and his message to Marin and said he wanted to be able to visit him some day (I explained using a map of the US that he isn’t so close to just walk over to his house or anything and he understood).
Then I showed him his “love” book that Kim made, which shows our family, and he likes it, he’s starting to warm up. He sees our dog and says he likes dogs. He’s still pretty quiet but looking less stunned.
I think that now it’s a good time to take out the Frisbee I brought for him, and although he had never played with one before, he took right to it. We threw it back and forth to each other, then threw as far as we could with him running to get it. I was worried he might have some movement issues, but he was clearly in his element running and jumping – he was filled with joy to do this. The Frisbee got stuck in a tree at one point and he got a soccer ball to throw at it to knock it out and since soccer is his favorite sport we kicked the ball back and forth and he had some impressive soccer moves.
The director showed up, and it was 12:10 at this point so Marin went to eat and we went to speak with the director. The director was very nice and we agreed that I would come each day on the 9AM bus (get there about 9:30) and leave at 3:30. This works with the van/bus schedule but still gives me plenty of time with him.
The director said that Marin is a bit behind in his math and reading, and that homeschooling would be good for him because he could use more one-on-one attention and could learn without the pressure of keeping up with the group which she feels sometimes frustrates him and makes him feel like goofing off, which he does, which then makes him fall behind in learning. Also, it must be very sad to live in a place that is run down, without a family and without a clear future, with people who aren't as invested as a family would be in you succeeding.
After lunch he came out and we played more and did a puzzle I’d brought and played Old Maid. He really enjoys taking pictures with the camera and took pictures of me and the puzzle and Old Maid cards too. One of the other children at the orphanage joined us for Old Maid and then some more Frisbee. He had clearly warmed up to me, and right before we left he asked S***** if I was going to be his dad, and she said I would, so he said he would call me dad (which he pronounced “dod”).
As we were leaving he started to walk off and I called him back and gave him a hug and then he asked for a kiss so I kissed him on each cheek and on the lips and told him I’d come back Tuesday.
He is a sweet little boy who loves to be outside and be active and would really thrive in a family. He clearly loves to be with other people and interact with them and I can see how he would be completely stifled by living in an institution.
I’ll have more to share tomorrow!