‘What does love look like? It has the hands to help others. It has the feet to hasten to the poor and needy. It has eyes to see misery and want. It has the ears to hear the sighs and sorrows of men …… That is what love looks like.’ - St. Augustine

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Breaching The Wall

Out for a walk this morning.
The girls are out food shopping. It's incredibly quiet. Don't know if I like that. It's much easier to cope with being here when I am caught up in referee-ing sibling arguments, fighting loud music with my parental super powers and shushing my chatty Nastia, who craves her sister's attention with all she's got. In the quiet, the question marks take form and beg for answers I do not have.

Anya is depressed. She sleeps about 16 hours a day and there is no waking her from this stupor. She wants to deal with waking life in very short bursts that must be occupied with busy-ness or else she retreats into a silent prison she will not let us in, or she simply waltzes out the door to get away from the sound of her own thoughts. I'm sure she is battling insomnia as well. I know it's not just depression. But her obvious distaste for being awake can't just be a teenager's penchant for pillow-time. When awake, she has this hungry need for phone, computer, tv, -- anything to distract her. She does not want to talk. She wants to retreat from any human contact. It's so heart-breaking to watch her little sister try to break through this wall. She has such hope.

Today was to be a 'family' day. We had plans to walk the city and take photos, and simply enjoy the 'nice' weather before it gets rainy and even colder. We tried to wake her up. I mean really tried. We used all the measures we could think of, but there was just no getting her out of that bed. Nastia and I finally went off alone. We met Svetlana to look at the apartments to the south of the theatre. We travelled several bus stops on a sad soviet-era bus covered in gray dirt, filled with gray faced people who just stared at us. Svetlana is like a gigantic light in this place. She is so kind, open, sweet and big-hearted that she stands out like a lighthouse amidst the gray fog of ambivalence and resignation.

We arrived at the apartment only to find the agent once again not there. A call was made, a tired voice answered. We were told once again that there has been a mistake and we must come at a different time. Have I mentioned this is the third time she has stood us up? Such is Russia.

We travelled back to the center, parting ways with Svetlana at the bus stop and travelling on our own back to the drama theatre, the relative heart of the city. Nastia prided herself with being 'in charge'.

The bookstore in Kemerovo.
'Well, mom, you really don't know the language that well, so you need me to navigate....' I love seeing the pride my daughter has here in her Russian heritage. She loves knowing more than I, she comes out of her shell more readily. She engages perfect strangers in conversation, and for the first time in my life I saw her proud of her history. While in the bookstore, she engaged the cashier in conversation. In Russian she said " These books we are buying are for the Detsky Dom. I'm an American, but I used to live there, but now I live in America with my mom. This is my mom." She was so confident and so poised and stood ready to answer the inevitable question that followed with a smile on her face.

Did she like America? yes. Did she miss Russia? Sometimes? Could she speak English? Yes, very well. Why was she back in Russia? To visit her sister. And then began the complicated explanation of why her sister was here and she in America. She didn't flinch. She seemed proud to share. I was in awe.

There are many gifts like this in being here. These little moments are the ones I live for. It's lonely here, and depressing, but like my friend Laurie reminded me, we are here to share our light. I need to remember that. My daughter is learning that faster than I am. God bless her.

I look forward to tomorrow's trek to the orphanage. I know the joy I will find there, and I'm craving it. I may not be able to blog from there, but I will try. Keep us in your prayers.


  1. You and your girls are in my thoughts and prayers. The hard parts are so hard, but reading about Nastia's experience is so joyful. I know you must be tired of hearing how brave you are and what a good mom you are (God knows I get tired of it when people constantly tell me what an inspiration I am to them...) but dammit, you really are amazing. Keep the faith!

  2. Thank you brun. I certainly dont feel brave today. I seriously thought i would die of shock today at the state of the apartment we looked at. I was angry at myself for not being able to just accept it. But it felt like Death-eaters from HP lived there. Nastia and I both literally felt our souls being sucked out of our bodies it was so depressing. And this was considered the BEST they have to offer! The feeling of emptiness and clausterphobia was suffocating. THat isnt brave...that's the legacy of a privileged life. THe land lady was wonderful and I could almost stomach the idea of living there bc I knew she'd be over every day, but it was not only a soul-less space, it was in a soul-less building in a very rundown and depressing block of apartments...under a gray sky. Wish I WERE brave...but I am SO not.

  3. Wow. I'm amazed that she can still speak Russian!
    That is great. I'm so happy she is proud of her heritage and able to express her happiness to them that you are her mom. What a great experience!!!!!

  4. You have an amazing daughter - I truly look forward to meeting her someday. Your description of her growing confidence literally brought tears to my eyes.

  5. I got the saddest letter yesterday from Sergei's sister. Her husband left her so she is alone with her little girl in a tiny "settlement" - not even a village. How I wish I had the courage, flexibility....whatever you have...that would enable me to get on a plane with Sergei and go comfort her. But I don't. I am too poor to do more than send her a few trinkets and $20. I feel so sorry for her.

    She's always been so happy up until now.

  6. BTW, lets' have a photo of the sunny Svetlana! And do you have a post where you talk about her?

    Did you TAKE that apartment...sounds like, not. What will you do, then?

  7. Guess what? This is TEMPORARY. Get busy finding some paint and get to work ;-) I don't know you personally, but you don't seem like the type to let a dreary apartment stop you. You made it to freaking Siberia. NOW! Change a few small things and start small. Get a houseplant... And make it homey.....and start posting more pics of all this stufff so we can relate better. THink of yourself as a missionary and this is your "trial."

  8. Thank you so much for your thoughtful posts. We adopted a toddler 2 years ago, and our observations match yours of our children's birth country. This is a very thoughtful and interesting blog, and I am following your quest with great interest.


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