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an epiphany

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Before I even arrived at the Detsky Dom this morning I knew something was up.
About four blocks from the orphanage we hit a traffic jam, like none I had seen in this part of town.
Usually it is incredibly quiet.
Stray dogs roam the streets, peasant women walk down the middle of the road on their way to the bus stop, and solemn seminary students carry their Bibles on their way to class at the monestary.
Not this morning.
Cars parked haphazardly alongside the road, bus after bus lumbered down the street...and at one point traffic was down to one lane.
What was going on?
My driver looked as perplexed as I did.
One thing I knew...there was no way he was going to get me to the orphanage gates. I
I was going to have to hoof it. I paid him the 30 grivna fare and jumped out of the car.
Now that I was out of the Toyota (chalk one up for luxury vehicle), I could see a little more clearly.
Not only were there tons of cars...there were people - everywhere.
And they were carrying water bottles.
Everyone. Large, small, old, young, rich and poor...everyone had a water bottle.
What was going on?
I found out later...
I'll leave you in suspense.
I walked up the drive toward the orphanage...on either side of the road, little tables were set up with people selling flower arrangments. And a very strong fragrance was in the air. I'm not exactly sure what it was, but it was familiar. Something I've smelled before. It was sweet...yet almost spicy.
I kept walking.
It got more crowded (if that was possible) the closer I got the to orphanage. I walked up to the gate and pushed the button and waited to be buzzed in.
The buzz finally sounded and I slipped inside the gate.
All was quiet.
Whatever was going on outside, hadn't affected this little part of Odessa.
I quickly made my way to Maddie's room for a great visit.
We stayed inside today, along with the French couple. I think they realize just how futile it is to visit with the kids outside. When I'm with the other kids in the groupa, they want my attention so badly they climb all over us, upsetting Maddie and interferring with our bonding.
I feel so bad for them.
I want to interact with them...but I also don't want to give them false hope. Many of them already refer to me as Mama. It's so sad.
So it's easier on everyone to stay inside...away from the little ones who just can't understand.
Today I brought an orange for Maddie. I thought it would be a good opportunity to see how good her fine motor skills are...and give her a little treat.
She LOVED it!
The orange was huge, but she ate the whole thing herself. Then she dug into my purse and pulled out a couple of strawberry nutri-grain bars and proceeded to down those as well.
The girl can eat!
Good news...she's not hording food at this point and she eats at a normal rate. When we adopted the other three they all had the propensity of trying to stuff as much food as they could in their mouth at a time. And there was never enough.
When I show Maddie that the food is all gone, she's perfectly content to move on.
All too soon it was time for me to leave.
It's getting harder and harder to leave her behind each day. It's hard on both of us. Maddie cries every time...in fact when the kids come in from 'recess' she immediately starts cuddling more...trying to buy more time with me (and away from her groupa). It's so hard to watch...and so hard to hear little wail. Overall Maddie isn't a crier, which makes it even harder -I know she's really feeling it if she's crying about it.
It wasn't until I was leaving Maddie's room I realized there might be a problem getting a cab back to the apartment.
How in the world was I going to find a cab in the mass of humanity?
I walked to the administrative building, showed the security 'guard' the phrase in my Russian book which says, 'Can you get me a taxi?' and waited for the moment of recognition.
It didn't come.
Through my improving charade skills I determined she didn't know the number of a taxi company.
So I called Lev.
He gave her the number...and she dialed. She talked with the cab company for awhile and I heard the addresses that have become so familiar to me.
'Mayachina tree' and 'Boonina'
Good, we were getting somewhere.
She hung up and started yammering at me in Russian. I had no idea where she was going with this. She said something about a Mercedes (another one for the luxury vehicles) then pointed down the street and pointed to a piece of paper.
Okay...I know the vehicle is a Mercedes and obviously I am supposed to meet him down the street because there's no way he can get up here. But what in the world does the piece of paper have to do with anything? And there are a million Mercedes here...in all kinds of models, years and colors. How was I supposed to know which one was my taxi (they rarely have a taxi light up top).
I called Lev back.
He interepreted...the car indeed was a Mercedes and I was supposed to meet it down by the grocery store on the corner. It was white (hence the paper).
Got it.
Off I went.
Outside the gate it was even more crowded than it was before (again, if that was possible)...and I could hear what sounded like a rams horn sounding in the distance. This time I also noticed the people going up toward the church up the street had empty bottles...but the people coming back from the cathedral had full bottles.
Okay...this obviously has something to do with water. But what?
I also noticed there were a couple of different types of flower arrangements. One looked kind of like a broom...straw wrapped with ribbon and flowers stuck in the ends. The other were more like flower arrangements...made with the same material.
The cross section of people making their way up and down the street was impressive. I used to think old babushkas were the only ones going to church with any regularity...but this morning there were teenagers, young couples with little kids, middle aged couples helping their elderly mothers carry the large jugs of water. I even passed a few orthodox priests.
And everyone seemed to be in a really good mood. There was a lot of chatter...happy chatter. More than I am typically used to hearing here.
I finally reached the end of the street and had my fears confirmed.
It was going to be incredibly difficult to find this cab.
There were three Mercedes parked in front of the grocery store alone...and one of them was cream colored. Thankfully there was no one inside. I'm getting so tired of walking up to a car, saying 'taxseee' in my worst Russian accent, only to have the person look at me like I'm a lunatic and saying, 'nyet, nyet' while shooing me out of their car! :)
I stood by a sorry looking tree and waited.
You know the rest by now.
I waited...and waited...and waited.
While I was waiting, I people watched.
I could tell when a bus was about to pull up to the corner. With about a minute to go, a crowd would suddenly form. Way too many people to fit on a typical bus...but they would gather, hoping to grab a seat on the next yellow bus. The bus would arrive...about 50 people would clamor on and the bus would take off. The rest of the crowd would step back and mingle for another five minutes or so, before starting the process all over again.
At one point a man, who had evidentally just bought a bottle of water at the grocery story, came over to my little tree, opened his jug of water and dumped it out.
I guess he forgot his empty jug.
Finally, in the distance I saw a white Mercedes.
I walked toward him...and he rolled down his window?
'Taxi,' I shouted over the crowd.
I climbed in...and sighed.
The driver laughed.
He turned the car around near the gathering throng of bus riders and we headed home.
I got home, checked my email and then got ready to head out again.
I had a three o'clock appointment to meet fellow adoptive parent Sue, her daughter Caroline and her two new daughters for a walking tour of downtown Odessa.
Our tour guide, Sonja did a great job of showing us the sights and giving us bits of interesting trivia.
For instance...
Did you know at one point the governor of Odessa sent the Russian Czar 3,000 oranges, with a message inside each one, asking for more money for the city's development? Yep...strange, but true. They even have a monument to commemorate it. We didn't get to see the orange orb. They just moved it.
We walked down to the pier...which is something I've wanted to do since we got here. We climbed down the Ptomkin (I know it's not the way it's spelled...somebody correct me) steps and walked through the park just above.
It was all so beautiful.
On our way back, we stopped by one of the downtown cathedrals. The really big one (again I can't remember the name) and Sue and the girls went on in. I decided not too. I didn't have anything to cover my head and didn't want to offend anyone.
They came back out and insisted I go back sometime...they say it's beautiful. On the other side of the steps a woman was selling some more of those flower arrangements, so this time I forked over five grivnas for a broom-like one.
And we finally heard the story.
Today was the celebration of the epiphany...the baptism of Christ by John the Baptist.
For orthodox believers today is all about the water.
On this day they believe water blessed by priests has supernatural properties.
The holy water can get rid of evil spirits and keep you safe. It can heal you and if you jump in the icy waters of a river or lake that has been blessed by the priest, it can purge you of your sin.
People take the holy water home to bless their homes...that's what the broom like flower arrangements are for. You take the arrangment, dip it in 'holy water' and sprinkle it around the house. It gets rid of all the bad stuff and then if you place the pretty flower arrangement in your house it will protect you and bring you good luck.
The water's goodness even temporarily extends to tap water.

