Breakfast at the hotel
*disclaimer: this could be a highly incoherant account; read at your own risk! I can't post pictures of my new siblings for security reasons; just know they are terribly cute.
Shortly after lunch, we (dad, mom, and our translator I___ ) piled into the ancient little Volga with our driver and set off on the 1-1/2 hour trip to the town where my siblings live. The temperature felt more like October than August, with a stiff breeze whipping mist into our faces. However, Sergei kept the temperature almost tropical in the Volga, and I soon succumbed to jet lag.
When I awoke, we had left the city and were driving through countryside that reminded me of my home in Northwest IA in terms of hilliness, of SD in vastness, and ME in vegetation. Not a very succinct description, but it's the best I can do! And countryside it truly was, with cows walking across the road and only a tiny hamlet here and there. Sergei's driving made me wonder why I had paid nearly $5 for a fair ride last week; I got the same adrenaline rush in his tiny vehicle!
Speaking of adrenaline rush, that was certainly what I had when we pulled up to the orphanage. My teeth were literally chattering! Three of my siblings had spent years of their life here, and four more of my siblings still live here. As we stepped inside a wave of memory washed over me; the building smelled just like the crisis center I worked in last August in St. Petersburg. Being exhuasted and emotional, I had to fight back tears as we made our way down the hall to the director's office. No matter how nice the orphanage was, it could never make up for a family.
It was a strange experience sitting in the director's office going over official paperwork; I've heard so much about this room and this woman from my roomate and sister, Daria! The director was kind and warm, and had only good words for the children.
And then...it was time to meet them. Talk about butterflies in your stomach! We walked into their group room, and when I saw their freckled little faces looking eagerly toward the door, I felt as though I had met them before. They hugged us gingerly but willingly, and though quite a few awkward pauses occured in the hour and a half we spent with them, most of it was quite comfortable.
Aren't they great at coloring? And I apologize, no matter how I try, my computer will not rotate this picture!
We sat around a tea table with my four new siblings and five other children (two other sibling groups). My youngest new brother made me a cup of tea, and the next oldest passed me candy while the oldest cared for his little sister. The kids all reached eagerly for apple slices and oranges, chattering all the while. It was difficult to be showering all the attention on my new siblings while the other children looked on; though they seemed to harbor no resentment.
All too soon it was time to say goodbye. Tomorrow we will see them once more, after they have their first half day of school; for my sister, it will be her first day of school ever! I already know how wrong it will be to leave them there, but I am beyond grateful to have met them.