A First Timer’s Perspective – from Tony S.
Wow. What an incredible day. Getting off the train was nice. Tough to sleep for long in a small place. Also, I really needed a shower. So getting off the train was a reminder that such was close. That said, once we got of the train we were greeted by more friends. Friends I had never meet but felt quickly like I had known my whole life. A quick bus ride was off to breakfast, which was nice. Fruit & creeps. More friends joined us.
Then we went to the State Store to buy the last of our supplies. We hit the store hard, over a dozen of us rushing in to buy a guitar, microwave, toys, games, nail polish remover, chocolate, tea, crackers & water. Lots and lots of water. I was the money guy today, which meant I carried & passed out the money that paid for it all. I was amazed how little everything cost. Also, I noticed you never hand the money to a store clerk, rather you put it on a tray and they pick it up from the tray. The return of your change is the same.
Once done, we loaded the bus for the last time. We were off to the orphanage with only one stop remaining, our hotel. We hit the hotel about 75 minutes later. We took over 50% of the place. It was so nice to finally arrive. It took forever to unload the bus. We had so many bags with us, at least 25. The best part of it was most of our stuff was for the kids. I am pleased we have so much to give to the kids. It is the least we can do. I know they needed everything we brought.
Now the best part. We loaded up but only after a warm shower (not a lot of water pressure) and headed to the orphanage. The arrival was great, kids waiting for us at the door. A lot more kids were running around very excited. Everyone was so happy to see us. It was very exciting. I saw Ruslan right away. He has a great smile. The smile I remember the first time we ever saw his photo two years ago. I saw some other familiar faces as well, namely Vova. He seemed happy. What I mostly saw was a lot of happy faces. Happy faces everywhere. We arrived to a heroes welcome. We got a private tour of the library, with the Librarian showing off the new books that she bought. Then we had lunch with Galina. It was so good; I ate every part of it. After we had a tour of the entire orphanage. This is when the kids started coming up to me a bit more. Ruslan visited me often; he was holding my hand at the end. He is a sweetie. I have three pictures already from the kids, two from Ruslan. Vova came up to me as well, which the photo album that Maddie sent him. He was so proud.
After the tour we started our first activity, signing up for tournaments. BJ and I did this together. I had a great time. Signed up nearly a 100 players. They will compete in table tennis, checkers, chess, arm wrestling & corners (aka Chinese checkers) all week long. The champions will be crowned on Friday morning. For more of the sign-up, BJ and I took turns playing checkers with the children. It was great fun. I lost as much as I won, but somehow I played the very best player at the orphanage and beat him. He has been asking for a rematch every since.
Finally we had a private dinner with Galina. It was in the library. It was very nice. She is a wonderful woman that loves these children. I am so impressed with her already. There is no doubt that the children are very lucky she is in charge.
We went back to the hotel at 8pm. Then we had a short time for reflection. We wrapped up at 9pm. I was fast asleep 5 minutes later. Wow.