A fellow adoptive parent was told the water was okay to drink between midnight and 4 a.m. this morning - she got up and had a glass of water.
I'm not that brave.

Around dusk, it was time to head home. Sue and her family had a dinner appointment, so I walked back to Mikky D's to grab some dinner, then went to the grocery store under the mall to pick up some supplies.
As I walked home I realized I was carrying my broom in one hand and a jug of water in the other.
If I didn't look like a local before, I am convinced I certainly do now! :)
Pictures: After I arrived home, Nataliya called and offered to take me on a walking tour of the downtown area at night. She said I HAD to see everything all lit up. She was right. It was absolutely gorgeous! Here are some pics of my afternoon tour and our nighttime stroll.

4 salty messages:

Drew, Michelle, Luke and Tetyana January 20, 2008 at 8:58 PM  

Odessa looks like a beautiful region! The lights are spectacular. You will have to take Maddie out at night once she is all yours!

kate January 21, 2008 at 8:28 AM  

Potemkin. ;>

I've been on those steps!

It's amazing how a "blessing" turns into "luck", isn't it? The same thing happens at Easter.

Anonymous,  January 21, 2008 at 11:46 AM  

I didn't see my comment on this blog entry posted, so guess it got lost somewhere along the line (If it shows up later, you don't need to post them both). And wouldn't you know, it was the longest of the three comments I posted on the last few entries. I know I mentioned how sweet it was that Maddie cuddles and cries when she knows you have to leave! Yes, she wants to stay with her Mama. Soon, SOON, she'll be able to walk away from the orphanage forever with her Mama and go home to the rest of her family! Won't she be a happy little girl then?!?!?
Also, loved the account of all the people in the streets (and the suspense of wondering WHAT in the world they were doing!), and the photos taken during your walks around town. Those night shots are incredible! Absolutely spectacular!! Would love to be there to see it for myself. Really gorgeous! Thanks for giving us a good look at and feel for the area; it's the next best thing to being there. -- Melinda H.

Anonymous,  January 21, 2008 at 8:41 PM  

The city does look very beautiful in the pictures. It also looks cold! Isn't it amazing how a photo can hide a lot of things? I look at some of the pictures we take here, and they come out looking all picturesque, when I know that the scene I saw was dirty and crowded and smelly, and LOUD! Is it the same way with Odessa, or is the city as nice and clean as it looks? At least you have some beautiful photos to remember your trip with.-Christie

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