Making connections!

My second week (May 18-22) was jammed pack with activities and I am still on a steep learning curve figuring out how to do the most simple of things. I did manage this week to ride the marshuka (bus) to work all by myself! I was full of nervous anticipation when I boarded the bus and wondered if I would recognize where I needed to get off. Then I imagined where I might find myself if I didn’t get off at the right place – and then I wondered how I would ever get back to the office. My mind seems to go down rabbit trails of worse case scenarios. When it does, I plan out a course of action for the various “what ifs.” Not always a very good use of my time and energy, but that particular morning I did wander down a few trails. Thankfully, I got off at the right stop and arrived at work safe and sound.

I visited Saramoldiva on Tuesday and Ulan on Thursday. Wednesday I went to Saramoldiva with Beth and Olya. We thought we were going only to look at the art work in a competition the local orphanages were having. The artwork represented the work of children 9-14 years of age from three orphanages. Well, it turned out, when I arrived, that I was to be one of the judges. I also learned that not only was I to be a judge, but they wanted me to tell them what the categories for judging should be. I chose three categories. Then I learned that I was to purchase prizes for each category – a prize for a 1st, 2nd and 3rd place in each category. They would pay for them, but I was to decide what the prizes should be! On Friday, I did arrive with prizes in hand and, after the judging, we had a ceremony to present the winners with their awards. There was lots of beautiful art work on display. Then I began thinking about how much fun it would be to do a mural at the orphanages with some of the kids from the orphanage helping with the painting. I’m hoping something like that will work out.

The two women I took a week ago Friday to the bazaar had asked if I could come by this week to see what they had made from the supplies they bought at the bazaar. Beth thought we could run by after we finished at Saramoldiva on Wednesday. Wednesday began with a rainy, dreary morning. When we were leaving Saramoldiva, Beth offered to give Dana and her co-worker – both work for Children Protective Services here in Taraz – a ride back to their office. They had taken public transportation that morning. They were happy for the ride and didn’t mind stopping by the 10th Micr Region’s Boarding School for Disabled Children. Dana’s department is actually over the Boarding School, though her visiting with us as a tag along was not this day in any official capacity. Nonetheless, her presence brought a little uneasiness at first to the staff at the Boarding School. However, with explanation they soon relaxed and everyone enjoyed getting to know each other. By the end of our time together everyone was glad for new relationships being built.

We had not expected a full tour of the school or anything else. I was told to simply drop by and see what they had sewn from the materials. Well, all of us were totally surprised by the welcoming we received. First, we were given a tour of the full facility. As I was trailing behind the group – I stopped to say hello to a couple children in the hall – my heart leapt for joy as I heard several children calling my name as they ran towards me. The rest of the group heard the commotion and came back to see what was going on. Some of “my” kids from Ulan attend this school during the day. They had spotted me and came running with open arms to hug and greet me. Oh, how I loved seeing their faces. These girls were at Ulan in 2000 and 2001. I wish I had had a digital camera then. All those pictures from the early 2000’s are on 35mm and have yet to be scanned into my computer. One day I hope to do that. Anyway, below are a couple of the girls’ photos from 2006. My heart fills with joy to see them and know that I am finally here to build a real relationship with them. At the same time I experience a deep sadness for what they haven’t had and the evidence of that in their lives.

Saule at the 10th Micro Region Boarding School for disabled children. Some of the children at this school are orphans from local orphanages and only come for schooling during the day. A micro region is like a project in the States, a highly-populated, low-income area.

This is Saule in 2006

Bota, me, and Nurshat. May 2009.

Nurshat 2006.

Bota 2006.

As we toured the facility, we had opportunity to talk to some of the staff. It was encouraging to see that the heart desire of the staff is to help the children. There was a room of boys doing wood burning. Several had obvious handicaps but were able to produce beautiful pictures. I would love to think or have someone suggest something they could produce that would be marketable. It is great for these children to learn sewing or woodworking, etc., but they need to be able to do more than just produce pretty pictures.

Some of the staff, Dana and her coworker from the Child Protection Agency, Beth and myself.

After looking around, we went back to the sewing classroom and found a great spread of wonderful food laid out for us. Kazakhs know how to show hospitality unlike any I have ever seen. Even though I don’t understand most of what is being said, I love to sit and listen to the language. Kazakh is a beautiful language. I can tell the difference between Kazakh and Russian most of the time now. A step in the right direction!

Having “Tea.”

On Thursday I went back to Ulan to visit with children in the morning and then again in the afternoon. The group in the afternoon has several children who go to the 10th Micro region boarding school during the day. This is the group where the two children I visited in Texas lived. It was such a joy to reconnect and see the excitement in their faces and hear through the translator how happy they were that I have finally came back and am going to stay. They asked about Marc and Sarah and were happy they were doing such good things.

Me, two orphan boys and a caregiver who has been at Ulan since my first trip in 2000. She heard through the children I was there and came to this building in search of me. It is so good to make these connections.

Delivering pictures we took when we delievered gifts on Veteran’s Day. She cried and said “thank you” for taking the time to pay attention to us. I told her I’d come back and visit another day. What a gift to connect with people. May you remember to reach out to a senior citizen in your neighborhood. Ask them about their life. Then be prepared to be amazed by the story they tell.

On Friday I took another two women to the bazaar from Saramoldiva orphanage to buy supplies to make outfits. Then, on Saturday, went again with Ken and Sholpan. I am making friends in the bazaar. If you’d like to check out the pictures from the bazaar, click on LINK TO FAMILY ALBUMS, then go to the album titled “bazaar.” There are some great pictures and you might enjoy the meat section in particular! Sholpan was buying food to take with her to Almaty. She left Saturday evening by train to have surgery on her eyes. Please keep her in your thoughts that all goes well and she recovers quickly.

The journey continues and I am most thankful for all the encouraging notes I receive via email from my family and friends back home. Thank you. I wish you each could join me and see for yourself the sights and sounds. If you ever want to visit please let me know. My door is always open to you.


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