Thursday, April 14, 2011
A Look Back: One Year Ago (Post 3)
First Evening Visiting Hours (Getting to Know Alina)
After spending the better part of the day running all over town, we were able to go back to the orphanage and spend a full two hours (4-6 p.m.) getting to know Alina.
We walked in the main doors to her building, through the music room and up the stairs to her groupa's quarters. The building was very quiet, and we didn't see anyone on our way upstairs. Alina's room was next to an office of some sort, which looked like it was rarely used, and there were no other rooms in her wing. (Before we traveled, we imagined we'd see lots of other children at the orphanage. We wondered if we would recognize other kids listed on Reece's Rainbow. As we made our way up to Alina's room that first day, we began to realize that it was highly unlikely we'd just stumble on other children, unless they were outdoors when we were.)
We carefully retraced our steps from our earlier (and very hurried) visit, rang the buzzer for Alina's room and the door quickly opened. We presented a small piece of paper, a handwritten "pass" from the director--our permission to visit Alina's room--to the woman who answered the door. She wasn't standing in front of the door when it opened, but rather beside it on the inside of the room, so it appeared as though the door had opened by itself. She was standing quietly in the front of the hallway between the groupa's lockers and the main room in Alina's living quarters. She took the piece of paper, nodded her head and briskly headed back into the room to get Alina. She shut the door behind her.
Chris and I were left standing alone in the small entry way, wondering what the program would be, and anxiously waiting to see our little girl. I don't know if it was out of reverence or fear ;), but we were silent, expressing our curiosity and excitement through expressions and gestures only.
After a few minutes, the door opened. We could hear a lot of hustle and bustle in the room. Some of the children and nannies were talking and laughing. It also sounded like there was some scolding going on. There was a lot of activity in the room, but when the door was closed, you could not hear most of it. (That might explain why the orphanage always seemed so quiet. You would never guess that a few hundred children are living in the orphanage complex at any one time. All of the groupas are separated from one another, behind closed doors.)
When Alina appeared at the door, she was by herself. One of the nannies was a few feet behind her, telling her to go out and see mama and papa. We don't know if she understood exactly what was going on, but she was definitely following orders. She started out the doorway, then began to turn back. She was whimpering. The nanny pushed her along with a sweeping motion to the backside and some verbal encouragement or further directions (we are not sure which).
Alina gave in to the requests and came out to see us. We were very quiet with her, and let her have her space. She was alternating between smiling and whimpering. She was so sweet. We could tell she was confused. But in typical Alina fashion, she chose to make the best of the situation.
She explored every nook and cranny of the locker room area. We watched and laughed and smiled. Chris patted the little bench next to him (we all sat on toddler-sized chairs and benches--the only furniture that was in the area we used for our visits) and Alina came over and sat down. I pulled out the bag I'd filled with little toys for her, and she was immediately interested.
The first thing we showed her was "her" book--a little photo album with plastic pages, filled with pictures of our family and our house. She LOVED it. She grabbed it and turned the pages. She studied it. She was completely taken with the picture of Bridget. She kept opening to that page and pointing to it. We were in awe, and realized right then that our new little girl was very different from the lost child we had seen in her profile picture.
She did not want to put the photo book down, but wanted to see all of the other toys we brought. So she grabbed whatever she could at once. She knew what to do with the books, the finger puppets, the play dishes, the purse, the bracelet, the ball, the phone. She was very excited, and she kept trying to take the items back to the door to show her groupa. The door to her room was open, so she would stand in the doorway waving the item and trying to get someone to look out. Read more here. Here are a few pictures and some video of Alina in action that first night: