As of today we have been in this country for 2 weeks. It’s unbelievable really. In a lot of ways, it doesn’t feel like 2 weeks. But, in others, it feels like longer. I miss home. I miss my dogs. I miss my life. While we are getting into our routine here, it is still overwhelming to leave the apartment and head out into the city. A huge part of that is the fact that we don’t speak Russian. You really take for granted the way you live when you are at home on familiar ground.
At home if I need to buy Sterling a pair of shoes, I can run to Target and buy a pair of shoes. If his size isn’t out on display, I can ask someone to check in the back. If they don’t have his size in the store, I can ask them to call another local store. None of that is possible here. It just doesn’t work like that. We have one “mall” near us. It’s not a mall like we think of a mall. It’s more of an indoor flea market. I guess that’s the best way to explain the layout. They sell everything. Or nearly everything. But being able to communicate is key when trying to purchase things and that is an area we are most certainly lacking in. Yes, I ‘studied’ Russian before I left; but, a 3 week crash course on the basics certainly hasn’t helped me to communicate what size pair of shoes I want to buy for my son or which kind of ham I want at the market and whether I want it sliced thin or thick. It’s really been a bit of culture shock.
If you are like most Americans (if you are even American) you probably haven’t done loads of overseas/international travel. Our country is SO BIG. This country is the size of Texas. That really puts things in perspective. I’m less than 10 miles from the Russian border. At home (and I live in Florida) the closest I can get to another country is 90 miles (to Cuba). So, it won’t come as a surprise to you to hear me say that this is the biggest thing I’ve ever done. I’ve read that phrase on other blogs. Many times. Most of the time, I’ve read over it without really thinking about it. But, now I’m living it, and even typing it doesn’t do it justice.
This is, by far, the biggest thing I have ever done. I’m not even talking about the adoption part specifically. Just the whole process. Huge. I don’t know how else to describe it and there was certainly no preparing for this feeling. If you are getting ready to travel (Anna Woods – Jessica Whiteaker) be ready to have this feeling hit you like a ton of bricks. It’s not fear and it isn’t stress. It’s just a feeling of WOW. We forget how small we really are until we are forced to put ourselves out there; and, once you’re out there that feeling of helplessness (?) kind of takes over.
A LOT of people who read this blog know me personally. I am not helpless. Actually, I’m strong and stubborn to a fault. I take on challenges willingly and I’m pretty feisty. I can be downright blunt and honest when needed and I rarely take no for an answer (especially when I’m fighting for something I’m passionate about – just ask my coworkers). But, I can also be very flexible. I’ve learned (with the help of good friends) to go with the flow more than I used to and, overtime, I’ve come to realize that I can’t control everything (even though that tendency is still there….) I’ve learned a lot about life from teaching, from good friends and from great teachers. But nothing has prepared me for this. It is an interesting journey. I’m SUPER HAPPY to be here and I am also VERY EXCITED to be adopting Sterling. I just wish I could help people, who either aren’t going to or haven’t yet taken this journey, to understand how small you feel while you are doing it. The only thing I can even remotely liken it to is being on a cruise. Brian and I are avid cruisers. I LOVE that feeling of being in the middle of the ocean and being reminded of how small I am and how the things I worry about at home are SO INSIGNIFICANT. This is very similar. Yet still different.
Brian and I have had the ability to see how LUCKY we are at home. This country is poor – yet not even close to being one of the poorest. However, we are reminded every day that we are “rich Americans.” We laughed at this in the beginning – we are far from rich. We are both teachers, we have steady incomes, we have good benefits and we get by with a little extra to do some fun things. But over here, we ARE rich. We were told by our driver that the average teacher in this country makes $250/month. PER MONTH. If you include benefits and retirement I make almost that in a day. And I’ve only been teaching for 8 years. If you include Brian’s coaching salary – he’s over that. (The caveat here is – since we are teachers – we only get paid for 10 months of the year.) Another adoptive Mama told me that the workers at her child’s orphanage made only $60/month. Imagine living on $60/month. Like I said, we are FAR FROM rich, but being here certainly makes me thankful for my blessings.
Everyday, we pass this little old babushka by the market. She may or may not be homeless. We don’t know. While passing her the other day, Brian saw her eating a fish. Scales on. Head on. Tail on. A whole fish. She sat on the side wall of the market, her fish wrapped in butcher paper, and ate a whole fish. Eye opening to say the least. When I was a freshman in college I took a class in Washington D.C. for 5 weeks during January term. (Elon is on a 4-1-4 schedule.) I remember buying a chicken sandwich and throwing it away because the chicken wasn’t cooked. I also vividly remember a homeless man digging my sandwich out of the trash and eating it. I thought that was bad – and it doesn’t even compare in my mind.
I have lots of little stories like this. Things we see people do and eat and say that take us by surprise. I’m not going to lecture you on doing good or thinking of others. But I do want you to realize that you have it SO MUCH BETTER than MILLIONS of people on this earth. I saw this picture posted on another adoptive Mama’s Facebook page today:
It really makes you stop and think. Trust me, I would wake up with lots of people and not so many things (which is ok) but it definitely makes me want to thank God for more of our blessings. I think, in prayer, it’s easy to ask for things (like health or safety for example); but, it’s easy to forget to be thankful for things you do have. Two weeks in (and roughly 3 more to go) I think that is the biggest lesson I have walked away with from this journey. That I am lucky and blessed to live the life I live. And I think it’s safe to say that that is the reason for this trip. I’m a firm believer that everything happens for a reason. Yes, Brian and I are meant to gain a son out of all of this; but I think we were also meant to realize that, in living our lives at home, we were being ever so complacent about bigger issues.
If you get nothing out of this blog but a few things, please let them be these:
1) Be thankful to God (or whomever you believe in) for the blessings you have in your life.
2) Strive to be more world aware.
3) Figure out how you can make a difference.
4) Kill the complacency in your life.