Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Our First Visit with "Chase"

I have to write this quickly so forgive me if my thoughts are a little scattered—I’ll write more details another day when there is time. This morning we said goodbye to “Tyler.” It wasn’t an extremely sad time though because we got to go out on a little shopping excursion with his teacher and our facilitator, Deliana. First we got his passport picture taken, then bought him some shoes, then some treats and toys for him and the other children in his group. He was so excited with the things that we left him that the parting wasn’t sad for him. We left him with a book showing all about our home and family, and our facilitator translated it into Bulgarian so his teacher will read it to him and keep reminding him that we will be back to get him after winter.

After our visit, we drove three hours to meet nine-year-old “Chase.” To say that I’ve felt like crying for him all night is an understatement. First the good…..He was waiting for us all day today and was very excited to be getting visitors. When they brought him in, he locked his eyes with mine and didn’t move his gaze. He politely greeted us in his language and then asked me where I was from (all this through a translator of course). I told him I was from America and his eyes got bigger and he exclaimed, “I never met anyone from America!” Then he asked my name, how old I was, etc. etc. Needless to say, he was not shy. From the videos we have of him we expected him to be extremely shy and limited in vocabulary. But he spoke very fluently and confidently. We explained that we are just learning Bulgarian and that Deliana will help us understand each other, but we also tried out phrases we were practicing, such as “What do you like to play?” “What do you like to eat?” etc.  At first he did not understand us at all but then i think he understood that we were speaking with an accent and he was able to answer our questions.

So all of this sounds great, but underneath it all there is pain for us. First of all, sounding so smart, he didn’t even know how old he is. We thought this was very unusual but Deliana said the children have no concept of time and they do not get a personal birthday celebration—just once a month for all the children who have a birthday that month. This is not because the staff does not care—it’s because he is in an extremely poor village out in the middle of nowhere—it had been built there under communist USSR because living in an orphanage was considered a shame. He is in the third grade but cannot read—does not even know his letters and can only count in a limited way. So we are either dealing with an extreme lack of experience and teaching, or a learning disability, because from his personality you can tell that he has average or below average intelligence, but nothing so serious as to make him that far behind in school.  His clothes were way too small on him and his hair is way too long—covering his eyes—I had to keep brushing it away from his face. Deliana said we can ask tomorrow if I can cut his hair—we will see. Again, this is not from lack of concern, but because of extreme poverty. The worst part is that he has serious vision issues and needs corrective glasses but hates to wear them because he gets teased by the other children. He was wearing them for our visit, but when he left to use the restroom he took his glasses off and left them on the table. And at the end of the visit when he left with his teacher he asked her if he could take them off.  I'm sure it doesn't help that his glasses are huge.

His teacher told us that Chase prefers playing with younger children or children his own age who share his interests. We brought him a bunch of Hot Wheels cars with a case and he was so pleased with it and told us exactly where he was going to keep it by his bed. We also brought some skinny balloons for making animals, along with a pump, and he had fun doing that the whole time. We also brought a Connect Four game and were teaching him how to play. This was very sad to watch, because he had extreme difficulty understanding the logic of blocking the other person from winning or getting his four in a row. It was like there were no logic skills whatsoever, although when talking with him you would not have that impression. So it may just be extreme lack of experience, but I think there is something deeper—we will see. He did begin to grasp the concept a little bit with time, so that may have been a good sign. When we asked him what he liked to do he told us he loves to do puzzles. He asked us if we would please bring him a puzzle tomorrow and we said we would try to buy one. He told us he likes Winnie the Pooh and Eeyore and Tigger. And he must have asked us about ten times throughout the visit if we were going to bring him a puzzle tomorrow. He also asked us to bring a coloring book and markers….several times, lol.

When I took out a book that teaches how to make balloon animals, he thought it was a story book and asked me to read him a story. There were a bunch of books up on a shelf so I went to try to find one but there were none for young children—with nice pictures, etc. Chase was very inquisitive—asked us a lot of questions and especially wanted to know if we were coming back tomorrow. “Yes, we are” we told him. “At what time?” he asked. Then he asked if we would spend the whole day with him. We told him that we would (we plan to be there from 9 in the morning until 6PM). Several times he made sure that we were indeed coming tomorrow at 9AM. We played cars for a while, made balloon animals, he sang us a cute song—knows every single word, no problem, and he answered many questions about himself. Told us he likes oranges and apples and bananas, likes to do puzzles—in fact when we showed him a video of us doing a 550 piece puzzle he asked us if we could bring that puzzle to him from America and told us that he could put it together very quickly!

We just fell in love with this little boy and it just broke our hearts the way his face beamed at us and how absolutely thrilled he was that we were there to visit him. He even gets to miss school tomorrow and Friday, so of course he is happy about that as well! Tomorrow we will be able to tell him that we want to take him home with us to America and adopt him. We will be able to show him the photo album we brought for him with all the pictures of our home and our family. And of course we will leave it with him so that he can look at it and remind himself that we are coming for him, even though those 3 or 4 months will seem like an eternity. We are also going to try to talk with him about the situation with his glasses and see if we can encourage him to be strong even though the children tease him….to explain to him that he can lose the sight in his one eye if he does not wear them and that in America many children wear glasses and that he will not be teased for this. We'll also see if there's a way we can buy him some better glasses. We hope that we can give him the encouragement that he needs and that he will feel secure in our love even though we will only be visiting him for three short days.

Well, it’s getting late and I’ve not been getting good sleep lately so I will have to leave it here. Hopefully you are getting some insight into sweet Chase’s personality and if anyone has experience with children similar to what I’m describing please leave comments. Once again, we need to get the immigration paperwork rolling so we can bring these boys HOME, so please, if you feel led in your heart to make a tax deductible contribution towards our adoption, you can do so by clicking HERE. God bless your for helping to give these children a life. Much love, Lis

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