Well this is my last day to write. It was such a great week. This has been one of the very best experiences of my life. I am so glad to have shared parts of it on the blog. I know you will get the blogs all at once, but please know that each one was written early each morning, while the memories of the previous day were still in my head. Thank you for allowing me to share.
That said, the final day at the orphanage started @ 8:30am. I was all packed up and ready to go. The bus moved us quickly to the orphanage. The greeting was the same as every morning. I will forever treasure those early morning greetings. We quickly went to the cafe for breakfast, a plate of macaroni and cheese. Also, we had some sausages on the side. All and all a very good meal. After the meal, I ran over to the school with Katya, my interpreter, to pass out some final gifts. I had decided earlier in the week that I would leave with much less than I came. I pulled out all my shirts that I knew the students could use and put them into a bag. Then I walked the halls of the school looking for the older boys. When I found one, I pulled them aside and said that my gift was out of respect, the deep respect I had for them. So much respect that I would do anything for them, including giving them the shirt off my back. After Katya translated, I handed them the shirt and gave them a bear hug. I really hope in some very small way they will wear my clothes and feel my love for them.
Next was a very fast trip to a local church. What made this church special was the fact it was the Sunday School for the orphans. The trip was only 30 minutes. Galina was our tour guide. I enjoyed hearing her descriptions. We were very lucky to talk so openly about religion with Galina. That fact is extremely rare in Russia. I am sure this will be something we build on for the next visit and the visit after that. On our way back to the orphanage we stopped by a small Russian Orthodox Church. As we walked in we were able to see a service. It was so beautiful. I am pleased we were able to spend a few minutes seeing an actual service talking place. It is a strong memory from the day.
Next we returned to the orphanage to watch the final slide shows. We showed our 10 minute slide show of pictures from the week. It was very nice. Then they showed their 10 minute slide show of pictures from the March visit. After such, Galina called us all up, one by one, to give us gifts. We received some beautiful gifts that I look forward to sharing once I get home.
Right after the gifts, we moved to the tournament finals, which myself and BJ were in charge of for the week. All the events ended well. We presented prizes to both the 1st and 2nd Place winners. I took lots of pictures. The kids were so proud of their victories. Everyone agreed that it was a great week of playing games. Also they agreed that we should have tournaments again in the future. I was very pleased to have a role in this important event.
Our next event was lunch, followed by Galina’s press conference. Both were extremely short.
The final event was our departure. It was a quick good-bye. It was very nice. I was thrilled I was able to see all the children that I had formed relationships with during the week. I was especially pleased to give my final hugs to Vova and Ruslan. Ruslan walked me all the way to the bus. Then he stood next to Galina and waved good-bye to our party. His smiling face is a perfect ending to the week.
The rest of the day was spent working our way slowly home. It was nice to have a final meal with the translators. They all became such nice friends. I enjoyed them very much. I look forward to having a relationship with them over the coming months. Facebook and e-mail will clearly help with such. After dinner it was off to the train. We had a nice conversation long into the night. Finally it was time for bed. My head hit the pillow and I was asleep. Another great day.
3 thoughts on “Friday Reflections – from Tony”
All I can say is Amen – you have been touched.
We are so happy that you had such an amazing experience dad. We know how special the children, translators, caregivers, teachers and Galina are, we are really glad that you had this opportunity and can’t wait to hear all the stories. Maddie, Max and Patsy
Tony, thank you for sharing this beautiful story of your last day at the Orphanage; departing on the bus must have been very difficult. Please know a part of your heart was left in Slobodskoy and the children love you for this! I know your family is happy to have you home. Job well done…get some rest.